Look closely at the energy-related news stories of the past dozen or so days, and, between the lines, you’ll see a theme: government makes predictions and assertions that cannot be backed up by data to protect or project preferred messaging.
The unusual collaboration of the University of Texas (UT) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) conducted a first-ever detailed examination—more than 500 wells were analyzed—of individual drilling sites to determine the total amount of escaped methane from shale gas operations. The study was released on September 16 by the National Academy of Sciences. The New York Times story on the study opens with: “Drilling for shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, appears to cause smaller leaks of the greenhouse gas methane than the federal government had estimated.” It reports: “Previous E.P.A. estimates relied on engineering calculations, and other studies gathered data via aircraft flights over drilling sites.”
Why does this matter? Because environmental groups have used previous methane-leak estimates to claim that leaks offset the environmental benefits of the clean-burning natural gas the wells produce. Such claims are used to bolster fracking opposition. A September 17 press release from the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works states: “methane leakage from shale gas development is not releasing nearly as much methane as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had predicted. EPA’s grossly exaggerated estimates have been widely used by critics and far-left environmentalists to discredit the benefits of hydraulic fracturing.”
The exaggerated estimates of methane leaks came from a study released two years ago when two Cornell University scientists, Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea, reported catastrophic levels of methane were being leaked by fracking operations. According to Forbes, “a slew of experts” discredited the research, which just reviewed EPA data and relied on estimates and hypotheticals.
Jon Entine cites the Park Foundation as the source of funding for much of Cornell’s anti-fracking research. Park also funded the anti-fracking Gasland movies. Entine states: “Two years ago in an interview for an investigative story on Park and Howarth for Ethical Corporation, the Cornell professor blurted out to me that he was recruited by a Park Foundation family member who thought a university study criticizing fracking and challenging the ‘green credentials’ of shale gas would advance the cause.”
The Associated Press “Big Story” titled: “Study: Methane leaks from gas drilling not huge,” concludes: “While methane concentrations in the atmosphere have been rising since 2007, federal scientists say they’ve found no sign that gas or oil drilling is contributing because the methane emissions come from a different part of the globe.”
Opposition to fracking also uses threats to the water supply and earthquake fears to scare people.
Back in 2011, the EPA blamed fracking for groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. Reports declared: “For the first time, federal environmental regulators have made a direct link between the controversial drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination.” Then, after the report was found to be flawed, in June, the EPA announced: that “it does not plan to finalize or seek peer review of its draft Pavillion groundwater report.” Now, as of September 11, the EPA has “officially washed its hands of the investigation.” Marcellus Drilling News explains: “Now, with hardly a peep, the EPA published an official notice in yesterday’s Federal Register that they’ve turned the lights out on their Pavillion investigation.” Referencing the EPA Pavillion study, on May 16, 2012, Investors Business Times states: “if eventually upheld, [it] would be the first time that drilling for natural gas itself contaminated water from underground aquifers.” Apparently, by admission that it will not “finalize or seek peer review of the final draft report,” the EPA couldn’t uphold its findings.
Reporter Mark Green posted an overview of a September 12 briefing he attended, regarding a peer-reviewed study done on hydraulic fracturing’s impacts. The study, Green says, is “hailed by the author as the first comprehensive look at the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.” The study was conducted at the 1000-acre Inglewood oil field in the heart of Los Angeles and concludes: “energy development using fracking and horizontal drilling technologies is safe, doesn’t threaten water supplies or cause earthquakes.” The study specifically examined groundwater, seismic activity, well integrity, and air emissions.
At the briefing, the study’s lead author Dan Tormey, a hydrologist, geochemist, and civil engineer, talked about how the public receives their information. Tormey told of addressing the public with the facts, when an audience member said: “Gasland is our facts, and you’re trying to present these as your facts.” Tomey told the crowd at the September 12 briefing: “I found that really interesting because the first-generation studies were really a data-free zone, and the purpose of this study was to be very data-rich.” He added: “Facts have a longer row to hoe than fear.”
Some of the study results Green cited include: “Fracking had no detectable effect on vibration and did not induce earthquakes,” and “emissions associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing were within standards set by the regional air quality authority.”
Climate Change News
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is scheduled to release its fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on September 27. But leaked copies indicate that it will “dial back on the alarm.” On September 16, the Financial Post published a graph from AR5 (figure 1.4, chapter 1). “The IPCC graph shows that climate models predicted temperatures should have responded by rising somewhere between about 0.2 and 0.9 degrees C over the same period. But the actual temperature change was only about 0.1 degrees, and was within the margin of error around zero. In other words, models significantly over-predicted the warming effect of CO2 emissions for the past 22 years.”
Facts like these, as the Pointman blog puts it, are giving the “feeling in the air that the IPCC is having a final solitary drink in the Last Chance Saloon, before riding out to be permanently swallowed up by the badlands outside of town.”
Adding to the “feeling in the air,” on September 17, the Heartland Institute, in cooperation with the Science & Environmental Policy Project, and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, released the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) 2013 Report: Climate Change Reconsidered II—which focuses on facts rather than fear and cites dozens of peer-reviewed papers. The NIPCC report is 1200 pages long and was prepared by 50 climatologists and other scientists from 15 countries (an Executive Summary and a Summary for Policymakers is available). The goal of the NIPCC report, according to Jim Lakely, Director of Communications for the Heartland Institute, “is to inform the public, scientific community, and media that the upcoming IPCC report doesn’t have all the science to make informed judgments.”
In his review of the NIPCC report, Paul Driessen states: “The NIPCC authors conclude that existing climate models ‘are unable to make accurate projections of climate even ten years ahead, let alone the 100-year period that has been adopted by policy planners. The output of such models should therefore not be used to guide public policy formulation, until they have been validated [by comparison to actual observations] and shown to have predictive value.’”
Driessen adds: “the deficient models are being used to devise and justify policies, laws and regulations that stigmatize and penalize hydrocarbon use, promote and subsidize wind and solar energy, and have hugely negative effects on jobs, family energy bills, the overall economy and people’s lives.”
Which brings us to the coal news.
Cal Thomas, in a September 18 column addressing climate change, says: “Too many people have too much invested in perpetuating this fiction.” Hence, in the face of facts, on September 20, the EPA released the latest attack in Obama’s war on coal: new limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from all future power plants built in the United States that are so strict, they essentially serve as a moratorium on all new coal plants for decades to come because they require technology that is not yet viable. In 2010, the Government Accountability Office found that commercial deployment of Carbon Capture Sequestration was possible in 10 to 15 years contingent upon overcoming economic, technical, and legal challenges that have yet to be met.
In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “The President’s decision today is an escalation of the War on Coal and what that really means for Kentucky families is an escalation of his War on Jobs and the Kentucky economy.” Similarly, Senator Joe Manchin, (D-WV), said: “If these regulations go into effect, American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar and economic uncertainty will grow.”
The EPA’s latest blow in the war on coal is really part of a bigger war on energy—which becomes a war on jobs. Eastern Kentucky lost about 4000 mining jobs in 2012. On September 17, James River Coal announced it would lay off 525 full-time workers.
Add in the September 17 news of the White House’s pick of Ron Binz to be the nation’s top energy regulator—about whom the Wall Street Journal said has “a record and philosophy hostile toward fossil fuels of any kind”—and you surely see a pattern.
But why? Let’s go back to the Cal Thomas quote: “Too many people have too much invested in perpetuating this fiction.”
Also in the news on September 17: “Ecotality, an electric car charger maker, files for bankruptcy.” Reuters reports: “The San Francisco-based company is among a growing number of U.S. alternative-energy companies that have struggled or succumbed amid consumer resistance to the high cost and restricted driving range associated with electric vehicles.”
Ecotality received a $99.8 million Department of Energy (DOE) grant in August 2009—part of the nearly $100 billion allocated to green energy projects through the 2009 stimulus bill. As the largest unsecured creditor, The DOE is owed $6.5 million. As Christine Lakatos and I have reported, Ecotality is just the latest in an embarrassing string of failures for the President. More than fifty such “investments” of taxpayer money (given to Obama donors and friends of other high-ranking Democrats) have now gone bankrupt or are circling the drain.
If fracking is allowed to continue, oil and natural gas will be plentiful, we won’t need expensive wind- and solar-generated electricity; we don’t need to transform the entire transportation fleet to range-limited electric vehicles.
If manmade climate change isn’t an issue and fossil fuels aren’t the demon they’ve been made out to be, we can continue to generate cost-effective coal-fueled electricity and drive cars powered by domestic oil and natural gas. We don’t need electric vehicles.
If fracking continues and climate change isn’t an issue and coal-fueled power plants are allowed to live out their economic lives, the millions and millions of taxpayer dollars spent on expensive, green energy—in the midst of an economic crisis—will have been for naught. It would be exposed as the scam it is.
Instead, as this week’s news proves, we continue the Chicken Little attempt to keep the sky from falling.
Someone posted a cartoon on my Facebook page. It showed Obama flying a fighter jet with the name “War on Coal” painted on the nose. Underneath was the caption: “We don’t do pin-pricks.” In the war on coal, the war on energy, the war on jobs, the war on the economy—there’ve been no pin-pricks. It is a full on assault. The question is, will the American people fight back by giving coal-based, Obama-supporting Democrats—such as Nick Rahall (WV-3), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1), and Bill Enyart (IL-2)—the boot in 2014 or will they roll over and play dead?
[First Published by Townhall]
On September 18, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Benjamin Domenech was a guest on “The Blaze” and discussed the possible substantive outcome of ObamaCare being defunded or delayed. By the leadership allowing the fight against ObamaCare now and assuming it will fail, will place the fight back on their terms which was to battle against the debt ceiling. He argues that the reason it would be a smart move is because it would place a delay over the debt ceiling fight creating a united caucus as a result of working back to a delay of the individual mandate alone. This would make it far more difficult for Democrats to oppose.
Watch the video below:
Obamacare has not even gone into effect yet, and there it lies substantively smashed on the floor in ruins. The cost of health insurance on the Obamacare Exchanges for next year is already soaring, for those states that will have Obamacare Exchanges opening on October 1. Obamacare also already promises to limit access to health care for those with Obamacare health insurance next year, meaning you won’t have the same access to the same doctors and hospitals that you have with health insurance today.
Thought Obama promised if you like your doctor you can keep him? Haha, sucker, sue him!
To evade the high costs of the employer mandate to buy for their workers next year the health insurance that Kathleen Sebelius says they must buy, employers across the country have constricted hiring, with many stopping altogether. Millions of other workers across the country are finding their job opportunities limited to part-time work, to which Obamacare does not apply. Most if not all net new jobs these days in the land of the former American Dream are in fact part-time jobs, thanks to Obamacare. Middle class incomes have been falling continuously since Obama has been President, and with the rise of this new part-time Obamajob trend, this is only going to get worse, not better, President Obama’s soaring rhetoric on behalf of the middle class to the contrary notwithstanding.
And wait till next year, when tens of millions find themselves losing their employer provided health insurance. UPS has already announced that health benefits for spouses of employees are bye-bye next year. And already millions with their own individual insurance have been greeted at their mailboxes with termination letters from their shrinking and withdrawing insurers. You thought Obama promised if you like your health plan you can keep it? Haha, sucker, get in line to sue him.
All those terminations of the currently covered will mean exploding costs for Obamacare beyond any CBO projections when those Democrat Congressional suckers passed it in 2010.
As a result, even Obama’s liberal base has started to turn against Obamacare. Unions that actually represent working people in the real world have begun speaking out against the Obamacare fiasco cutting their jobs, incomes, and benefits.
Defiant Obama on the Attack But on Monday, there was a defiant Obama still on the attack over Obamacare. He said, “A lot of the, you know, horror stories that were predicted about how this was going to shoot rates way up and there were going to be death panels and all that stuff, none of that stuff’s happened.” You could just see the President chuckling in the back of his head, haha, those stupid Homer Simpsons out there don’t even know that Obamacare has not even gone into effect yet. They also don’t even read liberals like Paul Krugman who has already called for death panels under Obamacare to control costs.
But Obama continued on Monday, “So repealing the Affordable Care Act, making sure that 30 million people don’t get health insurance and people with pre-existing conditions continue to be locked out of the health insurance market, that’s not an agenda for economic growth.” He didn’t mention that CBO projects that Obamacare will leave 30 million uninsured, 10 years after implementation! And CBO didn’t take into account all those terminated from current coverage. For liberals who thought Obamacare meant universal health coverage, haha, sucker, you can get in line to sue him too. You probably thought electing a Marxist as President would mean inequality would go down rather than up, too. As Bugs Bunny might say, hahaha, what a maroon!
Obama even bragged on Monday that under Obamacare, “Health care costs are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years,” and that his namesake socialized medicine plan “has helped to keep down the rise in health care costs to their lowest level in 50 years.” What a miracle, given again that Obamacare has not even gone into effect yet.
By sharp contrast, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were enacted into law in December, 2003. The slowdown in rising health costs first shows up meaningfully in the data in mid-2005, when Mr. Obama was still in the Illinois state legislature. Participation in HSAs has been growing at double digits every year since then.
National health spending growth slowed to 3.9% each year from 2009 to 2011, the slowest rate of increase since the 1960s (which was the last time the government role in health care exploded). But all that Obamacare, passed in 2010, did during that time was contribute to increased health costs.
But Obama went on to taunt Republicans on Obamacare: “I’m more than willing to work with them where they’ve got specific suggestions that they can show will make our health care system work better. But remember, initially this was like repeal and replace, and the replace thing has kind of gone off to the wayside. Now it’s just repeal.” Shame on us, actually.
Lost in the Woods Both conservatives and Republicans have left on the shelf a replace-Obamacare plan that unlike Obamacare actually would assure health care for all (including all those with pre-existing conditions), with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, while making the government far smaller, with sharply reduced taxes, spending, and regulation, and Health Savings Accounts available to everyone, to actually reduce costs, again unlike Obamacare.
But as the Wall Street Journal explained yesterday, some conservatives and Republicans are lost in the woods instead: “The current Continuing Resolution (CR) [to fund the government, without an actual budget] runs out at the end of the month, and about 40 to 50 House Republicans (out of 233) want to attach a rider that either delays or defunds the Affordable Care Act for a year and leaves everything else running.”
Avik Roy further explained on Monday: “However, there’s a larger faction of conservatives who see this as a reckless and destructive strategy. After all, the chances that President Obama will agree to defund his signature achievement are zero, whereas the chances that the public would punish Republicans for shutting down the government are, shall we say, non-zero.”
The Wall Street Journal was even more blunt yesterday:
The problem is that Mr. Obama is never, ever going to unwind his signature legacy project of national health care. Ideology aside, it would end his Presidency politically. And if Republicans insist that any spending bill must defund Obamacare, then a showdown is inevitable that shuts down much of the government. Republicans will claim that Democrats are the ones shutting it down to preserve Obamacare. Voters may see it differently given the media’s liberal sympathies and because the repeal-or-bust crowd provoked the confrontation.
The top priority on the CR actually should be to defend the enormous victory the GOP has already won on spending over the last two years, after their House majority was elected in 2010 to shut down Obama’s out of control leftism. Total federal spending peaked in fiscal year 2011 at $3.6 trillion. But in fiscal 2012, total federal spending in actual dollars declined (which almost never happens) to $3.537 trillion. Now it is on track to decline again for fiscal 2013 (which ends in two weeks) to $3.45 trillion. As Steve Moore reported in the Wall Street Journal on August 12, this “$150 billion budget decline of 4% is the first time that federal expenditures have fallen for two consecutive years since the end of the Korean War.” Moore adds, “these are real cuts, not pixie dust reductions off some sham baseline.”
Moore also explained how this happened:
This reversal from the spending binge in 2009 and 2010 began with the debt- ceiling agreement between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011. The agreement set $2 trillion in tight caps on spending over a decade and created this year’s budget sequester, which will save more than $50 billion in fiscal 2013.
So, naturally, what Obama and the Democrats are demanding on the CR is to reverse all this progress, which has resulted in a rapidly declining deficit as well. They are demanding repeal of the enormously successful sequester, replacing it with yet another tax increase! Those policies were actually in the Democrat budget passed by the Senate this year. Obama has even said that if the sequester spending cuts are not reversed and replaced with a tax increase, he will shut down the government.
This frames the issue disastrously for Obama and the Democrats. If the government is shut down because Obama and his Ds insist on busting the highly effective budget caps and sequester, returning to runaway spending, and financing it with yet another tax increase, the public will back the Republicans and the conservatives in that fight, and it would be a huge blow to Obama and the Ds.
But if Republicans change the issue over the CR to defunding Obamacare, the public will blame them for the ensuing shutdown. The biggest risk is that Obama and the Ds will then insist privately that the Republicans must then concede on the Democrat sequester and tax increase demands to reopen the government.
Roy explained on Monday that the House GOP Leadership came up with a much better plan. Pass a CR that funds the government, including Obamacare, with the spending cuts from the sequester and the budget caps in place. Then pass an amendment to the CR to defund Obamacare. The Senate would then have to take a vote on defunding Obamacare to remove that amendment. But the sequester and the budget caps would still be in place, and the Senate would have to take a highly public vote to repeal and replace those with still another tax increase.
But as the Journal editorialized yesterday, “pressure groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth rebelled and the vote [on the House Leadership plan] had to be postponed, like so many other unforced retreats this Congress.” It characterized the Heritage Action/Club for Growth approach on the CR in these words: “Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of Obamacare. Their demand is that the House pair the ‘must pass’ CR or the debt limit with defunding the health care bill. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.”
Roy added that according to Heritage Action, the GOP Leadership Plan was “a legislative gimmick designed to provide political cover to those who are unwilling to defund Obamacare…. It is our expectation that no conservative in Congress will try to deceive their constituents by going along with this cynical ploy.” This language grossly misrepresents and wrongly maligns the promising GOP Leadership CR plan. Obamacare, remember, passed without a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate, and the Republican majority House has voted to repeal it since then 40 times. Talk of Republicans “unwilling to defund Obamacare” trying “to deceive their constituents” with a “cynical ploy” is misleading mythology.
As Brian Walsh, a former staffer to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) explained in U.S. News and World Report:
The Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action… have spent more money so far on attack ads this year against House and Senate Republicans than the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee and Democrat National Committee combined. All the while, virtually every Senate Democrat up for reelection in 2014… has been given a free pass by these groups.
This is no way to defeat what is in reality an ongoing Marxist takeover of America, through the Democrat Party, which has always been soft on left wing extremism.
Victory Through the Free Market Patient Power Replacement Plan The House Leadership may have been forced to retreat by now to a vote on a simple defund Obamacare CR, as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth have demanded. If so, judge them on the results they achieve, and direct your support accordingly.
But the real road to victory is to focus the CR on defending the enormous victory over spending and taxes already won through the sequester and the budget caps. Obama has misread the public on that, and misled the Democrats on it, all year. It couldn’t be more foolish for us to play games with that now, and risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Moreover, the road to final victory over Obamacare is through the free market, Patient Power replacement legislation mentioned above. If the entire House passes that plan, matching a vast net tax cut repealing the Obamacare tax increases, with a vast net spending cut repealing the Obamacare spending, with vastly reduced federal regulation, while assuring heath care for all, and actually reduced health costs through proven Health Savings Accounts, the American people will cheer their vast approval. That will consign not only Obamacare, but the entire Obama Administration legacy and historical perception, to the dust bin of history out of which it crawled.
[First Published by The American Spectator]
America is filled with groups of people clamoring for their “rights” or claiming they are being discriminated against. One group, however, has been successfully silenced and, broadly speaking, turned into criminals. They are people who enjoy a cigarette, a cigar, or a pipe. There is no one left to speak for them, so I will.
A bit of background; my Father smoked a pipe as long as I knew him and, before him, his father smoked cigarettes. Both died well into their 90s. My Mother did not smoke but in the lingo of the attack on smokers, she presumably was a “victim” of secondary-smoke. She died at age 98. I have smoked since my days in college, some six decades. I became a cigar smoker while in the army and have thoroughly enjoyed them ever since.
In 2010 I received a book by Michael J. McFadden titled “Dissecting Antismoker’s Brains”, a privately-published examination of the movement to ban smoking. He wrote at the time “If by some chance they eventually succeeded in eliminating smoking from the face of the earth there would be virtually no time lapse before they sank their fangs into Big Auto, Big Meat, Big Soda, or whatever supposedly idealistic cause was out there that would promise them Big Money and Big Power.”
He was prescient because we have all witnessed campaigns against meat and soda consumption, all replete with “scientific studies” which, on close examination are bogus. We have been through three decades of such studies regarding the end-of-the-world claims regarding “global warming” only to learn in 2009 that they represented a cabal of scientists in America and Great Britain who colluded to produce the International Panel on Climate Change reports, based on falsified “science” and manipulated, bogus computer models.
These days the IPCC’s latest assessment reluctantly admits that its claims have failed, given a cooling cycle that began around 1998. Instead of shutting down and disbanding, the IPCC continues its quest to control the use of energy sources, oil, coal, and natural gas, denying it as much as possible to nations and people who depend on them.
McFadden has expanded on his earlier book with a new one, “TobakkoNacht: The Antismoking Endgame.” (Aethna Press, $27.95, softcover) The title is a play on Kristallnach, a 1938 event in Nazi Germany that revealed the depths of that regime’s hatred of Jews, leading eventually to the Holocaust. Smokers are not being rounded up and killed, but they are subjected to bans and meritless increases in the cost of smoking; taxes that greatly benefit the states imposing them while using the power of taxation to denigrate smokers.
McFadden, who has a strong knowledge of statistics, examines how they have been used, often falsely, to impose the agenda of the antismoking forces. “Statistics have a real and valid use in science and public health,” he says, “but when it comes to using social engineering techniques toward the end goal of creating a smoke-free world, they have been destructively abused to create fear and resentment far more than they have been constructively used to share information and enlightenment.”
“TobakkoNacht” is filled with information and enlightenment; the kind that the antismoking campaigners do not want the public to know. It is just over 500 pages long and, as McFadden warns, “A democratic republic that allows its policies to be built on the basis of lies, and a citizenry that accepts those lies as being the norm, is a republic and citizenry in very deep and serious trouble.” It’s not just lies about smoking, global warming, or what we should eat and drink. It is the lies that assure us that the government is not reading our mail and monitoring all our phone calls and Internet activity. It is the lies that lure the nation into wars.
The lies pouring out of the White House and repeated in the nation’s mainstream media have achieved a mass that the President has called “phony scandals” and they include the attack in Benghazi, the role of the National Security Agency, the actions taken by the Internal Revenue Service against Tea Party and other conservative groups, and the greatest fountain of lies, the Environmental Protection Agency.
In page after relentless page, McFadden cites the facts that disprove the lies about the connections between smoking and health. Yes, some smokers do develop lung disease, but many people who do not smoke also fall victim. No, there is no epidemic of heart attacks among smokers. The alleged links between “secondary” smoke and health are non-existent. Many of the diseases cited have a genetic component in which even people who do not smoke fall victim.
The war on smokers depends on the same general ignorance of science that other comparable campaigns use. They cite “amounts” of “toxic” substances, so let me end with a short lesson in reality:
1 milligram = 1,000 micrograms
1 milligram = 1,000,000 nanograms
1 milligram = 1,000,000,000 picograms
1 milligram = 1,000,000,000,000 femtograms
The same hucksters and frauds that tell you that 0.039% by volume of the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere poses a huge threat to all life and those claiming that the presence of arsenic in tobacco smoke is a health threat are dependent on public ignorance. What you are not told is that there is arsenic in potatoes and in eggplants. What they are not telling you is that the earth’s active volcanoes are natural sources of carbon dioxide, along with others, including humans that exhale it.
The anti-smoking campaign is about controlling people and, as far as Big Pharma is concerned, making a ton of money selling nicotine patches and gum. The “scientists” in universities will make their money generating false studies.
It’s a scam. It’s a fraud. It has falsely stigmatized everyone who wants to light up and relax.
Maybe I am too late to write about this topic since the Affordable Care Act has already been passed and is in the process of implementation. Then again, the bill is infamously opaque, and I believe very few people, either in Washington, the media, or the general public understand what Obamacare is, or how it will make healthcare more affordable. A study in the Journal of Health Economics published this month claims that only 14% of Americans between ages 25 and 64 have a basic understanding of how insurance works, let alone how Obamacare will effect it. Nobody even seems to know how long the bill is with estimates ranging from 10,000 to 33,000 pages of mind-numbing bureaucratic documents.
According to Nancy Pelosi we should start to know what is in the bill at this point, so I will take a crack at it.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a jumble of convoluted regulations designed to encourage economic interactions which are uneconomical.
Over the last fifty years, extensive government intervention has distorted the private healthcare market beyond repair, resulting in skyrocketing costs and premiums. With tens of millions of Americans priced out of the health insurance market, Obamacare seeks to increase coverage by mandating individuals, businesses, and insurance companies into the existing market structure.
If that last sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Thirty to fifty million Americans were not insured in 2010 for a reason: because it’s not feasible to do so (for most of them at least). The actuarial models used by health insurance companies suggest that insuring such people will cost more money in the long run than it would produce. Therefore, no private, for-profit company will touch theses uninsured individuals.
The reason Obamacare is an incomprehensible pile of minute regulations is because every single attempt by the state to alter the market creates five worse problems in its wake, which are subsequently “fixed” by more regulations, which create more problems, and so on and so forth.
It would take a monumental effort to go through the reasoning behind every component of the bill. For the sake of this article, I will just look at a few major components and their effects on the economy.
Obamacare’s ultimate goal is to expand health care coverage to the uninsured. In the government’s typical blunderous ways, it largely does so by ordering companies to accept more customers and then paying them for it with taxpayer money. This is done primarily through its massive Medicaid expansion which aims to provide coverage to 21.3 million Americans by expanding eligibility for the program (mostly by allowing wealthier people to opt in). The Supreme Court determined that states are allowed to opt out of the Medicaid expansion if they want to, which would leave poor Americans in such states on the national Obamacare/Medicaid plan, but this hardly makes a difference to the federal tax payer as the federal government will cover 90% of state based Medicaid costs in perpetuity anyway.
The other big expansion plan comes from the pre-existing condition mandate. Insurance companies are no longer allowed to “discriminate” (if you want to use scary language) against individuals with pre-existing conditions which makes them obviously unprofitable to insure. Depending on the source, about one third to one half of Americans have pre-existing conditions.
Anyone with even a cursory understanding of insurance should be able to see how terrible of an idea this is. A paralyzed man with five types of cancer could get a job in a medium sized business and suddenly be blessed with healthcare coverage which will cost his insurance company tens of millions of dollars. This policy basically breaks the entire (already severely broken) health insurance model, and does not have a shred of logical backing beyond naked appeals to emotion.
Unlike individual pricing in regular markets, wherein a customer is charged in accordance with his received service, insurance customers only bear a tiny fraction of the total cost of their service. Nearly all of the profitable insurance customers are already in the market, so the tens of millions of added customers will be almost entirely dead weight loss. Meanwhile, the nonlinear nature of healthcare costs (ie. a small number of individuals require far more services than the rest of the population) will further accentuate the problem as private insurance companies as they are no longer able to filter out customers with pre-existing conditions.
In sum, these two regulations add massive, non-sustainable costs onto the private healthcare market, which could easily bankrupt the entire industry. Even transferring a significant portion of these new costs onto the federal government would only delay the inevitable collapse. As costs grow, the insurance companies will charge higher and higher premiums. In response, profitable customers will begin jumping ship, leaving a smaller and smaller pool of productive customers to carry an ever growing pool of unproductive customers.
To combat this crippling market distortion, the federal government opted to implement further regulations designed to force productive customers to stay in the health insurance system.
Please Don’t Leave
Plenty of Americans are already choosing to go without health insurance at the current (absurdly high) premiums. With this number threatening to expand under rising premium costs, the crafters of Obamacare opted to fight market forces with the Employer and Individual Mandates.
Most Americans currently receive health insurance through their employer, rather than independently. Of course, when employers insure their employees, they eat a significant chunk of the cost. With rising premiums, many companies are deciding it’s not cost-effective to continue this benefit. Obamacare advocates would like to just mandate that all businesses must provide health care benefits, but even they realize that such a measure would pretty much wipe out small businesses with even smaller profit margins.
The solution is to pick a number out of a hat, and declare than any business with as many or more employees than that number must provide health care. The number is fifty, the same as France’s arbitrary cut off line for a slew of state-mandated employee benefits. Unsurprisingly, there are 2.5 times as many businesses with 49 employees in France, than businesses with 50 employees.
One can only begin to imagine the number of unintended consequences that come with such a policy. The average cost to employers for providing healthcare benefits last year was about $11.5 thousand (on top of the average $4.5 thousand picked up by the worker). This means that for a company to increase its payroll from 49 to 50 workers, it will have to incur an additional cost of about $575 thousand per year on top of the added employee’s salary and other benefits. And premium costs are only expected to increase.
The other major regulation is the Individual Mandate. Personally, I think the Employer Mandate is just as bad, but the Individual Mandate’s naked attempt at behavior manipulation and wealth redistribution really struck a chord with a lot of Americans. To stop millions of Americans who freely choose not to buy healthcare coverage, the federal government will threaten them with a fine (dependent upon income level) for not opting into a broken system. This way, either individuals will pay for a product they feel is not worth the price, or they will be forced to pay directly into the national healthcare pool with no personal benefit. Millions of individuals will be metaphorically sacrificed for the collective.
That is Obamacare. It is a monstrosity which takes a problem caused by government, uses more government to try to fix it, and then throws more government at it to fix that. The result will probably be disastrous as the government mishandles one of the largest and most complicated industries in the world.
Already we are being treated to glimpses of unintended consequences. In New Hampshire and California, health insurance companies are running away from potential customers and cutting services to reduce costs and preserve their margins. Hundreds of businesses have laid off workers, or reduced full time employees to duck under the crippling 50 employee line, or just reduce overall expenses.
We can only expect skyrocketing costs, worse services, and a weaker economy as Obamacare continues to go into effect over the decade.
On September 17, The Heartland Institute and the Nongovenmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), released Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science. Later that afternoon, Joseph Bast hosted a podcast featuring Dr. Willie Soon and Dr. Craig Idso, two of the contributors of Climate Change Reconsidered II. This podcast is Part 2. Listen to Part 1 here.
Watch the video of Heartland’s full presentation of this report here.
CCR II: Physical Science is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science. It is the fourth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and The Heartland Institute.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
I will never understand the kind of thinking behind a lie so big that it became an international fraud and swindle. I cannot understand why an international organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC) operating under the umbrella of the United Nations, was permitted to issue reports of an imminent threat to the Earth, to mankind, that a freshman student of meteorology would know were false.
At long last the Big Lie of Global Warming has been totally exposed and we can thank The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank that has organized and hosted eight international Conferences on Climate Change since 2008 to expose the lies behind global warming—now called “climate change”—as it became clear that seventeen years of continuous cooling has put a Big Chill on this Big Lie.
I suspect that the Heartland team, led by Joe Bast and including some remarkable, dedicated people, will only get a line or two in some future historian’s account of the deception that began in 1988 before a congressional committee. Thereafter the global warming hoax was given momentum by former Vice President Al Gore who, along with the IPCC, would receive a Nobel Peace Prize!
It helps to have a sense of humor when you are doing battle with hucksters who have the entire world’s media to defend them.
The climate “skeptics”—some of the world’s most renowned meteorologists—dubbed their effort the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and, working with the Heartland Institute, have just released a new edition of “Climate Change Reconsidered II.”It arrives just as the IPCC will release its 5th Assessment Report. The IPCC’s lies will get lots of news coverage.
Heartland’s NIPCC report was fortunate to have notice taken by Fox News, but beyond that most of the intransigent U.S. news media ignored it.As often as not one has to look to foreign newspapers to get the truth.
In Great Britain’s The Mail, the headline on September 14 was “Global warming just HALF what we said: World’s top climate scientists admit computers got the effects of greenhouse gases wrong.” A leaked copy of the IPCC report revealed “scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong.”Well, of course, they were wrong. The so-called “science” on which they were based was idiotic.
It focused primarily on carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called “greenhouse gases”, claiming they were trapping heat while being produced by all manner of human activity related to generating energy with coal, oil, and natural gas.Dr. Martin Hertzberg, Ph,D, co-author of “Slaying the Sky Dragon—Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory”, summed it up neatly, pointing out that water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere is a primary factor affecting climate long term and weather short term.
“The determinant of weather is mainly water in all its forms,” said Dr. Herzberg, “as vapor in the atmosphere, in its heat transport by evaporation and condensation, as the enormous circulating mass of liquid ocean whose heat capacity and mass/energy transport dominate the motions of our atmosphere and the precipitation from it, and finally as cloud, snow, and ice cover which influence the radiative balance between the Sun, the Earth, and free Space.”
As you try to wrap your mind around that explanation, just think about the way the Earth goes through regular seasons as well as predictable cycles of warming and cooling. It has done this now for some 4.5 billion years.To read “Climate Change Reconsidered II”, visit its website.
Among its findings, the report notes that “no close correlation exists between temperature variation over the past 150 years and human related CO2 emissions.” Blaming the climate or even the weather on humans is insane. You might as well blame the floods in Colorado on humans instead of the downpours of rain, comparable to 1894 and 1969.Indeed, the U.S. gives ample evidence of greatly reduced events associated with the weather.
There have been fewer tornadoes over recent decades. It’s been eight years since a Category 3 hurricane hit the U.S. Droughts have been shorter and less extreme than the 1930s and 1950s. And sea levels are predicted to increase barely four to eight inches per century and that may be on the high side. There will be dramatic weather events, but there have always been dramatic weather events!The Heartland’s new report is welcome, but both they and I know that the same deceitful charlatans are still at work in the United Nations, in the United States, and around the world to keep this greatest of hoaxes alive.
The harm the global warming hoax has done and continues to do is best seen in the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency to wipe out the coal industry based entirely on the lie that CO2 is a “pollutant.” When the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing on the Obama administration’s climate policies thirteen agencies were invited to testify, but the administration provided only EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The latter read a prepared statement that was one long lie about global warming. Presumably he was under oath!
Ms. McCarthy, the latest in a long line of environmental fanatics to run the agency, was forced under questioning to admit that current and proposed greenhouse gas regulations are not there to protect the public but to influence “the international community” to reduce their CO2 and other alleged emissions.
Not only do the regulations have no basis in science, but they exist to keep the environmental war on energy use going and to pressure developing nations such as China and India. Within the past month, the citizens of Australia rose up and threw out the politicians who imposed a “carbon” tax on them. The new prime minister has shut down the “climate ministry” that existed to enforce it.
And while most of the world wasn’t watching, the United Nations was seeking to impose, once again, an international agreement similar to the failed and defunct Kyoto Protocol to limit CO2 and other greenhouse emissions, based on the BIG LIE! The 44th Pacific Islands Forum, held in the Marshall Islands, was intent on “an ambitious future climate regime to be finalized in 2015.”
That is what must be understood. These people will not give up until they have no other option. They will continue to exploit the ignorance of people regarding the actual science, penalizing them by driving up the cost of energy use, by closing down energy industries, prospective projects, and the jobs they provide,
They sustain the malignant ethanol scam that is ruining engines as this is being written. They are behind the useless solar panel and wind turbine industries that produce so little actual electricity they are a negative drag on the national grid. You, however, are picking up the tab for their mandated use. They practice a form of child abuse to tell children the Earth is doomed if their mother uses a plastic bag to bring groceries home from the supermarket.
The world’s BIGGEST LIE has been exposed and it will have to be exposed again and again until a stake is driven into the evil heart of the “global warming” hoax.
[First published at Warning Signs.]
This summer, more than 100 ski resorts joined the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) Climate Declaration. The BICEP declaration urges that Americans “use less electricity,” “drive a more efficient car,” and choose “clean energy” to combat climate change. Ski resorts are concerned that global warming will reduce snowfall and hurt the skiing industry.
Skiing executive Auden Schendler said:
Aspen Skiing Company joined the climate declaration because if there is an industry that ought to care about climate change, it’s the ski industry.
The 2007 Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of a difficult future for the industry:
… snow cover area is projected to contract…mountainous areas will face glacier retreat, reduced snow cover and winter tourism…shifting of ski slopes to higher altitudes.
There’s just one problem. Continental snowfall has been increasing. According to the Rutgers University Global Snow Laboratory, North American snowfall extent has been gradually rising over the last 40 years. The year 2010 showed the largest continental land area covered by winter snow since the data set began in 1967.
What makes otherwise sensible people fear that snow is disappearing when snowfall is actually increasing? It’s the ideology of Climatism, the belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying Earth’s climate. Belief in this same ideology causes people to purchase light bulbs that are slow to light and to buy electric cars that can’t go very far. Climatism causes state governments to mandate erection of wind turbine towers that often stand idle.
But if snowfall is changing, why do people believe that government action can change such a climatic trend? In the fall of 2009, the mayor of Moscow declared that the Russian Air Force was now able to “keep it from snowing.” Five months later, in February of 2010, Moscow received 21 inches of snow in a single storm. Last winter, Moscow received the most snow in a century.
Nevertheless, we probably have bipartisan support in Congress for regulation of snowfall. Save the polar bears and the snow.
[Originally published in The Washington Times]
Despite the success of recent reforms, legislators are now considering undermining positive flood insurance reforms by extending wasteful flood insurance subsidies in response to complaints from homeowners in high risk areas. A group of free market and taxpayer protection groups sent a letter to Congress opposing these extensions, arguing that extending these subsidies undermines the reforms and allows the chronically in debt National Flood Insurance Program to continue to pose a significant liability on taxpayers.
“Last year’s overhaul of the National Flood Insurance Program, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, included important changes to the program’s structure to reduce costs to taxpayers and risks to homeowners. The crux of that reform, a phase-out of subsidies to transition more participants to risk-based rates, was a necessary improvement to a troubled program in massive debt to taxpayers. Efforts to delay these changes must be resisted.”
The National Flood Insurance Program is broken. Rather than encouraging risk-based, environmentally sensitive planning and reducing flood risk, NFIP has served to subsidize unwise construction and the destruction of wetlands. To make matters worse, NFIP currently owes the taxpayers more than $28 billion and has no practical way to pay it back.
Last year, Congress passed the first real positive reform package in decades, reforms designed to reduce costs for taxpayers and move NFIP policyholders towards policies with rates based on real world risk, not politics. These reforms, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 are a welcome step away from government-centered flood insurance and poorly administered and a move towards responsible risk based rates.
The letter also addresses many of the key problems with the NFIP as it is currently constructed, pointing out that many of the properties receiving the subsidies are in affluent areas or areas posing significant flood risks.
“29 percent of the properties located where NFIP operates are in counties with the highest 10 percent of income, and 43 percent of subsidized properties are in counties in the top 10 percent of all home values. Extending subsidies to these homes for an additional year is simply not justifiable.”
Increases in flood insurance rates due to new NFIP flood maps are another hot point issue. Homeowners facing significant hikes have been pressuring officials to delay or stop the hikes altogether. The letter to Congress points out that the areas facing significant hikes are doing so for a reason, they face a heightened flood risk and must charge rates commensurate to this risk.
“Finally, the recently released flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency cast doubt on some of the wilder claims of massive rate increases. The universe of homes facing large hikes is very small and consists mostly of areas with extraordinary risk resulting in a total loss roughly once every ten years, properties for which mitigation or buyouts might be appropriate.”
The letter concludes that extending the flood insurance subsidies would gut the best reforms of Biggert-Waters while placing a greater burden on taxpayers.
“Passage of Biggert-Waters last year was a step in the right direction of a freer flood insurance market that is not built on payouts from taxpayers. Gutting that reform by eliminating its central component of phased-out subsidies for one year would undo that progress and put taxpayers on the hook for billions more in NFIP costs.”
On September 17, The Heartland Institute and the Nongovenmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), released Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science. Later that afternoon, Joseph Bast hosted a podcast featuring Dr. Willie Soon and Dr. Craig Idso, two of the contributors of Climate Change Reconsidered II. This podcast is Part 1. Listen to Part 2 here.
Watch the video of Heartland’s full presentation of this report here.
CCR II: Physical Science is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science. It is the fourth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and The Heartland Institute.
The 50 to 1 video project presented by Topher Field provides not only data, references, scientists, researchers, economist and investigative journalist to reveal the tremendous effort wasted to changing the global temperature but the misleading and bad public policy created for climate change.
Specifically, using Australia’s carbon reduction scheme in 2012 “the most ambitious and expensive carbon tax anywhere in the world” their effort at reducing global carbon tax would create a temperature change of 120,000th of one degree after a decade. So the decrease would be so insignificant that there would be no detectable impact even though 160 billion dollars would be spent on this effort.
Field then provides a comparative analysis of what we would spend if we simply adapted to the climate change instead of using the carbon taxes and trading schemes, using the 2006 Stern Report on climate economics. “If the planet warms by three degrees this century it would cause damage of 0 to 3% of the global GDP so roughly 1.5% or we could spend 80% of the global GDP if we tried to stop it.” Thus, Fifty to One.
The cost here far outweighs the benefit if we were to just adapt to the change in temperature. A solution rarely presented is the idea of adapting and investing our resources elsewhere for the benefit of society. After all it wouldn’t be the first time mankind adapted to change.
The 50 to 1 Project explains exactly why “pretending we can stop climate change is a waste of time, money, and opportunity and may be doing more harm than good” and is a great rebuttal to mainstream medias claims.
Watch the video below:
The Fox News Channel ran a special two-hour edition of “Special Report with Bret Baier” last night (Wednesday) that covered a wide range of topics, including our release of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, a massive 1,018-page report explaining why global warming is not a crisis. The program started at 5:00 p.m. CST, the segment on global warming ran around 5:20 p.m. CST, and it featured footage of Dr. Willie Soon and me in Fox’s Chicago studio.
The clip below has been posted on YouTube:
Please do me the favor of forwarding this to friends and posting the link on your Facebook page. I think it does a nice job cutting through all the propaganda and hype to explain why man-made carbon dioxide is not causing dangerous climate change. This clip is something you can share with family and friends to start a conversation.
At one point in the program I’m shown laughing because Dr. Soon (who is a brilliant astrophysicist and very entertaining guy) was doing a riff on how ridiculous it is for the IPCC to claim to be ever-more confident in its predictions, even as every climate model it relies on FAILED to predict the 16-year lull in warming. The IPCC – and all the mainstream media and environmental extremists who cite it uncritically — really have become a joke in the scientific community.
The climate models, the theory of man-made global warming, and the IPCC all assert that temperature should rise in concert with carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. That connection may be stronger or weaker for a few years, as other factors temporarily alter global temperatures, but it can’t just disappear for 16 years without the theory coming under serious challenge. They have no answer other than appeals to authority (and you trust the United Nations, don’t you?) and personal attacks on the scientists who are brave enough to speak out.
Here’s the very first quote in a BBC News story under the headline, “Navy Yard: Swat team ‘stood down’ at mass shooting scene”:
“I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that some lives may have been saved if we were allowed to intervene,” a Capitol Police source familiar with the incident told the BBC.
The story continues:
Multiple sources in the Capitol Police department have told the BBC that its highly trained and heavily armed four-man Containment and Emergency Response Team (Cert) was near the Navy Yard when the initial report of an active shooter came in about 8:20 local time.
The officers, wearing full tactical gear and armed with HK-416 assault weapons, arrived outside Building 197 a few minutes later, an official with knowledge of the incident told the BBC.
According to a Capitol Police source, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Washington DC’s main municipal force, told the Capitol Cert officers they were the only police on the site equipped with long guns and requested their help stopping the gunman.
When the Capitol Police team radioed their superiors, they were told by a watch commander to leave the scene, the BBC was told.
Let that sink in a moment. Cops specially trained and armed to deal with exactly the situation facing them at Navy Yard were told to go away. The story ends with this:
A Capitol Police officer who heard the Cert request over the radio to engage the gunman reported colleagues within the department felt frustrated they were told to stand down.
The officer described a culture in which emergency responders are instructed to not extend themselves beyond the Capitol grounds for fear of discipline.
“They were relying on our command staff to make the right call,” another Capitol Police officer said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that happened in this case.”
This would be outrageous on its own. But careful readers of articles on these mass shootings will no doubt have detected a pattern of this kind of conduct. Though these stories do not receive a lot of coverage – apparently criticizing cops is almost as big a taboo as criticizing the military in many circles – they are easy to find.
For instance, last December there was the horrible shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. CNN put together a timeline of the events at the school from the moment the first emergency call was made. Here’s CNN’s summary:
Police and other first responders arrived on scene about 20 minutes after the first calls. Police report that no law enforcement officers discharged their weapons at any point.
Now let that sink in. A school full of small children and defenseless teachers. A gunman shooting up the place. And police wait 20 minutes to get there. The shooter killed himself before police reached him.
But that was great response time compared to that of cops who lollygagged their way to the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Here’s CBS News on that, taken from a report the news organization did 10 years after the incident that included information that had been known only to police insiders at the time:
[B]y the time the first SWAT team was assembled and geared up to enter the building, it was 12:06 – 47 minutes after the shooting had begun.
It was more than three hours before cops had worked their way through the building.
Radley Balko, author of the recently released book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, reports scores of incidents in which innocent persons have been killed in SWAT raids, sometimes at the wrong addresses. He writes:
In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn’t a suspect in the investigation.
SWAT cops apparently have no problem throwing hand grenades through windows and smashing down doors in the middle of the night to pounce on unsuspecting people. They have no problem beating up and even killing these people, many of whom have been shown to have been doing nothing illegal. Yet they have repeatedly stood outside buildings while innocent people inside the buildings have been slaughtered by deranged gunmen.
SWAT was ordered to “stand down” rather than stop the killer at Navy Yard. They were useless when needed most.
But we can bet they’ll soon receive orders to crash through the doors to the house or apartment of the next person in their area who is suspected of growing a marijuana plant, and they’ll do it fearlessly. Maybe they’ll even get the right address.
Many people probably do not know it, but American shipping is still governed by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. As noted by Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, and in a recent op-ed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Akina asserted that this antiquated law represents:
The most economically debilitating plank of the Jones Act requires that ships carrying cargo between U.S. ports be built in the United States. This has created an artificial scarcity of ships largely due to the inefficiency and extraordinary cost of U.S. ship construction, driving up freight and charter rates and thus limiting domestic commerce.
As a consequence, U.S. shipbuilding yards today construct fewer than 1 percent of the world’s deep draft tonnage, and the ships produced for the commercial market come at a hefty price.
If you’ve ever wondered why some goods cost so much when shipped via ports, then the reason is directly related to the Jones Act. According to the purpose of the act (TITLE 46, APPENDIX App. > CHAPTER 24 > § 861),
It is necessary for the national defense and for the proper growth of its foreign and domestic commerce that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency, ultimately to be owned and operated privately by citizens of the United States; and it is declared to be the policy of the United States to do whatever may be necessary to develop and encourage the maintenance of such a merchant marine, and, insofar as may not be inconsistent with the express provisions of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall, in the disposition of vessels and shipping property as hereinafter provided, in the making of rules and regulations, and in the administration of the shipping laws keep always in view this purpose and object as the primary end to be attained.
Essentially, no foreign built ship can carry goods domestically between ports. Each ship has to be built in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens, and staffed by American citizens and permanent residents. Talk about driving up the costs of shipping! As a result, goods are not as low as they otherwise would be because of this nearly century old piece of legislation.
I am reminded of the fabulous HBO series The Wire, where in one season it catalogued the decline of shipping in Baltimore as a result of inefficient union control and corruption. Not surprisingly unions oppose changing the act for a more free market and consumer friendly law in order to protect jobs. As a matter of good public policy, and for the sake of consumers, the Jones Act should be repealed.
Few people likely know or care that yesterday was Constitution Day, and those who do have probably already been audited by the IRS or had their 504(c)(4) applications denied. But Tuesday, September 17, 2013, marked the 226th anniversary of the United States Constitution, one of the most important documents in the history of human freedom and the foundation of the last best hope on earth for government of the people, for the people, and by the people.
Thinkers as diverse as fiction writer Stephen King, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, and the oft-misquoted Alex de Tocqueville have ruminated on the origins and future of government, and all but the most radical anarchists recognize the need for at least some. How much government need or should exist remains, indeed, the essential struggle of our time.
Some of us, like Thomas Jefferson, believe that government is best which governs least, leaving individual citizens to pursue their own hopes and lives and dreams within a minimalist framework that protects individuals from coercion by others. Others, like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, believe that educated or cultural elites should nearly engineer a “socially just” society through rules and regulations programs while providing most people’s material needs as a matter of “right” at the expense of others.
Some will always criticize the U. S. Constitution for providing too little government and others for providing too much, but little doubt exists about what the Constitution was actually designed to do. Because – in the immortal words of Lord Acton – power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, our Constitution divides power between the states and the national government, and the power of the national government among three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, named in that order. Its genius is as simple as that – and all the rest is gravy.
But the devil is in the details and, like “free market” economics, the problem is not so much in the Constitution’s design as in its execution. Like a flag that’s been flown far too long, over the past 226 years our Constitution has become torn and battered, in some respects unrecognizable. Some spots shine brightly while others are faded; still others seem missing completely and, here and there, a patch has been added on.
Within fifteen years of the Constitution’s ratification, a judiciary designed to be the “least dangerous” of three co-equal branches by insulating it from politics asserted its superiority over the other two branches in Marbury v. Madison (1804) and has since become overtly political – think Bush v. Gore, Roe v. Wade, or National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (the case that gave us Obamacare).
A legislature designed with two houses specifically to help balance power between the states and the national government – in which the people directly elect the members of one house but not the other – has been turned on its head. Since the 17th Amendment the Senate has become a nominally upper house with less turnover than the House of Lords while, in the supposedly more populist House, members get to select their constituents by redrawing districts to suit the party that controls the state.
Meanwhile, a President whose very title – “Mr. President” – signifies that he (or, from the looks of it, soon a she) is but one of us has become increasingly imperial over time. Today the White House occupant announces that he’d prefer to wait for Congress but that in these “not normal” times he needs to do things himself – much like the devious “Big Jim” in Stephen King’s “Under the Dome.”
So where do we go from here? Do we resign ourselves to the inevitable, that the natural condition of humankind is not freedom but a short and brutish life in which the common folk are ruled by others who enrich themselves at our expense? Do we give up on the dreams of the Founders and their spiritual descendants, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., to bestow the blessings of liberty on all God’s children? Do we accept that the fundamental transformation of America has not only begun but is finished?
If not, how do we change things in a positive direction? In the wake of this year’s Constitution Day we could do a lot worse than to study Mark Levin’s latest book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic (Simon & Schuster 2013), available at Wal-Mart and wherever else fine books are sold. A trim 208 pages plus Appendix and footnotes, Mark’s book thoughtfully proposes eleven amendments – a new Bill of Rights – that would restore the Constitution to its original intent.
Odd though it seems that the Constitution would need amending to return it to its roots, Mr. Levin’s proposed amendments would do just that: by establishing term limits for congressmen and the Supreme Court, returning the selection of Senators to the States rather than the people; limiting spending, taxing, and the federal bureaucracy; promoting free enterprise and protecting private property; granting the states authority to amend the Constitution directly and to check the power of Congress; and finally, to protect the vote by restricting the franchise to actual U. S. citizens.
“We live in perilous times,” he says, and “the challenges are daunting. … This is our generation’s burden. We have our work cut out for us. But there is a way forward. The Constitution.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Professor Susan Crawford’s Bloomberg op-ed, “New FCC Head Must Reclaim Authority over Telecom,” exposes a profound lack of substance, in being unable to identify any real market problem warranting FCC regulation.
Let’s review Professor Crawford’s litany of contrived policy problems.
First, she charges that ISPs are working “to ensure no regulator has any real authority over them.” No, ISPs are pointing out the unique excessiveness of having THREE government entities having authority over them on the same general matters. ISPs are not asking for any reduction in authority for the DOJ or the FTC. Specifically, Verizon is asking the D.C. Appeals Court to decide if the FCC exceeded its legal authority in imposing prophylactic common-carrier-like regulation on companies that have not done anything wrong.
Second, she charges that in 2002, the FCC “gave up any authority to require that network access providers not discriminate…” No, the FCC decided that broadband was a competitive information service that should not be regulated like a monopoly telephone company. The FCC was simply extending the decades-old FCC policy in its Computer Inquiry I,II, & III decisions, which rightfully sought to not impose common carrier regulation on computer services to promote innovation. The FCC determined that broadband was a computer/Internet service not just telephone call network.
Third, she demands that the new FCC Chairman mandate the nuclear option of Title II reclassification of broadband: “It’s imperative that Wheeler reclaim the FCC’s authority over telecommunications.” No again. Currently there is no problem with the FCC not having common carrier authority over broadband. However, if the FCC were to follow Professor Crawford’s recommendation, and pull the rug out from under an industry that has invested in good faith, almost a trillion dollars in modern and competitive broadband facilities, under the legal, policy and political precedent, assurances and consensus that broadband would not be common carrier regulated – that unwarranted, unjust, and capricious action would cause monstrous problems.
Finally, she imagines that: “The U.S. lacks any plan to upgrade from cable to faster fiber-optic connections, and there is no competition among providers to drive technology upgrades… [or] to treat fairly any interconnecting networks...” Obviously Professor Crawford has not done her research and does not know that Comcast demonstrated a 3 Gigabit cable broadband network at the Cable Show and Cable Labs has plans for more than 10 Gigabit cable broadband capability. She also does not understand that the existing, well-functioning, Internet peering system has never suffered from common carrier regulation. She somehow imagines that the very few companies like Netflix, that transport orders of magnitude more traffic than most anyone else, are somehow being discriminating against, if they negotiate an agreement to pay for some of the costs its massive traffic causes for others.
In sum, Professor Crawford gamely tried to identify a real problem to justify common carrier regulation of the broadband Internet, but could not. That speaks volumes. If this is the best that the Save the Internet’s movement’s torch-bearer can come up with after several years of trying, there is no there there — but smoke and mirrors.
[First Published by Precursor]
Ecotality declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday.
Compared to other Recovery Act beneficiaries that have failed – like battery maker A123 Systems and electric auto company Fisker Automotive – the deathwatch was short. A July 25th report issued by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General declared Ecotality’s EV Project largely a waste of time and misallocated money.
Then in mid-August Ecotality informed the Securities and Exchange Commission it was in deep financial trouble, with bankruptcy a possibility. A filing showed that the company was unable to obtain additional financing and the DOE had ceased payments to it for the EV Project until the agency could investigate further. DOE also warned Ecotality to not incur any new costs or obligations under the EV Project.
NLPC first raised questions about Ecotality’s viability and origins in October 2011.
Monday’s development is another black eye to President Obama’s green energy agenda, but we’ve come to learn that each flop is just another reason for his Energy Department to look on the bright side. DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons told the Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay in a statement yesterday that stimulus support for Ecotality was “meant to establish the seeds of infrastructure needed to support a growing market for advanced vehicles, [and] the company installed more than 12,500 charging stations in 18 US cities—or approximately 95 percent of their goal.”
The attitude echoes comments made by others from DOE after similar collapses. When Colorado-based Abound Solar declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 2012, DOE deputy director of Public Affairs Damien LaVera wrote a lengthy article defending the agency’s “investments” in solar energy with the attitude of “Hey, they can’t all be winners!”
“Of the $400 million that Abound was originally approved for, the Department only lent the company less than $70 million,” LaVera wrote at the time. “Because of the strong protections we put in place for taxpayers, the Department has already protected more than 80 percent of the original loan amount. Once the bankruptcy liquidation is complete, the Department expects the total loss to the taxpayer to be between 10 and 15 percent of the original loan amount.”
Yes, great job DOE!
Then there was last week’s testimony by former Loan Programs Office director Jonathan Silver, in a hearing about secret email exchanges on private accounts held before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When challenged by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio about millions of dollars in squandered “investments” thanks to his agency’s poor judgments, Silver said the losses only represented three percent of the portfolio and one percent of the loan loss reserve set aside by Congress for the stimulus, which Silver said made the program a “success.”
While DOE grant evaluators may be slapping each other on their backs for their great accomplishments, and the superior judgment they think they’ve exercised on behalf of the taxpayers, those of us in the real world wonder if this interminable nightmare will ever end. Nissan North America also appears to be concerned. The all-electric Leaf – which is supposed to be manufactured in much greater quantities now outside Nashville thanks to its $1.4 billion taxpayer guaranteed loan – is somewhat dependent on the chargers produced and deployed by Ecotality. The bankruptcy notice said Nissan loaned the company $1.25 million to continue operations until the process is completed.
Nissan has an interest in not seeing Ecotality’s thousands of “Blink” chargers become glorified lampposts. According to PlugInAmerica.com, at least 5,700 Leaf owners received free chargers through the EV Project, and many more own chargers that were heavily subsidized. In addition Ecotality’s chargers were deployed throughout ten major metro areas in which they were supposed to replicate a system where EV owners could conveniently find spots in their daily routines to repower while they shopped or worked. A large-scale uprooting of the chargers, much like retail chain Costco did a couple of years ago, would be an even greater disaster for DOE and EV manufacturers like Nissan.
Bloomberg reported yesterday that Ecotality said it had installed more than 8,000 home chargers and 4,000 commercial chargers. The DOE Inspector General noted in his July report that the intent of the EV Project was to create a system of chargers that would alleviate owners’ “range anxiety,” meaning that they could drive and not worry whether or not they could make it to their next stop before running out of power. The report reasoned that the purpose of the EV Project was to “develop, implement, and study techniques for optimizing the effectiveness of infrastructure supporting widespread electric vehicle deployment,” an agenda established by President Obama as part of his plan to have one million electric cars on the road by 2015.
So the heavier deployment to homeowners, rather than businesses and public locations, undermined that goal. Worse, the Inspector General criticized how DOE approved reimbursement to Ecotality that allowed the company to use as a “match” the full monthly costs of the electric cars, chargers and Internet service for EV owners who participated in the program – over $550 per month, according to the IG. Because of that generous accounting, Ecotality received taxpayer funds to offset costs it incurred.
“…the vehicles and Internet connections were purchased to satisfy personal needs of consumers, not solely for the project,” the IG reported.
Ecotality’s rollout of the chargers in this fashion were in part the result of weaker than projected (but not unexpected by those who truly understand the laws of economics) adoption of EVs. Now the next unintended consequence is that Nissan and other electric automakers such as General Motors (with the Chevy Volt) and Ford (with a $5.9 billion taxpayer loan for alternative vehicles production) are somewhat dependent on a system of chargers whose maintenance, software updates and repair are now in doubt. Hence the $1.25 million Nissan loan while the car companies and the government figure out what to do next.
The scrutiny will come quickly about Ecotality’s crony capitalism and spending practices, as well as DOE’s foolish decision to award such a huge grant to an obviously incapable and inexperienced company. One example: the company paid steep rent costs (vendors listed at Recovery.gov) – sometimes five figures monthly – for nearly every city in which they had the EV Project. With such poor adoption of EVs, it’s hard to imagine Ecotality representatives or contractors couldn’t work out of less expensive locales – like their homes. And why did Ecotality need to relocate its headquarters from Arizona to some ritzy office digs near the banks of San Francisco bay?
Such answers may be confirmed by a Washington Free Beacon source. Reporter Lachlan Markay quoted an Ecotality executive who blamed the company’s plight on previous CEO Jonathan Read, who “offered no leadership and either directly or indirectly […] squandered or pocketed all the government money.” Read had previously been quoted in a shareholder conference call a few years ago saying he was a “political beast” who would play the political card very hard. His background was in executive management for the Park Plaza hotel chain and Shakey’s International. As Markay reported, “Read boasted about his political connections, and received bonus payments contingent on ECOtality winning DOE support.
DOE has paid $96 million so far to Ecotality in reimbursed costs related to the EV Project. It’s hard to see how much, if any, of that will be recovered for taxpayers in the planned bankruptcy auction. They may be stuck with a bunch of dead-weight chargers that need to be removed as well. But remember, that is all just part of the success story that is the DOE clean energy portfolio.
[First Published by National Legal and Policy Center]
…[F]or many patients the most basic elements of care were neglected. Calls for help to use the bathroom were ignored and patients were left lying in soiled sheeting and sitting on commodes for hours, often feeling ashamed and afraid. Patients were left unwashed, at times for up to a month. Food and drinks were left out of the reach of patients and many were forced to rely on family members for help with feeding. Staff failed to make basic observations and pain relief was provided late or in some cases not at all. Patients were too often discharged before it was appropriate, only to have to be re-admitted shortly afterwards. The standards of hygiene were at times awful, with families forced to remove used bandages and dressings from public areas and clean toilets themselves for fear of catching infections.
These conditions caused the deaths of an unknown number of patients. It may sound like a Nazi concentration camp or a third-world “failed state” like Yemen, but it wasn’t. It took place in one of the most advanced industrial democracies in the world.
What should happen in such a situation? Should the facility be closed? The staff fired? Management arrested and tried for manslaughter? At least sued for malpractice? Would it make any difference to you if it was a private or a public facility?
In fact the quote above was taken from a press release announcing the “Final Report Of The Independent Inquiry Into Care Provided By Mid Staffordshire (England) NHS Foundation Trust.” The 500-page report was mandated by the House of Commons and chaired by Robert Francis QC, who was quoted as saying –
It is now clear that some staff did express concern about the standard of care being provided to patients. The tragedy was that they were ignored and worse still others were discouraged from speaking out.
Management knew what was happening, but failed to correct it and even suppressed any discussion of the problems.
Again, what should be done?
Enter Don Berwick.
Dr. Berwick was brought in to chair another committee — the National Advisory Group on the Safety of Patients in England, which issued another report and recommendations for action.
Berwick’s report is a complete whitewash of the situation. Here are a few of their observations and my comments.
Let’s start with Berwick’s personal letter to “Senior Government Officials and Senior Executives of the Health Service.” He writes –
You are stewards of a globally important treasure: the NHS. In its form and mission, guided by the unwavering charter of universal care, accessible to all, and free at the point of service, the NHS is a unique example for all to learn from and emulate.
Good grief, could he be more gushing, even in the face of glaring and criminal incompetence? No one on earth wants to emulate the NHS. Not one nation is trying to replicate the British system. It is the laughing stock of the world. The things about it that Berwick admires are the very things that made this atrocity inevitable as we will discuss below.
Patient safety problems exist throughout the NHS as with every other health care system in the world.
So, it’s no big deal, just the way things go. Get used to it.
NHS staff are not to blame — in the vast majority of cases it is the systems, procedures, conditions, environment and constraints they face that lead to patient safety problems.
NHS staff are not to blame? Who developed the procedures, conditions, environment and constraints? Where is the procedural rule that told the staff to let people lie in their own feces and urine? Who decided to leave food and water out of the reach of the patients? What kind of monster would step over a suffering patient and do nothing? Would Don Berwick be so sanguine if these things happened in a private hospital? Of course not! Heads would roll. But since it is a government hospital, no one is to blame.
In some instances, including Mid Staffordshire, clear warning signals abounded and were not heeded, especially the voices of patients and carers (sic).
So people ignored the abundant “warning signals” and those people are also “not to blame”?
The system must…abandon blame as a tool and trust the goodwill and good intentions of the staff.
What goodwill? What good intentions? If Ford built defective cars that killed hundreds of innocent people, would Don Berwick insist that we “trust the goodwill and good intentions of the staff?”
Many people probably died from avoidable causes, and many more suffered unnecessary indignities and harm…(but) without ever forgetting what has happened, the point now is to move on.
Yes, move on. Nothing to see here. No one is to blame. No one is accountable. “Many people probably died from avoidable causes” and that is really sad, but let’s “move on” to happier topics.
Some of the recommendations are contradictory. Berwick’s commission says that everyone involved in the system must be committed to constant improvement and patient safety, but it also says –
(The NHS should) ensure that responsibility for functions related to safety and improvement are vested clearly and simply in a thoroughly comprehensible set of agencies, among whom full cooperation is, without exception, expected and achieved.
So, on one hand everyone must be involved, but on the other, it is the responsibility of a limited number of agencies, allowing everyone else to say, “Sorry, that’s not my job, it is the work of the Bureau of Patient Safety.”
Most of the report is a long series of self-serving platitudes about continual improvement, life-long education, focus on the patient, and so on. It insists that patients are central to the mission, but even this is contradicted by the make-up of the commission itself. The appendix notes that –
The Committee assembled was dominated in a majority by scientists — experts in organizational theory, quality improvement, safety and systems — and with a healthy minority of people currently in management positions within the NHS in England.
Where are the patients who are supposedly so central to the whole shebang? Not worth including, I guess.
And here is the real problem with the NHS. Like the commission itself, patients are an afterthought. They have no power, no authority in the NHS. The entire system is based upon the idea that well-meaning experts will do things for (or to) supplicating patients who get their services for free and have no choice in what they get.
But the current scandal shows that these experts are not always well-meaning or even competent. What happens to the hapless patient then? They are left to lie in their urine-soaked beds with food and water out of reach. There is no recourse, other than to “move on.”
Without patient empowerment, there is no “system” that can prevent such abuses. We can implore the experts to be caring and competent all we want, but some will not be and it is impossible for committees to police every action by every “caregiver.” And if no one is ever “blamed” for any wrong doing, it is futile to even try.
Another excuse provided by Berwick’s committee was recent budget cuts and resulting staffing shortages. Faced with such shortages, what is a hospital to do? Well, it might have requested that patients make up the difference. It might have charged patients a small portion of the costs, maybe $10 a day, $25 a day, whatever it takes to avoid the staffing shortages. I expect patients would have gladly paid such a fee to avoid the humiliation, pain and even death they experienced by getting their care for “free.”
But such a remedy would have violated Dr. Berwick’s devotion to the NHS’s “unwavering charter of universal care, accessible to all, and free at the point of service.” So, political ideology trumps all else. Sure, patients may suffer, but they suffer for free and we experts can pat ourselves on the back for being so caring.
[First Published by NCPA]
Among the targets to disable an enemy’s ability to wage war is their energy infrastructure. The destruction of the utilities that provide electricity or its ability to refine oil is critical to crippling a nation’s ability to function, based on the universal use of hydrocarbons such as coal, natural gas, and oil.
If an enemy was doing this to America we would go to war against it, but this is being done and the enemy is the government on which we depend to ensure the nation has the energy it needs to function and grow. Leading the war on America has been the Environmental Protection Agency, but it is joined by the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, and other agencies.
The Institute for Energy Research has estimated that the much of the government’s oil and gas that is technically recoverable is worth $128 trillion, about eight times our national debt. Our coal resources in the lower 48 states are estimated to be worth $22.5 trillion.
On September 10, The Wall Street Journal reported that “The Obama administration plans to block the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they are built with novel and expensive technology to capture greenhouse-gas emissions, according to people familiar with a draft proposal.” The U.S. has more than 27% of the world’s known coal reserves.
Greenhouse gas emissions are primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas vital to all life on Earth, the “food” that vegetation depends upon. It plays no role whatever in a “global warming” that is not occurring. It is emitted by the Earth’s many active volcanoes and hot springs. It is exhaled by humans and land animals. It is the product of the combustion of hydrocarbons. As it increased in the atmosphere, the Earth has entered a cooling—not a warming—spell since the late 1990s. Its atmospheric concentration is a very tiny 0.039 percent by volume.
It is, however, the justification on which much of the EPA’s enforcement activities are based. “The only way coal plants could comply is to capture carbon dioxide emissions and stick them underground—a costly process that hasn’t been demonstrated at commercial scale before.”
The idea of “capturing” CO2 and holding it underground is about as idiotic as it gets. More CO2 means more abundant crops to feed humans, livestock, and wildlife. It means healthier forests and jungles. Yet this is what would be required if the EPA gets its way. And even if it were possible, it would drive up the cost of electricity to consumers.
If implemented the proposal would guarantee one thing; fewer coal-fired plants and, as a result, less production of electricity. In 2012, the American Energy Institute warned that “coal’s share of U.S. electricity is expected to fall to below 40 percent this year from 42 percent last year and produce the lowest share since data was collected in 1949. Just five or six years ago, its share of electricity generation was 50 percent.”
The EPA isn’t content stopping the construction of coal-fired plants. In April 2013 a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the EPA’s veto of the Arch Coal Spruce Mine in West Virginia. The decision pushed aside the Army Corps that normally conducts the environmental reviews and which granted approval to the mine in 2007.
The EPA ordered the Corps to withdraw the permit. This transfer of power to the EPA imperils all future coal mining projects. A Wall Street Journal article about the EPA’s project veto noted that “A recent study by Berkeley Professor David Sunding estimates that some $220 billion of annual investment depends on these permits; the fact of an EPA veto will deter new investment.” EPA warnings have caused a British mining giant, Anglo-American, to walk away from a proposed Alaskan “Pebble” mine—potentially the largest coal and copper project in North America.
It is not just coal whose use is targeted by the EPA, fracking technology has unleashed a boom in natural gas, but the Obama administration has nominated an enemy of natural gas to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Ron Binz regards it as a “dead end” because he too is a believer in carbon capture and storage. His answer to a non-existent global warming is “renewable” energy sources such as solar and wind. Solar currently provides 0.01% of the electricity fed to the grid and wind provides just 2%. FERC oversees much of the gas business and could effectively deter the growth of this industry with all of its attendant benefits from jobs to the reduction in the cost of electricity.
A recent report by the Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee exposes the way the EPA has “pursued a path of obfuscation, operating in the shadows, and out of the sunlight.” The report noted how the former administration established an alias identify in order to discuss agency business without having to report on it. The report provides a lengthy description of violations of the Freedom of Information Act and other federal laws and regulations intended to encourage transparency in government.
All of this is going on while the nation languishes in the long recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, while creating jobs is vital to that recovery, and while it continues its long history of resisting the provision of energy in any form to Americans.
It is a war being waged on Americans, most of whom are unaware of it, but are being victimized by it.
A hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week investigated the Obama administration’s practice of concealing email communications, with former top officials getting grilled about their use of private Internet accounts to conduct government business.
Two of the most egregious offenders were subject to withering scrutiny, although it didn’t last long enough to get very deep. Lisa Jackson, the former EPA Administrator whose FOIA-evadable email address was under the alias “Richard Windsor” – named in part for her dog – was questioned about a message sent to Siemens vice president Alison Taylor in which she asked her to “use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly….”
Jackson, of course, said it was perfectly normal to direct a corporation official that she regulates to communicate with her via methods for which the public has no access. Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute provides an excellent summary of South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy’s questioning of Jackson at GlobalWarming.org.
And then there was Jonathan Silver (in photo), former director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office. He came under fire – especially from Committee Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio – about his directives to keep messaging out of the public eye. The Congressman confronted Silver, who came to the loan program from the venture capital realm, with an email he sent in August 2011 from his personal account to a few staff members. The message was the subject of questioning Silver received by the same committee in July 2012.
“Don’t ever send an email on doe email with private addresses,” Silver wrote to a DOE colleague’s Gmail account. “That makes them subpoenable (sic) (i.e., subject to subpoena).”
Silver’s excuse was that he was “not trying to evade anything” and that the message was simply an admonition about handling personal vs. public communications. Jordan was having none of it, and asked if that was the case, why didn’t Silver respond to the message from his DOE email account. Silver said he could not explain because he could not remember where he was at the time when he sent the message.
“I’ll tell you what I think happened,” Jordan interrupted. “I think you were trying to conceal it.”
The Ohio Congressman then called attention to emails between Silver and John Woolard, CEO of Brightsource Energy, who was waiting for the final approval of a loan from DOE for a California solar project. One message extended an open invitation by Silver to Woolard to stay at his home “anytime,” and that the “guest bedroom is ready.” Jordan then refreshed Silver on a March 2011 piece of correspondence – which the Committee raised in that 2012 hearing also – in which Woolard and former Brightsource Chairman John Bryson sought Silver’s help in editing a letter to White House Chief of Staff William Daley, in which they would ask for “a commitment from the (White House) to quarterback loan closure between the Office of Management and Budget and DOE by March 18.”
“I think you were trying to help your friends,” Jordan said to Silver in last week’s hearing. The letter he referenced was never sent, but Brightsource did receive a $1.6 billion loan.
Jordan then unleashed a barrage of accusations at Silver: that he sought to conceal official government business on private email accounts; that he was so focused on helping friends get money that he was willing to help them appeal to the White House for the loan to be expedited; that 22 of 26 companies that got loan approvals had credit ratings of double-B-minus; and six companies have gone bankrupt.
“The taxpayer got the shaft all the way around in this program,” Jordan said.
The congressman then showed an email that committee staff from the law firm that also happens to represent Silver, requesting that questions not be directed to him. Silver claimed to know nothing about the request.
Silver entered his DOE role with great excitement from the venture capital community. Prior to taking the Loan Programs Office leadership role, he was co-founder and managing director of Core Capital Partners, “a successful early-stage investor in alternative energy technology, advanced manufacturing, telecommunications and software.” Before that he held senior positions with several other investment and finance firms. A number of others from the VC realm jumped to the Obama administration with him.
The Energy Department considers Silver’s tenure a “large” success.
“Under Mr. Silver’s leadership,” DOE’s Web site says, “the Loan Programs Office has grown to become the largest project finance effort in the United States. Since Mr. Silver took office, the agency has committed over $40 billion in 42 clean energy projects with total project costs of over $63 billion. Cumulatively, these projects create or save over 66,288 jobs across 38 states and avoid over 38 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking over 4.5 million vehicles off the road or about as many vehicles as in the state of Michigan. The program’s 23 generation projects produce over 32 million megawatt hours, enough to power nearly 3 million homes.”
Of course those are made-up numbers – not actual measurements. DOE also boasted how the Loan Programs Office, under Silver, underwrote the world’s largest wind farm; two of the of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants; the nation’s first nuclear power plant in three decades; several large geothermal projects; one of the country’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants; and three “successful” electric vehicle launches.
Note the boasting emphasizes “large,” which doesn’t mean “successful.” There is no such thing as “too big to fail” in any business, much less clean-tech – Solyndra, A123 Systems, and Ener1 batteries being just a few examples. The three electric vehicle “launches” were not initiated because of DOE either – Tesla, Nissan (Leaf) and Ford (various EVs) were already well underway before the stimulus came along, and the jury is still out on whether their electric car ventures will succeed or not. As for the nuclear plant, its future is in serious doubt as well.
Rep. Jordan assailed Silver’s record last week, as he cited several bankrupt recipients of DOE support. Silver’s response was that the losses represented only three percent of the portfolio. Jordan correctly noted the amount was “millions and millions of dollars.”
“Not every investment will be successful, but the vast majority have been,” Silver testified in perfect bureaucratese, the kind you would expect from a former venture capitalist.
Jordan responded with incredulity noting the 22 that had a double-B-minus credit rating, when no one in the private sector would have given them a loan.
“You guys go ahead and (loan the money), and six of them go bankrupt, and that’s a success?” Jordan retorted.
In responses to questions from Florida Republican Rep. John Mica, Silver acknowledged having private communications with two investors – John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, and Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners – while projects they were invested in were under consideration for DOE loans. Doerr’s investment, Fisker, is near failure and Ehrenpreis had stakes in Tesla Motors and Abound Solar, the latter which went bankrupt last year.
As Chairman Issa explained during last week’s hearing, investors in the failed companies who may seek redress in the courts may have been wronged if those private communications – which are legally the property of the public – have been deleted. It’s just another example of the despicability of crony capitalism.
[First Published by National Legal and Policy Center]