On January 2, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr was on Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio with Dave Williams to discuss the New York Fracking ban. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated the ban on hydraulic fracturing in December. While the ban is considered to be a political success for Governor Cuomo, Orr explains how the state is going to miss out on economic opportunities and tax revenue.
During the interview, Orr states that the decision was based on bad data. He says the studies on health effects have been widely discredited. Supporting the ban is the state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Dr. Zucker was concerned about potential “significant public health and environmental risks.” However, it has been show in other states that fracking can be done safely with little or no harm to public health or the environment.
Host Dave Williams frequently covers topics relating to agriculture, farming, food and nutrition; he also discusses subjects that have a local impact. Listen in as he talks to Isaac Orr about the latest news regarding the New York Fracking ban.
Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom discusses Governor Peter Shumlin’s recent announcement he would abandon plans to implement single-payer health care in Vermont. Shumlin has based his last three campaigns in large part on his single-payer advocacy, and he managed to get Vermont closer than probably any state has ever come to embracing fully government-run health care.
As Johnston explains, Shumlin had to abandon his plans once the details of the financing package became clear. Vermont would have needed a massive tax hike to pay for single-payer, including an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an income tax that would reach 9.5 percent for middle-income and up individuals and families.
Arguing the science has no effect on global warming alarmists. They are immune to facts and stick to models and fallacious arguments from biased, unscientific authorities.
Climate models say temperatures should climb right along with the rise in CO2 emissions, yet emissions rose from the 1940s through the 1970s, when scientists were warning of a coming ice age. And for the past two decades, CO2 emissions have continued to rise while temperatures have been in a holding pattern for the past 18 years.
Models say we should see more intense hurricanes, yet for nearly a decade the U.S. has experienced below-average hurricanes making landfall, and they have been no more powerful than previously experienced.
Sea-level rise has slowed, polar bear numbers have increased, the Antarctic ice sheet has set new records for expansion month after month and even the Arctic is back to average ice levels for the decade.
None of these trends is consistent with models’ predictions, yet alarmists ignore the facts because controlling human lives is their underlying goal, and their failed models are the only thing that enables them to claim disaster is in the offing if humans don’t change their ways.
Arguing economics is equally ineffective. Multiple analyses show the best economic response to the challenges posed by global warming is to use fossil fuels to grow peoples’ wealth globally and adapt to climate changes as they come — basically doing what humans have done throughout history.
In “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” author Alex Epstein makes a key point:
“Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … The popular climate discussion .. . looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe.”
Humans have long fought a war with climate, and where we’ve won it has been through the use of technology, most recently including the use of fossil fuels.
Although there are many distinctions between developed economies and developing ones, a critical difference is the widespread availability and use of fossil fuels to improve living conditions.
People in countries using abundant fossil fuels live longer, have fewer infant deaths, are healthier, are more educated and are much wealthier on average than people who live without coal, oil and natural gas.
This is not a mere coincidence, as wealth, health, education and other living conditions remained virtually stagnant for most of human history until our discovery of the ability to transform coal, oil and gas into fuels that powered the Industrial Revolution.
In the West, fossil fuels light homes, making work and an active home life possible after dark without the use of dung, wood and tallow, thus preventing millions of unnecessary deaths from respiratory disease.
Conversely, lack of fossil fuels condemns millions to early deaths from diseases like those that they experience in underdeveloped parts of Africa and Asia. Children die in Africa from malnutrition or starvation because they lack access to the quality and quantities of food made available to the West through fossil-fuel-dependent industrial agriculture and transportation.
Lives are saved in modern hospitals thanks to fossil fuels, from the gasoline fueling emergency vehicles to the electricity keeping the lights, computers, climate controls and refrigeration on.
Electricity runs incubators that save premature babies’ lives and respirators that keep people breathing until they can breathe on their own. Electricity runs the machines sterilizing instruments and conducting MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and all the other tests and technologies that allow medical professionals to predict, diagnose, and treat the countless diseases and injuries humans suffer each year.
Electricity delivers safe drinking water and fossil fuels make the plastics that are used in hospital blood and medicine bags, tubes, wiring and even furniture.
Would you want to be treated at a hospital without these lifesaving technologies? If not, why should the billions of poor people around the world live without these modern wonders so you can pursue some ideal vision of the perfect climate?
That’s the real question about fossil fuels: How many people are climate alarmists willing to let die prematurely to satisfy their perverse desire to end the use of fossil fuels?
[Originally published at Investor’s Business Daily]
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires government to provide “just compensation” to private individuals in return for taking private property for public use. This doesn’t address whether it is it right to take private property for private benefit, however, or whether the economic benefits of eminent domain are all they’re cracked up to be.
A recent study of eminent domain takings and their associated state and local government tax revenues suggests buying grandma’s farmhouse to make room for a strip mall isn’t the automatic economic boon it’s claimed to be, leaving some wondering if the use of eminent domain as an economic booster is ethical.
In 2005, the Supreme Court determined the phrase “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”—the final clause in the Fifth Amendment—allows the transfer of private property to private individuals and corporations, such as land dealers.
New London, Conn. wanted Susette Kelo’s property to be part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” to help boost the local economy. Evicting homeowners and investing millions of dollars was predicted to lure pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to relocate its research campus to the scenic waterfront property.
Nearly a decade later, the real property taken from Susette Kelo in the name of community revitalization and job growth sits empty. Prior to the takings, the homeowners benefited from their private property, but now no one benefits from Kelo’s lot. So much for “the greater good.”
Florida Gulf Coast University economists Carrie Kerekes and Dean Stansel used data collected from multiple states to quantify the empirical effect of eminent domain on local economies. If, as it is often claimed, taking private property for public use is economically beneficial, tax revenue would correlate positively with increased eminent domain takings.
Kerekes and Stansel, however, found “virtually no evidence” of eminent domain’s economic benefit. The pair of professors also found “no statistically significant relationship between eminent domain activity and the level of government revenue.”
The search for empirical evidence regarding government takings and tax revenue did turn up something surprising: There appears to be “a negative relationship between eminent domain and revenue growth.” The researchers wrote, “a one standard deviation change in eminent domain activity is associated with” a 0.75 percent decline in the local economic rate of growth.
If taking private property in the name of the common good actually serves to retard economic growth, as the Kerekes and Stansel study suggests, the wisdom of using eminent domain as an economic stimulus becomes questionable.
Private property is a fundamental tenet of the free market system. When individuals are allowed to use their property in the manner they see fit, the most efficient use of property becomes a rational behavior. In turn, tax revenues are maximized as individuals benefit from the value of their property.
It may be too late for Susette Kelo and other homeowners displaced by New London’s “comprehensive redevelopment plan,” but it’s never too late for city councils and states to reevaluate ineffective policies like eminent domain takings in light of new data.
[Originally published at Inside Sources]
While on an Energy policy road-trip, Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Nathan Makla take some time to discuss environmental issues in today’s podcast. Orr and Makla talk about some of the stops they have made so far during the tour and tackle a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding global warming.
A pipe dream because after decades of gerrymandering – partisanship is what you get. Gerrymandering is elected officials choosing voters rather than the other way round. Those already elected carve Congressional districts into bizarre shapes to – at the grainiest of micro-levels – decide which voters go where. You can’t create a plethora of 60+% partisan districts – and then act surprised when the resulting elected officials are partisan.
Bipartisanship is now rightly a dirty word for conservatives – because in DC Speak it means “Capitulate in as many ways as possible to Leftists.” The examples of this unbelievable double standard are without end.
From the just deceased Lame Duck Session – here is how two Senators were treated for their opposition to the absurd and awful, rushed and harried, bipartisan $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus.”
Conservatives can thus certainly be forgiven for recoiling whenever they receive demands for “bipartisanship.”
But it ain’t always and forever terrible. When the opportunity for positive-policy-bipartisanship presents itself – we should grab on with both hands.“Bipartisanship” doesn’t have to be bad. And we do not have to let the DC Speak Enforcers define it.
Republican Mitch McConnell, in line to become U.S. Senate majority leader, said he’ll try to end Washington gridlock and that he and President Barack Obama spoke about working on a tax-law revision and trade agreements….
“I said send us trade agreements. We’re anxious to take a look at them,” the senator said. “We’ll see whether we can work with the president. We hope so.”
…Obama told the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of top U.S. businesses, that he would like to pursue corporate tax reform (and) free-trade deals….
“The good news, despite the fact that obviously the midterm elections did not turn out exactly as I had hoped, is that there remains enormous areas of potential bipartisan action and progress,” Obama said.
Of course, the DC Speak Enforcers don’t like bipartisanship unless it results in ever-larger government.
The outreach to Republicans, combined with Obama’s changed rhetoric on international trade, has frustrated Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio….
Wait – this Senator Brown?
Removing government impediments to commerce certainly advances the economy. Less government = more economic activity. Precisely because of this government shrinkage – Senator Brown opposes the bipartisanship.
Then of course there’s….
Wait – that’s a whole lot of Socialist Senator Sanders opposition to bipartisanship. Why? Because these efforts make government smaller. What kind of bipartisanship does he love?
That “energy” bill was yet another government-money, Solyndra-stuffed, Crony Socialist nightmare mess. It greatly grew government – so Senator Sanders was suddenly again bipartisan.
“Bipartisanship” doesn’t have to be bad. And we do not have to let the DC Speak Enforcers define it.
Free trade and tax reform are bipartisan. And they’re good. Let us thus go forward – together.
[ This first appeared on Human Events]
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]
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.]
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.
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.
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.
Heartland Daily Podcast – Greg Lawson: Economic and Ethical Arguments for Workplace Freedom in the Midwest
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.
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.
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.
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]
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]
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.