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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Clearing the air on fossil fuels: Here is the rest of the story



A few years ago Hal Willis, a scientist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, resigned from the American Physical Society after 67 years as a member, citing the global warming/climate change issue and the blind allegiance to global warming theory by so many of the Society’s members, as well as the organization’s failure to challenge these members in the name of true scientific investigation, and citing trillions of dollars of research funding as a major reason the practice of true science on climate change has been replaced by ideological advocacy.

Of the climate change issue Willis said, “It is the greatest pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a scientist.” His position has support from other scientists, among them Dr. Ivar Giaever, a 1973 Nobel Prize-Winner for physics.

Giaever joined more than 70 Nobel Science Laureates in signing an open letter in October of 2008 expressing strong support for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who had said “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Seven years later he believes Obama’s warning was a “ridiculous statement.” He told a Nobel forum last July, “I would say that basically global warming is a non-problem.”

Dr. Richard Lindzen is emeritus professor of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT. Citing the growing shrillness of the cries about “global warming” during his 30 years there, during which time he says “the climate has changed remarkably little,” he notes that the less the climate changes, the louder the warnings of climate catastrophe become.

In a recent video presentation by Prager University, he said that participants in the climate change debate fall into one of three groups.

Group One, he says, is associated with the scientific part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Working Group 1), and are scientists that generally believe recent climate change is due to burning fossil fuels, which releases CO2 (carbon dioxide) and might eventually dangerously harm the planet.

Group Two is made up of scientists who, like Lindzen, don’t see the problem identified by Group One as an especially serious one. They say there are many reasons why the climate changes – the sun, clouds, oceans, the orbital variations of the Earth, as well as a myriad of other inputs, none of which are fully understood.

Group Three is made up of politicians, environmentalists and the media. Climate alarmism provides politicians money and power and environmentalists also get money as well as confirmation of their religious zealotry for the environment, while the issue satisfies the media’s need for a cause to support, money and headlines. Said Lindzen, “Doomsday scenarios sell.”

From the climate alarmists’ point of view, virtually every problem on Earth stems from climate change, as Lindzen said, “everything from acne to the Syrian civil war.”

The Director of the Center for Industrial Progress, and author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein, shows us in a Prager University video presentation that contains thorough sourcing for his assertions that burning fossil fuels has improved the lives of millions in the developed world by helping solve their biggest environmental challenges, purified their water and air, made their cities and homes more sanitary and kept them safe from potential catastrophic climate change.

Could we have built reservoirs, purification plants, and laid networks of pipes to bring clean water to homes without fossil fuels, he asks? Fossil fuels can do the same for those in the developing world, if the powers that be will allow it. More fossil fuel use equals more clean water, he said.

He further shows that despite an increase in fossil fuel use from 1.5 billion tons in 1970 to around 2.0 billion tons in 2010, emissions dropped from about 300 million tons to about 150 million tons during the same period. This resulted from using anti-pollution technology powered by … fossil fuels.

If CO2 emissions cause harmful changes in the environment, and if emissions have increased, then more people must be suffering “climate-related deaths,” due to things like droughts, floods, storms and extreme temperatures. But no, Epstein said. “In the last eighty years, as CO2 emissions have rapidly escalated, the annual rate of climate-related deaths worldwide has rapidly declined – by 98 percent.”

“In sum,” Epstein said, “fossil fuels don’t take a naturally safe environment and make it dangerous; they empower us to take a naturally dangerous environment and make it cleaner and safer.”

A large segment of the public has bought into the “we are killing our environment” idea put forth by the climate alarmists, and now meekly accept it when the United Nations and their own government advocate harmful solutions to climate change, ignoring the mounting pile of contrary data. Consequently, the economic damage done to regions of the U.S. and the thousands of American workers put on the unemployment line by the foolish policies of the Obama administration basically are accepted as necessary.

A strong case has been made that fossil fuels aren’t significantly harmful, and that they have been and will be extraordinarily helpful to the people of the world, if only we will listen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It’s critical to correctly assign responsibility and accountability





In a matter of minutes on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed 26 people – 20 of them school children – at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. This horrific act was the work of a crazed 20 year-old. Lanza killed his mother, took her gun and headed off to Sandy Hook school. After killing 26 innocent people, he killed himself.

At the time, and still today, people blame the weapon Lanza’s mother had legally purchased instead of the mentally ill shooter, or his mother who ignored years of warnings about his psychiatric anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The school system also ignored signs of mental problems, according to The New York Times, which reported on findings that resulted from a mandate for the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate to “conduct investigations of child fatalities and issue public reports with the particular focus on preventing future child deaths.”

The Times noted “the report faulted the school system for not doing a better job of monitoring Mr. Lanza’s progress, educationally and emotionally, each time he was allowed to receive his education in a ‘homebound’ environment because of difficulties he had in social settings.”

But those who had the responsibility to act to protect the public from this dangerously mentally ill person – Lanza’s now-dead mother and the school system – are not the targets of a wrongful-death lawsuit. Instead the plaintiffs have targeted the manufacturer, the distributer and the seller of the legal weapon the mentally ill Lanza used to kill and injure.

The plaintiffs whose lawsuit targets these businesses are the families of nine of the victims and one survivor of the Sandy Hook attack, who understandably are still desperately trying to cope with having their world turned upside-down. A lawsuit filed on their behalf asserts that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle Lanza used, described as “military style” in The Times story, should have never been available for purchase by civilians.

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the companies involved in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the rifle was denied by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who rejected the gun companies' position that gun businesses are protected from civil lawsuits by a 2005 federal law that protects against lawsuits for criminal acts committed with their products.

The case against the manufacturer of the rifle, Remington Arms Co., firearms distributor Camfour Inc., and the now-defunct Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor, Conn., that sold Lanza's mother the rifle two years prior to the Sandy Hook shooting, will go forward with a court session scheduled for this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “[a]ttorneys for the family are pursuing a claim under an exception of the federal law known as a negligent-entrustment claim. Under such a claim, a seller can be held liable for supplying a product to a person it reasonably could have known posed a risk to themselves or others.”

This situation raises several questions, among which is how could the manufacturer, the distributer, or the seller know that a mentally ill relative of a potential purchaser would take it from the owner and use it to commit a criminal act?

Another question: If Lanza had used a .38 revolver or 12-guage shotgun, guns that are clearly not designed for military use, would the plaintiffs have brought the case, and if so, would the judge have denied the challenge and allowed the case to go forward?

Like a handgun or a shotgun, the AR-15 is not restricted for sale to the public by law. So it is merely the opinion of the plaintiffs that it should not be available for purchase by the public.

If instead of using a gun Lanza had driven a vehicle into a group of children waiting for a school bus, would the plaintiffs have sued the vehicle manufacturer and the car dealer? What if he had used a knife, or a bomb in a pressure cooker or a soft-drink can? Would there be any legal action?

If this lawsuit ends with one or more of the defendants being found liable, the door will be opened for dozens or hundreds of similar legal actions targeting not the perpetrator of a crime, but manufactures, distributors, or sellers being held responsible for criminal activity they had nothing to do with. If manufacturers can be held liable for deaths or injuries resulting from the criminal misuse of their legal, non-defective products, how many businesses or entrepreneurs will want to take the risk to make and sell something?

It is a nearly automatic response to have great sympathy for the families of those murdered children and the survivors of Sandy Hook. But sympathy, however great, and the circumstances of the event, however horrible, are not compelling reasons to punish legal businesses for making and selling legal products that were deliberately misused by someone with diagnosed mental health issues, and in this case someone other than the owner of the legal product.

Solving these kinds of problems requires focusing on the actual causes, not in shifting the responsibility to uninvolved third parties. Adam Lanza, his mother and the school system bear sole responsibility for this tragedy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

America’s long, difficult trek from tyranny and oppression to …




North America’s colonists were necessarily daring and independent, otherwise they would not have ventured to the New World. Being so far from Mother England, they needed and were able to establish colonial governing bodies, which could levy taxes, muster troops, and enact laws.

As time passed the colonies strengthened, and began seeing themselves as independent states, and their obedience to and dependence on the British Crown was receding into the background.

As the future leaders of the United States grew into those roles in the colonial legislatures, they also studied the ideas of the Enlightenment: the social contract, limited government, the separation of powers and the consent of the governed, ideas at odds with the heavy hand of King George.

The colonies found many things imposed by England objectionable, such as the Sugar Act that increased duties on sugar imported from the West Indies; the Currency Act that devalued Colonial currencies; the Quartering Act that forced colonists to house and feed British soldiers if necessary; the cruelty of the British Army at the Boston Massacre; the Stamp Act taxing many common items; and the Tea Act that spawned the Boston Tea Party.
 
Nearly two and one-half centuries later we are again facing a heavy hand, this time not from a monarch, but from the government created by those colonists after they had had enough heavy handedness, and fought for and won their freedom.

Our government’s objectionable activities from the recent past include an inspector general’s report showing that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for lengthy and onerous review of their applications for non-profit status. And cases such as when an Army veteran heard banging on his door before dawn, then he and his two young boys spent several hours in police cars in their jammies as a Department of Education SWAT team searched his home because his wife, who didn’t live there any more, had defaulted on her education loans.

A program of the Department of Justice called “Operation Chokepoint” is used to put the financial squeeze on legal industries the administration doesn’t like, such as firearms sellers and payday lenders.

Another program known as civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize, and then keep or sell, any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.

Wonder how the colonists would have reacted to these outrages had they been perpetrated by King George?

Today, the federal government has its fingers in virtually every aspect of our lives, and often it is very involved. Its activities no longer are effectively limited as directed by the U.S. Constitution. The federal government largely controls education at the local level, regulates mud puddles on private property, and now has taken control of the way Americans receive their healthcare.

With the force of law it now espouses positions based not upon Constitutional principles, but based upon ideology and political impulses.

One of the most ominous to date is the effort announced earlier this month to use the full force of the federal government, which has adopted one side of a vigorous debate on the effects of humans on the world’s climate, to criminally charge businesses that argue against the government’s chosen position with racketeering under RICO laws.

“Treating climate change as an absolute, unassailable fact, instead of what it is — an unproven, controversial scientific theory — a group of state attorneys general have announced that they will be targeting any companies that challenge the catastrophic climate change religion,” say Hans von Spakovsky and Cole Wintheiser in The Daily Signal.

Ignoring America’s principle of freedom of thought and speech, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said last month, “The bottom line is simple: Climate change is real,” and he is threatening to pursue companies he claims are committing fraud by “lying” about the dangers of climate change “to the fullest extent of the law.”

The coalition “AGs United For Clean Power” consists of 15 state attorneys general as well as the AGs of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. In addition to Schneiderman are Kamala Harris, California; William Sorrell, Vermont; Mark Herring, Virginia; Maura Healey, Massachusetts; Brian Frosh, Maryland; George Jepsen, Connecticut; and Claude Walker, the Virgin Islands, and representatives from Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington State and D.C.

Unsurprisingly, sixteen of the seventeen are Democrats, while the Virgin Islands AG is an independent. And no farcical climate inquisition would be complete without the participation of former vice president and climate change beneficiary Al Gore.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admits that the Justice Department is discussing the possibility of pursing civil actions against climate change doubters, and that the FBI has been asked to consider if it meets the criteria for federal law enforcement to take action. Tyranny rears its ugly head.

When the political left cannot prevail through the strength of its arguments in the arena of free ideas, it resorts to force. That is unconditional surrender, a testament to the failure of liberalism as a practical ideology.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Besides benefiting pandering pols, why have a $15 minimum wage?

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Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders literally screamed through a bullhorn at a campaign event in support of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15. “I’ve been pleased to march and struggle with all workers in this country who are fighting for $15 an hour and a union,” he told the crowd. “We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, people should not have to work for starvation wages.”

The City of Seattle, Washington last year raised its minimum wage to $15 to take effect this month, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California followed suit shortly thereafter, and last week the California State Legislature passed a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage in steps to $15 by 2022, and Governor Jerry Brown pledged to sign it.

Politicians frequently advocate for higher minimum wages, which attracts a lot of positive attention from low wage earners. Campaign speeches focus on how hard it is to live on minimum wage, as if a large proportion of the workforce earns the minimum and that large numbers earning at that level are trying to support a family, and all of these people really are being enslaved by greedy businesses. Facts, predictably, tell a different story.

At the end of 2014 the number of Americans 16 and older earning hourly wages was 77.2 million. Of those, just under 3 million earned the minimum wage, about 4 percent. Among all workers that year, hourly and salaried, those earning at or below the minimum was just 2 percent, and only 1.04 million minimum wage workers held full-time jobs. Of the entire full-time workforce, only 0.7 percent earned at or below the minimum wage.

Who are these 3 million minimum wage hourly workers? Nearly half – 48.2 percent – are between 16 and 24 years of age, and 2.6 percent are 65 or older. More than half work in food preparation and related “hospitality” industries, 31.4 percent are high school graduates, 23.1 percent did not earn the high school diploma, and only 9.1 percent have a college degree.

Most of them are second or third earners in their household; the average family income of a minimum-wage worker exceeds $50,000 a year. Furthermore, most minimum wage workers graduate to higher wages quickly as their skills and experience increase, usually getting a raise in less than a year.

People generally make minimum wage when they get an after-school job, or to help out while they are going to college. They make minimum wage for jobs that require little skill, and are often supplemented by tips. People make higher wages when they gain experience or hold jobs requiring higher levels of skill. Professionals and technically trained workers make more than fast food workers, checkout clerks and grocery baggers, as it should be.

Those who run businesses have to decide how much they can afford to pay for the different types of jobs in their business. Wages are based upon the importance of each job to the business, the experience and skill of individual workers, the number of people available for each job, and the overall cost of labor and other expenses, balanced by business income.

When government edicts artificially increase labor costs, businesses must offset the increase by cutting costs, increasing income, or a combination. Every minimum wage increase of $1 an hour costs a business about $2,500 per employee per year in wages and payroll costs. Other employees making a little more than the minimum will either require a raise, or deserve one, dramatically increasing the labor costs. Something has to change to offset that expense.

Businesses likely will reduce staff, particularly cutting positions where several workers have the same job. Maybe they employ robots or other machines to do certain tasks. Have you been to a restaurant that has a touch-screen device on each table? You can order and reorder some items and pay your bill with a machine.

There now is a robot burger maker that can turn out up to 360 burgers per hour. It can grind, stamp and grill made-to-order patties. It can cut and layer the lettuce, onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc., put them on a bun, and even wrap them up to go. This device would replace three full-time kitchen staff and ultimately cost the business less.

Higher labor costs mean that prices of many items will necessarily go up, some significantly. Even as minimum wage workers get more money, they and everyone else will see their cost of living increase, gobbling up a good bit of the higher wage.

Few Americans earning the minimum wage really “need” a higher wage to survive. Analyzing the coming increase in Alberta, Canada to $15 per hour, Robert P. Murphy and Charles Lammam of the Fraser Institute concluded, “In short, the minimum wage is neither an efficient nor effective strategy for helping the working poor.”

Minimum wage earners need to work their way to higher pay through education, training and gaining experience, like Americans have done for decades. A federally mandated minimum is, and always has been, a colossal mistake. It will reduce jobs among the very people it is supposed to help.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Washington warned us. We forgot his warnings, and are paying for it.



In his farewell address at the end of his second term as president on September 19, 1796, George Washington warned the nation of the problems with political parties “in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.”

The “spirit of party” has its roots in the “strongest passions of the human mind,” he said, and exists in all governments, to varying degrees, being stifled, controlled or repressed in most. But even in the young nation he had led, perhaps because of the high degree of freedom provided by its Constitution, “is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.”

Looking across the political landscape today, Washington’s words are brought to life. And he can objectively address the issue of political parties, as he is the only president to have had no party affiliation. Washington had to be persuaded to seek a second term, and refused to run for a third term, despite great popular support for him to do so.

Essentially, parties are dangerous because they are collections of persons who share passions, and inevitably passion creates ideas that do not fit within constitutional guidelines.

Perhaps there exists a circumstance that prompts the party to encourage expanding the meaning of the General Welfare Clause to deliver “welfare”; to imagine the need for a federal department to dictate the kinds of light bulbs or toilets we should buy; or to reinterpret the plain language of the Second Amendment “for the common good.” None of these actions are legitimate under the processes set forth by the Constitution. Such ideas may highjack party members, and shift their attention from strict adherence to the principles of the Constitution.

“Well,” the members may say, “the Founders could not have foreseen this development. The Constitution does not address this.” The party starts to rationalize how to achieve these things without following the methods provided to change the Constitution.

Maybe this perspective results from a sincere desire to fix a significant problem; maybe it is merely means to an end. Either way, it is a step away from the intent and the letter of the law of the land. Devising circuitous routes to somehow find a way to do what the Constitution does not say you may do is objectively wrong, yet our government has grown absurdly large and expensive and immorally oppressive as a result of precisely these types of activities, and is what Washington warned of.

 “[T]he common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it,” Washington advised. “It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”

America’s elected leaders have seemed to be more concerned with the activities of political parties – the spirit of party – than with focusing on the principles of the governing document. This has made a mishmash of a once-clearly defined government structure. It is a tribute to the government structure the Founders’ created, however, that even after these attacks on its foundations, it still remains singularly better than any other nation on Earth. That may not be true for much longer, however.

Were all Americans focused laser-like on following the U.S. Constitution when addressing national issues, would political parties form? Would there be a need for a formal organization to defend the Constitution? Does not the very existence of political parties signal motives other than strict adherence to the Constitutional principles?

The idea of originalism, the dedication to the language and intent of the Constitution, will draw strong disagreement from those that maintain that a document created more than 200 years ago cannot possibly apply satisfactorily to today’s circumstances. Which proves Washington’s point rather well, as it is primarily ideologically driven political parties and their adherents that want to loosen the specific language espousing the principles of the Founders, so that it means what they want it to mean, rather than what is says.

Neither major political party any longer strongly represents and defends the founding principles. The Republican Party – which once fairly strongly defended the founding principles, and still outperforms the Democrats in that category – has let spirit of party rule its integrity.

The leadership of the Democrat Party long ago adopted liberalism/socialism in stronger and weaker forms, and many/most of its goals run headlong into Constitutional prohibitions.

So liberals in both parties have decided that rather than properly change the Constitution through amendments or a constitutional convention – either of which is a long, difficult path to follow – they will instead sneak through the back door, pretending that the Constitution is outdated and must therefore be reinterpreted, all the while aided in their subversion by like-minded liberal judges.

It is unlikely we can do away with political parties, but given what they have done to the country, “wouldn’t it be loverly?”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A look at the world’s largest solar energy production facility


The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, built by Bechtel, is a joint effort of NRG, Google, and BrightSource Energy, and is said to be the largest state-of-the-art renewable energy production project of its kind.

Ivanpah is a $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert consisting of three solar thermal power plants on a 4,000-acre tract of public land near the Mojave Desert and the California-Nevada border. The facility was financed in part by $1.5 billion in federal loans, utilizes more than 170,000 mirrors mounted to the ground that reflect sunlight up to three 450-foot-high towers topped by boilers that heat water to create steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity.

The green energy and climate change lobbies are, of course, excited about from this dream-come-true example of how the U.S., and eventually the world, can survive and thrive without pollution-causing coal-burning and natural gas-burning electricity production facilities.

But their hopes have exceeded reality, as is so often the case with these idealistic dreams. The project has three major problems, one of which has produced a huge rift between the left’s internal factions. While green energy folks are ecstatic over the huge solar plant, other environmentalists are outraged that the plant has killed thousands of birds, many of which are fried to death.

The second problem is that the so-called green energy plant is not as green as you might expect: It burns fossil fuels and produces pollution. Ivanpah burns natural gas each morning for start-up, up to 525 million cubic feet of natural gas annually, and reportedly burned 867,740 million BTU of natural gas, which is enough to power the annual needs of 20,660 Southern California homes, and it emitted 46,084 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014.

Furthermore, it has so far failed to produce the expected power it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp. As a result, the solar plant may be forced to shut down unless the California Public Utilities Commission gives permission for PG&E to overlook the shortfall and give Ivanpah another year to sort out its problems.

The Wall Street Journal reported that spokesmen for Ivanpah’s operator, BrightSource, and NRG declined to comment on its future, but NRG said it has taken more than a year to adjust equipment and learn how to best run it. The Journal also reported that the Energy Department supports giving the plant, which started operating in early 2014, more time.

Advocates also paint an over-positive picture of solar energy job creation. The Solar Energy Industries Association touts spectacular job growth in the solar industry, boasting “the solar industry continues to support robust job growth, creating 35,052 new jobs in 2015, a growth rate of approximately twelve times greater than that of the overall economy.”

The overall job creation rate was a pitiful 1.74 percent, and 12 times that figure means roughly 21 percent for the solar industry. That sounds pretty good, but fast job growth during new industry “booms” is not unusual. Touting such growth is good PR, even when it exaggerates reality.

But when you analyze this project, it quickly becomes clear that government has more to do with this increase than does the actual market demand for workers in solar energy. You, the taxpayer, heavily subsidized this industry, and when taxpayer money pays the bills, an industry can and does create jobs without a real demand for them.

Under President Barack Obama, the federal government has wasted billions of dollars of hard-earned taxpayer money on green energy efforts that failed, or under-performed, even as it enacted policies that punished Americans working in the coal industry and related businesses with substantial unemployment, created income problems in the economies of coal producing states, and burdened all Americans with higher energy prices. The administration’s tunnel vision on reducing the non-existent or miniscule effects on the environment of fossil fuel energy production that have powered the U.S. and most of the world for decades, has caused untold misery.

The heralded Solyndra debacle put 1,100 people out of work when it closed down, and wasted $535 million in government loans. And, the Abound Solar plant, which got $400 million in federal loan guarantees in 2010, when the Obama administration sought to use stimulus funds to promote green energy, filed for bankruptcy two years later. That facility sits unoccupied, is littered with hazardous waste, broken glass and contaminated water, and will require an estimated $3.7 million to clean and repair the building for use.

None of this pain and suffering was needed; the normal progress of technological advancement would eventually have gradually replaced fossil fuels as the primary source of electricity, when those less polluting methods were up to the task, like the automobile replaced the horse and buggy.

Once the left gets an idea, however, it dives in head first, eyes closed, with a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach that generally produces more harm than good.

Barack Obama lets nothing get in the way of his ideological fantasies, least of all reality. Any harm and destruction that occurs is regarded as necessary collateral damage on the way to his socialist Utopia.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

We must restore conservative principles to the courts


The raging controversy over filling the Supreme Court vacancy of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose tragic death unleashed a political firestorm over whether President Barack Obama should nominate his successor, or whether the next president should make the nomination, must be looked at in perspective.  It is a true waste of time giving more than a bemused passing notice to the ranting of Democrats, who accuse the Republican-led Congress of all manner of wrong-doing in its opposition to a nomination by Obama, all the while hypocritically ignoring their own precedent-setting actions over the last 10 or so years, when they wrote the book on how to oppose Supreme Court nominations. This process is and has long been a political exercise.

And, at least one high-ranking judge proclaims that the High Court itself is politicized. Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, explains this in a commentary published by The Washington Post, where he wrote, “Rather, the significance of the Senate’s action lies in reminding us that the Supreme Court is not an ordinary court but a political court, or more precisely a politicized court, which is to say a court strongly influenced in making its decisions by the political beliefs of the judges.”

We expect Congress to be heavily political, and while the president belongs to a political party and is chosen through a political process, we expect the administrative agencies to apply regulations and laws in a fair, neutral, non-political manner.

Judges at all levels are expected and presumed to be impartial in applying the law and are sworn to follow the precepts of the U.S. Constitution. They must resist allowing their personal ideals or political leanings to affect the rulings or opinions they produce. The Constitution created three co-equal branches of the government, therefore all branches must employ restraint in order to remain within their Constitutional boundaries.

Posner excuses the tendency of judges to fall back on their personal and political beliefs because there is no clear instruction from the Constitution in situations the Framers could not have foreseen more than 200 years ago. Justice Scalia, however, had little trouble following the Constitution’s language when deciding his position on cases before the Court.

Scalia, you see, was a “conservative” judge, an “originalist.” According to the Oxford Dictionaries “conservative” means: “Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation.” Applied to the federal judiciary, as viewed by believers in strict constructionism and originalism, the term means adhering to the meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as they were understood by those who wrote those documents at the time they wrote them.

Thus, judicial conservatives rely on the original language and intent of the Constitution, while judicial liberals assert that the Constitution must be a “living” document, the exact meaning of which changes with the times or depends upon who is interpreting it. Such a view allows for “judicial activism.”

“Judicial activism occurs when judges write subjective policy preferences into the law rather than apply the law impartially according to its original meaning,” according to a definition from the Heritage Foundation. “As such, activism does not mean the mere act of striking down a law,” it also means making law from the bench.

But the Constitution gives Congress the authority and responsibility to make law, not the judicial or executive branches, and that plainly stated Constitutional principle is clear and unmistakable.

Judges should consider things like whether Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and the others would have approved of the size, power or cost of the federal government, given the abuses that produced the Revolution and the deliberate efforts to restrict all of those features. Or, whether they would have allowed the Supreme Court or the executive branch to misappropriate the law making authority of the Congress.

If you still doubt that the Supreme Court has become an activist court, consider this tidbit from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who told The New York Times that “she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition on what she called ‘one of the most activist courts in history.’”

Making laws from the bench and judicial expansion are not products of judicial conservatives, whose adherence to original intent maintains a stable legal foundation. That is unpopular among judges who want to expand the authority and power of the courts.

The Supreme Court must not reinterpret the Constitution. If what might prompt the activists to vote in favor of one side or the other in a case before the Court is something that is indeed a good thing for the country, and passes the standard of constitutionalism, then it must be sanctioned by an act of Congress, not the courts.

The growth of activist judges argues for restoring judicial conservatism to the nation’s highest court. President Obama is unlikely to nominate such a person. Reports say that the list of potential nominees for the Scalia seat on the Court has been reduced to five, and four of them contributed to Obama campaigns.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

R.I.P. GOP?


The Republican Party is a mess. It has:
    •    Lost its way as a political force;
    •    Largely abandoned American traditions and founding principles;
    •    Become “Democrat lite,” because Republicans nowadays so often think and vote like Democrats;
    •    Failed to listen to its members.

With the GOP disintegrating there is little to halt or slow the devolution of the United States into just one more failed socialist state, something Barack Obama has worked tirelessly to achieve, and which either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would continue.

Donald Trump leads conventional Republican candidates in the primaries and caucuses, which surprises and confounds the party elite, who thought he would be a flash in the pan, and would soon fade away, leaving them to continue abandoning their party’s role in protecting the American way of life, and ignoring the concerns of their voters. This effectively demonstrates how badly they have misjudged the level of anger and disgust with the current state of their party that rank and file Republicans feel today, as well as the high degree of dissatisfaction they and a host of non-Republicans have with the federal government.

Trump’s behavior is at once energizing and destructive. It has won him a large following, and at the same time has exaggerated the party’s fracturing, pitting candidates against him and against each other in an elementary schoolyard brawl. But his tactic of saying things others are afraid to say, and ignoring the stupid but daunting rules of political correctness, has energized millions of dissatisfied Republicans, and has attracted non-Republicans, including blacks and Hispanics, to his campaign.

The “establishment” Republicans – those whose weak-kneed perspective has transformed the party to Democrat lite – are working to subvert the primary process, disenfranchising the Republican primary/caucus voters. The establishment’s behavior over recent years is precisely why things are as they are, and hardly anything could be worse than ignoring the plain message sent by the voters in the primaries and caucuses that substantial change in the GOP is needed. It is difficult to imagine that the Republican Party will be able to survive if it betrays the loud voices of those who make up the party telling them to man up, and still remain a viable political entity.

A perfect example of the tone-deafness of the party elite is the blistering condemnation of Donald Trump by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who turned backflips to make Trump seem like the Devil incarnate. If that doesn’t seem strange, consider that during the campaign four years ago, following Trump’s endorsement, Romney effusively praised him, and then proceeded to lose the election by failing to be as strong in his opposition to Obama as he was in his praise of Trump.

It is another tribute to the failure of the GOP establishment that it regards Romney’s foolish trashing of Trump more highly than the candidate now leading the party’s nominating process.

Peggy Noonan, who was Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and now a political columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote last week, “I think we are seeing a great political party shatter before our eyes. I’m not sure I see a way around or through.” Of the spectacle of last Tuesday’s debate in Detroit she noted that the current GOP crisis is “something bigger than 1976, that traumatic year when a Republican insurgent almost toppled the incumbent Republican president. Bigger too than 1964, when Goldwater conservatism swept the primaries and convention and lost the country.”

She asserts that what is happening now is more serious and less reparable because it is not about political philosophy. But it seems that the party’s abandonment of conservative principles is precisely what this is about.

By ignoring the increasing frustration of the rank and file over Republicans in Congress failing to stand up against liberalizing of government policies and recent executive branch excesses, the party elite set the stage for Donald Trump’s stunning dominance among those seeking the party’s nomination.

Where Trump is concerned the party elite is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they allow the process to play out and he wins the nomination, someone believed by millions to be neither a Republican, a conservative or suitable to be president will carry the Party banner into the election.

If they continue the plot to subversively prevent Trump from getting the nomination, they will alienate millions of otherwise dependable Republican voters.

It seems likely at this stage that the Republican Party will endure, but not as a meaningful political force equal to the Democrat Party. The Republican establishment will be left holding the tatters of a once-Grand Old Party while conservatives move on to greener pastures.

Disaffected Republican voters and others dissatisfied with the status quo that might have stuck with or joined a conservative GOP now will seek an organization that honors and defends the U.S. Constitution not only in word, but also in deed.

The question is whether without a viable opponent to Hillary or Bernie, or a split among those opponents, will it be possible four or eight years later to repair the damage likely to result from another liberal/socialist in the White House?

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The left turns to thuggishness and indoctrination to sell its poison





College campuses, once a garden where divergent ideas flourished, are more and more becoming known for their ideological imbalance and even outright censorship of ideas, and a recent incident demonstrates just how weed infested that once diverse garden has become.

The Daily Caller online reported that conservative writer Ben Shapiro had been scheduled to speak on behalf of Young Americans for Freedom, a registered student organization at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). Following complaints by some students, the institution’s president, William Covino, tried to cancel the appearance, favoring an event with a broader set of topics, but the Young Americans group persisted, and the president backed down. The event was funded by the CSULA student government organization.

As the audience tried to enter the auditorium for the program last Thursday, liberal protesters had linked arms in a human chain to block entry, and video of the protesters shows a lot of pushing and jostling at the entrance, including the pushing and shoving of police officers, and epithets such as “racists” and “white supremacists” were reportedly shouted at those wanting to attend the event.

People eventually did enter the auditorium, but only by being escorted to a back door by police, and eventually that entrance also was blocked by protesters. During the speech, someone pulled a fire alarm, although Shapiro and the audience ignored it.

What topic would produce such a radical reaction? Was he to talk about doing away with student loans, or education grants, or argue against free tuition? No, nothing so inflammatory as that. What got the mob all up in arms was the idea that an institution of higher education would allow a speech titled, “When Diversity Becomes a Problem.” Apparently, diversity is only a problem when it involves ideas that some students don’t like.

Unsurprisingly, getting out of the auditorium afterward was as hard as getting in, as the diversity protesters also blocked the doors after the event ended. Shapiro and his audience had to wait to leave until police could clear demonstrators, allowing them safe exit.

This episode is both a symptom of the poison that has spread throughout the country, and particularly on campuses, a growing idea that anyone offended by anything outside of their narrow set of beliefs is entitled to some make-good effort when their delicate feelings are injured, but it also is a measuring stick showing how far down the road to ruin America has traveled.

Looking at why we are so far down that road leads to the conclusion that it is largely through deliberate efforts to subvert two of our most basic and most important societal functions: educating the younger generation and providing information to the people. These critical areas are largely keys to the heart and soul of America, as they are vehicles through which its ideals and traditions are communicated to the populace, and give people the information they need to discharge the duties of citizenship responsibly.

In America today the traditional family, that once was where children learned the basics of life and how to function in a complex society, has been heavily damaged through social liberalism, so that many or most children now receive their basic education and cultural footing not in the home, but in public schools. And public K-12 education and higher education have changed dramatically over recent decades. Today, the federal government has a great degree of influence over public education, replacing control and oversight by states and localities, and leftist indoctrination has crept into textbooks, curricula and faculty, with far too little resistance.

Thus, when kids graduate from high school and enter college, if they weren’t already indoctrinated with liberal drivel, they are heavily at risk of falling victim to it on campus. The criminal behavior of leftist students at CSULA, suffering under the false belief that what they think is more important than what others think, supports that idea.

And news journalists and the organizations they work for, too frequently manage the news to serve an ideological purpose, providing not the pure information the people need and depend upon, but a slanted version designed to strengthen a set of liberal ideals.

Some good news on this front comes from recent opinion polls. A Gallup poll showed that six in ten Americans have little or no confidence that the national media report the news fully, accurately and fairly, and a survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 65 percent believe that the news media have a negative effect on the nation.

Such insecure behavior has at its foundation the knowledge that if Americans are provided with the pure information they deserve, they would reject the left’s narrow and destructive ideas, which is why they must employ dishonesty and indoctrination.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

America is increasingly a nation of delicate personalities, self-made victims and government dependents. These trends serve the needs of those who prefer socialism to freedom, our liberal fellow citizens. To see where this leads, look at Venezuela.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The politics of filling vacancies on the United States Supreme Court



Lovers of the United States Constitution were deeply saddened by the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a champion of the Constitution’s original meaning.

His death has triggered a political crisis and there is now great weeping and gnashing of teeth across the land over finding a replacement for him. The need to do so is constitutional, but the weeping and gnashing is political.

Scalia was a believer in the idea that words have specific meaning that should not be subject to the whims of mere mortals who think that the Constitution is rendered moot because many decades have passed since those words were carefully configured, and humanity and America has evolved, or because some ideological group finds the original language inconvenient.

The challenge is finding a suitable replacement for Scalia, who believed in textualism: reading the actual language; and originalism: understanding the written words. He and others who value the meaning of words and who honor the Founders cannot abide the concept of a “living Constitution,” a document that means only what a particular group wants it to mean to satisfy a particular desire at a given time.

Addressing the idea of changing the Constitution’s meaning for convenience or ideological preference, Scalia asked the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., in 2005, “What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you’d like it to mean?”

And in his dissent in the United States v. Virginia in 1996, he wrote: “It is one of the unhappy incidents of the federal system that a self-righteous Supreme Court, acting on its members’ personal view of what would make a ‘more perfect Union’ (a criterion only slightly more restrictive than a ‘more perfect world’) can impose its own favored social and economic dispositions nationwide.”

So much of the nation’s problems result from changing the meaning of words to allow things that would appall the Founders, if somehow they were to return tomorrow to check up on how their wonderful creation is faring. Would they recognize their country? Would they want to live here? Would they feel appreciated enough to dare to walk the streets?

Walking the streets would subject them to such foreign concepts as that the term “founding fathers” is now regarded by some as a sexist phrase, even though all of the people who created the U.S. Constitution were, in fact, men. If they then passed an appliance store with a TV in the window, they might see Bernie Sanders offering Americans “free everything” in return for their votes, see Hillary Clinton barking and screaming at her audience, or observe the President of the United States routinely circumventing the U.S. Constitution, perhaps inducing chest pains, and maybe producing their second death, this time from unnatural causes.

The Supreme Court is supposed to be an impartial arbiter, using the plain language of the Constitution to guide it in rendering constitutionally appropriate rulings. A “living Constitution” that means different things at different times is no governing document at all, not so different from a compass that instead of pointing always to magnetic north may be redirected by a swarm of bees, a strong wind, or a Democrat caucus.

As Republicans and conservatives work to prevent the virtual certainty of a Barack Obama nominee who is similar in ideology to himself, Clinton or Sanders, or Justices Kagan, Sotomayer or Ginsburg, Democrats and liberals decry those efforts as unconstitutional and political, conveniently ignoring their own past behavior.

In 2007 long-time New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer told the American Constitution Society that if a new Supreme Court vacancy opened up during the rest of George W. Bush’s term, Democrats should not allow Bush the chance to fill it, except in extraordinary circumstances.

“The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance,” he said. “We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.” At the time he expressed that sentiment, Bush had 19 months left in office, nearly twice what Obama has left today. During the same speech, Schumer lamented that he hadn’t managed to block Bush’s prior Supreme Court nominations.

And then there is Obama himself, who recently said he hoped "that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this process, and Congress, in the past.”

But in January 2006, Sen. Obama joined 24 colleagues in a futile effort led by Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito, explaining to George Stephanopulos on "This Week" that he would "be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values.…"

And that bastion of Constitutional behavior and Senate tradition, Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, who was then Majority Leader, said in 2005, “Nowhere in [the Constitution] does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote.”

Liberals and Democrats, stumbling down Hypocrisy Highway, in addition to trying to rewrite history, are trying to rewrite the U.S. Constitution by stacking the Court with activist jurists who allow their feelings to rule their opinions.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hillary in South Carolina seeking to lock up the black vote


As the presidential campaigns move to South Carolina, Democrat hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders seek to endear themselves to black voters. Sanders began by having tea with Al Sharpton. How will Hillary proceed?

Following her dramatic loss to Sanders in New Hampshire by a 60 percent to 38 percent margin, she hired a press aide from the Department of Education as her new director of black media to help protect and grow the early double-digit lead she held in South Carolina.

Hillary praises Obama and his presidency, all but promising that she will continue in the same vein if she can win the primary and general elections, and escape legal issues from her disastrous tenure as secretary of state. And since black Americans overwhelmingly support the Democrat Party, this might seem smart.

However, getting broad support from the black community should not be automatic or even very easy for her, given what happened in South Carolina in 2008. There, she was beaten badly by Barack Obama as she gave her all in the attempt to prevent him from becoming the first black President of the United States. Will black voters remember that?

Furthermore, the reality of the negative effects Obama’s presidency has had on the black community gives reason to think that pledging to follow his policies might be a big mistake.

Having noticed how poorly black Americans had faired in Obama’s first term, PBS’s Tavis Smiley told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in 2013, "The data is going to indicate sadly that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category."

In 2014 Newsmax reported that while the national unemployment rate had dropped to 7 percent since Obama took office, the jobless rate for blacks has hardly moved, declining from 12.7 percent in 2009 to 12.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, the poverty rate for blacks sharply increased in 2014, rising from 12 percent in 2008 to 16.1 percent.

Median income declined by 3.6 percent for white households to $58,000, but fell 10.9 percent to $33,500 for black households, according to Census Bureau reports.

Realizing that things have not improved for black America since then, Smiley repeated his 2013 assessment last month on HuffPost Live: “Sadly – and it pains me to say this – over the last decade, black folk, in the era of Obama, have lost ground in every major economic category." Smiley said black America got "caught up in the symbolism of the Obama presidency," and made two mistakes. They did not accurately evaluate his policies, and they reacted against GOP criticisms of Obama and Republican opposition to his policies.

With these highly negative results for black Americans from the administration of the first black president of the U.S., will Hillary Clinton’s tactic of praising Obama and implying she will follow in his footsteps really work to attract the support of black Americans?

Perhaps it is with this in mind that the Department of Justice has initiated legal action against Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the justified shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014. As reported by The Patriot Post, Ferguson’s City Council voted unanimously to approve the Justice Department’s settlement to reform the city’s “unjust” policing practices — but “subject to certain conditions.”

“The DOJ responded to the city’s request [to alter the agreement] by filing a lawsuit against Ferguson, just in time to agitate the black vote in the southern primaries,” the report noted, adding: “Make no mistake: Timing is everything. The DOJ’s actions will benefit Hillary Clinton throughout the southern primaries, as blacks are reminded once again of injustice. Never mind that Ferguson (and every other city in which Black Lives Matter is fomenting discord) is run by Democrats.”

There are other signs that a Hillary victory might be being engineered behind the scenes, such as in the New Hampshire primary, where despite a massive victory by Bernie Sanders, he and Hillary came away with the same number of delegates.

Last Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) PAC endorsed Hillary, saying she had done the most to support the Democrat Party and also to support blacks seeking office. “The partner that the CBC PAC has had over the years to elect Democrats has been Hillary Clinton,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat and chairman of the CBC PAC. Hillary won the endorsement of 90 percent of the PAC, with no members voting for Sanders and some abstaining.

The CBC PAC endorsement is a definite plus for her, but if black Americans realize that Obama’s policies have worked so dramatically to their detriment, raising the black unemployment rate and pushing more black citizens into poverty, the highly desirable black vote may not accrue to her.

And things could get worse for the nation, and much worse for the black community, as Obama’s policies, which have failed to produce a recovery to the 2007 recession in seven years, have brought the country to the brink of another recession that will undoubtedly produce very unpleasant circumstances for black Americans.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Freedom to get the job you want not always possible in West Virginia



The American concept of personal freedom takes a back seat in West Virginia and other states that do not protect their citizens’ ability to get some jobs without being forced to join or pay fees to a labor union. For state governments or the federal government to allow such conditions for going to work to exist is as antithetical to the idea of individual freedom that our nation was built on as it gets.

Half of the 50 states have already embraced worker freedom and passed right-to-work laws. These laws have a positive impact on the economies and job picture for those states, and are creating jobs. And now West Virginia is poised to become the 26th state where workers are free to choose whether or not to join a union.

The state House of Delegates and Senate have both passed right-to-work legislation. The Mountain State’s Democrat Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, has vowed to veto the bill, but the Republican majorities in both houses can override that veto.

Advocates of right-to-work in the state legislature say they are not opposed to unions, per se, but do oppose state laws dictating that unions receive taxpayer and worker funds.

West Virginia and 25 other states believe that people should be free of pressure to join a union to get a job and believe that such mechanisms are deterrents to business development and job creation, and thus are harmful to the economy of states.

Characterized as pro-worker, pro-growth, pro-freedom and pro-job, abolishing forced unionization and the prevailing wage rule in the state are predicted to improve the state’s business climate, increase job opportunities for West Virginians, and help overcome the economic damage to the state’s economy brought on by the Obama administration’s war on coal.

The rub arises when a union has negotiated a contract for workers in a business, and some workers do not want to join the union. The union argues that it isn’t fair for non-union workers to benefit from union negotiations, and the union is correct about that. So then non-union workers are assessed a fee to compensate the union for their benefits.

But then that isn’t exactly fair, either, as non-union workers have nothing to say about how the union uses their money.

The solution is simple: Those workers who want to join the union should be able to do so, and to benefit from the union negotiated work conditions and wages, and those who choose not to join should not be required either to join, or to pay money to the union, and therefore would negotiate their own deal with the employer.

Labor unions evolved from workers wanting better conditions, having endured conditions that were generally unfair and even dangerous for many years. Over the years after workers became organized, however, federal and state governments put laws and rules into effect that provided protections for workers, taking on the primary role that labor organizations had been providing.

With their prime function now essentially covered by laws and regulations, labor unions had to change their focus in order to survive. They have become active and influential political organizations, using member dues and non-union worker fees for political purposes. And too often, the demands they make to attract membership frequently involve things that no sensible business would do on its own, such as demanding work rules that are inefficient and designed to increase union jobs, rather than increase efficiency and productivity. They often demand pay practices that ignore individual worker performance, basing pay on considerations other than the worker’s abilities. And they routinely protect the job of all members regardless of their performance, or the health of the business.

Despite their actions on behalf of their members, which frequently are harmful to the businesses in which their members work, union membership has declined sharply from its peak in the mid-1950s, when one in three workers belonged to a union. The decline began to accelerate in 1980, according to Economy Watch online, and today union membership is a mere 11.1 percent.

That figure includes public-sector workers, who among all workers have the least justification for union representation, given that their employers are the governments that enforce labor law. Public workers are 5 times more likely to belong to a union than their private-sector counterparts, with a union membership rate of 35.2 percent, while the private employee rate is just 6.7 percent.

Many of the demands of unions on businesses, while good for union members, make profitability more difficult for businesses, artificially raising wages and labor costs, thereby increasing the price of goods and services for everyone, including union families. 

Rather than being an adversary of management, unions could become partners, focusing on providing a better trained and more productive workforce, assisting business in succeeding, and creating jobs through natural economic methods, rather than blackmailing employers into actions that benefit only one side of the labor/management equation.


Under this scenario unions could succeed on their own merits rather than depending upon government force and political intrigue for their survival.