Monday, May 22, 2017

Restoring government’s three branches to Constitutional balance

The unequaled genius of the Founders produced an original form of government that included a system of checks and balances to maintain its integrity. That design has been substantially abandoned, and all three branches of government are guilty of creating this situation.

The Legislative Branch is now weaker and the Executive Branch now stronger due to malfeasance by the Congress and the eager acceptance of extra-constitutional power by administrative agencies. Likewise, failure of the duty to the Constitution’s original language and intent has increased power to the Judicial Branch.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress, and only Congress, the authority to pass laws. But through laziness and other misfeasance through the years Congress has abdicated much of that duty by allowing administrative agencies to pass rules that are in effect laws. That is how the EPA is able to implement a rule that absurdly allows it to tell a farmer in Iowa that the drainage ditch along his dirt road is a waterway that falls under federal control.

That is also how the Department of Education justifies using SWAT teams to break down the doors of people because their education loan payments are past due. There are dozens of other examples of this unconstitutional over-reach by federal agencies.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee confirms this unconstitutional transfer of power, and blames lawmakers, saying, “We are not, in fact, the victims, we are the perpetrators.” He went on to tell The Daily Signal that this was done to make Congress’ job easier, because it is less politically risky to let others do the lawmaking through the rule-making function.

Speaking at the Federalist Society’s 5th annual Executive Branch Review Conference, Lee talked about his efforts to combat this situation through the Article One Project. He outlined three pieces of legislation designed to address the problem.

The REINS Act would require both Congress and the president to approve any administrative rule with an economic impact of $100 million or more. Lee said that ultimately, “Congress would be responsible for every major regulation that went into effect.” The Act has passed the House, but not the Senate.

The second measure is the Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA), which Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe told The Daily Signal would reverse the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision that established the “Chevron doctrine” that “determined that courts must defer to agencies’ interpretation of ambiguous laws as long as their interpretation is deemed ‘reasonable.’”

“This bill would end the dysfunctional status quo that tilts the legal playing field in favor of bureaucrats,” Lee said. SOPRA passed the House last year, and Ratcliffe has introduced it again this year.

Currently, federal agencies use funds received through fines, fees, and proceeds from legal settlements at their own discretion, thereby avoiding the formal appropriations process, and escaping congressional oversight. It may also encourage agency action aimed at raising funds. The Agency Accountability Act will require funds acquired by agencies outside the appropriations process to be turned over to the Treasury.

Lee commented, “You see the Constitution has this pesky little provision that … Congress has the power and the responsibility to direct spending of federal dollars. The power of the purse is one of Congress’ most potent tools for controlling bureaucracies.”

The Judicial Branch also has strayed from the straight and narrow path created by the Constitution through increasingly liberal interpretation of the language and intent of the Constitution and federal laws, citing how society has changed over the years as the need to reinterpret them. Amending them is too slow and difficult, you see.

Carson Holloway, author of “Hamilton versus Jefferson in the Washington Administration,” explains another liberal judicial technique. President Donald Trump’s revised Executive Order temporarily halting travel to the U.S. from several countries with ties to terrorism was found unconstitutional by some lower courts, which agreed with opponents that the order actually bans Muslim immigration.

The order does no such thing, Holloway notes, since it applies to only a fraction of Muslim countries, and that the lower courts reacted not to the language of the order, but to things Trump said during the campaign. In other words, the courts abandoned interpreting actual written language in favor of reading the president’s mind, and finding a hidden agenda there.

Looking back in history to the days of Chief Justice John Marshall, Holloway explains that while Marshall acknowledged both the letter and spirit of the law, Marshall said, “the spirit is to be collected chiefly from its words,” not the imagination of judges.

Holloway said, “rule of law does not mean rule by judges acting on their whim,” but that it requires “judicial modesty.” And Marshall noted in Fletcher v. Peck that “an inquiry into the subjective motives of the lawmaker quickly leads judges into a realm in which there are no clear, compelling standards of judgment.”

Holloway concludes with the hope that the Appellate Court “follows the path of judicial modesty … and not the endlessly debatable intentions that may lie behind” the order.

Our government is badly out of balance, and a quick return to constitutional government and originalism in the courts is essential.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wind and solar energy have failed to perform as advertised

The bad news for what we have been told are superior energy sources keeps piling up. Even European countries, with their strong preference for things that don’t work, like socialist government, have begun pulling back from wind energy as a major energy source, and solar energy isn’t doing so well, either.

German-owned solar panel producer SolarWorld has filed for what it termed “insolvency” in a European court, saying it was “over-indebted” and did not have a “positive going concern prognosis.” Translated into the plain language of American business, SolarWorld is filing for bankruptcy.

In America bankruptcy does not necessarily mean the end for a company, so perhaps “insolvency” is only a temporary side trip, but it certainly falls well below the description of a successful company.

Here at home, that raises concerns over the company’s U.S. division, SolarWorld America, Inc., which operates a $600 million panel plant in Hillsboro, Oregon. Democrat Gov. Ted Kulongoski praised the plant as an economic development beacon “in the Silicon forest” during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, also attended by Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and then-Rep. David Wu.

The facility was purchased in 2007 from Japan's Komatsu Group, and by 2012 had collected $57 million in Business Energy Tax Credits from the state. Reports say it now has received $100 million in tax breaks just from state and local government. It also benefitted from a $4 million grant from Barack Obama’s Department of Energy.

SolarWorld notes, however, that despite its problems in Germany, the Hillsboro plant that employs 800 people continues to operate. The question now is how long before the Oregon plant, which its previous owner wanted rid of, joins the infamous Solyndra and Solar Trust green energy fiascos, that cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars?

Across the country in Rhode Island a new offshore wind farm just went online last week. The five-turbine farm cost $300 million and currently powers just 2,000 homes, which works out to a bargain-basement price of only $150,000 per household. Ultimately, it is expected to power 17,000 homes, which will lower the cost per home, but progressives and environmentalists believe the price per home isn’t important. They believe that “it’s the precedent that counts,” according to

The Daily Caller News Foundation calculated the difference in wind and nuclear power by comparing this wind farm with a new nuclear plant, Watts Bar Unit 2, which cost $4.7 billion to build. The important difference is not the price, but the result: the nuclear facility will power 4.5 million homes at a comparatively cheap $1,044 per house.

Even with 17,000 customers, the wind farm is still 17 times more expensive than nuclear. Despite this ridiculous situation, the feds want to use offshore wind to power 23 million homes by 2050. However, Germany has finally been shocked into reality as to the inefficiency of wind power, and now plans to stop building wind facilities.

Further illustrating the calamity of the world’s environmental mania is the condition of the environment. The Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), which because of its European connection ought to have more credibility with the environmental faction than do Americans who don’t buy into the green energy hype, made data public recently that even the most strident greenie ought to consider.

As published by the UK Telegraph, “ever since December temperatures in the Arctic have consistently been lower than minus 20 [degrees]C. In April the extent of Arctic sea ice was back to where it was in April 13 years ago. Furthermore, whereas in 2008 most of the ice was extremely thin, this year most has been at least two metres thick. The Greenland ice cap last winter increased in volume faster than at any time for years.”

The Telegraph goes on to say that “as for those record temperatures brought in 2016 by an exceptionally strong El Niño, the satellites now show that in recent months global temperatures have plummeted by more than 0.6 degrees, just as happened 17 years ago after a similarly strong El Niño had also made 1998 the ‘hottest year on record.’”

The DMI reported actual measurements of climate information, rather than the results of climate models, which are projections that are often wrong. The DMI data shows there has been no additional warming for the last 19 years, which is “an inconvenient truth,” to environmental zealots.

The shortcomings of wind and solar power and the mounting evidence that fossil fuels have not caused the environment to warm significantly cast doubt on the idea that we need expensive “green” energy. In addition to their high costs, wind and solar energy are inefficient, and not as “green” as they are advertised. Both cause environmental harm in their construction and operation.

Non-fossil fuel energy sources are not yet ready to replace coal, oil and natural gas, but they may be in the future.

As with most things the secret to better, cleaner energy is through natural processes, not government force. As technology develops, improvements in how we use fossil fuels make even the dirtiest sources of much cleaner and less objectionable. This process may also make wind and solar energy more efficient, and therefore desirable.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away! Or, maybe not!


U.S. airlines have been attracting enormous amounts of negative, but well-deserved attention recently.

The most notorious of these outrages is the dragging of a paying, seated United Airlines customer off an airplane so that an employee could take the seat, instead. United CEO Oscar Munoz finally got it together, backtracked on his lame initial statement, and told a Congressional committee that he realized how badly his airline had screwed up and explained what it was doing to repair its policies. Time will tell about that.

A Delta flight more recently had an incident where a customer was told that a seat he had purchased for one of his children, but that was occupied by a different child, was no longer his, and he and his wife were threatened with jail time and losing custody of their children for breaching a federal law if he did not comply with the airline’s demand to give up the seat he paid for to another flyer.

And then there were the thousands of stranded passengers and many cancelled or delayed flights because Delta‘s mid-20th century communications system failed.

The airlines are within their “rights” in the first two of these incidents, by virtue of their passenger agreements that cover aspects of flying on their planes.

Passenger agreements run to dozens of pages and contain all the fine print necessary to allow an airline to pretty much treat the people it depends upon for survival any way it pleases. United’s Contract of Carriage Document, for example, takes 37,531 words covering 63 normally formatted Word document pages to explain what it can do with/to you.

That’s as long as two or three chapters in a good book. How many people actually read these things? Is this document even easily available to people booking a flight?

Located online, United’s document says, in part: “Each United Carrier reserves the right to … change or modify any of its conditions of contract with or without notice to ticketed passengers.” If you have read this tiny piece of those 35 thousand words, you have been forewarned that United can have its way with you, and you have apparently no recourse, no matter how stupid, violent or unfair its actions may be.

While airlines have the right to do what their agreements state they can do, they first and foremost have an obligation to treat their customers with respect and deference and bend a little sometimes, because it often makes more sense to treat people well than to strictly follow the rules, especially with passengers that airline personnel have allowed to board a plane. A good rule to follow is: Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it.

The United and Delta incidents demonstrate that some airlines tend to view their customers more as cargo than as customers. How did this idiotic situation come to be?

The “Economic Letter” of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from January 2002 provides some insight into how the airline industry has changed from 1975 to 2000.

When airline deregulation began in 1979, it started an increase in passengers that tripled by 2000, while average fares dropped by about two-thirds. So, in 2000 there were three times as many passengers as in the 70s paying a third the price per ticket (in 1983 dollars).

With more people flying at fewer dollars per ticket, filling every seat became important. To address this factor airlines adopted the practice of deliberately over-booking seats, so that there are more passengers with tickets than seats on the plane, meaning that even no-shows don’t prevent every seat from being filled, maximizing revenue per flight. The need for revenue may also explain the explosion of fees and crazy rules.

However, over-booking also means that lots of people don't get on their chosen flight, unless some passenger fails to show up, or is dragged off a plane. Perhaps ticket holders are aware of that going in, being placed on standby status, or some other similar situation.

As bad as it may be to not be allowed to board the flight you paid for, it is far worse to have bought a ticket and be seated on the plane with your luggage also on the plane and be asked or told to vacate the seat because the airline needs it for an employee.

If the airline needs seats to move employees from place to place, they should reserve them prior to letting paying customers be boarded. That’s just common sense. If they can’t do that, the employee should wait, not the customer.

Perhaps turning a profit in the airline industry is particularly difficult because of the highly competitive nature of that market. Even so, taking paying customers out of a seat on a plane they have paid for and already occupy is not what you would call a smart business plan.

Inexpensive airline tickets certainly attract passengers, but many flyers are able and willing to pay a little more for better accommodations, and knowing they will not be beaten into submission and dragged from paid-for seats to make room for an employee.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Left declares war on expressing ideas, except for their ideas

In many American colleges, students expect to be protected from any material that is at odds with their limited ideas. Easily frustrated when their expectations of ideological isolation are breached, petulance results and protests are organized.

This same fear of and intolerance for different ideas brings out older protesters who also are intolerant of having to work to convince non-believers of the superiority of their ideas, which leads to breaking, burning, and otherwise damaging and destroying things, and bullying their way along, because that is an easy substitute for the arduous work of intellectual persuasion.

The ideological divide is so great that many on the Left will not listen to, read, or otherwise have any contact with ideas that disagree with their millimeter-wide field of views, and worse, they will try to prevent even those who choose to explore those ideas from doing so.

The protests of old, once an activity to show one’s disagreement with disliked ideas in a constitutional, legal and peaceful protest with marchers carrying signs, has devolved into crime-laden events where black-clad, mask-wearing, anti-free speech mobs commit violence, property damage and personal injury.

Increasingly violent protests at the University of California - Berkeley prompted officials to cancel a speech by conservative writer and activist Milo Yiannopoulous in February. More than 1,500 people gathered to protest Yiannopoulous, at the time was an editor for the Breitbart News website. Protesters held signs that read "Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech,” pledging to shut down the event, all the while demonstrating their profound ignorance of the First Amendment.

What began as a peaceful demonstration degenerated as the night wore on, police said. Protesters threw smoke bombs, knocked down barriers, set fires and started fights.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter was slated to speak at UC - Berkeley late last month at the invitation of the Berkeley College Republicans. But the school said the event couldn’t be held on campus because of the potential for violent protests between pro-Coulter groups and anti-Coulter groups. Berkeley was unwilling to discourage violence and protect people on its campus, so the speech was moved off campus.

Ironically, these two events occurred at the site where the free speech movement originated in the 60s when Berkeley students insisted that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students' right to free speech and academic freedom. Is UC - Berkeley now the home of the anti-free speech movement?

Ultimately, the speech was cancelled when UC – Berkeley caved in its duty to uphold its noble defense of free speech.

Not all of the Left is opposed to different ideas, or the concept of free speech. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., while condemning Coulter’s ideas, to his credit defended her right to express them, and said “people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.”

“Berkeley used to be the cradle of free speech. Now it’s just the cradle for [expletive deleted] babies,” said Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time. “… I feel like this is the liberals’ version of book burning. It’s got to stop.”

An anonymous email is the reason that Portland, Oregon cancelled last weekend’s annual Rose Festival parade, according to The Washington Post. Angered by the participation of the Multnomah County Republican Party, two self-described antifascist groups pledged to protest and disrupt the event.

“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” the email said, referring to the post-election violence last year. “This is nonnegotiable.” The groups threatened to “rush into the parade” and “drag and push” those Republicans participating.

Many of these protesters are victims of coddling and protective treatment that has convinced them that they are somehow special and entitled to play by their own rules, which more and more reflect a tendency toward exercising strong dictatorial control where people are not allowed to disagree with them – in a word: fascism. More confusion by the Left was demonstrated when the people who call their movement “antifascism” depend upon fascist tactics to accomplish their fascist goals.

Many people, including those on the right who are the target of these criminal acts, are fed up with this behavior to the point of taking action. Some of them are willing to meet violence with violence, as was cited by UC-Berkeley in the Coulter speech calamity. This fascist behavior is a large pimple on the face of the Left, making Democrats and others on that side of the political spectrum look particularly foolish, and un-American.

The Democrat Party is generally regarded as the head of the American Left, but the Democrats are in disarray, desperately searching for a leader – will it be Schumer, Obama, Biden, Hillary, Perez (Heaven help us) – and a sensible course to follow, other than merely stomping their feet and holding their breath protesting the election of five months ago, and obstructing everything.

And the fascist wing needs to very quickly be educated the about the freedoms this great country provides that they apparently didn’t learn in school.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The debate over the death penalty in the United States begins anew

Since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College to win the presidency, and especially since Trump was sworn in, the news has been filled with all manner of items, some of them silly, nit-picking and embarrassing for the media, and others of varying degrees of importance and interest.

Among the actual news items was the choice of the excellent Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court and the battle that ensued to confirm him; the Syrian air base strike and the MOAB bombing of an ISIS tunnel/cave installation in Afghanistan; and more recently the situation in Arkansas where the state intended to execute eight death row inmates in the 11 days remaining before the end of April when one of the drugs used in executions reached its expiration date.

This latter development produced quite a lot of comment, most of it negative from opponents of the death penalty.

The death penalty is sanctioned through the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and each death row inmate had been convicted and had many years to appeal their sentence or conviction, so why so much controversy? Many were horrified not about the death penalty itself, but that Arkansas would conduct so many executions in such a short period.

The death penalty is a matter of long, spirited debate, notwithstanding its constitutional and Biblical validations.

The religious aspect is important in the United States, since among the volumes of things former President Barack Obama misunderstands about America is its still-strong religious nature. Of the 35,000 participants from all 50 states polled in a 2014 Pew Research Center study of Religion and Public Life, Christians accounted for 70 percent of participants, and more than 75 percent claimed some religious affiliation.

While our government is not founded on any set of religious beliefs, people with religious beliefs have been a major segment of the population since the nation’s founding, and their beliefs heavily influenced the founding principles, and that influence still exists today.

Many Christians, along with people holding other religious beliefs, and still others who do not cite religion at all, object to the death penalty on its failure of compassion. “How can religious and other compassionate people indulge in such a barbaric act?” the argument goes.

Steve Stephens, a 37-year-old black man, was having trouble with his girlfriend, so naturally he decided the solution was to randomly pick out someone to kill. After mentioning the woman’s name to 74 year-old Robert Godwin Sr., also a black man that he came upon while searching for a victim, he shot and killed the unsuspecting and totally innocent Godwin.

Stephens’ stupid and vicious murder highlights this issue. Many believe that someone who intentionally and deliberately murders another person and inflicts shock and grief on that person’s family and friends somehow is entitled to the compassion the murderer sadistically denied the victim(s).

One religious argument against executions is that it denies the criminal the opportunity to repent and even use his/her experience to try to turn others to religion and away from crime.

Others believe, however, the condemned deserves no consideration or compassion when his or her justice is rendered. “Should not that person suffer at least as much as the victim and those close to the victim?” this argument goes.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1972 allowed the resumption of the death penalty, its use has dropped off substantially. While 31 states still legally allow executions, ten of them have executed no one in the last ten years, and 26 have executed no one in the last five years.

Several reasons are cited: the possibility of executing an innocent person; botched executions; a decline in the crime rate; and the cost of fighting those opposing the imposition of the death penalty in capital cases.

There are five legal methods of execution – firing squad, gas chamber, hanging, electrocution, and lethal injection – and lethal injection is the hands-down preferred method. Much of the opposition to the other four comes down to how “unpleasant” each of those methods is to the condemned, with lethal injection normally being the least uncomfortable. However, even lethal injections sometimes cause suffering to the condemned.

There is an on-going debate over whether the United States should have a death penalty. Another debate centers on making the execution as easy on the condemned as possible.

Perhaps this represents a true expression of compassion, or maybe it is one more step toward making executions so difficult and expensive that eventually it will be abandoned, in favor of keeping vicious criminals alive and relatively comfortable in prison for the rest of their lives at a tremendous cost to taxpayers.

As long as there is a death penalty, someone who is absolutely proven guilty of committing a capital crime and sentenced to death should collect his or her just reward in a reasonable amount of time (which will be in fewer than 10 or 20 years), as efficiently as possible, and as inexpensively as possible. If it hurts a little, or a lot, too bad.

Of all factors involved, the concerns of the criminal come last.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The willful subversion of critical institutions threatens America

As the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was wrapping up, Benjamin Franklin was asked this question: “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.”  Franklin replied, “A republic ... if you can keep it.”

That has been one of America’s greatest challenges ever since, and there certainly are numerous discernible threats to our republic today.

Certain of our institutions play a critical role in sustaining the republic and promoting and protecting the unique character of the United States of America, and they therefore have a tremendous obligation to operate ethically and honorably. To the extent that they abandon their obligation, the country’s fundamental character is threatened.

Those institutions are: the justice system, the education system, and the information media.

Imagine you have a business renting apartments. One of your tenants, who has rented a place for $1,500 a month for three years sends you a check for only $900 for the current month.

You contact the tenant and are told that he views the lease that both you and he signed as a “living document,” the meaning of which may be altered as circumstances change. Having lost the job that paid $73,000 a year, his new job pays only $45,000, and he says he can now only afford $900 rent a month.

That is precisely the rationale that activist judges apply when they abandon the clear language of the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the land to make rulings they say are in line with current circumstances and the “mood” of the country, and because the Founders and those who enacted older laws were unable at that time to imagine current circumstances, that old stuff must be modernized.

However, the laws or Constitutional principles that activist judges disagree with must be amended or repealed through existing formal processes, not ignored or altered because they are viewed as inconvenient. If momentary interpretations are all that matter, and the Constitution is merely a “living document,” we don’t have a Constitution and we are not a nation of laws.

A nation needs its history and culture – all of it: the good, the bad, and the ugly – to be passed down from generation to generation so that its people will know who they are and where the came from, and can properly determine where they want to go and why.

While families should pass much of this along to children, we largely entrust this duty to formal education. To guide the learning process and assist students in learning an array of important and useful subjects and life lessons, we employ teachers, professors, instructors, and such, who coach and assist students.

Most of us had at least some teachers, professors, coaches who inspired us and helped us learn difficult subject matter, develop our skills, and learn how to think critically and logically. Hopefully, we did not have any that strayed from their professional duties and tried to tell us what to think about things, rather than developing the ability to think for ourselves.

Today, among the great number of effective educators there are too many who stray from the straight and narrow, especially in colleges and universities, where education too often takes a back seat to political and ideological indoctrination and politically correct policies. Imposing beliefs on students is worse than merely disrespecting the student; it is an outright abandonment of integrity and principle.

Along with an accurate base of knowledge about the country’s founding and history presented to them in schools, the people need to be well informed about current events. Information journalism contains two parts, and they must be kept separate. One is news about events, which must be accurate, honest and objective. The other is opinion, and must be clearly defined and omitted from straight news.

But far too often, opinion and political considerations sneak into news reporting, and also into the selection of what news gets reported and how it is reported, as well as what news does not get coverage. This is like playing golf blindfolded. You might find your driver, your ball and a tee, and you might tee up and actually hit the ball, but after that, you are literally in the dark, depending on the honesty of those around you to accurately describe the situation for you.

The American Left – liberals, progressives, socialists, etc. – has a vision of America that is in many ways sharply at odds with the founding principles. Both beneficial and harmful ideas that the Left pursues are at odds with the ideal of limited government, because using government to force things on the people is the Left’s tool of choice.

Fortunately, there are obstacles to using government to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” as a former leftist president pledged. These obstacles are difficult to remove, as they should be. So the Left resorts not infrequently to re-interpreting the Constitution and the laws; managing and manipulating the information coming through much of the mass media; and sometimes indoctrinating children.

We all need to remember that worthy and broadly beneficial ideas will sell themselves; they don’t need people to take short cuts or cheat to get them accepted.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It's time to bring the airlines down to Earth

It's time to bring the airlines down to Earth, so to speak, and remind them who's in charge.
The United Airlines outrageous treatment of a paid passenger, admitted through the gate to board a UA flight, in his seat ready to fly home, gets dragged from his seat and suffers significant injuries, all because UA knowingly over-booked the flight, and after boarding a plane full of passengers realized that getting some of its employees to the plane's destination is more important than those paid, seated passengers.
UA made an offer, sort of, to get some passengers to voluntarily give up their seats. But this paltry offer did not work, and so the purge began, and a doctor flying home so that he could keep appointments in his office the next day was selected to be removed from the plane, one way or another.
Despite an insulting and embarrassing initial response from the airline's CEO, and a more thoroughly thought out response a couple of days later, UA now properly is the target of a law suit to impose both financial punishment and well-earned financial renumeratiion, and is enduring the abundant and well-deserved ridicule and criticism for its arrogant position re: passengers.
Less objectionable than the United fiasco, but no less ridiculous, is the practice of the American Airlines change policy, which imposed a 57% fee on two potential passengers wanting to change their flight date because a visit to an active duty USAF member was interrupted by orders for the airman to go overseas at the exact time the couple was going to visit the airman.
Other outrageous items also exist.
A news report noted that among all U.S. airlines, paid-up passengers had been bumped from the flights they had booked some 430,000 times in 2016. A common excuse for these inconveniences was to allow airline employees to travel, instead of paying passengers.
Let's not lose site of the importance of all businesses, even airlines, to turn a profit. And perhaps it is a difficult situation for airlines to show a profit in the current environment.
But U.S. airlines had better wake up and smell the anger that their potential and actual passengers harbor: They are POed.
After all, without passengers, we don't need airlines or airports. Flying is sometimes necessary, but more often it is a convenience, and there are other ways to move about than flying.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Some good news for local economies battered by the War on Coal

It is a common idea among many Americans that coal as a major industrial fuel is dead, or at least dying, and cleaner fuels, like wind and solar energy, and natural gas, are taking over. There is some truth there; but there are other influences on coal’s recent decline.

Less costly natural gas has become the fuel of choice in power plants and for other industrial uses, not because of the natural relative price of the fuels, but because of the cost of regulatory demands on mining and burning coal that require enormous investments that have priced coal higher than natural gas. Remember former President Barack Obama’s prediction: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them.”

These regulations produced the closing of more than 400 coal-burning power plants, which dropped the demand for coal, and altogether put 63,000 people in the coal industry, electric production industry and related support industries out of work in just the last few years.

At just the right time hydraulic fracturing (fracking) became popular, after lying mostly dormant since its first commercial application in 1957, and that produced a boom in natural gas production at attractive prices to compete with coal.

Many think burning less coal is a great thing, because burning coal fouls the air and is dangerous to our health, a “truth” which loses importance when you know the actual infinitesimal improvement in air quality derived from burning less coal.

However, considering all those factors, and paraphrasing a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, the rumors of coal’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Of course, coal will never regain its former dominance among industrial fuels; time and technological/industrial evolution would just as certainly, although much more gradually, have eaten into coal’s popularity without the help of the Obama War on Coal.

But the regulatory adjustments of the Trump administration, the growing acceptance of the idea that the climate change/global warming mania is dramatically overstated, the reality that coal is still the best fuel for many things, the fact that many countries that do not have domestic coal supplies depend upon it for fuel, and the improvement in coal-burning technology all point to a continued market for American coal.

And let’s not forget that fossil fuels made up 81 percent of the fuels used to produce electricity in 2016, and coal is still the primary fossil fuel in electricity production.

Industry insiders, like Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, see a partial resurgence in coal. “Coal will grow back,” he told Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney. “But we’re in a decline right now.”

He went on to say that Trump “can bring back at least half of those [63,000 lost] jobs as the economy grows and as he ends the regulations on coal.” He noted that we have not had a level playing field in coal; “the government has been picking winners and losers.”

And he told Maria Bartiromo, also on Fox Business Network, former President Obama closed 411 coal-fired plants, and that the Clean Power Plan which Trump ended recently, would have closed 56 more plants. That, he said, would have caused a steep spike in electric rates.

“As [Trump] grows the economy [and] brings jobs back to America, coal will participate in that growth because we are one-sixth the cost of a windmill and one-fourth the cost of natural gas,” Murray said.

Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said, “The coal industry knows and understands how to mine coal … and protect our environment. We don’t do it the way it was done 50, 60 years ago.”

Here are a few pieces of evidence:

* Reports from the Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia coalfield regions say that mines are cranking back up and miners are being rehired. Train yards are seeing cars filled with coal moving through them in greater numbers.

* Bluefield State College recently held a Job Fair to immediately fill 85 open coal positions at Wyoming and McDowell county mines that mine coal used in making steel.

* Fox News reports that in Wise County, Virginia, a “long-awaited revival is under way in this beleaguered Central Appalachia community where residents see coal as the once and future king. Trucks are running again. Miners working seven days a week cannot keep up with current demand.”

* Coal exports through Hampton Roads last month rose more than 50 percent from last year's level, led by a nearly five-fold increase at Newport News' Pier IX, according to the most recent Virginia Maritime Association statistics. "A lot of mines are open again," said Harry Childress, president of the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance."

Few if any argue that the coal industry will return to its former greatness, but it will certainly endure for many years at a lower level if natural forces are allowed to work, free of politically correct environmental engineering.

When you replace regulations resulting from selfish ideological goals with a business regulatory level based upon common sense, good things can happen.

And for areas of the country like ours, that have suffered so greatly from Obama’s over-zealous EPA, this is good news.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Politics, not qualifications, will decide the Gorsuch nomination

Senate Democrats are doing the Stanky Legg Two-step in order to dance away from confirming a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court who is a federal judge provably as devoted to following the U.S. Constitution and the body of federal law as any nominee in many years.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, whose record on the bench of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is as nearly perfect as one can hope to achieve, is precisely the type of judge the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Constitution, a man in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, whose vacancy he has been nominated to fill.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch said his law clerks had compiled information about his ten years on the bench of the 10th Circuit, which covers about 20 percent of the U.S. He has participated in more than 2,700 appeals, 97 percent of those cases were decided unanimously, and he was in the majority 99 percent of the time. How much more mainstream can one be?

His record clearly identifies him as a mainstream appellate judge, as has the American Bar Association, not an ideologue, or someone who plays favorites. Nevertheless, an exercise designed for confirming a qualified person to sit on the nation’s highest court has devolved into a political war.

U.S. law is a system of rules that govern behavior. Rules and laws must be followed and not following laws has penalties. In the U.S. laws are not static; they can be amended or repealed, but they must be amended or repealed through a specific process. However, some people – primarily liberal Americans – believe that this process may be circumvented by the rulings of activist judges when laws get in the way of their inclinations.

Gorsuch’s adherence to the law is the primary objection to his nomination, although some say it is also because the Republican majority in the Senate refused to take up the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the seat Gorsuch is now nominated for.

This, too, points to a Democrat anomaly. A principle relating to this situation arose in the U.S. Senate in 1992 when then-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who was chair of the Judiciary Committee, said on the Senate floor that filling Supreme Court vacancies “that would occur in the full throes of an election year,” must be held to a different standard. Citing “a majority of his predecessors,” Biden said that the president, George H.W. Bush, should delay naming a replacement, which would de-politicize the nomination, at least for a while.

In March of last year, “in the full throes of an election year,” President Barack Obama ignored the advice that Biden, who was then his Vice President, had offered on the matter years before and nominated Judge Garland. The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., however, liked Biden’s theory, and would not schedule hearings for Garland.

Democrats want judges that decide legal issues on whether their decisions fit the passions of the moment or have their preferred impact on the people, and therefore disapprove of the necessity to appoint judges that follow the Constitution and the law.

Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is upset with Republicans over the Merrick Garland issue, and will therefore not vote to confirm the highly qualified and squeaky-clean Gorsuch.

He spent 20 minutes on the Senate floor urging his fellow Democrats to oppose Trump’s nominee. Gorsuch, he said, “was unable to convince me he would be a mainstream justice who could rule free from the biases of politics and ideology.” And he said that Gorsuch “is someone who almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak, corporations over Americans,” Schumer said. “He declined to answer question after question with any substance,” he said, referring to Gorsuch’s refusal to express his political beliefs or to prejudge issues that may come before the Court.

Others have equally irrelevant objections:

** Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Cal.: "As U.S. senators, we have an obligation to also examine a nominee's legal approach and ask whether he or she considers the impact of those decisions on our society and the daily lives of our people."

** "I cannot trust that President Trump is acting in the best interest of our country or our democracy and that I cannot support moving forward with his choice for the court," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

** Virginia Democrat and former vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine explained that, “After meeting with Judge Gorsuch and reviewing his testimony and past decisions, I’ve observed that he has repeatedly taken an activist approach to cases involving a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her health.” Kaine clearly does not understand judicial activism.

Senate Democrats threaten a filibuster to prevent a confirmation vote and ending the filibuster requires 60 votes. With 52 Republican senators, that will require the support of eight Democrats, and will be difficult to achieve.

Following the lead of former Nevada Democrat Harry Reid when he was Majority Leader, Republicans can use the “nuclear option” to allow a simple majority vote to confirm Gorsuch. Majority Leader McConnell has pledged that one way or another, Gorsuch will be confirmed.