Durbin: Let’s Have Government Create a Journalist Guild That Exclusively Enjoys First Amendment Protections
It’s sometimes dangerous to take a snippet of a politician’s Sunday talk show bloviations and extrapolate them into a ruling philosophy. I don’t think that’s the case with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and his comments on Fox News Sunday this week. It’s clear that he really means what he said about First Amendment protections for subjects of the federal government free citizens of the United States.
While talking about a potential media shield law for “journalists,” Durbin said this [emphasis mine]:
What is a journalist today in 2013? We know it’s someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection? We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.
As a former “credentialed journalist” and now a mere “blogger,” I watched that quote live on Sunday and was shocked by the statement — as should everyone who has a computer keyboard. The First Amendment states this [emphasis mine]:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Note that the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights explicitly protects the “freedom of speech,” with a secondary nod to “the press.” The First Amendment does not define what a “free press” means, because it doesn’t have to do so beyond the standard definition — the people publishing their coverage of the government.
In other words, “the press” is just one avenue in which the people can express their right to free speech. There is no reason to imagine what our Founders thought about “a provision that was written over 200 years ago.” It is crystal clear: They meant, chiefly, to protect the right of the people to report upon and express their news and opinion about the government. To make it easy for Durbin to understand, today’s “bloggers” are the pamphleteers of “over 200 years ago.”
There has never been an “official journalism guild” that enjoys specified protection under the Constitution, nor should there ever be one. The First Amendment right of a “free press” is merely a form of the people’s right to free speech. Dick Durbin can no more regulate my right to say he’s a tyrant-in-waiting through a bullhorn on my front porch than he can if I decide to say it on this blog. Nor does he have the right to say information leaked to James Rosen of Fox News is less-protected by the Constitution if it’s leaked to me.
Durbin’s brand of creeping tyranny is one reason this ink-stained journalist opposes any type of “journalist shield law.” Get the government in the business of regulating “the press” — for its own “protection” — and it will soon define what “the press” is. Down that road lies the short trip to negating the free speech rights of all those whom the government will define as “non-journalists,” such as bloggers and “tweeters.”
It should go without saying that the way the mainstream media performs these days, the only real examination of our federal government comes largely from bloggers — the modern-day pamphleteers Dick Durbin thinks are perhaps unworthy of First Amendment rights.
Don’t expect the MSM to fight for our rights. We’ll have to light the candle of First Amendment vigilance on our own.
It was my pleasure to interview James P. Pinkerton, co-chair of the RATE Coalition, for the Heartland Daily Podcast. As many listeners know, Jim is a regular on “Fox News Watch” and a columnist at FoxNews.com. (Follow Jim on Twitter, and also @RATEcoalition.)
The RATE Coalition advocates for lower corporate tax rates in the United States to make us more competitive with our peers in the industrialized world. Jim Pinkerton notes, for instance, how Sweden — a soft socialist country — has a lower corporate tax rate than the U.S., and is moving to lower it even further. For shame.
Of course, we also talked about the recent absurd spectacle of Apple CEO Tim Cook being hauled in front of a Senate committee to explain why he takes every legal step to avoid America’s punitive corporate tax rate — while still sending billions to the federal Treasury every year.
“Companies have a choice,” Pinkerton says. “They don’t have to put their money in America. They can put it somewhere else.”
We also discuss a metric I invented: The Depardieu Line, the rate at which a celebrity will stay in his own country. Enjoy.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
Last Thursday, the US Department of the Interior released a draft proposal that would “establish common-sense safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands.” Last Friday, the US Department of Energy (DOE) approved a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Freeport, Texas. Despite opposition from environmental groups, the Obama administration apparently supports the expansion of the natural gas industry and the controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing. These events are welcome common sense from an administration that is typically deep in green ideology.
Good old Yankee ingenuity has produced a new hydrocarbon revolution. Vast quantities of oil and natural gas can now be recovered from shale rock formations, thanks to enabling technologies of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and horizontal drilling. US crude oil production in 2012 was up 30 percent since reaching a low in 2008. Natural gas production is up 33 percent since 2005. Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, forecasts that the United States will be “nearly self-sufficient in energy” by the year 2030.
Fracking is not new, but has been perfected over the last 20 years to allow cost-effective recovery of hydrocarbon fuels from shale. Water and sand, along with a small amount of chemicals, are injected under pressure to fracture the shale and create millions of tiny fissures, releasing the trapped gas or oil. To develop a large producing field, horizontal drilling is used to bore mile-long horizontal shafts into the shale. Fracking is typically used at depths greater than 5,000 feet.
But hydraulic fracturing is under assault from environmental organizations. According to the Sierra Club, “Fracking, a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes.” A 2011 letter from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Climate Protection Campaign, and other groups urged President Obama to “halt hydraulic fracturing…until and unless the environmental and health impacts of this process are well understood and the public is adequately protected.”
The draft rule released Thursday from the Department of the Interior acknowledges that hydraulic fracturing can be conducted in an environmentally safe manner. It calls for disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, assurances of well-bore integrity to prevent leakage of gas and fluid into ground water supplies, and confirmation of a water management plan for disposal of water and fluids used in the fracking process. Indeed, fracking has been used more than 500,000 times over the last 50 years without incidents of water contamination when proper safeguards were employed.
The hydrofracturing revolution has created a glut of natural gas in the US market. Prior to wide-scale use of fracking, natural gas prices reached $15 per million British thermal units (Btu), and port facilities were being constructed to import LNG. By 2011, prices had fallen to $4 per million Btu and import terminals sat idle.
Unlike crude oil, which is priced and sold in a global market, natural gas is priced and sold regionally. To date, the fracking revolution has been a US phenomenon, with other nations slow to join. While US gas prices have dropped to under $4 per million Btu, Europe’s prices remain above $10, and the price of imported LNG in Japan is above $15.
US producers now see an opportunity to liquefy the gas and ship it to Europe and Japan. Twenty applications have been filed with the Department of Energy (DOE). The approval last week of the Freeport export terminal in Texas is the first since 2011. The $10 billion terminal plans to export up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, or about two percent of annual US consumption.
Environmental groups have criticized the approval. “Exporting LNG will lead to more drilling―and more drilling means more fracking, more air and water pollution, and more climate fueled weather disasters like last year’s record fires, droughts, and superstorms,” according to Deb Nardone of the Sierra Club. Nevertheless, it appears that the Obama administration will support hydraulic fracturing and the growth of the natural gas industry.
Shale gas booms in Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania have created tens of thousands of jobs. Low natural gas prices are attracting global chemical firms to build plants in the US. Thousands of additional jobs and tax revenues can come from LNG exports. Sound energy policy demands that fracking and export of natural gas be allowed, if environmental safeguards are met.
[Originally published in The Washington Times]
Not 24 hours passed from the time a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, killing at least 24 people including eight children, until shameless global warming activists in Congress began exploiting the grief and pain of a devastated community to tell an idiotic tale of global warming causing tornadoes. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), shame on you for being such hard-hearted and factually ignorant vultures preying on other people’s misery.
Before we even get to the objective facts regarding global warming and tornadoes, can we at least respect the human tragedy in Oklahoma and give victims a few days to grieve before we try to politicize their pain? Literally minutes after the F5 tornado devastated Moore, Whitehouse rushed out to the cameras to blame “polluters,” “deniers” and Republicans for the Oklahoma tornado. For goodness sake, Sheldon, even if you happened to be correct about global warming and tornadoes (more on that in a minute), can you stop playing political games for just one hour and allow a hurting town, state and nation to grieve without having to listen to your callous political divisiveness? Where is your sense of decency?
Barbara Boxer, to her benefit, waited almost a day before shamelessly politicizing this human tragedy. Her lack of human decency would be unparalleled in the Senate if not for the even more remarkable lack of human decency displayed by Whitehouse.
Now let’s get to those pesky little things called “facts.” I know these things are foreign to plastic, out-of-touch career politicians like Whitehouse and Boxer, but believe it or not they are relevant to the global warming debate in some circles.
When the Oklahoma tornado touched down Monday afternoon, it occurred at the culmination of the 12-month period with the fewest tornado strikes in recorded history. Did you catch that? We are currently experiencing the fewest tornado strikes in recorded history!
I guess it was inevitable that at some point a tornado would strike again. After all, to the best of my knowledge tornadoes have occurred since long before Oklahomans began driving SUVs and living with the benefits of electricity. According to the alarmists’ logic, because a tornado occurred and because the earth has gradually warmed in the century-plus since the end of the Little Ice Age, global warming must cause tornadoes – even when we are experiencing the fewest number of tornadoes in recorded history precisely when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in centuries.
Nor has a gradually warming earth led to an increase in the severity of tornadoes. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, the past 50 years have seen a steady decline in major tornadoes – the F3-F5 tornadoes that do the most damage.
If we want to play the climate association game and claim that global warming plays a role in all extreme weather events, that role is clearly to lessen the frequency and severity of tornadoes and virtually all other extreme weather events. F3-F5 tornadoes occurred approximately 50 percent more often from 1964 through 1984 than they did from 1984 through the present.
While shameless, opportunist, dishonest career politicians claim global warming caused the Oklahoma tornado, the undeniable fact is – if we choose to connect global warming to extreme weather trends – global warming has PREVENTED approximately 20 F3-F5 tornadoes each and every year during the past three decades. That’s 600 F3-F5 tornadoes that would have additionally occurred during the past three decades if not for the beneficial impact of global warming. Thank goodness that global warming is occurring to save so many lives.
These are facts that need to be told. But today should not be the day to tell them. That day should have been sometime next week, or next month, or later in 2013. But hard-hearted politicians can’t resist politicizing every last tragedy that strikes this country, even when they are wrong on the facts.
Can you imagine how it must feel to be one of the people personally affected by this tragedy who knows these global warming facts, is struck with overwhelming grief at the loss of a loved one, and then has to endure politicians like Whitehouse and Boxer predating on his or her unimaginable grief? I suspect quite a few people in families personally affected by the Oklahoma tornado know the facts and now have to endure the additional pain and frustration of listening to Whitehouse and Boxer callously telling lies about their personal tragedy in order to make political hay off their personal loss. Shame on you hard-hearted and ignorant politicians.
Global warming clearly has either no effect on tornadoes or is making tornadoes less frequent and less severe, but this is not a fact that people like me should feel obligated to discuss on a day and a week like this. Whitehouse and Boxer need to grow some common decency.
[First published at Forbes]
Author and Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Steve Goreham recently discussed climate change and his new book, The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism, on the Charlie Sykes Show on WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In case you didn’t know, that book is so disturbing the climate alarmist community, it’s now being burned by university departments of climate sciences.
Steve is the executive director of the Climate Science Coalition of America, and he uses easy to understand scientific facts to dispel so much of the climate change mania in our society.
Listen to Steve and Heartland friend Charlie Sykes talk about the book — and the controversy that surrounds it — in the player above.
Are schools collecting too much personal information about kids? The world has become an intensive data-tracking place, with grocery stores tracking your eating habits and Google tracking your internet history and search terms. Schools are no exception. Bluegrass Institute education analyst Richard Innes, an old hand at the inner workings of student data collection, joins Joy Pullmann on the Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss how even “anonymous” information on a child is no longer anonymous to any researcher with a decent database. He also outlines how the federal government is moving towards creating a comprehensive cradle-through-career database on each child, and what this means for privacy, government, and education.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
The other day I came across a good review of Edmund Contoski’s latest book, The Impending Monetary Revolution, The Dollar and Gold, at Feathered Quill Book Reviews. An excerpt from that review:
Due to his agility and skill toward word placement (coupled with a tremendous knowledge of his topic), Mr. Contoski has taken the complex subject of finance and economics, laid it out across a mere couple of hundred pages and left me with an unbelievable sense of understanding the topic. His thoroughness in opening the camera lens beyond the economic constraints within the United States to incorporate a global perspective for the reader is fascinating and well documented. . . . The end result is an extremely compelling and informative body of work.
The Feather Quill also included an excellent Q&A with Contoski about economics, monetary policy, and liberty, which I share below:
FQ: I gleaned more information and knowledge in the little more than 200 pages in your book than I have in years from the mass media. If given the opportunity to encapsulate the essence of your book via a commencement speech to a graduating class of 2013, what university would you choose and why?
That’s the easiest question you are going to ask me. I would choose George Mason University. It has a dynamite economics department, including Professor Walter E. Williams, who also writes a syndicated column, which I highly recommend. Dr. Williams says, “If asked to generalize, I’d say that GMU’s economics department is probably the nation’s, if not the world’s, only completely free-market department.” That’s why it would be my choice.
FQ: You have just been asked to teach an economics class to fifth grade students. What would be the foundational message you would want the children to take away (and apply) at the end of the school year?
Always remember that this country was the only one ever founded on the principles of individual rights and freedom, and that is why this country improved people’s lives more than any other in history. Expanding the role of government by diminishing people’s rights and reducing freedom is not an alternative solution; it takes society in the wrong direction!—away from the path of progress and to debt, impoverishment and stagnation. Good intentions, more laws and regulations, political promises—even democratic voting—can’t substitute for free-market principles that bring prosperity.
FQ: After reading the following passage: “Now Americans are forced to make economic transactions on collective basis, through government…Millions of taxpayers who will never benefit from the Nevada Cowboy Poetry Festival, Alaska’s infamous “bridge to nowhere,” and tens of thousands of other federal expenditures are nevertheless forced to pay for them. They can’t avoid their economic losses of being taxed for them…” If you were asked to write five bulleted points on how to become a better informed voter before casting your ballot, what would you impart?
I would say consider these guidelines when you evaluate issues, campaign promises, and government programs. These points are interrelated:
- THE PRIMACY OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. Man has “unalienable” rights, meaning they cannot be taken away by government or majority vote—they can only be respected or violated. Among these is the “right to pursuit of happiness”—which is a moral statement that it is right for him to act for his own self-interest and requires he respects others’ rights to do the same. Always ask yourself whether a political candidate or his program violates or respects individual rights.
- THE ONLY ECONOMIC SYSTEM based on these rights is free-market capitalism, which permits everyone to act for his own self-interest, where each side in an economic exchange benefits according to the minds of the participants. Thus, all economic transactions are voluntary and “win-win.”
- GOVERNMENT IS FORCE. The only proper role of force in a civilized society is the protection of individual rights from those who would violate them, by force: criminals and invaders. It is not the proper role of government to protect the individual from himself, from his own mind. When government undertakes economic programs to bestow benefits on some people, it is always at the expense of others who must pay for them. Some people win, others lose. Instead of the win-win transactions of free markets, we have the win-lose transactions of a government “managed” economy. The more these win-lose transactions proliferate, the more the economy falls behind what would have been achieved by the win-win transactions of free markets.
- THE END NEVER JUSTIFIES THE MEANS. No moral system in history has ever justified that concept. Robbing a bank is a criminal act. Would it suddenly be moral if instead of using the stolen money for himself, the robber uses it to send his children to college or donates it to the poor or some charity? Of course not. A worthy end would not make the theft moral. It is no more moral for the government to rob its citizens to pay for “good” purposes.
- PRICES TELL US SOMETHING. They tell farmers how much corn or other crops they should plant and industries what products consumers want, resulting in the most economic uses of resources in ways beneficial for society. When government intervenes in the market with, for example, subsidies for ethanol production from corn, price signals are distorted—resulting in overproduction of corn for ethanol and driving up the price up for corn for food, which is particularly hard on poor people. Now, I don’t expect the average voter to be knowledgeable about ethanol or a plethora of other subjects. But if you evaluate issues just on the basis of the first four bullet points, your decision will automatically include the correct information on prices, the efficient use of resources, and other beneficial effects. You will see that we don’t need government to “manage” the economy, create jobs—or even set interest rates, as the Federal Reserve does. The free market will do all of these things and do them better.
FQ: Do you have an explanation for why “we the people” have allowed Government to impart such a stronghold on us as it endeavors to “fix” the economy?
I think there are two main factors at work here. One is the way government involvement in education has led to infusing students with the idea that government should provide for all the needs of society, just as it provides for their education, the schools and teachers’ salaries. This occurs from elementary school right through college. For example, last month the Wall Street Journal showed how the liberal agenda has displaced the historic function at Bowdoin College, which was founded in 1794, and is ranked 18th in Newsweeks’ list of America’s most desirable colleges. Research by the National Association of Scholars found “no curricular requirements that center on America’s founding or the history of the nation.” More shocking, the WSJ notes, “Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history,” and “there’s the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history.” Some of the seminars offered for freshmen include: “Affirmative Action in U.S. Society,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens [work of gay and lesbian gardeners],” “Sexual life of Colonialism,” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.” “No course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history.” There is also dedication to “saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism.” The NAS report estimated only 4 or 5 full-time faculty members at Bowdoin might be described as politically conservative, and 100% of faculty donations went to Obama in the 2012 election.
The second factor, no doubt due in some degree to the first, is that voters have increasingly learned they can get benefits from the government more easily than by earning them. Meanwhile, politicians have become increasingly skilled at perpetuating themselves in office by promising—and enlarging—those benefits to some by taking more money away from others. Thus two-thirds of federal spending now consists of “transfer payments,” the redistribution of wealth from some people to others. And the Federal Reserve, in the absence of a gold-backed currency, is able to provide an unlimited amount of money for such spending and robbing even future generations.
FQ: You quote Professor Kelley L. Ross: “After the actual experiences of the 1930s and the 1970s, Keynesian economics should have been refuted, and it should not have been necessary to do that all over again in 2009. That it was done all over again, to similar miserable effect, should have at least persuaded all the die-hards. That it didn’t should properly arouse our suspicions that more is involved than just economics.” In your opinion, why was Keynesian economics put into play once again.
Ross is right that more was involved than economics. The underlying factor was ideology. Keynesian economics was invoked because it was convenient, not because it was correct. It provided a seeming plausible rationale for the vast spending required for Obama’s socialist agenda, including Obamacare and his colossally wasteful and ineffective stimulus program, and for the Congressional votes that would be needed to pass those measures. His socialist past has been documented by Dinesh D’Souza, Stanley Kurtz and others and even by Obama himself in his book “Dreams From My Father.” His father was a socialist, and it is revealing that Barrack did not title his book “Dreams of my Father” but “Dreams From my Father,” indicating his father’s dreams are his as well.
FQ: I thoroughly enjoyed the overall message and educational value your book provided. Further it is impressive that you were able to deliver such riveting information, with exceptional class as your tone is far-removed from sounding biased. Having the opportunity to review your book and interview you has been an absolute pleasure. Are you currently working on a new project? If so, would you mind sharing?
I am not working on a new book. In fact, I didn’t plan on writing this one. I had two books published in 1997, Makers and Takers: How Wealth and Progress are Made and How They are Taken Away or Prevented, and The Trojan Project, a novel of intrigue about restoring America. They received acclaim both for content and literary style, but I thought I would never write another. Fifteen years later what I saw happening on the international monetary scene, as well as inside the U.S., led me to write Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold to try to warn people.
If I were to write another book, it would probably be about my cat. Of course, everyone thinks his or her dog or cat is really special, but when veterinarians, who see hundreds of them, think yours is truly extraordinary and does things they’ve never seen before, that is very meaningful. I would like people to know that such a cat existed.
I believe Verizon is still more likely than not to prevail on the merits of its appeal, because the FCC’s Open Internet Order is so unambiguously far outside the bounds of the FCC’s statutory authority, that Chevron deference is unlikely to apply.
If the SCOTUS had not strongly reaffirmed Chevron deference, the FCC would have faced an even steeper fight in the Open Internet Order. Despite the SCOTUS decision not being particularly helpful in the specific FCC Open Internet case, it undeniably was very FCC-friendly overall. That’s because it affords the FCC more latitude to exploit the many legally-ambiguous seams of communications law to advance its various regulatory agendas in highly-targeted ways.
This SCOTUS decision makes clear Chevron deference is not carte blanche. Chevron only applies when statutory authority is ambiguous; it is irrelevant if the agency has clearly strayed outside “the bounds of its statutory authority.”
Let’s consider some key guiding language from the SCOTUS Arlington v. FCC decision:
- “When a court reviews an agency’s interpretation of a statute it administers, the question is always, simply, whether the agency has stayed within the bounds of its statutory authority.” P. 2
- “… for Chevron deference to apply, the agency must have received congressional authority to determine the particular matter at issue in the particular manner adopted. No one disputes that.” P. 15
Let’s simplify. Verizon holds that the FCC Open Internet Order is way outside the bounds of the FCC’s statutory authority, whereas the FCC says the law in this instance is ambiguous enough that it should be due the broad Chevron deference that the SCOTUS just reaffirmed.
Now let’s review why both proponents and opponents have viewed the FCC Open Internet Order to be seriously vulnerable on appeal — regardless of Chevron deference.
First, the FCC wants the Appeals Court to ignore Congress’ clear statement of Internet policy in the 1996 Telecom Act: “It is the policy of the United States — … to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”
Since the FCC Open Internet Order establishes preemptive Federal regulations of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and since the law, the FCC and the Supreme Court have all defined ISPs’ networks as part of the Internet, the FCC is unambiguously going against Congressional policy enshrined in law.
Second, the FCC wants the Appeals Court to ignore that the FCC Open Internet order effectively changes the purpose of U.S. communications law:
- From the 1996 Telecommunications Act purpose: “to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.”
- To the 2010 Open Internet Order’s new purpose for the FCC: “The purpose [of the FCC’s rules] is to preserve the Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission.” Appendix A: Substantive Rules
Simply in this Open Internet order, the FCC is claiming that it has “received congressional authority to determine” these “particular matter(s)” in these “particular manner(s).”
In effect, the FCC is effectively asserting that Congress has unambiguously granted it statutory authority to change its overall purpose as an independent regulatory agency from “promoting competition and reducing regulation” to promoting openness and increasing Internet regulation. Congress has granted the FCC no such statutory authority.
If the FCC had the expansive unambiguous statutory authority in the 1934 Communications Act as it is now claiming, the FCC would not have needed Congress to pass the 1996 Telecom Act authorizing competition, because the FCC could have just changed its purpose on its own via Chevron deference.
Third, the FCC wants the Appeals Court to ignore that the Section 706 authority — on which the FCC relies predominantly for justifying its Open Internet Order — was an obviously deregulatory authority in a deregulatory act “to reduce regulation.” The relevant clear language of Section 706 calls for “removing barriers to infrastructure investment,” but the FCC’s Open Internet order is about creating potential new regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment. Exact opposites are not ambiguous.
The FCC’s claim that its section 706 authority is ambiguous-enough to trigger Chevron deference, is transparently self-serving and not supported by the plain language of the provision or the well-known intent of Congress at the time. Moreover, the FCC has the additional problem that a previous FCC ruled that Section 706 does not provide the FCC statutory authority to regulate broadband.
Lastly, Chevron deference will not protect the FCC from charges of being arbitrary and capricious.
The FCC predicates its entire Open Internet order on an obviously weak and think assertion of a substantive industry problem requiring preemptive price regulation of the broadband industry.
The Appeals Court will be able to see clearly and unambiguously that the FCC conducted no market power analysis, no assessment of the state of broadband competition, and no cost-benefit analysis. This obvious lack of real work and expert analysis spotlights for the court that the FCC order is replete with unproven assertions, and largely devoid of substantive objective analysis or presentation of facts.
In short, the SCOTUS’ reaffirmation of the FCC’s broad Chevron authority is undeniably good news for the FCC in the specific areas that it has some underlying regulatory statutory authority. However, whether or not Chevron deference kicks in on a specific case depends entirely on the facts of the regulatory action and the claimed congressional statutory authority — in that specific case.
Importantly in this specific case, the facts, precedents and lack of actual statutory authority are seriously problematic for the FCC. This means it more likely than not that Verizon will prevail in its appeal of the FCC Open Internet Order.
[Originally Published on The Precursor Blog, as part of the FCC Open Internet Order Series]
The firestorm around the White House is only going to grow with the knowledge that the administration targeted Fox News’ reporter James Rosen for doing nothing more than being a reporter. Kirsten Powers:
“Turns out it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to “delegitimize” a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters. In between, the Obama administration found time to relentlessly persecute government whistleblowers and publicly harass and condemn a private American citizen for expressing his constitutionally protected speech in the form of an anti-Islam YouTube video. Where were the media when all this began happening? With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers.”
The White House knew about the IRS scandal far earlier than it first acknowledged – but senior staff reportedly decided to keep the president in a bubble.
“The White House says McDonough and the other advisers did not tell President Barack Obama about the impending report, leaving him to learn the results from news reports later. The White House defended the decision to keep the president in the dark, with press secretary Jay Carney saying Obama was comfortable with the fact that “some matters are not appropriate to convey to him, and this is one of them.”
Here again the White House has been inconsistent – Reid Epstein counts five different versions of their storyline. That’s sure to quiet the questions from the media
Jillian Melchior tells us what it’s like to be targeted by the feds.
“That February, True the Vote received a third request for information from the IRS, which also sent its first questionnaire to King Street Patriots. Catherine says the IRS had “hundreds of questions — hundreds and hundreds of questions.”
The IRS requested every Facebook post and Tweet she had ever written. She received questions about her family, whether she’d ever run for political office, and which organizations she had spoken t0. On the same day they received the questions from the IRS, Catherine says, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) launched an unscheduled audit of their machine shop, forcing the Engelbrechts to drop everything planned for that day. Though the Engelbrechts have a Class 7 license, which allows them to make component parts for guns, they do not manufacture firearms. Catherine said that while the ATF had a right to conduct the audit, “it was odd that they did it completely unannounced, and they took five, six hours… It was so extensive. It just felt kind of weird.”
What’s disturbing about the Engelbrecht story is how government agencies impact every arena of life and work – there is no escaping it. And this is not a new problem, or one tied to the federal government alone, as John Kass notes.
“One Sunday, I must have been 12 or 13, I decided to ask what I thought was an intelligent question that was something like this: We talk politics every Sunday, we fight about this and that, so why aren’t you politically active outside? Why don’t you get involved in politics? There was an immediate silence. The older cousins looked away. The aunts and uncles stared at me in horror, as if I’d just announced I was selling heroin after school. You could hear them breathing. No one spoke. I could feel myself blushing… I couldn’t understand how we could argue about politics over baklava and watermelon and coffee, but not put it into practice. We could support a political candidacy, we could donate or work for one or another politician that we agreed with. This is America, I said. “Are you in your good senses?” said my father. “We have lives here. We have businesses. If we get involved in politics, they will ruin us.”
At its root, James Taranto sees these scandals as the consequence of too much moral crusading in our politics.
“Today’s liberal left conceives of itself as being on the side of all that is good, right and reasonable. It caricatures the right as racist, extremist, greedy, dishonest, fanatically religious, prone to violence – and dangerous because, through the Republican Party, it has maintained parity in the political arena. Of the 10 presidential elections since Watergate, each party won 5; and voters haven’t entrusted the Democrats with full control of government for more than two years since the Carter era. If ordinary politics are a battle between good and evil, then winning becomes an overriding moral imperative. The end justifies the means.”
And that problem goes deeper than just one president – it is a cultural trend which rots the foundation of the public square.
[First published at Real Clear Politics]
Like a freight train coming closer, that ominous rumbling sound you hear is not another F5 tornado in the works, although it is likely to wipe out just as much wealth in the long run as the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, and environs. (At last report the confirmed death toll stood at 24, with hundreds of homes, schools, and businesses destroyed throughout a seventeen-mile swath at a likely cost of billions of dollars.) Instead, we predict, it’s the coming Internet 2.0 bubble, otherwise likely soon to be known as the dotcom crash of 2014.
Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them, and Yahoo’s recently-announced purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 billion is the latest sign that nobody studies history any more. Or economics. Or business. Call it another failure of the American educational system, we suppose.
Tumblr, for the uninitiated, is a microblogging platform and “social networking” website that allows users to post content from other sources to a so-called short-form blog. Somewhat like Twitter or even Facebook, Tumblr lets users follow other users’ postings but lends itself to minimal commentary and maximum imagery, accompanied by something akin to Facebook’s “me like this” feature.
That’s all well and good, we suppose, but a considerable portion of the platform’s content is simply recycled imagery from other websites, much of it pornographic or otherwise “not safe for work.” A typical Tumblr blog will be a bunch of video clips or images with the only comments being that so-and-so re-blogged this from some other website or that so-and-so likes this image, particularly if it involves what the Obama re-election campaign liked to call “lady parts.”
What social utility this actually provides escapes us here at Somewhat Reasonable, but as long as the U.S. Supreme Court holds that “nude dancing” (once known as “stripping”) is protected by the First Amendment then so, we suppose, is Tumblr. But what also escapes us is why Yahoo or anyone else would pay a billion dollars for it.
Although Tumblr claims 109.6 million blogs, 51.1billion posts, and 177 employees, it has no viable revenue model other than advertising and according to Reuters has precious little of that. Founded in 2007, Tumblr has never turned a profit, makes a small fraction of Yahoo’s sales, and analysts project that it won’t contribute significantly to Yahoo’s revenue for years. Still, the hope that it someday will has made Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp, a home-schooled high school dropout, a multimillionaire with a new fortune that Forbes estimates at roughly $200 million after taxes.
For a twenty-six year old this must be a dream come true, but those of us with longer memories recall the days when Karp was still thirteen and the NASDAQ hit an all-time high of 5100 thanks to the feeding frenzy over websites ending in “.com” that generated lots of hits but never turned a profit. It quickly fell to just 1100, wiping out lots of wealth and retirement dreams, and thirteen years later the NASDAQ is still less than 70% of its high.
Time will tell if Yahoo and Tumblr will escape a similar fate.
The Indie band Best Coast praises Los Angeles (and the South Bay) in general in its song “The Only Place.” The song is notable for California’s freedom and carefree life under sun and sand. As a native of Hermosa Beach, I can tell you that California is doing everything it can to make the state the last place anyone wants to live.
The Monday, May 20, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal (page A6), reports that Huntington Beach may ban fires on the beach because of the harm such fires cause to air quality. Moreover, apparently, these dreaded “air polluting” fire-pits cause increases in eye, nose, and throat irritation as well as incidents of asthma. There are also supposed reports of increased hospital admissions due to the smoke emitted from these fires.
Supporters of the ban on outdoor beach fires, including the South Coast Air Quality Management District, claim that these fires emit the equivalence of a diesel truck driving 564 miles. However, as noted by KTLA (above video), these studies rest on dubious evidence.
Based on such flimsy evidence, we might as well claim that perfume or cologne is an air polluting, public health matter!
California is famous for its beach culture. That culture was lived not only by me, but my mother who graduated from Redondo High in the 50s. In the 1950s-60s surfers and beach lovers would spend the day in the water and sunning on the sand. While watching the beautiful sunset, families would strike up fires on the beach and cook their dinner, while friends and family listened to songs played on Ukeleles. If the health was really a concern, the South Coast Air Management District could surely find something that actually harms the public health. Sadly, Southern California is not becoming a healthy place to live; it is becoming a place harmful to human happiness.
President Barack Obama has proposed studying the possibility of privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest government-owned utility. Privatization expert Leonard Gilroy of The Reason Foundation tells Heartland‘s Steve Stanek why the president has a good idea, and why area politicians in both major political parties oppose it.
Even on the off chance the White House comes up with a good idea, politics stand in the way of reason.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
His speech on May 20 contained some good news. He reported the “default Republican position is that climate change is a hoax. It’s been said right on this floor, and in committees, and I haven’t seen a single Republican senator stand up afterwards in this chamber to say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s actually not the case.’”
The senator went on to say, “Yet not one Republican has ever gotten back to me, even quietly on the side, to say, ‘You know what? This is really getting serious. Let’s see if we can work on this.’”
This is great news. It means Republicans understand the real science and economics of global warming better than some of us on the skeptical side of the global warming debate could have hoped.
Recently, there have been rumors that a carbon tax – the left’s second choice of ways, after EPA regulations that ban the use of fossil fuels, to shut down manufacturing in the U.S. – might be part of a deficit reduction or debt ceiling agreement being secretly negotiated by Obama and Republican leaders. Thank you, Sen. Whitehouse, for putting those rumors to rest.
Amid the many erroneous claims made by the senator about the science and economics of global warming debate appear ad hominem attacks against global warming skeptics, standard issue for the environmental extremists who dominate this debate. The senator claims, without citing a source, that “more than 95 percent of climate scientists are convinced that human carbon pollution is causing massive and unprecedented change to our atmosphere and oceans.” This is untrue, as anyone familiar with the debate knows. I’ve discussed the myth of consensus here and here.
The senator claims “a lot of those five-percenters [skeptics] are on the payroll of the polluters. You know that. It’s public knowledge. Some of those ‘payroll scientists’ are the same people who denied acid rain, or the dangers of tobacco.” This is shameful. Tens of thousands of scientists, probably most scientists, don’t believe man-made global warming is a crisis or even a problem. Vanishingly few are on the “payroll of polluters,” indeed far fewer than the number of true believers who are on the payrolls of corporations and government agencies that pay them to believe in global warming.
Later in his speech the senator correctly refers to “The Heartland Institute, and the Institute for Energy Research, and the American Enterprise Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, and The Heritage Foundation” as organizations that support the skeptical view. But he then slanders these groups by alleging they are all “front organizations … all just part of the same cheesy vaudeville show put on by the big polluters.”
Speaking only for my organization, The Heartland Institute, I can report that less than 5 percent of our income last year came from companies that either produce energy or have emissions that might qualify them for the title of “big polluters.” This is almost certainly less than the Center for American Progress, the biggest liberal think thank, raises. And unlike CAP, donors don’t dictate what our researchers say. I’m quite sure the same is true of the other organizations Sen. Whitehouse names.
The senator is simply repeating a phony charge against individuals and organizations that disagree with him. He should know better, do his homework, and then apologize to the people he’s defamed.
Sen. Whitehouse reminds us why it’s a good thing there are Republicans in Congress who understand, and not naively and wrongly believe in, global warming.
You can watch the senator’s speech below.
Just before this latest scandals avalanche, President Barack Obama urged a class of imminent college escapees – I mean graduates – to:
“Reject these voices” who “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all of our problems…. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.”
Of what were these voices thinking? The Scandal-Palooza Week that followed the President’s condescending remarks. And the four-plus years preceding. And the century-plus before that.
The Administration’s corruption-fests have now reached “Myriad” status – and it only keeps getting worse. An underlying theme in just about all of them is the abuse of power – to abuse its political enemies. This is your government on “Stimulus” steroids – any questions?
So what we absolutely must not do going forward is give them more of our information – more fodder for them with which to work. President Obama and his Democrats beg to differ.
Like President Barack Obama’s illegal Network Neutrality order. Which gives the government access to the Internet’s spine – and with it every website there is and all the data contained therein….
Like President Barack Obama’s illegal Cyber Security Executive Order. The amount of data compiled in Cyber Security execution is massive – and Big Government wants at it….
Like the Obama Administration shutting down bailed out car company dealerships based upon campaign contribution data. Like local governments in New York turning over for publication gun registration data. Like then-President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton’s illegally obtained 900 FBI files getting him out of an impeachment conviction….
This President is in fact endlessly creative in coming up with data abuses and illegal fiats.
President Obama is considering an executive order that would force government contractors to disclose their donations to groups that participate in political activities….
The Left, of course, tries to turn every one of these abuse-of-power scandals into…a validation of their demands for more power. The Left’s definition of government “reform” is always…more power for government.
Immigration “reform?” Let’s put millions more on the government welfare (and Democrat voting) rolls. Campaign finance “reform?” Let’s allow the government to demand even more of your information. So that it can then be used against you.
The voting booth is sacrosanct – the government can’t know whom you support with your ballot. Yet the government demands to know whom you support with your money. The Leviathan knowing the latter sort of gives away the former, does it not?
Corrupt Democrat ex-New Jersey Governor John Corzine was one of President Obama’s top campaign coin bundlers. Any doubt for whom he voted?
Big Government uses all of this data against you – if you stand for less government, or support those that do. The crooked Corzine – who made $1.6 billion disappear – wasn’t harangued into oblivion the way Mr. VanderSloot was – for the “crime” of supporting a Republican.
The Leviathan’s warped political use of our data against us is all-encompassing.
The Obama Administration’s defense on all of these scandals? We are completely incompetent.
So big is Big Government that President Obama Senior Advisor David Axelrod – one of the principal architects of the current, ongoing, gi-normous federal expansion – said:
With that testimony, your Honor, the less-government-prosecution rests.
Sinister or simply stupid, malfeasance or merely mishandling – this is Big Government.
The only answer – the real reform – is to reduce the Leviathan’s size, scope and sphere of influence.
The less sway government holds, the less it can lord over us.
[First published at The PJ Tatler]
It is so very tempting for me to cackle with glee upon seeing this story yesterday in The Nation (of all places): “The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks.” I will resist, but the irony is thick — and the schadenfreude is calling to me louder than a two-for-a-dollar cheeseburger special at Five Guys.
A leftist publication is upbraiding America’s leading liberal think tank for taking donations from eeeevvvvillll corporations? Bring on the smelling salts — not for me, but for the readership of The Nation and those poor souls who rely on only the mainstream media for news and commentary and think only right-leaning think tanks accept corporate donations.
The Nation apparently got its hands on “internal lists” of the Center for American Progress (CAP), and revealed that the think tank has something it calls the “Business Alliance,” which The Nation characterizes as “a secret group of corporate donors.” Among the many corporate donors/members of the “Business Alliance” are General Motors and First Solar. Hmmm. Says The Nation:
The Center for American Progress, Washington’s leading liberal think tank, has been a big backer of the Energy Department’s $25 billion loan guarantee program for renewable energy projects. CAP has specifically praised First Solar, a firm that received $3.73 billion under the program, and its Antelope Valley project in California.
Last year, when First Solar was taking a beating from congressional Republicans and in the press over job layoffs and alleged political cronyism, CAP’s Richard Caperton praised Antelope Valley in his testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, saying it headed up his list of “innovative projects” receiving loan guarantees. Earlier, Caperton and Steve Spinner— a top Obama fundraiser who left his job at the Energy Department monitoring the issuance of loan guarantees and became a CAP senior fellow—had written an article cross-posted on CAP’s website and its Think Progress blog, stating that Antelope Valley represented “the cutting edge of the clean energy economy.”
Though the think tank didn’t disclose it, First Solar belonged to CAP’s Business Alliance, a secret group of corporate donors, according to internal lists obtained by The Nation. Meanwhile, José Villarreal—a consultant at the power- house law and lobbying firm Akin Gump, who “provides strategic counseling on a range of legal and policy issues” for corporations—was on First Solar’s board until April 2012 while also sitting on the board of CAP, where he remains a member, according to the group’s latest tax filing.
CAP is a strong proponent of alternative energy, so there’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of its advocacy. But the fact that CAP has received financial support from First Solar while touting its virtues to Washington policy-makers points to a conflict of interest that, critics argue, ought to be disclosed to the public. CAP’s promotion of the company’s interests has supplemented First Solar’s aggressive Washington lobbying efforts, on which it spent more than $800,000 during 2011 and 2012.
The bold emphasis above is mine — as is the link to the Caperton and Spinner piece, which might be disappeared, Soviet-style, by CAP’s Think Progress site by the time you read this. It’s that inconvenient. But let’s focus on the bolded part about how The Nation says “there’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of its advocacy.” Would The Nation give such benefit of the doubt to a non-left organization? Please. Leftist publications such as CAP’s Think Progress never do.
The Heartland Institute is under constant attack on all fronts by an organized leftist campaign out to destroy us — and our advocacy or free markets — for supposedly being “shills” for the fossil fuel industry. In fact, CAP and the guys at Think Progress squealed like a girl who got a pony for Christmas after climate scientist Peter Gleick handed them internal Heartland budget and donor documents he stole via identity theft and fraud.
Click here to get a sense of the scope of the Center for American Progress’ glee while hammering Heartland in the wake of Fakegate — which for Heartland was a much more severe version of what CAP is now experiencing. In the late winter and early spring of 2012, CAP’s minions at Think Progress couldn’t get enough. They went after Heartland’s corporate donors demanding they pull all funding of Heartland — and they did it with shameless lies and unbound vigor. Ironically, General Motors was the Heartland corporate-donor trophy that gave them the most satisfaction. Again, peruse the “Heartland Institute” search at Think Progress to get a sense of the sick satisfaction of these folks — who have now been hoist on their own petard … which brings me to this:
The Washington Free Beacon contacted me yesterday for comment on its story about all this titled “Progressives for Sale.” As I said in the lead to this post — and you now know via the background of Heartland’s experience above — it was so tempting for me to cackle with glee and shove some schadenfreude in the face of these leftist agitators. Here is my correspondence with the reporter:
QUESTION (paraphrase): What does this say about CAP’s standard of ethics, considering how critical they have been of corporate money in politics?
ANSWER (verbatim): “I find it ironic that the Center for American Progress may now realize how difficult it can be for a controversial non-profit to have its corporate donors exposed. CAP, after all, was among the organizations that gleefully publicized the Heartland Institute budget documents climate scientist Peter Gleick stole from us early last year. Maybe now CAP will tone down its celebration of crimes in the name of ‘disclosure’ and denunciation of corporate donations to non-profits — but I have my doubts.”
QUESTION (paraphrase): Is there a conflict of interest when they are taking money from GM and First Solar as they are advocating for policies that directly benefit those companies?
ANSWER (verbatim): “It depends. You’d have to ask the folks at CAP if they only advocated those policies because GM and First Solar gave them funding, or if GM and First Solar gave them funding because they advocated those policies on principle. The former would rightly raise eyebrows, but the latter should not. The Heartland Institute, for instance, has been advocating for smaller government, vigorous and honest climate research, and free-market solutions to social and economic problems for 29 years. We’ve had corporate donors come and go, but have never wavered on our principled stands on the most pressing public policy issues of the day. Who funds the message is not relevant; the quality of the argument and the soundness of the public policy prescription is what matters.”
Yes, I give the Center for American Progress the benefit of the doubt — even after all this and much more at the hands of CAP and its lefty allies. I don’t expect commensurate graciousness from the left, but maybe this development will bring about honesty — on all sides — about how think tanks actually work. CAP knows it, and should simply say it: The truth and the policy is what matters.
I hope this harrowing experience by the leading liberal think tank in Washington would serve as a clarifying lesson about the proper way to debate public policy. I have my doubts.
Apple Inc. is under fire for paying little corporate income tax. The company did it legally but this does not matter to those who apparently believe private business exists for the benefit of government.
A Senate subcommittee harangued Apple executives for their legal use of the tax code to minimize the company’s tax burden, something every company tries to do. It’s also something I’ll bet every reader of this blog post tries to do.
I was going to rant about this. Then I came across this video of Sen. Rand Paul’s performance during the subcommittee hearing. He said everything I wanted to say and then some. I don’t know how anyone could disagree with any of this. Enjoy.
It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week at the White House—and it isn’t looking like next week will be any better. You probably know about Obama’s trifecta of troubles: the Benghazi story about the attack that killed four Americans and the aftermath that falsely blamed a YouTube video that “continues to smolder on the far-right side of the dial,” the IRS targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny while giving liberals a pass, and, the one that got the mainstream media engaged: the “broad and potentially chilling probe” conducted by the Justice Department on journalists’ phone calls at the Associated Press (AP).
The place in which the President finds himself has been compared to that of Nixon on May 17, 1973, about which US News and World Report states: “The scandal and cover-up came to define and destroy Richard Nixon’s presidency. It’s too early to tell if the scandals plaguing President Barack Obama … rise to a similar level.”
It may be too early to tell whether the three scandals will “define and destroy” Barack Obama’s presidency—but they do reveal a propensity to massage the message and reward their friends while destroying their enemies. And, there are more than the trifecta of troubles that make this point, there’s a six-pack of scandals.
In addition to the three-widely covered stories, there are three more with the same characteristics.
EPA Favors Friendlies
We see favoritism in the EPAs treatment of friendly groups vs. a “concerted campaign to make life more difficult for those deemed unfriendly.” A few days ago, the Washington Examiner reported on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) review of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to see how equally the agency applies its fee waiver policy. The results are shocking.
Chris Horner, Senior Fellow at CEI, told me: “The IRS and EPA revelations are near-identical uses of the state to enable allies and disadvantage opponents. Granting or denying tax-exempt status can make or break a group. The same is true with FOIA fee waivers being tossed like Mardi Gras beads at greens, and denied to opponents of a bigger regulatory state. Fees for FOIA document productions can run into the six-figures.”
We’ll be hearing more about the EPA friendlies scandal. On Friday, May 17, Senator Vitter’s office sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe requesting “your prompt attention to this matter as we investigate EPA’s process for granting FOIA fee waivers.” The letter was signed by David Vitter, Ranking Member, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate; Darrel Isa, Chairman, Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, U.S. House of Representatives; James Inhofe, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Oversight Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate; and Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate.
The May 17 letter states: “According to documents obtained by the Committees, EPA readily granted FOIA fee waivers for liberal environmental groups–effectively subsidizing them–while denying fee waivers and making the FOIA process more difficult for states and conservative groups. This disparate treatment is unacceptable, especially in light of the recent controversy over abusive tactics at the Internal Revenue Service, which singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny.”
It reveals that the “EPA manipulated the FOIA fee waiver process.” Fee waiver requests sent by environmental groups were granted for 92% of the requests while EPA denied a fee waiver for 93% of requests from CEI and overall only granted fee waivers for other think tanks 27% of the time. “The startling disparity in treatment strongly suggests EPA’s actions are possibly part of a broader effort to collude with groups that share the agency’s political agenda and discriminate against states and conservative organizations. This is a clear abuse of discretion.”
The Washington Examiner reports: “all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied.”
Wind farms get a pass
We see the same “startling disparity in treatment” in the way the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is applied. Under both acts, the death of a single bird—without a permit—is illegal. On May 14, the AP reported on an investigation that showed that nearly 600,000 birds are killed each year by wind farms, including an average of about one golden eagle a month in Converse County, WY—which the AP calls: “one of the deadliest places in the country of its kind.” California’s Altamont Pass wind farms “kill more than 60 per year”—making it the “industry’s deadliest location.”
Yet, “so far, the companies operating industrial-sized turbines here and elsewhere that are killing eagles and other protected birds have yet to be fined or prosecuted—even though every death is a criminal violation. The Obama administration has charged oil companies for drowning birds in their waste pits, and power companies for electrocuting birds on power lines. But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly.”
Back in August 2011, oil company executives were hauled into court, by Timothy Purdon, the US Attorney for North Dakota, over the death of 28 migratory birds—including ducks. Businessweek reported: “The maximum penalty for each charge under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine.” The case was thrown out of federal court in January of 2012 by district Judge Daniel Hovland, who rejected US Attorney Purdon’s “expansive interpretation of the law” because it “would yield absurd results.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called the ruling “withering” and said: the “selective prosecution was probably an expression of its political hostility to oil and gas companies.” The report concludes with: “Mr. Purdon takes the prize for dodo prosecutor of the year.”
The WSJ didn’t point out Purdon’s resume. The LA Times reports: “Purdon is a prominent Democratic donor and fundraiser,” who served on the Democratic National Committee and who “has no experience as a prosecutor.” Purdon was chosen over several, apparently, more qualified candidates, who probably didn’t have Purdon’s pedigree. He was selected because he’s a loyalist who’d do what the White House wanted—and that included prosecuting oil companies for duck deaths.
Similarly, the AP reports that ExxonMobil paid $600,000 for killing 85 birds and BP was fined “$100 million for killing and harming migratory birds during the 2010 Gulf oil spill. And PacifiCorp, which operates coal plants in Wyoming, paid more than $10.5 million in 2009 for electrocuting 232 eagles along power lines and at its substations.”
“Meanwhile, the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles.” The wind-energy industry has been part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines that the Interior Department updated last year that “provided more cover for wind companies that violate the law.” The AP states: “In the end, the wind-energy industry … got almost everything it wanted.”
Former US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent Tom Eicher aptly sums up the scandal: “What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK.” Yet, in an interview with the AP before his departure, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “denied any preferential treatment for wind.”
Expect more coverage of the preferential application of regulatory enforcement. Rep. Doc Hasting, Chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, made the following statement through spokeswoman Jill Strait: “There are serious concerns that the Obama administration is not implementing this law fairly and equally.” The Committee is in “the beginning stages of an investigation.”
Propping up green energy
We see similar favoritism across the bigger energy spectrum. Despite President Obama’s frequent touting of increased domestic oil and gas production, “federal government policies are suppressing development,” says Kathleen Sgamma, Vice-President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance (WEA). “Unfortunately, the federal government is standing in the way of increasing production of valuable energy resources that could spur further job creation, economic growth, and energy security.” To support her comments, the WEA press release offers the following numbers: “From FY2008 to FY2011 the Bureau of Land Management offered 81% less acreage, which has resulted in a 44% drop in leasing revenue, down from $356 million to $201 million. Nationwide, royalty and leasing revenue have declined 12% from $4.2 billion to $3.7 billion.” Meanwhile production and revenue on private lands increased.
Additionally, despite numerous reports regarding the positive economic impacts and environmental safety of the Keystone pipeline it has been continuously delayed—now for more than 1700 days. On Thursday, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed a bill that, according to the WSJ, “effectively pushes through approval of the 875-mile pipeline by eliminating the need for Mr. Obama to issue a special permit for it.” Transportation committee chair Rep. Bill Shuster said: “After more than four years of bureaucratic delays, this bill will finally allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This project has been studied more than any other project of its kind.”
While federal policies are suppressing traditional energy that is effective, efficient and economical, they are propping up projects that have been repeatedly found to be failures—but that benefit Democratic donors.
Through Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Bill—which Democratic donors such as John Doerr, and George Soros (personally and through the Soros-funded Apollo Alliance) helped craft—nearly $100 billion dollars have been made available for green energy projects. With the help of researcher Christine Lakatos who’s been working on it since 2009, I’ve been extensively covering the green-energy crony-corruption scandal for the past 12 months. We’ve found that nearly all of the Department of Energy-funded projects had meaningful political connections and many got special treatment—such as fast-tracked approvals with little scrutiny over environmental damages that would have taken any other energy company months, if not years, to get—from the Department of Interior. The policies benefitted insiders such as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry—just to name a few. To date, 25 have gone bankrupt and four are about to go under—though 29 others have various issues. Denying the dismal record, Obama’s 2014 budget calls for more taxpayer dollars for green energy projects. It’s scandalous.
Now that The Hill is holding hearings and investigations on Benghazi, the IRS, the AP, the EPA, and the green energy industry’s not-so-green slaughter of protected species, it is time to look at the financial and regulatory favors extended to friendlies while erecting obstacles to anything or anyone they oppose—and that includes the green-energy crony-corruption scandal that could be the biggest of them all.
These six scandalous stories illustrate the standard operating procedure of the Obama White House—and, as such, there’s likely to be even more. It may be too early to tell whether these scandals will “define and destroy” Barack Obama’s presidency, but they are certainly a distraction to his second-term agenda and display a side the administration didn’t want made public.
Pick-up this six-pack and share it with others.
[First published at TownHall.com]
Radical environmentalism rose to ascendancy on opposition to pesticides, specifically DDT. “If the environmentalists win on DDT,” Environmental Defense Fund scientist Charles Wurster told the Seattle Times in 1969, “they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before.” Using Rachel Carson’s often inaccurate book Silent Spring to drive a nasty campaign, they succeeded in getting the Environmental Protection Agency to ban US production and use of DDT in 1972, leading to a de facto global ban even to combat malaria.
Trumpeting illusory or manufactured dangers of DDT and callously indifferent to the deaths of millions from this horrible disease, radical greens still battle its use, even to spray only the inside walls of primitive homes to keep most mosquitoes out, and keep those that do enter from infecting people.
Attacking a new class of insecticides for equally spurious reasons is thus no big deal, even if the chemicals are safe and vital for modern agriculture. Their real goal is to raise more money and acquire more power. As Saul Alinsky taught, they have picked their new target, personalized and polarized it, and attacked it relentlessly.
The target now is a widely used new class of safe pesticides – neonicotinoids – that Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network, Sierra Club and other “socially responsible” groups are blaming for bee population declines in various countries. But the real danger is a phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder,” which poses a serious threat to bees, crop pollination, flowers and food crops in many areas.
CCD and other bee die-offs are not new. What we now call colony collapse was first reported in 1869, and many outbreaks since then have turned scientists into Sherlock Holmes detectives, seeking explanations and solutions to this mysterious and scary-sounding problem. Fungi, parasitic mites and other possible suspects have been implicated, but none has yet been arrested or convicted.
That’s created a perfect Petri dish for anti-pesticide groups. They’re pressuring the United States and other countries to ban neonic pesticides, by blaming them for bee population declines. Their fear-mongering assertions are pure conjecture, but that hasn’t stopped activists – or news outlets – from promoting frightening stories implicating the chemicals.
“Neonics” are derived from naturally-occurring nicotine plant compounds and have been hailed as a low-toxicity pest treatment. They are often applied to seeds or on soils during planting, become part of the plants’ physiology, and work by giving treated plants internal defenses against invasive pests. That means neonics are toxic only to insects that feed on crops, which dramatically reduces the need to spray entire fields with other, less safe pesticides. It also curtails risks to farm workers and beneficial insects.
Claims that these insecticides could kill bees appear plausible at first blush, and laboratory studies have shown that high doses can affect bees in minor ways. However, doses that bees receive in lab studies “are far above what a realistic field dose exposure would be,” says Dr. Cynthia Scott-Dupree, environmental biology professor at the University of Guelph. The difference is akin to an 81 mg aspirin tablet versus a full bottle of 200 mg tablets, or light rainfall on a bee versus throwing it into a bucket of water.
Scott-Dupree helped coordinate a Canadian field study that compared hives exposed to neonics to those that weren’t exposed – and found no difference in colony health between the two groups. Another study by Britain’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs reached the same conclusion.
The DEFRA evaluation of studies purporting to link neonics to bee harm found that the lab work was conducted under extreme scenarios which would not occur under real-world conditions. “Risk to bee populations from neonicotinoids, as they are currently used, is low,” the scientists concluded.
That’s hardly surprising. Plant tissues contain only tiny amounts of neonics, bees are not feeding on the plants, and pollen contains barely detectable neonic levels.
Nevertheless, several beekeepers and activist groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency, demanding that EPA immediately ban all neonicotinoids.
The lawsuit is not merely ill advised. By blaming pesticides, activists are ignoring – and deflecting attention from – a very real and serious threat to bees. The aptly named parasitic mite “Varroa destructor” threatens honeybees directly, while spreading and activating previously dormant or harmless bee viruses, which then become dangerous. The mites are not easy to eradicate.
“You can imagine how hard it is to kill a bug on a bug,” says John Miller, President of the California State Beekeepers Association, and sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Treating Varroa requires insecticides that can be toxic to bees at levels high enough to be effective. Well-intentioned apiarists trying to combat Varroa can accidentally overdose hives with miticides.
Various neonicotinoids are widely used in Canada to protect its vast canola fields, and Canadian bee populations are thriving, notes science writer Jon Entine. Varroa-free Australia is likewise one of the world’s prime users of these pesticides, and its bee colonies are among the planet’s healthiest. By contrast, bee populations have been severely impacted by Varroa mites in areas of Switzerland where neonics are not used.
Multiple studies point to still other factors that explain why bees are struggling. They include bees developing resistance to antibiotics, funguses like Nosema, multiple bee viruses and parasites, bacterial infections like foulbrood, exposure to commonly used organophosphates, bee habitat loss, and even long-term bee inbreeding and resultant lack of genetic diversity.
Activists aren’t asking for investigation into these problems – which calls their science, sincerity and integrity into question. Their track record on DDT and malaria underscores this modus operandi. The activists get money, publicity, power and phony solutions – and end up hurting the very things (bees and people) they profess to care so much about.
Right now, no one knows why bees aren’t thriving. Studies have shown that neonicotinoids are innocent, and reflexive bans will harm farmers, whose crop yields will fall; consumers, whose food bills will rise and food safety will decline; and environmental values, as older, more toxic insecticides will have to be reintroduced to protect crops. The detective work needs to continue, until real answers are found.
The prudent, precautionary approach would be to avoid eliminating vital, low-toxicity neonicotinoids, while continuing to study their potential effects on bees, and other potential causes of die-offs and colony collapses. Right now we don’t have an equally low substitute for neonics. Sound, replicable science – not pressure group politics – must underpin all pesticide policies, or the unintended consequences will be serious, far-reaching, and potentially devastating to agriculture and food supplies.
We need to let science do its job, not jump to conclusions or short-circuit the process, as the media did in accusing Richard Jewell of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.
This time – as always – we need answers, not scapegoats.
In which I referenced a bit of good news on the Internet front. In a possible deal between ESPN and AT&T (at least), the sports network would pick up some of the tab for the delivery of its content. Which would be outstanding news for consumers. More content, more Internet use – for no more coin.
I then had the audacity to use the Left’s absurd words against them. “Consumer” interest groups – allegedly interested in consumers – were opposed to this, and calling on the government to stop it. And doing all of it in complete contravention of the facts.
My essay drew the scattershot attention – and conspiratorial ire – of Salon’s Andrew Leonard.
At Red State, the wonderfully monickered Seton Motley put down his monocle and blustered about the “ridiculous folly of the Left.” Public Knowledge isn’t a consumer interest group, he raged, it’s a “government interest group” whose sole goal is “growing government.”
Both Scott Cleland and RedState, intriguingly, brought up the same useful analogy to explain why Public Knowledge was off-base. When ESPN pays a company like AT&T to lift data caps for its streaming video, it’s just like any other company paying the phone company subsidized access to an 800 toll-free number.
RedState: Do these Leftist “consumer” groups oppose 800 numbers? Do they claim 800 numbers prevent you from calling other numbers? Do they claim 800 numbers hurt you –- the consumer? They would look ridiculous if they did.
There’s a good reason why the 800 analogy appears in both anti-Public Knowledge diatribes. Because it was originally suggested by AT&T itself back in February.
It is neither “intriguing” nor surprising that Cleland – full disclosure, a friend, but one with whom I never discussed my essay or his – and I would unilaterally deliver the same obvious example of how foolish the Left is being here.
And it is neither “intriguing” nor surprising that Mr. Leonard’s assertion that AT&T originally posited it in February 2013 – is completely wrong.
Perhaps for him an idea is born the first time he stumbles upon it.
I can’t speak for Cleland – again, because I have never discussed it with him – but I have been using said analogy since at least June of 2010, when I first started in writing and on radio and television discussing the absurdity that is Net Neutrality.
It is so obvious, and been used by so many people so many times, I’m not sure who came up with it when. It’s in the free market zeitgeist – like knowing the Left impedes economic growth and creativity. It’s a factual, rhetorical given.
Perhaps its free market nature prevented Mr. Leonard’s conceiving it – or his not having heard of it prior to February. He was, however, completely capable of conceiving out of whole cloth a marching-orders-conspiracy-theory.
It surely comes as no surprise that a telecom lobbyist and RedState are simply repeating AT&T’s propaganda.
Again, his chronology and his concept are woefully off. So too is his worldview. But hey – Leftists never allow facts to get in the way of a good beating.
I am a nothing if not magnanimous – I emailed Mr. Leonard the following:
Greetings. I’d like to respond to your piece in your august pages. You willing?
No response from Mr. Leonard. So I Tweeted at him:
@koxinga21 attempts some shots at me & #Leftist #NetNeutrality defense in @Salon http://t.co/1p83S1IZXp. Will he let me respond in his mag?
Again, no response from Mr. Leonard. Thus this comes here.
Will Mr. Leonard respond to this response there – with corrections aplenty? I won’t halt respiratory activity in the waiting.
[First posted at Red State]
Here’s a very revealing item for those interested in understanding the progressive worldview: the Internal Revenue Service has been accused, in addition to its many malfeasances already revealed, of asking people what they pray about. When queried about this in testimony before a congressional committee today, acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller could not bring himself to condemn such an outrageous intrusion into innocent people’s innermost thoughts:
“It pains me to say I can’t speak to that one either. But that’s an —” Miller said.
“You don’t know whether or not that would be an appropriate question to ask an applicant?” Schock interrupted Miller.
“Speaking outside of this case, which I don’t know anything about, it would surprise me that that question was asked,” Miller said.
Note that Miller cannot bring himself simply to say that such a thing would be wrong. Perhaps it did not occur to him. Or if it did, he considered it too dangerous a thing to say. This is the Alice in Wonderland world in which we find ourselves when under rule by socialist-progressive statists.
This incident was just another in a series of appalling revelations of the Obama administration’s IRS targeting harassment against groups and individuals believed to be unfriendly toward the president’s political programs. Like the Benghazi cover-up and the illegal prying into business and personal communications of people employed by the Associated Press (done, according to reports, because the White House was incensed by the timing of an AP story), this record of government intimidation is simply corrupt Chicago politics on a national scale.
The essence of Chicago machine politics is simple: give plenty of taxpayer-extracted gifts to your friends (Wall Street, Hollywood, medical providers, Silicon Valley, auto unions, wind and solar power developers, teachers unions, etc., etc., etc., in the current president’s case) and punish your enemies ruthlessly, with your enemies defined as anyone who stands in the way of your agenda, in any way, regardless of any other considerations such as their innocence of actual wrongdoing.
Thus the IRS’s Chicago-style outrages: “Nice little nonprofit organization you got there, buddy. It would be a shame if . . . something happened to it” . . .
That is statism in a nutshell.
Crossposted from The American Culture.