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Three Unelected Democrat Bureaucrats Are About to Overrule and Override November’s Election

January 07, 2015, 2:48 PM

The American people in November overwhelmingly, historically rebuked President Barack Obama, his policies and his unilateral practices.

The President his own self primed the pump for the election as a referendum – on him.

Obama: My ‘Policies Are On the Ballot. Every Single One of Them.’

President Obama has for years benefitted greatly from then-Senate Majority Leader (Democrat) Harry Reid serving as a preemptive veto of most things legislation.

Senate Sitting on 290 Bills Already Passed by House; Tension Mounts (2010)

Democrat Senate Blocks 340 House Bills (2014)

This Do-Nothing-Democrat-Senate allowed Democrats and the media (please pardon the redundancy) to foster a phony “Do Nothing Congress” storyline. Which the President gladly, disingenuously exploited:

Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act, I Will’

The President has acted unilaterally throughout – well beyond the Executive Branch bounds proscribed by the Constitution.

President Obama’s Unilateral Action on Immigration Has No Precedent

Obama’s Unilateral ObamaCare Changes

Obama Continues to Push Unilateral Action to Fight Climate Change

Castro on Obama’s Cuba Deal: ‘Now We’ve Really Won the War’

These Presidential fiats beget regulations. Lots and lots and LOTS of regulations.

21,000 Regulations So Far Under Obama – 2,375 Set for 2015

Obama Imposed 75,000 Pages of New Regulations in 2014

11,588,500 Words: Obamacare Regs 30x as Long as Law

New EPA Regs Issued Under Obama Are 43 Times as Long as Bible

All elections matter, but some matter more than others. A national election of historic proportions is about to be trumped by an obscure vote by three Democrat regulators. For whom none of us ever voted – and of whom most of us have never heard.
These regulations cost us money. Lots and lots and LOTS of money.

The Cost of Federal Regulation: $2.028 Trillion

This brings us to the Internet. Per law passed by Congress – the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – the Internet is a relatively regulation-free zone. Which is why it is a free speech-free market Xanadu – dynamically, constantly evolving into an ever more-perfect organism.

The 1996 Act classifies the Internet as a Title I thing – Title I being the light-touch portion of the law. Landline phones, on the other hand, are uber-over-regulated under Title II – which is why hardlines have for decades been basically innovation-free zones.

Which brings us to the Left’s fetish – and their current push for – Network Neutrality.

The Executive Branch’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already twice tried to impose Net Neutrality within the confines of law-proscribed Title I. And twice been unanimously rebuked by the D.C. Circuit Court – for lacking the authority to do so under Title I.

Does pro-Net Neutrality President Obama seek to have Congress rewrite the law to give the FCC the additional authority necessary to impose Net Neutrality? Of course not.

President Obama to FCC: Reclassify Broadband Service as Title II to Protect Net Neutrality

Behold – another Obama fiat. He wants his FCC to impersonate Congress and rewrite the law themselves.

Surely pro-Net Neutrality Democrats in Congress will protect their purview as legislators, right? Of course not.

(Democrat) Senators Urge Congress to Preserve Strong Net Neutrality Protections

“The FCC can and should take strong action… We would forcefully oppose any reforms that would undermine the FCC’s authority to act to adopt meaningful net neutrality rules to protect consumers.”

Get that? Democrats say Congress shouldn’t do Congress’ job – because that would prohibit the FCC from illegally doing Congress’ job.

As recently as 2010, there were Democrats who were a little more appreciative of the gigs for which they ran. Oh – and the Constitution.

73 Democrats Tell FCC: Drop Net Neutrality Rules

A slew of House Democrats have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission warning the agency not to go forward with its plan to partially reclassify ISPs as common carriers, a move needed to impose net neutrality rules.

Meanwhile, when the FCC contemplates new regulations it is supposed to have a public Comment Period. To allow us to register our discontent – before they go ahead and power grab anyway.

Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last year proposed a third attempt at Net Neutrality imposition under Title I – and had two Comment Periods therefore.

The first was an ObamaCare-website-esque technological disaster.

Government Agency That Wants To Commandeer The Internet Just Had Their Website Crash – Twice

During which the FCC played favorites – helping the Left file their Comments when the website repeatedly went down.

MediaFreedom Asks FCC Inspector General to Look into ‘Unusual Collaboration’ of FCC Staff and Title II Activists

And the second Comment Period was overwhelmingly won by the proponents of Less Government.

Those Opposed to Internet Regulation Won FCC Comment Period by Landslide

During which the government’s alleged Web experts yet again couldn’t manage their website.

FCC Somehow ‘Lost’ Hundreds of Thousands of Net Neutrality Comments

That’s ok – Amazon loses hundreds of thousands of orders per month, right?

Since then, best guesses have Chairman Wheeler fundamentally altering the proposal on which we twice Commented. Dramatically expanding the power grab to a Title II reclassification unilateral law-rewrite – and scheduling a February internal FCC vote without any Comment Period on the new regulations.

The timing indicates Wheeler does not see the need for more public input on the benefits and drawbacks of using Title II, as earlier reports suggested.

So during Comment Period Round One the FCC aided and abetted the Left – because the government’s alleged technical experts repeatedly failed to keep their website up and running.

The Free Marketeers won Round Two going away – without any government assistance whatsoever. And it may have been an even bigger blowout – we don’t know because the government’s “experts” misplaced nearly a million Comments.

So while it’s obnoxious and maybe illegal to now blow us off without Comment, we can see why Chairman Wheeler doesn’t want to again open that can of worms. Because – transparency.

Oh – and the FCC’s unelected bureaucrat voting composition looks absolutely nothing like the newly minted Congress We the People just ensconced. There are five voting FCC Commissioners (one of whom also serves as Chairman). Three are of the President’s Party – two of the opposing Party. So right now the FCC is 3-2 Democrat.

I wonder how this Internet power grab vote is going to go?

All elections matter, but some matter more than others. A national election of historic proportions is about to be trumped by an obscure vote by three Democrat regulators. For whom none of us ever voted – and of whom most of us have never heard.

Yet another part of the President’s ongoing effort to fundamentally transform our once-representative republic.

 

[This first appeared on Red State]
Categories: On the Blog

Islam Kills Again

January 07, 2015, 1:16 PM

A victim of the shooting by Musilms seeking vengeance at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The news from Paris about the killing of twelve journalists highlights Islam’s war on the West that represents a fundamental truth about this cult of Mohammad.

Most are familiar with the Islamic schism between the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites. It dates back to the very earliest days of Islam when the two groups disagreed over who should be the successor to Mohammad.

There is a new schism in Islam these days and it is between a moderate interpretation of Islam and fundamentalism. We have all seen what fundamentalism produces.

The past year had dramatic and tragic slaughters by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Syrian-Iraqi area they control, the murder of more than 140 school children in Pakistan by the Taliban, and the kidnapping of 276 girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. These acts represent a strict interpretation of Shia law based on the Koran.

That is why an address by Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on New Year’s Day to clerics at Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry is particularly significant. As reported by Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum, Sisi “a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, made what must be his most forceful and impassioned plea to date.”

His speech was a warning that “the corpus of (Islamic) texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world.”

Referring to the 1.6 billion Muslims, Sisi said it is not possible that they “should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live.” Islam, said Sisi “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

I cannot recall any other Islamic leader saying anything this bold and this true. Directly addressing the clerics, Sisi said “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.” That is, of course, exactly what has been occurring.

Sisi called for “a religious revolution”, what Christians would call a reformation. “You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move…”

Based on negotiations led by the U.S., the world is waiting to see what Iran, the home of the Islamic Revolution—the name given to the ayatollah’s movement that overthrew the Shah in 1979—will do in the face of demands that it cease its quest to produce its own nuclear weapons.

You don’t have to be a U.S. diplomat to know the answer to that. As Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently wrote, for decades the Iranian leadership has referred to “American Islam”, a term that describes what Iran “perceives to be a depoliticized perversion of the true faith, devoid of the revolutionary sentiment that guides the Islamic Republic.” Calling it “American” demonstrates their contempt for everything American.

The Iranians even apply the term to Muslim nations “deemed pliant before the will of superpowers like the United States.” In their view, they are the champions of “the pure Islam of Mohammad.” The Iranians are Shiites. As such, they are a minority sect within Islam, though a large one by any standard.

Those U.S. diplomats negotiating to get Iran to agree to cease pursuing the ability to construct their own nuclear weapons should read the memoirs of Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator. As Taleblu notes, Zarif has a PhD from an American university, but he still wrote “We have a fundamental problem with the West and especially with America. This is because we are claimants of a mission, which has a global dimension.”

That mission is to impose Islam—their fundamental brand of it—on the entire world. That would get easier if they can threaten the world with nuclear weapons. Iran has been the leading sponsor of Islamic terror since its revolution in 1979.

The gap between Egyptian President Sisi’s concerns about the state of Islam today and the intention of fundamentalists like Zarif are a capsule version of what is occurring among Muslims throughout the world.

Islam is not inclined toward any form of modernity and most certainly not toward any form of personal freedom so the world has to remain watchful and, at this point, far less inclined to give its terrorists a pass with the claim they do not represent Islam.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Challenging Obama’s Alleged Powers

January 07, 2015, 1:07 PM

The good news as 2015 debuts is that President Obama has managed to very nearly decimate the Democratic Party, leaving it weaker in Congress and throughout the nation than it has been in memory. The bad news is that he has weakened the nation in the eyes of the world. He is not trusted by world leaders and his next two years in office will only encourage our enemies.

 “Checking Obama’s misuse of his foreign-affairs powers should be a top priority for the new Republican majorities in Congress,” urged John R. Bolton and John Yoo in the final issue of the National Review for 2014. Together they authored “Advice on ‘Advice and Consent.’” Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador and Yoo a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Both are affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute.

 At home Obama’s popularity, generally remaining between 45% and 50%, has got to be one of the great polling mysteries, but in all polls 30% of those responding are unregenerate liberals so the reality of his job approval ratings is likely far lower than reported. At the same time, though, Congress has even lower approval ratings and the huge shift in power that occurred in the midterm elections suggests that the voters want to see some real action taken to curb Obama.

 As Bolton and Yoo point out “These assertions of unilateral executive power raise constitutional conflicts of the first order. Congress must first ask whether any of Obama’s agreements include obligations sufficiently grave to amount to a treaty under the Constitution—or, alternatively, whether these potential deals flow from the President’s legitimate constitutional authority in foreign affairs, and thus need not be embodied in treaties.’

 This is not the kind of thing the average person thinks about, let alone has the knowledge of Constitutional issues to understand. What we do know, however, is that Obama has little regard for the Congress and even less for the Constitution. That’s why the issues Bolton and Yoo address are important.

 For example, “there are some reports…the administration has pledged not to use military force against Iran in exchange for a halt to its nuclear-weapons program.”  The negotiations with Iran have met with such resistance from Iran that the U.S. and others participating in them have twice agreed to extend them. Iran has never demonstrated any other objective than to have its own nuclear weapons.

 Bolton and Yoo say “Republicans and Democrats should agree on one thing when it comes to military force: An international agreement’s renunciation of the use of American force manifestly limits U.S. sovereignty, with enormous effects on national security. Obama’s move on Iran may well violate Article II of the Constitution.” Senate approval by a two-thirds supermajority would be needed for any such agreement with Iran. “White House claims that an Iran deal does not amount to a treaty ring false.”

 The claims by the White House are universally false. That is something that Americans have learned the hard way over the past six years. While Presidents have long made ‘sole executive agreements’, treaties require the Senate’s advice and consent and Obama knows he’s not likely to get that.

 It’s one thing for Obama to make a “climate change” deal with China—and a bad one at that—agreeing to cut U.S. “greenhouse gas” emissions, the fact remains that “The President cannot commit the nation to environmental standards on his own, because only Congress has the constitutional power to control interstate and international commerce (under which heading the federal government regulations the environment.)”

 The new Congress is not going to go along with Obama’s deal with China because Obama lacks the authority to enact it. “At the very least”, say Bolton and Yoo, “the China climate deal should be approved by majorities in both houses of Congress, if not by two-thirds of the Senate.”

 “Congress should use the tools that the Constitution provides to protect its political influence in foreign affairs,” say Bolton and Yoo, adding that “Congress can make clear that any agreement made by Obama alone binds only him.”

 Other than his power as President to veto legislation sent to him, Obama lacks any real power to effect his foreign affairs initiatives and, domestically, he is not going to achieve anything other than by mean of executive orders and the use of federal government agencies to produce regulations. Congress has oversight and it can restrain and overturn the actions of agencies if they are particularly egregious and it is beginning at least to use it more frequently.

 We are hoping that the new Congress is going to act on the voter’s expectation that it will restrain Obama’s efforts to push through programs that harm the best interests of the nation. In the long history of the nation, Congress has never encountered a President whose agenda is to do as much harm as possible.

 The next two years will likely see many Democratic members of Congress voting with Republicans. They will do so because Obama has wreaked so much damage to the Party and because they are looking at the national elections coming in 2016 and positioning themselves for them if they must run for office.

 Obama is not just the enemy of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He is the enemy of the people.

 

Categories: On the Blog

E-Cigarette Denial: It Just Doesn’t Work Anymore

January 07, 2015, 10:38 AM

Recently I attended a forum on e-cigarettes, sponsored by a political organization that wanted to educate its attendees about the devices.  During the discussion my opponent [from the prohibitionist American Legacy Foundation] repeated the baseless claim that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

I responded that there is clear evidence: several clinical studies demonstrate that e-cigs work – previously discussed in my blog (hereherehere and here).

The clinical trial evidence has reached a sufficient size that a meta-analysis has been conducted.  Circulation, the flagship journal of the American Heart Association, contained the abstract of such a review presented (here) by University of Melbourne (Australia) investigators at a recent meeting.  They found that “Use of…e-cigarettes was positively associated with smoking cessation …Nicotine filled e-cigarettes were more effective in achieving cessation compared to those without nicotine (pooled Risk Ratio 2.29, 95%CI 1.05-4.97). Use of e-cigarettes was also effective in reducing smokers’ daily cigarette consumption…In conclusion, available literature suggests that the use of e-cigarettes may be an effective alternate smoking cessation method.”

After my response one of the attendees at our forum stated that he had quit smoking using e-cigs, and he had also convinced two of his relatives to quit.  As he noted, “it may not be a clinical trial, but it is real evidence.”

This doesn’t happen just at every event I attend.  It happens at virtually every conversation I have.  Almost everybody now knows former smokers who credit e-cigarettes with life- and breath-saving benefits.  The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association maintains a webpage linking to over 2,000 testimonials from successful switchers (here).

Cartoonist Bill Watterson said: “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”  Anti-tobacco zealots who refuse to acknowledge the new reality of e-cigarettes also qualify for membership in The Flat Earth Society (join here).

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Andrew Cuomo’s Fracking Psuedo-Science

January 07, 2015, 10:32 AM

What do Bigfoot and New York’s ban on fracking ban have in common? The evidence supporting the existence of both is equally (un)credible.

Gov. Cuomo last month made history by making New York the first state in the nation with significant natural-gas deposits to ban hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.

It’s a process that uses a mixture consisting of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand, and 0.5 percent chemical additives to create tiny cracks in shale rock, releasing the oil and natural gas trapped within.

In announcing the ban, Cuomo pointed to a new report from the state Department of Health that claims there’s not enough evidence to prove that fracking is safe.

Yet many of the studies that the report points to raising safety doubts have been thoroughly discredited.

Meanwhile, many of the assertions made by Dr. Howard Zucker, Cuomo’s hand-picked acting state health commissioner, about “significant public health and environmental risks” are contradicted by the mounting evidence that shows fracking is done safely, protecting both public health and the environment, in many other states.

A major pillar of the DOH report’s claim of health risks is a highly problematic study by Dr. Lisa McKenzie of the Colorado School of Public Health.

Her work suggested a link between fracking and birth defects in Colorado. But she failed to implement even elementary controls to account for known causes of birth defects: Her researchers didn’t consider whether the pregnant mothers in the study drank alcohol or smoked tobacco; didn’t review the women’s access to prenatal care or possible genetic factors.

The study also ignored where the pregnant mothers lived during the first trimester of pregnancy, when most birth defects occur.

As a result, environmental factors such as living near large interstate highways — where air pollution includes benzene, which is known to cause birth defects — were not controlled for and may have influenced the results of the study.

This study is so problematic it prompted Dr. Larry Wolk, the chief medical officer for Colorado and director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to warn the public: “A reader of the study could be easily misled and become overly concerned.”

Wolk continued, “I would tell pregnant women and mothers who live, or who at-the-time-of-their-pregnancy lived, in proximity to a gas well not to rely on this study as an explanation of why one of their children might have had a birth defect.”

Then there’s the studies Cuomo’s people ignored — particularly on the high-profile charge that fracking contaminates water supplies.

In fact, evidence of that has proved to be as elusive as Bigfoot himself. Peer-reviewed scientific studies, including several done by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department, conclude that hydraulic fracturing fluids do not contaminate groundwater.

This is certainly not to say the practice is utterly risk-free, but merely that the risks are manageable by industry and competent regulators implementing reasonable safety standards far short of a total ban.

For example, a study published in the September Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found eight instances in which natural-gas development in Pennsylvania and Texas resulted in 133 drinking water wells becoming polluted.

But it also found that the problem was faulty well casings and/or poor cementing jobs, not the process of hydraulic fracturing itself, an important distinction.

Cuomo’s ban is a blow to many living in depressed Upstate. They view natural-gas development as a crucial way to stimulate their lackluster economy — as it has next door in Pennsylvania, where the energy industry directly employs 28,000 people at average yearly pay of $93,000.

The people of Upstate deserve better than to have the governor and state health officials deny them economic opportunities based on discredited science — and on ignoring more credible evidence demonstrating that hydraulic fracturing is safe.

The existence of Bigfoot remains unproven, but pseudoscience is alive and well in the Empire State.

[Originally published at the New York Post]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Touts 2014 Accomplishments — Fiction vs. Fact

January 06, 2015, 3:00 PM

How could it be that according to a new Gallup polling, President Obama’s approval rating is at its highest in over a year! This is less than two months after the November mid-term election when President Obama and the Democratic Party suffered a shellacking by Republicans over policies that did not set well with many voters.

The polling average from Dec. 27-29 has Obama’s approval at 48 percent, the highest it has been since August 2013. With Obama’s disapproval also at 48 percent, this marks the first time Obama’s disapproval has not been higher than his approval rate since September of 2013.

Gallup does point out that Obama’s action on immigration could be a factor in his rising approval standing. The president’s approval rate among Hispanics rose by 12 percentage points after his announcement of last month. Obama’s Cuba policy could also have led to Obama’s increased popularity.

Positive Obama commentaries for 2014

Jason Easley takes note of Obama’s approval ratings reaching a 20-month high in his article of Friday, December 26th, in which credit is given to a record decline in gas prices and an economy that has experienced its best quarter of growth since 2003.

In yet another year-end commentary of how this nation and its citizens are faring at the dawn of a new year, David Igwe, a contributor to bvinews.com, paints the following rosy picture of this nation:

The present US economic success is not chance. Post the Recession of 2007-09 the Feds and the Obama administration adopted a policy of economic stimulus.

From Quantitative easing and the keeping of bank base rates as low as 0%, to protecting public sector jobs, and adopting policy to better the lives of the poor and middle class, the US government has engineered the present boom.

The US middle class is feeling better these days. It is spending once more. Middle class demand is at the root of the present US economic resurgence. The poor and middle class are hopeful about the future.

Blacks, minorities, single women, Latinos, north eastern whites, and white liberals, feel justified in their backing of a liberal agenda and President Barack Obama. There is new hope manifested in growing consumer confidence and rising demand.

The present economic boom in the US is the result of the Obama Stimulus. It is also the result of a reduction in personal debt that has the US consumer feeling increasingly better off.

Strong US economic growth will become Barack Obama’s greatest legacy if sustained until 2016. It will pave the way for Democratic success in the 2016 US Presidential Elections.

Obama’s ‘breakthrough year for America”

During President Obama’s final news conference of 2014 before heading to off to Hawaii with his family vacation on Friday, Dec. 19, Obama called 2014 “a breakthrough year for America.”  This despite the fits and starts that occurred during the past 12 months. Obama focused on achievements on the economy and in other areas, as well as the prospect of compromise with his political foes who are taking control of Congress.  Obama declared himself energized.  Despite the November midterm elections that brought crushing loses to his party, he ticked off the year’s improvement citing lower unemployment, a rising number of Americans covered by health insurance and a historic diplomatic opening with Cuba. .

But are the 2014 accomplishments President Obama touted and bragged about fact or fiction?   Among them:

Best Job Growth since Clinton years: The percentage of the population working full time has never been lower except in the great depression. The jobs “created” are largely part-time jobs made necessary as employers try to stay under the hours worked requirements of Obama care. Creating two part time jobs is cheaper for an employer than one full time job. Most of the full time jobs created are government jobs supported by the astronomical growth in our national debt. The “jobless rate” is just the number a people actively seeking jobs. Obama has made welfare combined with other entitlement programs so abundant that many simply have stopped seeking employment where they would actually have to WORK to get the same benefits.

In Illinois the unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in November. Even so for the year Illinois ranked last in the Midwest and 47th nationally for payroll-jobs growth rate, according to the ZZZ.

Gas Heading to $2 a gallon: The cost of oil has declined as a direct result of the increased production from fracking and improved drilling techniques IN SPITE of Obama’s best efforts to reduce oil production in this country; no drilling allowed on federal lands; endless delays in licensing pipeline developments (NOT just the Keystone project); ridiculous environmental regulations; taxes and Obama care burdens.

DOW Jones 18000: The stock market has done well because: 1) Interest rates have been kept extremely artificially low to support the economy, so there is nowhere else to invest your money to get any rate of return; 2) Companies have gotten ever more efficient in reducing the costs of production (as in human evolution, adversity increases efficiency); 3) massive deficit spending has pumped trillions of $ into the market at the expense of future generations; 4) The DOW is just now getting back to previous levels! This has been by far the slowest recovery our economy has ever experienced; and 5) The socialist governments in Europe have driven those economies into bankruptcy (like the Democrats here are doing to our economy through massive deficit spending), so no one wants to invest in the European stock markets. They invest instead in ours (China is buying America through massive purchases of our stock).

Deficit Slashed:  A blatant lie!  The national debt has risen to over $18 trillion and increasing by $6 billion a day‼  It was under $6 trillion when Bush left office. Obama has increased it more than all of the previous presidents combined‼ The deficit spending remains outrageously high and any “reduction” is just a slightly less outrageous shortfall than last year, forced on the Democrats by the Republican Congress.

GDP growth at 4%: The economy has been showing signs of strength, including the news last week that the economy grew at 5 percent, its highest level in 11 years, from July to September, but this is by far the lowest rate of recovery from any past recession we have experienced in this country. Other recoveries have supported over twice that increase. Our VERY slow 6 year recovery has been due largely to Obama’s oppressive taxes/regulations/health care law and market distortion to placate interest groups (environmentalists, labor unions, etc.).

 

Rising number of Americans covered by health insurance:  Data released Thursday, December 18 from the National Center for Health Statistic’ National Health Interview Survey found that 11.3 % of American were without coverage in the second quarter of 2014, down from 12.1 % in the first quarter.  This represents the lowest levels ever recorded across the 50 years of data keeping. The White House, however, has hyped its year-end enrollment numbers and hid Obamacare imposed cancellations during 2014.  Has 2014 really been a good one for victims of Obamacare?  Although it might be good for many who enroll in Obamacare — nearly 90% of exchange enrollees receive public subsidies in order to pay their premiums, resulting in government redistributing the burden of footing the bill to taxpayers — more and more doctors are refusing Obamacare patients.

Furthermore, Obama’s medical-device tax has forced companies to cut back on research and development and has resulted in layoffs of at least 33,000 workers over the year. In order not to anger voters before the mid-terms elections Obama bureaucrats delayed payment deadlines, high-risk policy cancellations, and onerous meaningful use mandates on health providers grappling with Obamacare’s disastrous top-down electronic medical records rules. These surprises will come in 2015.  A bright spot: 16 senators who voted for the federal health care takeover either failed to win re-election or declined to run for re-election.  It is estimated that over the next decade Obamacare will cost taxpayers $2 trillion or more than $8,000 per household per year in indirect cost to the economy.

Historic diplomatic opening with Cuba:  In the aftermath of President Obama ordering a restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba on Wednesday, December 17, it is fallacy to believe that Cuba will reform and the Castro brothers will suddenly unclench their fists,  just because an American president opens his hands and declares this to be so. Regarding Cuba, it is close to complete economic meltdown.  It can no longer rely on Russia because it has its own economic problems. Cuba had been relying on Venezuela providing oil to just survive, but Venezuela’s economy is suffering due to the decrease in oil prices.

Even if money from tourists and exported goods should reach Cuba, the Castro brothers and their friends will become richer and more powerful while the Cuban workers would continue to be paid in cheap pesos. Cuba has been for years able to trade freely with every other country in the world.  In addition, the USA trades with Cuba, but on a limited basis, but have any positive changes taken place? At the end of December the Cuban government chose to celebration the restored diplomatic relations with the U.S. by cracking down on free speech demonstrators. At least three leading dissidents were detained by the Cuban police ahead of a planned free-speech demonstration in the Plaza de la Revolución. Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on the Fox News Channel on Wednesday that Obama’s moves on Cuba constitute “appeasement” and are a “very, very bad signal of weakness and lack of resolve by the president of the United States.”

Looking Ahead to the 114th Congress

Although Obama has been a disaster on all fronts during 2014, with Obama determined to act when he sees a big problem within his lawful authority to do so — he also has the power of the pen — and with Republicans out to prove they can govern with majorities in both Houses of Congress, the resulting divided government over the next two years will most likely be filled with political unrest and maneuvering for power and votes by both parties. In that the mainstream media has pretty much protected Obama from any blame over either his policies or his Executive Orders since first elected in 2008, it is not unreasonable to believe that the press will continue to shield Obama and promote his progressive policies.

As noted previously, only six weeks after Republicans triumphed over Democrats during the mid-term elections, Obama’s popularity had climbed to 48%, the highest it had been since August, 2013.  Had the media called into question and evaluated the accomplishments noted by Obama at his final 2014 news conference, it could have easily been determined that Obama’s boastfulness was mostly fiction which many Americans then perceived as fact.

How much more fantasy (spin) can this nation withstand if it is to survive? Neither Republicans nor Democrats have the gumption to be honest with the American people about the almost   insurmountable problems facing this nation. Nothing positive can happen unless politicians realize the rapid path of this nation toward Socialism, and then set out to do the tough stuff that is required to right this nation. This requires an educated citizenry, many of whom have grown comfortable living in a nanny state.

Will Republicans meet the challenge in the 114th Congress. I hope so. But what about the media?  Unfortunately most of the media leans to the left, having been trained at universities and colleges (i.e., Columbia and Northwestern) that are progressive in nature and where the majority of professors are liberals.

It remains the task of millions of concerned citizens to make their voice heard through letter-writing and contacting their elected representatives to demand that our Constitution is honored and that freedom is not replaced by big government control of our lives.

[This first appeared at Illinois Review]
Categories: On the Blog

A New Year’s Resolution: Becoming a Light of Liberty

January 06, 2015, 10:30 AM

With the beginning of 2015, what might be a “New Year’s resolution” for a friend of freedom? I would suggest that one answer is for each of us to do our best to become “lights of liberty” that will attract others to the cause of freedom and the free society.

For five years, from 2003 to 2008, I had the opportunity and privilege to serve as the president of the Foundation for Economic Education. FEE, as it is also called, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read, with the precise goal of advancing an understanding of and the arguments for individual freedom, free markets, and constitutionally limited government.

One of the reasons that I accepted the position as president was that FEE had been influential in my own intellectual development in appreciating the meaning and importance of liberty from the time that I was a teenager, both through the pages of its monthly magazine, The Freeman and the books that it published and distributed at heavily discounted prices.

I wanted to assist in continuing the work that Leonard Read had begun at FEE, especially among the young whose ideas and actions would greatly influence the chances for liberty in the decades to come.

Self-Improvement as Lights of Liberty

In fact, it is now just over forty years ago, in June 1974 when I was in my mid-20s, that I first attended a weeklong FEE summer seminar at its, then, headquarters in a spacious and charming mansion building in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.

There were many impressive speakers at the seminar that week, including the famous free-market journalist, Henry Hazlitt, and the riveting Austrian School economist, Hans Sennholz.

But I must confess that I only recall the content of one of the lectures that week, delivered by Leonard Read, himself. He pointed out that many of us wish we could change the world in ways that we consider to be for the better. But changing the world can only happen through changes in the attitudes, ideas, and actions of the individual members of any society.

He asked, out of all the people in the world, over whom do you have the most influence? The answer, he said, is, obviously, yourself. Therefore, changing the world begins with improving one’s own understanding and ability to explain and persuasively articulate the case for freedom and free markets.

At one point in his talk he asked that the lights be turned off in the classroom. In the darkness he slowly started to turn up the light of an electric candle that he held in his hand, asking us to notice how all eyes were drawn to it, however dim the illumination.

As the candle brightened he pointed out that more and more of the darkness was pushed away into the corners, enabling us to see more clearly both the objects and the people in the room.

If each of us learned more about liberty, we would become ever-brighter lights in the surrounding collectivist darkness of the society in which we lived. Our individually growing enlightenment through self-education and self-improvement would slowly but surely draw others to us who might also learn the importance of freedom.

Through this process more and more human lights of freedom would sparkle in the dark until finally there would be enough of us to guide the way for others so that liberty would once again triumph. And collectivism would be pushed far back into the corners of society.

Anything That’s Peaceful and First Principles

Central to Read’s philosophy of freedom was a commitment to first principles as the Archimedean point from which the logic of liberty flows. As Read explained in his book Anything That’s Peaceful (1964):

“I mean let anyone do anything that he pleases that’s peaceful and creative; let there be no organized restraint against anything but fraud, violence, misrepresentation, predation; let anyone deliver the mail, or educate, or preach his religion or whatever, so long as it’s peaceful. Limit society’s agency of organized force – government – to juridical and policing functions . . . Let the government do this, and leave all else to the free, unfettered market!”

What are the “first principles” of liberty, and what do they imply?

Each Individual’s Right to His Own Life

Firstly, and most importantly, liberty means the right of the individual to live his own life for himself. The starting axiom of freedom is that right of the individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property.

Either the individual has “ownership” over himself, or it must be presumed that the collective, the tribe, the group has the authority to dispose of his life and the fruits of his mental and physical labors.

If he does not have a right to his own life, then he is at the mercy of the wishes, whims and coercive caprice of others who claim to speak and act in political authority in the name of “society.”

Only the individual knows what will bring happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, meaning and purpose to his own life. If this is taken away from him, then he is a slave to the purposes and brute power of others.

Respect for the Equal Rights of All

Secondly, liberty means for each of us to respect the equal right of every other individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. We cannot expect others to respect our own right to these things, if we do not, as a matter of principle, forswear any claim to their life and property.

To not recognize and abide by the reciprocity of respect for and defense of such unmolested individual rights is to abrogate any principle of human association other than force and plunder – the enslavement and spoliation by the intellectually manipulative and physically stronger over others in society.

On what basis or by what principle can we appeal not to be murdered, physically violated or robbed by others, if we do not declare and insist upon the right of each individual to his life, liberty and property, ours and everyone else’s, as a starting moral premise in society?

Voluntary Consent and Peaceful Agreement

Thirdly, this means that all human associations and relationships should be based on peaceful and voluntary consent and agreement. No one may be coerced or intimidated through the threat of force to act in any way other than he freely chooses to do.

Each of us only enters into those associations and exchanges from which we expect to be made better off, as we define and desire an improvement in our lives.

This does not mean that we often do not wish that the terms under which another is willing to trade with us would be more favorable to ourselves. But the fact that we may choose to exchange at some agreed terms that is minimally acceptable to ourselves as well as to the other person means that, all things considered, we anticipate that our circumstances will be better than if we passed up this trading opportunity.

The only time that it is clear that a trade or an association with others is not considered by us as a source of personal betterment is when we are forced or coerced into the relationship. Why would compulsion have to be used or threatened against us, if we did not view what we are being compelled to do is an action or a commitment that we evaluate as making us worse rather than better off?

 

The Mutual Respect of Private Property

Fourthly, liberty means that each individual’s honestly acquired property is respected as rightfully his, and may not be plundered or taxed away by others, even when majorities may think that some minority has not paid some supposed “fair share.”

What makes something the rightful property of an individual? When he has either appropriated unclaimed and previously unowned land and resources through their transformation in some manner through his mental and physical labor, or when he has acquired it through peaceful and non-fraudulent trade with another in exchange for something he has to offer in the form of a desired good or his labor services at voluntarily agreed-upon terms of trade.

The use of force by either private individuals or those in political authority to seize such rightful property or compel its use or sale on terms other than those freely chosen and agreed to by its owner is, therefore, unjust and indefensible in a free society.

A Free Market of Goods and Ideas

Fifthly, liberty means respect for the free, competitive interactions of people in the marketplace of goods and ideas, out of which comes the creative and innovative energy of mind and effort that bring about rising standards of living for all in society.

The free market is the arena of human association in which each individual is at liberty to make his own choices and decisions as both producer and consumer.

Yet, as has been understood since the time of Adam Smith in the eighteenth century, each individual, in his own self-interest, necessarily must apply his abilities in ways that take into consideration the circumstances and desires of others in society.

Since, in the society of liberty, no individual may acquire what he desires through murder, theft or fraud, he is left with only one avenue to obtain what others have that he wants. He must offer to those others something that he can produce or provide that those others value more highly than what they are asked to trade away to get it.

Thus, in the free market each receives in voluntary trade what they value more highly in exchange for what they value less highly. And each serves the interests of others as the means to his own end of the personal improvement of his self-defined circumstances.

Thus, the free market as a moral and starting principle eschews all forms of compelled self-sacrifice in the networks of human association.

Liberty and Limited Government

And, sixthly, a society of liberty means a limited government, a government whose purpose is to protect each individual in his freedom and peaceful market and social affairs, and is not to be an agency of political oppression or economic favoritism through special privileges and benefits that are given to some at the expense of others in society.

Compulsory redistribution of wealth and income, and regulatory coercions over the means and methods of production, and the peaceful buying and selling of goods and services are all inconsistent with the ideal of a society of free men and women, each secure in their individual rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property.

These are not easy rules and ideals to live by, but they are what America was founded upon and made it originally great as a land of liberty – a land of both wide individual freedom and rising prosperity.

Winning Others Over to Liberty, One Person at a Time

They are, also, ideas not always easy to get others around us to understand and appreciate the way we see them, ourselves. This gets us back to Leonard Read’s conception of self-improvement in our own understanding of what he called the “freedom philosophy.”

Our New Year’s resolution should be to do all that we individually can to better understand the principles of liberty, their logic, their moral rightness, and their convincing application to the political and economic issues of our day.

As we each become more enlightened and articulate spokespersons for freedom we widen the circle of people able to persuasively draw others into that illumination of liberty. And step-by-step, one person at a time, the supporters and advocates of collectivism will be reduced and the proponents and enthusiasts for freedom will be increased.

Make it your goal, therefore, to bring at least one person over to the cause of liberty in 2015, and if we all do this we will have, at a minimum, doubled the friends of freedom in this New Year. If we repeat this same process of reasoned persuasion in 2016, that larger number can and will be doubled again. And, then, again in 2017, and 2018, and . . .

Through this means of peaceful persuasion the friends of freedom can become the majority of Americans in our own lifetime. All it requires is enough of us willing to try.

 

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Future is Arriving Faster Than Ever

January 06, 2015, 10:08 AM

On the last day of 2014 I received a lapel pin from the Society of Professional Journalists in honor of my having been a member since 1979, thirty-five years ago. I confess I was a little stunned to think I had been an editor and reporter that long ago. Indeed, I had been one for several years even before I joined the Society.

 I doubt that today’s generation of young journalists have ever used a manual typewriter nor know what it feels like to hold the pieces of metal that a linotype machine created to make a column of newsprint.

 In theory journalism still has the same objectives; to get the facts and tell the story as objectively as possible.
Today, however, journalism has become far more subjective and the issue of bias blazes off the pages and from the television screen in terms of the selection of the events that are reported and the facts selected to be the news.

 There is an old saying in newsrooms that reporters are liberal and editors are conservative, but these days much of what appears on editorial pages and in the print and broadcast news is a blatant liberal interpretation of what is or is not news.

 This old journalist cannot escape the feeling that what we are reading much of the time is little more than a government press release handout. Sadly, I think we are witnessing a significant reduction of investigative journalism in the mainstream media. Fortunately that void is filled in these days by Internet sites that focus on various elements of the news occurring in the nation and the world.

 It was not, for example, a journalist who discovered the truth about Jonathan Gruber and his role in creating ObamaCare. He’s now famous for calling voters “stupid.”

 These days, according to the Pew Research Journalism Project, “Even at a time of fragmenting media use, television remains the dominant way that Americans get news at home, according to a (2013) Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen data. And while the largest audiences tune into local and network broadcast news, it is national cable news that commands the most attention from its viewers.”

I suspect that the many new communications technologies will be the means by which people will get their news from ipads and similar devices. I feel positively ancient when I open the print edition of The Wall Street Journal, but I wouldn’t want to read it any other way. The same applies to reading a book.

In his 1970 book, “Future Shock”, Alvin Toffler warned that by the year 2000, technological advance would come so fast that they will actually make people’s lives more complex, not less. He called it “information overload” saying “Millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future, which will lead to distorted perceptions of reality, confusion, and fatigue.”

Now ask yourself if you’ve become accustomed to people walking down the sidewalk apparently talking out loud to themselves when in fact they are on a cell phone? Indeed, I rarely get in an elevator or go anywhere without seeing people who are looking at a device in their hand with which they are checking their email or conversing with someone. They are, however, literally cut off from any inter-relation with anyone around them, often oblivious to what is occurring.

Think now of how many passwords, remote controls, onboard navigation systems, and Internet search engines with which you interact every day. These are all relatively new technology even though they may seem to have always existed to millennials and younger folk.

Another futurist, R. Buckminster Fuller, an American philosopher and architect—inventor of the geodesic dome—predicted that by the year 2000, the world would have figured out how to eliminate poverty and hunger. We have made great progress with regard to growing abundant crops, but of course those who hate and fear any new way to benefit society are presently campaigning against genetically modified crops (GMOs). They are safe but many large food providers like McDonald’s are giving into the pressure from groups who claim they pose a health threat. They do not. Demands that GMO elements be listed on product labels are part of a despicable campaign against this extraordinary agricultural technology that enhances, protects, and increases crops.

As for poverty, Fuller’s prediction did not come true. The future that has arrived since he made the prediction requires a higher level of education for most jobs and computer skills to perform them. If you’re poor, you face an immediate obstacle trying to learn how to operate and own a computer.

At the same time, robots have replaced workers such as bank tellers. When I call customer service these days, I generally end up talking to a machine. Isaac Asimov, one of the 20th century’s most highly regarded science fiction writers, predicted in 1942 that robots would be so ubiquitous that he proposed “Three Laws of Robotics.” The prime law was that a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being come to harm. We haven’t quite reached the point Asimov envisioned, but we are getting there.

In terms of how new technologies have occurred in my lifetime, it is fair to say that the future is arriving even more swiftly than it did in the past.

My Mother who at age 98 had lived through virtually the entire last century recalled how amazed she was when a box with earphones was her introduction to the first radio. Born in 1903 when the first Wright Brothers plane flight occurred, she lived to see men rocket to the Moon and airplane travel largely replace trains. 1903 was also the year Henry Ford founded his company and five years later began to roll out the first Model T.  Affordable automobiles transformed American society.

Since we live in an era of change we are often unaware of how greatly the newest technology will affect our lives, but we know we want to have it and use it. That is why, if I may return to my starting point, it is ever more essential that the news that journalists provide is even more important to our lives in terms of how accurately they report the changes affecting it.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Greg Lawson: Economic and Ethical Arguments for Workplace Freedom in the Midwest

January 06, 2015, 9:15 AM

Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions Policy Analyst Greg Lawson joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the economic and ethical arguments for workplace freedom in the Midwest, and the rest of the country. In many states, union membership in some places of work is mandatory, forcing individuals to choose between working somewhere else and having their paycheck involuntarily deducted to fund union political activities.

In 2013, Indiana and Michigan enacted laws to allow workers to decide whether to join a workplace union or not, and other states have begun exploring the idea. Lawson explains how workplace freedom laws spread from state to state, noting that Ohio, a “forced-union state,” may soon be surrounded by states without such laws.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Even Republicans And GMO-Friendly Executives Are Caving To Insane Anti-GMO Demands

January 06, 2015, 8:20 AM

Instead of fretting over Sony’s sheepish release of a movie depicting the assassination of Kim Jong-un, consider how your grocery bill will look in 2015 if we accede to the anti-scientific demands of Europe, China, Russia, and Japan.

Long before every American household had a car, most American farmers owned tractors. The radio, GPS, handheld computers; farmers embrace new technology because they work harder and possess a profound appreciation for risk. This is why American, Canadian, Australian and Indian farmers have all embraced genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), crops that address these risks, while using less fossil fuel.

 This bothers urban organic activists who claim efficiency on the farm threatens the environment and makes us all fat. They’ve launched 67 initiatives to label or ban GMOs in half the states across America, much to the delight of their comrades in Europe, China, Russia and Japan. In response, pro-GMO executives will spend massive amounts of money fighting these initiatives, only to quietly cave in in the end.

Take for instance the recent decision by McDonald’s Restaurants to reject GMO potatoes; a repeat of what happened back in 2001. Organic activists failed to scare American potato farmers away from growing GMO potatoes the way they scared wheat and flax farmers; so they went after the fast-food industry instead, and McDonalds collapsed like a Happy Meal driven over by an 18-wheeler. And rather than counter with a science-based offensive, the CEO of the U.S. National Potato Council (NPC), John Keeling, decided instead to do nothing.

It gets worse. The future for GMO farming now rests on a tenuous plan to try to magically sweep away all of the organic movement’s anti-GMO initiatives by agreeing to allow GMO foods to be labelled at the national level, voluntarily. If bipartisan support for the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” bill didn’t convince you of the dangers of bipartisanship in Washington, just wait ‘til you see how this “magical” bill being championed with bipartisan support by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo plays out.

Categories: On the Blog

White House Climate Lunacy

January 05, 2015, 3:27 PM

As January 2014 arrived with a blast of cold air ominously dubbed the “polar vortex”, the White House released a video in which the Chief Science Advisor to President Obama, Dr. John Holdren, managed to get on both sides of it, declaring the “extreme cold” to be “a pattern that we expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.” How the Earth is getting both colder and warmer at the same time defies reality, but that is of little concern to Dr. Holdren and, indeed, the entire global warming—now called climate change–hoax.

Earlier, in November 2013, the White House made Dr. Holdren available to social media saying he would answer “any questions that you have about climate change…”  As noted by Jim Lakely, Communications Director of The Heartland Institute, the invitation welcomed questions “but only if they conform to the notion that human activity is causing a climate crisis, and restricting human activity by government direction can ‘fight it.’” The answers would have to wait “because the White House social media experts are having a hard time sifting through the wreckage of their ill-conceived campaign and finding the very few that conform to Holdren’s alarmist point of view.”

Sadly, in addition to the United Nations where the hoax originated and any number of world leaders including our President and Secretary of State, Pope Francis has announced that he too believes the Earth is warming. Someone should tell him that it has been in a natural cooling cycle going on twenty years at this point!

Of course, such facts mean nothing to Dr. Holdren and even less to the President. That is why we are likely to not only hear more about climate change from him, but also discover that the White House intends the last two years of Obama’s term in office to be an all-out effort to impose restrictions and find reasons to throw money at the hoax. Dr. Holdren was no doubt a major contributor to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy initiative announced on December 3rd.

This “Climate Action Plan” called the “Climate Education and Literacy Initiative” is primarily directed at spreading the hoax in the nation’s classrooms and via various government entities as the National Park Service so they can preach it to the 270 million people who visit the nation’s 401 parks each year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will sponsor five regional workshops for educators and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with the American Geosciences Institute and the National Center for Science Education will launch four videos likely to be shown in schools.

Joining the White House will be the Alliance for Climate Education, the American Meteorological Society, the Earth Day Network, Green Schools Alliance, and others. It adds up to a massive climate change propaganda campaign, largely paid for with taxpayer funding.

The “science” that will be put forward will be as unremittingly bogus as we have been hearing and reading since the late 1980s when the global warming hoax was launched.

When Dr. Holdren faced a 2009 confirmation hearing, he moved away from his early doomsday views on climate change, population growth, and the possibilities of nuclear war. Though warned by William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute that Dr. Holdren had “a 40-year record of outlandish scientific assertions, consistently wrong predictions, and dangerous public policy choices” that made him “unfit to serve as the White House Science Advisor”, the committee voted unanimously to confirm him. They should have read some of his published views.

Regrettably Congress generally goes along with the climate change hoax. Dr. Holdren noted that “Global change research (did) well in the 2013 budget. One can look at that as a reaffirmation of our commitment to addressing the climate change challenge. There’s $2.6 billion in the budget for the United States Global Change Research Program.”

Let me repeat that. $2.6 BILLION devoted to “research” on global warming or climate change. One must assume it is devoted to finding ways for mankind to cope with the non-existent global warming or the threat of a climate change about which mankind can do nothing. It is comparable to saying that humans can get the Sun to increase or decrease its radiation.

In June 2014, Ron Arnold, the executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and Washington Examiner columnist, noted that Dr. Holdren has long held the view that the U.S. should “de-develop” its “over-developed” economy.

That likely explains the Obama administration’s attack on the use of coal, particularly in utilities that use it to generate electricity. In the six years since the policy has been pursued by the EPA, coal-fired utilities have been reduced from providing fifty percent of the nation’s electricity to forty percent. Less energy means less investment in new business and industrial manufacturing, less jobs, and less safety for all of us who depend on electricity in countless ways.

Arnold reported that “Holdren wrote his de-development manifesto with Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the scaremongering authors of the Sierra Club book, ‘The Population Bomb.’” Aside from the fact that every prediction in the book has since proven to be wrong, but it was clear then and now that Dr. Holdren is no fan of the human population of the planet. Like most deeply committed environmentalists, it is an article of faith that the planet’s problems are all the result of human activity, including its weather.

In December 2014, Dr. Holdren expressed the view that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions should be reduced to “close to zero”, adding “That will not be easy.”  This reflected the deal President Obama agreed to with China, but carbon dioxide plays no discernable role whatever in “global warming” (which isn’t happening) and is, in fact, a gas essential to all life on Earth, but particularly for all vegetation that is dependent on it for growth.

Dr. Holdren’s continued presence as the chief Science Advisor to the President encourages Obama to repeat all the tired claims and falsehoods of global warming and climate change. It is obscene that his administration devotes billions of dollars and countless hours to spreading a hoax that is an offense to the alleged “science” it cites.

Categories: On the Blog

Will FCC Grant Congress Legislative Deference?

January 05, 2015, 3:05 PM

Isn’t Congress due the same deference from the FCC that the FCC expects from the courts?

Will the FCC defer to the new Congress for a reasonable period of time so it can pass consensus on net neutrality legislation?

For the last year, ISPs have respected the FCC’s net neutrality rules, despite the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order being overturned by an appeals court last January.

What irreparable harm would occur if the FCC deferred to Congress, the source of all its existing and future legal authority, for a reasonable period of time in order to resolve this issue most legitimately?

A U.S. Supreme Court precedent called “Chevron Deference” is central to the FCC’s legal calculus of whether it can reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service for the implicit purpose of imposing a permanent zero-price on downstream Internet traffic.

“Chevron” is the Supreme Court precedent that grants administrative agencies like the FCC deference in interpreting the law if “the intent of Congress is clear” and the “agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

Per a recent press report, Congress is working on introducing legislation to provide the FCC with the legal authority that the FCC says it needs to enforce net neutrality “rules of the road.”

Apparently the proposal would be a straightforward compromise to settle this protracted and unnecessary controversy.

Congress would create a new “Title X” that would put into law the net neutrality protections that President Obama publicly called for in November, and grant the FCC the authority to prevent ISP blocking of content, throttling of traffic, and “paid prioritization.”

With this modern direct legal authority to preserve the open Internet, the FCC then would have no need to apply 1934 Title II, common carrier law to the Internet.

Why is FCC legislative deference to Congress so important?

The whole purpose of the Chevron Deference precedent is to ensure that both the courts and independent agencies like the FCC defer to the clear intent and language of Congress’ statutes.

Chevron is all about enforcing the actual direct authority granted by Congress in law, and not having courts, or an independent agency like the FCC, try and effectively create new law absent Congress.

The reality is that “net neutrality,” Internet “blocking,” “throttling” or “paid prioritization” are terms and concepts not found in archaic communications law.

That is the core reason why the FCC’s attempts to effectively legislate new law and policy absent Congress were overturned by the courts in Comcast v. FCC and in Verizon v. FCC.

Someday, the FCC will need Congress to update its authority for the Internet age. Why shouldn’t the FCC start working cooperatively with Congress now?

The bottom line here is that everything that the FCC is and does ultimately comes from Congress.

The FCC is an agency that is “independent” from the executive branch, but not independent of the legislative branch, its constitutional master, or the courts, its constitutional check and balance.

At bottom, how does the unelected FCC want to publicly start off its relationship with the newly elected Congress?

Does the FCC want to respond constructively to a good faith effort by Congress to resolve the FCC’s publicly stated net neutrality enforcement problem, on a bipartisan basis, and more quickly than the courts can, by deferring its proceeding for a reasonable period of time?

Or does the FCC want to reject Congress’ help and authority, and rush ahead on a Title II path that could cause unnecessary irreparable harm to the Internet, consumers, industry and the FCC?

How the FCC chooses to publicly start its relationship with the new Congress will speak volumes.

[This was first published in the Daily Caller]
Categories: On the Blog

A Year of Futility in Fight Against Climate Change

January 05, 2015, 2:56 PM

The year 2014 was another year of futility in the fight against climate change. Climatists redoubled efforts to convince citizens that urgent action is needed to stop dangerous global warming. But the gap between public warnings and actual events produced an endless stream of climate irony.

January began with a frosty bang as an arctic air mass descended on the central United States, following a similar event in December. What was once called a cold snap is now ominously christened a “polar vortex.” Record-low daily temperatures were recorded from Minnesota to Boston, along with all-time seasonal snowfalls in many cities.

In a White House video released on Jan. 8, John Holdren, chief science advisor to President Obama, made the paradoxical statement: “But a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”

Also in January, passengers of the research ship Akademik Shokalskiy were rescued after the ship was locked in ice for 10 days near the Antarctic coast. The expedition led by professor Chris Turney had intended to study how weather patterns near Antarctica were changing because of man-made global warming.

On Feb. 16, during a presentation in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change was “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Only two days later, protestors set fire to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, leading to the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. In March, Russia seized the Crimea. In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, and political unrest continues today. In the Middle East, slaughter of innocent civilians and beheading of western captives became a growing trend. Man-made climate casualties seem remarkably scarce in comparison.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations released “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” The report said that man-made climate change would reduce world agricultural output. Lead author Dr. Mark Howden stated: “There’s increasing evidence that climate change is also impacting on agriculture, particularly on some of the cereal crops such as wheat and maize. The negative impacts are greater and quicker than we previously thought.”

Meanwhile, farmers continued to ignore the warnings of the IPCC. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, world agricultural production set all-time records for all three major cereal crops in 2014, with rice output up 1.1 percent, wheat up 11.2 percent, and corn up a whopping 14 percent over 2013.

The Obama administration continued its attack on coal-fired power plants, which provide about 40 percent of U.S. electricity. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new restrictions on carbon emissions that would make it virtually impossible to build a new coal-fired plant in the United States. At the same time, more than 1,200 new coal-fired plants are planned across the world, with two-thirds to be built in India and China.

In his 2007 Noble Prize acceptance speech, former Vice President Al Gore warned that the arctic ice could be gone in “as little as seven years.” But arctic sea ice rebounded in 2014 and Antarctic sea ice has been growing for decades. According to the University of Illinois, satellites measured global sea ice area at above the 30-year average at the end of 2014.

In September, the United Nations held a climate summit in New York City to urge the world to conserve energy and reduce emissions. Spokesman Leonardo DiCaprio stated, “This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make.” Mr. DiCaprio neglected to mention his frequent flights on carbon-emitting private jets or his ownership of the world’s fifth largest yacht, purchased from a Middle East oil tycoon.

In October, climate skeptics reported the 18th straight year of flat global temperatures. Satellite data shows no temperature increase since 1997. The “pause” in global warming is now old enough to vote or to serve in the military.

Hurricanes and tornados are favored events for generating alarming climate headlines, but U.S. weather events were few in 2014. U.S. tornado activity was below average and the lack of strong hurricanes continued. No Category 3 or stronger hurricane has made U.S. landfall for more than eight years, the longest period since records began in 1900.

With all the climate fun in 2014, what will 2015 hold?

 

[This was first published in the Providence Journal]
Categories: On the Blog

NOW SHOWING! The Hack that Ate the Internet Ecosystem!

January 05, 2015, 2:43 PM

Recently Sony Pictures became the most recent victim of hackers. This hack captured American attention in ways that many previous hacks had not despite the seriousness of each of them largely because of the trove of private embarrassing emails, sensitive employee information such as salary negotiations and results, and intellectual property being made public. Attention was further driven by scandalous, sensationalist headlines…repeatedly. Tinsel Town lives in a bubble, disconnected from the rest of the country, much like Washington, DC, so when something goes awry in these places the national schadenfreude is wide spread. In this case, things went wrong in both places.

While the attack on Sony, if not a traditional act of war, certainly goes well beyond some hackers on a lark. This should demand the serious attention of the public. That some blamed the victim or took advantage of the situation is shocking.

Those who blame the company for taking a wrong turn where national security is concerned by delaying the release of the “Interview” are baffling. Doesn’t national security responsibility rest on Capitol Hill and the White House rather than a movie studio? Would we blame a hostage taken by ISIS for placing our Navy Seals at risk? Regardless of what Sony does with its property it can hardly be accused of making a “mistake.” To the extent a mistake was made, it was that cybersecurity legislation was not made law, or even that Washington has not seemingly taken cybersecurity as seriously as it should as it is a very real very present threat to national security and to our individual liberty.

Others went so far as to try to create a side show to this international attack by spinning up a policy debate about copyright, referencing some stolen emails from Sony employees discussing the harm of ongoing copyright piracy. That Sony Pictures or that its trade association, the Motion Picture Association of America, are concerned about the harm of people stealing their property is hardly shocking. With tens of billions of dollars in direct economic harm at stake, that they may appeal to the government for greater protection of intellectual property via laws or law enforcement should catch absolutely no one by surprise.

These sorts antics distract from the very real issue at hand – that the Internet ecosystem is under attack and as such the entire ecosystem needs to respond, not be divided. True success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires cooperation with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. The distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity can be an island. Stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all.

In fact, as the Pew Charitable Trust Internet and American Life Project a notable percentage of Americans have not yet adopted broadband, or have stopped using it, because they believe the benefits of use are outweighed by the risk or a lack of compelling uses.  If the Internet becomes, or is perceived to have become, a mere tool to facilitate illegal activity whether copyright theft, property damage, financial fraud, drug sales, human trafficking or other things then all in the ecosystem from service providers to content producers to Internet companies lose.

Cyber security should be the focus. Trying to turn this most recent hack attack into some sort of Internet reality show episode is disturbing. To fixate on information gained in the hack seems a bit small, ignoring the warlike criminal behavior while attacking the victim over revealed competitive decisions problematic. All entities in the ecosystem must be proactive. Government, individuals and companies we must all be alert and focused. And when the ecosystem is attacked we all must focus on the attack not focus on attacking each other.

Categories: On the Blog

Survival Prospects for ObamaCare in 2015

January 05, 2015, 2:32 PM

Now that Republicans have control of Congress, they could possibly keep their promise to repeal ObamaCare—except for two immediate obstacles. One of course is the threat of the Presidential veto. Another is the already apparent willingness of craven politicians to surrender pre-emptively.

Once a government benefit is given, it becomes politically suicidal to take it back—at least in a way that people can see. There are likely a million or more Americans who are reveling in “having healthcare for the first time in their lives.” Or so the Administration’s messaging would have us believe. People are not yet onto the difference between having an insurance card and getting prompt medical attention. It may be years before a new beneficiary develops a serious illness and finds out that his policy is worthless. But he will know immediately if his subsidy is taken away, and the plan demands several hundred dollars every month. And the media will be on it instantly.

Lots of articulate and influential people are making out well: navigators, consultants, administrators, insurance plans, some doctors and hospitals. They don’t want to lose their benefits either. Every dollar that the government takes from a taxpayer is income to somebody.

But as the costs start to be felt, and certain sweeteners expire, the question may well be not “can ObamaCare be repealed?”, but “can it be implemented?”

“Fannie Med” is beginning to implode. One taxpayer-backed insurance “co-op” is heading into bankruptcy in Iowa and Nebraska. As nonprofits, co-ops are not subject to accountability to shareholders, and have tended to underprice their products. They may try to game ObamaCare rules, undercutting competitors to capture market share, likely driving normal insurers out of the market. When revenues fail to cover obligations, they count on ObamaCare’s reinsurance and risk-corridor safety nets. But these benefits are limited and will expire. CoOpportunity Health cut it too close. Any competitors that it displaced may be gone forever.

The Department of Health and Human Services poured $1.9 billion into two dozen co-ops now responsible for 450,000 Americans. What happens when the government fails as venture capitalist? Taxpayers take the loss. And what happens to its subscribers when an insurer runs out of money?

Millions of Americans are supposed to get coverage through expansion of Medicaid. But the bait-and-switch tactic is being exposed. The federal government promised to cover 100 percent of the additional costs—at first. In 2017, the support is cut to 95 percent, and by 2020 to 90 percent. That may still sound generous, but states will be hard pressed to come up with 10s or 100s of millions of dollars—$78 million for little Utah.

And who will see the patients? Primary-care physicians got a temporary (two year) fee boost of about 40 percent, funded by $5.6 billion from the federal government. As this runs out, some doctors will see pay cuts of more than 47 percent if states don’t take up the slack. Maybe doctors will have to continue caring for current patients, lest they be accused of abandonment, but will they accept new Medicaid patients?

Come April, Americans will be having to tell the IRS about their insurance status, and pay an additional “tax” if it doesn’t meet requirements. Employers face onerous new reporting requirements come New Year’s Day, and the delayed employer mandate kicks in. But at least the economic outlook is rosy, right?

The economy purportedly “grew” by $140 billion in the third quarter of 2014—through what has been called fabricated fudging.At the same time, Americans became $80 billion poorer. How did that happen? Americans dug into their savings and spent billions on the “Affordable” Care Act.

And here is where ObamaCare, like mistletoe growing on a tree, may reach its limit. Already, some 25 percent of the uninsured are choosing not to enroll, preferring the tax to the premiums. What happens when people simply cannot pay? How much more can ObamaCare bleed from taxpayers, productive businesses, and Americans who are not yet destitute? And what happens when the medical system can sustain the load no longer?

ObamaCare can’t survive if the economy doesn’t. Is there no other way to free our country from this and other government overgrowth?

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Administration Kicks the Oil-and-Gas Industry While it is Down

January 05, 2015, 1:12 PM

For the past six years, the oil and gas industry has served as a savior to the Obama presidency by providing the near-lone bright spot in economic growth. Increased U.S. oil-and-gas production has created millions of well-paying jobs and given us a new energy security. The president often peppers his speeches with braggadocio talk about our abundant supplies and decreased dependence on foreign oil.

 So now that the economic powerhouse faces hard times, how does the Administration show its appreciation for the oil-and-gas industry boon to the economy over the past six years?

 By introducing a series of regulations—at least nine in total, according to the Wall Street journal (WSJ)—that will put the brakes on the US energy boom through higher operating costs and fewer incentives to drill on public lands.

 WSJ states: “Mr. Obama and his environmental backers say new regulations are needed to address the impacts of the surge in oil and gas drilling.”

 U.S. oil production, according to the Financial Times: “caught Saudi Arabia by surprise.” The kingdom sees that US shale and Canadian oil-sand development “encroached on OPEC’s market share” and has responded with a challenge to high-cost sources of production by upping its output—adding to the global oil glut and, therefore, dropping prices.

 Most oil-market watchers expect temporary low-priced oil, with prediction of an increase in the second half of 2015, and some saying 2016. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness believes “We’re in an energy war.” He sees “the price slump could last 16 months or even one to two years as U.S. supply stays strong, global demand remains weak and OPEC continues to challenge U.S. production.” However, Ibrahim al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, recently said: “We have the ability to endure low oil prices over the medium term of up to five years, even if it means delving into fiscal reserves to cover a large deficit.”

 While no one knows how long the low-price scenario will last—geopolitical risk is still a factor.

 Many oil companies are already re-evaluating exploration, reining in costs, and cutting jobs and/or wages. “In the low price circumstance like today,” Jean-Marie Guillermou, the Asian head of the French oil giant Total, explained: “you do the strict minimum required.”

 In December, the WSJ reported: “Some North American companies have said they plan to cut their capital spending next year and dial back on exploring for new oil.” It quotes Tim Dove, President and COO for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.: “We are seeking cost reductions from all our suppliers.”

 Last month, Enbridge Energy Partners said: “it has laid off some workers in the Houston area”—which the Houston Chronicle (HC) on December 12 called: “the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.” The HC continued: “Other key energy companies have also announced layoffs in recent days as oil tumbles to its lowest price in years. Halliburton on Thursday said it would slash 1,000 jobs in the Eastern Hemisphere as part of a $75 million restructuring. BP on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate job cuts and pare back its oil production business amid crumbling oil prices.” Halliburton said: “we believe these job eliminations are necessary in order to work through this market environment.”

 Civeo, a lodging and workforce accommodation company for the oil-and-gas industry has cut 30 percent of its Canadian workforce and 45 percent of its U.S. workforce. President and CEO Bradley Dodson said: “As it became evident during the fourth quarter that capital spending budgets among the major oil companies were going to be cut, we began taking steps to reduce marketed room capacity, control costs and curtail discretionary capital expenditures.”

 I have warned the industry that while they have remained relatively unscathed by harsh regulations—such as those placed on electricity generation—their time would come. Now, it has arrived. The WSJ concurs: “In its first six years, the administration released very few regulations directly affecting the oil-and-gas industry and instead rolled out several significant rules aimed at cutting air pollution from the coal and electric-utility sectors.”

 According to the WSJ: “Some of the rules have been in the works for months or even years.” But that doesn’t mean the administration should introduce them now when the industry is already down—after all, the administration delayed Obamacare mandates due to the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

 Greg Guidry, executive vice president at Shell, recently said that he doesn’t want the EPA to “impose unnecessary costs and burden on an industry challenged now by a sustained low-price environment.”

 Different from Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it. Under pressure from the environmental lobby to increase regulations on the oil-and-gas industry, he, during a question session on the floor of the House of Commons in December, said: “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy—it would be crazy economic policy—to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” He added: “We are not going to kill jobs and we are not going to impose a carbon tax.”

 Introducing the new rules now kick the industry while it is down and shows that President Obama either doesn’t get it, or he cares more about burnishing his environmental legacy than he does about American jobs and economic growth.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Quast: Hydraulic Fracturing Ban in New York

January 05, 2015, 9:15 AM

New York has made headlines and history by becoming the first state with significant deposits of natural gas to ban hydraulic fracturing. The decision was announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and came on the heels of the release of a controversial new study by the New York Department of Public Health which claims there is not enough evidence to prove that fracking is safe. However, studies used to bolster these claims have been widely discredited by state health officials around the country.

Research Fellow Isaac Orr and his special guest David Quast from Energy In Depth discuss the flaws in the “science” used to justify the ban, the economic impact it will have for the citizens of New York, and the broader implications this ban could potentially have on the industry in other states.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin #4, January 5, 2015: The Iceman Cometh

January 05, 2015, 1:07 AM

Weather Bulletin #4, January 5, 2015

Temperatures in the coastal city of Syracuse in Sicily, dropped to record or near record lows on December 31 and again on January 2. January is typically the coldest month of the year in Syracuse, but the average low temperature according to Best of Sicily is a relatively balmy 50 degrees. In addition to unusually low temperatures, Syracuse rang in the year with a historic snowfall – something that had never happened before.

Indeed, snow and ice struck, and stuck, across much of Europe in late December, leaving thousands of homes without power in Britain, with accompanying high winds closing France’s port of Calais. While the French Alps welcomed the snowfall, so much snow fell so fast, traffic jams occurred resulting in fewer than 7,000 of 36,000 drivers expected to reach the alpine region of Savoie. France established emergency shelters for the thousands forced to spend the night on the road.

Meanwhile back in the United States, The National Weather Service (NWS) announced on Jan. 3 almost half of the U.S. should expect severe winter. Much of the eastern seaboard, including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been placed under a winter weather advisory. In New Hampshire, snow squalls have already led to massive highway pileups with whiteout conditions causing accidents involving 35 vehicles on one interstate.

It’s not just the North East and New England suffering under winter’s icy spell, however, as frozen water pipes exploded around Denver, leaving many residents without potable water. Southern California also experienced unusual cold and significant snowfall, with the town of Julian receiving six inches of snow.

Meanwhile, many residents of Hawaii experienced a white Christmas and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Big Island have received blizzard warnings from National Weather Service which warned those traveling to these mountains’ could face life-threatening conditions.

Nor, evidently, will the Midwest or Southern states being spared the winter freeze. The coldest air of the season will plunge into the Midwest, bringing to mind the worst of last year’s polar vortex experience.

The Weather Channel predicts two rounds of arctic cold will hit the U.S. The first blast has already begun, pushing below freezing as far south as Amarillo, Texas.

Starting Monday almost the entire states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin can expect to see extended days of subzero lows, with 20 below zero in northern Minnesota. The cold, accompanied by high winds are expected to deliver dangerous wind chills, with wind chill warnings out for much of the Upper Midwest. Several locations, including International Falls, Minnesota, already saw wind chills in the 40s below zero Sunday evening.

According to the Weather Channel, “High temperatures Monday will be up to 25 degrees below average for areas around Lake Michigan, including single-digit highs for much of Wisconsin and Michigan.”

 

The second round of freezing weather is expected to result in high temperatures up to 35 degrees below average in parts of the Midwest. For instance, “Chicago may see a subzero high temperature on Wednesday. The last time the mercury did not reach zero there was on January 6 of last year. Chicago may also set a daily record cold high temperature on Wednesday (current record is 3 degrees set just last year) and a record low temperature on Thursday morning (current record is 10 degrees below zero).”

 

Minneapolis will experience its coldest temperatures this season with lows as much as 15 degrees below zero expected in the Twin Cities early in the week.

New Yorkers can expected to see a nearly weeklong spell of below 32 degrees temperatures, and while Houston and New Orleans could get a break from their dreaded humidity as temperatures fall to the low 20’s by Thursday morning.

Cold is breaking out all over and the summer is a long way off. Tis the season for global warming alarmists to claim global warming causes record cooling.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold

January 04, 2015, 6:22 PM

The first edition of Edmund Contoski’s book,The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold was excellent, and would be an outstanding textbook in a college economics course. The second edition, released in November 2014, is even better, because he has added significant new chapters, focusing on issues such as the world’s gold economy, alternative currencies, and Keynesian economics’ logical inconsistency.

In my opinion, this book ranks among those written by Adam Smith, Frederick Bastiat, and Ludwig Von Mises. Understanding Contoski’s message will make a reader a more effective participant in the fight to fix our country’s flawed economic policies.

By reading Contoski’s clearly-written book—a rare trait among economics books—one gains an understanding of just what money is. By inflating the money supply beyond the amount of resources supporting currency reserves, readers will learn, governments are the cause of all recessions.

The world is effectively covered in fiat money, paper unrepresentative of value from physical resources, Contoski explains.

The author explains the history of bank notes and checks and that fiat money descended from the receipts given by goldsmiths, the keepers of a valuable physical resource. Contoski also tells entertaining true stories of intrigue, such as how a single individual working at Goldman Sachs was able to keep Greece’s debt crisis from becoming public knowledge for years, collecting $300 million as a reward.

This, and other parts of the gold story, read like a best-selling mystery thriller.

He makes the failure of Fannie and Freddie easy to comprehend, naming thethe politicians who created the housing bubble which began with the Community Reinvestment Act, and expanded through FHA and various HUD housing mandates, involving characters such as Janet Reno to Barack Obama

Another true story, which reads like a best-selling mystery thriller, is Contoski’s retelling of some of President Richard Nixon’s economic measures to shift the American monetary system to a fiat system.

When one reads Contoski’s common-sense approach to economics, one begins to wonder\ how government gets it so wrong. In a free market, he tells us, every transaction benefits both sides, according to their own judgment. If a transaction did not benefit all parties, they would not participate in the transaction.

However, in transactions forced by government, it is a win-lose game, because government seeks to benefit one side by imposing loss on the other.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in a society,” French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat wrote, “they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

Throughout his book, Contoski provides evidence that we live in such a society. The Founding Fathers, Contoski explains, feared the evolution of such a system, in which politicians enacted policies by force, declaring such unilateral actions as beneficial to all.

Un-Convention-al Suggestions

This fear is coming true, Contoski writes, as government actions and regulations become more aggressive.

On a positive note, however, The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold is refreshing, because of the author’s pragmatic recognition of the improbability that any single politician will solve the nation’s economic problems.

Because of individual politicians’ desire to win votes by pleasing their constituents, Contoski concludes that a constitutional convention to change the rules by which government plays represents a solution more likely to succeed.

State legislators, he writes, should be willing to call for a convention, to retake their power over the government’s operation. At some point during the nation’s history, the states allowed themselves to become subservient to the federal government, an outcome our Founding Fathers would have found undesirable.

Additionally, Contoski describes a simple set of amendments he believes would meet with widespread approval during a constitutional convention, putting our nation back on its intended track.

Some examples supported by the author include reforming the Electoral College and a Balanced Budget Amendment punishing legislators with forced resignation, should the national government fail to balance its checkbook.

Other suggested reforms include the restoration of the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution, repealing The Federal Reserve Act and restoring the interpretation of “interstate commerce.”

My favorite suggestion, though, is official recognition of the right to pursue happiness, a reform which would eliminate government control over which crops we plant and which light bulbs or bathroom showerheads we install in our homes.

“Either we return to the principles on which this country was founded which were the basis for its success,” Contoski soberly concludes, “or we face a bleak future.”

Clearly, this outstanding text is a cautionary tale worth reading by anyone who has a serious interest in our economy.

I rarely rate the books I review, but economics books—often called “the dismal science”—sometimes scare readers away. Giving this book “five stars” may encourage people to pick up this enjoyable and informative book.

Categories: On the Blog

How the Left Wants to Eradicate Planes, Trains and Automobiles by Shutting Off Their Financial Fuel

January 04, 2015, 10:11 AM

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is not just the name of Steve Martin and John Candy’s 1987 everything-goes-wrong comedy film. It’s also the prospective casualty list of the foundation-led anti-fossil-fuel campaign called the Divest-Invest movement.

The new crusade “responds to climate change by urging universities, churches, pension funds and other big institutional investors” to destroy petroleum and coal companies by dumping their shares and reinvesting in a “fossil-free clean-energy economy,” modeled loosely on the anti-apartheid activism of the 1980s.

In the past two years, dozens of public and private institutions have announced plans to divest fossil fuels from their portfolios. In August, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance white paper quoted one executive as saying Divest-Invest is “one of the fastest-moving debates I think I’ve seen in my 30 years in markets.”

The debate made headlines at the U.N. Climate Summit in September, where the “Divest-Invest Global Movement” delivered divestment pledges from 50 “philanthropic” foundations and more than 700 participating institutions and individuals” worth more than $50 billion.

At the United Nations, a small, functional “secretariat” was created to “survey all existing and pending Divest-Invest commitments, vetted by a committee of movement leaders.” That gave a patina of legitimacy to a “grassroots-driven movement” that was actually a “foundation grant-driven movement.”

Does all this hype matter? It could.

Even though there’s scant chance the movement can purge the nearly $5 trillion in oil and gas equities, the Bloomberg analysts think that “coal divestment could be relatively easy,” with existing shares worth less than 5 percent of oil and gas equities and large institutional investors much less invested in coal.

And an Oxford University “Stranded Assets” study asked, “What does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?” It found that dumping stocks may not even be necessary to destroy the oil and gas industry because “stigmatizing” can do it.

“[T]he stigmatization process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain. Any direct impacts pale in comparison.”

Why is that?

“In almost every divestment campaign we reviewed from adult services to Darfur, from tobacco to South Africa, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation affecting stigmatized firms.”

Regulatory bans could be fatal.

The unanswered questions

Stigmatizers behave as if fossil-free alternatives are available for everything. Are they?

What if somebody answers the unasked question and reveals transportation’s vulnerability to stigmatization and government restrictions? The stock market is an open door that investors can enter and exit at will, and sometimes shocking news leads to shocking selloffs. If the Oxford researchers are right, stigmatization and restrictions could bring down the oil and gas industry in a jolting overnight panic.

What if the fossil fuel supply chain does suddenly vanish for lack of capital? What then?

What shall we do with America’s 254.4 million registered fossil-fueled passenger vehicles? Junk them? Convert them to biofuels or electric batteries or hydrogen? Force everyone to buy new? Where is the biomass or power grid or fueling network for that stupendous new load? Or do we just ban cars and forget being a mobile culture?

How will we power America’s 26.4 million registered commercial trucks and the 2.4 million heavy-duty trucks that deliver more than 70 percent of all freight, including our food? Where is the fossil-free infrastructure to take over that demand? How would we react to empty food shelves in every market and hungry millions ready to do anything for a meal?

What will fuel our 39,000 merchant ships? What about the estimated 40,000 ships of other nations? Go nuclear? The technology exists, but it’s not clear that we have the uranium and shipyard capacity for some 80,000 retrofits or new builds.

How will we keep rail freight carrying our bulk cargoes? Maybe hydrogen, which emits only water when burned? Experimental test locomotives are now being fueled by massive hydrogen tank cars and pulling standard strings of freight cars. None of these Hindenburg-on-rails experiments have exploded yet.

What will we use to make plastics, lubricants, asphalt for paving roads, wax for sealing frozen food packaging, fertilizer, linoleum, perfume, insecticides, petroleum jelly, soap, vitamin capsules, pharmaceuticals and the 6,000 other petroleum products we all use?

Without transportation fuel, modern civilization would collapse into an unimaginably horrendous chaos.

How will we fuel jetliners? Jet fuel is a high-energy, freeze-resistant mixture of a large number of different hydrocarbons, and that includes emerging biofuels. The aircraft biofuel industry hopes to cut jetliner carbon dioxide emissions in half—by 2050.

Zero-emission jet fuel is not expected on any time horizon. Even the synthetic fuels under study are all hydrocarbons. A fossil-free jet fuel would have to be extremely high energy per gallon because jetliners carry all their fuel inside the wings; none is carried beneath the passenger cabin. That fuel supply must take the plane to destinations near and far.

It also has to be freeze-resistant, because the atmospheric temperature at cruising altitudes is about 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and even in-wing heaters can’t keep gel-prone fuels from clogging. So, do we go fossil free and jetliner free? Anybody who recalls the closure of American airspace after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks knows what that means. U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in one week.

Without transportation fuel, modern civilization would collapse into an unimaginably horrendous chaos. Don’t think it can happen? Who’s the denier now?

Who is behind Divest-Invest?

Unlike most grant-driven movements, the Divest-Invest movement is not just a blob of faceless “foundations.” It can be traced to a single private foundation, the little-known Washington-based Wallace Global Fund II—2012 assets, $115,471,213.

The WGF’s millions originally came from the 1920s-era Hi-Bred Corn Co. of Henry A. Wallace, who parlayed his wealth into political power and stints as secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce, vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt and presidential nominee in 1948 of the ultra-left Progressive Party.

The current heirs, co-chairmen Scott and Randall Wallace and treasurer Christy Wallace, along with executive director Ellen Dorsey (2012 compensation, $298,596), realized their investments in coal companies conflicted with their ideological goal of eliminating coal use and divested the offending securities, according to the fund’s website. It was a short step to building their example into a movement.

In June 2011, Dorsey and program manager Richard Mott (2012 compensation, $238,434) convened a group of college students and environmental activists at the fund’s offices to discuss launching a coal divestment campaign on the nation’s campuses.

According to the fund’s IRS Form 990PF reports, it gave more than 20 cooperating groups a substantial chunk of its nearly $15 million in grants in 2011 and 2012. Recipients included the Sierra Club Student Coalition, $180,000; the Hip Hop Caucus, $40,000; the anti-corporate lawsuit group As You Sow, $160,000; and Bill McKibben’s 350.org, $205,000 to front the campaign. The scope quickly expanded from coal only to all fossil fuels.

McKibben gets the credit for starting the Divest-Invest movement, largely because of his scary articles in Rolling Stone and Grist. But McKibben is the sock puppet in this fight and has secured only 13 commitments to divest, all from small colleges with small endowments. He doesn’t have traction in the trustee councils of big universities, which refuse to give any symbolic divestment pledge because they have a legal fiduciary trust to keep their institutions solvent.

Matt Dempsey of Oil Sands Fact Check, told The Daily Signal, “The divestment campaign is pure political theater designed to draw attention around fringe anti-fossil-fuel efforts leading up to the UN Climate Conference in France in 2015. No wonder leading academic voices on campuses across the country are rejecting this extreme campaign that would significantly cut student resources while doing nothing to improve the environment.”

[Originally published at The Daily Signal]

 

Categories: On the Blog