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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Heartland Daily Podcast: Which States are Friendliest to Small Business?

June 20, 2014, 10:10 AM

Regulations have a way of growing like weeds: unless they are rooted out, they spread. Regulatory compliance has always been a headache for small business owners who do not enjoy the cozy relationships with big government that large corporations often develop. In fact, they are frequently ignored by legislators both in Washington and in the states.

John Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack, recently joined our Steve Stanek on the Heartland Daily Podcast for a talk on the business climate in America today. Thumbtack is an online marketplace that brings together service providers and consumers who can negotiate and organize jobs.

Every year, Thumbtack conducts a survey of its customers to develop a “small business friendliness” index detailing the friendliness of each state government toward entrepreneurs and small businesspeople. This year, the survey included nearly 13,000 small business operators who were asked questions on 11 different metrics. The findings are very interesting.

The top three friendliest states were found to be Utah, Idaho, and Texas. The three least friendly states were California, Rhode Island, and Illinois. While not an overly surprising result in itself, the breakdown of the metrics revealed some interesting results about what factors make business climates unfriendly. It turned out that the main culprit was the complexity and difficulty of a state’s licensing regulation. In fact, those surveyed said this factor was twice as important as the level of taxation. Describing the previous surveys, Lieber said that this focus on regulatory compliance was persistently the most serious factor for small business owners in their assessment of their state’s business friendliness.

The big issues in the public consciousness tend to concern taxation. Yet it is not taxation that is really killing small businesses; it’s all the red tape. This is a very interesting finding, one that could have some real implications for policy-makers. For many people, regulation is not really something they think about. Politicians and voters have to be confronted with the true cost of compliance with overcomplicated and expansive regulatory regimes.

The interesting fact is that states looking to make themselves more attractive to businesses can do so without necessarily reducing taxes. What really attracts small businesses is “a tax code that is easy to understand and easy to comply with.” That is not too tall an order, and it should be something politicians across the political spectrum can get behind.

Listen to the podcast in the player above.

Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.

Categories: On the Blog

FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions – Part 17 Netflix Series

June 20, 2014, 9:53 AM
  1. Does Netflix have any responsibility to help provide its users the streaming service that they paid Netflix for by connecting with ISPs in the high quality manner that most all other content delivery networks do? In other words, why is Netflix such an outlier here?
  2. More specifically, when Netflix customers pay Netflix for its video streaming service, does Netflix have any responsibility to its paying streaming customers to plan, arrange, and pay for widely-available, competitive, Internet paid-peering or content-delivery-network arrangements that are most likely to ensure the highest-quality Netflix customer-streaming-experience, or is it everyone else’s legal responsibility on the Internet, but Netflix’, to ensure quality streaming to Netflix’ customers?
  3. Why is it the financial responsibility of ISPs to automatically and immediately compensate for the streaming-quality implications of Netflix’ business decisions to serve its customers over the least-costly Internet access path for Netflix at any given time, when Netflix knows full well that its cost-cutting delivery strategy necessarily has negative streaming-quality implications for its paying customers?
  4. What law or court decision requires or obligates ISPs to overbuild their network infrastructure to handle whatever amount of industry-leading downstream traffic Netflix chooses to route wherever it wants to, without warning, and without any financial arrangement to pay for their extraordinary capacity surges?
  5. Is Netflix operating and negotiating in good faith, and in a commercially-reasonable way, with the ISPs about which it is complaining?
  6. Is it “commercially reasonable” to expect in a business negotiation that business A must pay all of business B’s business costs so that business B can profit at the direct expense of business A?
  7. Since Netflix appears to be involved one way or another in most all of the peering disputes covered by the media, could Netflix, (with the market power that comes with being the nation’s largest generator of downstream traffic — 34% per Sandvine), have any obligation under the FCC’s 706 authority to be as transparent in its network management decisions and delivery-quality-assurance choices as ISPs are?
  8. If only one side of a potential peering dispute, the ISP, were to have an FCC obligation to be publicly transparent, but not the Nation’s largest Internet delivery network, doesn’t that transparency imbalance perversely incent Netflix to arbitrage and game the PR situation because the public can’t know the whole story?
  9. Why does Netflix demand the ISP delivery mechanism pay for the whole cost of delivering Netflix’ one-third of downstream Internet traffic, when Netflix has paid the U.S. Postal Service hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver its DVDs to many of the same customers?
  10. If Netflix and others can use unlimited amounts of bandwidth and not pay their fair share of the Internet’s infrastructure costs, what economic incentive would there be to upgrade the Internet’s infrastructure to keep pace with their exploding demand, if Internet infrastructure costs were to be completely divorced from Internet infrastructure prices?

***

Netflix Research Series

Part 1:  Level 3 & Net Neutrality – Ignorance Unleashed! [11-30-10]

Part 2:  Level 3-Netflix Expose their Hidden Agenda [12-3-10]

Part 3:  Sinking Level 3 Seeking FCC Internet Regulation Bailout [12-8-10]

Part 4:  Netflix’ Open Internet Entitlement Hubris [2-1-11]

Part 5:  Fact-Checking Netflix’ Net Neutrality WSJ Op-ed [7-8-11]

Part 6:  Netflix’ Glass House Temper Tantrum Over Broadband Usage Fees [7-26-11]

Part 7:  Netflix Crushes its Own Momentum [9-20-11]

Part 8:  Netflix the Unpredictable [10-10-11]

Part 9:  Is Netflix the AOL of Web Streaming? [3-9-12]

Part 10: Netflix’ Net Neutrality Corporate Welfare Plan [5-9-12]

Part 11: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 12: Video: Why FCC Title II Reclassification of Broadband is a Legal Non-Starter [9-22-13]

Part 13:  Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 14:  Exposing Netflix’ Extraordinary Net Neutrality Arbitrage [1-24-14]

Part 15: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit Not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 16: Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Climate is for Kids

June 20, 2014, 9:08 AM

This is a YouTube video showing exploitation of kids for climate change taking place in Canada.  Also displayed are a number of YouTube videos around the world showing the same exploitation taking place in other countries.

These movements may cause psychological damage to the young by giving them negative feelings about the future of the planet.  For all of history, human’s have benefited by the gifts from the planet, in particular energy sources, that have uplifted each generation after the other.  Bumps have occurred like WWI and WWII, but progress continued.  The environmental movement may reverse this process.

Categories: On the Blog

Flag Desecration: Protecting Free Expression Even When We Hate It

June 19, 2014, 1:21 PM

Reverence and veneration of our national flag has long been profound in the United States, far more so than in other countries. Veneration of the Stars and Stripes has evolved beyond mere respect for it as a symbol of national identity, but as an almost religious emblem of American values and the American way of life.

That general reverence has led, over the years, to many state legislatures and the federal Congress passing legislation banning the desecration or burning of the flag. Such legislation generally follows similar language, effectively banning the desecration of the national flag in protests, or other acts of discontent. So far these bans have been struck down by the Supreme Court, which in 1989 described them as contrary to the principle of free speech. The last attempt at the national level was made in 2006, and popular support for such a ban remains high.

Proponents of a ban argue that the special symbolic value of the flag to the American people is such that it must be protected by law, and that the right to free speech does not extend to the desecration of the emblem of the nation. Yet that argument seems to curtail a form of free speech that could undermine the ability of people to protest the policies of the government.

A Visceral Action

There can be no doubt that the act of flag desecration is powerful. It causes anger, sadness, even shame in many patriotic citizens who recognize what it stands for and the sacrifices many brave men and women have made to keep it flying high.

Yet it is that very visceral quality that makes flag desecration such a potent, and important, expression of free speech or protest: it is an expression to which many people will respond.

Jarring statements grab attention, and can force attention onto an issue. A conventional protest can be overlooked, but images of a flag being burned immediately drag in media attention and start a commentary. While some of that commentary does inevitably center on the issue of flag desecration itself, it also brings focus to the cause.

When protesters are called to explain themselves, they get a chance to explain their views and promote their cause to a much wider audience than they might have been able to reach otherwise. For that reason, flag desecration can be very valuable for gaining attention, and if done thoughtfully, to generate meaningful discourse.

Patriotic Flag-Burning

Burning a flag may not be an act of “un-Americanism”, in the sense of opposing widely held principles emblematic of the United States, at all. The flag can be burned as an act of patriotism. When individuals feel the state is doing something contrary to the ideals of the nation, the ideals that the flag represent, burning the flag can be symbolic of the state’s non-adherence to the values it is meant to defend. The act of desecration thus serves to connect the cause of the protestor to the very ideals of the nation, and shows that it is central to the discourse of what the nation’s values are and how they should be maintained, rather than simply being the ancillary opinions of a few people that can simply be discarded.

It is also important that a free society be able to question its values and how they are realized. Banning something on the basis of majority opinion and their easily offended sensibilities is little more than a heckler’s charter. If views are banned simply because the majority disagrees with them, it is little more than the tyranny of the strong over the weak. The very reason there are checks and balances in our government is to prevent such tyranny. This is exactly why the Supreme Court has stood against the laws passed by the federal and state legislatures banning desecration of the flag; they protect the rights of citizens with a minority opinion from the majority seeking to take them away.

The Right to Say What Others Despise

For society to be free and democratic it must have provision for the expression of views contrary to the mainstream, even views directly oppositional to it. This must extend to the means by which we convey such messages. Public disgust is certainly not justification enough to deny the right to expression.

The exercise of a right can only justly be denied to someone when there is a direct harm to others by exercising that right. Some people may have a great sentimental attachment to the symbolic significance of the flag, but they should not expect the law to enforce their sentiments on everyone. The flag, like all symbols of beliefs and groups, is not inviolable, nor is anyone’s piece of mind or health so attached to its wellbeing that the desecration or defacing of it could cause any true harm.

Furthermore, the patriotism of individuals watching a flag burning is not affected by it. This view is upheld by the Supreme Court opinion in Texas v. Johnson, when the opinion argued that there could be no better response to a flag burning by someone opposed to such an action than waving their own flag or saluting and paying respect to the burning flag. People can thus show their opposition peacefully without infringing the right of a protestor to burn a flag.

Banning flag desecration on account of a sense of moral disgust, or of the threat to public order caused by angry counter-protestors, is the prohibition of an otherwise lawful act for the reason that others will commit crimes in response. Clearly, these are not justification for banning flag desecration.

The strength of a free society lies in its ability to tolerate opposing views, even those that are antithetical to the constitutional or civil laws as they stand. The protections we enjoy and jealously guard for ourselves only have meaning if we extend them to all citizens.

Categories: On the Blog

Fixing Our Dictatorial EPA

June 19, 2014, 11:46 AM

Last year, Congress enacted 72 new laws and federal agencies promulgated 3,659 new rules, imposing $1.86 trillion in annual regulatory compliance costs on American businesses and families. It’s hardly surprising that America’s economy shrank by 1% the first quarter of 2014, our labor participation rate is a miserable 63% and real unemployment stands at 12-23% (and even worse for blacks and Hispanics).

It’s no wonder a recent Gallup poll found that 56% of respondents said the economy, unemployment and dissatisfaction with government are the most serious problems facing our nation – whereas only 3% said it is environmental issues, with climate change only a small segment of that.

So naturally, the Environmental Protection Agency issued another round of draconian restrictions on coal-fired power plants, once again targeting carbon dioxide emissions. EPA rules now effectively prevent the construction of new plants and require the closure of hundreds of older facilities. By 2030 the regulations will cost 224,000 jobs, force US consumers to pay $289 billion more for electricity, and lower disposable incomes for American households by $586 billion, the US Chamber of Commerce calculates.

The House of Representatives holds hearings and investigations, and drafts corrective legislation that the Harry Reid Senate immediately squelches. When questions or challenges arise, the courts defer to “agency discretion,” even when agencies ignore or rewrite statutory provisions. Our three co-equal branches of government have become an “Executive Branch trumps all” system – epitomized by EPA.

Some legal philosophers refer to this as “post-modernism.” President Obama’s constitutional law professor called it “the curvature of constitutional space.” A better term might be neo-colonialism – under which an uncompromising American ruler and his agents control citizens by executive fiat, to slash fossil fuel use, fundamentally transform our Constitution, economy and social structure, and redistribute wealth and political power to cronies, campaign contributors and voting blocs that keep them in power.

Even worse, in the case of climate change, this process is buttressed by secrecy, highly questionable research, contrived peer reviews, outright dishonesty, and an absence of accountability.

Fewer than half of Americans believe climate change is manmade or dangerous. Many know that China, Australia, Canada, India and even European countries are revising policies that have pummeled families, jobs, economies and industries with anti-hydrocarbon and renewable energy requirements. They understand that even eliminating coal and petroleum use in the United States will not lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or control a climate that has changed repeatedly throughout Earth’s history.

Mr. Obama and EPA chief Gina McCarthy are nevertheless determined to slash reliance on coal, even in 20 states that rely on this fuel for half to 95% of their electricity, potentially crippling their economies. The President has said electricity rates will “necessarily skyrocket,” coal companies will face bankruptcy, and if Congress does not act on climate change and cap-tax-and-trade, he will. Ms. McCarthy has similarly said she “didn’t go to Washington to sit around and wait for congressional action.”

However, they know “pollution” and “children’s health” resonate much better than “climate disruption” among voters. So now they mix their climate chaos rhetoric with assertions that shutting down coal-fired power plants will reduce asthma rates among children. It is a false, disingenuous argument.

Steadily improving air pollution controls have sent sulfur dioxide emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants tumbling by more than 40% and particulate emissions (the alleged cause of asthma) by more than 90% since 1970, says air quality expert Joel Schwartz, even as coal use tripled. In fact, asthma rates have increased, while air pollution has declined – underscoring that asthma hospitalizations and outdoor air pollution are not related. The real causes of asthma are that young children live in tightly insulated homes, spend less time outdoors, don’t get exposed to enough allergens to reduce immune hyperactivity and allergic hypersensitivity, and get insufficient exercise to keep lungs robust, health experts explain.

But the American Lung Association backs up the White House and EPA claims – vigorously promoting the phony pollution/asthma link. However, EPA’s $24.7 million in grants to the ALA over the past 15 years should raise questions about the association’s credibility and integrity on climate and pollution.

EPA also channels vast sums to its “independent” Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which likewise rubberstamps the agency’s pollution claims and regulations: $180.8 million  to 15 CASAC members since 2000. Imagine the outrage and credibility gap if Big Oil gave that kind of money to scientists who question the “dangerous manmade climate change” mantra.

Moreover, even EPA’s illegal studies on humans have failed to show harmful effects from pollution levels the agency intends to impose. Other EPA rules are based on epidemiological data that the agency now says it cannot find. (Perhaps they fell into same black hole as Lois Lerner’s missing IRS emails.) EPA’s CO2 rulings are based on GIGO computer models that are fed simplistic assumptions about human impacts on Earth’s climate, and on cherry-picked analyses that are faulty and misleading.

In numerous instances, EPA’s actions completely ignore the harmful impacts that its regulations will have on the health and well-being of millions of Americans. EPA trumpets wildly exaggerated benefits its anti-fossil-fuel rules will supposedly bring but refuses to assess even obvious harm from unemployment, soaring energy costs and reduced family incomes. And now Mr. Obama wants another $2.5 billion for FY-2015 climate change models and “assessments” via EPA and the Global Change Research Program.

EPA’s actions routinely violate the Information Quality Act. The IQA is intended to ensure the quality, integrity, credibility and reliability of any science used by federal agencies to justify regulatory actions.  Office of Management and Budget guidelines require that agencies provide for full independent peer review of all “influential scientific information” used as the basis for regulations. The law and OMB guidelines also direct federal agencies to provide adequate administrative mechanisms for affected parties to review agency failures to respond to requests for correction or reconsideration of scientific information.

Those who control carbon control our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans. It is essential that EPA’s climate and pollution data and analyses reflect the utmost in integrity, reliability, transparency and accountability. A closed circle of EPA and IPCC reviewers – accompanied by a massive taxpayer-funded public relations and propaganda campaign – must no longer be allowed to rubberstamp junk science that is used to justify federal diktats. Governors, state and federal legislators, attorneys general, and citizen and scientific groups must take action:

  • File FOIA and IQA legal actions, to gain access to all EPA and other government data, computer codes, climate models and studies use to justify pollution, climate and energy regulations;
  • Subject all such information to proper peer review by independent scientists, including the significant numbers of experts who are skeptical of alarmist pollution and climate change claims;
  • Demand that new members be appointed to CASAC and other peer review groups, and that they represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints, organizations and interests;
  • Scrutinize the $2.5 billion currently earmarked for the USGCRP and its programs, reduce the allocation to compel a slow-down in EPA’s excessive regulatory programs, and direct that a significant portion of that money support research into natural causes of climate change; and
  • Delay or suspend any implementation of EPA’s carbon dioxide and other regulations, until all questions are fully answered, and genuine evidence-based science is restored to the regulatory process – and used to evaluate the honesty and validity of studies used to justify the regulations.

Only in this manner can the United States expect to see a return to the essential separation of powers, checks and balances, economic and employment growth – and the quality, integrity, transparency and accountability that every American should expect in our government.

 

[Originally published at Townhall.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Climate McCarthyism Demeans Presidential Office

June 19, 2014, 11:20 AM

President Barack Obama demeaned the dignity of the presidency by ridiculing tens of thousands of scientists for simply disagreeing with his lay opinions on global warming. While the political left throws shrill temper tantrums against anybody who “disrespects” the Office of the Presidency by asking Barack Obama a challenging question (something they had no qualms about during the Bush administration), Obama himself is setting the applicable ground rules for disrespectful political discourse and climate McCarthyism.

At a commencement address Saturday at the University of California, Irvine, Obama encouraged students to heap scorn on Ph.D. scientists at some of the world’s most prestigious universities and scientific research institutions if they disagree with Obama’s global warming policies.

“When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it,” Obama said. “But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anyone saying the moon wasn’t there, or that it was made of cheese.”

President Obama is correct that no Ph.D. scientists – and likely no sane individuals – seriously argued that the moon was made of cheese or was merely an illusion. Does that analogy apply to the global warming debate?

Distinguished professors and scientific researchers on the staffs of Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, NASA, NOAA, etc., have published research and publicly expressed their findings that humans are not creating a global warming crisis. More than 30,000 scientists, including more than 16,000 with post-graduate science degrees and more than 9,000 with Ph.D.s, have taken the affirmative step of signing a petition summarizing such science. Almost certainly, tens of thousands more – and likely hundreds of thousands more – similarly agree but are unaware of the petition or haven’t taken the affirmative step to read it, review it, and submit their signatures.

As host of the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change, which I host approximately once per year, I routinely have to turn away dozens upon dozens of highly qualified university science professors who have heard of the conference and hope to secure a speaking slot. With a limitless budget and time schedule, I could easily have hundreds of university science professors and thousands more professional scientists give presentations calling attention to the flaws in President Obama’s global warming alarmism.

Indeed, multiple surveys of professional meteorologists and climate scientists reveal that if a consensus on the issue exists at all, it is that whatever global warming is occurring is of mixed natural and human causation and does not justify the economy-killing prescriptions championed by self-serving politicians like Barack Obama.

To the limited extent global warming alarmists publicly debate the issue, their track record for success is about the same as that of China at soccer’s World Cup. For those who are skeptical, take a look at how one the global warming movement’s most visible advocates, Gavin Schmidt, fared the one time he participated in a public debate. After getting beaten so soundly that even he admitted it was a mistake to debate other scientists on the issue (and blamed his loss on one of his opponents being taller than him), is it any wonder he and his fellow alarmists avoid public debates the way John Edwards avoids National Enquirer reporters? Perhaps forgetting how badly Schmidt fared in his one-time debate, a Florida State University faculty member who was trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project agreed to publicly debate me on the topic and fared just as miserably. Here is video of the debate that climate alarmists claim “is over.”

This brings us back to Obama’s attempt to vilify and ridicule scientists who disagree with his lay scientific conjecture. Perhaps it is true that ridicule and vilification are common, if regrettable, aspects of contemporary politics. Most Americans would hope that the President of the United States would not demean the office by engaging in such mean-spirited and sophomoric behavior, but we have also come to realize that politicians will be politicians, no matter how much power they have attained. But this isn’t about one ambitious politician smearing another ambitious politician. This is about the President of the United States – a non-scientist – making a grossly dishonest mischaracterization and analogy at the expense of expert scientists and then encouraging our nation’s best and brightest to shout down those scientists utilizing further dishonesty and McCarthyism to further political agendas. And the moment somebody questions the President about such reprehensible conduct – no matter how calmly the question is asked – the political left goes into conniptions about how appalling and reprehensible it is to disrespect the Office of the President of the United States in such a manner.

Sorry, Barack, but you have only yourself to blame for so pitifully demeaning the Office of the President.

[Originally published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Hell to the Redskins

June 19, 2014, 11:07 AM

By a two-to-one vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a ruling that eliminates trademark registration for six current trademarks of the Washington Redskins NFL team (including for the “Redskinettes” cheerleaders).

Its argument is that the trademarks “were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.” It notes that its ruling does not prevent the team from using those words and symbols, but that it would prevent standard federal protections against others using them, including against companies, whether in a garage in D.C. or in factory in China, making unlicensed apparel and other items using the logos without paying a fee to the team or to the league.

The PTO refused all of the team’s defense arguments including laches — a legal term basically meaning that (due to equity concerns rather than something like a statute of limitations) the plaintiff waited too long to assert his/its claim. However, in a similar case in 1992 in which the PTO also revoked Redskins’ trademarks for nearly identical reasons, a federal court overturned the ruling based on laches, a decision that was eventually upheld after appeal and rehearing. The courts never addressed whether the trademarks themselves are disparaging to Native Americans, though the first court to hear the appeal ruled that the evidence to prove such a claim was insufficient.

The case was brought by five Native Americans of different tribes; the PTO’s decision does not specify the tribal affiliation of one of them, saying merely that she “testified that she is a Native American.” (Didn’t Elizabeth Warren do something similar?) That particular plaintiff’s testimony includes “that the use of the term REDSKIN is analogous to the term ‘n****r,’ and that people should not profit by dehumanizing Native Americans.” Others said they found the team name “disparaging” and “offensive.”

After a tedious analysis of whether the term “Redskin” is disparaging, including “expert reports” that say just what you’d expect them to say, the PTO references several letters to current and former Redskins’ owners, such as this gem to Edward Bennett Williams in 1972:

Since you continue not to believe that the term “Redskins” is not [sic] offensive to anyone, let me make this clear: The name “Redskins” is very offensive to me and shows little human interest or taste. I am a Comanche Indian from Oklahoma. Indians are having enough trouble trying to erase misconceptions about themselves without having to be hit in the face with it every day in the form of a football team or baseball team. If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.) Since you would probably find this as distasteful as 300,000 Indians do, I would suggest a change in name. In sticking to your ethnic theme, I would suggest the Washington N*****s as a start.… This would start a fantastic trend in the league. We would soon be blessed with the San Fransisco [sic] Chinks, New York Jews, Dallas Wetbacks, Houston Greasers, and the Green Bay Crackers. Great, huh? Mr. Williams, these would be very offensive to many people, just as Redskins is offensive to myself and others. You can take a stand that would show you and the team as true believers in civil rights, or you can continue to carry a name that keeps alive a threatening stereotype to Indian people. People, Mr. Williams. We don’t want the Redskins!

The “findings of fact” include that starting in 1966, dictionaries began noting that the term “Redskin” is “offensive, disparaging, contemptuous or not preferred” as well as listing a litany of objections against the team name by Native American groups. The PTO also states that “at a minimum, approximately thirty percent of Native Americans found the term REDSKINS used in connection with respondent’s services to be disparaging…” and continues to note that the law “prohibits registration of matter that disparages a substantial composite, which need not be a majority, of the referenced group.” They add that even if views of the term change when used in the context of football, that does not change the underlying offensiveness to those who feel offended.

Returning to the question of why the PTO would assume that a court would treat this ruling any differently than it did last time, the PTO notes that the 2011 America Invents Act “changed the venue for appeals” from the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Basically, they’re hoping that a new court will overturn the prior court’s ruling, and also hoping that something in the America Invents Act modifies the ability to use laches as a defense in the case. We’ll see. On one hand, courts do not love overturning precedent, especially when the second case is essentially identical to the first. On the other hand, this entire issue has become very political and, sadly, Chief Justice Roberts demonstrated that judges even at the highest levels can be influenced by what they read in the newspapers.

Administrative Trademark Judge Marc Bergsman dissented from the ruling noting that the case is not (or should not be) about “the controversy, currently playing out in the media, over whether the term ‘redskins’…is disparaging to Native Americans today.” (Emphasis in original.) Rather the test is whether the term was disparaging “at the time each of the challenged registrations issued. Bergman also noted that the evidence used by the plaintiffs in the current case was basically just a resubmission of the evidence of the prior case, with the addition of brief testimony of a few current plaintiffs who said they found the term “redskin” offensive.

The district court that first reviewed the original PTO cancellation of the trademarks more than a decade ago ruled that there was insufficient evidence to do so, and Bergman wonders how using the same evidence could now somehow be sufficient. In short, Bergman says that while the term “redskins” may have been disparaging when the trademarks were registered, “the evidence petitioners put forth fails to show that it was.” Bergman also notes that up to at least 1978, only two dictionaries referenced the term as offensive and “two does not make a trend.”

For now, Harry Reid is happy to have 2 minutes to talk about anything other than his absolute failure as a Senate leader and his president’s absolute failure as a leader of any sort. (Who can lead with such tempting putting greens available and when we have pressing issues to deal with like climate change — while the planet isn’t warming — and LBGT discrimination among federal contractors?)

In today’s increasingly lawless America, it is no easy prediction as to whether the PTO’s ruling will be upheld or overturned by the courts.

If the law restricts the issuance of trademarks that are deemed to be disparaging at the timeby a substantial part of a substantially large group of people, then if that disparagement test can be proven the trademarks should indeed be cancelled. That said, one would think that the PTO would have considered the question of disparagement at the times the trademarks were applied for and found that it was not sufficient to stop registration. The burden of proof must be on the petitioners and must be quite substantial, especially given the enormous economic interests at stake and the sizeable investments in marketing and branding made by the Washington Redskins.

The legal issue is quite different, however, from the question of whether the team shouldchange its name and the issue of American hypersensitivity to everything. There’s no right not to be offended, and political correctness is an acid being poured on civil discourse and good government. Additionally, nobody seriously looks at the use of the name “Redskins” for an NFL team and thinks of anything other than strength and tradition (even when the ’Skins aren’t very good). One would think that a reasonable part of a test of whether a term is offensive is whether those using the term mean it that way. For these reasons, I hope that the PTO’s ruling is overturned.

If the trademark cancellations are upheld by the courts, Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder might be forced, for financial reasons, to change the team’s name since the loss of license revenue (to himself and to the league) on a non-trademarked logo — sweatshirts and coffee mugs produced by pirate operations anywhere and sold as “official” gear without paying for the right to use the team name and related images — might be too expensive to tolerate (despite some suggestion that there may be other legal protections for the team’s use of those names and images).

While nothing would then be stopping anyone else from using the Redskins’ unprotected logos for their own purposes — perhaps even to tweak the PC police by using them for a new sports team — that’s not a particularly likely outcome.

Instead, if the PTO’s ruling stands, given the tendency of the forces of political correctness and “tolerance” to go too far, such as laws protecting workplace cross-dressing and allowing a boy who “believes” he’s a girl to use a school’s girls’ bathroom, one wonders whether every other Native American-referencing team name and logo — not only the many “Redskins“ around the country — will soon be under assault. And next will come any other corporate trademark that some “activist” wants to claim as offensive, to use as a punching bag to earn his own five minutes of fame.

For now, thinking like the trader that I am, perhaps a good investment would be a brand spanking new Washington Redskins jersey. It could soon be a collector’s item if the PC police, using a federal agency and spurred on by Democrats in Congress (much like the IRS Scandal), can end more than 80 years of Washington Redskins history.

Hail to the Redskins!

 

[Originally published at The American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Author Calls for Obama Impeachment

June 19, 2014, 11:02 AM

Recently author Andrew McCarthy has been a guest on various Fox News shows, in addition to many appearances throughout the country promoting his new book, Faithless Execution,  At each event McCarthy weighs the political dynamics as he builds an impeachment case through assembling a litany of abuses that add up to one overreaching offense by the President, specifically, his willful violation of his solemn oath to execute the laws faithfully.

It is McCarthy’s contention that our elected representatives are duty-bound to take up the dare. This, however, is much easier said than done. The “why” will be covered later on.

The Heartland Institute had an overwhelming response to its noon time Author Series event that featured  McCarthy on Thursday, June 12 at The Heartland Institute library, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740 in Chicago.

McCarthy, as a nationally acclaimed author, is a prominent voice on security issues, specifically the threat of radical Islam in America. His books include: “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America” and “Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the jihad.” At the present time McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation of Defense for Democracies and a columnist for the National Review. Previously he was the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District in New York. Most famously McCarthy was the lead prosecutor in the trial against Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman and 11 other terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

When writing Faithless Execution, McCarthy admitted there came a time when he had to finish writing about Obama’s abuses of power. Summarily, McCarthy found himself a few events behind by the time the book was published. McCarthy was especially taken aback by the Obama administration’s failure to abide by the National Defense Security Act which mandates a 30-day notification period to members of Congress before Gitmo prisoners can be released. Because of the failure to notify Congress about the details of the prisoner swap of five dangerous Gitmo terrorists in exchange for Sergeant Bengdahl, this usurping of congressional authority is gaining more traction than have previous infractions of the law, most likely due to bipartisan anger over the reckless exchange.

Violation of Presidential Oath

Why is the willful flouting of the law by President Obama so egregious and dangerous to this nation?  It should be evident that unchecked power in a single chief executive poses a serious threat to liberty.  Andrew McCarthy doesn’t take lightly, nor did he forget candidate Barack Obama’s promise back in October, 2008, when during a campaign rally Obama remarked that he was only “five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America

Time and again President Obama has blatantly elected not to follow the oath of office of the President of the United States, which is simple and concise and reads:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Instead of living up to that oath, President Obama has actively attempted to subvert, ignore, and completely destroy large parts of the Constitution.  It is all together reasonable to conclude that President Barack Obama is well aware of what he is doing and that his actions are completely intentional.  A further thought, just why shouldn’t Obama continue with his lawlessness?

So far the main stream media has given President Obama a free pass.  Furthermore, Obama’s past history places him as a devotee of Alinsky and his “Rules for Radicals” in his work in the 80′s as a community organizer in Chicago.  Rule No. 8 of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” is definitely in play when considering Obama’s lawful actions and behavior as president.

Rule No. 8:  Keep the pressure on. Never let up. Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.) 

As suggested in Alinsky’s Rule No. 8, hit the public with one event after another to cause confusion.  Obama’s transgressions against the Constitution happen with such regularity, often with little daylight between them for reflection, that the American people have become overwhelmed and somewhat inoculated as to how to react when one lawless act follows another with little time elapsing to understand the previous one.  It doesn’t help that the public has such a short attention span, or that Obama is able to so masterfully divert blame from himself to another person or entity.

Impeachment as an option

As set forth by McCarthy, the Framers of our Constitution, because of concern over how placement of power in a single chief executive could lead to a rogue executive, vested in Congress two ways to deal with presidential excess:  1) Power of the purse, whose responsibility the current Republican-led House of Representatives has, for all practical purposes abdicated and 2) the power of impeachment.  These stand alone to check the president.   There are no other ways.

At the federal levelArticle II of the United States Constitution (Section 4) states that “The PresidentVice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of,TreasonBribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the United States Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.  Most of the framers knew the phrase “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” well. Since 1386 the English parliament had used “high crimes and misdemeanors” as one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown

McCarthy believes that President Obama has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” through his abuse of power as a holder of high public trust.   Because of numerous infractions, Obama’s rampant lawlessness poses a systematic threat to our constitutional order, thereby making the case that Obama is unfit to continue in his role as president.  In comparing the campaigns to impeach President Nixon and Clinton to the call for President Obama’s impeachment, McCarthy describes Obama’s behavior as president “a willful, systematic attack on the constitutional system of separation of powers, an enterprise that aims to bring about a new regime of government by executive decree.”  In comparison, he Nixon and Clinton episodes involved misconduct that did not aim to undermine our constitutional framework.

Impeachable offenses cited by McCarthy

In Part 2 of “Faithless Execution” Andrew McCarthy builds the political case for President Obama’s impeachment by setting forth the broad range of his high crimes and misdemeanors and willful subversion of the Constitution by factoring in seven articles of impeachment:

1.  Refusal to Execute Laws Faithfully.

2.  Usurping Constitutional Authority.

3.  Dereliction of Duty as Commander in Chief.

4.  Fraud on the American People.

5.  Failure to Execute Laws Faithfully:  Immigration.

6.  Failure to Execute Laws Faithfully:  Department of Justice.

7.  Undermining the Constitutional Rights of the American People.

Impeachable offenses that fit under the above seven categories

  • McCarthy cites the implementation of ObamaCare as one key aspect of a potential impeachment effort.  McCarthy asserts that Obama committed fraud on the American people by deliberately misleading voters in regard to his healthcare intention, which Obama continues to change at will whenever it suits him politically.
  • The botched gun-walking operation arming Mexican criminals is another scandal McCarthy believes rises to a level that meets potential impeachment proceedings.  According to McCarthy, Obama engaged in “systematic politicization of a Department of Justice that has covered up the Fast & Furious scandal.”
  • Through the appointment of a U.S. House select committee to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, attempts are still being made to find out what happened the night of 9/11/2012.  The failure to provide adequate security was described by McCarthy as a “dereliction of duty” by Obama as commander in chief.  This was followed by the fraud of the video, rather than Islamic Supremacists, as the suggested entity responsible for the Benghazi massacre deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others killed in a night of violence.
  • The president and his subordinates involved this nation in an unauthorized war in Libya that empowered jihadist enemies of the United States.  Furthermore, the purpose of the war was spun as an attempt to protect civilians, pursuant to a United Nations resolution, when the  real purpose was to overthrow the Libyan regime of Muammar Qaddafi, a government that had previously been portrayed as a key counterterrorism ally of the U.S.
  • The selective targeting of political opponents for harassment and abuse by the IRS occurred when Lois Lerner, who ran the Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, subjected Republican and conservative groups to heightened scrutiny.  McCarthy thought Lois Lerner should have been given immunity and is doubtful she will be prosecuted.  The latest wrinkle in the IRS scandal took place when it was recently reported that two years of e-mails had gone missing during a period when tea party groups were being targeted.   Sounds much like the dog ate my homework!
  • Obama’s immigration amnesty by executive edict is now indirectly responsible for the flood of children crossing the southern border from Guatemala and Honduras.  Acting over the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, Obama has conferred administrative amnesty on categories of illegal immigrants which he has unilaterally defined, undermining federal immigration laws and the constitutional authority of Congress to enact immigration law.
  • The American people were defrauded, including investors in the public securities exchanges, when President Obama and his subordinates willingly subsidized Solyndra with over half a billion taxpayer dollars despite obvious indication that the venture was not viable and would collapse.

Political trumps legality

Andrew McCarthy’s closing thoughts were somewhat sober in nature when he recounted why the impeachment of Obama, although warranted, would not help conservatives, Republicans or any elected official or individual who seeks to defend this nation’s constitutional framework.  Noted was how the case for impeachment is not the same as moving forward with articles of impeachment, although legally speaking a president may be impeached for a single offense that qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” whether it includes a breach of the profound pubic trust vested in the president, or a violation of his constitutional duty to execute the laws faithfully.

Real impeachment can only occur if there is a public will to remove the president from office.  Even with a thousand impeachable offenses, impeachment is not an appropriate remedy absent a political consensus.  This said, all Americans should be concerned regardless of political affiliation.  Why is this so?  The lawlessness President Obama is getting away with today will be available to every future president unless checked.

McCarthy proposed in his book and during his talk what amounts to a concerted effort to change the political environment by bringing the issue of lawlessness front-and-center in public discourse. Through changing the political environment, mused McCarthy, Obama could be pushed to execute the laws faithfully through actions that fall within the bounds of the Constitution.  Given Obama’s leftist political philosophy and his determination to build his progressive legacy through fundamentally changing this nation, aided by the backing and financial support of George Soros and others, McCarthy’s musings seem little more than a pipe dream.

The only way to build a political case for impeachment it to make it clear to the American people that all have a stake in what happens to this nation, not only as it pertains to their present lives, but also how future generations will fare through Obama’s misguided policies of today.

Minus the public firmly on the side of impeachment, President Obama’s reckless abandonment of lawlessness and breaches of public trust will continue unchecked, assuring that both this nation and its people will reap little of substance.  Instead, mostly grief and a loss of liberty and freedom will result from the bitter seeds of progressive socialism Obama is sowing and will continue to sow throughout the remainder of his presidency if there is no outcry from the public otherwise.

Save this date:  Stephen Moore, Chief Economist with the Heritage Foundation, will give a dinner lecture on Thursday, July 17, at The Heartland Institute headquarters in Chicago at One South Wacker Drive, #2740.  He will speak about his new book:  “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States.”

Also of note is that from July 7-9, The Heartland Institute will be holding its 9th International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For more information and to register for events, call 312/377-4000, or visit heartland.org.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Understanding Bitcoin’s True Potential

June 19, 2014, 10:13 AM

Bitcoin has seen remarkable success over the past year. More and more people have been using it, and more and more businesses have become willing to accept it as a payment method. As the first widespread cryptocurrency, many people in all walks of life have been paying rapt attention to the young enterprise.

It is thus fitting that Bitcoin was the subject of a recent Heartland Daily Podcast, featuring Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics. Swanson shared several of his insights into the potential advantages and problems of Bitcoin.

Swanson characterizes Bitcoin as “a platform for distributed trust.” In other words, the Bitcoin platform, more than just a cryptocurrency management system, serves as a mechanism for the broader establishment of trust between parties in an online peer-to-peer environment that have never met physically.

Swanson explains that the “blocked chain” program in the Bitcoin platform “stores all the transactions that have ever been made.” This is necessary in the trading of bitcoins, because it is the mechanism that prevents their duplication (ie. Counterfeiting). To Swanson, the blocked chain is even more valuable in its broader application as a means of authenticating the identity of another party in a transaction or interaction online.

The blocked chain system is a very important innovation for online commerce as it is a mechanism by which parties can establish trust, an expectation in most sophisticated financial and commercial interactions. Swanson perceives the Bitcoin platform as a way to bring banking and currency into alignmnet with the altered nature and demands of a more digital world.

While Swanson is very enthusiastic about the Bitcoin platform, he has serious, and understandable, reservations about Bitcoin as a replacement currency to more conventional, state-backed currencies. While he acknowledges that there is a certain romance and libertarian impetus to develop an economic arena outside of the clutches of governments, he points out that the Bitcoin market is very volatile, which has made economists across the ideological spectrum quite wary. He is also skeptical of the ability of Bitcoin and its ilk to remain unregulated, especially if it becomes a preferred platform for illicit transactions.

The simple fact is that currency’s worth is in its function as a store of value. The inherent volatility of Bitcoin does not lend itself to this function. While merchants may be willing to trade in it, it has more characteristics of a risky investment than of a true currency. It is also a risky currency because it could simply be superceded by another, better cryptocurrency. The advent of such a competitor could weaken the value of Bitcoin currency, or even wipe it out.

Swanson is right to view Bitcoin with a raised eyebrow. So long as the system is so volatile, people would be better off simply holding cash, or maybe gold, if they want to protect the value of their savings. Bitcoin is exciting, but people should not be blinded by the excitement. That’s how people lose money in a market.

Categories: On the Blog

Sea Levels are Never Still

June 19, 2014, 9:34 AM

Sea levels have been rising and falling without any help from humans for as long as Earth’s oceans have existed.

The fastest and most alarming sea changes to affect mankind occurred at the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age. Seas rose about 130m about 12,000 years ago, at times rising at five metres per century. Sea levels then fell as ice sheet and glaciers grew in the recent Little Ice Age – some Roman ports used during the Roman Warm Era are now far from the sea even though sea levels have recovered somewhat during the Modern Warm Era.

Many natural factors cause sea levels to rise – melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets; warming and expansion in volume of the oceans; extraction of groundwater which ends up in the oceans; and sediments, sewerage, plant debris and volcanic ash washed into the oceans by rivers, storms and glaciers. In addition, tectonic forces cause some blocks of land to rise while others fall, hence the paradox of sea levels appearing to rise on one coastline while falling on another.

Currently the world’s oceans are rising at about 1mm per year, which has not changed much with the great industrialization since 1945. Amongst all the factors moving the restless sea, man’s production of carbon dioxide is obviously an insignificant player.

Sea levels are always changing, at times very destructively. Waves move sea levels by a few metres and at places like Derby, WA, king tides can move sea levels by eleven metres. Then there are rogue waves up to 30 metres high which have sunk oil tankers, and tsunamis which can smash coastlines with a ten metre wall of water moving at over 800 km per hour.

Despite coping with all of the above, climate alarmists say we should be scared to death by the threat of seas rising gently at 1mm PER YEAR. Even a slow-moving sloth could escape water rising at that rate.

King Canute showed his nobles that no man can hold back the rising sea. It’s time the climate alarmists learned Canute’s lesson and focused on real world problems.

Even if we ceased using all carbon fuels for electricity and transport, no one could measure the effect of that huge sacrifice on global sea levels.

Categories: On the Blog

The Danger of Big Data and the Progressive Plot for Education

June 18, 2014, 3:14 PM

Click image above to see original source.

With the federal government’s increasing involvement in education, advocates of this national education system claim gathering immense amounts of data is necessary for the system to properly function. This data is more than simple aggregate of test scores, but rather it is personal information about individual students, including their values and facts about their family life.

Through the implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the increasing use of technology in the classroom, the federal government has a greater capability to access individual students’ personal information. Additionally, with vast amounts of data being released and collected in comprehensive data banks, the chance that this personal information will be hacked is greatly heightened.

In addition to merely gathering overall performance standards, the government, through state and the federal education departments, desires to collect information regarding the student’s values, religion, family status, and attitudes. The purpose of collecting these types of facts is for “correcting” these alleged prejudices that parents pass on to their children.

In the Pioneer Institute study “Cogs in the Machine,” Emmett McGroarty, Joy Pullmann, and Jane Robbins argue that the government has no right to collect this massive amount of student data. Individuals have a right to their own personal information, and it should be protected as personal property. When the state desires to seize private property, it must provide a reason. In the same way, the government should provide reasons why it needs individual student data, who will be able to see this information, and for what purpose it will be used.

As the authors articulate, this data-amassing scheme dates back to the ideas of Progressives like John Dewey. Progressives believed (and still believe) that government need not be limited by the principle of individual autonomy. The Constitution, they claimed, was outdated and no longer applicable to modern society. This view maintains that the government and “experts” know better than individuals how to solve modern-day issues. Because of this superior knowledge, these experts need access to large amounts of data, including personal information, to form solutions to modern problems.

John Dewey, the famous social engineer, desired to use education as a means to liberate children from their parents’ values and the biases of religion and tradition. In his eyes, the goal of education was to quash individualism and create Progressive citizens, reliant on the government.

Later Progressives, such as Marc Tucker continued this trend in education citing the necessity of gathering data so that experts can use this information to form education in such a way that is beneficial to society. In Tucker’s view, schools exist to serve the economy and produce the kind of workers, with specific skill sets, that the economy requires. Under this model, the purpose of education is no longer to produce learned individuals capable of discerning their own career paths.

Tucker advocated implementing national standards, created by a board that forms the standards based on skills needed for particular jobs. Children would receive admittance into postsecondary education if they met the criteria and developed the skills dictated by the standards. Labor market boards would post all jobs, public and private, that the students with specific skill sets could earn. In Tucker’s system, the purpose of individuals is to serve the economy, and the economy does not exist to serve the individual. The purpose of this type of education is to create workers to drive the economy instead of to create free citizens. This shift is manifested in the Common Core, which follows the system Tucker supports.

This view of education promotes Outcome Based Learning; however, it is not based on the knowledge that students obtain but rather the attitudes they form. Progressives use “transformational” outcome based learning to engineer students into the types of workers, with the right attitudes, they deem necessary for society. Data collection is part of the Progressive master plan for government to control society through education by transforming students into human capital to fuel the economy.

This view of education fundamentally alters what America is and has always been—a free nation created by the people and for the people. This country was built on the power of the free individual, capable of flourishing into a respectable citizen and choosing what type of job serves him. The government and the economy are created by and for the use of the people; the people do not exist to serve the government.

To read the full study, please click here.

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Talks Climate Change While Iraq Implodes

June 18, 2014, 1:07 PM

It is depressing beyond words that we will have to endure two and a half more years of an endless stream of lies about climate change from President Obama.

On June 14 he gave a commencement speech to graduates of the University of California at Irvine, using it to tell Big Fat Lies, not the least of which was that the Earth’s temperatures were rising when in fact they have been falling for nearly eighteen years.

It is an endless source of wonder to me that no part of the mainstream media disputes him when he says things like this. For years now they have been reporting the evidence of increasingly cold weather worldwide.

On the same day the President was lying about warming, eight inches of snow fell in Rize, Turkey. It has fallen as well in South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia while closer to home snow fell on several cities in Idaho with cold freezes extending into Oregon. In June!

Obama used the speech to demand that politicians take steps to acknowledge climate change which used to be called global warming until it became undeniable to everyone except the charlatans lining their pockets with utterly bogus “research” that underwrites the source of the lies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Obama continues to listen to his White House advisor, Dr. John Holdren, whose contempt for the human race is such he would happily see large parts of it disappear. In February, Holdren told reporters that all weather is impacted by climate change, but that is what climate change has done for 4.5 billion years. Not mentioned was that climate cycles are measured in centuries while weather is a short-term event. The most recent mini-ice age lasted from 1300 to 1850.

Holdren alluded to droughts affecting parts of the nation, claiming they were getting longer and drying. Two leading climate scientists, former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer and University of Colorado climate scientists, Roger Pielke, Jr, called Holdren’s assertions “pseudo-science rambling.” “The idea that any of the weather we are seeing is in any significant way due to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions verges on irrationality,” said Spencer. Pielke called Holdren’s assertions “zombie science.”

While Holdren is warning about droughts that could cause famines, James M. Taylor, the managing editor of the Heartland Institute’s monthly, Environment & Climate News, took aim at the IPCC claims, noting that U.S. and global crop production, especially the most important staple food crops, corn, rice, and wheat, “have more than tripled since 1970. During the past few years, the United States has set crop production records for alfalfa, cotton, beans, sugar beets, sweet potatoes, canola, corn, flaxseed, hops, rice sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, peanuts and wheat, to name just a few.”

The worst part of Obama’s lies about the so-called “greenhouse gases” that we’ve been told for decades are warming the Earth is the way those lies are translated into government policies. The Obama administration, via the Environmental Protection Agency, has launched a war on coal-fired plants that produce 40% of the nation’s electricity claiming that their emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing a warming that is not happening. What is happening is a deliberate effort to drive up the cost of electricity for everyone.

America runs on electricity and 68% of it is generated by fossil fuels, 20% by nuclear, and 7% by hydropower. So called “clean energy”, wind and solar, provides about 4% at far higher costs than the others and exists largely due to government subsidies and mandates.

Claims about increased severe storms, heat waves, and hurricanes simply have no basis in fact. In recent years there has been a record low in the numbers of tornadoes, hurricanes, no change in the rise of sea levels, but record gains in Arctic and Antarctic ice. None of this is reported by the mainstream media.

Yet Obama told graduates that rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as intensifying storm patterns represent “one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet face.” He said this even though his administration’s recent National Climate Assessment acknowledged that “There has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought across the continental U.S. since 1900.” The report, however, is being used to justify carbon-related regulations.

While the world’s attention is on one of the greatest threats facing it, the takeover of northern Iraq by a barbaric Islamist group—one from which even al Qaeda disassociated itself—Obama is talking about non-existent climate threats to further policies that kill jobs in the U.S. and harm its struggling recovery of our economy.

While the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) seeks to expand its control of a major portion of the Middle East, Obama thought it was more important to lie about the climate to college graduates.

How much more damage Obama can inflict on the economy between now and the end of his second term in office is unknown, but what we do know is that his priorities, based on scare-mongering speeches about the climate will continue until he leaves office.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Interactive Map Reveals the True Cost of Obamacare

June 18, 2014, 12:06 PM

Today, the Manhattan Institute re-released its Obamacare Interactive Map. The map is one of the most comprehensive and useful tools for people looking to determine how Obamacare will affect their healthcare premiums. Presenting data by county, individuals can see just how costly the “affordable” care act is going to be.

Taking the map as a whole reveals a very disconcerting trend in the cost of healthcare in the wake of the Obamacare roll-out. From the data presented, just 12 states enjoy a net reduction in healthcare costs. The rest see increases of varying degrees. While most states are experiencing very significant increases to their citizens’ average premium payments, nine states face astonishing average increases of more than 80 percent!

That’s a far cry from the promises Obama has been making for years. The drastic failure of Obamacare is revealed in cold, hard evaluation of the numbers. The government can fudge its presentation all it wants, but the raw data must eventually reveal itself. That is what is happening now, and the results are staggering.

Perhaps most disconcerting is that the states enjoying reductions in their average premiums tend to be among the wealthiest in the union. New York, to take one example, is seeing a 45 percent reduction in average premiums across all age groups. Meanwhile, Kentucky has seen a comparable increase in average premiums across the board.

The idea that Obamacare would provide for the most vulnerable while keeping rates affordable for the majority has proven to be a cruel joke. As healthcare premiums continue to grow under the weight of Obamacare regulation, more and more people will find they can no longer afford their plans, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle of government dependency.

Obamacare is the perfect example of a government run amok. It was an ill-thought out policy with so many moving parts that it was impossible to determine what its actual impact would be before it was implemented. Years after the passage of the original legislation, commentators were still debating what sort of impact it would have. Now we know.

The Affordable Care Act is a trick played on the American people. Citizens everywhere need to view this map and understand the true cost they will be facing because of it. Unless we take action now, Obamacare will continue on its path of social and economic destruction.

Categories: On the Blog

Time to Move a Clean, Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium

June 18, 2014, 11:26 AM

This morning the House Judiciary Committee will undertake the markup of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.  The Act would protect consumers from the increased costs in accessing and using the Internet by permanently extending the moratorium on Internet access taxes, and would prevent multiple and discriminatory taxation of Internet sales.

The legislation already boasts deep bipartisan support with 138 Republican and 76 Democrat co-sponsors. That’s 214 members of the House supporting it, and rumors of more to join soon would bring the total to more than 50 percent. The Senate version of the bill has 50 co-sponsors. So, there is already enough support for a permanent moratorium that doesn’t add extraneous elements that could cause the moratorium to fail.

The legislation also enjoys broad support of thought leaders and citizens, as was made clear in an April letter to Congress. But time to pass the measure is of the essence since the moratorium will expire on November 1 of this year. If allowed to expire, states would begin to collect taxes on Internet access, or apply other discriminatory taxes that may already be in place but which have been held at bay during the moratorium.

Scott Mackey, former chief economist for the National Conference of State Legislatures and currently a consultant to the wireless industry, has estimated that an average household’s taxes would increase by $50 to $75 a year if states decide to apply their sales or telecommunications taxes to Internet access. While that doesn’t seem like much, keep in mind that that’s about what a low-income family spends in a year on subsidized school lunches. Those who qualify for such programs are exactly those who will be most negatively affected by a lapsed moratorium.

Businesses also lose money when Congress doesn’t send a clear message. If Congress dallies—and history has proven that Congress rarely acts in time—telecommunications providers would need to prepare to collect the new taxes. That effort would be a waste of time and resources if Congress were to ride to the rescue at the last minute—a result of the cavalier attitude by government. Less economic growth and fewer jobs are the result.

Hopefully, the next step on the right path will be taken today with the House Judiciary Committee deciding that the moratorium must continue and refraining from introducing other issues designed to intentionally impede its ultimate passage in the House.

Hopefully, the next step on the right path will be taken today with the House Judiciary Committee deciding that the moratorium must continue and refraining from introducing other issues  which will end its progress  in the House.

 

[Originally published by the Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

Saving the American Dream

June 17, 2014, 5:39 PM

The American Dream is one of the driving concepts in our country’s national story, one that occupies a special place in the national discourse. It is a sort of national ethos, born out of various statements of the Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those words have meant different things to different people, but at their most basic level they all expound the ethos that opportunity for success and hard work will lead to upward personal social mobility, irrespective of racial, religious, or economic background. Yet the Dream is in trouble today.

The political left has been waging war on the idea of the American Dream. They sound off on income inequality and supposed lack of social mobility, arguing that the promise of the American Dream is an empty one. They cite data such as Pew Research’s finding that income inequality has been growing in America since the 1970s. Taken in a vacuum, such a finding would be worrying indeed. But could there be another explanation?

One credible explanation is that a foul mixture of unaffordable social programs and an overly expansive government tax regime has “produced a country of government addicts with an entitlement mentality. These twin maladies have eroded self-reliance, individual initiative and personal accountability.”

Basically, inequality is the product of people becoming “addicted” to government largesse and who become unwilling to work hard, while those who still strive and embrace the promise of the American Dream can still reach the heady heights of opportunity. Rather than worry about income inequality per se, what we should focus on is a policy that “encourages saving and wealth creation, so families can be more independent, more economically secure, and more able to pass that security on to their children.”

The left does not want to promote saving and social mobility. Instead, it favors policies that keep citizens as effective clients of their government charity. That is not the way to promote a healthy, independent citizenry. It is the way to create a nation of serfs.

The problem with a dream is that it is a fragile thing. A niggling doubt or germ of disbelief can sweep it into the wind. Americans began to question the promise of the American Dream during the last great economic downturn in the 1930s: “The Great Depression damaged the self-confidence of the young, and that is beginning to happen now, according to pollsters, sociologists and economists.”

The problem today, however, is even more intractable. America came out of the Great Depression and World War II with a rapidly growing economy and a dominant position in global commerce undreamt of in all of human history. From that tremendous advantage, the American Dream was able to gain a new lease on life.

Today, America’s economic dominance is swiftly being eroded by new rivals in the developing world. Added to that are the troubles of growing debt and an aging population. It is no wonder that faith in the American Dream is fading. That is a terrifying and tragic prospect. It has always been America’s boundless optimism and daring to take risks to achieve greatness that have made it such an exceptional country. Losing the Dream might also cause the loss of that vital dynamism.

To revitalize the American Dream, proponents of liberty must sell it. They need to reclaim the romance that made the Dream such a powerful force in the American psyche. The only way to do that is to promote self-reliance, not dependency.

It will only be through convincing the public that the Dream we cherish can be saved. For the sake of America, and for the sake of the flame of liberty and prosperity, we must succeed in saving the American Dream from oblivion.

Categories: On the Blog

Steve Stanek and Erin Shannon on Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage

June 17, 2014, 4:43 PM

Heartland’s Steve Stanek talks with Erin Shannon, director of the Center for Small Business at the Washington Policy
Center, about Seattle’s recent minimum wage increase. The Seattle City Council unanimously voted to require all employers to pay all employees at least $15 an hour. Shannon explains the detrimental results of such a policy.

Shannon begins by addressing the consequences of this policy within Seattle’s city walls. Not only will businesses be forced to downsize in order to counteract the 60% increase in payroll costs, but many will be forced to close their doors entirely. In addition to this inevitable economic downturn within the city, Seattle based businesses will no longer be able to expand into nearby locations. Shannon references a particular restaurant’s plans to open another branch in a neighboring town. The looming increase in the restaurant’s cost of operation has left it unable to expand into neighboring areas, and therefore unable to bring jobs and economics development to nearby towns. Seattle’s new policy will not only be detrimental to the city itself, but it will also hurt neighboring locations.

Stanek asks Shannon about the rising popularity of automation in businesses. Shannon goes on to explain that the increase in the mimim wage will push businesses to automate in order to offset the cost of paying employees. Self checkout at grocery stores and order-it-yourself programs at restaurants are ways in which businesses can save money by not paying an employee. Put simply, machines taking people’s jobs is bad for the economy. Seattle’s new policy forces employers to downsize, people to lose their jobs, and economic development to slow down.

Stanek goes on to bring up employee benefits. Shannon confirms his understanding that benefits like free food, free parking, paid vacation, etc. add up. Employees can not only expect to see these benefits disappear with the increased wages, but they can also expect to see less hours with equal expectations. Employers can longer afford to offer their servers free meals, free parking, or the hours they would like. In fact, there are already reports of waiters and waitresses being disappointed by the wage increase. On top of the disappearance of benefits, servers could see a reduction in tips. People know servers are now getting paid $15 an hour, so they might decide a 10% tip is good enough. Seattle’s increase in its minimum wage might prove to be just as bad for employees as it is for employers.

Steve Stanek and Erin Shannon discuss The Seattle City Council’s decision to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the detrimental consequences that come with such a policy. Seattle’s economy is undoubtedly in for a rocky ride as employers will need to continue downsizing in order to keep their businesses alive.

Categories: On the Blog

Changes in Attitudes: Competition Policy and the FCC

June 17, 2014, 1:28 PM

Remember the opening line from “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,”one of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs:

“I took off a weekend this month

Just to try to recall the whole year.”

Those lyrics – which I am now singing to myself, and you can too – kept coming to mind this past weekend, in this sense. There is so much happening, and so quickly, on the communications policy front that I often spend the weekends just trying to recall what happened during the past week – and trying to make sense of it all.

I am not necessarily proud to admit that this is the way I spend a good part of my weekends. It ain’t “Margaritaville,” for sure. But we are in a critical time for determining the future direction of communications policymaking, so I do so freely in the hope of changing attitudes, if not latitudes.

Here are some observations that I put together this past weekend, relying on current FSF work, regarding “Competition Policy and the Role of the Federal Communications Commission,” net neutrality regulation, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s promotion of municipal broadband systems. As you might suspect, they are all related.

First, I put “competition policy and the role of the FCC” in quotes because this is the title of the House Commerce Committee’s Third White Paper seeking public comment as part of the committee’s process to update the Communications Act. I have said many times that the Communications Act is in need of updating, and I am pleased that Free State Foundation scholars have participated actively in the House committee’s process.

A proper understanding of “competition policy and the role of the FCC” is at the core of understanding why and how the direction of communications policy needs to change. While I hope you will read the entire paper, I want to highlight and emphasize a key portion of the Free State Foundation submission:

A combination of rapid technological innovation, consumer choice, and disruptive changes in the communications market has altered forever the traditional competitive landscape. These profound structural and technological changes point to the need for a competition policy that leaves free from government regulation those market processes that continue to propel further innovation and competition for new services. Regulatory intervention is only warranted in instances where there is convincing evidence of a market failure that is likely to harm consumers. Absent such evidence of market failure, service and product suppliers should be free to exercise their informed business judgment in an entrepreneurial fashion. Their success will be shaped by how an ever more sophisticated generation of telecommunications consumers respond to their business offers.  The interaction of both sides of the market place will outperform any effort by the FCC to chart through government design the direction of future innovations in the ever larger and more complex Internet marketplace.

This statement of competition policy principle should guide Congress as it considers revising the Communications Act. And it also should be a guide for the FCC, presently, when the agency is not otherwise constrained by a contrary statutory direction.

Which brings me to net neutrality, where the Commission is certainly not constrained by the statute to take any action at all. Indeed, since the agency’s second judicial rebuff in its attempt to impose net neutrality mandates, I have suggested many times that it would be prudent to await further direction from Congress. While it may be, at least in the D.C. Circuit’s view, that the Commission is authorized to act, it is not required to do so.

But let’s assume that the Commission’s majority is determined to move forward to adopt some form of net neutrality regulation. The specific approach the Commission takes matters a lot, of course. For reasons I have delineated over and over, classifying Internet providers as common carriers under Title II almost certainly would stifle the future development of the Internet. Internet providers – and the reach could extend to so-called edge providers as well – shouldn’t be turned into public utilities like electric companies and put in the same regulatory straightjacket devised to control monopolies.

If the Commission adopts new net neutrality regulations, it should adopt the approach proposed in the rulemaking notice to the effect that it will not interfere with the Internet providers’ practices if they are commercially reasonable. If implemented properly, this “commercial reasonableness” approach could provide the ISPs the flexibility they need to experiment with offering new services responsive to changing technological capabilities and consumer demand.

Here is the way I explained proper implementation in my blog, “The FCC’s Approach to Net Neutrality: The Wrong Approach for Regulatory Presumptions,” published on June 4th.

In light of the technological dynamism and multiplatform competition that exists in the broadband marketplace – with cable, telephone, fiber, satellite, and various wireless companies all offering consumers alternative choices for Internet service – the proper approach for the Commission is to presume that, absent clear and convincing evidence of market failure and consumer harm, Internet providers’ practices, including practices involving prioritization of services, are commercially reasonable. In other words, the rebuttable presumption should run in favor of not imposing new public utility-style regulations on Internet providers.

In short, absent convincing evidence of market failure and consumer harm, “commercial reasonableness” should be presumed, not the other way around. Were the Commission to adopt this approach, it would take a step in the direction of adopting rules that, while perhaps unnecessary, represent a possible way forward. This would be a principled approach consistent with the Free State Foundation submission to the House Commerce Committee.

Now, finally, about Chairman Wheeler’s ongoing suggestions that he’s contemplating getting the FCC to act to preempt the 20 or so states that have adopted either an outright ban or some form of restrictions on municipal broadband systems.

By way of explanation for his possible support for preempting these state laws through FCC action, in line with previous statements, Mr. Wheeler simply offered this: “Being pro-competition means being pro-competition.”

Well, yes, but….

Of course, the matter is not all that simple. All so-called “competition” is not the same. For example, in the Free State Foundation’s submission to the House Commerce Committee, we focus on the importance of facilities-based, cross-platform competition as opposed to competition derived from government mandated facilities-sharing regulations. And, directly to the point here, for more than five years, we have examined some of the many failures of government-owned municipal broadband systems. Here are just some recent FSF pieces recounting the failure of many government-owned networks: Burlington Telecom’s February $10 million settlement with Citibank over loans to its ailing system, along with examples of municipal “broadband busts” includingMooresville and Davidson, North Carolina, Utah’s UTOPIA network, Provo, UtahLafayette, Louisiana, and theN.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency.

 

I have never taken the position that, as a matter of policy, there may not be rare circumstances when construction and operation of municipal-owned telecom systems would be proper. If it is clear that private sector companies are unable or unwilling to offer service, then there may be a proper role for a municipal system. But these rare circumstances have little to do with proclaiming a “pro-competition” mantra or with the policy impetus behind the state laws that Mr. Wheeler now contemplates preempting.

 

As my FSF colleague Seth Cooper explained earlier this year in a Perspectives from FSF Scholars: “Such laws prevent local government conflicts of interest with the private sector marketplace competitors who invest tens of millions of dollars in localities to build out their broadband networks. They also protect local taxpayers from potentially devastating financial losses from poorly-run municipal broadband projects.”

In short, the tax and other documented financial advantages, along with other preferences such as permitting privileges and rights-of-way preferences, conferred upon government-owned communications networks means it is too simplistic to declare for “competition.” In order to have a serious discussion, Mr. Wheeler surely must grapple with the underlying fundamental distinction between government and non-government networks that are the impetus for the adoption of the state bans.

And aside from these policy questions, Mr. Wheeler must grapple with the legal questions, including serious constitutional questions, which arise in any discussion concerning preempting state laws restricting municipal networks. Here it suffices to refer to Seth Cooper’s excellent seminal piece on the subject, “FCC Preemption of State Bans on Municipal Broadband Networks Is Most Likely Unlawful.” In any proper conception of our federalist constitutional system, it can’t be enough to blithely suggest that the wishes of municipalities should prevail over the state sovereigns under which they are created.

After all, in our constitutional regime, we do not recognize, as a matter of legal status, “citizens” of Provo or Lafayette, but we do recognize citizens of Utah and Louisiana – and the Constitution confers upon these state citizens the authority to exert their will, through either their elected representatives or sometimes through referenda, to adopt laws that restrict municipal activities.

Well, it is another week, which I’m sure will be all too busy. But this is the way I was thinking, over the weekend, about last week. Hoping to spur, if not changes in latitudes, then perhaps some changes in attitudes.

Find more information here.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Scott Cleland on Broadband Utility Regulation

June 17, 2014, 1:04 PM

Scott Cleland, chairman of NetCompetition, addresses the self serving and naive goals of corporate internet. Large internet companies like Google and Netflix are attempting to shift the costs of delivering their services onto the consumer. Claiming free speech violations, these companies say they should not have to pay for their internet delivery services. Cleland explains how this is nothing more than a manuever to increase their profits, which would subsequently increase the cost on the consumer.

Cleland goes on to explain how this misguided goal would result in a total lack of innovation. Broadband utility regulation is a system that simply does not foster innovation or  growth. Scott Cleland clearly and concisely explains the flaws of corporate internet’s plans.

Categories: On the Blog

The Christie-and-Kasich Tax Show

June 17, 2014, 10:09 AM

There’s an interesting phenomenon playing out in both New Jersey and Ohio: Two of the country’s most prominent conservative Republican governors have proposed new taxes of a sort that haven’t appealed even to traditionally liberal, tax-hungry state legislatures in states like Massachusetts and Washington.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Ohio governor John Kasich have asked their legislatures to enact an excise tax, or sin tax, on the sale of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). The stated goal of both governors is to equalize the tax applied to e-cigarettes with that applied to combustible-tobacco cigarettes.

While the product’s common name may be misleading, e-cigarettes are not cigarettes. They are smoke-free, tobacco-free, battery-operated devices that allow smokers to get nicotine without inhaling burning-tobacco smoke. Currently, these products are subject to sales tax, like any other consumer product, in Ohio, New Jersey, and 46 other states.

Governor Christie announced the plan in the spring but still has not actually specified the rate at which he wants to tax e-cigarette products. That hasn’t stopped his Treasury Department from somehow estimating that $35 million in revenue would result from this undefined tax hike. Indeed, his administration has refused to admit that this is a tax hike, instead describing the tax as part of a move to “level the playing field” between e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes, the latter of which are taxed at the state level at $2.70 a pack. Putting aside the absurd notion that cigarette markets need to be protected from competition, Governor Christie’s adamant denial of the fact that he is seeking to increase taxes should worry any conservative who wants to see him in the White House.

His proposal has yet to be endorsed by a single Republican in the New Jersey legislature. Indeed, his support on this measure has come almost solely from two liberal Democratic state senators. They were so inspired by his proposal that they introduced their own bill that would tax e-cigarettes at 75 percent of wholesale price.

Governor Kasich’s Ohio plan would, over two years, raise the state’s tax on a pack of actual cigarettes from $1.25 to $1.85, tax e-cigarettes at 49 percent of wholesale price, and raise the state’s tax on smokeless tobacco to the same rate. The Kasichadministration is claiming that the estimated $850 million in revenue created by these tax increases over a three-year period would allow Ohio to cut income taxes along all brackets.

E-cigarettes are a prime example of the free-market insight that the private sector is better than government at addressing societal problems. E-cigarettes may do more good for public health by getting people to quit smoking than any tax, warning label, or self-righteous taxpayer-funded ad campaign has ever done. So we are bewildered as to why Governors Christie and Kasich would proactively seek to undermine this private-sector approach to smoking by, of all things, taxing it.

Our best bet is that it has nothing to do with public health per se, and everything to do with another kind of addiction. These proposals underscore the fact that state governments are more addicted to cigarettes than most smokers are: At least some smokers can quit — but states don’t give up tobacco taxes. Now that smokers are quitting tobacco and using the dramatically less risky alternatives, those responsible for state budgets want to keep their hands in our pockets by taxing tobacco-free e-cigarettes. The governors’ approach to the real public-health heroes who have quit smoking with e-cigarettes? Pay up.

We think sin taxes are a bad idea. But if they do exist, even for e-cigarettes, they should at least have a structure that more accurately reflects the risks of different products.

First, for decades, high sin taxes on cigarettes have been justified by pointing to the costs incurred by taxpayers in treating smoking-related illness. These costs have been overstated, but e-cigarettes, which help people quit, will reduce health-care costs, so no additional tax on them is justified.

Second, advocates for cigarette sin taxes argue that taxes help “nudge” people to behave differently. Making the cost of e-cigarettes equal to or higher than that of real cigarettes would nudge people in the wrong public-health direction — away from using the dramatically less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

Neither Governor Christie nor Governor Kasich has publicly professed a belief that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes. The chief regulator at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, Mitch Zeller, dispelled that notion when testifying before a U.S. Senate committee in May. “If we look at a subset of smokers who are otherwise unable or unwilling to quit,” and “we could get all of those people to completely switch all of their cigarettes for one of these noncombustible products, that would be good for public health,” Zeller said. He reiterated that belief earlier this month, telling attendees at a public-health conference, “Let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture here — tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease principally because of the ongoing use of products that burn tobacco.”

Emerging evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers quit. Just last month, the journal Addiction published the results of the first cross-sectional survey that sought to measure the effectiveness of e-cigarettes among those trying to quit smoking. The study covered a population of nearly 6,000 smokers in the United Kingdom who had made an attempt to quit in the prior year. It found that smokers who reported trying to quit with e-cigarettes were twice as likely to report cessation than those smokers who used nicotine-replacement-therapy (NRT) products such as the patch or gum (20 percent vs. 10.1 percent). E-cigarettes also beat unassisted “cold turkey” quitting, with 15.4 percent of the latter group of quitters succeeding.

Republican governors, especially those who may have presidential aspirations, could learn a thing or two from Vermont’s Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, who opposed Christie- and Kasich-style taxes in his own state. “My own view on e-cigarettes is that we should be cautious about taxing a product that we think might be gettin’ some folks off of tobacco,” declared Shumlin at a press conference. We couldn’t agree more.

— Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. Gregory Conley is a research fellow at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.

[Originally published at National Review Online]

 

Categories: On the Blog

HBO Pseudo-News Anchor John Oliver Gets Net Neutrality Fundamentally Wrong

June 17, 2014, 9:38 AM

So it turns out there that something doesn’t have to be true to be funny.

Many a thinking American – who knows media bias – finds the following perversely appropriate.

Young Get News From Comedy Central

Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather … and Jon Stewart?

Readers over 30 might scoff at Stewart’s inclusion – assuming they know who he is. For many under 30, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” is, improbably, a source for news.

Looking to further ride the wave (beyond just Real Time with Bill Maher), HBO hired away Comedy Central “reporter” John Oliver to anchor a new “news” show - Last Week Tonight.  And on June 1, Oliver spent thirteen minutes on Network Neutrality.  And the pseudo-news pseudo-consumers were thrilled.

John Oliver’s Hilarious Net Neutrality Piece Speaks the Truth

Watch John Oliver’s Brilliant, Concise Primer On Net Neutrality

Still Confused About Net Neutrality? John Oliver Explains

Except Oliver doesn’t explain Net Neutrality – he gets it fundamentally wrong.

Oliver’s segment was start-to-finish Leftist rote.  Unwittingly I’m guessing, he’s carrying the water of the Internet’s bandwidth hogs.  Particularly video-streaming companies like Netflix, Google (who owns YouTube) – and, perhaps, movie channel HBO? – who want the government to mandate that they get a free ride for being bandwidth hogs.

And Oliver omits a panoply of contravening information.

Oliver begins his piece by incorrectly asserting that huge-bandwidth-using-companies paying for the bandwidth they use is the creation of an Internet “fast lane.”  Thus leaving the rest of us consigned to the “slow lane.”

Only there will be no such thing. What Oliver and Company report as brand new “fast lanes”- are in fact regular lane deals that have existed as long as has the Internet.  It is all a part of what is called peering.

Internet Peering is typically settlement-free, meaning that neither party pays the other for access to each other’s customers, reflective of the underlying notion that peering is a relationship of approximately equal value to each party.

If either party perceives that the benefit derived from peering is asymmetric, one party or the other may deny peering or suggest an alternative paid arrangement.

With the likes of Netflix – peering is anything but asymmetric.

Netflix Gobbles a Third of Peak Internet Traffic in North America

Netflix for years had no problem paying middle men for their monster bandwidth use – companies like Level 3 and Cogent.  Who are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – just for these guys rather than us.

Then it occurred to Netflix that it made more business sense to cut out these middle men – and deal directly with our ISPs.

Netflix Signs Streaming Traffic Deal with Verizon

Comcast and Netflix Reach Deal on Service

Except Netflix suddenly, disingenuously claimed these very ordinary deals were Net Neutrality violations.

Netflix Blasts Comcast and Verizon on Net Neutrality: ‘Some Big ISPs are Extracting a Toll’

But again, Netflix has always paid someone for their bandwidth hoggishness (as well they should).  The only thing new here is their trying to get the government to mandate they no longer have to.

Netflix’ dishonesty doesn’t end there.

Netflix Error Message Blames ISP for Slow Streaming Service

Netflix Uses Social Media To Blame Verizon For Slow Downloads

Verizon Purposely Slowing Down Netflix Video Streaming, CEO Says

Except:

Verizon Isn’t Slowing Netflix

The Media is unquestioningly buying Netflix’ garbage.  Is the Barack Obama Administration?  Sadly, unsurprisingly…

(Federal Communications Commission) FCC to Examine Netflix, Other Peering Deals Between Providers

Working with thirteen minutes, Oliver never got to any of this.

So we should congratulate Oliver and his pseudo-news colleagues.  They are just as reliable – reliably Leftist – as the Jurassic Press they are slowly supplanting.

 

Categories: On the Blog