Somewhat Reasonable

Syndicate content Somewhat Reasonable | Somewhat Reasonable
The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 24 min 6 sec ago

In 2010, Seventy-Four House Dems Opposed Obama’s Internet Power Grab. Now? Not So Much

January 13, 2015, 10:30 AM

November’s election was an overwhelming, historic rebuke of what President Barack Obama and his Democrats are doing – and how they’re doing it.

But if you think the newly-minted major Republican majorities should serve as a roadblock to the Democrat agenda – well, that’s yet another thing you don’t have in common with the Democrat Party.

President Obama has been unilaterally rewriting law in Executive-Order-fiat-fashion since about fifty-seven seconds into his Administration.  Last November’s election launched him into power grab overdrive.

Are Congressional Democrats protecting their purview?  And asking – nay demanding – President Obama leave the law writing to the lawmakers?  Of course not.

Sheila Jackson Lee: Writing Executive Orders for Obama to Sign ‘Our Number One Agenda’

Why would Democrats do their jobs – where they’ll have to deal with all those pesky Republicans the American people keep electing in ever-greater numbers?

Better to help President Obama render Congress ever more irrelevant.  Democrats get the undiluted-by-compromise Huge Government they want – and invited to all the President’s fancy Fiat Signing Ceremonies.

President Obama has nearly unlimited flexibility now that there are no more elections between him and the end of his regime.  But the clock is ticking – so he is really moving.

Just after the election he basically demanded that the allegedly independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

(R)eclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act….

The President wants his FCC to pretend to be Congress.  To yank the Internet out of 1996 law – and shove it into 1934 law.  He wants the omni-dynamic World Wide Web to be over-regulated like a Depression-era land line telephone.

Shocker – it looks like Obama-campaign-cash-bundling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is going to give the President what he wants.

Because this is the Democrat Party.  

As much government as possible – 

by any means necessary.

Meanwhile, Republicans still cling to the quaint Constitutional notion that elected legislators should be the ones legislating.

Republicans in Congress appear likely to introduce legislation next month aimed at preventing Internet providers from speeding up some Web sites over others.…

But those new powers would come with a trade-off… (T)he FCC would refrain from regulating net neutrality using Title II of the Communications Act….

Congressional Democrats?

“The FCC can and should take strong action… We would forcefully oppose any (Congressional) reforms that would undermine the FCCs authority….”

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

Remember – the FCC doesn’t have any authority over anything unless and until Congress first writes law giving it to them.  (I’m reminding Democrats – not you, Gentle Readers.)

In 2010, many Democrats were singing a very different tune.  (Brace yourselves – else you might get whiplash.):

74 House Democrats Not Happy With FCC Broadband Plan Either

The lawmakers signed (Rep. Gene Green of Texas’) letter…expressing their opposition to the FCC’s…plan to reclassify broadband from a Type I information service to a Type II telecom service….

“The significant regulatory impact of reclassifying broadband services is not something that should be taken lightly and should not be done without additional direction from Congress.”…

Green said “This letter clearly shows it is not a partisan issue.….”

And now?

Congressman Gene Green and 19 other Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC)…in response to recent reports that the FCC will consider regulating broadband Internet as a Title II, common carrier service under the Communications Act of 1934….

“A strict, utility-type regulation under Title II-created to regulate telephone services in the 1930s-simply wont work for this new, innovative, ever-evolving technology.”

74 dwindles to 20.  Profiles in Discouraging.  What happened to the rest?  Some lost intervening elections.  Some returned to the Democrat Huge Government fold.

Rep. Peters Flips for Net Neutrality

Back in 2010, Michigan Rep. Gary Peters was one of 73 House Democrats who signed fellow Rep. Gene Greens letter urging the FCC not to adopt strong Net Neutrality rules….

This week Peters, whos running for Senate, wrote a letter pushing the agency to protect the open Internet in the best way possible: by reclassifying Internet service providers as common carriers.

He’s now Senator Peters.  He was running for a promotion as a lawmaker – in part on refusing to make law. And was apparently unhindered by his newfound preference for unilateral government power grabs and his own irrelevancy.

Because this is the Democrat Party.  As much government as possible – by any means necessary.

Categories: On the Blog

Lessons for Winning Liberty in a World of Statism

January 13, 2015, 2:39 AM

Friends of freedom often become despondent when it seems that every day brings another growth and intrusion of government over people’s lives. But there is no reason to be disheartened, because there are lessons for winning liberty – from the opponents of freedom.

 Beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century, through most of the twentieth century and into our own time, all ideological, political and economic trends have been in the direction of various forms of collectivism. How did this come about, and what might friends of freedom learn from it?

Let’s take the case of socialism. On March 14, 1883, a German philosopher living in exile in London passed away. When he was buried three days later in a modest grave where his wife had been laid to rest two years earlier, fewer than ten people were present, half of them family members.

His closest friend spoke at the gravesite and said, “Soon the world will feel the void left by the passing of this Titan.” But there was, in fact, little reason to think that the deceased man or his long, turgid, and often obscure writings would leave any lasting impression on the world of ideas or on the course of human events.

That man was Karl Marx.

Socialism Did Not Always Seem “Inevitable”

Advocates of liberty often suffer bouts of despair. How can the cause of freedom ever triumph in a world so dominated by interventionist and welfare-statist ideas? Governments often give lip service to the benefits of free markets and the sanctity of personal and civil liberties. In practice, however, those same governments continue to encroach on individual freedom, restrict and regulate the world of commerce and industry, and redistribute the wealth of society to those with political power and influence. The cause of freedom seems to be a lost cause, with merely temporary rear-guard successes against the continuing growth of government.

What friends of freedom need to remember is that trends can change, that they have in the past and will again in the future. If this seems far-fetched, place yourself in the position of a socialist at the time that Karl Marx died in 1883, and imagine that you are an honest and sincere – if naïve – advocate of socialism.

As a socialist, you live in a world that is still predominately classical liberal and free market, with governments in general only intervening in relatively minimal ways in commercial affairs. Most people – including those in the “working class” – believe that it is not really the responsibility of the state to redistribute wealth or nationalize industry and agriculture, and are suspicious of most forms of government paternalism.

How could socialism ever be victorious in such a world so fully dominated by the “capitalist” mindset? Even “the workers” don’t understand the evils of capitalism and the benefits of a socialist future! Such a sincere socialist could only hope that Marx was right and that socialism would have to come – someday – due to inescapable “laws of history.”

Yet within 30 years the socialist idea came to dominate the world. By the time of the First World War the notion of paternalistic government had captured the minds of intellectuals and was gaining increasing support among the general population. Welfare-statist interventionism was replacing the earlier relatively free-market environment.

The socialist ideal of government planning was put into effect as part of the wartime policies of the belligerent powers beginning in 1914, and also lead to the communist revolution in Russia in 1917, the rise to power of fascism in Italy in 1922, the triumph of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany in 1933, and the implementation of FDR’s New Deal policies in 1933, as well.

Collectivists Triumphed Based on Individualist Methods

Socialism triumphed during that earlier period of the last decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries because while socialists advocated an ideology of collectivism, they practiced a politics of individualism. They understood that “history” would not move in their direction unless they changed popular opinion. And implicitly they understood that this meant changing the minds of millions of individual people.

So they went out and spoke and debated with their friends and neighbors. They contributed to public lectures and the publishing of pamphlets and books. They founded newspapers and magazines, and distributed them to anyone who would be willing to read them. They understood that the world ultimately changes one mind at a time – in spite of their emphasis on “social classes,” group interests, and national conflicts

They overcame the prevailing public opinion, defeated powerful special interests, and never lost sight of their long-term goal of the socialist society to come, which was the motivation and the compass for all their actions.

 

Lesson One: Confidence in the Moral Rightness of Liberty

What do friends of freedom have to learn from the successes of our socialist opponents? First, we must fully believe in the moral and practical superiority of freedom and the free market over all forms of collectivism. We must be neither embarrassed nor intimidated by the arguments of the collectivists, interventionists, and welfare statists. Once any compromise is made in the case for freedom, the opponents of liberty will have attained the high ground and will set the terms of the debate.

Freedom advocate, Leonard E. Read, once warned of sinking in a sea of “buts.” I believe in freedom and self-responsibility, “but” we need some minimum government social “safety net.” I believe in the free market, “but” we need some limited regulation for the “public good.” I believe in free trade, “but” we should have some form of protectionism for “essential” industries and jobs. Before you know it, Read warned, the case for freedom has been submerged in an ocean of exceptions.

Each of us, given the constraints on his time, must try to become as informed as possible about the case for freedom. Here, again, Leonard Read pointed out the importance of self-education and self-improvement. The more knowledgeable and articulate we each become in explaining the benefits of the free society and the harm from all forms of collectivism, the more we will have the ability to attract people who may want to hear what we have to say.

Lesson Two: Focusing on the Long Run, Not Short Run Turns

Another lesson to be learned from the earlier generation of socialists is not to be disheartened by the apparent continuing political climate that surrounds us. We must have confidence in the truth of what we say, to know in our minds and hearts that freedom can and will win in the battle of ideas.

We must focus on that point on the horizon that represents the ideal of individual liberty and the free society, regardless of how many twists and turns everyday political currents seem to be following. National, state, and local elections merely reflect prevailing political attitudes and beliefs. Our task is to influence the future and not allow ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by who gets elected today and on what policy platform.

As Austrian economist, F.A. Hayek, emphasized, current policy directions are the product of ideological and political trends from thirty or forty years ago. In other words government policies today are the lagged effect of political-philosophical and ideological trends of earlier decades. To change tomorrow’s policies, our focus today must be on influencing the “climate of opinion” reflected in people’s minds that, then, will determine how people in the future view issues such as the role of government in society based on their notion of the nature and rights of individuals.

Lesson Three: Knowing that Only Freedom Works

Let us remember that over the last hundred years virtually every form of collectivism has been tried—socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism, interventionism, welfare statism—and each has failed. There are very few today who wax with sincere enthusiasm that government is some great secular god that can solve all of mankind’s problems – at least not many outside of those currently employed in the White House!

 

Statist policies and attitudes continue to prevail because of institutional and special interest inertia; they no longer possess the political, philosophical, and ideological fervor that brought them to power in earlier times.

Political collectivism resulted in terrible and brutal tyrannies around the world. Government central planning created economic stagnation and chaos wherever tried. Interventionist-welfare statist policies have generated spider’s webs of special interest politics, intergenerational redistributive dependency, and perverse incentives and barriers to opportunity and prosperity.

There is, in fact, only one “ism” left to fill this vacuum in the face of collectivism’s failures in all its forms. It is classical liberalism, with its conception of the free man in the free society and the free market, soundly grounded in the ideas of each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property in a social setting of peaceful association and voluntary cooperation and trade.

If we keep the classical liberal ideal of individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism before us, we can and will win liberty in our time – for our children and ourselves.

Categories: On the Blog

Castro’s Message to Cubans Contradicts Obama’s Stated Reforms

January 12, 2015, 7:17 PM

It was on Wednesday, December 17, that President Obama instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba to ease the U.S. trade embargo and move toward full diplomatic relations, with the possibility of re-establishing an embassy in Havana. Following Obama’s announcement the Vatican issued its own same day statement expressing Pope Francis’ “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations.”

The White House credits Pope Francis with being an important catalyst to the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States. While the eighteen month negotiations took place primarily in Canada, the final deal was worked out at the Vatican and personally attended to by the first Latin American, pope, Pope Francis. Obama said during his fifteen minute speech: “His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me and to Cuba’s president, Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case and to address Cuba’s interests in the release of three Cuban agents, who’ve been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.”  Cited by the White House is how the Pope raised the issue repeatedly with Obama when the two men met at the Vatican in March of 2014.

Following Obama’s December 17th statement, the Vatican issued its own same day statement expressing Pope Francis’ “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations.” The statement also confirmed that in recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to both Castro and Obama, and “invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties.”

Raul Castro’s Victory Lap Speech contradicts Obama’s message

What the Cuban people heard were not the reforms in diplomacy as delivered by President Obama. Instead, they heard Raul Castro’s Embargo in his Victory Lap Speech as he spoke simultaneously to the Cuban people as President Obama delivered his remarks.  Castro explained the release of both USAID worker Alan Gross (who had been subjected to various abuses in Cuban prison for attempting to connect Cuban Jews to the Internet) and the three Cuban spies convicted of crimes in the United States, as a promise kept by “Comrade Fidel.”

Raul Castro further noted how the new diplomatic relations were a sign that Cuba can “resolve differences through negotiations without renouncing to even one of our principles,” going on to applaud  “the heroic Cuban people” for “remaining loyal to our ideals of independence and social justice.”  And in a definite swipe against President Obama, Castro touted how the new reforms would help in “the actualization of our economic model to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism.” Although Castro did note that the decision by President Obama deserved the respect and recognition of the Cuban people, he placed blame on President Obama’s shoulders and called for Obama to lift the embargo entirely through executive action.

Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on the Fox News Channel on the day of Obama’s announcement (December 17) that Obama’s move constituted “appeasement” and is a “very, very bad signal of weakness and lack of resolve by the president of the United States.

Anger and condemnation was the prevailing GOP reaction to Obama’s announcement of a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called Obama’s action “appeasement of a dictatorship.”  House Speaker John Boehner remarked how it “emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism. But not so with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who not only said Obama had made the correct decision to allow more trade with Cuba as it will lead to a freer Cuba, but that the president had also acted within his executive authority to do so.

Republicans who like Ran Paul support Obama’s new Cuba policy (including Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Representatives Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Mark Sanford Mark of South Carolina), all have in common the fact that they were born after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The same describes younger Cuban-Americans who are skeptical of the sanctions against their ancestral homeland and don’t subscribe to the hardline Cold War rhetoric that accompanied the 196l embargo.

Were Senator Ron Paul and others favoring Obama’s decision aware of the measure the Cuban government declared a day before Obama announced his thawing of U.S.-Cuba relation? The mainstream media was certainly nowhere to be found.

In an official announcement in state newspaper Granma, just one day before President Obama announced sweeping changes that would allow potential American investment in Cuba on Tuesday, December 16, the Cuban government announced a new measure that would allow Cubans who work for foreign companies to keep only 8% of their salaries. In other words, even if a foreign company has the means to pay more than a Cuban company, the worker will receive the same salary as if he were working for a Cuban company, and the government will pocket the rest, 92%!  In addition to the 92% of salaries being pocketed by the Cuban government, Cuban government employment offices will charge 20% of the salary of each worker they connect to the corporation for the service of finding said corporation employees. Employees will also lose 9.09% of their salaries for “vacation time.”

Given this new government measure, American companies who might like to do work in Cuba would be keeping very little of the money they invested and earned in business, but instead would line the pockets of the communist government. As Raúl Castro noted in his speech, the Cuban government made no concessions in this recent negotiation with the United States, save the freedom of Gross and one other American agent whom President Obama did not name, which leaves it open to sanctioning American companies who dare attempt to do business on the island as they see fit.

Account of one who escaped from Castro’s Cuba as a teenager

Below are excerpts from an article, “Obama, Castro and the Pope,” by Elvira Fernandez Hasty, my friend and collaborator a devout life-long Catholic.  It was first published on December 18 at Canada Free Press. Elvira Hasty knows firsthand of what she speaks and doesn’t mince words. Soon after Fidel Castro came to Cuba there were rumors of the government takeover of private schools. Elvira was sent as a young teen to the USA via the Pedro Pan program to live with cousins of her mother in Tampa, Florida.  It was to be a temporary situation, just until the government in Cuba changed to a democracy, but after all these years Cuba is still a communist country.  It is the USA that has changed.

The Obama promise of “a radical transformation of America” is being accomplished in a blatant disregard for our constitution and our laws, and no one seems to do anything about it.  Apparently not being called racist by the liberal press is more important to our elites in government and society than to save our country.

Not only it is the USA becoming a Marxist tyranny under President Obama, but even the Catholic Church leader, Pope Francis, is helping out in achieving it.  What makes this Pope think he can meddle in the politics of an independent country?  And this from a person who has no idea of economics, history, and what communism has done to humanity. Does he not understand that being a “do-gooder” without knowledge always ends up in disaster for those they wish to help?  Father Jonathan of Fox News is happy for the Cuban people——really?  For what?  Nothing will change for them.  There is no embargo.  This is another scam perpetrated by the Marxist media and the billionaire thugs, just like Global Warming.  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.  The problem has always been credit the Cuban government demands when trading.  Just ask those countries that have traded with Cuba and never got paid. Obama will now have the funds to help out the communist Cuban government. 

And help it is!  Cuba is close to complete economic meltdown.  It can no longer rely on Russia because it has its own economic problems.  And Venezuela’s economy is suffering due to the decrease in oil prices.  Cuba had been relying on Venezuela providing oil to just survive.  Not to worry, Castro boys; Obama comes to the rescue!  He will never let down one of his own comrades. After all, too few communist countries are left and Obama needs friends.  In addition, the Chamber of Commerce can never turn down a good scam, just like with illegal aliens.  As money from tourists and exported goods reach Cuba, the Castro brothers and their friends will become richer and more powerful while the Cuban workers will continue to be paid in cheap pesos. 

To the Americans who so much desire to travel to Cuba, my sincere prayers that you would realize what your money would do to your country before you start packing that suitcase.  Life is really not about pleasure, but about love & sacrifice for your fellow human beings in this world.

To the Catholic leaders who wish to help the Cuban people, my prayers, too, that you would realize the evil that has descended upon our country and the Church.  Your purpose is to save souls, not to be used as pawns for the Devil.

Postlude

The outgoing head of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the son of Cuban immigrants, noted on a Jan. 4th Sunday morning news program that he knew nothing about the eighteen month Cuba deal to normalize relations with Cuba.  Furthermore, Senator Bob Menendez was not at all pleased that this nation got nothing for giving up all the Castro regime wanted to see and had lobbied for.

In so far as President Obama stated in his Dec.17th announcement that the change in U.S.-Cuban relations came about because isolation hadn’t worked, further stating that Cubans should not face harassment or arrest for expressing their views, Obama then promised to monitor human rights violations.   President Obama didn’t have long to wait when only two weeks after his announcement human rights activists and political dissidents were arrested.  Signaling that Cuba will continue to suppress dissent, Cuban’s President Raul Castro detained more than 50 activists on Tuesday, December 30, in what was reported a move to squelch a planned gathering in Havana’s Revolution Square on New Year’s Day. Also of concern is that although the U.S.-Cuba deal called for the release of 53 political prisoners held by the Castro regime, so far the prisoners have not been released or even identified.

In spite of the harsh response to the crackdown by the Obama administration and the State Department, the Obama administration has been stung by Cuba’s crackdown on dissidents. Little seems to have changed in Havana despite President Obama’s diplomatic outreach.  What are the odds of the Obama administration taking any action other than its rhetorical protests against human rights abuses in Havana? Did President Obama just give the Castro regime in Cuba an unwarranted bailout?  For more than a half century there was the bi-partisan consensus of 10 presidents with a consistent policy toward Cuba.  It never occurred to any of them to surrender to Cuba.

Obama seems to relish trading Americans who hate America for foreign terrorists and murderers who also hate America, i.e., the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban’s high command.  Obama also seems to hold deep affection for hardline Islamic states, so anything could happen in the next two years.  Iran might even be looked on favorably by the Obama administration and given an Embassy, so desperate is Obama to sign a nuclear deal which wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on!

[First published at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Congress Doesn’t Create Free Markets—It Only Destroys Them

January 12, 2015, 3:15 PM

When people clamor for Congress to pass a “free-market health plan,” they are forgetting two things: Congress only does laws, which restrict freedom. We need fewer laws, not more. And the free market is by nature not a plan.

Big laws like ObamaCare are designed by special-interest groups, such as the “insurance” (managed care) cartel, Big Hospitals, Big Pharma, and influential groups that want their benefits (abortion, contraception, drug and alcohol rehab, AIDS therapy, etc.) paid for by people who would never use them.

There are good ideas circulating, such as health status insurance, expanded health savings accounts, and critical illness insurance. How good? We won’t know without trying them. The free market—voluntary decisions by free individuals—picks the winners and losers, and allows options that work for some but not others. The free market cannot achieve the utopian state in which everybody gets optimum care, paid for by everybody else. Neither can government. The government can only force everybody (except of course for the elite) into equally shabby care, paid for by extortionate taxes with huge losses to corruption and incompetence.

Obviously, government does not actually provide medical care. It just sets up the conditions under which doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, and others do that. Congressionally mandated conditions are making it more and more difficult for medical professionals to do their work.

The only thing government can do to create a free market is to get out of the way. Laws that constrain people’s ability to innovate or to do their best need to be repealed—and many of these date back to the New Deal.

The key change is to restore the liberty of the people to make enforceable contracts—which the Roosevelt Supreme Court destroyed. Specifically, this would mean:

  • Prices would be set by agreement of buyer and seller. Over forty centuries, price controls have always and everywhere had the same results: shortages, misallocation of resources, corruption, and misery, whether imposed by Roman Emperor Diocletian, Hitler, Roosevelt, Nixon, or Medicare/Medicaid.
  • People could agree to limits on liability. Doctors should not have to risk impoverishment every time they try to help someone.
  • People could buy insurance at an actuarially fair price with the coverage they desire—or refrain from buying it at all. If federal mandates and impediments were repealed, it would just take one state to allow marketing of insurance to out-of-state residents to start a marketplace for people in states where the price of individual insurance is prohibitive owing to state mandates.

We can’t just wipe out programs that people are dependent upon—although they are headed to inevitable bankruptcy. But why not let people turn down the benefits and “protections” if they choose to do so? That way we could relieve pressure on the programs, while finding out how the way of freedom is better.

Here are some things that some people would like to do without:

  • Medicare. Really. Some seniors even sued for the right to forgo Part A without paying back all their Social Security. Why? As a colleague wrote me, “You ought to see how academic centers don’t want to take care of old people or high-risk people.”
  • FDA restrictions on “unproved therapies.” People who are facing certain death or disability want the right to try treatments that haven’t been through years and $2.6 billion in testing to satisfy the FDA—or to have to first “fail” on approved but painful, toxic, minimally effective treatment first. Why not fail on the new treatment first and fall back on the old?
  • Electronic medical records. People want to have their doctor’s undivided attention, and they don’t want their life story in a government database. They can keep track of the important facts themselves, thank you very much.
  • The third-party system of scribes, coders, claims filers, preauthorizations (or denials), compliance monitors, managers, auditors, “re-pricers,” etc. This probably skims off 40 percent of the “healthcare” dollar while providing nothing that resembles medical goods or services.

If some people like their government healthcare, let them keep it. But let the people go if they prefer freedom.

Categories: On the Blog

Wind Energy’s Bluster Peters Out

January 12, 2015, 1:15 PM

Touted as “America’s first offshore wind project,” Cape Wind became one of America’s most high-profile and most controversial wind-energy projects. Fourteen years in the making, estimated at $2.6 billion for 130 turbines, covering 25 square miles in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project has yet to install one turbine—let alone produce any electricity. Now, it may be “dead in the water.”

On January 6, the two power companies, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, that had agreed to purchase most of the electricity Cape Wind was to generate, terminated their contracts with the developers due to missed milestones. Under the terms of the contracts, Cape Wind had to secure financing and give notices to proceed to its suppliers to start work by December 31, 2014. Neither happened and both companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements. “The project is in cardiac arrest,” according to Amy Grace, a wind-industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Cape Wind has faced stiff opposition since it was first proposed in 2001. Senator Edward Kennedy’s efforts, and those of his wealthy friends, to fight Cape Wind have been the most publicized, but Native Americans, fishermen, and local communities have also battled the industrialization of Nantucket Sound. The town of Barnstable has been particularly active in the fight. The Cape Cod Times reports that Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, said: “The town’s concerns include the possibility that a collision between a boat and the large electric service platform the project requires could spill thousands of gallons of oil into the sound.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) positioned Cape Wind as the centerpiece of his renewable energy goals and invested significant political capital backing the proposal—including tying the NStar power purchase agreement to approval of the NStar and Northeast Utilities merger (given the unfavorable terms of the agreements, the companies may have been looking for any exit ramp). Yet, Ian Bowles, Patrick’s first energy and environment chief who, according to the Boston Globe, “helped shepherd the offshore project,” acknowledges that the loss of the power purchase agreements “may have spelled the end for Cape Wind.”

The announcement came two days before Patrick left office. While he claims: “We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines,” Patrick concedes it is now “up to the market.” According to the Cape Cod Times, the former governor doesn’t know “if the project could survive without the contracts in place.”

Even the Department of Energy (DOE), which seems to indiscriminately throw money at any politically favored green-energy project, was tepid in its support for Cape Wind. DOE’s loan guarantees generally average about 60 percent of the project’s costs, but the $150 million offered to Cape Wind made up a mere 6 percent—and that, only after the project received commitments for about half of its financing. In most cases, the government guarantee comes before the private financing and signals a go-ahead for investors.

While both supporters and detractors believe the project is in jeopardy, environmentalists and Cape Wind Associates LLC have not yet waved the white flag. According to Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources research : “Cape Wind may be down, but it is not out.” The Boston Globe reports that Cape Wind’s president, James Gordon, believes the perpetual litigation “triggered a clause in the contracts that allows for more latitude in Cape Wind’s ability to meet the deadlines.” However, after the company already spent $50 to $70 million on the project, the fact that Gordon opted not to pay the utilities the mere $2 million needed for a six-month extension signals that he doesn’t have confidence that they can continue.

Additionally, the political winds have shifted. While Governor Patrick championed Cape Wind, Massachusetts’ new governor, Charlie Baker (R) is on record as being staunchly opposed to it—even calling it Patrick’s “personal pet project.” While campaigning, Baker “dropped his opposition to Cape Wind” because he believed it was a “done deal.” Now that the deal may well be undone, Baker says he “will not try to influence the outcome of the legal process surrounding the Cape Wind project.”

The cancellation of the contracts is “a near fatal blow” to Cape Wind according to Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Cod based group which has led the fight against cape wind.

Wind energy’s future faces problems beyond Massachusetts.

While Massachusetts’ utility companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements, two Minnesota wind farms, operating as Minwind Companies, were filed for bankruptcy because the eleven turbines needed extensive repairs and the 360 farmers and landowners who invested in the projects can’t afford the maintenance. Minwind CEO Mark Willers explained: “Minwind Companies have enjoyed relative prosperity in recent years, but the April ice storm last year took a toll on equipment—and on the budget.” At a December 17 meeting, he told shareholders: “We were 200 to 300 percent over budget to make those repairs.”

Minwind’s nine separate limited-liability companies allowed investors to take advantage of federal wind-energy credits, USDA grants, and the now-discontinued state assistance program for small wind projects. The Star Tribune reports: “The owners stand to lose their investment, and the wind farms eventually may have to shut down.”

On the national level, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has continued to lobby for a retroactive extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy that expired at the end of 2013. Disappointing AWEA, the lame-duck Congress did approve a ninth extension—but just through the end of 2014. AWEA’s CEO Tim Kiernan groused: “Unfortunately, the extension to the end of 2014 will only allow minimal new wind development and it will have expired again by the time the new Congress convenes.” In response to the “bare-minimum extension,” Luke Lewandowsi, Make Consulting research manager, said it “casts doubt on the willingness or ability of Congress to revisit the PTC in 2015.”

Adding insult to industrial wind’s injury, wind turbine installation placed number three in the list of 10 dying U.S. industries—following only computer and recordable media manufacturing.

All of this news doesn’t bode well for the wind energy business, but for ratepayers and those who believe in the free market and who believe that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, current wind conditions are a breath of fresh air. Governments, both state and federal, have given wind energy every advantage, to quote Governor Patrick: “It’s now up to the market”—and even Warren Buffet admits the tax credits are the only reason to build wind farms.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

January 12, 2015, 11:54 AM

Alex Epstein, author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change in July 2014.

“Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits.”

In his new book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein makes one of the most compelling arguments for the moral value of fossil fuels and the need to increase their use that we have ever read. Although virtually everyone battling the anthropogenic global warming delusion takes a defensive position with regard to the world’s use of coal, natural gas, and oil, our so-called fossil fuels, Epstein recognizes that, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense.

Written in a conversational style that is easy to read and understand, this book can serve as a layman’s guide, refuting the absurd claims that man controls the climate, while explaining why the current abundance of oil and gas due to hydraulic fracturing will leave all efforts to impose wind and solar energy in our rear-view mirrors.

For Epstein, human life, well-being, and flourishing are the standard of value public policy should maximize. He calls this position ethical humanism, a theory that goes back to the ancient Greeks, if not before, and was virtually unchallenged as a basis for judging right and wrong until recently. He examines fossil fuels strictly in relation to their ability to enhance or constrain human well-being.

Unfortunately, many prominent environmental writers have rejected humanism, instead embracing a bio-centric philosophy that views human changes to the environment as intrinsically bad and takes minimizing human impacts on the environment as the prime moral goal. As such, bio-centrism is a prescription for human poverty, disease, starvation, and premature death—in other words, an endorsement of the world as experienced by all but the wealthiest individuals for the vast majority of human history.

Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits. Epstein makes short shrift of the fear-mongering that focuses on catastrophic depletion of our fossil fuels rather than on the human ingenuity that always finds replacements for all our resources before they run out.

Fossil Fuels Power Progress and Well-being

Fossil fuel use has dramatically increased human life expectancy and reduced infant mortality in the developed world. Thanks to fossil fuels, “millions of individuals in industrializing countries have gotten their first light bulb, their first refrigerator, their first decent paying job, their first year with clean drinking water or a full stomach,” Epstein writes. Ultimately, the moral case for fossil fuels is not about fossil fuels; it is the moral case for using cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to amplify our abilities to make the world a better place for human beings.

The development and use of fossil fuels has benefitted the poor far more than the rich, making available to the person of average means, food, goods, and services that even the rulers of old could hardly dream of. Fossil fuels grant freedom and free up time.

Epstein builds on Milton Friedman’s explanations in his Free to Choose TV series where he explains that the rich do not benefit so much as others do from advances in energy, as they have always had servants to fetch, entertain, make clothes and the like. The achievement of inexpensive energy, Friedman remarks, “has made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.”

Problems with Other Energy Sources

The book also briefly but effectively skewers all standard forms of renewable energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels (but not hydropower), explaining they are useful for niche applications but utterly unable to supplement fossil fuels in the electric grid or for transportation.

And yet our political leaders propose massive restrictions on fossil fuels with the promise that these inferior technologies will replace them. This reflects either an ignorance of (perhaps willful) or indifference to the need for efficient, cheap, reliable energy for 1.3 billion people without electricity and more than 3 billion who do not have adequate electricity. For everyone “to have as much access to energy as the average American, the world’s energy production would have to quadruple,” Epstein writes.

Seeing the Big Picture

Epstein’s assumption that human welfare and flourishing are the primary moral standard leads to a couple of important conclusions. One, we should look at the big picture when determining the value of using fossil fuels. That means we must examine not just the costs or potential harms to humans from fossil fuel use but also all the virtues and benefits it provides and the harms that would occur if fossil fuels are abandoned as a source of energy. If one has an open mind, it is apparent fossil fuels provide unique and tremendous benefits to humankind, unmatched by any other fuel source at current prices with current technology, benefits far outweighing the harmful by-products resulting from their use, even if one believes their use contributes to global warming.

Second, Epstein writes:

Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels.… Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are ‘fighting’ climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It 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. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.

Restricting or ending fossil fuel use, not climate change, is the real recipe for disaster, Epstein argues. It would set human civilization back centuries, ringing a true death knell for present and future generations.

Epstein sums up much of his moral argument in his final chapter, “Winning the Future,” with this excellent statement: “We don’t want to save the planet from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings. We need to say this loudly and proudly. We need to say that human life is our one and only standard of value. And we need to say that the transformation of our environment, the essence of our survival, is a supreme virtue. We need to recognize that to the extent we deny either, we are willing to harm real, flesh and blood human beings for some antihuman dogma.”

This is a great book for all your open-minded friends willing to spend a few hours expanding their understanding beyond the myopic delusion purveyed by the contemporary mainstream media.

———————————

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is science director, and H. Sterling Burnett is a research fellow, at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Chicago, Illinois.

Categories: On the Blog

The FCC Is Unnecessarily Undermining its Legitimacy

January 12, 2015, 10:27 AM

In directing the Wireless bureau to make two substantial, Commission-level decisions today, without the full Commission vote that was requested by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, (concerning the release of the annual wireless competition report and regulating cellular data roaming rates), the FCC Chairman unnecessarily undermined the legitimacy of the FCC at a critical time the FCC needs all the actual and perceived legitimacy it can get.

The FCC’s legitimacy comes from the authority of law written by a duly-elected Congress under the U.S. Constitution, and from the official votes from duly-appointed FCC commissioners, who in turn abide by: the powers vested in the Commission by the Communications Act; due process; and the Administrative Procedures Act.

Process matters.

Making rate regulation without an official vote of the Commission can create the public perception that a majority of the Commission may not support some, or all of the new rate regulation.

At this particular time in the FCC’s history, when the FCC is potentially poised to reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service to impose rate regulation for downstream Internet traffic, (which also could involve some forbearance from other rate regulations via the official forbearance process), the perception of the reliability of the FCC in respecting its own processes and procedures is especially important.

If FCC commissioners cannot predict or count on being included in rate regulation decisions by the FCC under normal expected processes and procedures, what confidence can affected parties have that the FCC will follow the law and the FCC’s process and procedures on other matters that affect their interests?

What confidence could affected parties have that the process and procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act will be legally respected in building the necessary record for the pending Open Internet Order, or for its complex implementation?

It does not advance the current or long-term legitimacy of the FCC, if Congress and the public have a perception that the FCC may be operating in an arbitrary or capricious manner, by unnecessarily bypassing normal expected process and procedures.

If the FCC wants affected parties to respect their rules, processes and procedures, shouldn’t the FCC lead by example and be extra careful to respect their own rules, processes, and procedures?

Simply, legitimate authority and process beget legitimate outcomes.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – H. Leighton Steward

January 12, 2015, 10:00 AM

Geologists H. Leighton Steward is chairman of Plants Need CO2.  He is a New York Times best-selling author and  Chairman of the Board of The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at SMU, most recently Steward worked with a team of former NASA scientists known as “The Right Climate Stuff.” The NASA team includes scientists with expertise in physics, chemistry, geology, climatology, engineering, biology, and other fields.

After carefully analyzing the evidence for global warming they concluded that there is no evidence of catastrophic global warming.  They determined that current models are unvalidated and clearly deficient for climate forecasting, Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 is much less than commonly claimed, empirical evidence does not support a catastrophic warming scenario, calling CO2 a “pollutant” is scientifically embarrassing and we should not be spending huge sums to reduce CO2 in light of the above.

In fact, the team leader projects a maximum of one degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century based on a look back at empirical evidence.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Dr. Death: Ezekiel Emanuel

January 12, 2015, 2:06 AM

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of Obamacare, suggests skipping your annual check ups.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is the brother of the current mayor of Chicago and, like MIT’s Johnathan Gruber, an architect of Obamacare, which proponents prefer to call “the Affordable Care Act.”  It turns out one of the ways the good Dr. Emanuel wants to help make health care affordable is to dissuade patients from using it.

Emanuel has already made news by saying that he doesn’t see much use in living past age 75.  That’s when, for many people, the body and the mind begin breaking down in ways that are essentially irreversible.  Beside, says Dr. Zeke, most people past the age of 75 don’t accomplish much of anything worthwhile, and so are of little use to society.  (To be brutal, most of us of any age don’t accomplish much that’s truly transformative.)   And if life’s not worth living past 75, don’t expect the administrators of Obamacare to see that you get much health care after that age.

Exceptions abound, of course, from Supreme Court Justices to active centenarians.  But they are exceptions, and Dr. Zeke does not bet on exceptions.

That’s why, for example, Dr. Zeke recently announced on The New York Times op-ed page that he’s given up his annual physical and that you should, too.  (“Skip Your Annual Physical,” January 9, 2015.)  For an estimated 45 million of us, according to Dr. Zeke, the annual physical has been a part of our well-being check:  a reminder that we are another year older, to watch our weight, to get enough sleep and exercise, and to cut back on our bad health habits like excesssive drinking, smoking, or sniffing glue.  (Sorry, you had to watch Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane.”)

An annual physical also serves as a way to stay in touch with medical care-givers; to monitor year-to-year changes in blood pressure, weight, cholesterol level, and blood sugar on a systematic basis; and to notice unusual changes like precancerous moles or emerging cataracts.  A clean bill of health following an annual physical also puts most of us in a better psychological state, which indisputably enhances our happiness, productivity, and overall well-being.

But what are such well-known practical and intangible benefits in the face of hard scientific evidence, especially as wielded by experts like Dr. Zeke and Mr. Gruber?

For according to the impressively and alliteratively named “Cochrane Collaboration,” which sounds like the next Bourne Identity novel but which Dr. Zeke redundantly informs us is an “international group of medical researchers who systematically review the world’s biomedical research,” annual physicals are “unlikely to be beneficial.”  And that must be true; after all, these are medical researchers who review medical research.

According to Dr. Zeke, the Cochrane Collaboration’s fourteen “randomized controlled trials with over 182,000 people followed for a median of nine years” –very scientific-sounding – showed that annual physicals from 1963 to 1999 “did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease.”  Well, duh!

One reason, Dr. Zeke concedes, has nothing to do with annual physicals:  unintentional injuries and suicides are the fourth and tenth leading causes of death among Americans.  Physicals do nothing to detect or relieve the former, although they may actually help reduce chances of the latter; perhaps that’s partly why suicides come in tenth instead of fifth or sixth.

But a second, more obvious, reason that physicals may not reduce “overall mortality” is – get this – just like in most operas, everybody dies in the end.  Or as Bob Dylan put it many years ago, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Of course an annual physical is not going to keep people from dying, nor can it prevent cancer or heart disease.  But for all the reasons cited above, it can help people lead longer, healthier, more productive, more satisfying lives.

Dr. Emanuel’s real reason for discouraging annual physicals seems to be his expert-driven insistence on making Obamacare work despite the odds.  In essence, the Affordable Care Act is yet another wealth transfer scheme, from the healthy to the sickly, from the middle class to the lower class.  In systems of government-rationed care like Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA health system, some people must be denied care in order to provide it to others.

“Not having my annual physical,” admits Dr. Emanuel, “is one small way I can help reduce health care costs … ” If others will but follow his example, then “[t]hat will free up countless hours of doctors’ time for patients who really do have a medical problem, helping to ensure there is no doctor shortage as more Americans get health insurance.”

Or we could let Americans voluntarily pick their own health care plans and decide for themselves if an annual physical is worth their own time and money.

Categories: On the Blog

On Climate Change, the Pope Could Use a Lesson in Science

January 11, 2015, 10:30 AM

Pope Francis recently made headlines engaging in non-theological matters such as the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba and income inequality. Taking positions on these controversial topics has made Francis both a hero and a villain (depending on whom you ask), but few of his past positions inspired the sort of ire Francis is sure to receive should he decide to engage in the hotly contested global warming debate.

It doesn’t appear as though the pope is worried about making friends.

According to the Guardian, in 2015 Francis will deliver a message condemning man-made climate change to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and will address the General Assembly of the United Nations, where he is expected to call upon world leaders to reduce carbon dioxide production to halt the deadly and immediate effects of global warming.

Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, says Francis hopes his efforts to combat climate change will directly contribute to action by governments at the global climate meeting to be held in Paris in December 2015.

The pope should be commended for actively working to make the world a better place and for promoting the long-term sustainability of Earth, but his big climate-change push fails to recognize the overwhelming evidence suggesting immediate catastrophic global warming is not occurring.

For more than 18 consecutive years, global temperature data show no warming. Roughly 95 percent of all climate models predicting the course of global warming have been proven wrong.

There has been no long-term trend of rising global sea levels.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index, which attempts to measure the duration and intensity of long-term drought-inducing circulation patterns, shows no trend since 1895.

According to Heartland Institute policy analyst Taylor Smith, the so-called extreme weather of the past two decades is nonexistent. For instance, the number of wildfires has been in decline since at least the 1960s, when wildfires occurred twice as often as they did in 2013. Similarly, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season witnessed the fewest hurricanes since 1982, and no major hurricanes — Category 3 or higher — have made landfall in the continental United States in nine years.

Even claims that sea ice is vanishing are overblown. The Southern Hemisphere’s polar ice cap “surpassed its greatest April extent in recorded history” in 2014.

The reality is that man-made climate change is simply not the immediate threat Francis seems to believe it is. Before choosing to hitch himself to this horseless wagon, he should consider the detrimental effects climate policies have on poor and developing nations — those whom the pope has consistently tried to help and defend.

Pope Francis is right to be concerned about protecting the environment, and there is solid evidence to suggest that man-made global climate change could present some challenges in the distant future. But the sort of policies the United Nations and like-minded alarmist nations and organizations have proposed will cause far more harm than good, and they almost always ignore evidence that clearly shows imminent catastrophic man-made climate change is not happening.

[Originally published at the Washington Examiner]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Netflix More Valuable Than Cable and Broadcast Among Millennials, Study Finds

January 10, 2015, 12:53 PM

In an observation that should surprise no one except a few cave-dwellers, a new study from NATPE/Content First and the Consumer Electronics Association has found that millennials find Netflix subscriptions more valuable than broadcast and cable subscriptions. There are, however, some useful insights to be gleaned if we look a little deeper.

The study found that “51 percent of millennials consider Netflix subscriptions very valuable, compared to 42 percent for broadcast channels and 36 percent for cable subscriptions. Young people are also more likely to stream a full-length TV program than watch it live on TV during its original air time or time-delayed on a DVR,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story goes on to note that not many millennials (people of ages 13 through 34) have given up on TV—in fact, the proportion is only five percentage points higher than among other age groups:

The study also found that 90 percent of viewers say they watch television programming on a TV set compared to 85 percent of millennials who count a TV as their preferred screen for viewing that content. That’s still a relatively high figure but is likely to shrink given that the study also found that only 55 percent of millennials prefer to watch television on a TV set.

The NAPTE representative also noted more than 70 percent of viewers in households with broadband have streamed full-length TV programs in the past six months. That seems to mark a significant movement, but this too is a trend we have been seeing for some time.

The study pointed out that millennials like streaming because it is more mobile than watching on a TV set (again, obviously), and that 28 percent of the age group watch television on a tablet. The announcement, given on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, did not specify precisely how much television millennials watch on tablets, or what proportion of their television they watch on them, but presumably that information will be made available when the full study is released at the end of this month.

The essence appears to be that the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to watch TV on a mobile device. I suspect that there are a couple of factors at play here in addition to the belief that young people are more open to new technologies than their elders.

One, my personal observation has been that young people are doing much more of their viewing on smartphones than ever before, which is something older people with less visual acuity will have difficulty adopting in any great numbers. This should accelerate as phone screens increase in size. Two, although TVs are relatively cheap, rental of cable and satellite set-top boxes is not, meaning that young people are surely less likely than their elders to have regular control over a full-size TV set than a phone or tablet.

Hence it seems clear that young people’s migration to broadband is a matter of both convenience and necessity.

The Hollywood Reporter story observes that TV providers must and will adapt to this mobile revolution, quoting CEA chief executive Gary Shapiro as saying, “This has profound implications for the way CE manufacturers market their products as they try to reach diverse markets.”

The article then notes some of these efforts: “Dish announced during CES that it would go after that audience with Sling TV, an over-the-top streaming service that it wants to be the third subscription for a millennial alongside Netflix and Hulu. Meanwhile, CBS recently launched OTT offering CBS All Access and HBO has announced plans for a standalone streaming service.”

I’ve reported on the CBS and HBO services earlier, and the Sling TV announcement is certainly the next step in the process. For $20 a month, the individual will receive, over the internet, 25 to 30 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and the Disney Channel. Additional bundles, such as news and children’s programming, will be made available for an extra $5 per month apiece.

You may have noticed that I wrote “an individual” above, and that’s the catch: the service can’t be viewed on multiple TVs or devices simultaneously. Hence it’s not for families but for individuals who probably would not be able to afford cable or satellite TV anyway. Although some people may use it to “cut the cord” (by substituting another, ironically), it’s unlikely to replace cable and satellite subscriptions altogether. Everybody wins.

Thus, as I’ve noted earlier, even though market forces and new technology are changing the nation’s viewing habits, the only thing that can cause a serious and unnecessary dislocation of the nation’s television distribution system is government, and the Obama administration is on a quest to do just that.

While providers are busy creating cheaper and more convenient ways to get video-based news and entertainment, and consumers are eagerly taking advantage of every opportunity, the national government is doing all it can to suppress this salutary revolution while claiming it is doing so in order to promote competition. Here’s a great way to do that, Mr. President: get out of the damn way.

[Originally published at Liberty21]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 1 in a Series of 8)

January 10, 2015, 12:33 PM

This is part 1 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit A-The Drafting History

Original text of Article V:

“The Congress… on the Application of two thirds of the Legislatures of the several States shall propose amendments…”

-The Application Would Specify The Amendment(s) To Be Proposed

Final Text of Article V:

“The Congress… on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…”

-Nothing Indicates “Application” Changed Meaning.

Just as Congress was expected to propose the amendments specified by the states in their Article V Application in the first draft of Article V, so was it expected that the Convention would propose the amendments specified by the states in their Article V Application in the final draft of Article V.

That’s what the Compact for America approach does.

Please support the “Balance the Budget Now” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Je Suis Charlie, Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

January 09, 2015, 10:47 PM

Parisians rally in support of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The vile scum who murdered 13 people on the staff of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, and four others in a Paris grocery store today, are now rotting in Hell. If their death at the hands of French police was quick, it was too merciful.

Do not let anyone call the horror in Paris a “tragedy.” It was cold-blooded murder — and the latest of a string of attacks on the liberal civilization of the West that has been raging for ages, most acutely in our time beginning on September 11, 2001. The violence in France appears to be at an end, for now. But the enemies of liberty will be back with more guns, more bombs, and more shouts of “Allahu Akbar!”

The Wall Street Journal today published an op-ed by French intellectual and author Bernard-Henri Lévy titled “A France United Against Radical Islam: It’s time to break, finally, from Leninist reasoning about the sociology of poverty and frustration behind terrorism.” We can only hope he is right. An excerpt:

Twelve faces. Twelve names, some of which the killers specifically called out, as the name of a condemned prisoner is called out before his execution. Twelve symbols mourned around the globe, symbols of the assassination of freedom of laughter and of thought. The least that we owe to these dozen dead is to rise to their level of commitment and courage—and, today, to prove worthy of their legacy.

It is incumbent upon the leaders of France, of the West, and of the world to take the measure of a war they did not want to see, one in which the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, its writers and caricaturists, long ago put themselves on the front line. They were war reporters of a sort, as we now know, Robert Capas with a sketch pad and pencil.

This is the Churchillian moment of France’s Fifth Republic, the moment to face the implacable truth about a test that promises to be long and trying.

It is time for us to break, once and for all, with the Leninist reasoning that has been served up for so long by the useful idiots of a radical Islam immersed in the sociology of poverty and frustration. And most of all it is the moment, now or never, for a calm resolve among all believers in democracy to look evil in the face without losing ourselves in the catastrophic measures of a state of emergency. France can and must erect dikes—but not the walls of a besieged fortress.

Do read the whole thing (subscription may be required).

Charlie Hebdo is not everyone’s idea of smart satire. The magazine has long gone far out of its way to be as offensive as possible, especially towards religion and religious figures. Enlightened Westerners must tolerate such “low” and “offensive” exercises of free speech as a trivial cost of living in liberty. But as we saw this week, the unenlightened can enter our sphere and collect a terrible price for such “offenses.”

Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier stands defiantly before the ruins of the Charlie Hebdo office in 2011.

Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the publisher of Charlie Hebdo, said in 2012 about the paper’s office being firebombed by Islamic fascists the previous year: “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

He meant it, and he lived it, courageously. He and his colleagues died for it. They are all heroes of liberty.

For the enemies of the modern world – those who hate the very notion that one is free to ignore, or even insult, Islam – this is just the beginning. The slaughter at Charlie Hebdo is meant to frighten you and to silence you – to get you to surrender your liberty at the threat of death.

But if freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press are surrendered — even quietly, passively — there is little left at all of our liberty. We let the tyrants become our masters. That is why it was so heartening to hear millions shouting to the world this week “Je suis Charlie! Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!” (I am Charlie!). The title of this post adds “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!” (We are all Charlie!) It will take courage to mean it, to live it, and we must. We cannot be afraid.

Mark Steyn, who knows a thing or two about standing up for freedom of speech, has a lot of important things to say about this. I recommend this, and this, and this and this. In fact, you should just go ahead and bookmark his excellent website for regular reading.

Over at National Review, there is the usual excellent thought and writing from Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Charles C.W. Cooke, and a video of Charles Krauthammer suggesting this is the beginning of the “Third Stage of Jihadist War” on the West. I highly recommend you read it all.

Our friends over at PJMedia have been so kind as to post a clearinghouse of “offensive” images and cartoons of Mohammed. Please give it a look, share with friends, and bookmark for future reference. I have a feeling it will come in handy again before too long.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Common Core and Parent Trigger Pilot Program

January 09, 2015, 12:27 PM

Paul Molloy host of Freedom Works, The Paul Molloy Show on Tantalk1340 in Florida interviewed School Reform News Managing Editor Heather Kays. Molloy and Kays discuss possible presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s defense of Common Core and the many problems related to the Common Core standards. Kays addresses criticism against politicians who have changed their minds regarding the standards.

Molloy and Kays also discuss a pilot program for a parent trigger law in Columbus, Ohio. Kays said according to Greg Harris of StudentsFirst that the state and school district have done very little to inform parents that they have the opportunity to petition the state to make changes to their children’s low-performing schools.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Isaac Orr Discusses NY Fracking Ban on Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio

January 08, 2015, 3:05 PM

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.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Darcie Johnston: The Collapse of Vermont Single-Payer Healthcare

January 08, 2015, 2:01 PM

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.

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

Categories: On the Blog

How Many Of World’s Poor Will Climate Alarmists Let Die?

January 08, 2015, 10:05 AM

‘How many people do you want to kill or let die?” That’s how I’m going to respond from now on to anyone who argues we should end or sharply restrict fossil fuel use to prevent global warming.

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]

Categories: On the Blog

Reevaluating Eminent Domain’s Benefits Necessary for Economic Success

January 08, 2015, 9:08 AM

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]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Isaac Orr and Nathan Makla: Energy and Environment Road-trip

January 07, 2015, 3:50 PM

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.

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

Categories: On the Blog

In D.C., ‘Bipartisanship’ Has Become a Bad Thing – When It Isn’t, We Should Seize the Opportunity

January 07, 2015, 3:01 PM

Bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. has for the most part devolved into a pipe dream, a dirty word – or both.

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.”

(Republican) Ted Cruz Just Did a Huge Favor for Democrats

Ted Cruz Gave Obama An Early Christmas Gift Over The Weekend

“Speaker Ted Cruz” is Back, Right on Schedule, to Make John Boehner’s Life a Nightmare

Versus…

(Democrat) Elizabeth Warren’s Quiet (But Huge) Win: Why Wall Street Lobbyists Really Hated Her “Cromnibus” Fight

Elizabeth Warren Is Right: The Cromnibus Aids Crony Capitalism

Elizabeth Warren is Catching Fire

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.

McConnell Says He and Obama Discussed Working on Trade, Taxes

Republican Mitch McConnell, in line to become U.S. Senate majority leader, said hell 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. Were anxious to take a look at them,” the senator said. “Well see whether we can work with the president. We hope so.”

Obama Sketches 2015 Agenda of Taxes, Trade; Meets McConnell

…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.

McConnell And Obama Are Already Planning To Undercut Liberal Democrats In Congress

President Obama’s Push for Trade Deal Angers Fellow Democrats

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?

Brown Says Bipartisanship Needed to Advance Economy

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….

Bernie Sanders’ Brutal Letter On Obama’s Trade Pact

Bernie Sanders Blows the Lid Off the Bipartisan Plan To Cut Taxes

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?

Bernie Sanders: Scott Brown KILLED Bipartisan Energy Bill for Petty Politics

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]
Categories: On the Blog