On the Blog

Stealing from Competitors is “How Google Works”

Somewhat Reasonable - 27 min 21 sec ago

Google executives’ saccharine best-selling book: “How Google Works,” predictably ignores and whitewashes how Google steals to make its free model work.

This piece spotlights the likely “Post-it Child” of Google theft victims and five other theft victims that Google has stolen from using its signature MO or “Google Con.” It also links to another nineteen victims for a total of at least twenty five examples of Google’s theft and piracy. Corporate kleptomania is “How Google Works.”

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information for free. Its business model is to generate ad revenue on only the sliver of information that users find and click on.

So Google respecting property rights – whether it is privacy, confidential information, trade secrets, copyrights, patents or trademarks – would be prohibitively expensive because their world view presumes that digitized information should be free.

So to make their model work, a key part of Google’s modus operandi or MO is to take, steal, or pirate what it needs. If caught, Google then demonizes its theft or piracy victims. If sued, Google then slow-rolls and exhausts the complainants’ patience and resources. This is “How Google Works.”

The “Post-it child” of Google theft victims

If one were to look for a “Post-it child” of Google theft victims to spotlight Google’s corporate kleptomania, it easily could be VSL-Max Sound.

That’s because they are the beneficiary of a huge irretrievable mistake by Google.

Google left “smoking gun” evidence — in the form of highly-incriminating “Post-it Notes” attached to a returned non-disclosure-agreement.

These Post-it Notes effectively chronicled Google’s predatory plans for stealing VSL-Max Sound’s industry-leading, video streaming trade secrets and patented technology that Google then would use — without permission or payment — to dramatically increase the video transmission quality and cost efficiency of YouTube’s 10 billion daily video streams.

Two VSL-Max Sound lawsuits against Google, one for stealing trade secrets and the other forpatent infringement, chronicle a now all-too-familiar pattern of Google fraud and theft – “the Google Con.”

“The Google Con”

Google has perfected a classic con that is simple and ruthlessly effective.

First, Google professes an interest in either licensing or buying an entity’s technologies or company. Second, Google signs a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement with the now very eager entity. Third, Google’s technology experts extract as many trade secrets as possible in its supposed “due diligence” process. Fourth, Google secretly reverse-engineers and implements the stolen trade secrets and patented technology without permission or payment. Fifth, Google leaves the eager entity hanging. Sixth, if the entity sues, Google slow rolls and legally exhausts the complainants’ patience and resources.

Why does this latest VSL-Max sound example matter?

First, it’s rare for Google to get caught red-handed using their own words and materials, during one of its signature thefts of other’s trade secrets and intellectual property.

Until this big mistake, Google had been quite expert at covering its tracks, destroying emailevidence, or settling, in order to get incriminating evidence sealed from the public.

However, if one shakes down competitors enough times, someone eventually will get careless and leave a “smoking gun” where it can be found and used in court to convict the perpetrator.

Second, it shows law enforcement a signature Google modus operandi or conspiracy-MO that may have harmed at least 25 different entities throughout the American economy over several years, and that may warrant some form of a RICCO law enforcement investigation.

Third, “smoking gun” incriminating evidence of egregious illegal behavior can encourage other victims to come forward, speak up and confirm that Google has stolen from them, and engaged in similar fraudulent schemes.

Google’s corporate kleptomania chronicles

Anyone that doubts “the Google Con” is well-established and ongoing illegal behavior at Google should consider the stories and suits of at least five victims who have learned the hard way – How Google Steals.

Overture: Most don’t know that Google’s hugely profitable ad-auction model was a trade secret and patented process that Google learned from, and then stole wholesale, from Overture in an eerily similar way to “The Google Con” that the VSL-Max Sound lawsuits chronicle. Importantly, Google eventually settled with Overture for ~$250m in 2004, in order to seal the record from the public and smooth the way for its blockbuster initial public offering (IPO.)

Skyhook Wireless:  Skyhook Wireless, the then leader in WiFi location targeting efficiency, charged that Google stole its trade secrets in one lawsuit, and its patented technology in another lawsuit, effectively alleging the same basic type of “Google Con” that the VSL-Max Sound lawsuits allege. Incriminating emails document willful infringement by Google’s leadership.

Engineered Architecture – To bring the “Google con” to vivid life in a very personal account,listen to how world-renowned, Israeli-American architect of skyscrapers, Eli Attia, chronicles how “Google stole his life’s work.” Apparently, Google X is currently stealing and building a new business around Attia’s patented “Engineered Architecture” invention, a revolutionary new design and construction technology which integrates architecture and engineering to dramatically lower the time and cost of building large complex structures. Late in life, Mr. Attia currently laments he “cannot initiate a legal battle against one of the greatest economic giants in the world.” 

BuySafe:According to its patent infringement lawsuit, BuySafe effectively alleges it was the victim of a form of the “The Google Con,” in charging that Google deceptively and illegally gained access to BuySafe’s trade secrets to advance Google’s own competing “Trusted Stores” program. 

Be In-CamUp: Business Insider has a good description of, and a link to, the lawsuit Be In-CamUp filed against Google for theft of trade secrets, breach of contract and copyright infringement for stealing significant technology behind Google Hangouts. Sadly, it is yet another eerily-similar example of “The Google Con” in action.  

For those who still are reticent to believe that stealing and pirating from competitors is actually “How Google Works,” why would these nineteen additional companies or associations have sued Google for stealing from them: YelpViacomAppleOracleMicrosoftbusiness directorieswire servicesnewspapersbroadcastersmovie studiosauthorspublishers,visual artistssoftware providersphotographersartistsgraphic designersillustrators, and filmmakers?

And why would the State Attorney General, who has most investigated Google wrongdoing, theft and piracy, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, conclude: “In my 10 years as attorney general, I have dealt with a lot of large corporate wrongdoers. I must say that yours is the first I have encountered to have no corporate conscience for the safety of its customers, the viability of its fellow corporations or the negative economic impact on the nation which has allowed your company to flourish” — in an official letter to Google CEO Larry Page last year?

And for those who are reticent to believe that Google routinely seeks to cover-up its patterns of theft and other wrongdoing, read the investigative report by the non-profit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called “Uncivil Secrecy.”

In sum, despite Google’s cynical public claim to Liberation that “We do not steal,” and its public claim to the Daily Mail that “We are a law-abiding company” the overwhelming public evidence to date is that stealing from competitors is “How Google Works.”

Simply, Google is not a law-abiding competitor.

Just like Google has acted anti-competitively in serially disrespecting users’ privacy andsecurity with its WorldWideWatch dominance and abuses of dominance, Google also has engaged in an anti-competitive pattern of serial theft and piracy chronicled here — in order to make its “free” model add up.

Think about it. How can any law abiding competitor hope to compete with a company that serially defrauds, steals and pirates competitors’ confidential information, trade secrets, copyrights, patents, and trademarks, in order to gain unbeatable, ill-gotten, and anti-competitive cost, time-to-market, inventory, and innovation advantages?

Google is right that it does not “work” like any other company.

How Google Works” is like a 21st Century Robber Baron.

***

 

Google Disrespect for Property Series

Part 1: Google TV: Dumb Content vs. Content is King [10-7-10]

Part 2: Why Google’s Motorola Patent Play Backfires [9-9-11]

Part 3: Google 21st Century Robber Baron [9-19-11]

Part 4: Google’s “Infringenovation” Secrets [10-3-11]

Part 5: Google’s Piracy Liabilities [11-9-11]

Part 6: Grand Theft Automated! Online Ad Economics Fuel Piracy, Oppose SOPA [11-30-11]

Part 7: The Evidence Google’s Systematic Theft is Anti-Competitive [1-20-12]

Part 8: The Real Reasons Google Killed SOPA/PIPA [1-24-12]

Part 9: Google’s Rap Sheet [6-4-12]

Part 10: Googleopoly IX: Google-Motorola’s Patents of Mass Destruction [7-10-12]

Part 11: Four Under-Appreciated Implications for Google from Apple-Samsung Verdict [9-5-12]

Part 12: What Made Apple’s Steve Jobs So Angry with Google-Android? [9-6-12]

Part 13: Google News-ster, Google Book-ster, YouTube-ster, Android-ster [11-2-12]

Part 14: Google’s Content Settlements are a Tacit Admission It is an Essential Facility [2-11-13]

Part 15: Google protesteth Larry Ellison too much that Google does not steal [8-28-13]

Part 16: Special Report: Google on Piracy: Not Telling the Whole Truth [10-4-13]

Part 17: Brito & Google: BlameThePiracyVictims.org [10-17-13]

Part 18: Google-YouAd is a Deceptive and Unfair Business Practice [10-24-13]

Part 19: Google’s Extensive Cover-up [2-25-14]

Part 20: Google’s Widespread Wiretapping [3-20-14]

Part 21: Google AdSense Lawsuit Spotlights the Corruption of Unaccountability [5-23-14]

Part 22: Google’s Illusion of Data Protection Security [9-7-14]

Part 23: Google Profiting from Hacked Celebrity Women Photos is “How Google Works” [10-6-14]

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

People Like to Keep Their Money – and Other Breaking News for Leftists

Somewhat Reasonable - 1 hour 19 min ago
To paraphrase the knight who guarded the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Ireland has chosen poorly.

The Emerald Isle has decided to make itself decidedly less attractive to people the world over.

Irish Budget Set to Phase Out Multinationals’ Favourable Tax Arrangement

Ireland is set to announce sweeping changes to its corporate tax structure in its budget on Tuesday, phasing out a loophole that has allowed multinationals to save billions of dollars in tax on their worldwide income.

This is the tax code equivalent of having Jay-Z rewrite Shakespeare. Why would Ireland hamstring itself?

The country has faced sustained criticism over the past 18 months from other European Union members and the United States for its tax rules and Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected to lay out plans to end an arrangement that has enabled firms such as Google and Apple to cut their overseas tax rates to single digits. 

Uber-high tax nations don’t like being scorned. So the EU is trying to force people to like them – which didn’t work in elementary school and won’t work now.  And the United States has the highest corporate tax rate on the planet – so we too are in the cafeteria dining alone.

Ireland has to know they’re damaging themselves, right?

To maintain Ireland as an attractive destination for business, Noonan could at the same time make improvements to the intellectual property tax regime, and also has room to cut income tax….

So they realize lower and less government impediments mean higher returns. How do they have “room to cut income tax” (which every government on the planet in fact does)?

…(Because of) the economy’s surprisingly strong rebound from the debt crisis.

Get that?  Ireland’s rebound from the debt crisis has been “surprisingly strong” – because they fostered such a capital-friendly environment.  While the anti-capital US and EU have continued to founder and flounder.

Hey Huge Government US and EU – don’t hate, emulate.  Ireland as it has been – and Luxembourg and the Netherlands as they are still.

Amazon’s Taxes Draw Europe’s Scrutiny

Europe’s top regulator said it believes the online retailer has been receiving state aid from Luxembourg for over a decade by taking advantage of a preferential tax deal with the nation.

Apple, Starbucks, and a unit of the automaker Fiat are also under investigation in Europe for similar tax arrangements in Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The European Commission said it is investigating whether Amazon purposely shifted its money around within European countries to avoid paying higher tax rates.

“Shifting money around…to avoid paying higher taxes” is now an EU crime?

“National authorities must not allow selected companies to understate their taxable profits by using favorable calculation methods,” said Joaquin Almunia, Europe’s top competition watchdog. “It is only fair that subsidiaries of multinational companies pay their share of taxes.”

Apparently, disturbingly so.  And the US?

Overseas ‘Tax Inversions’ Are Unpatriotic: Obama

President Barack Obama says a loophole that lets companies dodge U.S. taxes by moving their headquarters overseas is unpatriotic….

Here’s a thought – let’s lower tax rates and remove government impediments to entice them to return.  Mr. President?

The Obama administration is weighing plans to circumvent Congress and act on its own to curtail tax benefits for United States companies that relocate overseas to lower their tax bills….

Not so much.  Nothing like the democratic process.

“Putting companies on notice is, I think, part of it,” (White House press secretary Josh Earnest) said.

Nothing like putting out the Welcome Back mat.

Should we and the EU continue to pummel people with Huge Government policies?  Or should we be more like the Less Government likes of Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Hong Kong – a little more inviting to the private investment pols incessantly claim they want?

The coming cascade of cash – rolling out of Ireland and into much more capital-friendly locales – will be yet another visual aide we really shouldn’t need.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Curbing Obama Power Grabs

Somewhat Reasonable - 2 hours 57 min ago

The courts and Senate provide no checks and balances. Could a Republican Senate help?

You’ve got to admire the sheer audacity: Democratic Senator Mark Begich telling Alaska voters that he stood up to President Obama and fought for oil drilling and jobs in his state. Maybe he had a few chats.

But he certainly knew his concerns and opinions meant nothing, changed nothing, accomplished nothing. And then he voted 97% of the time with Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Dictator Harry Reid

Reid has kept over 300 bills bottled up, squelched almost all proffered Republican amendments on anything that did move, and used the “nuclear option” to end the longstanding 60-vote rule and wipe out any chance that Republicans could block Obama nominees or prevent the President from packing the vital DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The three new liberal judges on that court can now be counted on to defer to Mr. Obama’s policies and “agency discretion” on future arrogations of power.

Ditto for Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. She bellyached from time to time about offshore drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. But she also voted with Obama, Reid and their agenda 97% of the time, on everything from ObamaCare to Dodd-Frank to packing the DC Court.

The tally for other Democratic Senators running for reelection is revealing: Hagan (NC) 96% for the Obama agenda, policies and fiats … Merkley (OR) 96% … Pryor (AR) 90% … Shaheen (NH) 99% … Udall (CO) 99% … Warner (VA) 97%

Now they’re telling their constituents, next year will be different. Send me back to Washington, and next year I will stand up to Obama and support letting people keep their doctors and insurance, allowing more domestic drilling and pipelines, promoting economic recovery and fiscal responsibility, curbing the fraud and abuses at the Environmental Protection Agency, tackling Ebola and going after Islamic terrorists.

The IRS, Benghazi, Ebola and Middle East screw-ups and cover-ups seem to have set the tone. These Senators seem willing to say almost anything to get them past the elections. However, their votes have had real consequences for millions of Americans, especially the poor, minority, elderly and working classes they profess to care so much about. They should not escape accountability so easily.

A recent political ad by black Democrat-turned-Republican Louisiana State Senator Elbert Guillory lays it on the line. “While you dig through the couch looking for gas money,” Guillory says, Mary Landrieu “flies around in private jets funded by taxpayer dollars.” To her, “you are just a vote,” every six years.

Nor do liberal stereotypes fit. The four Democratic House and Senate candidates in Northern Virginia are all well-off, middle-age white guys. Republican candidates include one middle-age white dude, plus two working moms and a black man – who’s also Jewish and an 8-year Marine Corps veteran.

Few of us have any personal animosity toward any of these Democrat Senators. They’re all amiable people. But as President Obama himself says, “my policies are on the ballot, every single one of them.” Those policies have been dragging this country down, and as long as Harry Reid maintains his iron grip on the Senate, there can be no checks and balances or budgetary constraints on the Obama policies.

Messrs. Reid and Obama have made it clear that they have no interest in working with Republicans. Indeed, the President prefers Saul Alinsky tactics of community agitation and interest group divide-and-conquer. He disdains democratic processes and bipartisan compromises, and much prefers to simply legislate, regulate and dictate from the White House and Executive Branch – ignoring or rewriting the clear language of laws and our Constitution whenever and however necessary.

The Train of Abuses and Usurpations gets longer by the week. Environmental Protection Agency actions alone could place virtually all our land, air, water, energy and economy under the control of regulatory ideologues, working closely with radical Big Green activists, billionaires and “charitable” foundations.

Climate. As the planet refuses to cooperate with computer models and White House fear mongering, the EPA simply ignores all contradictory studies and evidence – and continues to operate under assumptions that: carbon dioxide levels dictate climate change; natural forces are irrelevant’ America can easily replace the fossil fuels that provide 82% of its energy; skyrocketing energy prices will have no effect on the economy, jobs or human health and welfare; and slashing America’s CO2 emissions will make a difference, even though China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Poland and other nations refuse to do likewise.

Of course, the real goal was never to stop climate change. It was always to control and “fundamentally transform” our nation’s energy, economic, social and legal structure and institutions, regardless of costs.

Water. Proposed rules are so broadly written that they would cover nearly all “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), based on assertions that they would eventually end up in “navigable” waters: rivers, rivulets, lakes, groundwater, stock ponds, occasional puddles and dry creek beds. In the process, they would also control land use activities on farms, forests and other private property. Friendly, collusive lawsuits by radical environmentalists would further expand this EPA jurisdiction.

Ozone. Almost every US county meets current 2008 ozone standards. Proposed regulations would render the vast majority of them “nonattainment” areas, subject to severe restrictions on economic growth. Even EPA says the rules would cost $100 billion a year. The National Association of Manufacturers puts the cost at $270 billion annually. The impact on people’s jobs, incomes, health and welfare would be huge.

Even bigger ambitions. Clearly not satisfied with these unprecedented usurpations of power, EPA has also launched major “sustainable development,” “environmental justice” and “clean power” initiatives. These deliberately vague and infinitely malleable terms would further expand the agency’s mission far beyond anything previously imaginable or contemplated by EPA’s authorizing legislation.

Other agencies are busily writing new regulations governing Christmas lights, automobile and refrigerator coolants, endangered species guidelines that would block ranching, drilling and pipeline projects, while giving bird and bat-killing wind and solar projects carte blanche – and other activities.

Collusion. A recent Senate Minority Staff Report explains in frightening detail how far-left billionaires, foundations and environmentalist groups actively collude with EPA managers and regulators. EPA in turn happily recruits high-level eco-activists, who then help lobby, guide and control agency policies – and channel millions of taxpayer dollars to pressure groups that promote those policies. The agency also engages in frequent friendly lawsuits with activists, to make policies even more extreme.

A Republican Senate will not guarantee the kind of change needed to end these excesses and get the nation’s economy and employment back on track, especially if certain GOP members remain timid or recalcitrant. (Perhaps DePuy or Stryker could donate some spinal implants?) Presidential vetoes could also pose problems, although strong leadership could often craft bipartisan veto-proof majorities.

House and Senate hearings could grill agency heads under oath – and investigate potential fraud in developing regulations, unethical collusion between agencies and activists, improper agency funding of activist groups, sweetheart lawsuits and other activities. These investigations could form the basis for budget reductions and restrictions, legislation to end mission creep or block specific regulations, and laws requiring congressional approval of “major” regulatory actions costing billions of dollars.

Such actions would also help restore our tripartite system of government. Right now, the Executive Branch is riding roughshod over businesses and citizens alike, and the courts merely rubberstamp agency decisions. Meanwhile, the Legislative Branch is little more than an appendix that writes overly broad laws giving unaccountable bureaucrats unfettered discretion to impose an increasingly intrusive, expensive leftist, centralized government agenda. No wonder our nation is foundering on the rocks.

The upcoming elections could help get the USS United States back on course. Let’s hope they do.

Categories: On the Blog

If You Like How the Government is Handling Ebola…

Somewhat Reasonable - 3 hours 11 min ago

…you’ll love how they’ll handle the Internet.

The late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan rightly observed:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

So when the federal government says about Ebola “We’ve got this” – people have a problem believing it.  Obama Underwater on Ebola Response Ah, the Barack Obama Administration – which has been caught lying over and over and over again. Many Voters Say Obama Lies to the Country on Important Matters  . 81 percent of Americans believe that Obama lies to them at least “now and then” on “important matters.”

The Obama Administration has again and again offered Ebola assertions and assurances that Reality has subsequently demonstrated were…wanting.  The President has asserted Ebola isn’t transmittable beyond direct body fluid contact.  That’s not true. In one of the most breathtakingly on-its-face anti-Reality statements ever, the Administration asserted a flight ban from afflicted countries would INCREASE the spread of the disease.

The American people think otherwise. 67% of Americans Support a Travel Ban From Ebola Affected Countries. Democrats are blaming the Administration’s Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s serial Ebola incompetence – the CDC being the government’s alleged “expert agency” on, well…disease control – on budget cuts.  That’s not true either.

At $7 billion, the Centers for Disease Control 2014 budget is nearly 200 percent bigger now than it was in 2000. Those evil, stingy Republicans actually approved CDC funding increases in January larger than what President Obama requested.

The CDC has spent their titanic tally on just about everythingexcept disease control. So the American people can be forgiven for arriving here: Trust in Government at All-Time Low ,   Trust In Government Problem-Solving Reaches New Low.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is gearing up to unilaterally commandeer control of the Internet.

On Ebola, the allegedly Disease Controlling Administration – in fine Kevin Bacon “Animal House” fashion – has been repeatedly proclaiming “All is well” as things continue to get worse and worse.

Conversely, the Internet has been since just about its inception a government-free zone.  And has a result become an ever-expanding free speech-free market Xanadu.

The Administration has been the Chicken Little of the World Wide Web.  Running around decrying a “problem” that does not exist – and demanding a Huge Government “solution.”

The fake “problem?”  Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may – one day, someday, maybe – block you from websites.  Only they haven’t.  And they won’t.  Because they are in the customer service business – but won’t be for long if they refuse to serve their customers what they want.

The fake “solution?” What’s Even Worse than Net Neutrality? Government Internet Reclassification to Do It. Reclassification will give the government the same regulatory stranglehold on the Web that it has had for seventy-plus years on landline phone lines.  Which is why landline phone lines have remained just about undeveloped since FDR.

Oh – and this: Reclassification Net Neutrality Could Be a 16.1% Internet Tax. Now we know why the government has created a faux Web crisis – so as to not let it go to waste.

But fret not, the government tells us. They will wield just some – and not all – of their massive new powers. They will practice “forbearance.” “(F)orbearance” refers to a special magic power that Congress gave the FCC…which gives the FCC the power to say “you know that specific provision of law that Congress passed? We decide it really doesnt make sense for us to enforce it in some particular case, so we will “forbear” (hence the term ‘forbearance) from enforcing it.”

Sure.  Because we can take the government at its word – right? Like the CDC on disease control, the FCC is the government’s alleged “expert agency” on all things Internet.  Except: Government Commission That Wants to Commandeer Control of the Internet Just Had Their Website Crash – Twice. So the FCC is just about as honest and competent as the rest of the government.

How about, then, they not take over the Web?

 

Originally posted on PJ media

Categories: On the Blog

Marita Noon: Shouldn’t be we fighting a war on terrorism not on fossil fuels?

Somewhat Reasonable - 5 hours 6 min ago

“You are responsible for President Obama’s re-election,” I told 150 folks from the oil and gas industry —most of whom were conservative Republicans. I spoke to them on October 15 in San Angelo, TX. A reporter covering the event wrote that I “stunned the crowd by telling them they were largely responsible for getting the president re-elected, and asking them if they knew how they had helped.” He continued: “The room was very quiet for several moments as Noon waited to see if anyone would volunteer an answer.”

We know President Obama has been waging a war on coal—with tens of thousands of jobs lost due to his attacks since he was elected in 2008, but why has the oil and gas industry escaped the harsh regulations that have virtually shut down both coal mining and coal-fueled power plants? After all, we know his environmentalist base—with whom he is philosophically aligned—hates them equally.

The reporter added: “Finally someone suggested it was job creation that Noon was alluding to.”

The oil and gas industry has added millions of jobs to the U.S. economy in the past six years and represents the bright spot in the jobs numbers. Imagine where the unemployment numbers would be if the oil and gas industry had been treated as poorly as coal.

While President Obama hasn’t had an outright war on oil and gas, he surely hasn’t helped—and his surrogates have been out fighting on his behalf.

According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), oil production on state and private lands is up 61 percent and is down 6 percent on federal lands. The CRS found that it takes 41 percent longer to process an application for permit to drill in 2011 than it did in 2006. Getting a permit on federal lands takes an average of 194 days compared to a few days to a month on state lands. The Obama administration approved the fewest drilling permits since 2002. Additionally, it has sold the lowest amount of oil-and-gas leases since 1988. As a result, U.S. oil production on federal lands has fallen to a five-year low. And, these numbers don’t include the tens of thousands of jobs that would have been created if the Keystone pipeline had been approved six years ago.

With an eye always on politics, President Obama can’t afford the negative job numbers a war on all fossil fuels would cause. Less concerned about the political fallout, using a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach, his allies have been fighting oil and gas—as they’ve done with coal.

Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association, told me: “Make no mistake, the oil and gas industry now finds itself in the same political crosshairs from the Obama Administration and their allies that coal did in the President’s first term. From Sierra Club’s new-found animosity to natural gas, as evidenced by its Beyond Natural Gas campaign, to the President’s inability to take any action related to the Keystone pipeline, the uncertainty and inevitable economic damage caused by an adverse federal government is now striking yet another fossil fuel.”

Environmental extremist groups repeatedly oppose the Keystone pipeline and lock themselves to the White House gates to prove their point. They believe fracking should be a crime and want it banned—which would shut down 96 percent of all oil and gas drilling in America.

Because the average American understands that “drill here, drill now” results in lower prices at the pump—as we are seeing right now, I believe they use “fracking” as a canard when the real target is drilling. Capitalizing on the public’s lack of awareness about the safe and proven technology of hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—anti-fossil fuel activists have been able to give “fracking” their own definition that essentially covers everything from permitting to production to delivery.

A year ago, Environment America released the Fracking by the Numbers report that offers this:

Defining “Fracking”

In this report, when we refer to the impacts of “fracking,” we include impacts resulting from all of the activities needed to bring a shale gas or oil well into production using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracturing operations that use at least 100,000 gallons of water), to operate that well, and to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market. The oil and gas industry often uses a more restrictive definition of “fracking” that includes only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured—a definition that obscures the broad changes to environmental, health and community conditions that result from the use of fracking in oil and gas extraction.

Many cities and counties—mostly liberal communities with little or no drilling potential—have passed anti-fracking legislation, resolutions and/or moratoriums. They then claim success and build momentum as an argument for others to follow suit.

Colorado had two anti-oil-and-gas initiatives on November’s ballot, but the supporters agreed to pull them when it became clear the measures would drive Republicans to the polls and hurt troubled re-election chances for Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mark Udall0%Senate Democrat Average3%See Full Scorecard0% and Governor John Hickenlooper.

Mora County, New Mexico has been bold enough to pass a ban on all drilling for hydrocarbons, not just fracking—a move that’s resulted in two lawsuits and fiscal liabilities against the little county.

Now, with out of state money pouring in as it did in Mora County, Santa Barbara, California, County residents will be voting on November 4 on Measure P—which is, according to Dr. James Boles, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Professor Emeritus, Earth Sciences: “a poorly designed measure that would shut down energy production in Santa Barbara County.”

Ballotpedia calls Measure P the “Santa Barbara County Fracking Ban Initiative.” Yet, in a letter to the editor (LTE), the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce “urges its members to vote ‘no’ on Measure P on the November 2014 ballot.” The first of five arguments the Chamber presents in support of its “no” position states: “The ballot measure is written in a way that is likely to mislead voters. Its title says that it is a ban on ‘fracking.’ This is misleading for two reasons: there is no fracking in Santa Barbara County and, in addition, the ballot measure also prohibits many other forms of oil and gas extraction. A voter would have to read the entirety of the lengthy and complicated measure to understand that its impact is far greater than suggested by the title.” The LTE continues: “An impartial analysis prepared by Santa Barbara County found that 100 percent of the active oil and gas wells currently use one or more of the production techniques prohibited by Measure P.”

A leaked email soliciting UCSB students for “Summer Jobs to Ban Fracking” states: “We’re working this summer to convince Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking before it’s too late. …This summer we are hiring staff to talk to 30,000 Santa Barbara County residents to build the support we need to win. We are hiring for full time positions only (40 hrs/wk), M-F.” The email is from Heather Goold, Director for The Fund for Public Interest—a group connected, according to a new U.S. Senate report: The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA, to Bill McKibben’s 350.org and Tom Steyer (who recently met with Santa Barbara activists).

In a recent op-ed published in the Santa Barbara News, Andy Caldwell, Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business executive director and radio talk show host, asks: “Who is funding the hiring of UCSB students to work on an anti-oil campaign as paid staff?” He continues: “What looks and sounds like a movement is actually a coordinate campaign funded and directed in secret by phenomenally rich people with an agenda. It works in the opposite manner of a legitimate grass roots movement. The non-profits are in essence hired to carry out specific tasks as part of an overall campaign strategy. The Senate report indicates that ‘the grants awarded specify how the recipients must use the funds. This allows the Billionaire’s club to engage in a defined transaction so they know in advance what services to expect for their money. As such, environmental groups that heavily rely on foundation funds to comprise a substantial portion of their budgets begin to look much more like private contractors buying and selling a service rather than benevolent non-profits seeking to carry out charitable acts.’”

“These attacks are no longer about the environment.” Ed Hazard, president of the California chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners, says: “They have morphed into an effort to fundamentally change the political, financial, and economic foundations of the United States and other nations. These are anti-private property rights and anti-capitalism efforts.”

If Measure P passes on November 4—giving the environmentalists another win and the economy another loss, well-paid jobs in the oil industry will go away and surrounding communities will suffer (similar to the impact felt in coal).

A vote against Measure P sends a signal bigger than Santa Barbara. In the war on fossil fuels, it shows we are fighting back. It supports America’s economic potential and energy security while tamping down the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that are the popular tools of Obama’s moneyed allies.

Once P is defeated, we have two years to be sure the next White House occupant understands that energy makes America great.

Categories: On the Blog

Wisdom from Bill Gray

Somewhat Reasonable - October 20, 2014, 4:53 PM

Though CO2 continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, global satellites show surface temperatures have not increased for the past 18 years.

Additionally, an article by Hurricane Guru Bill Gray in the Coloradan points out:

• Winter snow cover has been gradually increasing across the northern hemisphere in recent years.

• Antarctic sea ice is now at record high levels. Net global sea ice has shown no long-period downward trend.

• U.S. and global droughts, floods and severe weather have shown no significant changes over the past half century when atmospheric CO2 amounts have risen by 35 percent.

• The United States is currently experiencing the longest continuous period (nine years) without a major hurricane strike. Tornado activity has been below average the past three years.

These results confound climate alarmists who trust computer models more than their own senses and actual climate observations. The models can’t account for any of these trends.

Gray points out natural climate change and severe and unusual weather events have always occurred and will continue to occur in the future regardless of atmospheric CO2 levels.

As a result, switching to renewable energy will greatly raise our energy costs and significantly lower the U.S.’s and the world’s standard of living, but do nothing for the environment.

Only misanthropes could recommend making the world less hospitable for humans – perhaps this is the real reason alarmists continue to push for energy restrictions despite the mounting evidence global warming, if it starts up again, will be mild and possibly beneficial?

 

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner & Ingold: CDC’s Incoherent Ebola Failed Strategy Evolution

Somewhat Reasonable - October 20, 2014, 2:53 PM

By Nancy Thorner & Ed Ingold – 

Four officials in blue plastic hazmat suits. (Source: YouTube)

Dr. Tom Frieden appeared before an House committee today (10/16) to testify on CDC’s response to Ebola in America. It’s hard to say where his position comes from, whether a reflection of White House talking points, political correctness, or just a physician’s tendency toward self-deification (not unknown among bureaucrats either). When asked if he was being coached by anyone, he evaded the question.

CDC: Imposing travel restrictions on West Africa would inhibit humanitarian activities and strangle emerging economies.

FACT: Restrictions would be for non-essential travel. Humanitarian aid could continue, with the stipulation that returning workers would be subject to a three week quarantine. The“struggling economy” of West Africa consists primarily of oil, cacao and coffee. Nearly half of the world’s chocolate comes from this region. We are not proposing an embargo, just limits on non-essential travel. However travel restrictions might have a secondary effect on the quality of breakfast in

CDC: Travel restrictions would force people to take devious routes to the United States, making it harder to screen those at risk for Ebola and take necessary precautions.

FACT: Even without restrictions, there is a strong incentive for those at risk to bypass the existing screening procedure, or simply conceal signs of illness and lie on questionnaires. The alternative is to be denied access to US health care and face a long quarantine period. This has already occurred for the first domestic case of Ebola, where the person lied to gain entry, then went to the emergency room at the first mild signs of illness, rather than a local pharmacy (or bed) like the rest of us.

The prime directive to control the spread of disease is to isolate and eradicate. Travel restrictions are an essential ingredient for isolation. Every domestic case of Ebola requires the services of dozens of health care workers, monitoring of hundreds of persons potentially exposed to the disease, at enormous cost. Moreover health care workers are at the greatest risk of infection – Ebola is becoming known as “the nurse killer.” We cannot afford to import a single case of Ebola through carelessness, and screening is demonstrably ineffective. Congress should demand an account of these costs from the CDC.

CDC, the DNC and Democratic Congressmen: Republicans cut the budget of CDC by $500 million, making it harder to combat the Ebola epidemic here and abroad.

FACT:  The Sequestration cuts only discretionary spending (used to study duck sexuality and build treadmills for shrimp), and limits only increases in that spending. The actual budget was not cut, rather the CDC is getting a smaller increase than requested. The “Sequestration” was, in fact, proposed by the Obama, passed both houses of Congress and signed by the President. In the actual budget, Congress approved 50% more money for disease control than requested by the President – $176 Million v $135 Million. In actuality, Obama pushed for CDC cuts years before the Elboa outbreak As to Democrats blaming Republican for the spread of Ebloa on budget cuts, the GOP house passed a budget increasing DCD spending by 8-1/2 %. The phantom budget cuts are but a desperate measure by Democrats and have nothing to do with why CDC fumbled Ebola!

CDC: The protocols recommended for the protection of health care personnel are in place and effective.

FACT: Actually neither is true. Workers at Edison Hospital in Dallas were not properly trained nor equipped for Ebola treatment, and the published protocols are not effective. The “official” protocol calls for disposable surgical gowns, face masks and gloves. There is no head covering, respirators, leggings nor shoe covers (aside from “booties” intended to keep dirt from being tracked into treatment areas). Meanwhile, Dr. Frieden appeared in Africa wearing full HAZMAT gear, being hosed down with a chlorine solution for decontamination. While the “official” gear is disposable, it cannot be disinfected for safe degowning. Nor were the protocols being followed. The Nurses at Edison complain that they received no training and inadequate gear. They used medical tape for extra protection. When the second health care worker arrived for treatment, after being diagnosed with Ebola, she was accompanied by two workers in full HAZMAT gear and someone in street clothes carrying a clipboard. Some protocol!

There is no reason to panic, but at the same time we must insist that effective procedures be established and followed. There should be national standards for procedures, and a limit on non-essential travel to and from West Africa, both of which which can be imposed at any time by the HHS Secretary or President Obama. Secondly, we must get honest evaluations of the risks and progress as they develop, not Disney-ish star wishes. The only thing which will prevent panic is trust in the government we elect to protect us. It is abundantly clear that Dr. Frieden is no “war time consigliore.” The real experts reside in the military, for which command and control already exist for biological and chemical containment.

Addendum to original Illinois Review article:

Dr. Frieden, head of the CDC not a practicing physician. He is the former head of New York State Public Health, a politician through and through. He just needs to polish his spin skills. That’s where the newly appointed Ebola Czar, Ron Klain, comes into play. Spinning is his only skill, and as Chief Adviser for Joe Biden and Al Gore, he appears to be pretty good at it. What he doesn’t have is any medical background, administrative experience, nor technical expertise whatsoever. His job will be to take heat away from the President, and make us all feel good.

Nothing Obama does is without a political purpose. I suspect that by  treating the Ebola crisis in such a cavalier and counter-intuitive manner, he is taking attention away from the economy and the host of “phony” scandals haunting him. This is a calculated gamble. It is unlikely that there will be a lot of casualties to Ebola in the United States. However the cost and resources required to handle even a few dozen cases will be enormous, and occupy the headlines for weeks. At stake are the lives of those we depend on for our health and well being – nurses and doctors, not to mention the 4000 soldiers destined to serve in West Africa, their friends and dependents.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Ernest Istook – No Subsidies for Wind-Power

Somewhat Reasonable - October 20, 2014, 2:23 PM

Former Oklahoma 7-term Congressman Ernest Istook is leading the charge against a renewal of the wind-power production tax credit which under which the federal government pays wind power producers 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour.  Even with this subsidy, wind power is more expensive than traditional fossil fuel power plants.

Over ten years the federal government has paid tens of billions of dollars to wind producers for unreliable power.  Istook points out that raising the costs of energy, as the PTC does, harms the poor, minorities and those on fixed incomes the worst.  He argues for an energy neutral energy policy.  No subsidies for any energy source and equal treatment under tax laws.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Killing Confidence in Our Government

Somewhat Reasonable - October 20, 2014, 1:15 PM

What has been the over-riding theme of life in America since Barack Obama became President in 2008?

It has been the continued loss of confidence Americans have regarding various elements of the federal government. From the Centers for Disease Control, the Veterans Administration, the Secret Service, to the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, these and other agencies have been tainted in ways that have turned his two terms into a litany of scandals and failures.

Obama is a President for whom politics is the sole reason against which every decision is made. The latest example was the naming of an Ebola Czar. “Sources confirm to Fox News that President Obama plans to name Ron Klain, a longtime political hand with no apparent medical or health background.” In the past, Klain has served as chief of staff to Al Gore and Joe Biden. Does this make you feel any better about the Ebola threat?

I think that most Americans—not the “low information” ignorant ones—are experiencing a generalized depression about the nation these days. It’s a sense of weariness because our paychecks don’t stretch enough in the supermarket where the cost of food, particularly meat and fish, is soaring.

We wonder about the quality of education our children or grandchildren are receiving. It’s poor when compared to other nations and it undermines a belief in America’s exceptionalism.

In growing numbers younger Americans are choosing not to marry because of the costs involved and because we live in a society that no longer frowns on a couple living together; nearly half of marriages end in divorce. And then there’s same-sex marriage, a concept that was unthinkable not that long ago and for centuries in all societies.

We’re now six years into the Great Recession thanks to a White House that thought that, if the government spent $834 billion on top of the national debt, it would somehow “stimulate” the economy but government spending did not relieve Americans during the Great Depression, generate new jobs or achieve anything else that this tried-and-failed liberal theory was said to do. Who was in charge of Obama’s “stimulus” program? Ron Klain, the new Ebola Czar.

Cutting taxes, slowing and reducing regulations, and generally getting out of the way to allow people to start or expand their businesses works, but the White House went the other direction. As an October 16 Wall Street Journal editorial noted, “Millions of American families haven’t had a raise in after-inflation incomes in years, but in Washington times are flush…the U.S. federal government rolled up record revenues of $3.013 trillion.” Individual income tax receipts rose by 5.9%, along with payroll taxes and corporate income taxes—very nearly the highest in the world—increased 16% to $321 billion.

Only the naïve or ignorant believe that the government knows how to spend our money better than we do, but liberals—Democrats—do. Their answer to every problem government encounters is more money, but not to repair and expand the infrastructure, roads and bridges, on which the nation depends and not for a military that is currently at low pre-World War Two levels of personnel and old equipment of every description.

Our current Secretary of State, John Kerry, is going around echoing the President, telling people that mankind is doomed because “climate change” is coming and will destroy all life unless billions or trillions are spent in ways that will avoid it. Only no one can avoid climate change because that’s what climate does; it changes with well-known and predictable cycles tied to the Sun’s cycles.

Our military’s mission is now being redirected to addressing “climate change” at a time when, having been withdrawn from Iraq, a new, larger and far more dangerous entity, the Islamic State, has emerged, stretching into Syria as well.

The President recently gave an interview to France’s Canel+ TV Channel and said that the American people need to be better educated about Islam, claiming that the U.S. should be regarded as a Muslim country because of the number of Muslims living here. The truth is that the U.S. has one of the smallest percentages of Muslims of any Western nation, about 1.5% of the population. Americans know everything they need to about Islam. They recently watched two of their countrymen beheaded by the Islamic State.

The President appears to prefer unapologetic liars as his advisors. Consider Susan Rice who came to fame by lying on five Sunday television shows that the Benghazi attack in 2012 was the result of a video no one had seen and more recently said that Turkey had agreed to permit the U.S. to undertake military flights to attack ISIS only to have Turkey deny that within hours. She is Obama’s national security advisor and that is cause enough for concern, but guess to whom the new Ebola Czar, Ron Klain, will be reporting? Susan Rice.

While Obama has been in office the population has been growing by virtue of the millions of illegal aliens that have been entering. This year there was a dramatic virtual invasion of children and others from Guatemala and San Salvador at the invitation of the President. They were quickly dispersed throughout the U.S. and just as quickly schools around the nation began to report outbreaks of the diseases they brought. At the same time, deportations have declined this year.

The President has sent more than 4,000 of our military to Africa’s Ebola hot zone and he did so rapidly as what will be described as a humanitarian gesture, but he has never seen any necessity to dispatch our military to our southern border to stem illegal entry. Indeed, his administration has taken Arizona to court when it passed legislation to address the problem. In the meantime, we are left to wonder what will happen if our soldiers become ill with Ebola?

Indeed, his signature legislation, ObamaCare, is destroying our healthcare system and is a testament to the lies he repeatedly told before the Democrats in Congress passed it in 2009. No Republican voted for it. After the midterm elections, hundreds of thousands will learn that their employers will no longer provide them with healthcare insurance.

Americans are left to wonder how the nation can survive a President who has steadily engaged in programs that have harmed America’s economy—he is the first to have had our national credit rating reduced.

In the process he has ignored the limits imposed on his office by the Constitution. The courts have repeatedly rebuked this.

On November 4th voters will have an opportunity to go to the polls and vote out as many of his supporters, incumbent Democrats and candidates for Congress, as possible. Our confidence in our government must be restored with new leadership.

Categories: On the Blog

A Young Person’s Guide to Energy Conservation

Somewhat Reasonable - October 20, 2014, 7:03 AM

Energy has long lost the attention of the media, so we no longer think about ways we use energy and its effect on national policy or our pocketbooks.  However, the problems of energy supply we deemed a crisis in the 1970’s are still with us and a new crisis may be due to our own making.

U. S. warships are still in the Persian Gulf to keep open the supply of Middle East oil which still accounts for about one-quarter the world’s oil production. Conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Ukraine all involve energy supply. Poverty in Sub-Sahara Africa and its present Ebola crisis are due to 70 percent of its inhabitants not having access to electricity.

On an individual basis, stringent energy conservation can help postpone future crises and, for individuals, reduce the cost of living. After the cost of a home mortgage or rent, energy is the greatest expense for the average individual. (I am ignoring taxes and social security being an expense; politicians do.) For those with houses paid for, energy is the number one cost of living expense.

For individuals, energy is purchased in the form of gasoline, oil, natural gas, propane, and electricity. Over the period of one year, a family will spend $4,000-plus for energy. In order to achieve significant savings in energy costs, one must think about how energy is being used and the ways to reduce this consumption. The attitude of “I want to keep my money and not give it to oil companies or utilities,” must be developed.  Because of taxes, you have to earn two cents in order to have one cent to spend on energy.  Consequently, every cent saved on energy costs is equivalent to earning two cents.

The use of energy can be broken down into several broad categories: transportation, heating, air conditioning, water use, and miscellaneous. These categories are listed in decreasing order of expense. By use of these rules, I have been able to reduce my energy consumption by one-third of prior use.

TRANSPORTATION
The average home spends more than $3000 annually on gasoline; add in maintenance, insurance, and car tags and you are talking real money.

  1. Drive like a brake job cost $100,000.  Every time you use your brakes, you are converting gasoline energy into heat which consumes brake linings.  Don’t follow cars closely.  Anticipate traffic lights blocks ahead and coast to stops.  Don’t accelerate too fast and avoid making quick stops.  Front disc brakes should last 65,000 miles and rear brakes over 100,000 miles.
  2. Drive as fast as safe in city driving remembering the efficiency of motors improves with higher speeds.
  3. Keep your car perfectly tuned.  Determine your cars miles per gallon every time you add gas and if the mileage falls, realize some type of maintenance is in order.
  4. Don’t drive!   Walking is good for your health and saves on gas consumption.  It’s foolish driving around a parking lot looking for a close-in parking space.  Park the minute you enter a parking lot and walk to store’s entrances—this also saves on dents from parking between cars.
  5. Use radial tires and make sure proper air pressure is maintained at all times.  Keep a tire gauge and check tire pressure every month.  Don’t forget the spare tire.
  6. Avoid driving during periods of traffic congestion if possible.  Also avoid making senseless shopping trips.   Plan ahead and make several stops on the same trip.
  7. Consider car mileage when purchasing new cars.  The mileage for new and old cars is found at the website “fuel economy.com”.
  8. Use the cheapest gas available in your area.  The price of gasoline at all fuel stations is also found at “fuel economy.com”.
  9. Use air conditioning sparingly because it requires substantial engine power; however, at high speeds always have all windows closed to reduce air resistance and use air conditioning if needed for comfort.
  10. Help other drivers save on gasoline by letting them make left turns or into traffic flow when waiting.

HOME HEATING
Heating accounts for about 40 percent of the energy use for homes with air conditioning and 50 percent of energy use for homes without air conditioning.

  1. Seal all holes leading into a home with caulking.  This stops outside air infiltration and loss of heated air in the winter.  Holes may be found around window frames, door frames, and ceiling beams that extend outside.  This is by far the cheapest means of energy conservation and is quite effective.
  2. Weather strip all exterior doors and windows.
  3. Make sure the home is insulated to Building Code Standards.  For Atlanta, GA the minimum standard is 3 ½ inches of insulation (R-11) in exterior walls and 6 inches of insulation in exterior ceilings (R-19.  I prefer fiberglass batts for insulation because they hold their shape permanently, non-toxic, and cheap.  In addition, I recommend 12 inches insulation for attics.   For older homes without insulation it may be cost prohibitive to install wall insulation; however, attics are usually open and placing 12-inch batts is not expensive if the homeowner does the work.
  4. Install storm doors and storm windows.  Because of expense hiring proper installation, this may not be cost effective.  Benefits are great in energy savings and also reducing outside noise.  Keeping drapes closed can accomplish some of the effect of storm windows.  Double pane windows are also effective energy savers.  These are available at reasonable cost from building supply stores and if self-installed the payback period may be only ten years.  I properly installed double pane windows and storm windows giving me triple pane windows that made big heating improvements and almost eliminated outside noise.
  5. Insulate all supply and return ducts in the heating system if they are located in attics or crawl spaces.  In addition, make sure all duct joints are properly taped to prevent leakage.
  6. Clean and replace the air filter for the blower on a regular basis.
  7. Heat rooms only in use.  Do not shut off returns to your heating system; but you can shut off supply ducts as long as they don’t exceed 30 percent of supply lines.
  8. Install a programmable thermostat that allows temperature settings dependent upon the home use.  Late night temperatures can be set to 60 degrees that allows big savings—for every degree in setback the fuel savings may exceed 2 percent.   Set daytime temperatures according to occupancy of home.
  9. Avoid using exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathrooms.  Their use sends hot air outside and brings in cold air from the outside.
  10. Let the sun help heat the house in the winter by opening drapes of south facing windows during the daytime.

AIR CONDITIONING
Homes with air conditioning use 25 to 35 percent of their energy use in this fashion.

  1. Employ items a, b, c, d, e, f, g, and h described under home heating.
  2. For central air conditioning systems clean the outside condenser coils every spring because this helps increase the efficiency of the air conditioner by maybe 10 or 20 percent.
  3. Set thermostat temperatures as high as comfortable.  Each degree increase may reduce energy use by 5 percent.
  4. For Southern states with high air conditioning use, utilities have summer peak demands from 5 to 7 on weekday evenings as homes switch on their air conditioners upon return from work.  Utilities are trying to reduce this load by offering variable pricing to discourage electricity use in peak demand periods.  Instead of charging 16 cents per kilowatt-hour for summer electricity, a utility may charge 28 cents per kilowatt-hour from 2-7 p.m. weekdays and 10 cents per kilowatt-hour the rest of the time.  The programmable thermostat can be used to lower utility bills by adopting this type of pricing.  Air conditioners are most efficient late at night when outside temperatures are at their lowest.  With a programmable thermostat the air conditioner can be set for 70 degrees from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. in the morning.  For weekdays from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. the thermostat can be set for 73 degrees, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. the thermostat can be set for 80 degrees, and then from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. the thermostat can be set to 73 degrees.  On weekends the thermostat can be set for 73 degrees from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.  By not using the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer during weekday peak hours, I have reduced my summer electricity bill by 20 percent.
  5. When replacing an air conditioner, make sure the unit is not oversized for the job.  Contractors like to specify one ton of air conditioning for every 500 square feet of living space.  If the techniques described in part “a” are employed, you can probably get by with one ton of air conditioning for every 800 square feet of living space.  The smaller unit will run longer and keep the humidity low which adds to comfort.
  6. Make sure there is ventilation in the attic.  If the attic is properly insulated, attic fans may not be economical in reducing power costs.
  7. In the daytime pull drapes over Southern and Western facing windows.  I have placed movable shutters on Western windows that totally block out incoming sun for the summer and allow sun in the winter.
  8. Avoid excessive use of exhaust fans because they pull hot air into the house.  However, use exhaust fans when taking showers because they add to humidity in the house.
  9. Air conditioners can be a source of water during a drought.  Water is taken out of the air by the cooling coils and pumped outside by a small pump.  For every ton of air conditioning you may produce 5 gallons of water per day.  This water can be collected and used for watering plants.

WATER
Water is becoming expensive across the country due to shortages and repairs of old water treatment and sewage plants.   In Atlanta, Georgia the average home uses 6000 gallons per month and the cost is $138.  The marginal rate for the last gallons used in 2.5 cents per gallon.  In addition to water costs, there is the heating cost for hot water needed for washing individuals, food services, and cloths.  Water heating can be 10 percent of home energy use.

  1. Use low flow toilets in the home that are1.6 gallons per flush or lower.  The Atlanta water system pays $100 each for replacement of old, high flow toilets.
  2. If you kill a bug and throw it into the toilet; don’t flush the toilet, it costs too much.
  3. Use water saving shower heads and faucets.  This may cut water heating costs in half.
  4. Use dishwashers because they save on water use and make sure they are full when using them.
  5. Use washing machines only when they are full of dirty cloths.
  6. Set the thermostat temperature on water heaters to the low setting of 120 degrees.  This reduces heat losses from water heaters and associated plumbing and also reduces chances of scalding from inappropriate application of hot water to humans.
  7. Insulating hot water pipes can save energy; however, cost benefits may be marginal.
  8. Heat losses from gas water heaters are matched to the energy output of the pilot light.  So the standby loss of a gas hot water heater is zero when the thermostat is set to the lowest level of 120 degrees.   Gas water heaters with pilot lights are convenient because they work during power outages.  So forget buying a gas water heater with electronic ignition.
  9. Electric water heaters are made to operate with heat pumps.  They are very expensive; but reduce energy demand by two-thirds.  If a home requires large amounts of hot water, this type of water heater may be economical.
  10. In the design of new homes or remodeling, locate kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas that use hot water close to the water heater in order to have short lengths of hot water plumbing.

MISCELLANEOUS ENERGY SAVINGS TIPS

  1. Save on lighting energy use by employing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) or LED lighting.   These devices reduce lighting energy use by 80 percent.  CFLs are sold in home improvement stores for about $10 an eight-pack; while LED bulbs are about $15 apiece.  So CFLs are the financial choice; however, remember each CFL contains 4 milligrams of mercury, so their use demands locations in areas where breakage is unlikely.  After CFLs fail, they need to be returned to the purchase location for disposal.
  2. Buy and use energy savings appliances.  Microwave ovens use far less energy than stoves; so use them at all times when practical.
  3. New stoves and refrigerators are far more energy efficient than models sold twenty or more years ago.  When buying gas stoves, consider types without pilot lights and self-cleaning because they are better insulated and use less energy.
  4. Improve the efficiency of refrigerators or freezers by cleaning their condenser coils annually.
  5. Keep refrigerators and freezers full as possible and avoid excessive or prolonged opening their doors.
  6. When cooking on stove tops use covered pans to save energy.
  7. Place furniture around interior walls of rooms in order to have increased comfort in both summer and winter.
  8. Cloth’s dryers suck in outside air during operation.   Arrange their time of use so they do the least demand on heating or air conditioning systems.
  9. Turn computers off when not in use for extended periods like overnight.
  10. Flat screen televisions use substantially less energy than older models.  If TV sets are old, large models, and used a lot; consider buying a new one.  Turn televisions off when not in use.

Employing these tips can save hundreds to thousands of dollars annually.  Always keep energy in mind during daily activities and save money for other uses and benefit the nation’s best interests.

Categories: On the Blog

HBO Streaming Announcement Is Good News for All Entertainment Consumers, Not Just HBO Watchers

Somewhat Reasonable - October 19, 2014, 7:48 PM

Acting on plans reported here a month ago, entertainment channel HBO has decided to end its thirty-plus-year dependence on cable and satellite distributors, announcing it will offer an online streaming video service beginning next year. Following a trail blazed by Netflix, Amazon.com, Acorn Media, and others, HBO will offer the service without a cable subscription in an effort to reach the ten-million-plus broadband-only homes, a category that is increasing steadily.

In his announcement, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Piepler said that the company had not yet decided what distribution method to use: partnering with a cable or Internet provider or offering the service directly to consumers on the Netflix model. A possible clue to HBO’s thinking is its deal, reached earlier this year, to license much of its library to Amazon for the latter’s Prime service.

One imagines that HBO’s accounting people ran the numbers for the various scenarios before the bosses made the decision to go solo, so it seems likely that HBO already knows what direction they want to take. And the fact that they haven’t yet announced their specific plan suggests that it isn’t option three, to go it alone, as they certainly could have made that part of the announcement had they chosen. And given the ferment regarding net neutrality—the idea, fostered by Google, Netflix, and other big business users of internet bandwidth, that the government should ban broadband providers from charging fair prices for the use of their information pipelines—it makes sense for HBO to stay out of that morass and let a partner deal with the headache of delivering the service to its customers.

In any case, this is good news for entertainment consumers, even those of us who are not interested in HBO’s programs. When Turner Classic Movies goes solo, I will be very tempted to take down my satellite dish.

Such an exodus away from the current cable and satellite delivery system may turn out to be what finally breaks the hold of ESPN, Disney, Viacom, and other powerful entertainment conglomerates on people’s pocketbooks. These corporations have long benefited from the practice of bundling, in which content providers force cable and satellite companies to buy several unpopular channels in order to get the one people do watch, and they charge the distributors (the cable and satellite companies) extortionate fees to carry the programming bundles. Thus people across the country who have cable or satellite TV are required to pay an average of $5 per month apiece to ESPN owner Disney Corp. in order to get cable, even if they hate ESPN and never watch it.

Those companies and the major sports leagues have made an outrageous fortune off of people who never watch their programming, and the same is the case for Disney’s other channels and Viacom and the like. The cable and satellite providers have been unable to break these programmers’ power, and that is what has been behind the dizzying rise of monthly fees for these services. That can’t go on much longer, and HBO’s announcement is quite revealing, as a powerful programming source is clearly eyeing the door in obvious awareness that the current system is unsustainable.

We will soon find out how many HBO viewers resent having to pay huge fees for ESPN, Disney, and Viacom programs they don’t watch.

Change is going to come, and probably sooner than most parties imagine. HBO’s announcement is a strong indication that it’s “game on” now in the entertainment media world—and in the case of ESPN and the other big entertainment providers, perhaps “game over” very soon for their current cushy deals.

[First published at The American Culture.]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Black Thursday Is Coming in December: Politicians Want Green, Taxpayers Will See Red!

Somewhat Reasonable - October 19, 2014, 4:00 PM

A yearly $14.7 billion tax increase could be in place as early as mid-December courtesy of the leaders of the U.S. Senate.

Almost immediately after the World Wide Web made its debut some folks were hard at work figuring out a way to muscle in on the action. Some proposed taxing Internet access while others wanted to charge a higher tax on items bought via the Web than if that same item had been bought at a brick-and-mortar store. This Internet looting led to the passage of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) in 1998, 16 years ago.

Originally intended to be permanent but negotiated down to temporary, and grandfathering in jurisdictions that were already taxing Internet access to give them time to adjust their tax codes and budgets, the law put in place a moratorium on “Internet taxes,” that is, taxes on Internet access and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on Internet commerce. Since then, ITFA has been extended several times, including recently when it was extended until Thursday, December 11—or what we should dub another Black Thursday.

The American Action Forum released an analysis showing that the cost to taxpayers would be $14.7 billion annually. This tax increase is the very real cost of failing to extend the moratorium permanently.

Who would support this massive tax increase in the middle of a still struggling, sluggish economy?  As the private and public sectors spend millions of dollars to ensure people have broadband access, why impose a new tax that will disproportionately affect those least able to pay?

The only thing holding back a permanent moratorium and removing the grandfathered jurisdictions seems to be the Senate, where Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are holding the moratorium hostage as they try to find a way to force through something oxymoronically named the Mainstreet Fairness Act (MFA).

The proposal would do  away with any requirement that a business have a physical connection to a jurisdiction before it can be forced to levy taxes on its sales. If this law were to pass, a person merely calling up a business’s Website would be enough to require that a business pay taxes in the state where the customer resides. Out-of-state tax authorities could audit businesses in any state. A discriminatory Internet tax would look promising by comparison.

But holding the moratorium hostage to the MFA is illogical at best, and perhaps legislative malpractice. The moratorium staves off a huge tax increase, while the MFA enables vastly broader powers for tax authorities. Virtually opposite goals.

In addition, the MFA is fundamentally about where a taxable transaction takes place, a far more complicated discussion than a prohibition on discriminatory taxation. The MFA is appropriately fully debated in the context of how location-based taxation should be handled in an age of digital transactions, not smuggled through Congress via some hidden trick in an attempt to please a narrow constituency.

The number of cosponsors and the congressional committee votes demonstrate that a permanent moratorium that removes the grandfathered jurisdictions has a huge margin of support. However, if the two bills are forced together in the Senate nothing will pass, and the country will labor under another huge tax increase.

[Originally published at the Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

Silicon Valley’s Biggest Internet Mistake

Somewhat Reasonable - October 19, 2014, 8:00 AM

Hubris causes blind spots.

Silicon Valley is putting its foreign Internet franchise at risk by imagining what happens in Washington D.C. stays in D.C.

Silicon Valley’s net neutrality tunnel vision in America blinds it to the disastrous international policy repercussions of promoting a protectionist industrial policy for Silicon Valley at the FCC, exactly when most other nations are looking for any pretext to justify imposing their own protectionist policies in response to Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA spying.

To appreciate the biggest Internet mistake that Silicon Valley interests are making, one first needs to understand what they want from the FCC.

They want consumers to subsidize Silicon Valley’s cost of their commercial streaming to users in the form of a permanent FCC-set, zero-price for downstream traffic to their users.

To secure this large infrastructure-use government subsidy, Silicon Valley interests need the FCC to reclassify the U.S. Internet from a lightly-regulated “information” service to a utility-regulated “telecommunications” service, while simultaneously undoing, or “forbearing” from, some of the new utility regulations they just imposed.

So what is Silicon Valley’s biggest Internet mistake?

Legally, “telecommunications” is what international treaties and agreements regulate like a utility, under the Constitution of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Specifically, ITU agreement: ITU-T D.50, recognizes the sovereign right of each State to regulate “telecommunications” as that State determines.

Apparently, Silicon Valley interests are blind to the many risks of “telecommunications” regulation to their foreign businesses.

First, the FCC reclassifying the American Internet as “telecommunications” predictably would invite most every other country to reclassify their Internet traffic as “telecommunications” too, so that they could impose lucrative price tariffs on Silicon Valley’s dominant share of Internet traffic into their countries.

Second, there is no “forbearance,” or undoing, process from the ITU’s “telecommunications” utility regulations.

Third, a new FCC-led protectionist, “telecommunications” trade dynamic, would give foreign regulators every incentive to protect their national interests at Silicon Valley’s expense.

Fourth, the world is watching.

Fadi Chehade, Internet governance leader and President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN,) told the Washington Post: “You think that how the FCC decides to move forward with net neutrality only affects America? No. The whole world is watching how this country manages its Internet.”

Simply, since Silicon Valley benefits the most from free trade and the free flow of information, they also have the most to lose from advocating for the FCC to protect Silicon Valley commercially with large Internet infrastructure-use government subsidies.

For example, Google alone sends roughly 8 billion video streams overseas daily.

Most countries in the world salivate at the prospect of America’s FCC leading the world in price regulating Internet traffic flows for America’s benefit.

It would provide priceless political cover for autocratic countries like China and Russia, to impose their own nationalist Internet regulations and censorship policies.

It also would eviscerate any moral or policy high-ground the U.S. could have to stave off protectionist trade policies for information services, like the European Parliament’s call to end the U.S.-EU Data Safe Harbor and many countries’ calls for data storage localization.

That’s because foreign negotiators could say that their countries were only doing for their national champions what the FCC did for America’s Silicon Valley national champions.

And unfortunately, price regulating Internet traffic as “telecommunications” likely would require privacy-invasive, deep-packet-inspection, at sovereign borders in order to determine who owes whom what under an ITU “telecommunications” sender-party-pays, trade-settlement regime.

In sum, hubris causes blind spots.

[Originally posted on The Daily Caller]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Stop Playing the Ebola “Blame Game”

Somewhat Reasonable - October 17, 2014, 4:02 PM

When medical officials confirmed that a second individual involved with delivering treatment to the original Ebola patient contracted the disease, my concerns grew. When more news surfaced that the plane the individual flew on traveled to other airports before being decontaminated-namely the busiest in the country- scenes from the movie Contagion instantly flooded my mind. Ebola has proven that it is a disease without borders and many people would like some assurance that the US health care system has this under control. I certainly have not gotten that assurance yet. Instead a “blame game” has commenced.

This week, the Agenda Project Action Fund began airing an ad targeting Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Marco Rubio and several other GOP Senate candidates, declaring “Republican cuts kill,” directly blaming Congressional Republicans for the Ebola outbreak. This new Democratic talking point was provoked by statements from National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins. He told the Huffington Post that the agency has been working to develop an Ebola vaccine for more than a decade but was hindered by dwindling budgets. Collins says, “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

The 2014 NIH budget  was $30.14 billion, up from $28.5 billion in 2006. Due to the impact of inflation that is a small cut; however, the agency also obtained a $10 billion windfall in 2009 from the stimulus law. Additionally, in January, the Republican-led House passed legislation that increased the Center for Disease Control (CDC) spending for 2014 by $567 million, which is $300 million more than was request by President Obama. The Agenda Project ad also fails to note that the U.S. Global Health Program budget has increased more than six-fold since 2001.

The claim by Dr. Collins called for some observers, including Michael Tanner from Cato Institute, to point to some questionable NIH-funded studies like a study on the sex life of fruit flies, a study to determine why people like Seinfeld reruns, and a study of how fast husbands and wives calm down after a fight.

With one death, two active cases, and several more Americans under surveillance, it is becoming clear that the CDC was not ready for the likelihood of this event. Procedures were not in place and preparation was inadequate. Ebola patients have been successfully treated in the U.S. prior to the recent outbreak without transmitting the virus to others caring for them. The main concern must be guaranteeing that the right treatment procedures are available and that those providing treatment are conscientiously abiding by proper measures. It is imperative there are clear processes to monitor and assess those who may have been exposed to the virus. Decontaminating possibly infected areas should be done promptly and efficiently. The administration, state and local officials, the CDC and NIH all have a laundry list of things to do to encourage Americans that the right steps to avoid an outbreak are in place. This relates to protocols and appropriation of funds.

Yesterday, the head of the CDC Tom Frieden said he is “always open to ideas” on how to handle Ebola. While that remark wasn’t necessarily reassuring, he is on the right track. Instead of playing the “blame game,” let’s start playing the “crisis management game” and reassure Americans this is not Contagion.

Categories: On the Blog

Politicizing a Plague

Somewhat Reasonable - October 17, 2014, 10:58 AM

If President Obama does not want the Ebola virus to kill Americans, why has his administration done nothing to restrict any flights from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the hot spots in Africa where it appears the virus is spreading?

One of the reason flights from Liberia were not stopped, we have been told, was the historical link of the U.S. with that nation, founded as a place freed slaves could migrate. That is no excuse in the face of the threat of a single Liberian with Ebola getting off a flight in any U.S. airport.

The decision not to stop flights has nothing to do with health and everything to do with politics, Obama’s far left ideology, and his dislike for America that has been on display for anyone paying any attention. It has driven every decision Obama has made since first taking office.

The White House has decided that stopping flights would heighten public concerns, possibly creating an aura of panic. This is a very bad, very lethal decision. It demonstrates the indifference to facts and to common sense for which the White House is now famous.

Every poll demonstrates that Americans want our borders protected and access from West Africa denied.

It is likely that the White House wants to tamp down any sense of heightened public concern until the midterm elections on Nov. 4. Then add to that the criminal lack of truthfulness that has accompanied anything affecting this White House has done from Benghazi to setting free five Taliban generals in exchange for someone likely to be deemed a deserter from the U.S. Army.

When the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Thomas Friedman, became the focus of news media inquiries regarding the virus, it was clear that he did not have any greater knowledge of the problem, other than the scope of its threat, than anyone else. Indeed, within a week of his first press conference, he said that the CDC and U.S. medical community needed to come up with a whole new approach to Ebola.

When Thomas Duncan, the Liberian in whom the virus was not initially detected died, we were treated to scenes of intensive decontamination efforts at the Dallas hospital, but a nurse who treated him became the first U.S. victim and Dr. Friedman was quick to blame a “protocol breach” as the likely reason. Now a second nurse has Ebola.

The likely reason can be found in the fact that thousands of people die every year from viruses and infections they acquire at a hospital.

The first and likely the second nurse wore protective outfits from top to bottom while dealing with Duncan. In Africa, the earliest victims have been the doctors and hospital staff tending those with Ebola. Any U.S. medical personnel returning from Africa should be quarantined after they arrive. The President has dispatched more than 4,000 military personnel to Liberia and their quarantine should be far longer than the 21 days we keep hearing about. We are now hearing it should be up to 40 days.

The notion that airport staff has any capacity at all to spot someone with Ebola is ludicrous, yet we are being treated to the charade of passengers having a device waved over them to detect a fever.

All this is a political approach rather than a medical one. It is political theatre.

One example of this was a statement by Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, who blamed the lack of funding the NIH has received for research, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. He noted that the NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001, but does it strike anyone as odd that in all the time since then nothing has been developed?

In fairness, though, the NIH budget has declined 23% over the past decade. The current budget, however, is $29.31 billion. That is a substantial amount.

Congress represents more politics. Dr. Collins remarked that it did not appear “enthusiastic” about passing an emergency supplemental appropriation. For those in government the only answer to any problem is to throw more money at it.

Worse, a Democratic Party advertisement even claimed that the Ebola threat is due to Republican cuts in funding of healthcare research, but those cuts were bipartisan by virtue of the sequestration limits imposed. Not mentioned was an Obama administration decision to abandon a set of regulations which the CDC considered essential to prevent international travelers from spreading deadly diseases inside the U.S. At this point, the question is why?

So far Ebola has been located in West Africa, but in this world of global air travel, but without rigid restrictions it is only a matter of time before it begins to show up elsewhere including here again.

When that happens you can point a finger at Barack Hussein Obama who thinks it’s more important to have good relations with Liberia than it is to shut down any possibility that an African or anyone else at risk of having Ebola will arrive on our shores.

At that point, however, it will be too late

Categories: On the Blog

An American Decline that Must be Reversed

Somewhat Reasonable - October 17, 2014, 10:34 AM

The tendency of pundits is to address the decline in American culture and traditional moral values. The concerns addressed include the rather sudden, but widespread embrace of same-sex marriages or calls for the legalization of marijuana so anyone can get high without the fear of arrest.

You can probably name a few things you consider evidence of decline, but there is one you are not likely to notice much. It’s the nation’s infrastructure of highways, airports, waterways and ports. It’s only dramatic declines such as the decay of Detroit, once one of the nation’s most dynamic cities that get attention because it is so blatant. We judge the backwardness of third world nations by their bad roads and lack of infrastructure to support their economies.

We don’t, however, think of the U.S. as a nation in decline, but we are.

A September study released by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) revealed that overall spending on public infrastructure fell 10.5% between 2003 and 2012. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “Spending on highways and streets by federal, state and local governments, dropped a higher 19% during that same period, according to the study.”

NAM president, Jay Timmons, said, “The United States is stuck in a decade-long decline (in infrastructure spending) that will eventually harm job creation, future productivity and our ability to compete head-to-head with companies all over the globe.”  When a manufacturer cannot transport their product in a timely fashion, it puts them at a disadvantage. Multiply that by the nation’s many manufacturers and you have a very big problem for lack of adequate highways, roads, and bridges

The great power of America’s infrastructure was supported by the maintenance it requires. The 2013 study was commissioned by the Building America’s Future Educational Fund and NAM to survey manufacturers. It found that they “overwhelmingly viewed America’s infrastructure as old, inefficient, and badly in need of modernization.”

Findings included 70% who believed that U.S. infrastructure is in fair or poor shape and needs a great deal or quite a lot of improvement. The same percentage believe that road are getting worse and 65% did not believe that infrastructure, especially in their region, is positioned to respond to the competitive demands of a growing economy over the next 10-15 years.

This may not seem very exciting compared to news of combat in the Middle East or the threat of Ebola, but consider that, in early October, the Financial Times reported that “China has surpassed the US in terms of GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP), becoming the largest in the world by this measure, International Monetary Fund estimates show. In 2014 China reached $17.6 trillion or 16.48 percent of the world’s purchasing-power-adjusted GDP, while the US made slightly less, 16.28 percent or $17.4 trillion, according to IMF data.“

We are now number two in the global economy.

The NAM study’s research, said University of Maryland Professor Jeffrey Werling, “helps confirm what engineers and executives both know, The quality and quantity of current U.S. infrastructure is deficient, and these deficiencies are already hampering economic growth.”

For years, a federal fuel tax has helped underwrite needed highway construction, but it hasn’t been increased since 1993 and annual collections have been declining due to fuel-efficient vehicles and motorists who have been driving less than in the past. The Wall Street Journal reported that “Congress has shown little interest in raising the 18.2 cent-a-gallon tax” and has relied on stop-gap funding.

There was a time when a politician would jump at the chance to have a bridge or a strip of highway named after him. Those days are over. We have a Congress that can barely agree on anything, let alone something as undramatic as funding infrastructure projects. The States and local communities are squeezed for their own funds, burdened with pensions and other costs.

None of this bodes well, but at least we can say we’ve been warned, eh?

 

[Originally posted at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Ebola Screening at Airports is Feel-Good Technology, Not Science

Somewhat Reasonable - October 17, 2014, 10:26 AM

As reported on Sunday, October 12, Ebola has spread in the U.S. The second American case of the deadly Ebola virus was confirmed in tests on a health care worker who treated the first individual stricken with Ebola, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died on Wednesday, October 8th at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Huston, Texas. This infection took place despite the use protective suits and face masks. Because of the strain the new infection imposes on their resources,the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has placed their emergency room on “referral status.” This means they aren’t accepting any new emergency patients. All are being referred to other hospitals. Such chaos exists after only two Ebola cases.

In an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business News, October 9, 2014, CDC Director, Tom Frieden, MD., insisted that a travel ban is not the right answer. “We don’t want to isolate parts of the world, or people who aren’t sick, because that’s going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak.” Using the analogy of forest fires, Dr. Frieden continued,“When a wildfire breaks out we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.” Really? The prime method of fighting forest fires is to prevent their spread by creating fire breaks, even setting backfires. Without new fuel, forest fires quickly burn out. Fences work on fires, as would restricting all non-essential travel.

While WHO still soft-pedals the issue, it reports facts which can’t be dismissed.  According to experts in the WHO, Ebola can be spread by coughs and sneezes. It remains viable in air as long as it remains moist. By current definition, only diseases like influenza, which remains viable in air even when dry, are designated “airborn.” The CDC is parsing words on the definition of “direct contact.” Likewise the virus remains viable for several days on moist surfaces, clothing and body fluids. There is no solid evidence whether or not an asymptomatic victim is infectious. Not enough is known at present. The CDC is willing to assume that since we can’t prove victims are infectious before symptoms appear, there’s no need to be concerned.

America’s response, as of Saturday, Saturday, Oct. 11 to the Ebola epidemic in western Africa is to inspect all arrivals, at least by air travel (Screening has already been instituted at Kennedy International Airport for travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea), by a cursory inspection for certain symptoms (e.g., fever) and a supplementary questionnaire. We are told that this will virtually eliminate the possibility of Ebola spreading to the United States, negating the need to limit flights to and from the affected region. However it appears that public health officials, including the CDC, are simply repeating policies emanating from the White House rather than citing good science. It is a long-established principle that you cannot “inspect” quality into a system, that inspection merely alerts you to the presence of a problem. This is the fallacy of inspection.

This principle is rooted in the science of quality control.  Quality control began to take a much more scientific approach took form during World War I due to problems in procurement of vast quantities of materiel from a multitude of suppliers. The concept of statistical quality control arose from those efforts, with significant advances during and after World War II. Walter Deming (aka W. Edwards Demings) was a prime mover in this area, and played a key role in the re-development of manufacturing in Japan following the war. Deming’s work in Japan is responsible for their reputation for high quality after a rocky start.  His success there was met by skepticism in his home country, the United States, where quality control was dominated by tradition – If enough customers complain, we’ll fix it

One of the early facts uncovered by the scientific approach was you cannot achieve quality control by inspection alone. You cannot cull out bad products that so that only good products get shipped. How bad is it? Visual inspection will only detect 25% to 35% of bad products passing through the inspection station. Instrumentation helps a little, but human fatigue and inattention remain significant factors. Where stakes are high, as in the production of food and pharmaceuticals, three or more inspectors look at the same items in order to improve the odds of finding defects. On the other hand, 1% to 2% of good products will be rejected. Re-inspection of rejected items is costly because the percentage of bad product is much higher than in the normal production stream, and require much greater care and effort.

Under the principles developed by Deming and others, inspection is a tool to identify problems, not solve them. Once identified, the root cause of the problem must be identified and solved. If you don’t direct your main effort to solving the problem, you are fooling yourself, and confusing others. No conscientious manufacture would deliberately send products down the line in hopes that inspection would identify and cull the bad ones. That doesn’t mean it never happens.

There are multiple implications of these principles to screening airline passengers. Only passengers directly from affected countries will be screened. The potential for infections are much higher for these countries, hence more likely to be missed. Secondly, people will take indirect routes in order to bypass these inspections. Finally, inspections will be instituted at only five major air ports out of hundreds of potential entry points. The inspection itself will only identify potential victims by the presence of a fever (or other symptoms).

Since there are many causes for fever, the percentage of false identifications will be large, causing disruption to air traffic, not to mention the lives of those culled out of the crowd. The incubation period of Ebola is long, from five to twenty-one days (why not twenty or twenty-two?), so most people infected will pass through undetected, and possibly contact many people before the disease surfaces. The resources needed to respond to an active case of Ebola are enormous. A few dozen cases would overwhelm our system, much less hundreds of cases.

Under government procurement procedures, failing inspection leads to increased inspection levels (and higher cost), ultimately to disqualification of the supplier. In the proposed health screening procedures, there is no intervention plan, just a reaction.

In order to limit our exposure to a possible epidemic, non-essential travel to and from the afflicted regions be curtailed. There should be no casual travel or immigration. Contrary to the administration’s talking points, this has no effect on humanitarian aid, any more than our current ban on travel for political reasons. We would simply have to regulate such travel, and quarantine those returning. Such regulation would require a lot of resources for monitoring and a likelihood of treating subsequent infections. The cost and administration of these measures, and the even greater cost of failure, makes sending thousands of troops into harm’s way impractical.

 [Originally posted on Illinois Review

Categories: On the Blog

Government ‘Help’ Worsens Nutrition: Milk etc.

Somewhat Reasonable - October 16, 2014, 4:53 PM

People don’t form governments to tell them what to eat. Our government was formed to protect people’s inalienable rights to their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When governments attempt to do more than that, they violate the rights they are supposed to protect—and invariably produce unintended consequence, usually the very opposite from what they intend.

Take the case of chocolate milk. It has become a fad all across the country to ban chocolate milk in school lunches. Even the federal government has gotten in on this. The argument has been that white milk is healthier because the same volume of chocolate milk includes chocolate and sugar, meaning slightly less volume of milk, and eliminating the sugar is said to help combat obesity. So if only white milk were available, the children supposedly would consume more actual milk and be healthier.

But contrary to the good intentions of shortsighted lawmakers, the ban on chocolate milk results in far less milk being consumed. Elementary school children drank 35 percent less milk when flavored milk was banned, according to a recent study by the School Nutrition Association, a group representing school cafeteria workers. Some parents report their children won’t drink white milk because they don’t like the taste. Such children prefer to drink water if they can’t get chocolate milk. An audit at one Chicago school where milk is the only beverage available found that a third of the milk taken at lunch was thrown away.

About 70 percent of milk consumed in schools is flavored, mostly chocolate. For some children the only milk they get is at school lunch; if they won’t drink white milk, they get no milk at all. Clearly it is better for them to drink chocolate milk than no milk at all.

The simplistic—and false—claim that children will be healthier if chocolate milk is banned shows an ignorance of the scientific nutritional benefits of what they are prohibiting. More than 20 studies link link support the benefits of high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk for recovery after athletic exercise. Here are some examples:

“Lowfat chocolate milk naturally has many of the nutrients most commercial recovery drinks have to add in the lab—including high-quality protein and key electrolytes like calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.”

“Lowfat chocolate milk has 9 essential nutrients, including some not typically found in recovery drinks, that an athlete needs to perform at his or her best every time.”

“Lowfat chocolate milk contains high-quality protein to help repair and rebuild muscles after strenuous exercise. It’s also been shown to help athletes tone up—gain more lean muscle and lose fat—compared to drinking a carb-only drink…[and] help athletes build and maintain strong bones and reduce the risk of stress fractures.”

“The researchers suggest that athletes can consider fat free chocolate milk as an economic nutritional alternative to other sports nutrition beverages to support post-endurance exercise skeletal muscle repair.”

“Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that following an exhausting ride, trained cyclists had significantly more power and rode faster, shaving about six minutes, on average, from their ride time when they recovered with lowfat chocolate milk compared to a carbohydrate sports drink and calorie-free beverage.”

Furthermore, the School Nutrition Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, and National Medical Association argue that the nutritional value of flavored low-fat or skim milk outweighs the harm of added sugar and have issued a joint statement to that effect.

The movement to ban chocolate milk got its impetus from the movement to prohibit vending machines from selling soft drinks at schools because they contain sugar. This was part of the “war on obesity.” Since chocolate milk contains sugar, it too became a target in the “war on obesity.”

The war did not stop at the school yard. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated a law banning the sale of sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, delis, movie theaters and food carts. That was supposed to show he was fighting obesity. But a week later he showed up at Nathan’s 97th annual July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest, where he announced: “It is a moment for all New Yorkers and all Americans to celebrate the inalienable rights bestowed on us by our forefathers: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For the contestants assembled here, that includes consuming as many hot dogs as humanly possible.” This hypocrite would deny beverage consumers the same “inalienable rights bestowed on us by our forefathers” to consume sugary beverages of their choice that he grants for “consuming as many hot dogs as humanly possible.” Indeed, he proclaimed the latter “a moment for all New Yorkers and all Americans to celebrate.”

Michael Siegel, M.D., is a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. Here is his explanation of facts about the hot dog eating contest:

“The winner of the 2011 hot dog eating contest consumed 62 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes.

“A single Nathan’s hot dog has 297 calories and 18 grams of fat. The bun contains an additional 120 calories. Thus, a single serving delivers 417 calories and 18 grams of fat. This means that the winner of the hot dog eating contest consumed 25,854 calories and 1,116 grams of fat within 10 minutes.

“Thus, Mayor Bloomberg participated in a ceremony that glamorized and promoted the over-consumption of already calorie- and fat-laden food to literally millions of people, including about half a million New Yorkers. And this is the guy who now wants to limit soda consumption to 16 ounces?”

For Bloomberg’s “blatant hypocrisy,” Dr. Michael Siegel inducted him into the Hypocrisy Hall of Shame.

In March 2013, one day before Bloomberg’s large soda ban was due to go into effect, Justice Milton Tingling of state Supreme Court in Manhattan called the ban ‘arbitrary and capricious’ and tossed the regulation out.

Bloomberg’s position on the sugary beverages is not only an infringement on individuals’ rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness but shows his ignorance of facts regarding beverages. Sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 7 percent of calories of the average American’s diet, according to government data. And that 7 percent includes not only sodas but fruit juice drinks, sport drinks, teas and coffee with sugar.

Added sugars consumed from soda have declined 39 percent since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control—and yet obesity has been increasing during this period. Since 1998, the average calories per serving from beverages is down 23 percent due to development of more low- and zero-calorie drinks—yet obesity continued to rise.  Sales of regular soft drinks declined 12.5 percent from 1999 to 2010—yet obesity rates continued to rise during that same time. These facts make it foolish to believe Bloomberg’s policy will reduce obesity.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states: “There are multidimensional determinants of obesity….A food solution remains elusive, but a reductionist approach that focuses on one food or one component of the food supply, in the presence of too much, is unlikely to succeed.”

Dr. Gilbert Ross, M.D., practiced medicine for 19 years, was a member of the faculty of Cornell University Medical School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and is currently Executive Director and Medical Director of the American Council on Science and Health. He says, “There is no solid evidence that restricting sodas to a certain size will have the slightest impact on obesity.” Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, a renowned epidemiologist who questions conventional wisdom on food, said, “Not only is the latest proposed ban frightening in terms of government overreach, but it will have no impact on obesity.”

An Australian study of children consuming sugar-sweetened beverages 1995 to 2007 found that obesity had increased despite a substantial decline in intake of refined sugar.

Nor will taxing sugary beverages reduce obesity. West Virginia and Arkansas are two states that tax soft drinks, yet both are among the 10 states with highest obesity rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A very recent study at Cornell University of a 10% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages shows the futility of such measures in combating obesity. In From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences, the researchers found:

  • Taxes on sweets encouraged substitution. In this case, shoppers substituted beer for soft drinks, and the households that previously had purchased beer bought even more beer after soft drinks were taxed.
  • The total fluid ounces of beverages purchased by shoppers remained steady throughout the entire study. There was a drop in unhealthy drink purchases during the first month, but consumers resumed their soft drink purchases thereafter, with no decrease in purchases at the three-month or six-month marks.

The government’s role in school lunches extends far beyond the chocolate milk issue. In Chicago some schools prohibit children from bringing lunch from home. Citing a situation parallel to that of children who won’t drink white milk, a parent Erica Martinez said, “Some kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast. So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.” The WSJ wrote, “The healthy food is so bad that kids are literally starving themselves rather than tucking into vegetarian curries, or else engaging in the black market.” (Is the black market something we want children to learn at school?) The Los Angeles Times reported “At many campuses, an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare is thriving.”

A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman couldn’t say how many schools ban lunches from home. Monique Bond said there is “no formal policy” and the decision is left to the principals. Regarding the Little Village school, she said, “this principal is encouraging healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.” Apparently, in attempting to impact beyond the classroom some schools are shortchanging the educational function of the school. On May 30, 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported some “schools have diverted funds from teaching to reconfigure their menus to federal specifications.”

The federal school food regulations were mandated by a 2010 law and went into effect in 2012. According to the WSJ, “The rules impose very specific quotas for the type and amount of food served. Cafeterias, for example, must feature five ‘vegetable subgroups’ across ‘dark green, red/orange, beans/peas(legumes), starchy and ‘other’ vegetables.’ Schools have had to eliminate popular items such as sandwiches. Two slices of bread over five days exceed the weekly grain limit.

“The rules are as poorly devised as they are overly proscriptive, and often the school lunch calorie minimums cannot be satisfied with any combination of the low-calorie Let’s Move-approved foods.

Julia Bauscher, former president of the national School Nutrition Association (SNA) and currently director of nutrition services for Louisville’s public schools, says,

“I currently have one lunch entree that meets the a la carte requirements: grilled chicken breast on a whole-grain bun. But I can’t serve condiments with it. How many kids are going to eat grilled chicken with absolutely nothing on it?”

Mary Anderson, culinary supervisor at the Wayzata High School in Minnesota, says, “The kids weren’t getting enough food, they weren’t full. We really realized that we were not meeting consumer needs.” The Minneapolis Tribune reported, “Officials [at that school] are so unhappy with the new standards they are doing away with the national school lunch program completely next year.”

A 2014 investigation by the Government Accountability Office found some schools were adding “gelatin, ice cream, or condiments such as butter, jelly, ranch dressing or cheese sauce to become compliant,” which increased kids’ consumption of sugar, salt and fat.

The federal government subsidizes the banning of lunches from home by putting money in the pockets of the school district and its food provider. It pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch. If children in Chicago’s public schools don’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals and can’t bring lunch from home, they would have to pay $2.25 for food they may refuse to eat.

Brenda Braulick, president of the Minnesota branch of the School Nutrition Association, says she sees

food waste every day from kids who don’t want a fruit or vegetable but are forced to take one. “What we’re seeing is a lot of whole fruit, whole apples, whole bananas, not even with a bite taken out. To force a kid to take it doesn’t do any good.” The wasted food in Braulick’s district goes to a local hog farm. The USDA pays the district an extra 6 cents for fruits and vegetables that cost 25 to 30 cents.

The Los Angeles Unified School District alone “throws out at least $100,000 worth of food a day — and probably far more,” estimates David Binkle, the district’s food services director. Nationally the cost of wasted food from schools is estimated at over $1 billion annually.

With so many students refusing to eat the required food, it’s not surprising that many are also rejecting the entire National School Lunch Program. The Government Accountability Office reports that participation last year plunged by 1.2 million students, the first such decline in 30 years. Nationwide, students are buying a million fewer lunches per day than two years ago. At least 534 schools have dropped out of the program, and it’s not just individual schools but entire school districts that are dropping out. The USDA says about 150 school districts have exited the program.

In July 2014 the Fort Thomas Independent School District in northern Kentucky dropped out of the federal lunch program after students last year bought 30,000 fewer meals from its school cafeterias. Superintendent Gene Kirchner said dropping out will cost the district $200,000 in lost federal funds, but he said the district would lose even more money if it has to serve food the students refuse to buy. Some districts get much more federal money—so much more that they are hooked. “I get over $30 million in federal money,” says. Donna Martin, school nutrition director of Georgia’s Burke County School District, “I can’t just give that up.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 as part of Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, to combat childhood obesity. “We’ve seen the connection between what our kids eat and how well they perform in school,” President Obama said when signing the law. If what he said is true, the law must be degrading student performance in schools.

The situation is scheduled to get worse. The USDA set a series of increasingly strict rules to be introduced over 10 years, starting in 2012. Nutritionists are worried about new standards for grains, fruits and vegetables, and especially sodium. The sodium limit will be a problem by 1917, says Leah Smith, current national president of the school nutrition association.

The SNA and other opponents of the food rules are calling on Congress and the USDA to delay implementation of new standards to give the public time to gradually adjust to them. This is the wrong approach. The current standards are already worse than no standards at all. They have resulted in students getting less milk, rather than more, some getting no milk at all, and none getting the nutritional benefits of chocolate milk. They have resulted in enormous waste of taxpayers’ dollars and parents dollars. They have resulted in enormous wastes of food, and yet countless students get no lunch at school. Kirchner says it’s a particular problem at high schools, “They’re just skipping lunch and stopping by the minimart on the way home instead.” Rebecca Stinson, a principal at an elementary school on Chicago’s South Side, said, “The kids may have money or earn money and [buy junk food] without their parents’ knowledge.” Thus the regulations motivate children to eat more junk food and and undermine the parents’ role in their children’s diet. It is time to end these problems.

The issue is not whether stricter regulations should be mandated sooner or later but whether such regulations should exist at all. “This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” said J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Center for Consumer Freedom. “This is a perfect example of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again….Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?”

If we all have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then we are entitled to exercise that liberty in the choice of foods and beverages in our pursuit of happiness. This applies as much to chocolate milk as to stuffing oneself with hot dogs. And it is the very purpose of government to protect those rights. When it does so, people work out for themselves the most satisfactory—and economical—arrangements for providing goods and services to each other, without the interference of government. That is what freedom means and how and why it works in the marketplace. And it is why government “solutions” are always inadequate, expensive and with characteristically large amounts of waste. Those consequences are unavoidable when government fails in its purpose of protecting individual rights and substitutes regulations and mandates for social, economic or political goals at the expense of liberty.

The federal government should never have gotten involved in school lunches; it has no constitutional authority for doing so. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is a rolling disaster. It has done just the opposite of what its title suggests. It has made nutrition worse for children, leaving more of them unsatisfied and hungry. It should not be “improved” or amended; it should be abolished.

[First published at American Liberty.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Jonathan Williams -Why Americans Choose to Move Out of State

Somewhat Reasonable - October 16, 2014, 4:11 PM

Jonathan Williams, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Director, joins Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to debunk some common myths regarding why Americans choose to pack up and move to other states. While meteorological climate may play a role in some people’s decisions, Williams explains that states’ business and tax climates are a primary driver of the migratory habits of the American family.

Predictably, there are consequences to states’ poor fiscal decisions, as declining population numbers create a feedback loop, in which fewer and fewer taxpayers remain in a high-tax state. Williams explains why government statistics show that this is already happening in some areas of the United States.

Categories: On the Blog

A Supreme Court, Not Supreme Wisdom

Somewhat Reasonable - October 16, 2014, 1:52 PM

I am not a lawyer, but I have read the Constitution and I cannot find any indication that the Founding Fathers intended the guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” in the 14th Amendment to include same-sex marriage.

The idea would have been regarded as an abomination to the men who created the Constitution. To many who regard the institution of marriage a sacred bond between a man and a woman, the decisions of lower courts that have facilitated same-sex marriage are deeply offensive

When the Supreme Court decided not to decide upon appeals from seven states regarding lower court rulings that their bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, they essentially endorsed same-sex marriage. It is now legal in 25 states, paving the way for a total of 30 states that recognize it, but only by popular vote in three of them; the rest had it imposed through the courts.

The same can be said of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 that permitted abortion as a legal right. Here again, the 14th Amendment was cited. As one source noted, “The Court summarily announced that the ‘Fourteen Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action” includes “a right to personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy and that “this right of privacy…is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

As this is being written, there have been more than 57,245,810 fetuses aborted since 1973 and, this year, there have been 840,045. Thus, decisions that the Supreme Court makes can literally result in life or death.

One of the most dramatic decisions of an earlier Supreme Court was the 1857 Dred Scott case that ruled that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and thus had no standing to sue in federal court, nor that the federal government had any power to regulate slavery in the territories acquired after the creation of the nation. The Civil War would follow in 1861 and last until 1865, resulting in more than 600,000 casualties, but finally ending slavery in America. Even some of the Founding Fathers had predicted that conflict.

When the Supreme Court has wandered into the area of social policy and culture, it has made decisions that were contrary to the majority of the population. The decision about slavery was about property—the slave–but many regarded slavery as an institution that must be ended.

The Supreme Court, of course, is not one long list of bad decisions. It has done much good and one man is credited with setting it on its course as a co-equal brand of the federal government. That man was John Marshall. I doubt that his name and deeds are  even taught in the schools of America.

As a brilliant and very entertaining biography by Harlow Giles Unger, “John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Save the Nation”, reveals, “Marshall’s pronouncements would ensure the integrity and eminence of the Constitution and the federal government and catapult him into the pantheon of American Founding Fathers as the father of the American federal justice system.”

“He would become the longest serving Chief Justice in U.S. history, signing 1,180 decisions and writing 549 of them, or nearly half, himself.” America was fortunate to have a legal scholar, utterly devoted to the Constitution, in its early, formative years. “Case by case he defined, asserted, and when necessary, invented the authority he and the Court needed to render justice, stabilize the federal government, and preserve the Union and the Constitution.”

Chief among Marshall’s achievements was to assert that the Supreme Court had the right and duty to declare federal and state laws to be either constitutional or unconstitutional. With that it became the third equal but separate branch of government.

Marshall had fought in the American Revolution and had had a distinguished career as a lawyer. As Unger says, “Clouds of doom shrouded the nation in 1800. George Washington was dead. For the first time in their twenty-five year struggle to govern themselves, Americans faced a future without the father of their country to lead them. And they lost their way.”

“Absent their commander-in-chief, the men who helped him lead the nation to independence went mad. Chaos engulfed the land as surviving Founding Fathers—Adams, Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson, Monroe, and others—turned on each other as they clawed at Washington’s fallen mantle.” Jefferson as the third President wanted to rule as a virtual tyrant, but Adams’ appointment of Marshall put a brake on those ambitions.

The United States is passing though a period of governance in which the Congress is so locked in partisanship and so divided that it is barely able to function in the national interest. The current President is losing the popularity he enjoyed when first elected and, now into his second term, he is losing the support and confidence of a majority of Americans. Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed his displeasure with a Constitution that places limits on his power as President.

As Unger notes “Nothing in the Constitution gives a President power to issue proclamations or executive orders with the force of law. Only Congress can legislate, yet presidents have issued more than 13,500 proclamations and executive orders since the founding of the Republic, while the Congress has enacted only about 20,000 laws.”

The Constitution remains supreme above the office of President and, in great measure, we can thank the work of Chief Justice John Marshall.

[Originally posted at Facts Not Fiction]

Categories: On the Blog
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