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Wireless Taxes Growing Out of Control

October 10, 2014, 9:00 AM

Wireless tax rates have reached all-time highs. Almost half the states nationwide now impose a wireless tax above 10 percent. According to a new report released this morning by the Tax Foundation, the national average, consisting of  the combined federal, state, and local taxes and fees on cell phone bills, has now reached as high as 17.05 percent. Broken down, this historically high tax rate is comprised of a 5.82 percent federal rate and an average 11.23 percent state-local rate. Even as revenue earned per wireless phone falls, taxes and fees continue to climb.

In a media release on the study, Joseph Henchman, Vice President of Legal & State Projects at the Tax Foundation argues that state and local legislators should look away from wireless taxes for new tax revenue.

“Accessing content on our phones these days is easier than ever before, but paying cell phone bills remains difficult for many,” said Joseph Henchman, Tax Foundation Vice President of Legal & State Projects. “Instead of singling out wireless services with stealth tax increases, state and local governments should seek more neutral and less disruptive sources of revenue.”

According to CTIA, a wireless industry trade group, around 326 wireless device connections exist in the United States today (this number includes devices like smartphones, feature phones, tablets and personal wireless hotspots). In addition, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 41% of U.S. households have only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, indicating a move away from traditional landlines.

Scott Mackey of KSE Partners, co-author of the report argues in the media statement that wireless taxes are regressive and pose a threat to wireless network development.

“Wireless taxes and fees are regressive and have a disproportionate impact on poorer citizens,” said Scott Mackey of KSE Partners and co-author of the report. “Excessive taxes and fees may reduce low-income consumers’ access to wireless service at a time when such access is critical to economic success.”

Additionally, targeted cell phone taxes may slow investment in wireless infrastructure by lowering consumer demand for wireless service. “The reduced demand impacts network investment, because subscriber revenues ultimately determine how much carriers can afford to invest in network modernization,” adds Mackey.

In the report, Wireless Taxation in the United States 2014, the authors examined state, local and federal wireless taxes, creating state and local tax rankings. Below is a review of some of these findings:

The report finds that:

  • The five states with the highest state-local rates are: Washington State (18.6 percent), Nebraska (18.48 percent), New York (17.74 percent), Florida (16.55 percent), and Illinois (15.81 percent).

  • The five states with the lowest state-local rates are: Oregon (1.76 percent), Nevada (1.86 percent), Idaho (2.62 percent), Montana (6.00 percent), and West Virginia (6.15 percent).

  • Four cities—Chicago, Baltimore, Omaha, and New York City—have effective tax rates in excess of 25 percent of the customer bill.

  • The average rates of taxes and fees on wireless telephone services are more than two times higher than the average sales tax rates that apply to most other taxable goods and services.

  • States favor the taxes because they can raise revenue in a relatively hidden way.

With wireless taxes growing out of control, legislators should take another look at Wireless Tax Fairness Act, a bill designed to slow the growth of these taxes. The Act would put a five-year moratorium on discriminatory state wireless phone and data service tax increases. Although this wouldn’t prevent governments from creating new taxes and fees on all communications, it would disallow them from targeting any one service. A five-year freeze would slow the rate of tax increases while allowing more time to create a new taxing system for wireless that is more carefully developed, fair, and non-disruptive.

High wireless taxes drag down both consumers and the wireless market, deterring innovation and infrastructure improvements, while disproportionately affecting minority and low-income populations. Many of these groups support lower wireless taxes. As an example, according to a MyWireless study conducted by McLaughlin & Associates partnered with Penn Schoen Berland, nine in ten Hispanics believe the wireless tax rate should be the same or less than the taxes they pay on general goods and services.

Placing a moratorium on these discriminatory tax hikes would benefit the economy and consumers.

Categories: On the Blog

No, A Carbon Tax Cannot Create Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

October 09, 2014, 8:02 PM

A tax on carbon dioxide emissions would destroy far more jobs – and wealth – than it would create, despite the well-intentioned hopes of Forbes.com contributor James Conca.

In a Forbes.com article titled “Can A Carbon Tax Create Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” Conca argued a carbon dioxide tax would result in a net increase in jobs if the tax revenues were spent wisely. Key to this hopeful prognosis, Conca asserted, is the requirement that a newly imposed tax on carbon dioxide must be revenue-neutral, with carbon dioxide tax collections being offset on a dollar-for-dollar basis by tax reductions in other sectors of the economy.

Conca never explained how merely shifting tax burdens from one sector of the economy to another creates jobs and wealth. Instead, he simply cited three short articles and one longer paper written and published by liberal activists. On important policy issues of the day, however, blindly deferring to self-serving papers written by liberal activist groups, such as the notorious Center for America Progress, is a recipe for disaster. Yes, that is the same Center for American Progress that championed Solyndra and promised Obamacare would lower healthcare premiums, create jobs, and make American families richer.

There are many reasons – economic and otherwise – why a tax on carbon dioxide is a bad idea. Let’s examine just two of the economic reasons.

First, Conca concedes that higher taxes are economically harmful. His solution is to reduce taxes in other sectors of the economy. The problem is the same liberal activist groups who want to implement carbon dioxide taxes oppose corresponding tax cuts. The Center for American Progress, for example, says carbon dioxide tax revenue should be given to the renewable energy industry rather than returned to the American people.

Curiously, the Center for American Progress fails to disclose that it is funded by the renewable energy industry and its founder and chairman of the board has a long and successful career as a renewable energy lobbyist. Conca must first convince his liberal activist group allies to not pilfer carbon dioxide tax revenues before he can plausibly argue that carbon dioxide tax revenues would be returned to the American people. (Good luck on that, by the way, because the Center for American Progress argues very strongly that the renewable energy industrymust get to keep the tax spoils rather than government returning the tax money to the American people.)

Second, even in the unlikely event that government returned carbon dioxide tax revenue to the American people on a dollar-for-dollar basis, this would be revenue-neutral for government but not for the American people. The entire purpose of a carbon tax is to raise the price of inexpensive coal and natural gas so high as to become more expensive than carbon-free wind and solar power. However, if the carbon tax fulfills its goal of raising coal and natural gas prices higher than wind and solar prices, energy providers will no longer use coal and natural gas and energy producers will therefore pay little if any carbon tax.

As a result, consumers will pay dramatically higher energy prices but receive little if any compensating tax cuts in return. American families’ net disposable income will drop, which will reduce spending and destroy jobs in all other sectors of the economy. The only beneficiary of this energy-policy Ponzi scheme will be the renewable energy industry. This explains why the renewable energy industry-funded Center for American Progress supports the Ponzi scheme so much.

No credible economists claim that reducing American households’ disposable income will grow the economy and create jobs. Yet taxing carbon dioxide sufficiently to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will by purpose and designdramatically raise energy costs in a manner that will substantially reduce American household income while generating few corresponding tax rebates. Economically, all that will be accomplished will be poorer American families, economy-wide economic contraction, jobs destroyed in virtually every American industry, and a Solyndra-style transfer of wealth from hard-working American consumers to incompetent, uncompetitive, politically connected renewable energy companies.

It is a nice thought, James Conca, but no, a carbon tax cannot create jobs, jobs, jobs.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Ban on Internet Access Taxes Should be Retained

October 09, 2014, 2:41 PM

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act is common-sense Internet policy that is a long time coming. Internet access taxes are particularly damaging to the growth of the Internet economy by placing an unnecessary burden on consumers. A permanent Internet access tax moratorium would help broadband access and development expand while reducing the need for government broadband spending. The moratorium is currently set to expire November 1, but legislation is now moving through Congress that would permanently extend the moratorium.  The bill, titled the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), was written by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and co-sponsored by 138 Republicans and 76 Democrats.

While most states are currently covered under the moratorium, taxpayers in the states currently imposing these taxes could see their Internet bills decrease. If passed and signed into law, PITFA would make the ITFA moratorium permanent and force these seven states to cease imposing taxes on Internet access. These states are able to impose these taxes due to a “grandfather clause” in IFTA that allowed the states that already imposed the tax to keep them. These seven states, include Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

While the seven states will see a drop in tax revenue, experts do not expect the end of the tax to be a budget busting problem. According to Stateline, the seven states and their local governments stand to lose about $500 million annually in revenues, which while not insignificant only represents a small portion of most state budgets. Wireless services are already taxed higher than almost all other goods and services, the Tax Foundation found that almost half the states nationwide now imposing a wireless tax above 10 percent. The wireless consumers in seven states that would be freed from Internet access tax under PITFA, allowing them to expand their Internet services or use the savings elsewhere in the economy.

Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent is a necessary step in promoting wider access to the Internet while keeping the cost down and eliminating discriminatory taxes. As the Internet has become one of the driving forces behind economic growth across the United States, ensuring affordable access for businesses and consumers is crucial. The Internet Tax Freedom Act Coalition, a group including telecom companies, tax watchdog groups and free market think tanks sent a letter in June to Chairman Goodlatte supporting his work to pass the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Dear Representative Goodlatte,

The Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) Coalition, a group of communications and technology companies, business associations and consumer groups, applauds the House Judiciary Committee for taking the first step to avoid new Internet access taxes on millions of Americans across the country with today’s markup.

We greatly appreciate your continued leadership on this issue, and stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to ensure swift passage of a clean bill to make the moratorium on taxes on Internet access and multiple and discriminatory taxation of Internet commerce permanent before the current Internet tax moratorium expires on November 1, 2014. With strong bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, these bills should be considered for passage without unnecessary delays to protect American consumers from new taxes on their Internet access.

Again, we thank you for your leadership on this issue, and the ITFA Coalition looks forward to working with you to achieve the goal of making the Internet tax moratorium permanent for all Americans.

Sincerely,

The Internet Tax Freedom Act Coalition

Andrew Lundeen of the Tax Foundation noted in an article on PITFA that no real policy purpose exists for a tax on Internet access. “Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to tax internet access in the first place. Governments tend to levy taxes on goods or services as a way of correcting for an externality or paying for the costs of a provided service.” “The internet does not create any evident externalities and may, in fact, have positive externalities associated with it. Additionally, state and local governments don’t seem to be providing any services associated with internet access.”

In a separate letter to the House of Representatives, Americans for Tax Reform takes the argument even further, pointing out that communication taxes are in many instances far worse than other sales taxes.

“Taxation of communications services is punitive and discriminatory. The average sales tax rate on voice services is 17 percent, and 12 percent on video services, while the average general sales tax rate is 7 percent. PITFA would at the very least prevent targeted taxes on Internet access, and disproportionate sales or other taxes on ecommerce.

Increased costs hinder continued growth in the digital space. As reported by the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, the largest barrier to consumer adoption and expanded use of Internet based services is cost. Allowing higher costs through Internet access taxes, which increase consumer cost and affect the rate of adoption, undermines America’s economic competiveness.”

While supporters of increased access taxes have argued that the taxes are needed to fund programs to help expand broadband to underserved areas, broadband coverage is already widely available and these programs may be unnecessary. Internet access taxes place an unnecessary burden on consumers in order to do something the market is already handling quite effectively. The current system is a hodgepodge of state and local access taxes competing against states without a tax. Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent and ending the grandfather clause would help broadband access and development expand while reducing the need for government broadband spending.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Ilya Shapiro – Article V Amendment

October 09, 2014, 1:30 PM

A new movement is spreading to state legislatures across the nation, attempting to do something which has never been done before: amend the United States Constitution from the grassroots up.

Using mechanisms embedded within the Constitution itself, activists are seeking to make reforms that have been successfully demanded of elected officials for decades. However, many people are unaware of how this process works — and many fewer aware that it’s even occurring.

Cato Institute Senior Fellow in constitutional studies Ilya Shapiro recently joined Heartland Institute Research Fellow Jesse Hathaway, explaining how the Article V amendment process works, and how it might be used to enact sound fiscal policy at the national level.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Misleads Northwestern Students About Climate and Energy

October 08, 2014, 6:17 PM

In his October 2 address on the economy at Northwestern University, President Barack Obama told students:

If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work assembling, raising and pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age. We’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road.

But what does climate change have to do with energy supply? Almost nothing.

Climate change issues involve environmental hazards, whereas energy policy is concerned with supplying affordable, reliable electricity to industries and families. So where is the relationship to climate?

Until the 1980s, there was none. That one is now perceived testifies to the effectiveness of relentless lobbying by environmentalists and commercial special interests towards the idea that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from hydrocarbon-based power-generation will cause dangerous global warming.

So far, that has not happened. It has now been 18 years with no measurable planetary warming.

However, this warming disaster idea has become so entrenched that even prime ministers and presidents now misuse “carbon” as shorthand for “carbon dioxide,” and often call this plant-fertilizing gas a pollutant. For example, during his 13-minute address at the UN’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York City September 23, Mr. Obama referenced “carbon pollution” seven times and “carbon emissions” five times. That’s almost one misnomer per minute.

In reality, CO2 is environmentally beneficial. It is the elixir of life for most of our planetary ecosystems. Without it, life as we know it would end. No evidence exists that the amount humans have added to the atmosphere is producing dangerous warming or, indeed, any climate or weather events noticeably different in frequency, duration or intensity from human experience over the past couple of centuries.

Many negative consequences flow from wrongly connecting energy and global warming issues. Foremost among them has been a lemming-like rush by governments to generously subsidize what are otherwise uneconomic sources of energy, solar and wind power in particular.

The International Renewable Energy Agency reports that worldwide investment in renewables (not counting large hydropower) amounted to an incredible $214 billion in 2013 alone! IRENA insists that these expenditures need to more than double by 2030, to achieve the impossible goal of restricting average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

However, results to date show that those investments have brought few benefits, and much harm. European studies have found that expensive, unreliable wind and solar power kills two to four jobs for each “renewable” energy job this heavily subsidized industry creates.

Mr. Obama paints alternative energy sources as environmentally virtuous, because they supposedly reduce CO2 emissions and provide renewable and clean sources of power. This too is highly misleading.

Wind and solar energy are certainly renewable – when the wind blows and the sun shines. But there is no power otherwise, so it’s tough luck if that’s when a hospital needs electricity for emergency surgery. Such intermittency also makes these sources entirely unsuitable as major contributors to national energy grids, to power factories, schools, businesses and families. The use of wind and solar power also increases the cost of electricity dramatically.

Moreover, these sources are assuredly not renewable when you consider the enormous amounts of land, mining, energy and raw materials required to build the wind and solar facilities, the extremely long transmission lines required to carry their electricity to urban centers, and the backup fossil-fuel generators needed the 80-90% of the time the renewable sources aren’t working.

Alternative energy sources are also far less environment-friendly than the President would have us believe. Wind turbines kill millions of birds and bats every year, and some rare species will undoubtedly be vulnerable to extinction if wind power continues to expand near important wildlife habitats. Massive solar installations have a disastrous effect on desert ecosystems and incinerate important bird species.

And yet the wind and solar generators are typically exempt from environmental laws that are used to block many other activities.

These problems are becoming apparent even to the European Union, once the world’s green energy leader. EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger recently said European energy policies must change, from being climate driven to being driven by the needs of industry, and job preservation. He could have included families, because millions of European households can no longer afford to heat their homes properly, due to soaring energy prices.

All nations need to return to the historic separation that previously existed between energy policy and climate policy. They must analyze and plan for both, in accord with their own distinct requirements and resources, and based on defensible environmental, technological, and economic analyses.

This means abandoning Mr. Obama’s naïve mantra that our energy choices affect global climate.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Kathleen Hartnett White – Fossil Fuels, the Moral Case

October 08, 2014, 1:19 PM

Kathleen Hartnett White, is the Director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment Texas Public Policy Foundation. Kathleen was not always a think tank wonk, but rather served a six-year term as Chairman and Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) the second largest environmental regulatory agency in the world after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kathleen ran an agency with more than 3,000 employees, with annual budget of over $600 million, so she comes at her work with the insight of a regulatory insider.  More recently, Kathleen wrote a great study for the Texas Public Policy Foundation: Fossil Fuels: the Moral Case

In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Kathleen dispels the Malthusian myth, argues that we have abundant energy and are foolish if we don’t use it to make peoples lives better, and makes the case that it is immoral for people in the developed world to keep people in developing countries impoverished in terms of energy accessibility thus condemning millions of the world’s poor to poverty and premature death to in the cause of preventing future climate change.

Listen via the player above.

Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.

Categories: On the Blog

Parents, Teachers Increasingly Reject Common Core

October 08, 2014, 1:10 PM

It’s been a rough year for the Common Core standards. As parents, teachers, officials, and politicians learn more about the standards, more and more states are considering ways to get out of Common Core. The standards in math and reading were allegedly designed to make students career- and college-ready. Now that the public is able to see them, the standards have proven not to be what was promised. People are fighting back.

Parents in states across the country have organized grassroots organizations to stop Common Core, including in Illinois. Teachers such as Marsha Griffin of Jonesboro Elementary in Illinois are speaking out against the standards. Griffin broke down crying when asked why she opposes Common Core.

“I have spent more time crying, coming into the classroom this year, than I have ever before,” said Griffin. “I have been given a great responsibility to teach these students. It’s my job to teach these students how to be well-rounded individuals. I don’t feel like I am doing that with this Common Core.”

Griffin said she felt a moral responsibility to speak up for her students and notes Common Core requires teachers to force specific strategies on how students find correct answers. She said she thinks employers are more interested in accuracy and efficiency than the specific way of getting there. The fourth-grade teacher predicts a mass exodus of students from traditional public schools as parents and students grow increasingly frustrated with Common Core.

“The pure joy of learning is disappearing from the educational landscape in the United States. I fear it will be a landscape where individuality is no longer valued,” Griffin said.

Oklahoma and Indiana have repealed the standards. Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina have adopted legislation to review Common Core. A few weeks ago, a school district in Lee County, Fla., voted to opt out of Common Core testing — but it rescinded the decision after officials warned the district its students would not receive standard diplomas and therefore might be unable to earn college credit.

That exemplifies one of the many problems with Common Core. Its proponents continue to swear the standards are voluntary, arguing states freely chose to sign up for Common Core in hopes of winning federal Race to the Top money. But the process wasn’t voluntary at all. States were bribed to adopt the standards in hopes of winning money through the federal Race to the Top program.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is suing the federal government for this exact reason. The U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are named in the suit for violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution by essentially forcing states into Common Core through the Race to the Top program. The suit argues states had to “enter binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally-sponsored ‘consortia’.”

The feds will most certainly argue Race to the Top was voluntary, that states did not have to participate in Common Core or Race to the Top. That is true under the strictest interpretation, and a handful of states did opt not to participate.

The Obama administration did something very clever here. Tying billions of dollars in federal funding to the adoption of specific education policies — including Common Core — allowed the administration to get its way on the cheap while pretending it was all voluntary. It was like running a raffle with billions of dollars as the prize, and the entry ticket being a simple matter of selling your state’s soul to the feds.

Not many states managed to resist the temptation. Many state officials who signed up for Common Core did so without seeing a final version of the standards beforehand. Few eventually got any Race to the Top money. Now these standards are being shoved down the throats of parents, teachers and students. As the Lee County district in Florida discovered, getting away from the standards is not a decision you can easily make. The administration’s scheme was sneaky, underhanded and cunning.

Then there is the fact the ACT and SAT are being redesigned to align with Common Core. This means parents who put their children into private schools or homeschooling will not be able to avoid the standards unless their children do not go to college.

Under the law, education and curriculum are supposed to be state issues. According the State Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, education is to be handled on the state and local level. It is not enumerated as a federal power in the Constitution.

In addition to the legal restriction, there is a commonsense reason control of curriculum is left up to the states and not the federal government. What a parent would want their child to learn, what makes sense for the way a child is taught, is not going to be the same in urban Newark, N.J., as in the village of Sabina, Ohio. Local control of curriculum frees taxpayers and parents to ensure local schools meet their children’s needs.

Common Core supporters argue standards are not the same as curriculum, but that’s a flimsy claim and a trick of semantics. Standards very clearly and directly affect curriculum — defining what students need to know means defining what they will be taught.

The Common Core debate should be about what is best for students and taxpayers, not educrats and powerful multinational corporations. National standards like Common Core have been shown to have no ability to increase student achievement, and they inevitably take away local and state control of education policy. Experts from across the nation confirm the Common Core standards are academically mediocre at best.

Clearly, Common Core is not the best we can do for students or for taxpayers. Writing better standards at the state level is a far better solution to the problems plaguing the state’s education system.

Heather Kays (hkays@heartland.org) is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News.

[Originally published at Illinois Business Journal]

Categories: On the Blog

Why Waxman’s FCC Internet Utility Regulation Plan Would Be Unlawful

October 08, 2014, 12:01 PM

Rep. Henry Waxman, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,wrote the FCC to propose that the FCC, in its pending Open Internet order remand, “reclassif[y] broadband providers as telecommunications services and then using the modern [Title I] authority of section 706 to set bright-line rules to prevent blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.”

In response to an FCC request for comment on whether the FCC should continue to regulate broadband under its Title I Section 706 broadband authority (as the D.C. Appeals CourtVerizon v. FCC decision suggested), or should reclassify the Internet under Title II common carrier utility regulation, Rep. Waxman recommends the FCC try and use both Title I and Title II, and in such a way as to achieve more restrictive regulatory outcomes than either Title I or Title II would allow separately.

This is no “hybrid approach.” It’s a call for FCC double-regulation of the Internet using both Title I and Title II.

This is also no compromise. Effectively it would be the most extreme, maximal regulation yet proposed to the FCC because it would outlaw previously-legal, commercially-reasonable behavior under either Title I or Title II of the Communication Act, while creating maximal regulatory uncertainty and risk.

Why would Rep. Waxman’s FCC Internet utility regulation be found unlawful ultimately?

First, the fatally-flawed tent-pole assumption here, on which this entire contrivance depends, is that the FCC can somehow deem previously mutually-exclusive services under precedent and the law to now be inclusive, i.e. a service that can be both a largely unregulated Title I information service and also a heavily-regulated Title II telecommunications service — at exactly the same time.

Congress created mutually-exclusive definitions for information services and telecommunications services in the 1996 Telecom Act.

The Supreme Court’s Brand X opinion effectively affirmed those mutually-exclusive definitions in 2004.

And the FCC has nine precedents over the last 44 years that decided that basic and enhanced services, or telecommunications and information services, were mutually-exclusive service classifications: 1970198019861998199820022004,  2005,  2007.

Chevron Deference is no rescue here, because while the overall Telecom Act may be ambiguous granting the FCC wide interpretive latitude, there is no ambiguity that telecommunications and information services have always been ruled different mutually-exclusive services.

Second, Congress did not grant the FCC statutory authority to unilaterally combine heretofore mutually-exclusive, congressionally-defined, regulatory classifications, let alone for the purpose of imposing more restrictive regulation than Congress imposed in either Title I or Title II authority, or for the purposes of regulating competitive providers in the 21st century more restrictively than Congress and the FCC regulated the telephone monopoly in the 20thcentury.

This proposal contrives to impose and then forbear from Title II Section 202, which prohibits “unjust and unreasonable discrimination,” so that it can replace it with even more restrictive Title I regulation that would outlaw any discrimination at all, even if it was just and reasonable discrimination, or “commercially reasonable” discrimination, which have long been legal under Title II. Many court precedents have affirmed providers’ freedom to engage in just and reasonable discrimination.

Third, there is nothing in Section 706 that authorizes the FCC to essentially broadly-legislate regulatory restrictions in excess of common carriage obligations under Title II, that are designed in effect, to be economic regulations that create permanent implicit multi-billion dollar subsidies via a permanent zero-price for Silicon Valley sender or downstream traffic.

This is no trivial or technical matter, because the effect of this proposal would be to create a massive national economic subsidy scheme. The FCC would have to force consumers to subsidize Silicon Valley commercial interests and profitability by forcing consumers to pay the full cost of upgrading the Internet’s infrastructure with no fair share contribution from Silicon Valley.

Simply, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to ban a two-sided market under its Title I Section 706 authority because that would be tantamount to illegal common carrier regulation of an information services provider, and under Title II the FCC does not have the authority to ban “just and reasonable discrimination” which is what the Waxman proposal is asking for.

More simply, how can combining mutually-exclusive regulations that both individually do not legally allow what the Waxman proposal seeks to achieve, somehow allow it when combined in an obviously contrived, and extremely restrictive, way never envisioned by Congress?

Conclusion

The D.C. Court of Appeals has twice overturned FCC overreach in broadband regulation inComcast v. FCC in 2010 and in Verizon v. FCC in 2014.

In Verizon v. FCC, Judge Tatel outlined a roadmap for the FCC to successfully assert general regulatory authority to cover most, but not all of the FCC’s regulatory needs and concerns. The FCC’s NPRM wisely proposes to follow the Court’s advice. It should follow through with that common sense approach.

However, if the FCC somehow were to adopt the Waxman double-regulation of the Internet approach, there is a high likelihood the courts would eventually overturn the FCC — yet again.

It isn’t a close call.

Implementing the Waxman proposal would be a unilateral de facto FCC Communications Act Update by the FCC – sans Congress.

Lastly, the Waxman proposal is also completely unnecessary, unwarranted, and unjustified double-regulation of competitive broadband providers of critical Internet infrastructure that well serve consumers, businesses, and the economy, and that need commercially-reasonable, regulatory certainty and flexibility to keep up with exploding demand for Internet capacity.

***

FCC Open Internet Order Series

Part 1: The Many Vulnerabilities of an Open Internet [9-24-09]

Part 2: Why FCC proposed net neutrality regs unconstitutional, NPR Online Op-ed [9-24-09]

Part 3: Takeaways from FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regs [10-22-09]

Part 4: How FCC Regulation Would Change the Internet [10-30-09]

Part 5: Is FCC Declaring ‘Open Season’ on Internet Freedom? [11-17-09]

Part 6: Critical Gaps in FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regulations [11-30-09]

Part 7: Takeaways from the FCC’s Open Internet Further Inquiry [9-2-10]

Part 8: An FCC “Data-Driven” Double Standard? [10-27-10]

Part 9: Election Takeaways for the FCC [11-3-10]

Part 10: Irony of Little Openness in FCC Open Internet Reg-making [11-19-10]

Part 11: FCC Regulating Internet to Prevent Companies from Regulating Internet [11-22-10]

Part 12: Where is the FCC’s Legitimacy? [11-22-10]

Part 13: Will FCC Preserve or Change the Internet? [12-17-10]

Part 14: FCC Internet Price Regulation & Micro-management? [12-20-10]

Part 15: FCC Open Internet Decision Take-aways [12-21-10]

Part 16: FCC Defines Broadband Service as “BIAS”-ed [12-22-10]

Part 17: Why FCC’s Net Regs Need Administration/Congressional Regulatory Review [1-3-11]

Part 18: Welcome to the FCC-Centric Internet [1-25-11]

Part 19: FCC’s Net Regs in Conflict with President’s Pledges [1-26-11]

Part 20: Will FCC Respect President’s Call for “Least Burdensome” Regulation? [2-3-11]

Part 21: FCC’s In Search of Relevance in 706 Report [5-23-11]

Part 22: The FCC’s public wireless network blocks lawful Internet traffic [6-13-11]

Part 23: Why FCC Net Neutrality Regs Are So Vulnerable [9-8-11]

Part 24: Why Verizon Wins Appeal of FCC’s Net Regs [9-30-11]

Part 25: Supreme Court likely to leash FCC to the law [10-10-12]

Part 26: What Court Data Roaming Decision Means for FCC Open Internet Order [12-4-12]

Part 27: Oops! Crawford’s Model Broadband Nation, Korea, Opposes Net Neutrality [2-26-13]

Part 28: Little Impact on FCC Open Internet Order from SCOTUS Chevron Decision [5-21-13]

Part 29: More Legal Trouble for FCC’s Open Internet Order & Net Neutrality [6-2-13]

Part 30: U.S. Competition Beats EU Regulation in Broadband Race [6-21-13]

Part 31: Defending Google Fiber’s Reasonable Network Management [7-30-13]

Part 32: Capricious Net Neutrality Charges [8-7-13]

Part 33: Why FCC won’t pass Appeals Court’s oral exam [9-2-13]

Part 34: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 35: Dial-up Rules for the Broadband Age? My Daily Caller Op-ed Rebutting Marvin Ammori’s [11-6-13]

Part 36: Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering [1-6-14]

Part 37: Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 38: Why Professor Crawford Has Title II Reclassification All Wrong [1-16-14]

Part 39: Title II Reclassification Would Violate President’s Executive Order [1-22-14]

Part 40: The Narrowing Net Neutrality Dispute [2-24-14]

Part 41: FCC’s Open Internet Order Do-over – Key Going Forward Takeaways [3-5-14]

Part 42: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 43: The Multi-speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds [4-28-14]

Part 44: Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality [5-2-14]

Part 45: The “Aristechracy” Demands Consumers Subsidize Their Net Neutrality Free Lunch [5-8-14]

Part 46: Read AT&T’s Filing that Totally Debunks Title II Reclassification [5-9-14]

Part 47: Statement on FCC Open Internet NPRM [5-15-14]

Part 48: Net Neutrality Rhetoric: “Believe it or not!” [5-16-14]

Part 49: Top Ten Reasons Broadband Internet is not a Public Utility [5-20-14]

Part 50: Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Broadband Utility Regulation [5-28-14]

Part 51: Google’s Title II Broadband Utility Regulation Risks [6-3-14]

Part 52:  Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

Part 53: Silicon Valley Naïve on Broadband Regulation (3 min video) [6-15-14]

Part 54: FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions [6-17-14]

Part 55: Interconnection is Different for Internet than Railroads or Electricity [6-26-14]

Part 56: Top Ten Failures of FCC Title II Utility Regulation [7-7-14]

Part 57: NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC Open Internet Order Remand [7-11-14]

Part 58: MD Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree? [8-6-14]

Part 59: Internet Peering Doesn’t Need Fixing – NetComp CommActUpdate Submission [8-11-14]

Part 60: Why is Silicon Valley Rebranding/Redefining Net Neutrality?  [9-2-14]

Part 61: the FCC’s Redefinition of Broadband Competition [9-4-14]

Part 62: NetCompetition Comments to FCC Opposing Title II Utility Regulation of Broadband [9-9-14]

Part 63: De-competition De-competition De-competition [9-14-14]

Part 64: The Forgotten Consumer in the Fast Lane Net Neutrality Debate [9-18-14]

Part 65: FTC Implicitly Urges FCC to Not Reclassify Broadband as a Utility [9-23-14]

Part 66: Evaluating the Title II Rainbow of Proposals for the FCC to Go Nuclear [9-29-14]

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

GAO Report Confirms: States Better Fracking Regulators than EPA

October 08, 2014, 10:04 AM

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms what many small-government environmentalists have been saying for years: States are more effective at regulating the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations than is the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” has led to a surge in oil and natural gas production in the United States. The process uses water, sand, and a few chemical additives to create fissures in oil- and gas-bearing rocks thousands of feet underground, allowing these resources to flow up to the surface.

Each hydraulically fractured well typically requires 2 to 4 million gallons of water, with 15 to 50 percent of this water flowing back to the surface after the process is complete. This water is typically briny, and it contains remnants of the sand and chemical compounds used to fracture the well.

This water must be disposed of or recycled. Disposal typically means injecting the wastewater into deep, underground wells regulated by EPA under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. GAO concluded EPA’s injection-well safeguards sufficiently protect drinking water: Few allegations of drinking water contamination, and fewer confirmed cases of groundwater contamination, have been reported.

However, GAO’s report stressed EPA has failed to be proactive regarding emerging challenges, such as induced seismicity (manmade earthquakes) and excessive pressurization of rock formations. GAO urged EPA to update its regulations to reflect state laws.

EPA cannot help enforce state regulations unless they are incorporated into federal rules, which is why GAO is urging EPA to update its rules to reflect the superior wastewater-injection protections adopted by states.

Amazingly, EPA responded by stating, “Incorporating changes into federal regulations, particularly through the rulemaking process, was burdensome and time-consuming.” This is the same EPA that is seeking to expand its authority (and therefore its control over your everyday life) by creating rules to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and micromanaging prairie potholes and the puddles that form in your driveway after a summer rain. Yet it considers its current duties “too burdensome.”

Claiming protection of the environment is “too burdensome” is not an option for state regulators, which is why they are more effective than federal regulators on these matters.

For example, Ohio passed regulations allowing the state’s chief of the Division of Oil and Gas to require a number of tests or evaluations to address potential induced seismic risks for companies seeking permits for brine injection wells in Ohio.

Other state regulations considered “too burdensome” for EPA adoption include on-site inspection for all injection wells to review the condition and operation of the wells. California, Colorado, and North Dakota require monthly reporting on injection pressure, injection volume, and the type of fluid being injected.

It makes little sense to entrust EPA to handle more responsibility when it has been incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities it already has. This is especially obvious when the responsibility involves essentially copying the example already implemented by state agencies.

EPA claims it does not have the resources to implement this program properly, but EPA’s budget request for 2014 was $8.153 billion, more than the entire annual budgets of 20 percent of states nationwide … yet these states, which have fewer resources at their disposal, manage to get the job done just fine.

It is time to seriously consider replacing EPA with a Committee of the Whole of the 50 state environmental protection agencies, an idea suggested by Jay Lehr, science director and senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, where I serve as research fellow. According to the GAO, we might as well do so, since the states seem to be doing all the heavy lifting already.

Isaac Orr (iorr@heartland.org) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Education Battlefield

October 07, 2014, 2:32 PM

The 2010 introduction of Common Core, a set of requirements for what elementary and secondary school children should know in math and English language arts, has turned schools in one state after another into battlefields as its complexity and other factors led to protests against it. Even so, by mid-2014, a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that very nearly half of those asked about it hadn’t even heard of it. A number of states, such as Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have withdrawn from it.

Schools today are often under fire for one reason or another. Ever since the 1960s when teachers unions began to secure more and more control, formerly the responsibility of individual and state school boards, Americans have been engaged in efforts to improve the elementary and secondary education systems. Many have elected to home school their children. Others have pushed for school choice to permit their children to attend a school that was clearly doing a better job than the one to which their children were assigned.

As youngsters settle into their classes, there are a number of trends worth noting.

Perhaps one of the most interesting trends is the expansion of online classes into K-12.  As Ashley Bateman noted in a recent issue ofSchool Reform News, “In 2013 ten million students of all ages participated in more than 1,200 massive, open, online courses offered by more than 200 universities.”  Of value to self-motivated students in particular, online classes are sure to find a larger audience of students who have grown up in the virtual world of game playing.

Another trend was noted by Marcy C. Tillotson, an education reporter for Watchdog.org. It is the increasing demand for more and more data about each student who worry that things done at a very young age like a schoolyard fight or emotional problems will follow them into college when they have long outgrown the problems or behaviors of childhood. Parents want to know what data is being collected and who has access to it. As often as not, they cannot find out.

Increasingly, school choice, a parent’s right to enroll their child in a selected public school, a private or a parochial choice, has become an issue that makes it into state legislature’s where some support and some forbid it. In Louisiana and Texas, for example, school choice programs and scholarship credits have gained support as a political issue. In Florida, the teachers union has initiated a lawsuit “to eliminate school choice for many low-income students and effectively kill a program to help students with autism and other special needs.” In North Carolina, its Supreme Court rendered a decision that permits more than 2,000 low-income parents to send their children to schools of their choice.

Attention to the quality of teachers, as opposed to letting tenure keep poorly performing ones in the classroom, is a growing trend. Last year in California, a first of its kind teacher quality lawsuit was decided in favor of the education reforms that brought it, striking down tenure and a similar lawsuit has been announced for New York.

As Ms. Tillitson reported, “Vergara v. California struck down state laws that required teacher layoffs based solely on seniority with no regard to teacher effectiveness, gave teachers permanent status after two years on the job, and made it difficult for school administrators to dismiss ineffective teachers.” As this trend expands to other states, a major complaint regarding poor performance will be addressed.

At the heart of the issue of teacher quality are the programs that prepare them to teach. As Ms. Tillotson noted, “A week after a California judge ruled on a case involving teacher tenure, dismissals and layoffs, the National Council for Teacher Quality released its annual report on another fundamental problem, the poor quality of teacher preparation programs. The report found that, as a whole, the programs need improvement. “Only a quarter of the programs expect aspiring teachers to be in the top half of their college’s academic pool. On a 125-point scale, the NCTQ ranked most programs as earning fewer than 50 points.

Increasingly, the quality and content of various educational programs are being questioned and challenged.  One example is the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. History Framework (APUSH) and the questions about who wrote the curriculum that is taught to 500,000 students in more than 8,000 high schools every year.

When Larry Krieger, a retired College Board-praised teacher and Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at The American Principles Project asked the College Board who was the author or authors of the program, all they got as a reference to a web page listing 19 college professors and teachers who served on two College Board committees but where not listed as authors, but as “Acknowledgements.”  Kreiger and Robbins call the history program “biased, poorly written, and ineptly organized”; one that “has raised alarms from state and national leaders.” We keep hearing about the importance of “transparency” but apparently the College Board does not think it applies to them.

It has long been known that U.S. schools tend to perform more poorly than those in other nations. Joy Pullman, a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform Newsreported that “According to two recently released studies, the schools middle-income families send their kids to are not as good as parents think.”

“A national study,” wrote Ms. Pullman, “found U.S. students whose parents have college degrees perform worse than peers from comparable families in other countries. In the United States, 43 percent of such children tested ‘proficient’ in math on an international test, compared to 71 percent of comparable students from Poland, 68 percent in Japan, and 64 percent in Germany.” Overall, U.S. students performed better than those in only six countries.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Bateman has reported that “Accepting federal mandates in exchange for funding is the crux of the problem” of ever-growing educational bureaucracies at the state level. “States report that 40 percent of the paperwork burden they deal with is to comply with federal regulations,” said Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation.

When one considers how much in tax revenue is collected for the purpose of educating our youth, one would hope for better results, but fortunately there are many individuals, parents, and organizations seeking to improve the quality of education and our schools are going to remain battlefields for many years to come.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

RFK, Jr. Wants Me Jailed … as a War Criminal!

October 07, 2014, 2:24 PM

The “people’s climate march” was notable for the amazing energy, economic and climate illiteracy displayed by the mostly young people parading along New York City streets September 21.

Their chants, rants and placards demanded that we stop climate change (that’s been ongoing throughout Earth and human history), eliminate fossil fuels (that supply 80% of the energy that makes their modern living standards possible), ban fracking (which is largely responsible for reducing the carbon dioxide emissions they blame for global warming that ended at least 18 years ago), and abolish capitalism!

Some of the absurdities can be enjoyed here, here, here and here. Among my personal favorites:

* Al Gore grinning for a photo op with NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio and UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon. This is same Al Gore who got a C and D in his two college science courses, told “Tonight Show” audiences that the Earth’s interior is “several million degrees” (the core is actually nine thousand deg F), and refuses to debate anyone on climate change or even take audience questions he has not preapproved.

* Actor Leonardo DiCaprio basking in the NYC limelight, releasing a series of movies claiming that climate change is immediate and dangerous, and marching with other people’s anti-tar sands and “100% for the planet” signs – after arriving in the Big Apple not via commercial jetliner and subway.

* Actor Mark Ruffalo denouncing Climate Depot director Marc Morano for daring to ask whether celebrities like Messrs. Gore and DiCaprio are appropriate spokesmen for “stop global warming” campaigns – considering how much they enjoy multiple mansions, global vacations, and private jets, yachts, SUVs, helicopters and limos. Questions like that are “off-limits,” Ruffalo declared. “That is a question you shouldn’t be asking here today, because that defies the spirit of what this is about,” he said. “Anyone who attacks Leonardo DiCaprio is either a coward or an ideologue.”

Wow! I wasn’t aware that asking inconvenient questions or pointing out inconvenient truths was improper – especially when posed to people who put themselves forward as paragons of virtue for leading campaigns that inevitably restrict access to energy, lower developed country living standards, and keep the Third World impoverished – while the leaders enjoy lifestyles that are many times more profligate, carbon-intensive and carbon dioxide-spewing than the average American or African citizen’s.

But surely the most surreal episode of the march was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. saying Morano and I and thousands like us should be jailed for expressing doubts about “dangerous manmade climate change.”

“I think they should be in jail … with all the other war criminals.” Republican politicians too – “those guys are doing the Koch brothers bidding and are against all the evidence, saying global warming does not exist. They are contemptible human beings,” he fumed, for our “war on science,” I presume.

So RFK the younger wants to punish us for the “crimes” of exercising our First Amendment rights, demanding actual evidence to support alarmist assertions, saying people’s needs for reliable, affordable energy must be part of the conversation – and insisting that those needs take precedence over absurd claims that climate change is “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” posing “greater long-term consequences” than ISIL, terrorism or Ebola, as Secretary of State John Kerry insists.

Mr. Kennedy needs to read the Constitution, reflect on the once proud history of free speech and civil rights in the United States, and acknowledge the harm his policies are causing. He also needs to get his facts straight.

None of us says global warming or climate change “does not exist.” Global warming, global cooling, “climate disruption” and “wild weather” have been “real” since Earth began. What we challenge is alarmist assertions that human carbon dioxide emissions have replaced the powerful, complex natural forces that caused repeated ice ages, little ice ages, warm periods, droughts, storms and other fluctuations throughout history. We dispute claims that any climate changes will be dangerous, and are our fault.

We vigorously refute claims that CO2 is “pollution.”  This is what we exhale. It’s the trace gas (0.04% of our atmosphere) that enables plants to grow, and makes all life on Earth possible.

We debunk talk of countless “disasters” that Climate Armageddonites – from President Obama on down – blame on fossil fuels and insist “are happening right now.” The planet hasn’t warmed for 18 years. The nearly nine years since Wilma in October 2005 is the longest period since 1900 (and maybe the US Civil War) without a category 3-5 hurricane hitting the United States. Floods, droughts and other events are all within historic patterns, as readers can see in my new report, Climate Hype Exposed – how pseudo-science is used to justify policies that hurt jobs, liberties and people.

Just as crazy, RFK Jr. made it clear that he and his wife will not give up their $5,000,000 Malibu home or “reduce the, uh, our quality of life in order to have a, uh, rational free market, in order to, um, stop the use of carbon and to divorce ourselves from a fuel that is destroying our planet.” But they, many of the NYC marchers and climate alarm leaders are surely doing all they can to reduce your quality of life.

The policies RFK & Comrades demand would raise the price of fossil fuel energy that powers our modern world, creates and preserves jobs, and improves, enhances and safeguards lives. In Europe, they’ve made energy so expensive that millions of pensioners and other poor families cannot afford to heat their homes properly – and thousands die needlessly from hypothermia every winter. We’re heading there, too.

They cause millions of deaths every year in developing countries – by preventing construction of state-of-the-art coal and gas-fired power plants, and depriving people of reliable, affordable energy. More than 2.5 billion people worldwide must still use wood, charcoal, coal and dung in open fires to heat and cook; well over a billion still do not have electricity, still do not enjoy its wondrous blessings.

As a result, millions die every year from lung diseases due to constantly breathing polluted smoke from cooking and heating fires, from intestinal diseases caused by spoiled food and tainted water, and from countless other diseases of energy deprivation and poverty. The vast majority are women and children.

My colleagues and I would gladly go on trial and even serve time for “treasonous” speech against the climate alarm establishment … and for “polluting” the atmosphere with plant-fertilizing, life-giving CO2.

But then we would insist that Mr. Kennedy and his comrades also be tried and sentenced: for eco-manslaughter and crimes against humanity, for the disease and death their policies cause and perpetuate.

The International Criminal Court might be the proper venue, just as RFK suggested for us. But perhaps the climate demagogues and anti-fossil fuel zealots should be tried – and serve their sentences – in countries that have suffered the most at their hands, for their war on women, children and the poor. Conditions in those Third World prisons are notoriously worse than in the zealots’ mansions, and in the comparatively posh modern jails and prisons found in most of the USA and Europe.

Alternatively, these true climate criminals could be sentenced to do community service, while living like the natives: in mud huts, breathing their air, drinking their water, being bitten by disease-infested insects, and having to walk miles to basic medical services when they inevitably contract malaria, pneumonia or dysentery. That could make alternative community service a death sentence – akin to what Mr. Kennedy and his self-righteous friends are imposing on so many unfortunate people.

It’s time to refocus. The world needs abundant, reliable, affordable energy, to create opportunity and prosperity, improve and save lives, and enable us to adapt to whatever climate changes might come.  Misguided noise about climate change “deniers” and humans replacing natural forces in controlling Earth’s climate serve only to distract us from the critical job at hand.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.  

Categories: On the Blog

President Ebola

October 07, 2014, 2:14 PM

What does it tell you when Britain and France have stopped flights to and from the nations in Africa where Ebola has become a threat and the United States has not taken a similar measure?

What does it tell you when the President sends 3,000 U.S. troops on a “humanitarian” mission to West Africa? It tells me he has put the U.S. at risk if any or a portion of these troops return after having been infected.

As always history has lessons that cannot be ignored. In 1918 and 1919, there was a pandemic of the Spanish influenza that caught nations by surprise, infecting an estimated 500 million people and killing between 50 and a 100 million of them in three waves. It began in the U.S. in March 1918 at a crowded army camp, Fort Riley, Kansas.

As these troops, living in close proximity to one another, were transported between camps, the disease spread quickly even before they were assembled on East Coast ports on route to France. They in turn brought it to the trenches of war in Europe.

The second wave struck in 1918 at a naval facility in Boston and at the Camp Devens military base in Massachusetts. October 1918 was the most deadly month in which 195,000 Americans died. The Harvard University Open Library notes that the supply of health care workers, morticians, and grave diggers dwindled and mass graves were often dug to bury the dead. There were subsequent outbreaks in 1957 and 1968.

And, at some point, 3,000 U.S. troops will be returning from West Africa to military facilities here at home.

Thus far we have been fortunate to have identified the case of the Ebola victim who had entered the nation from Liberia, but there are few guarantees that more will not be found or deterred. The Oct 4Washington Post reports that “Since July, hospitals around the country have reported more than 100 cases involving Ebola-like symptoms to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Largely unknown is that 90,000 Americans die annually from preventable infections they acquire while in hospitals!

The concern about illnesses entering the U.S. is particularly true of our southern border which remains porous. Thank goodness Texas has taken measures to tighten its border security, but I am reminded that the Obama administration sued Arizona when it attempted to increase its security against the influx of illegal aliens.

Obama is the President who engineered an invasion of thousands of children and others from Latin America and then distributed them to various states without informing their governors or other authorities of who and where they were. Not surprisingly, in recent months cases of an enterovirus respiratory disease affecting school-age children have been reported around the nation.

Obama has no regard for the sovereignty of the nation or its immigration laws.

This is the same President who has made it clear that he intends to extend amnesty by executive order to an estimated eleven million illegal aliens, but not until after the midterm elections in November. I doubt that he has the constitutional power to do this. I hope the U.S. Congress has the means and the will to negate this.

The U.S. has a healthcare system that is the envy of the world, but the introduction of ObamaCare is already having negative effects on its administration and the former system of privately purchased healthcare insurance. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who had such insurance have lost it and those who signed up for ObamaCare are discovering it is far more expensive.

Perhaps the most under-reported story thus far regarding Ebola is the fact that in 2010, according to The Daily Caller, “the administration of President Barack Obama moved with virtually no fanfare to abandon a comprehensive set of regulations which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had called essential to preventing international travelers from spreading deadly diseases inside the United States.” Among the viral diseases of concern was Ebola.

I want to have confidence in the Centers for Disease Control, but after witnessing the failures of one government agency after another including the Secret Service, I wish I felt better about them.

I have no doubt its staff are seriously concerned and doing what they can to respond to the threat, but I also think they and the rest of us are at risk from a regime led by a man whose incompetence has written a new chapter in the history of the presidency.

I wish that I felt confident that the Obama administration will take such steps as are necessary to keep the Ebola threat from harming the health of the nation such as not issuing visas to those from the affected nations in Africa, but the record to date limits that confidence.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

The Lizard of Oz: Texas Beats Environmentalists

October 07, 2014, 2:03 PM

“When the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) was being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” Chris Bryan, agency spokesman for the Texas Comptroller, told me, “significant parts of the Texas economy were placed at risk.”

On September 30, District of Columbia District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled against the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Defenders of Wildlife. The groups brought litigation in the hopes of requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reverse its 2012 decision not to list the lizard as endangered.

The 2012 decision was the first time that community engagement beat back a proposed ESA listing—a stinging defeat to a movement that has historically used lawsuits as an effective weapon.

In August 2013, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was granted intervenor status in the case. In October, several regional and national oil and gas associations joined Combs.

The DSL story represents a new chapter in ESA compliance that allows conservation and productive activity to coexist. Previously, presence of an ESA-listed species would shut down activity with harsh consequences for landowners and communities.

The spotted owl stands as the posterbird for bad ESA policy. More than 20 years ago, the spotted owl was listed under the ESA. As a result, much of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest is gone—leaving thousands unemployed and hundreds of communities decimated. Fifty percent of the nation’s forestry jobs lost from 1990 to 2009 were in just two states: Oregon and Washington. Yet, the listing did not stop the decline of the spotted owl. And, as a result of the listing, forest management in the West changed—leaving thousands of acres overgrown and unhealthy, resulting in the devastating wildfires we see today.

Texas decided to do it differently.

Aware that the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was an ESA target, conservation efforts started in 2008. Private land in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico—an area that produces 15 percent of U.S. oil and 5 percent of natural gas, as well as a prime ranching and farming region—makes up about half of the DSL habitat. The locals were very worried that if the lizard were listed, the regulations would seriously impact their operations and impose substantial costs.

Stories of individual losses, like the spotted owl’s, prompted the Texas State Legislature to pass a bill creating the Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species to help municipalities and regional governmental bodies cope with the ESA.

Additionally, the Comptroller’s Office provided funds to survey the lizard’s habitat—which revealed 28 more Texas DSL populations, in addition to the three known populations.

The 2011 surveys were possible because of a special provision the legislature passed in 2011 that allowed DSL population locations to remain confidential. Without the force of state law, landowners resist cooperating in conservation efforts out of fear their property would be rendered unusable.

By being proactive, Texas was able to enact voluntary conservation programs that brought about the 2012 FWS decision not to list the lizard. Addressing the Texas approach, Brian Seasholes, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Reason Foundation, says: “The Texas approach protects landowners from the ESA and the federal government, while finding a balance between economic activity and species conservation.”

Comptroller Combs is elated with the court’s decision, especially considering thepushback she received when she took a risky stand and embarked on the experimental plan to forge an innovative, flexible, and successful conservation plan for the DSL. Responding to the court ruling, Combs said: “It supports our basic belief that the TCP provides appropriate conservation for the lizard and reaffirms that the research conducted by Texas A&M University about the DSL helped to provide Fish and Wildlife the best scientific data available to make the decision not to list the species as endangered.”

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who spearheaded much of the public education on the potential impacts the DSL listing would have on communities in his district, likewise, welcomes the court’s decision:

It is about time the courts stood up for private landowners over radical environmental groups that continually use sue-and-settle tactics to exploit taxpayer money to pay lawyers and fund themselves instead of recovering species. This decision ensures that sound conservation efforts are carried out in Eastern New Mexico without sacrificing the economic activity that the area depends on. The plan itself is a great example of how cooperative conservation efforts between private industry, state officials, landowners, and the federal government are more than adequate to protect species. This decision differs from the Fish and Wildlife’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken in March that severely hindered a successful cooperative conservation effort. I hope the Fish and Wildlife Service along with the courts continue to allow future efforts like this to succeed.”

Now that Texas’s proactive efforts—such as those engaged to protect the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard—have withstood legal challenge, other states may take similar legislative and conservation actions preventing environmental groups (under the guise of conservation) from using lawsuits to block growth in the United States.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director forEnergy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, theCitizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program:America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

[Originally published at Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

All States, and the Feds, Should Emulate Minnesota’s Civil Forfeiture Reform

October 07, 2014, 1:43 PM

Imagine police seize your money, your car, even your house. Imagine this happens without you being convicted of a crime or even charged with one. Imagine being told you must sue the government to get back your property and prove you did nothing wrong, and the government can do nothing – nothing – and still keep the property.

This happens thousands of times a year across the country. But it will soon happen less often in Minnesota, which has taken a small but important step toward ending one of the most abusive law enforcement practices in the nation. It’s a step the federal and other state governments should take to protect citizens from abusive police and prosecutors and restore a fundamental principle of life in these United States: that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

States and local governments have stolen billions of dollars of property from people who have never been convicted of a crime or charged with one. They’ve done it under a practice called “civil forfeiture.” It’s an outgrowth of the nation’s “war on drugs,” which has been raging and failing since President Richard Nixon launched it more than 40 years ago.

Civil forfeiture defenders say it’s another way to get at criminals—usually drug users or sellers—while helping to fund law enforcement. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors may seize property, sell it, and use the proceeds to pad their budgets. To get back their property, forfeiture victims must spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to sue. In many instances, the legal costs would exceed the value of the property.

Politicians eager to look tough on crime decided to structure civil forfeiture so police and prosecutors may take property on the mere suspicion it could be linked to a drug crime or certain other nefarious activities. Police and prosecutors don’t have to prove anything. All they have to do is claim they “suspect” the person losing the property might have been planning to use it in an illegal way or might have used or obtained it illegally. Their “suspicions” often are so flimsy no arrest or criminal charge is made. They just take the property.

The final straw for Minnesota legislators came after the Minneapolis Star-Tribune broke a scandal in the state’s Metro Gang Strike Force by reporting on the brutality of its raids and the apparent police thefts of cash and other property, including at least 13 seized cars that went “missing.” A state court later ordered $840,000 in seized property returned to forfeiture victims, and the strike force was disbanded.

Effective August 1, a bill signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton will require people in Minnesota to be convicted of a drug crime before their property can be seized through forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture for other reasons is still possible, but reining in property seizures under the pretext of drug activity is a good start.

Through civil forfeiture our local, state, and federal governments effectively declare we are presumed guilty until proven innocent. In other words, it is a system of tyranny by police and prosecutors. Americans should never accept tyranny, no matter what excuses people in government give for imposing it.

North Carolina is the only state with no civil forfeiture. Let us hope Minnesota and the rest of the states and the federal government get to where North Carolina is and ban all civil forfeitures.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Below is a video from HBO’s John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” discussing Civil Forfeiture laws

 

Categories: On the Blog

‘If You Like Your Internet, You Can Keep Your Internet’ and Other Government Lies

October 07, 2014, 11:49 AM

Conservatives and Libertarians inherently have little faith or trust in government. We know the institution is inherently flawed – and self-serving.

Government violates the Wallet Rule. Which is:

You go out on a Friday night with your wallet.  You go out the following Friday night with my wallet. On which night are you going to have more fun?

Government is always working with our wallet – theirs is empty until they first fleece ours. They will thus never spend our money as prudently, wisely or well as do we.

Government is just another organism.  Like any other, its first priority is self-preservation – its second self-expansion. And worse than just about any other – it will do whatever it takes to accomplish these priorities.

Including lie its collective face off.

The Barack Obama Administration is the most government-expansive administration in our nation’s history. To that end, they have used any means necessary – including lying its collective face off. For instance:

If you like your health care plan/doctor – you can keep your health care plan/doctor.

This Administration’s obsessive government expansion occurs in the face of it being just like any other administration and government entity – incessantly, serially incompetent at doing just about anything.

All of which has led people – well beyond conservative and libertarian circles – here:

CNN Poll: Trust in Government at All-Time Low

Gallup Poll: Trust In Government Problem-Solving Reaches New Low

Which brings us to the current debate over the government power grabbing huge now authority over the Internet.

President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – and its Obama-appointee Chairman Tom Wheeler – are contemplating fundamentally transforming how the government regulates the Web.  It’s called Title II Reclassification.

Title II is the uber-regulatory superstructure with which we have strangled landline phones – you know, that bastion of technological and economic innovation. Which do you find more impressive – your desktop dialer or your iPhone?

Title II regulations date back to the 1930s – so you know they’ll be a perfect fit for the ultra-modern, incredibly dynamic, expanding-like-the-universe World Wide Web.

This would be the most detrimental of all Information Superhighway road blocks. Rather than the omni-directional, on-the-fly innovation that now constantly occurs, Title II is a Mother-May-I-Innovate, top-down traffic congest-er. Imagine taking a 16-lane Autobahn down to just a grass shoulder.

But fret not, the regulators tell us.  They will wield just some – and not all – of their massive new powers.  They will practice “forbearance.”

“(F)orbearance” refers to  a special magic power that Congress gave the FCC…which gives the FCC the power to say “you know that specific provision of law that Congress passed? We decide it really doesn’t make sense for us to enforce it in some particular case, so we will “forbear” (hence the term ‘forbearance’) from enforcing it.”

Can we trust government to – forever and for always – leave regulatory powers on the table unused?

Can we trust this Administration – the most government-expansive ever – to do so?

Can we trust this particular FCC?

Coalition Warns FCC Chairman about FCC’s Increasing Politicization

In a letter sent today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, a coalition of groups expressed concerns over the agency’s  loss of objectivity and impartiality in recent proceedings, especially the FCC’s ongoing Open Internet rulemaking.

The letter urges the Commission to keep partisan politics out of its decision-making process, to avoid spinning media coverage, and to focus on substance, not the total number of comments filed in controversial proceedings.

This FCC?

‘Most Transparent Ever?’ Behold the FCC’s Secret, Crony Socialist Meetings

This FCC?

FCC Chairman Won’t Allow His IG To Hire Any Criminal Investigators

We certainly can not.  In what can we trust?

Aesop Knew: Regulators Regulate – It’s Their Nature

When Bureaucrats Determine Their Own Limits – There Are No Limits

You bet.

So when the government tells us – as it ramps up new, massive government power grabs – “If you like your Internet – you can keep your Internet?”

Don’t you believe it.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Carbon Footprints: Good, Bad and Ugly

October 06, 2014, 9:52 PM

Australians are supposed to feel guilty because some bureaucrat in the climate industry has calculated that we have a very high per capita “carbon footprint.” By “carbon footprint.” they mean the amount of carbon dioxide gas produced by whatever we do.  Every human activity contributes to our carbon footprint – even just lying on the beach breathing gently produces carbon dioxide.

Producing carbon dioxide is not bad – it an essential gas in the cycle of life, and beneficial for all life. There is no proof whatsoever that human emissions cause dangerous global warming.  Moreover, it is not per capita emissions that could affect the climate – it is total emissions, and on that measure Australia’s small contribution is largely irrelevant. This is just another PR weapon in the extreme green alarmist arsenal.

Even if carbon footprints were important, not all footprints are environmentally equal – some are good, some are bad and some are just plain ugly.

“Good” carbon footprints are the result of producing unsubsidised things for the benefit of others. An example is a grazier in outback Australia whose family lives frugally and works hard but has a high carbon footprint producing wool, mutton and beef from sustainable native grasslands and may use quad bikes, diesel pumps, electricity, tractors, trucks, trains, planes and ships to supply distant consumers. Many productive Australians with good carbon footprints produce food and fibres, seafood and timber, minerals and energy for grateful consumers all over the world. Activities like this create a large “per capita carbon footprint” for Australia. That so few people can produce so much is an achievement to be proud of.

A “bad” carbon footprint is produced when government subsidies, grants, hand-outs, tax breaks or mandates keep unproductive or unsustainable activities alive, leaving their footprint, but producing little useful in return. The prime examples are subsidised green energy and the government climate industry, but there are examples in all nationalised or subsidised industries and activities. (Russia and East Germany easily met their initial Kyoto targets by closing decrepit Soviet-era nationalised industries.)

An “ugly” carbon footprint is produced by green hypocrites who preach barefoot frugalism to us peasants while they live the opulent life style. Examples are the mansions, yachts and jet-setting of prominent green extremists such as Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The ultimate ugly carbon hypocrites are those who organise and attend the regular meetings, conferences and street protests, drawing thousands of globe-trotting alarmists and “environmentalists” from all over the world by plane, yacht, car, bus, train and taxi to eat, drink, chant and dance while they protest about over-population, excessive consumption and heavy carbon footprints of “all those other people”.

Maybe they should lead by example and stop travelling, eating, drinking and breathing.

Categories: On the Blog