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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Wisdom from Bill Gray

October 20, 2014, 3:53 PM

Though CO2 continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, global satellites show surface temperatures have not increased for the past 18 years.

Additionally, an article by Hurricane Guru Bill Gray in the Coloradan points out:

• Winter snow cover has been gradually increasing across the northern hemisphere in recent years.

• Antarctic sea ice is now at record high levels. Net global sea ice has shown no long-period downward trend.

• U.S. and global droughts, floods and severe weather have shown no significant changes over the past half century when atmospheric CO2 amounts have risen by 35 percent.

• The United States is currently experiencing the longest continuous period (nine years) without a major hurricane strike. Tornado activity has been below average the past three years.

These results confound climate alarmists who trust computer models more than their own senses and actual climate observations. The models can’t account for any of these trends.

Gray points out natural climate change and severe and unusual weather events have always occurred and will continue to occur in the future regardless of atmospheric CO2 levels.

As a result, switching to renewable energy will greatly raise our energy costs and significantly lower the U.S.’s and the world’s standard of living, but do nothing for the environment.

Only misanthropes could recommend making the world less hospitable for humans – perhaps this is the real reason alarmists continue to push for energy restrictions despite the mounting evidence global warming, if it starts up again, will be mild and possibly beneficial?


Categories: On the Blog

Thorner & Ingold: CDC’s Incoherent Ebola Failed Strategy Evolution

October 20, 2014, 1:53 PM

By Nancy Thorner & Ed Ingold – 

Four officials in blue plastic hazmat suits. (Source: YouTube)

Dr. Tom Frieden appeared before an House committee today (10/16) to testify on CDC’s response to Ebola in America. It’s hard to say where his position comes from, whether a reflection of White House talking points, political correctness, or just a physician’s tendency toward self-deification (not unknown among bureaucrats either). When asked if he was being coached by anyone, he evaded the question.

CDC: Imposing travel restrictions on West Africa would inhibit humanitarian activities and strangle emerging economies.

FACT: Restrictions would be for non-essential travel. Humanitarian aid could continue, with the stipulation that returning workers would be subject to a three week quarantine. The“struggling economy” of West Africa consists primarily of oil, cacao and coffee. Nearly half of the world’s chocolate comes from this region. We are not proposing an embargo, just limits on non-essential travel. However travel restrictions might have a secondary effect on the quality of breakfast in

CDC: Travel restrictions would force people to take devious routes to the United States, making it harder to screen those at risk for Ebola and take necessary precautions.

FACT: Even without restrictions, there is a strong incentive for those at risk to bypass the existing screening procedure, or simply conceal signs of illness and lie on questionnaires. The alternative is to be denied access to US health care and face a long quarantine period. This has already occurred for the first domestic case of Ebola, where the person lied to gain entry, then went to the emergency room at the first mild signs of illness, rather than a local pharmacy (or bed) like the rest of us.

The prime directive to control the spread of disease is to isolate and eradicate. Travel restrictions are an essential ingredient for isolation. Every domestic case of Ebola requires the services of dozens of health care workers, monitoring of hundreds of persons potentially exposed to the disease, at enormous cost. Moreover health care workers are at the greatest risk of infection – Ebola is becoming known as “the nurse killer.” We cannot afford to import a single case of Ebola through carelessness, and screening is demonstrably ineffective. Congress should demand an account of these costs from the CDC.

CDC, the DNC and Democratic Congressmen: Republicans cut the budget of CDC by $500 million, making it harder to combat the Ebola epidemic here and abroad.

FACT:  The Sequestration cuts only discretionary spending (used to study duck sexuality and build treadmills for shrimp), and limits only increases in that spending. The actual budget was not cut, rather the CDC is getting a smaller increase than requested. The “Sequestration” was, in fact, proposed by the Obama, passed both houses of Congress and signed by the President. In the actual budget, Congress approved 50% more money for disease control than requested by the President – $176 Million v $135 Million. In actuality, Obama pushed for CDC cuts years before the Elboa outbreak As to Democrats blaming Republican for the spread of Ebloa on budget cuts, the GOP house passed a budget increasing DCD spending by 8-1/2 %. The phantom budget cuts are but a desperate measure by Democrats and have nothing to do with why CDC fumbled Ebola!

CDC: The protocols recommended for the protection of health care personnel are in place and effective.

FACT: Actually neither is true. Workers at Edison Hospital in Dallas were not properly trained nor equipped for Ebola treatment, and the published protocols are not effective. The “official” protocol calls for disposable surgical gowns, face masks and gloves. There is no head covering, respirators, leggings nor shoe covers (aside from “booties” intended to keep dirt from being tracked into treatment areas). Meanwhile, Dr. Frieden appeared in Africa wearing full HAZMAT gear, being hosed down with a chlorine solution for decontamination. While the “official” gear is disposable, it cannot be disinfected for safe degowning. Nor were the protocols being followed. The Nurses at Edison complain that they received no training and inadequate gear. They used medical tape for extra protection. When the second health care worker arrived for treatment, after being diagnosed with Ebola, she was accompanied by two workers in full HAZMAT gear and someone in street clothes carrying a clipboard. Some protocol!

There is no reason to panic, but at the same time we must insist that effective procedures be established and followed. There should be national standards for procedures, and a limit on non-essential travel to and from West Africa, both of which which can be imposed at any time by the HHS Secretary or President Obama. Secondly, we must get honest evaluations of the risks and progress as they develop, not Disney-ish star wishes. The only thing which will prevent panic is trust in the government we elect to protect us. It is abundantly clear that Dr. Frieden is no “war time consigliore.” The real experts reside in the military, for which command and control already exist for biological and chemical containment.

Addendum to original Illinois Review article:

Dr. Frieden, head of the CDC not a practicing physician. He is the former head of New York State Public Health, a politician through and through. He just needs to polish his spin skills. That’s where the newly appointed Ebola Czar, Ron Klain, comes into play. Spinning is his only skill, and as Chief Adviser for Joe Biden and Al Gore, he appears to be pretty good at it. What he doesn’t have is any medical background, administrative experience, nor technical expertise whatsoever. His job will be to take heat away from the President, and make us all feel good.

Nothing Obama does is without a political purpose. I suspect that by  treating the Ebola crisis in such a cavalier and counter-intuitive manner, he is taking attention away from the economy and the host of “phony” scandals haunting him. This is a calculated gamble. It is unlikely that there will be a lot of casualties to Ebola in the United States. However the cost and resources required to handle even a few dozen cases will be enormous, and occupy the headlines for weeks. At stake are the lives of those we depend on for our health and well being – nurses and doctors, not to mention the 4000 soldiers destined to serve in West Africa, their friends and dependents.


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Ernest Istook – No Subsidies for Wind-Power

October 20, 2014, 1:23 PM

Former Oklahoma 7-term Congressman Ernest Istook is leading the charge against a renewal of the wind-power production tax credit which under which the federal government pays wind power producers 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour.  Even with this subsidy, wind power is more expensive than traditional fossil fuel power plants.

Over ten years the federal government has paid tens of billions of dollars to wind producers for unreliable power.  Istook points out that raising the costs of energy, as the PTC does, harms the poor, minorities and those on fixed incomes the worst.  He argues for an energy neutral energy policy.  No subsidies for any energy source and equal treatment under tax laws.


Categories: On the Blog

Killing Confidence in Our Government

October 20, 2014, 12:15 PM

What has been the over-riding theme of life in America since Barack Obama became President in 2008?

It has been the continued loss of confidence Americans have regarding various elements of the federal government. From the Centers for Disease Control, the Veterans Administration, the Secret Service, to the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, these and other agencies have been tainted in ways that have turned his two terms into a litany of scandals and failures.

Obama is a President for whom politics is the sole reason against which every decision is made. The latest example was the naming of an Ebola Czar. “Sources confirm to Fox News that President Obama plans to name Ron Klain, a longtime political hand with no apparent medical or health background.” In the past, Klain has served as chief of staff to Al Gore and Joe Biden. Does this make you feel any better about the Ebola threat?

I think that most Americans—not the “low information” ignorant ones—are experiencing a generalized depression about the nation these days. It’s a sense of weariness because our paychecks don’t stretch enough in the supermarket where the cost of food, particularly meat and fish, is soaring.

We wonder about the quality of education our children or grandchildren are receiving. It’s poor when compared to other nations and it undermines a belief in America’s exceptionalism.

In growing numbers younger Americans are choosing not to marry because of the costs involved and because we live in a society that no longer frowns on a couple living together; nearly half of marriages end in divorce. And then there’s same-sex marriage, a concept that was unthinkable not that long ago and for centuries in all societies.

We’re now six years into the Great Recession thanks to a White House that thought that, if the government spent $834 billion on top of the national debt, it would somehow “stimulate” the economy but government spending did not relieve Americans during the Great Depression, generate new jobs or achieve anything else that this tried-and-failed liberal theory was said to do. Who was in charge of Obama’s “stimulus” program? Ron Klain, the new Ebola Czar.

Cutting taxes, slowing and reducing regulations, and generally getting out of the way to allow people to start or expand their businesses works, but the White House went the other direction. As an October 16 Wall Street Journal editorial noted, “Millions of American families haven’t had a raise in after-inflation incomes in years, but in Washington times are flush…the U.S. federal government rolled up record revenues of $3.013 trillion.” Individual income tax receipts rose by 5.9%, along with payroll taxes and corporate income taxes—very nearly the highest in the world—increased 16% to $321 billion.

Only the naïve or ignorant believe that the government knows how to spend our money better than we do, but liberals—Democrats—do. Their answer to every problem government encounters is more money, but not to repair and expand the infrastructure, roads and bridges, on which the nation depends and not for a military that is currently at low pre-World War Two levels of personnel and old equipment of every description.

Our current Secretary of State, John Kerry, is going around echoing the President, telling people that mankind is doomed because “climate change” is coming and will destroy all life unless billions or trillions are spent in ways that will avoid it. Only no one can avoid climate change because that’s what climate does; it changes with well-known and predictable cycles tied to the Sun’s cycles.

Our military’s mission is now being redirected to addressing “climate change” at a time when, having been withdrawn from Iraq, a new, larger and far more dangerous entity, the Islamic State, has emerged, stretching into Syria as well.

The President recently gave an interview to France’s Canel+ TV Channel and said that the American people need to be better educated about Islam, claiming that the U.S. should be regarded as a Muslim country because of the number of Muslims living here. The truth is that the U.S. has one of the smallest percentages of Muslims of any Western nation, about 1.5% of the population. Americans know everything they need to about Islam. They recently watched two of their countrymen beheaded by the Islamic State.

The President appears to prefer unapologetic liars as his advisors. Consider Susan Rice who came to fame by lying on five Sunday television shows that the Benghazi attack in 2012 was the result of a video no one had seen and more recently said that Turkey had agreed to permit the U.S. to undertake military flights to attack ISIS only to have Turkey deny that within hours. She is Obama’s national security advisor and that is cause enough for concern, but guess to whom the new Ebola Czar, Ron Klain, will be reporting? Susan Rice.

While Obama has been in office the population has been growing by virtue of the millions of illegal aliens that have been entering. This year there was a dramatic virtual invasion of children and others from Guatemala and San Salvador at the invitation of the President. They were quickly dispersed throughout the U.S. and just as quickly schools around the nation began to report outbreaks of the diseases they brought. At the same time, deportations have declined this year.

The President has sent more than 4,000 of our military to Africa’s Ebola hot zone and he did so rapidly as what will be described as a humanitarian gesture, but he has never seen any necessity to dispatch our military to our southern border to stem illegal entry. Indeed, his administration has taken Arizona to court when it passed legislation to address the problem. In the meantime, we are left to wonder what will happen if our soldiers become ill with Ebola?

Indeed, his signature legislation, ObamaCare, is destroying our healthcare system and is a testament to the lies he repeatedly told before the Democrats in Congress passed it in 2009. No Republican voted for it. After the midterm elections, hundreds of thousands will learn that their employers will no longer provide them with healthcare insurance.

Americans are left to wonder how the nation can survive a President who has steadily engaged in programs that have harmed America’s economy—he is the first to have had our national credit rating reduced.

In the process he has ignored the limits imposed on his office by the Constitution. The courts have repeatedly rebuked this.

On November 4th voters will have an opportunity to go to the polls and vote out as many of his supporters, incumbent Democrats and candidates for Congress, as possible. Our confidence in our government must be restored with new leadership.

Categories: On the Blog

A Young Person’s Guide to Energy Conservation

October 20, 2014, 6:03 AM

Energy has long lost the attention of the media, so we no longer think about ways we use energy and its effect on national policy or our pocketbooks.  However, the problems of energy supply we deemed a crisis in the 1970’s are still with us and a new crisis may be due to our own making.

U. S. warships are still in the Persian Gulf to keep open the supply of Middle East oil which still accounts for about one-quarter the world’s oil production. Conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Ukraine all involve energy supply. Poverty in Sub-Sahara Africa and its present Ebola crisis are due to 70 percent of its inhabitants not having access to electricity.

On an individual basis, stringent energy conservation can help postpone future crises and, for individuals, reduce the cost of living. After the cost of a home mortgage or rent, energy is the greatest expense for the average individual. (I am ignoring taxes and social security being an expense; politicians do.) For those with houses paid for, energy is the number one cost of living expense.

For individuals, energy is purchased in the form of gasoline, oil, natural gas, propane, and electricity. Over the period of one year, a family will spend $4,000-plus for energy. In order to achieve significant savings in energy costs, one must think about how energy is being used and the ways to reduce this consumption. The attitude of “I want to keep my money and not give it to oil companies or utilities,” must be developed.  Because of taxes, you have to earn two cents in order to have one cent to spend on energy.  Consequently, every cent saved on energy costs is equivalent to earning two cents.

The use of energy can be broken down into several broad categories: transportation, heating, air conditioning, water use, and miscellaneous. These categories are listed in decreasing order of expense. By use of these rules, I have been able to reduce my energy consumption by one-third of prior use.

The average home spends more than $3000 annually on gasoline; add in maintenance, insurance, and car tags and you are talking real money.

  1. Drive like a brake job cost $100,000.  Every time you use your brakes, you are converting gasoline energy into heat which consumes brake linings.  Don’t follow cars closely.  Anticipate traffic lights blocks ahead and coast to stops.  Don’t accelerate too fast and avoid making quick stops.  Front disc brakes should last 65,000 miles and rear brakes over 100,000 miles.
  2. Drive as fast as safe in city driving remembering the efficiency of motors improves with higher speeds.
  3. Keep your car perfectly tuned.  Determine your cars miles per gallon every time you add gas and if the mileage falls, realize some type of maintenance is in order.
  4. Don’t drive!   Walking is good for your health and saves on gas consumption.  It’s foolish driving around a parking lot looking for a close-in parking space.  Park the minute you enter a parking lot and walk to store’s entrances—this also saves on dents from parking between cars.
  5. Use radial tires and make sure proper air pressure is maintained at all times.  Keep a tire gauge and check tire pressure every month.  Don’t forget the spare tire.
  6. Avoid driving during periods of traffic congestion if possible.  Also avoid making senseless shopping trips.   Plan ahead and make several stops on the same trip.
  7. Consider car mileage when purchasing new cars.  The mileage for new and old cars is found at the website “fuel”.
  8. Use the cheapest gas available in your area.  The price of gasoline at all fuel stations is also found at “fuel”.
  9. Use air conditioning sparingly because it requires substantial engine power; however, at high speeds always have all windows closed to reduce air resistance and use air conditioning if needed for comfort.
  10. Help other drivers save on gasoline by letting them make left turns or into traffic flow when waiting.

Heating accounts for about 40 percent of the energy use for homes with air conditioning and 50 percent of energy use for homes without air conditioning.

  1. Seal all holes leading into a home with caulking.  This stops outside air infiltration and loss of heated air in the winter.  Holes may be found around window frames, door frames, and ceiling beams that extend outside.  This is by far the cheapest means of energy conservation and is quite effective.
  2. Weather strip all exterior doors and windows.
  3. Make sure the home is insulated to Building Code Standards.  For Atlanta, GA the minimum standard is 3 ½ inches of insulation (R-11) in exterior walls and 6 inches of insulation in exterior ceilings (R-19.  I prefer fiberglass batts for insulation because they hold their shape permanently, non-toxic, and cheap.  In addition, I recommend 12 inches insulation for attics.   For older homes without insulation it may be cost prohibitive to install wall insulation; however, attics are usually open and placing 12-inch batts is not expensive if the homeowner does the work.
  4. Install storm doors and storm windows.  Because of expense hiring proper installation, this may not be cost effective.  Benefits are great in energy savings and also reducing outside noise.  Keeping drapes closed can accomplish some of the effect of storm windows.  Double pane windows are also effective energy savers.  These are available at reasonable cost from building supply stores and if self-installed the payback period may be only ten years.  I properly installed double pane windows and storm windows giving me triple pane windows that made big heating improvements and almost eliminated outside noise.
  5. Insulate all supply and return ducts in the heating system if they are located in attics or crawl spaces.  In addition, make sure all duct joints are properly taped to prevent leakage.
  6. Clean and replace the air filter for the blower on a regular basis.
  7. Heat rooms only in use.  Do not shut off returns to your heating system; but you can shut off supply ducts as long as they don’t exceed 30 percent of supply lines.
  8. Install a programmable thermostat that allows temperature settings dependent upon the home use.  Late night temperatures can be set to 60 degrees that allows big savings—for every degree in setback the fuel savings may exceed 2 percent.   Set daytime temperatures according to occupancy of home.
  9. Avoid using exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathrooms.  Their use sends hot air outside and brings in cold air from the outside.
  10. Let the sun help heat the house in the winter by opening drapes of south facing windows during the daytime.

Homes with air conditioning use 25 to 35 percent of their energy use in this fashion.

  1. Employ items a, b, c, d, e, f, g, and h described under home heating.
  2. For central air conditioning systems clean the outside condenser coils every spring because this helps increase the efficiency of the air conditioner by maybe 10 or 20 percent.
  3. Set thermostat temperatures as high as comfortable.  Each degree increase may reduce energy use by 5 percent.
  4. For Southern states with high air conditioning use, utilities have summer peak demands from 5 to 7 on weekday evenings as homes switch on their air conditioners upon return from work.  Utilities are trying to reduce this load by offering variable pricing to discourage electricity use in peak demand periods.  Instead of charging 16 cents per kilowatt-hour for summer electricity, a utility may charge 28 cents per kilowatt-hour from 2-7 p.m. weekdays and 10 cents per kilowatt-hour the rest of the time.  The programmable thermostat can be used to lower utility bills by adopting this type of pricing.  Air conditioners are most efficient late at night when outside temperatures are at their lowest.  With a programmable thermostat the air conditioner can be set for 70 degrees from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. in the morning.  For weekdays from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. the thermostat can be set for 73 degrees, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. the thermostat can be set for 80 degrees, and then from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. the thermostat can be set to 73 degrees.  On weekends the thermostat can be set for 73 degrees from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.  By not using the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer during weekday peak hours, I have reduced my summer electricity bill by 20 percent.
  5. When replacing an air conditioner, make sure the unit is not oversized for the job.  Contractors like to specify one ton of air conditioning for every 500 square feet of living space.  If the techniques described in part “a” are employed, you can probably get by with one ton of air conditioning for every 800 square feet of living space.  The smaller unit will run longer and keep the humidity low which adds to comfort.
  6. Make sure there is ventilation in the attic.  If the attic is properly insulated, attic fans may not be economical in reducing power costs.
  7. In the daytime pull drapes over Southern and Western facing windows.  I have placed movable shutters on Western windows that totally block out incoming sun for the summer and allow sun in the winter.
  8. Avoid excessive use of exhaust fans because they pull hot air into the house.  However, use exhaust fans when taking showers because they add to humidity in the house.
  9. Air conditioners can be a source of water during a drought.  Water is taken out of the air by the cooling coils and pumped outside by a small pump.  For every ton of air conditioning you may produce 5 gallons of water per day.  This water can be collected and used for watering plants.

Water is becoming expensive across the country due to shortages and repairs of old water treatment and sewage plants.   In Atlanta, Georgia the average home uses 6000 gallons per month and the cost is $138.  The marginal rate for the last gallons used in 2.5 cents per gallon.  In addition to water costs, there is the heating cost for hot water needed for washing individuals, food services, and cloths.  Water heating can be 10 percent of home energy use.

  1. Use low flow toilets in the home that are1.6 gallons per flush or lower.  The Atlanta water system pays $100 each for replacement of old, high flow toilets.
  2. If you kill a bug and throw it into the toilet; don’t flush the toilet, it costs too much.
  3. Use water saving shower heads and faucets.  This may cut water heating costs in half.
  4. Use dishwashers because they save on water use and make sure they are full when using them.
  5. Use washing machines only when they are full of dirty cloths.
  6. Set the thermostat temperature on water heaters to the low setting of 120 degrees.  This reduces heat losses from water heaters and associated plumbing and also reduces chances of scalding from inappropriate application of hot water to humans.
  7. Insulating hot water pipes can save energy; however, cost benefits may be marginal.
  8. Heat losses from gas water heaters are matched to the energy output of the pilot light.  So the standby loss of a gas hot water heater is zero when the thermostat is set to the lowest level of 120 degrees.   Gas water heaters with pilot lights are convenient because they work during power outages.  So forget buying a gas water heater with electronic ignition.
  9. Electric water heaters are made to operate with heat pumps.  They are very expensive; but reduce energy demand by two-thirds.  If a home requires large amounts of hot water, this type of water heater may be economical.
  10. In the design of new homes or remodeling, locate kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas that use hot water close to the water heater in order to have short lengths of hot water plumbing.


  1. Save on lighting energy use by employing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) or LED lighting.   These devices reduce lighting energy use by 80 percent.  CFLs are sold in home improvement stores for about $10 an eight-pack; while LED bulbs are about $15 apiece.  So CFLs are the financial choice; however, remember each CFL contains 4 milligrams of mercury, so their use demands locations in areas where breakage is unlikely.  After CFLs fail, they need to be returned to the purchase location for disposal.
  2. Buy and use energy savings appliances.  Microwave ovens use far less energy than stoves; so use them at all times when practical.
  3. New stoves and refrigerators are far more energy efficient than models sold twenty or more years ago.  When buying gas stoves, consider types without pilot lights and self-cleaning because they are better insulated and use less energy.
  4. Improve the efficiency of refrigerators or freezers by cleaning their condenser coils annually.
  5. Keep refrigerators and freezers full as possible and avoid excessive or prolonged opening their doors.
  6. When cooking on stove tops use covered pans to save energy.
  7. Place furniture around interior walls of rooms in order to have increased comfort in both summer and winter.
  8. Cloth’s dryers suck in outside air during operation.   Arrange their time of use so they do the least demand on heating or air conditioning systems.
  9. Turn computers off when not in use for extended periods like overnight.
  10. Flat screen televisions use substantially less energy than older models.  If TV sets are old, large models, and used a lot; consider buying a new one.  Turn televisions off when not in use.

Employing these tips can save hundreds to thousands of dollars annually.  Always keep energy in mind during daily activities and save money for other uses and benefit the nation’s best interests.

Categories: On the Blog

HBO Streaming Announcement Is Good News for All Entertainment Consumers, Not Just HBO Watchers

October 19, 2014, 6:48 PM

Acting on plans reported here a month ago, entertainment channel HBO has decided to end its thirty-plus-year dependence on cable and satellite distributors, announcing it will offer an online streaming video service beginning next year. Following a trail blazed by Netflix,, Acorn Media, and others, HBO will offer the service without a cable subscription in an effort to reach the ten-million-plus broadband-only homes, a category that is increasing steadily.

In his announcement, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Piepler said that the company had not yet decided what distribution method to use: partnering with a cable or Internet provider or offering the service directly to consumers on the Netflix model. A possible clue to HBO’s thinking is its deal, reached earlier this year, to license much of its library to Amazon for the latter’s Prime service.

One imagines that HBO’s accounting people ran the numbers for the various scenarios before the bosses made the decision to go solo, so it seems likely that HBO already knows what direction they want to take. And the fact that they haven’t yet announced their specific plan suggests that it isn’t option three, to go it alone, as they certainly could have made that part of the announcement had they chosen. And given the ferment regarding net neutrality—the idea, fostered by Google, Netflix, and other big business users of internet bandwidth, that the government should ban broadband providers from charging fair prices for the use of their information pipelines—it makes sense for HBO to stay out of that morass and let a partner deal with the headache of delivering the service to its customers.

In any case, this is good news for entertainment consumers, even those of us who are not interested in HBO’s programs. When Turner Classic Movies goes solo, I will be very tempted to take down my satellite dish.

Such an exodus away from the current cable and satellite delivery system may turn out to be what finally breaks the hold of ESPN, Disney, Viacom, and other powerful entertainment conglomerates on people’s pocketbooks. These corporations have long benefited from the practice of bundling, in which content providers force cable and satellite companies to buy several unpopular channels in order to get the one people do watch, and they charge the distributors (the cable and satellite companies) extortionate fees to carry the programming bundles. Thus people across the country who have cable or satellite TV are required to pay an average of $5 per month apiece to ESPN owner Disney Corp. in order to get cable, even if they hate ESPN and never watch it.

Those companies and the major sports leagues have made an outrageous fortune off of people who never watch their programming, and the same is the case for Disney’s other channels and Viacom and the like. The cable and satellite providers have been unable to break these programmers’ power, and that is what has been behind the dizzying rise of monthly fees for these services. That can’t go on much longer, and HBO’s announcement is quite revealing, as a powerful programming source is clearly eyeing the door in obvious awareness that the current system is unsustainable.

We will soon find out how many HBO viewers resent having to pay huge fees for ESPN, Disney, and Viacom programs they don’t watch.

Change is going to come, and probably sooner than most parties imagine. HBO’s announcement is a strong indication that it’s “game on” now in the entertainment media world—and in the case of ESPN and the other big entertainment providers, perhaps “game over” very soon for their current cushy deals.

[First published at The American Culture.]


Categories: On the Blog

Black Thursday Is Coming in December: Politicians Want Green, Taxpayers Will See Red!

October 19, 2014, 3:00 PM

A yearly $14.7 billion tax increase could be in place as early as mid-December courtesy of the leaders of the U.S. Senate.

Almost immediately after the World Wide Web made its debut some folks were hard at work figuring out a way to muscle in on the action. Some proposed taxing Internet access while others wanted to charge a higher tax on items bought via the Web than if that same item had been bought at a brick-and-mortar store. This Internet looting led to the passage of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) in 1998, 16 years ago.

Originally intended to be permanent but negotiated down to temporary, and grandfathering in jurisdictions that were already taxing Internet access to give them time to adjust their tax codes and budgets, the law put in place a moratorium on “Internet taxes,” that is, taxes on Internet access and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on Internet commerce. Since then, ITFA has been extended several times, including recently when it was extended until Thursday, December 11—or what we should dub another Black Thursday.

The American Action Forum released an analysis showing that the cost to taxpayers would be $14.7 billion annually. This tax increase is the very real cost of failing to extend the moratorium permanently.

Who would support this massive tax increase in the middle of a still struggling, sluggish economy?  As the private and public sectors spend millions of dollars to ensure people have broadband access, why impose a new tax that will disproportionately affect those least able to pay?

The only thing holding back a permanent moratorium and removing the grandfathered jurisdictions seems to be the Senate, where Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are holding the moratorium hostage as they try to find a way to force through something oxymoronically named the Mainstreet Fairness Act (MFA).

The proposal would do  away with any requirement that a business have a physical connection to a jurisdiction before it can be forced to levy taxes on its sales. If this law were to pass, a person merely calling up a business’s Website would be enough to require that a business pay taxes in the state where the customer resides. Out-of-state tax authorities could audit businesses in any state. A discriminatory Internet tax would look promising by comparison.

But holding the moratorium hostage to the MFA is illogical at best, and perhaps legislative malpractice. The moratorium staves off a huge tax increase, while the MFA enables vastly broader powers for tax authorities. Virtually opposite goals.

In addition, the MFA is fundamentally about where a taxable transaction takes place, a far more complicated discussion than a prohibition on discriminatory taxation. The MFA is appropriately fully debated in the context of how location-based taxation should be handled in an age of digital transactions, not smuggled through Congress via some hidden trick in an attempt to please a narrow constituency.

The number of cosponsors and the congressional committee votes demonstrate that a permanent moratorium that removes the grandfathered jurisdictions has a huge margin of support. However, if the two bills are forced together in the Senate nothing will pass, and the country will labor under another huge tax increase.

[Originally published at the Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

Silicon Valley’s Biggest Internet Mistake

October 19, 2014, 7:00 AM

Hubris causes blind spots.

Silicon Valley is putting its foreign Internet franchise at risk by imagining what happens in Washington D.C. stays in D.C.

Silicon Valley’s net neutrality tunnel vision in America blinds it to the disastrous international policy repercussions of promoting a protectionist industrial policy for Silicon Valley at the FCC, exactly when most other nations are looking for any pretext to justify imposing their own protectionist policies in response to Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying.

To appreciate the biggest Internet mistake that Silicon Valley interests are making, one first needs to understand what they want from the FCC.

They want consumers to subsidize Silicon Valley’s cost of their commercial streaming to users in the form of a permanent FCC-set, zero-price for downstream traffic to their users.

To secure this large infrastructure-use government subsidy, Silicon Valley interests need the FCC to reclassify the U.S. Internet from a lightly-regulated “information” service to a utility-regulated “telecommunications” service, while simultaneously undoing, or “forbearing” from, some of the new utility regulations they just imposed.

So what is Silicon Valley’s biggest Internet mistake?

Legally, “telecommunications” is what international treaties and agreements regulate like a utility, under the Constitution of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Specifically, ITU agreement: ITU-T D.50, recognizes the sovereign right of each State to regulate “telecommunications” as that State determines.

Apparently, Silicon Valley interests are blind to the many risks of “telecommunications” regulation to their foreign businesses.

First, the FCC reclassifying the American Internet as “telecommunications” predictably would invite most every other country to reclassify their Internet traffic as “telecommunications” too, so that they could impose lucrative price tariffs on Silicon Valley’s dominant share of Internet traffic into their countries.

Second, there is no “forbearance,” or undoing, process from the ITU’s “telecommunications” utility regulations.

Third, a new FCC-led protectionist, “telecommunications” trade dynamic, would give foreign regulators every incentive to protect their national interests at Silicon Valley’s expense.

Fourth, the world is watching.

Fadi Chehade, Internet governance leader and President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN,) told the Washington Post: “You think that how the FCC decides to move forward with net neutrality only affects America? No. The whole world is watching how this country manages its Internet.”

Simply, since Silicon Valley benefits the most from free trade and the free flow of information, they also have the most to lose from advocating for the FCC to protect Silicon Valley commercially with large Internet infrastructure-use government subsidies.

For example, Google alone sends roughly 8 billion video streams overseas daily.

Most countries in the world salivate at the prospect of America’s FCC leading the world in price regulating Internet traffic flows for America’s benefit.

It would provide priceless political cover for autocratic countries like China and Russia, to impose their own nationalist Internet regulations and censorship policies.

It also would eviscerate any moral or policy high-ground the U.S. could have to stave off protectionist trade policies for information services, like the European Parliament’s call to end the U.S.-EU Data Safe Harbor and many countries’ calls for data storage localization.

That’s because foreign negotiators could say that their countries were only doing for their national champions what the FCC did for America’s Silicon Valley national champions.

And unfortunately, price regulating Internet traffic as “telecommunications” likely would require privacy-invasive, deep-packet-inspection, at sovereign borders in order to determine who owes whom what under an ITU “telecommunications” sender-party-pays, trade-settlement regime.

In sum, hubris causes blind spots.

[Originally posted on The Daily Caller]


Categories: On the Blog

Stop Playing the Ebola “Blame Game”

October 17, 2014, 3:02 PM

When medical officials confirmed that a second individual involved with delivering treatment to the original Ebola patient contracted the disease, my concerns grew. When more news surfaced that the plane the individual flew on traveled to other airports before being decontaminated-namely the busiest in the country- scenes from the movie Contagion instantly flooded my mind. Ebola has proven that it is a disease without borders and many people would like some assurance that the US health care system has this under control. I certainly have not gotten that assurance yet. Instead a “blame game” has commenced.

This week, the Agenda Project Action Fund began airing an ad targeting Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Marco Rubio and several other GOP Senate candidates, declaring “Republican cuts kill,” directly blaming Congressional Republicans for the Ebola outbreak. This new Democratic talking point was provoked by statements from National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins. He told the Huffington Post that the agency has been working to develop an Ebola vaccine for more than a decade but was hindered by dwindling budgets. Collins says, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

The 2014 NIH budget  was $30.14 billion, up from $28.5 billion in 2006. Due to the impact of inflation that is a small cut; however, the agency also obtained a $10 billion windfall in 2009 from the stimulus law. Additionally, in January, the Republican-led House passed legislation that increased the Center for Disease Control (CDC) spending for 2014 by $567 million, which is $300 million more than was request by President Obama. The Agenda Project ad also fails to note that the U.S. Global Health Program budget has increased more than six-fold since 2001.

The claim by Dr. Collins called for some observers, including Michael Tanner from Cato Institute, to point to some questionable NIH-funded studies like a study on the sex life of fruit flies, a study to determine why people like Seinfeld reruns, and a study of how fast husbands and wives calm down after a fight.

With one death, two active cases, and several more Americans under surveillance, it is becoming clear that the CDC was not ready for the likelihood of this event. Procedures were not in place and preparation was inadequate. Ebola patients have been successfully treated in the U.S. prior to the recent outbreak without transmitting the virus to others caring for them. The main concern must be guaranteeing that the right treatment procedures are available and that those providing treatment are conscientiously abiding by proper measures. It is imperative there are clear processes to monitor and assess those who may have been exposed to the virus. Decontaminating possibly infected areas should be done promptly and efficiently. The administration, state and local officials, the CDC and NIH all have a laundry list of things to do to encourage Americans that the right steps to avoid an outbreak are in place. This relates to protocols and appropriation of funds.

Yesterday, the head of the CDC Tom Frieden said he is “always open to ideas” on how to handle Ebola. While that remark wasn’t necessarily reassuring, he is on the right track. Instead of playing the “blame game,” let’s start playing the “crisis management game” and reassure Americans this is not Contagion.

Categories: On the Blog

Politicizing a Plague

October 17, 2014, 9:58 AM

If President Obama does not want the Ebola virus to kill Americans, why has his administration done nothing to restrict any flights from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the hot spots in Africa where it appears the virus is spreading?

One of the reason flights from Liberia were not stopped, we have been told, was the historical link of the U.S. with that nation, founded as a place freed slaves could migrate. That is no excuse in the face of the threat of a single Liberian with Ebola getting off a flight in any U.S. airport.

The decision not to stop flights has nothing to do with health and everything to do with politics, Obama’s far left ideology, and his dislike for America that has been on display for anyone paying any attention. It has driven every decision Obama has made since first taking office.

The White House has decided that stopping flights would heighten public concerns, possibly creating an aura of panic. This is a very bad, very lethal decision. It demonstrates the indifference to facts and to common sense for which the White House is now famous.

Every poll demonstrates that Americans want our borders protected and access from West Africa denied.

It is likely that the White House wants to tamp down any sense of heightened public concern until the midterm elections on Nov. 4. Then add to that the criminal lack of truthfulness that has accompanied anything affecting this White House has done from Benghazi to setting free five Taliban generals in exchange for someone likely to be deemed a deserter from the U.S. Army.

When the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Thomas Friedman, became the focus of news media inquiries regarding the virus, it was clear that he did not have any greater knowledge of the problem, other than the scope of its threat, than anyone else. Indeed, within a week of his first press conference, he said that the CDC and U.S. medical community needed to come up with a whole new approach to Ebola.

When Thomas Duncan, the Liberian in whom the virus was not initially detected died, we were treated to scenes of intensive decontamination efforts at the Dallas hospital, but a nurse who treated him became the first U.S. victim and Dr. Friedman was quick to blame a “protocol breach” as the likely reason. Now a second nurse has Ebola.

The likely reason can be found in the fact that thousands of people die every year from viruses and infections they acquire at a hospital.

The first and likely the second nurse wore protective outfits from top to bottom while dealing with Duncan. In Africa, the earliest victims have been the doctors and hospital staff tending those with Ebola. Any U.S. medical personnel returning from Africa should be quarantined after they arrive. The President has dispatched more than 4,000 military personnel to Liberia and their quarantine should be far longer than the 21 days we keep hearing about. We are now hearing it should be up to 40 days.

The notion that airport staff has any capacity at all to spot someone with Ebola is ludicrous, yet we are being treated to the charade of passengers having a device waved over them to detect a fever.

All this is a political approach rather than a medical one. It is political theatre.

One example of this was a statement by Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, who blamed the lack of funding the NIH has received for research, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. He noted that the NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001, but does it strike anyone as odd that in all the time since then nothing has been developed?

In fairness, though, the NIH budget has declined 23% over the past decade. The current budget, however, is $29.31 billion. That is a substantial amount.

Congress represents more politics. Dr. Collins remarked that it did not appear “enthusiastic” about passing an emergency supplemental appropriation. For those in government the only answer to any problem is to throw more money at it.

Worse, a Democratic Party advertisement even claimed that the Ebola threat is due to Republican cuts in funding of healthcare research, but those cuts were bipartisan by virtue of the sequestration limits imposed. Not mentioned was an Obama administration decision to abandon a set of regulations which the CDC considered essential to prevent international travelers from spreading deadly diseases inside the U.S. At this point, the question is why?

So far Ebola has been located in West Africa, but in this world of global air travel, but without rigid restrictions it is only a matter of time before it begins to show up elsewhere including here again.

When that happens you can point a finger at Barack Hussein Obama who thinks it’s more important to have good relations with Liberia than it is to shut down any possibility that an African or anyone else at risk of having Ebola will arrive on our shores.

At that point, however, it will be too late

Categories: On the Blog

An American Decline that Must be Reversed

October 17, 2014, 9:34 AM

The tendency of pundits is to address the decline in American culture and traditional moral values. The concerns addressed include the rather sudden, but widespread embrace of same-sex marriages or calls for the legalization of marijuana so anyone can get high without the fear of arrest.

You can probably name a few things you consider evidence of decline, but there is one you are not likely to notice much. It’s the nation’s infrastructure of highways, airports, waterways and ports. It’s only dramatic declines such as the decay of Detroit, once one of the nation’s most dynamic cities that get attention because it is so blatant. We judge the backwardness of third world nations by their bad roads and lack of infrastructure to support their economies.

We don’t, however, think of the U.S. as a nation in decline, but we are.

A September study released by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) revealed that overall spending on public infrastructure fell 10.5% between 2003 and 2012. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “Spending on highways and streets by federal, state and local governments, dropped a higher 19% during that same period, according to the study.”

NAM president, Jay Timmons, said, “The United States is stuck in a decade-long decline (in infrastructure spending) that will eventually harm job creation, future productivity and our ability to compete head-to-head with companies all over the globe.”  When a manufacturer cannot transport their product in a timely fashion, it puts them at a disadvantage. Multiply that by the nation’s many manufacturers and you have a very big problem for lack of adequate highways, roads, and bridges

The great power of America’s infrastructure was supported by the maintenance it requires. The 2013 study was commissioned by the Building America’s Future Educational Fund and NAM to survey manufacturers. It found that they “overwhelmingly viewed America’s infrastructure as old, inefficient, and badly in need of modernization.”

Findings included 70% who believed that U.S. infrastructure is in fair or poor shape and needs a great deal or quite a lot of improvement. The same percentage believe that road are getting worse and 65% did not believe that infrastructure, especially in their region, is positioned to respond to the competitive demands of a growing economy over the next 10-15 years.

This may not seem very exciting compared to news of combat in the Middle East or the threat of Ebola, but consider that, in early October, the Financial Times reported that “China has surpassed the US in terms of GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP), becoming the largest in the world by this measure, International Monetary Fund estimates show. In 2014 China reached $17.6 trillion or 16.48 percent of the world’s purchasing-power-adjusted GDP, while the US made slightly less, 16.28 percent or $17.4 trillion, according to IMF data.“

We are now number two in the global economy.

The NAM study’s research, said University of Maryland Professor Jeffrey Werling, “helps confirm what engineers and executives both know, The quality and quantity of current U.S. infrastructure is deficient, and these deficiencies are already hampering economic growth.”

For years, a federal fuel tax has helped underwrite needed highway construction, but it hasn’t been increased since 1993 and annual collections have been declining due to fuel-efficient vehicles and motorists who have been driving less than in the past. The Wall Street Journal reported that “Congress has shown little interest in raising the 18.2 cent-a-gallon tax” and has relied on stop-gap funding.

There was a time when a politician would jump at the chance to have a bridge or a strip of highway named after him. Those days are over. We have a Congress that can barely agree on anything, let alone something as undramatic as funding infrastructure projects. The States and local communities are squeezed for their own funds, burdened with pensions and other costs.

None of this bodes well, but at least we can say we’ve been warned, eh?


[Originally posted at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Ebola Screening at Airports is Feel-Good Technology, Not Science

October 17, 2014, 9:26 AM

As reported on Sunday, October 12, Ebola has spread in the U.S. The second American case of the deadly Ebola virus was confirmed in tests on a health care worker who treated the first individual stricken with Ebola, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died on Wednesday, October 8th at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Huston, Texas. This infection took place despite the use protective suits and face masks. Because of the strain the new infection imposes on their resources,the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has placed their emergency room on “referral status.” This means they aren’t accepting any new emergency patients. All are being referred to other hospitals. Such chaos exists after only two Ebola cases.

In an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business News, October 9, 2014, CDC Director, Tom Frieden, MD., insisted that a travel ban is not the right answer. “We don’t want to isolate parts of the world, or people who aren’t sick, because that’s going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak.” Using the analogy of forest fires, Dr. Frieden continued,“When a wildfire breaks out we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.” Really? The prime method of fighting forest fires is to prevent their spread by creating fire breaks, even setting backfires. Without new fuel, forest fires quickly burn out. Fences work on fires, as would restricting all non-essential travel.

While WHO still soft-pedals the issue, it reports facts which can’t be dismissed.  According to experts in the WHO, Ebola can be spread by coughs and sneezes. It remains viable in air as long as it remains moist. By current definition, only diseases like influenza, which remains viable in air even when dry, are designated “airborn.” The CDC is parsing words on the definition of “direct contact.” Likewise the virus remains viable for several days on moist surfaces, clothing and body fluids. There is no solid evidence whether or not an asymptomatic victim is infectious. Not enough is known at present. The CDC is willing to assume that since we can’t prove victims are infectious before symptoms appear, there’s no need to be concerned.

America’s response, as of Saturday, Saturday, Oct. 11 to the Ebola epidemic in western Africa is to inspect all arrivals, at least by air travel (Screening has already been instituted at Kennedy International Airport for travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea), by a cursory inspection for certain symptoms (e.g., fever) and a supplementary questionnaire. We are told that this will virtually eliminate the possibility of Ebola spreading to the United States, negating the need to limit flights to and from the affected region. However it appears that public health officials, including the CDC, are simply repeating policies emanating from the White House rather than citing good science. It is a long-established principle that you cannot “inspect” quality into a system, that inspection merely alerts you to the presence of a problem. This is the fallacy of inspection.

This principle is rooted in the science of quality control.  Quality control began to take a much more scientific approach took form during World War I due to problems in procurement of vast quantities of materiel from a multitude of suppliers. The concept of statistical quality control arose from those efforts, with significant advances during and after World War II. Walter Deming (aka W. Edwards Demings) was a prime mover in this area, and played a key role in the re-development of manufacturing in Japan following the war. Deming’s work in Japan is responsible for their reputation for high quality after a rocky start.  His success there was met by skepticism in his home country, the United States, where quality control was dominated by tradition – If enough customers complain, we’ll fix it

One of the early facts uncovered by the scientific approach was you cannot achieve quality control by inspection alone. You cannot cull out bad products that so that only good products get shipped. How bad is it? Visual inspection will only detect 25% to 35% of bad products passing through the inspection station. Instrumentation helps a little, but human fatigue and inattention remain significant factors. Where stakes are high, as in the production of food and pharmaceuticals, three or more inspectors look at the same items in order to improve the odds of finding defects. On the other hand, 1% to 2% of good products will be rejected. Re-inspection of rejected items is costly because the percentage of bad product is much higher than in the normal production stream, and require much greater care and effort.

Under the principles developed by Deming and others, inspection is a tool to identify problems, not solve them. Once identified, the root cause of the problem must be identified and solved. If you don’t direct your main effort to solving the problem, you are fooling yourself, and confusing others. No conscientious manufacture would deliberately send products down the line in hopes that inspection would identify and cull the bad ones. That doesn’t mean it never happens.

There are multiple implications of these principles to screening airline passengers. Only passengers directly from affected countries will be screened. The potential for infections are much higher for these countries, hence more likely to be missed. Secondly, people will take indirect routes in order to bypass these inspections. Finally, inspections will be instituted at only five major air ports out of hundreds of potential entry points. The inspection itself will only identify potential victims by the presence of a fever (or other symptoms).

Since there are many causes for fever, the percentage of false identifications will be large, causing disruption to air traffic, not to mention the lives of those culled out of the crowd. The incubation period of Ebola is long, from five to twenty-one days (why not twenty or twenty-two?), so most people infected will pass through undetected, and possibly contact many people before the disease surfaces. The resources needed to respond to an active case of Ebola are enormous. A few dozen cases would overwhelm our system, much less hundreds of cases.

Under government procurement procedures, failing inspection leads to increased inspection levels (and higher cost), ultimately to disqualification of the supplier. In the proposed health screening procedures, there is no intervention plan, just a reaction.

In order to limit our exposure to a possible epidemic, non-essential travel to and from the afflicted regions be curtailed. There should be no casual travel or immigration. Contrary to the administration’s talking points, this has no effect on humanitarian aid, any more than our current ban on travel for political reasons. We would simply have to regulate such travel, and quarantine those returning. Such regulation would require a lot of resources for monitoring and a likelihood of treating subsequent infections. The cost and administration of these measures, and the even greater cost of failure, makes sending thousands of troops into harm’s way impractical.

 [Originally posted on Illinois Review

Categories: On the Blog

Government ‘Help’ Worsens Nutrition: Milk etc.

October 16, 2014, 3:53 PM

People don’t form governments to tell them what to eat. Our government was formed to protect people’s inalienable rights to their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When governments attempt to do more than that, they violate the rights they are supposed to protect—and invariably produce unintended consequence, usually the very opposite from what they intend.

Take the case of chocolate milk. It has become a fad all across the country to ban chocolate milk in school lunches. Even the federal government has gotten in on this. The argument has been that white milk is healthier because the same volume of chocolate milk includes chocolate and sugar, meaning slightly less volume of milk, and eliminating the sugar is said to help combat obesity. So if only white milk were available, the children supposedly would consume more actual milk and be healthier.

But contrary to the good intentions of shortsighted lawmakers, the ban on chocolate milk results in far less milk being consumed. Elementary school children drank 35 percent less milk when flavored milk was banned, according to a recent study by the School Nutrition Association, a group representing school cafeteria workers. Some parents report their children won’t drink white milk because they don’t like the taste. Such children prefer to drink water if they can’t get chocolate milk. An audit at one Chicago school where milk is the only beverage available found that a third of the milk taken at lunch was thrown away.

About 70 percent of milk consumed in schools is flavored, mostly chocolate. For some children the only milk they get is at school lunch; if they won’t drink white milk, they get no milk at all. Clearly it is better for them to drink chocolate milk than no milk at all.

The simplistic—and false—claim that children will be healthier if chocolate milk is banned shows an ignorance of the scientific nutritional benefits of what they are prohibiting. More than 20 studies link link support the benefits of high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk for recovery after athletic exercise. Here are some examples:

“Lowfat chocolate milk naturally has many of the nutrients most commercial recovery drinks have to add in the lab—including high-quality protein and key electrolytes like calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.”

“Lowfat chocolate milk has 9 essential nutrients, including some not typically found in recovery drinks, that an athlete needs to perform at his or her best every time.”

“Lowfat chocolate milk contains high-quality protein to help repair and rebuild muscles after strenuous exercise. It’s also been shown to help athletes tone up—gain more lean muscle and lose fat—compared to drinking a carb-only drink…[and] help athletes build and maintain strong bones and reduce the risk of stress fractures.”

“The researchers suggest that athletes can consider fat free chocolate milk as an economic nutritional alternative to other sports nutrition beverages to support post-endurance exercise skeletal muscle repair.”

“Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that following an exhausting ride, trained cyclists had significantly more power and rode faster, shaving about six minutes, on average, from their ride time when they recovered with lowfat chocolate milk compared to a carbohydrate sports drink and calorie-free beverage.”

Furthermore, the School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association argue that the nutritional value of flavored low-fat or skim milk outweighs the harm of added sugar and have issued a joint statement to that effect.

The movement to ban chocolate milk got its impetus from the movement to prohibit vending machines from selling soft drinks at schools because they contain sugar. This was part of the “war on obesity.” Since chocolate milk contains sugar, it too became a target in the “war on obesity.”

The war did not stop at the school yard. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated a law banning the sale of sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, delis, movie theaters and food carts. That was supposed to show he was fighting obesity. But a week later he showed up at Nathan’s 97th annual July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest, where he announced: “It is a moment for all New Yorkers and all Americans to celebrate the inalienable rights bestowed on us by our forefathers: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For the contestants assembled here, that includes consuming as many hot dogs as humanly possible.” This hypocrite would deny beverage consumers the same “inalienable rights bestowed on us by our forefathers” to consume sugary beverages of their choice that he grants for “consuming as many hot dogs as humanly possible.” Indeed, he proclaimed the latter “a moment for all New Yorkers and all Americans to celebrate.”

Michael Siegel, M.D., is a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. Here is his explanation of facts about the hot dog eating contest:

“The winner of the 2011 hot dog eating contest consumed 62 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes.

“A single Nathan’s hot dog has 297 calories and 18 grams of fat. The bun contains an additional 120 calories. Thus, a single serving delivers 417 calories and 18 grams of fat. This means that the winner of the hot dog eating contest consumed 25,854 calories and 1,116 grams of fat within 10 minutes.

“Thus, Mayor Bloomberg participated in a ceremony that glamorized and promoted the over-consumption of already calorie- and fat-laden food to literally millions of people, including about half a million New Yorkers. And this is the guy who now wants to limit soda consumption to 16 ounces?”

For Bloomberg’s “blatant hypocrisy,” Dr. Michael Siegel inducted him into the Hypocrisy Hall of Shame.

In March 2013, one day before Bloomberg’s large soda ban was due to go into effect, Justice Milton Tingling of state Supreme Court in Manhattan called the ban ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and tossed the regulation out.

Bloomberg’s position on the sugary beverages is not only an infringement on individuals’ rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness but shows his ignorance of facts regarding beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 7 percent of calories of the average American’s diet, according to government data. And that 7 percent includes not only sodas but fruit juice drinks, sport drinks, teas and coffee with sugar.

Added sugars consumed from soda have declined 39 percent since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control—and yet obesity has been increasing during this period. Since 1998, the average calories per serving from beverages is down 23 percent due to development of more low- and zero-calorie drinks—yet obesity continued to rise.  Sales of regular soft drinks declined 12.5 percent from 1999 to 2010—yet obesity rates continued to rise during that same time. These facts make it foolish to believe Bloomberg’s policy will reduce obesity.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states: “There are multidimensional determinants of obesity….A food solution remains elusive, but a reductionist approach that focuses on one food or one component of the food supply, in the presence of too much, is unlikely to succeed.”

Dr. Gilbert Ross, M.D., practiced medicine for 19 years, was a member of the faculty of Cornell University Medical School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and is currently Executive Director and Medical Director of the American Council on Science and Health. He says, “There is no solid evidence that restricting sodas to a certain size will have the slightest impact on obesity.” Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, a renowned epidemiologist who questions conventional wisdom on food, said, “Not only is the latest proposed ban frightening in terms of government overreach, but it will have no impact on obesity.”

An Australian study of children consuming sugar-sweetened beverages 1995 to 2007 found that obesity had increased despite a substantial decline in intake of refined sugar.

Nor will taxing sugary beverages reduce obesity. West Virginia and Arkansas are two states that tax soft drinks, yet both are among the 10 states with highest obesity rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A very recent study at Cornell University of a 10% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages shows the futility of such measures in combating obesity. In From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences, the researchers found:

  • Taxes on sweets encouraged substitution. In this case, shoppers substituted beer for soft drinks, and the households that previously had purchased beer bought even more beer after soft drinks were taxed.
  • The total fluid ounces of beverages purchased by shoppers remained steady throughout the entire study. There was a drop in unhealthy drink purchases during the first month, but consumers resumed their soft drink purchases thereafter, with no decrease in purchases at the three-month or six-month marks.

The government’s role in school lunches extends far beyond the chocolate milk issue. In Chicago some schools prohibit children from bringing lunch from home. Citing a situation parallel to that of children who won’t drink white milk, a parent Erica Martinez said, “Some kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast. So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.” The WSJ wrote, “The healthy food is so bad that kids are literally starving themselves rather than tucking into vegetarian curries, or else engaging in the black market.” (Is the black market something we want children to learn at school?) The Los Angeles Times reported “At many campuses, an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare is thriving.”

A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman couldn’t say how many schools ban lunches from home. Monique Bond said there is “no formal policy” and the decision is left to the principals. Regarding the Little Village school, she said, “this principal is encouraging healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.” Apparently, in attempting to impact beyond the classroom some schools are shortchanging the educational function of the school. On May 30, 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported some “schools have diverted funds from teaching to reconfigure their menus to federal specifications.”

The federal school food regulations were mandated by a 2010 law and went into effect in 2012. According to the WSJ, “The rules impose very specific quotas for the type and amount of food served. Cafeterias, for example, must feature five ‘vegetable subgroups’ across ‘dark green, red/orange, beans/peas(legumes), starchy and ‘other’ vegetables.’ Schools have had to eliminate popular items such as sandwiches. Two slices of bread over five days exceed the weekly grain limit.

“The rules are as poorly devised as they are overly proscriptive, and often the school lunch calorie minimums cannot be satisfied with any combination of the low-calorie Let’s Move-approved foods.

Julia Bauscher, former president of the national School Nutrition Association (SNA) and currently director of nutrition services for Louisville’s public schools, says,

“I currently have one lunch entree that meets the a la carte requirements: grilled chicken breast on a whole-grain bun. But I can’t serve condiments with it. How many kids are going to eat grilled chicken with absolutely nothing on it?”

Mary Anderson, culinary supervisor at the Wayzata High School in Minnesota, says, “The kids weren’t getting enough food, they weren’t full. We really realized that we were not meeting consumer needs.” The Minneapolis Tribune reported, “Officials [at that school] are so unhappy with the new standards they are doing away with the national school lunch program completely next year.”

A 2014 investigation by the Government Accountability Office found some schools were adding “gelatin, ice cream, or condiments such as butter, jelly, ranch dressing or cheese sauce to become compliant,” which increased kids’ consumption of sugar, salt and fat.

The federal government subsidizes the banning of lunches from home by putting money in the pockets of the school district and its food provider. It pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch. If children in Chicago’s public schools don’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals and can’t bring lunch from home, they would have to pay $2.25 for food they may refuse to eat.

Brenda Braulick, president of the Minnesota branch of the School Nutrition Association, says she sees

food waste every day from kids who don’t want a fruit or vegetable but are forced to take one. “What we’re seeing is a lot of whole fruit, whole apples, whole bananas, not even with a bite taken out. To force a kid to take it doesn’t do any good.” The wasted food in Braulick’s district goes to a local hog farm. The USDA pays the district an extra 6 cents for fruits and vegetables that cost 25 to 30 cents.

The Los Angeles Unified School District alone “throws out at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more,” estimates David Binkle, the district’s food services director. Nationally the cost of wasted food from schools is estimated at over $1 billion annually.

With so many students refusing to eat the required food, it’s not surprising that many are also rejecting the entire National School Lunch Program. The Government Accountability Office reports that participation last year plunged by 1.2 million students, the first such decline in 30 years. Nationwide, students are buying a million fewer lunches per day than two years ago. At least 534 schools have dropped out of the program, and it’s not just individual schools but entire school districts that are dropping out. The USDA says about 150 school districts have exited the program.

In July 2014 the Fort Thomas Independent School District in northern Kentucky dropped out of the federal lunch program after students last year bought 30,000 fewer meals from its school cafeterias. Superintendent Gene Kirchner said dropping out will cost the district $200,000 in lost federal funds, but he said the district would lose even more money if it has to serve food the students refuse to buy. Some districts get much more federal money—so much more that they are hooked. “I get over $30 million in federal money,” says. Donna Martin, school nutrition director of Georgia’s Burke County School District, “I can’t just give that up.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 as part of Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, to combat childhood obesity. “We’ve seen the connection between what our kids eat and how well they perform in school,” President Obama said when signing the law. If what he said is true, the law must be degrading student performance in schools.

The situation is scheduled to get worse. The USDA set a series of increasingly strict rules to be introduced over 10 years, starting in 2012. Nutritionists are worried about new standards for grains, fruits and vegetables, and especially sodium. The sodium limit will be a problem by 1917, says Leah Smith, current national president of the school nutrition association.

The SNA and other opponents of the food rules are calling on Congress and the USDA to delay implementation of new standards to give the public time to gradually adjust to them. This is the wrong approach. The current standards are already worse than no standards at all. They have resulted in students getting less milk, rather than more, some getting no milk at all, and none getting the nutritional benefits of chocolate milk. They have resulted in enormous waste of taxpayers’ dollars and parents dollars. They have resulted in enormous wastes of food, and yet countless students get no lunch at school. Kirchner says it’s a particular problem at high schools, “They’re just skipping lunch and stopping by the minimart on the way home instead.” Rebecca Stinson, a principal at an elementary school on Chicago’s South Side, said, “The kids may have money or earn money and [buy junk food] without their parents’ knowledge.” Thus the regulations motivate children to eat more junk food and and undermine the parents’ role in their children’s diet. It is time to end these problems.

The issue is not whether stricter regulations should be mandated sooner or later but whether such regulations should exist at all. “This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” said J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Center for Consumer Freedom. “This is a perfect example of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again….Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?”

If we all have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then we are entitled to exercise that liberty in the choice of foods and beverages in our pursuit of happiness. This applies as much to chocolate milk as to stuffing oneself with hot dogs. And it is the very purpose of government to protect those rights. When it does so, people work out for themselves the most satisfactory—and economical—arrangements for providing goods and services to each other, without the interference of government. That is what freedom means and how and why it works in the marketplace. And it is why government “solutions” are always inadequate, expensive and with characteristically large amounts of waste. Those consequences are unavoidable when government fails in its purpose of protecting individual rights and substitutes regulations and mandates for social, economic or political goals at the expense of liberty.

The federal government should never have gotten involved in school lunches; it has no constitutional authority for doing so. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a rolling disaster. It has done just the opposite of what its title suggests. It has made nutrition worse for children, leaving more of them unsatisfied and hungry. It should not be “improved” or amended; it should be abolished.

[First published at American Liberty.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Jonathan Williams -Why Americans Choose to Move Out of State

October 16, 2014, 3:11 PM

Jonathan Williams, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Director, joins Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to debunk some common myths regarding why Americans choose to pack up and move to other states. While meteorological climate may play a role in some people’s decisions, Williams explains that states’ business and tax climates are a primary driver of the migratory habits of the American family.

Predictably, there are consequences to states’ poor fiscal decisions, as declining population numbers create a feedback loop, in which fewer and fewer taxpayers remain in a high-tax state. Williams explains why government statistics show that this is already happening in some areas of the United States.

Categories: On the Blog

A Supreme Court, Not Supreme Wisdom

October 16, 2014, 12:52 PM

I am not a lawyer, but I have read the Constitution and I cannot find any indication that the Founding Fathers intended the guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” in the 14th Amendment to include same-sex marriage.

The idea would have been regarded as an abomination to the men who created the Constitution. To many who regard the institution of marriage a sacred bond between a man and a woman, the decisions of lower courts that have facilitated same-sex marriage are deeply offensive

When the Supreme Court decided not to decide upon appeals from seven states regarding lower court rulings that their bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, they essentially endorsed same-sex marriage. It is now legal in 25 states, paving the way for a total of 30 states that recognize it, but only by popular vote in three of them; the rest had it imposed through the courts.

The same can be said of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 that permitted abortion as a legal right. Here again, the 14th Amendment was cited. As one source noted, “The Court summarily announced that the ‘Fourteen Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action” includes “a right to personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy and that “this right of privacy…is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

As this is being written, there have been more than 57,245,810 fetuses aborted since 1973 and, this year, there have been 840,045. Thus, decisions that the Supreme Court makes can literally result in life or death.

One of the most dramatic decisions of an earlier Supreme Court was the 1857 Dred Scott case that ruled that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and thus had no standing to sue in federal court, nor that the federal government had any power to regulate slavery in the territories acquired after the creation of the nation. The Civil War would follow in 1861 and last until 1865, resulting in more than 600,000 casualties, but finally ending slavery in America. Even some of the Founding Fathers had predicted that conflict.

When the Supreme Court has wandered into the area of social policy and culture, it has made decisions that were contrary to the majority of the population. The decision about slavery was about property—the slave–but many regarded slavery as an institution that must be ended.

The Supreme Court, of course, is not one long list of bad decisions. It has done much good and one man is credited with setting it on its course as a co-equal brand of the federal government. That man was John Marshall. I doubt that his name and deeds are  even taught in the schools of America.

As a brilliant and very entertaining biography by Harlow Giles Unger, “John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Save the Nation”, reveals, “Marshall’s pronouncements would ensure the integrity and eminence of the Constitution and the federal government and catapult him into the pantheon of American Founding Fathers as the father of the American federal justice system.”

“He would become the longest serving Chief Justice in U.S. history, signing 1,180 decisions and writing 549 of them, or nearly half, himself.” America was fortunate to have a legal scholar, utterly devoted to the Constitution, in its early, formative years. “Case by case he defined, asserted, and when necessary, invented the authority he and the Court needed to render justice, stabilize the federal government, and preserve the Union and the Constitution.”

Chief among Marshall’s achievements was to assert that the Supreme Court had the right and duty to declare federal and state laws to be either constitutional or unconstitutional. With that it became the third equal but separate branch of government.

Marshall had fought in the American Revolution and had had a distinguished career as a lawyer. As Unger says, “Clouds of doom shrouded the nation in 1800. George Washington was dead. For the first time in their twenty-five year struggle to govern themselves, Americans faced a future without the father of their country to lead them. And they lost their way.”

“Absent their commander-in-chief, the men who helped him lead the nation to independence went mad. Chaos engulfed the land as surviving Founding Fathers—Adams, Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson, Monroe, and others—turned on each other as they clawed at Washington’s fallen mantle.” Jefferson as the third President wanted to rule as a virtual tyrant, but Adams’ appointment of Marshall put a brake on those ambitions.

The United States is passing though a period of governance in which the Congress is so locked in partisanship and so divided that it is barely able to function in the national interest. The current President is losing the popularity he enjoyed when first elected and, now into his second term, he is losing the support and confidence of a majority of Americans. Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed his displeasure with a Constitution that places limits on his power as President.

As Unger notes “Nothing in the Constitution gives a President power to issue proclamations or executive orders with the force of law. Only Congress can legislate, yet presidents have issued more than 13,500 proclamations and executive orders since the founding of the Republic, while the Congress has enacted only about 20,000 laws.”

The Constitution remains supreme above the office of President and, in great measure, we can thank the work of Chief Justice John Marshall.

[Originally posted at Facts Not Fiction]

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Carbon-Dioxide Regulations Punish Seniors

October 16, 2014, 11:59 AM

Seniors in particular and those on fixed incomes in general, will be devastated should the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon-dioxide regulations currently under consideration for new and existing power plants ultimately become law. This is the conclusion of several state level analyses that have been conducted by the  60 Plus Association.  60 Plus was founded in 1992 as a non-partisan seniors advocacy group promoting a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach to seniors issues.

Energy, like food and housing, is an indispensable necessity of life. In many states, including Alabama and Florida, the hot climate dictates that air conditioning is essential to the survival of many elderly and infirm citizens. Thus, EPA regulations would disproportionately affect seniors. 60 Plus’s national report revealed that EPA regulations would increase the price of electricity across America at rates above the general inflation rate and as much as 20% in some states.

This at a time when rising energy prices due to current regulations and renewable fuel mandates are forcing many seniors are to decide between spending their fixed incomes on food, heat or air-conditioning, or medicine. 60 Plus finds that the he President’s newly proposed EPA regulations will only make Seniors’ dire situation even worse. Among the key findings from 60 Plus’s analysis of nationwide impact of the EPA’s proposed regulations upon seniors are:

  • The United States has 27 million households aged 65 or more (“65+”), representing nearly one-quarter of the nation’s 116 million households. Low and fixed income seniors are among the most vulnerable to electric rate and other energy price increases.
  • Current and pending EPA regulations will increase the price of electricity in America at rates above the general rate, by as much as 20% percent in some states, of inflation and shut down numerous traditional plants.
  • Future energy price increases, driven in large measure by petroleum supply and demand trends and by current and pending U.S. EPA regulations, are likely to outstrip real household incomes among the 63% of America’s 65+ households with gross annual incomes less than $50,000.

Not all states are equal however. Because of climate conditions, regular heat and humidity, seniors in states like Alabama and Florida will suffer to a greater than average degree from the Obama administration’s CO2 regulations.

Alabama has 447,000 households aged 65 or more (“65+”). Future energy cost increases, driven in large measure current and pending U.S. EPA regulations are likely to outstrip real household incomes among the 70% of Alabama’s 65+ households with gross annual incomes less than $50,000.

  • The average pre‐tax household income of 65+ households in Alabama was $46,141 in 2012, 20% below the average
  • For Alabama’s 447,000 65+ households, electricity represents 74% of their total residential bills.
  • Even before any new EPA regulations, the price of electricity per kilowatt‐hour (kWh) in Alabama has increased by 41% since 2005, more than twice the 19% rate of inflation in the Consumer Price Index, due in part to higher fuel costs and the costs of compliance with EPA regulations.

According to 60 Plus’s analysis, seniors in Florida face similar problems.

  • Florida has 2.1 million households aged 65 or more (“65+”), representing 29% of the state’s 7.2 million households. More than 40% of Florida’s 65+ households had gross annual incomes below $30,000 in 2012, with an average pre‐tax household income of $16,919, or $1,410 per month.
  • Energy cost increases, resulting from current and pending U.S. EPA regulations, are likely to outstrip real household incomes among the 64% of Florida’s 65+ households with gross annual incomes below $50,000.
  • For Florida’s 2.1 million 65+ households, electricity represents 90% of total residential utility bills.
  • The price of electricity per kilowatt‐hour (kWh) in Florida has already increased by 46% since 2000, well above the 37% increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. This increase is due in part to higher fuel costs and the costs of compliance with environmental regulations.

The energy situation and the hard choices will only get worse for seniors if the EPA’s proposed CO2 regulations become law.

Other studies confirm what 60 Plus has found. Higher energy prices always the poor and those on fixed incomes the most since they spend a higher percentage of their incomes on food and fuel.

Seniors vote at a higher percentage rate than most segments of the population. When they vote they should consider how their votes will affect the price they pay for electricity and gasoline.

Categories: On the Blog

Unsettled Science

October 15, 2014, 3:57 PM

Government-funded climate alarmists claim their forecasts of dangerous man-made global warming relies on “settled science.”

Their “settled science” is a mare’s nest of computer models, resting on a few match-sticks of science, surrounded by tall forests of uncertainty.

It is indeed settled science all gases in the atmosphere can affect the exchange of heat between the sun, the Earth and outer space, and this can affect global temperatures. It is also agreedcertain gases like water vapour and carbon dioxide can absorb and redirect radiant energy passing through the atmosphere.

However, though seldom mentioned, the warming potential of each additional unit of carbon dioxide is progressively less, and is trivial at and above current levels. In addition, water vapour has a far greater “greenhouse effect”, because it is fifty times more abundant than CO2, and affects more radiation wavelengths. All of this is settled science!

However, still open to debate is whether the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the main controller of global temperatures. Nor is it settled man’s production of carbon dioxide is harmful to life on Earth, or that it will cause catastrophic global warming.

The official climate models are based on a theory the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere drives surface temperature changes. However, none of the dozens of computer models the IPCC relies upon predicted flat-lining temperatures over the last 17 years. This indicates their carbon-centric assumption is wrong. At last count, there were 53 different explanations for these failures. This is hardly “settled science.”

The models ignore important climate controllers such as solar cycles, ocean oscillations, clouds, vegetation cover and volcanoes. These all have significant effects on surface temperature.

The models err in assuming most feedbacks are strongly positive, thus multiplying the initial small effect. This is not settled science. As surface temperatures rise, evaporation from the vast oceans will transfer heat from the surface to the upper atmosphere, where much of the heat is radiated to space and where the shading from the additional clouds tends to offset and stabilise the initial surface heating. Carbon dioxide has naturally exceeded today’s levels in the past but this did not cause runaway global warming. Also, official climate models fail to account for the interconnected variables of the solar system, the restless atmosphere, the changing biosphere and the vast oscillating oceans.

In short, climate science is not settled and there is no consensus.

Categories: On the Blog

FCC’s Wheeler likes the ‘idea’ of muni broadband

October 15, 2014, 1:39 PM

Speaking at the recent National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors annual meeting, Federal Communications Chairman Thomas Wheeler endorsed Lafayette, La.’s municipal fiber optic system—or more specifically, he endorsed the idea of the Lafayette Utilities System’s effort to bring competition to that southern Louisiana city of some 121,000.

Here are his remarks about LUS Fiber (full text of his speech here):

I love the story of Lafayette, La. where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project. Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – 62 percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years. When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get.

Everything Wheeler said was true, but he didn’t finish the story. That might be because of the doubts it would raise

As I reported last year in a case study on the Lafayette muni broadband project:

  • LUS Fiber is some 30 percent short of its revenue projection as set out in its business plan;
  • Is more than $160 million in debt;
  • Struggles to compete with cable, telephone, wireless and satellite service providers in terms of price, performance and service options;
  • Is relying on bigger government contracts to grow revenues.

In addition, LUS Fiber did not bring competition to Lafayette. If anything, it was a late entrant. Cox and the company then-known as BellSouth (now AT&T), were established as phone-cable-Internet providers. DirecTV and Dish Network were additional players in multichannel TV. Since LUS Fiber came on line, the upgraded broadband capabilities of wireless service providers have only added competitive pressure. In this environment, LUS’ 2004 feasibility study prediction that it would achieve 50 percent share of the market seems risible.

Even from a social good perspective, LUS Fiber has failed to deliver. Its biggest promise—the one that justified its $160 million bond issue—was that it would deliver 100 Mb/s fiber connections to all residents, including low-income households that the Lafayette government said incumbents were ignoring. That universal 100 Mb/s offer never appeared. In its first years of operation, LUS Fiber offered a $19.95 Internet-only plan, but found that it could not afford the cost of running fiber to a residence that was going to generate revenue that low. It then offered a 3 Mb/s connection at $19.95 per month for an introductory period, but that required purchase of a more expensive triple-play package. LUS ultimately ended the introductory offer in August 2012.

As of last year, the cheapest Internet-only rate LUS Fiber offered was $34.95 for 15 Mb/s. For whatever reason—most likely, the commercial realities discussed above—LUS Fiber has decided not to offer low-cost high-speed Internet service to poor households.

This is no surprise to those who have followed municipal broadband over the years. Of the hundreds of communities that have spent millions of dollars on such projects, LUS Fiber is one of the four that actually got viable FTTH service up and running (Chattanooga, Tenn.; Bristol, Va. and Provo, Utah being the other three). That’s still no guarantee of success. Bristol needed a $22 million grant from the Obama stimulus. Provo’s muni system was operational for seven years and never came close to payback. The city was more than happy to have Google Fiber take it off its hands for $1.

Wheeler’s shout-out to Lafayette comes as he’s pushing for federal pre-emption of state laws that prohibit municipal broadband projects where commercial service providers are already competing.

Certainly government can provide “competition.” But at the end of the day, it almost inevitably amounts to being a redundant broadband supplier, inferior to private-sector alternatives and entirely dependent on taxpayer resources to cover economic shortfalls. Muni broadband has been a long-term drain on city resources that could be applied more productively elsewhere.

 [Originally Published at]
Categories: On the Blog

Climate Change Insanity

October 15, 2014, 12:39 PM

I went out for a walk today and enjoyed seeing how the autumn leaves are changing color because autumn, simply stated, is one of the four seasons that affects the Earth. It is part of the change that occurs as it has for billions of years.

The notion that humans have anything to do with autumn or the other seasons or that we should be spending billions of dollars to have any effect on the climate of the Earth is utterly insane.

On October 10, The Hill reported that “The U.S. might make a substantial contribution in November to an international fund that helps poor nations fight climate change, according to Peruvian Foreign Minister Gonzalo Gutierrez.”  Does anyone actually believe that any amount of money will change the climate? And yet, there is a United Nations Green Climate Fund. The UN is the locus of the climate change, formerly global warming hoax.

“So far, countries have put $2.3 billion into the fund” described as “a crucial negotiating piece for developed nations trying to woo poorer ones to the table for a global climate accord.”  Can you imagine how that money could be put to better use to fight the real problems of poorer nations?

“The fund was officially launched in 2013, after industrialized nations first pitched it in 2009 during the Copenhagen meeting, setting a target of $100 billion by 2020 for developing nations.” The U.S. has yet to have contributed, but the U.S. is $18 trillion in debt and can ill afford to throw millions at this absurd scam.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is being led by a President who has said that climate change is the greatest challenge facing the Earth. Our Secretary of State repeats this absurdity. There is surely an agenda behind this that I have yet to have determined except to think that this President has done everything in his power to destroy the nation’s economy and the claim is part of that agenda.

The climate change lies Obama keeps repeating are more than just obscene, they pose a threat to national security as he directs our military to address climate change. In a sane world, he would be removed from office.

As a recent October 1st Wall Street Journal noted, “President Obama prophesied at the United Nations last week that climate change is the ‘one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other,’ and perhaps this vision of Apocalypse explains why he thinks he can disregard the law to regulate carbon.”

Obama has been using the Environmental Protection Agency as his primary means of foisting the global warming/climate change hoax on the nation via a deluge of regulations to control “greenhouse gas emissions.”  Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the bogyman the EPA and environmentalists have been telling us is driving up the Earth temperature. Only the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for eighteen years and, at the same time, the CO2 level in the atmosphere has increased! Without any effect on the temperature!

As the Wall Street Journal opinion noted “The EPA wants to reorganize U.S. electric power generation and drive coal and eventually natural gas out of the energy mix under a rarely used backwater of the Clean Air Act called section 111(d), whose mandates apply state by state.”

Now, however, thanks to an Ohio-based coal company, Murray Energy, along with a dozen states, the EPA is being sued as they seek a writ of mandamus, “a type of injunction the courts only grant when the government has taken an extraordinary action beyond its statutory authority.”

The courts are beginning to reject the EPA’s expansive claims of authority under the Clean Air Act. “The courts seem increasingly alarmed by abuses of executive power.”  That is the only line of defense between this outlaw federal agency and the rest of us. The EPA has succeeded thus far in driving coal-fired energy plants out of business, reducing the amount of electricity they have produced affordably and efficiently for the last century and ours.

If the EPA is permitted to continue the U.S. might as well just turn off the lights because we are being systematically deprived of sufficient energy. That is the Obama agenda for America.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Why Maximizing Innovation Is The Most Important Health Policy Priority

October 15, 2014, 10:28 AM

President Obama sold Obamacare to the Left on the grounds that it would achieve universal health insurance coverage. But even the Washington Establishment CBO says it will still leave 30 million Americans uninsured 10 years after full implementation!

Moreover, the effect of the Obamacare mega-reform so far is ambiguous at best, with millions of Americans already losing the health insurance they had and liked, exactly contrary to what they were promised. When the employer mandate becomes effective, these Obamacare victims may balloon to tens of millions more (which was why Obama unilaterally delayed that mandate, contrary to the express language of the law he signed).

Obama tried to sell Obamacare to business and those more conservative on the grounds that it would reduce health costs, promising working people a reduction in health insurance costs of $2,500 a year. But after all the added regulatory costs and taxes on health insurance and health care, the result has been more nearly the opposite of that. (The incentives of expanded third party health insurance coverage – if Obamacare ever actually achieves that – would also increase health costs).

But more than universal coverage (though I have argued that free market health reforms can be designed to assure universal health care for all when needed), or even reduced health costs (though the incentives of free market health reforms have been proven to reduce health costs in the real world), the most important health policy priority is maximizing the freedom and incentives for health care innovation. That is because the rapidly advancing science of health care and technology is now offering on the horizon dramatic breakthroughs in human health and longevity (which also portend epochal reductions in health costs).

The incentives and policies of Obamacare, however, would do exactly the opposite, ultimately squelching health care innovation.

Personalized Medicine

As Newt Gingrich explains in his latest book, Breakout, one revolutionary, cutting edge theme in modern health care is personalized medicine. That would be based on the complete mapping of the exact genetic make-up of each individual. “In a matter of years,” Gingrich writes, “every patient in America could browse his own complete genome on an iPad.”

Doctors could then use that information to customize drug therapies and other targeted treatments designed to work for each individual given that individual’s precise genetic make-up. Gingrich elaborates that doctors can use that individualized information of who each individual is biologically “to personalize treatment, monitoring patients who are genetically or constitutionally predisposed to certain problems and delivering custom drug cocktails or targeted treatments as needed.”

As Gingrich implies, the individualized information for each patient will not only tell doctors how to fix any problems for that patient that develop. It will also tell doctors what to look out for, and monitor for the earliest possible warning, for each patient. Modern technological developments are also revolutionizing that monitoring as well.

Gingrich quotes Dr. Eric Topol, long time head of the cardiology department at the legendary Cleveland Clinic, explaining that “tiny sensors on the skin—or even nanosensors in the blood stream—could “remotely and continuously monitor each heart beat, moment-to-moment blood pressure readings, the rate and depth of breathing, body temperature, oxygen concentration in the blood, glucose, brain waves, activity, mood—all the things that make us tick.” Gingrich adds, “These data will be available not just for patients in the hospital hooked up to cumbersome monitoring contraptions, but for everyone at all times, accessible constantly with apps on our smartphones.”

Gingrich explains how doctors will be able to avoid harmful and costly developments armed with this individualized, real time, information, “Nanosensors in the blood, for instance, might alert doctors to an impending heart attack. They could respond with precise doses of blood-thinning medication. Other sensors might monitor for early signs of breast cancer in the bloodstreams of patients who are especially at risk, while low-risk women could avoid frequent screening procedures.”

Notice the comprehensive cost savings from this much better health care of the future. Avoiding preventable heart attacks or early resolution of breast cancer will save fortunes. Moreover, monitoring costs could be avoided for those not at risk, or reduced for those at low risk. But even monitoring costs for those at risk would be sharply reduced by the new technologies. And as Gingrich points out, “These breakthroughs are not decades away; many of the technologies are here now.”

Gingrich calls these cutting edge, modern health care developments “mass personalization.”

Regenerative Medicine

A second revolutionary, cutting edge theme in rapidly developing modern health care is regenerative medicine. As Gingrich explains, that “focuses on healing or replacing patients’ organs or tissues using their own cells rather than using drugs or relying on organ donations.” Gingrich emphasizes that this is so “exciting because it really has the opportunity not just to manage disease, like a drug would, such as for someone with high blood pressure or diabetes, but really to cure it.”

At the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, “They are literally growing organs in the laboratory that can become functional in the body,” Gingrich reports. Researchers at the Institute extract cells from a patient’s failing organs, such as a bladder. They put those cells in an incubator that matches the conditions of the human body. The cells reproduce into further cells of the organ from which they were taken.

When sufficient organ cells accumulate, the researchers use a special biomaterial, similar to cloth, to create a scaffold in the shape of the needed replacement organ. With a dropper, they coat the scaffold with the newly regenerating cells, and place it all back in the incubator. The cells continue to reproduce around the scaffold in the shape of the new organ. Ultimately, the now regenerating organ is transplanted into the patient’s body, where it continues to develop. Within a few weeks, the biomaterial bladder dissolves, and only the new, healthy, transplanted organ remains.

Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute, told Gingrich, “Today, [we] have bladders that have been planted into patients…that have been walking around for twelve years with their engineered organs.” Atala’s researchers now “are working on organs and tissues for more than thirty different areas of the body, including muscles, arteries, blood vessels, heart valves, kidneys, and livers.”

The next avenue for this research is to use 3D printers to build the new organs, which are already generating new bones, muscles and cartilage in the lab. Atala explains the next step, “where we print right on the patient…you actually want to have the patient on the bed with the wound, and you have a scanner…that first scans the wound on the patient, and then it comes back with the print heads actually printing the layers that you require [to create the replacement body parts] on the patients themselves.”

Gingrich adds, “Atala demonstrates a machine that takes a 3-D scan of a patient’s kidney inside his body and digitally slices it up into thin layers. This information is used by a 3-D printer to ‘print’ a prototype kidney by laying down scaffold material along with the patient’s own cells.”

Gingrich explains the full potential: “If your kidneys are failing today, you require dialysis, which takes many hours a day. Tomorrow, your doctor may instead print new ones. Today, nine out of ten patients waiting for a transplant are waiting for a kidney. That’s more than [93,000] people. In 2011, almost [5,000] people died waiting. Moreover, 355,000 Americans are on dialysis [costing] taxpayers $20 billion a year. The annual cost of dialysis is a quarter of a million dollars per year per patient….A lab grown kidney would be a bargain in comparison and of course would provide an enormous improvement in quality of life.”

Note again the enormous health cost savings from manufacturing new kidneys, to replace dialysis, along with enormous improvement in the quality of the health care. Gingrich adds further, “Are you one of the nineteen million Americans who suffer from diabetes? Instead of living with a chronic disease for decades, you could one day get a new pancreas grown by your doctor. Since diabetes costs $245 billion every year, these too might be a bargain. Certainly, they’d be lifesaving for the 1,400 people now waiting for a transplant.”

Gingrich summarizes, “These technologies have the potential to give us much longer, healthier lives in a very different world—a world in which diabetes, heart attacks, and even cancer are either completely avoidable, or merely short term inconveniences….[W]ithin the next 10 years, we could achieve a breakout in health that would have been almost unimaginable even one generation ago.” This is why maximizing innovation is the most important health policy priority, more important than universal health insurance coverage, or reducing health costs.

Central Planning, Regulating, and Taxing Health Care Innovation Into Oblivion

Unfortunately, Obamacare forces the health care system to move in exactly the opposite direction from personalized, individualized, and  custom-made regenerative medicine. Instead, Obamacare centralizes and nationalizes health care through one size fits all medicine centrally planned from Washington.

Obamacare empowers the federal bureaucracy to determine exactly what your health insurance must cover, through regulations defining the employer and individual mandates. Trailblazers of revolutionary, breakthrough, medical innovation as described above have to go to Washington to educate federal bureaucrats, who have no economic incentive for timely action, or adequate medical education, about the latest in cutting edge medicine before the innovators even get the word out to medical professionals.

Moreover, Obamacare empowers the federal bureaucracy to issue national guidelines for doctors and hospitals regarding medical practice, based on what the bureaucrats in Washington supposedly know about the “comparative effectiveness” of the alternatives. Such national guidelines are central planning, one size fits all medicine just the opposite of the personalized, individualized, custom made medicine discussed above. And what is the chance these Washington bureaucrats, with no effective economic incentives, or adequate medical education, will be up to speed about the latest in medical innovation as described above? Or will they be years and years behind the latest developments, like Washington bureaucrats always are?

Indeed, Obamacare further empowers federal bureaucrats to economically penalize doctors and hospitals through sanctions on their payments for services rendered, for not following the national guidelines, however outdated they might be. Obamacare also effectively empowers federal bureaucrats to determine whether and how much trailblazing innovators will be paid for their breakthroughs, such as those described above. That arbitrary, central planning power squelches the incentives for innovators to invest the millions and billions necessary to develop their innovations and bring them to market.

Obamacare also empowers another, new, federal bureaucracy, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), to make further cuts to Medicare with no further Congressional participation, meaning no democratic accountability. Gingrich explains, “Will Medicare cover the nanosensors that Dr. Topol predicts will warn of heart attacks before they happen? Will it pay for the blood glucose-level monitors for diabetics? Will it cover drugs that are customized just for you? The IPAB experts will decide. All we know for sure is that the board’s ultimate aim is to cut costs, not necessarily to improve care.” And that this is more central planning, nationalized medicine, just the opposite of the personalized, individualized medicine discussed above.

Then there is Obamacare’s medical device tax, which Gingrich reports the FDA is interpreting broadly to tax all the cutting edge monitoring breakthrough devices discussed above. “The agency plans to treat health related mobile apps, of which there are already more than a million, as medical devices,” Gingrich writes. “Smartphone-linked sensors will be regulated and taxed by the federal government.” This will just further squelch incentives for development of the above described breakthroughs.

Obamacare only reinforces the FDA blockade on such innovation. Gingrich explains that the FDA plans to subject the above discussed personalized, individualized breakthroughs to the same regulatory tests and barriers as one pill fits all medicine. He writes, “In pharmaceutical trials, every pill is identical. That’s what makes the kind of testing the FDA demands statistically meaningful. But with regenerative medicine, as another doctor reminded me, ‘you’re using the patient’s own cells, so every time you’re creating a product, you’re really creating a different product because it’s unique to that patient.’” So are we going to sit by and watch the FDA require fatally ill people to take death sentence placebos instead of personalized drugs and treatments based on their own individual genetics, or manufactured organ transplants that would save their lives?

Gingrich further asks, “How can any company personalize its drug for you if it had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a two-thousand patient clinical trial for the FDA?” Such a regulatory cost burden would be a death sentence for the incentive to invest in the emerging health care breakthroughs discussed above.

Americans like to think that they have the most advanced health care in the world. But FDA overregulation is already driving health care innovation to other countries abroad years before it shows up in America. The FDA regulatory mandate needs to be legislatively amended so that the agency’s regulation is only focused on whether innovation is safe, not whether it is effective. Regulation regarding effectiveness has been proven to squelch innovation by adding hundreds of millions, or even billions, in regulatory costs for each new development. Whether any medical care is effective is a question for your own chosen doctor, not federal FDA bureaucrats who know nothing about you.

Gingrich summarizes, “The Obamacare law gave federal bureaucrats the authority to write thousands of rules that will determine everything from what treatments insurers will cover and how much doctors are paid to how the government handles your personal health information…. This approach comes with lots of bureaucrats in Washington, more regulations, IRS agents to wade through your medical bills, and boards of experts to tell you which treatments you may and may not have. Under Obamacare, the Department of Health and Human Services, the [FDA], Medicare, Medicaid, and the rest of the health care bureaucracy will take over your doctors office….[Y]ou and your doctor will certainly make fewer choices about your health care, while bureaucrats will make more.” And exactly the opposite of personalized, individualized, custom-made health care, these large bureaucracies will make sweeping decisions for whole populations at a time.

These are all still further reasons why Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with free market, Patient Power health care reforms, which I have explained in previous columns. Your life may depend on it.

[Originally published at]

Categories: On the Blog