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Richard Larsen: Baltimore’s Failures Spawned by Liberal Policies

May 23rd, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Culpability for the events in Baltimore over the past couple of weeks has perhaps inappropriately been directed exclusively at the police department. In all likelihood, the charges against the police involved in the tragic death of Freddie Gray are only symptomatic of the greater underlying problems of the once booming city. The greater tragedy is the destructive policies of over fifty years of liberal governance, which created the environment of disparity, poverty, and victimhood.

The city has been hemorrhaging jobs at an alarming rate for decades. And the most hard-hit have been the city’s black youth. Over 37% of 20-25 year-old black males are unemployed, versus 10% for white males of the same age. Black household median income is nearly half what it is for white households, at $33,610 and $60,550, respectively.

City policies have shrunk the population of the city by heavily penalizing the productive and earning households. Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, “Officials raised property taxes 21 times between 1950 and 1985, channeling the proceeds to favored voting blocs and causing many homeowners and entrepreneurs — disproportionately Republicans — to flee. It was brilliant politics, as Democrats now enjoy an eight-to-one voter registration advantage.”

The result is a declining population, declining business enterprise, declining jobs, and severe blighting of the infrastructure. The city now has an estimated 16,000 vacant buildings and over 14,000 vacant lots. In the area of Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park, where Freddie Gray lived, more than 25% of the buildings are now vacant.

More than 40,000 residents have fled from the high tax, low job-opportunity confines of Baltimore, to the more favorable economic climate of Virginia. According to the Washington Times, they took a whopping $2.17 billion with them. No wonder Gallup found last year that 47% of the residents of the state said they would leave if they could. Interestingly, the only two states that registered higher in their 2014 poll were the states of Illinois and Connecticut, two more bastions of liberal tax and anti-enterprise policy.

Hanke and Walters explain that in order to counterbalance the high taxes that have driven so many jobs out of town, the city has been attempting to lure “developers with subsidies, and the developers, in turn, contribute to politicians to stay in their good graces. This makes for fertile ground for the city’s corruption.” The city’s ruling elite for decades has been pumping literally billions of dollars into development projects that were to mysteriously “trickle down” to the impoverished sections of town.

One example is the highly anticipated Inner Harbor project. As Todd Krainin wrote in Reason magazine, “Instead of revitalizing the city’s fortunes, the rise of the waterfront has paralleled the decline of basic functions. Violent crime remains high, public schools underperform, and the cityscape is blighted by the presence of tens of thousands of vacant buildings.”

Yet the visionary liberals ruling the city are pinning their hopes on yet another big-ticket project. They’ve committed $400 million in public subsidies to Harbor Point, the latest boondoggle of the city fathers.

Meanwhile, city residents have been losing their homes at an alarming rate. Especially hard hit are those most involved in the looting and rioting after Freddie’s death. Baltimore County Public Schools reveals that they’ve seen a 28% increase in homeless student enrollment over the past three years. According to Labor Department Data, 61% of Baltimore’s children live in poverty.

President Obama was surprisingly accurate in his assessment of the underlying issues which fostered the failures in Baltimore. He suggested that “the police alone can’t solve the problems of communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community.”

But then his liberalism kicked in. “I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities,” he said. “And so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses.”

The ideology which has governed Baltimore, Detroit, Illinois, California, and the nation for the past several years, has always been to create a new policy or social program, or additional taxes and spending (aka “investments”) to address our socio-economic ailments. It’s not “school reform,” “job training,” or “investments in infrastructure” that elevate and strengthen communities, it’s a thriving economy. And nothing douses entrepreneurism and economic growth like the massive taxing and regulatory burdens the leftist ideology is so totally invested in.

Perhaps none have addressed the issue as frankly as former Congressman Allen West has. He said last week, “Yes, the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit is that Baltimore, and so many other urban areas and inner city communities in America, are a reflection of the abject failure of liberal progressive socialist policies as advanced by the Democrat party. The truth is that it is a culture of dependency … that has created what we’re seeing play out in Baltimore.”

The policies that have shrunk Baltimore’s economy, stymied the job market, and blighted the cityscape are liberal policies. The policies that have created a lack of trust with law enforcement are liberal policies. It is highly improbable that city officials would ever fess up to their ownership. It’s much more convenient to cast blame wherever they can make it stick, in an obvious obfuscatory misdirection to avoid culpability. Exactly like the president did blaming congress for his own failures in broaching those issues on a national level.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Is America Still the “Land of the Free”?

April 27th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

Is America really the “land of the free?” We may have been initially founded and constructed as such, but each year the land of the free becomes increasingly the land of the regulated, oppressed, disparaged, and dependent.

Gallup regularly conducts global polls to assess citizen’s perception of their levels of freedom around the world. In 2006, 91% of US residents were satisfied with their “level of freedom,” which was among the highest in the world. Last year’s iteration of the survey indicated only 79% of Americans are satisfied with their level of freedom. Such a precipitous drop in a few short years dropped the US to 36th place among the 120 nations sampled. Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Paraguay, and Rwanda are among the 35 nations more satisfied with their levels of freedom.

This seems to be confirmed by Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which has seen the U.S. slip to number 12 this year. Countries with greater economic freedom, based on ten criteria, from personal property rights to personal financial freedom, include Chile, Estonia, and Mauritius, none of which could be considered bastions of liberty, as the U.S. historically has been.

America was founded differently than any other nation in human history, which is what we refer to as American exceptionalism. Our founding documents guaranteed rights of free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, freedom from government oppression and illegal searches and seizures, among others. These rights and freedoms, our founding documents asserted, were “inalienable rights” derived from God, not granted by government. That “all men are created equal,” and that among those precious rights were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property).”

Every year those liberties are assaulted afresh by an ever-expanding governmental reach into our personal lives. Even those fundamental rights that are codified, by constitutional amendment as our Bill of Rights, are under assault. Freedoms of religious expression, speech, assembly, arms, illegal search and seizure, and due process are eroded with every congressional, legislative, and council bill, act, and statute, and are increasingly rarely upheld through judicial review.

In short, it seems that the machinations of government, politicians, and the courts, are arrayed broadly against the interests of individual liberty, personal accountability, and private freedoms. Our nation can only loosely be identified as a republic, where the enumerated powers of government are narrow and defined, with all non-enumerated powers residing in the states and the citizens, as the Tenth Amendment declares. The nation has morphed, and can be categorically and definitionally identified as a statist system, concentrating “extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.”

This devolution of the republic and our individual liberties has only accelerated over the past several years, since the despicable attacks of 9/11. It was deemed necessary to relinquish some individual liberty for the defense of the realm, as the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism measures sliced away at individual liberties for security purposes. In spite of the sunset provisions
incorporated into that measure, they were extended in 2011, and have been expanded by NSA surveillance, more expansive monitoring of financial transactions, and even more circumvention of the 4th Amendment with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA essentially classify the entire country as a battlefield, allowing extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and enhanced interrogation against U.S. citizens here on American soil.

The omnipotence of government today certainly contrasts sharply with what our founding fathers envisioned for this “land of the free.” As Thomas Jefferson said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” Or, in the context of abrogation of 4th Amendment rights, any government that is powerful enough to do everything we allow it, certainly is powerful enough to get away with everything it does.

Which also brings to mind Ben Franklin’s astute observation, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Clearly, the more ground we cede collectively as a citizenry to security, the less freedom and liberty there is. And that applies not just to issues of national security, but also to domestic fiscal policies as well.

Patrick Henry famously mirrored that sentiment, when he said, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” I’m sure the good governor would be aghast at the sacrifice of liberty for thralldom to government that has ensued these past several years.

Every election from here on out is a referendum on the future of our republic. Will we choose to elect those who embrace our founding principles based on liberty and freedom, or will we continue to cede our liberty for “security” provided by a statist government which is increasingly less attune to the concerns and interests of the individual citizen?

For those of us who are lovers of liberty, there has never been a more critical time to reassert our founding principles and the constitutional limitations of governmental power than today. If we want to have anything even remotely resembling the American republic surviving for future generations, it’s time to quit being a doormat to the politically correct progressive and statist agenda, and to proactively engage in the political process. Most of the statist “accomplishments” can be unwoven, but we need the electoral majorities to do it. Passivity and acquiescence are no longer options for those who would concur with Patrick Henry, “…give me liberty, or give me death!”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: Typo or Guilty Confession?

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Well… she’s back.

Hillary Clinton, gripped by inordinate ambition since high school, is certain that the world really needs her. She is once again foisting herself upon the public – now in a “Scooby Doo” van. Pity the poor folks of Iowa.

In making her public announcement, Clinton issued a press release in which she included the following claim to fame:

“From her mother’s own childhood – in which she was abandoned by her parents – to her work going door-to-door for the Children’s Defense Fund, to her battling to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, [Hillary’s] fought children and families all her career.”

Media smurfs immediately censored the Clinton Campaign, looking askance at the poor proof-reading skills of those extraordinarily gifted and talented people surrounding Team Clinton. How could they let such a big goof in her first official press statement?

But we believe there is more here than meets the casual glance.

For it is indeed true that Hillary Clinton has fought against babies in the womb during her entire public career. Her blind support for abortion on demand makes her among the most dangerous political figures in America. In her view, no baby has any claim to life or our regard unless the mother finds it convenient.

Clinton’s insistence that abortion is at the core of womanhood has also served to wreck havoc on families and our culture.

So, inadvertently perhaps, Hillary has finally spoken the truth about herself and her vision for this nation.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

David Ripley: Ever Heard of The Society of Family Planning?

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

An article appeared last week of a controversial medical experiment underway at the University of Hawaii, funded at least in part by “The Society of Family Planning”.

The Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children (would that be only “dead children?) is conducting a clinical research project to study the effects of the drug oxytocin in reducing a mother’s bleeding during second trimester abortions.

The Center is asking women and girls who are between 18 and 24 weeks pregnant to come on in and submit to a little medical experimentation. Girls must be at least 14 years of age to participate. (And, given Hawaii’s casual attitude toward abortion, we don’t believe these girls will need a parent’s consent to either undergo the abortion or participate in the experiment.)

Apparently they will use only the D&E abortion procedure. (That is the really neat abortion procedure whereby the baby is torn apart limb-by-limb until it bleeds to death in the womb; a horribly cruel attack on preborn children which has just been outlawed in Kansas).

The outfit funding these medical experiments calls itself “The Society of Family Planning”. A number of doctors from around the country serve as Board members – but a review of its website does not give any hint as to how it acquires the money to finance these dark art practices.

Presumably, the 166 test subjects will be given free abortions, since the experiment is not without risks.

One of the goals of the study is to find out what happens to women who don’t get the drug oxytocin.

Pro-Life leader Troy Newman of Operation Rescue has publicly denounced the macabre experimentation upon women and their babies: “This study is reminiscent of Nazi concentration camp experiments. I pity the poor women who are being treated like lab rats, especially those are denied the drug to reduce the risk of hemorrhaging.”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

David Ripley: You Are the Virus

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

The United Nations is working tirelessly to reduce the number of people living on the planet.

In a recent media interview, UN “climate chief” Christiana Figueres argued that we should all make “every effort” to cut down on the number of humans. Apparently one reporter pressed the elite activist on what methods she would support to achieve a “sustainable” human population.

While Figueres declined to be publicly specific, the U.N. has long been pushed abortion, sterilization and birth control upon the world. International elites like Bill Gates and Al Gore are outspoken in demanding “fertility management” – i.e., killing preborn children – as an essential component of solving the “global warming crisis”.

Al Gore told a troupe of believers at the World Economic Forum that “empowering women and making ‘fertility management’ ubiquitously available … is crucial to the future shape of human civilization.”

Such blather has been a dominant message from the Left since at least the 1970’s – to rather amazing effect, given the fact that virtually none of the dire predictions from social engineers and pseudo-scientists have materialized over those decades. Still the babies are being killed. Families are becoming smaller, and even more rare.

When one begins to see the connections behind the agendas of organizations like the U.N., the environmental movement and players like Bill Gates, we can better appreciate the fact that the fight to protect preborn children from their evil clutches is also a fight for the survival and dignity of each of us. Human beings are not some kind of virus to be cleansed from the earth.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues, National Sovereignty, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Climate Change Objective is Economic, not Environmental

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

The primary objective behind environmental activism related to anthropogenic global warming (AGW), aka “climate change,” is apparently not climatological, but is rather economic. The revelation came not from “global-warming deniers,” but from the United Nation’s own Christiana Figueres, who serves as the Executive Secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At a press conference in Brussels earlier this month, the UN climate chief delineated the objectives of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations. She revealed, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

She continued, “That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 – you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation.”

Capitalism has been the primary economic model of the west since the industrial revolution.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion, based on her stated objective, is the eradication of capitalism and free market economics, to be replaced with a model based on monetary redistribution. This we know by the redistribution calculations being developed by the UN’s IPCC for developed nations to pay “reparations” and “carbon offsets” to poorer countries based on carbon dioxide emissions.

While Figueres may have unintentionally disclosed the primary objective of the AGW alarmist movement within the UN, others are much less veiled. Naomi Klein, a self-defined “feminist-socialist,” environmental activist and author of the book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” is explicit in her denunciation of capitalism as the source of global warming. Her interview this week with Germany’s Der Spiegel underscored her denunciation of capitalism as the source of all evil in the world, including global warming. “The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.” Such a conclusion is easy to accept if the AGW alarmist premise is embraced blindly, sans scientific validation.

Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III, explicitly affirmed the economic objective. He said a few years ago, “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection…One must say clearly that we redistribute the world’s wealth by climate policy…The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”

A leftist global think-tank alluded to this a few years ago. The Club of Rome proclaimed, “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

One of the luxuries of basing a movement’s argument on quasi-science, including heavily doctored reports and “data,” is that bogeymen can be made of almost anything. And in the case of the AGW alarmists, it’s man, and capitalism. Once mankind is identified as the culprit behind climatic changes, his every activity can be justifiably regulated, controlled, and taxed. And once taxed, an omnipotent government that idyllically “cares” for the collective can redistribute it. And as Figueres and Klein evidence, it can provide the irrational justification for changing the global economic system.

Coups, revolutions, and violent upheavals have worked only marginally to eradicate capitalism and replace it with socialistic economic models, all of which have failed, or are in the process of doing so. It would appear that the entrenched prevalent ideology of the UN has found a new way to fundamentally transform the world with the visage of Marx.

Considering the ultimate goal of the UN’s climate panels is to eradicate capitalism, it’s refreshing when a scientist who shares their ideology questions the quasi-scientific premises upon which the plan is based. Fritz Vaherenholt is a socialist, and the founder of Germany’s environmental movement. He was a reviewer of the IPCC reports, and while initially was supportive of them, found a host of scientific errors that proved to him the conclusions were defined before the scientific method was even attempted.

Vaherenholt’s recent book, “The Cold Sun: Why the Climate Disaster Won’t Happen, charges the UN’s IPCC with “gross incompetence and dishonesty… especially regarding fear-mongering exaggeration of human CO2 emission influences.” He expressed how stunned he was by the large number of scientific and computer-modeling errors he was finding in IPCC reports. He voiced his disapprobation in an interview with the German news publication Bild, “… IPCC decision-makers are fighting tooth and nail against accepting the roles of the oceans, sun, and soot. Accordingly, IPCC models are completely out of whack. The facts and data need to be discussed sensibly and scientifically, without first deciding on the results.

But that’s precisely what has happened. The ideological plenipotentiaries in the UN, intent on implementing Marxist ideology, started with an objective, identified a human activity they could foment fear over, draw in like-minded “scientists” as apologists to “validate” their predetermined “consensus,” and fundamentally transform the global economy as an end result. It’s a brilliant strategy that has superbly garnered the support of virtually every left-leaning organization, media outlet, journalist, and academic across the country.

But the key to it all was reclassifying the atmospheric gas that facilitates photosynthesis and makes the world lush and green, and the gas emitted by mammals when we exhale, as a pollutant and a causal force in destroying the world. That’s a simple premise to accept when so much of the populace is either too acquiescent, uninformed, or ideologically aligned with the intended goal, to view it objectively.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, National Sovereignty, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: “No Scandal” Obama Administration

March 10th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

David Axelrod, former top advisor to President Obama, made a revelatory comment on his book tour this week. In an appearance at the University of Chicago, touting his political autobiography, Axelrod said, “I’m proud of the fact that basically you’ve had an administration that has been in place for six years in which there hasn’t been a major scandal. I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration.”

Perhaps most surprising, Axelrod made the statement with a straight face. The only logical explanation for such a statement is that either he’s oblivious to what the administration has done over the past six years, or he’s completely detached from reality. At the very least, he clearly could have a promising future as an actor.

Equally alarming is the context within which Axelrod made the remark. He was responding to a question from an audience member on why Obama broke his promised ban on lobbyists in the White House. Axelrod replied that he didn’t “think that’s true.”

Lobbying scholar, Conor McGrath, has documented how inaccurate Axelrod’s perception is. In the latest issue of the Journal of Public Affairs, McGrath said, “President Obama’s public rhetoric on contact with lobbyists does not always accord with his private actions.” You’ll recall that on his first day in office Obama ostentatiously signed an Executive Order banning former lobbyists from working in his administration. That makes it even more difficult to disavow the reality that they hired 119 former lobbyists, including 60 in senior administration posts, according to McGrath.

Since Mr. Axelrod seems to be oblivious to the administration’s failure in regard to hiring lobbyists, he’s certainly left the door open to erroneous perceptions with regard to administration scandals, as well. So let’s take a look at some of the scandals that have not taken place over the past six years, per the former adviser.

Things like the IRS being used as a political enforcement arm of the administration in targeting opposition groups and taxpayers. And how about the three-fer of refusing to provide adequate protection of our ambassador to Libya, blaming his murder on a video that no one in Libya had seen before then, and then covering up everything from the State Department to the Pentagon and the White House to prevent the truth from being revealed.

Clearly Axelrod doesn’t think Obamacare’s a scandal, but there are a great number of Americans who believe differently. What else can it be called when a president promises our health insurance would drop by $2,400 and we could all keep the policies that we like, but then prices rise by an average of 78% in four years, and tens of millions of Americans lost that insurance they were promised they could keep? In a normal person’s lexicon, that would be considered scandalous, especially since it was all obviously based on a lie.

And let’s not forget Axelrod’s “non-scandal” of dozens of our veterans losing their lives, and tens of thousands of them being deprived requisite healthcare because of internal politics within the Veteran’s Administration. When policies lead to one unnecessary and innocent death, isn’t that scandalous? So why is it not when it leads to over 40 deaths?

In banana republics, politicians giving money to their political cronies, and vice versa, is considered graft and corruption. This administration has proven one of two things: either the U.S. is now a banana republic, or such graft and corruption is now acceptable in the most powerful republic in the world. How else can we classify the billions of “stimulus” dollars that went to administration friends at Solyndra, NextEra, Ener1, Solar Trust, and dozens of other well-connected companies, which all subsequently went bankrupt?

Typically, when a government illegally (according to its own laws) operates a gun-running operation, putting guns purposefully into the hands of drug cartels and their goons, leading to the deaths of government law enforcement agents, it would be considered a scandal. Perhaps Mr. Axelrod just thinks that the DOJ’s “Fast and Furious” operation was just business as usual.

We could go on and on, including the EPA’s collusion with the green lobby, the 25 documented unconstitutional actions of the administration after taking an oath to uphold it, the massive debt and deficit spending that threatens our economic stability, and the Bowe Bergdahl fiasco of trading five of the most hardened jihadists for an army deserter. And then, in the case of the latter, having the temerity to claim the “Taliban is an armed insurgency; ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”

I’m sure that a major component to Axelrod’s ignorance of administration scandals is the fact that the mainstream media has virtually ignored all of them. To a media that has ignored the myriad of administration scandals, failures, lies, and incompetency, if they don’t report them, the scandals apparently never occurred. Kind of like the old philosophical question of a tree falling in a forest; if there’s no one to hear it, does it make any noise? To the media, if they don’t report it, it didn’t happen, and the administration affirms the nonevent.

Then again, perhaps it’s just a characteristic of sycophancy. If Axelrod denies the scandals occurred, they didn’t. For perception rarely approximates reality in a sycophant’s mind. Such detachment from reality may be laudable in Hollywood, but certainly not in the top echelons of government.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Net Neutrality – Another Government Take-over

February 23rd, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Like a cancerous growth spreading throughout an otherwise healthy body, government overreach, regulation, and control of every aspect of our free-market system continues to expand, infesting and damaging economic activity one organ, or industry, at a time. The Internet, that bastion of freedom and entrepreneurship, is about to become the government’s newest victim.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, is presenting the president’s “net neutrality” plan for the commission’s vote in two weeks. As promoted publicly by the administration, even on the White House website, the concept sounds meritoriously egalitarian, preventing internet providers from doling out more bandwidth to some paying customers, like Netflix, than others. But it’s clearly designed to facilitate much more.

fcc-chief-on-net-neutrality-trust-meThe administration’s plan calls for reclassification of the Internet, in toto, as a Title II telecommunications service. Such a designation would allow the government to regulate the Internet based on the Communications Act of 1934, just like the telephone industry.

The 332 page proposal has not yet been made public, though the recommendations are widely known. The “net neutrality” proposal wording was enough for one FCC commissioner to conduct a news conference this week to warn the public of the “secret plan to regulate the Internet.” FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said the plan was even “worse than I imagined,” and will invariably lead to “rate regulation and taxes.”

The full report and recommendation will not be released to the public until after the FCC approves it at their Feb. 26th meeting. FCC Chairman Wheeler must subscribe to the Nancy Pelosi regulatory and legislative mantra, that it has to be passed so we can know what’s in it. Yet another administration slap in the face of “transparency.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai holding the new FCC rules granting government regulatory control over the internet.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai holding the new FCC rules granting government regulatory control over the internet.

As reported in National Journal, commissioner Pai acknowledged that the actual regulations take up just eight pages of the document. Another 79 pages are citations of the Communications Act, which will also dictate the practices of broadband providers. The rest of the document is a summary of public feedback and reasoning for the FCC’s decision, which Pai said is “sprinkled” with unofficial rules.

According to Pai, about the worst part of the proposal is exercising FCC dominion based on Title II. By implementing “net neutrality” under Title II, regardless of the prima facie reason for the new order, the FCC is “giving itself the authority to determine whether a variety of practices—including prices—are ‘just and reasonable.’” In other words, it’s the camel nose in the tent door metaphor. Pretty soon the camel (government regulators) occupies the tent and the providers are out on their ears.

The evidence seems to be on Pai’s side. He explains specifically, “The plan repeatedly states that the FCC will apply sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act, including their rate regulation provisions, to determine whether prices charged by broadband providers are ‘unjust or unreasonable.’”

Commissioner Pai cautioned that not only does the proposal “open the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband,” but that with the Title II reclassification, technically the government could exercise control over content, as well.

87293_600Current broadband consumption illustrates how ludicrous the proposal is. According to Sandvine data, “in home data consumption is approximately 150 to 200 times greater than mobile consumption. Google (including YouTube) and Netflix account for 45% of fixed broadband traffic. iTunes, Facebook, Amazon and Hulu account for 6% in aggregate. Google and Facebook account for 42% of mobile data. Netflix, Pandora and iTunes take an additional 14%.”

According to the new rules, broadband usage must be shared equally, without allowing providers the ability to adjust for consumption and demand, and other factors. So if you think you’re sick of seeing the spinning “buffering” wheel when watching video online, you “ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Welcome to the world of net neutrality, a euphemism for broadband socialism – everyone gets their “fair share.”

These are the reasons John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, said, “To go back to a 1950s voice mentality with Title II and net neutrality would be a tremendous mistake for our country… this is a very bad decision. I think the whole country has to rally [against it]. This will cost the country jobs and economic leadership.”

net-neutrality-comic-3The first step of governmental encroachment into an area of the private sector is always the most crucial. For once the proverbial foot is in the door, they just keep pushing and shoving until the door is clear off the hinges, and they control the industry. We’ve seen it time and time again, from banking, telephony, energy, manufacturing, and most recently, health care insurance. The promises are always minimalist, yet the eventuality always exceeds even extreme expectations. Consequently control increases, costs of production and services increase, and those costs are passed from companies in the private sector down to consumers. And the process always seems most costly and punitive to the middle and lower classes.

Ronald Reagan explained this governmental cycle years ago. “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Except in the case of “net neutrality,” they’re regulating it first, and then will come the taxation, the fees, and perhaps even control over accessibility and content.

We’ve seen just recently how governmental control over private sector services changes an industry dramatically, a la Obamacare. It appears we’re about to see “Obamacare” for the Internet, if the FCC rules go into effect. But don’t worry, they promise us that everything will be just fine. If you like your broadband, you can keep it. That sounds eerily familiar.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Economic Optimism

January 17th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

As we embark on a new year, positive economic indications are abundant. Having experienced the worst recession in modern financial history six years ago, the U.S. has slowly but surely emerged on more sure footing heading into the New Year. What has precipitated economically over the past six years cannot causally be attributed to any policies or governmental programs. Recovery has occurred in spite of government efforts, and is a testament to the free market capitalistic system our economy is based upon.

In December the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 18,000 level for the first time ever, capping a 7.5% gain for 2014. Due to lower gas prices, we saved approximately $14 billion in energy costs for the year. And our moribund Gross Domestic Product (GDP) finally started to show signs of life with a 5% annualized growth rate in the third quarter. These data have significantly improved consumer sentiment, which is a measure of economic optimism. The latest reading of 92.6 represents a marked upward move from a third quarter reading of 82.

Due primarily to these factors, there’s even been improvement in the job market. Nonfarm payrolls have risen 26 consecutive months through December, averaging about 210,000 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth is critical to economic growth since 70% of our economy is consumer driven, and more people with jobs, and especially good-paying jobs, augments growth sustainability.

The employment data still do not indicate a full recovery, however. According to the BLS Table A-15, 11% is closer to the real unemployment rate than the present headline figure of 5.8%. Item U6 indicates that the “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force,” is nearly double the headline figure. There are too many still underemployed or only working part-time, who are looking for better jobs.

The Participation Rate is too low at 62.8%, which is near all-time lows for employable adults holding jobs. Pre-recession Participation Rate was over 66%. Currently, there are 6.9 million fewer Americans in the work force, either working or looking for employment, than there were six years ago. Those who have given up on finding a job are no longer counted in the headline household unemployment rate. Consequently, with 6.9 million fewer Americans working or searching for work, a significant percentage of the drop in unemployment since 2009 is largely due to those who have given up on finding a job. According to the BLS, demographic factors explain less than one-quarter of the decreased labor force participation.

When we look for causal factors for this recovery, however tepid, we cannot find any from the government. Nothing done by the Executive or Legislative branches of government have contributed to the recovery. With but a couple of exceptions, everything government has done in the past six years has thwarted economic growth and recovery.

The three major governmental accomplishments over the past six years have restricted and constrained our economic engine. The “Stimulus” of 2008 did not stimulate. According to the Wall Street Journal, over half of the $850 billion ($1.1 trillion, including interest) “stimulus” bill could be more correctly classified as discretionary spending. The Congressional Budget Office “scoring” of the stimulus package indicated that only 12 cents of every dollar would have a stimulative affect on the economy. The scoring process clearly indicated the impotence of the “Stimulus” for creating positive, let alone sustainable, economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) doesn’t stimulate the economy, for it is laden with new taxes and fees imposed on individuals and employers to be implemented over the next few years. And actually when the full impact of those new taxes hit, the adverse effect on the economy will be considerable. For as Christina Romer, former chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, revealed last year, “Tax changes have very large effects: an exogenous tax increase of 1 percent of GDP lowers real GDP by roughly 2 to 3 percent.”

Likewise, the FinReg, Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform is a deterrent to growth. It solidifies the crony capitalistic relationship between Wall Street, the major banks, and Washington by assuring further government intervention with institutions deemed “too big to fail.” The costs of implementation at the private sector level have resulted in higher fees, charges, and interest rates for financial institutions to recoup the implementation costs. Anything that takes from producers and savers to pay for regulatory overreach is antithetical to economic stimulus.

Those three governmental “successes” were all passed before 2010 when leadership of the House changed hands. This was perhaps the most effectual event leading to economic recovery. After 2010, with a divided congress, less has been done governmentally to interfere with the economy. Consequently, business owners, CEO’s, and employees have adapted to the new “normal” of higher costs of regulation and are gradually digging themselves out of the morass. The greatest benefit of a divided congress is less governmental intervention.

This should be perhaps the greatest measure of a successful government or regime. Rather than measure productivity based on how much legislation is passed, measure it based on how little they encroach on our liberty and our capitalistic economy.
The great economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, once said, “Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government– in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

The objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand, echoes this sentiment. She wrote, “America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance — and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.”

It appears at least ostensibly that the intent of the 114th Congress will be to roll back some of the onerous regulatory burdens conceived by their predecessors. If they are successful in doing so, the growth potential of our economic engine could be unleashed for significant expansion. After all, look at how far we’ve come in spite of their predecessor’s efforts to stifle free enterprise in our capitalistic system.

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Richard Larsen: Ideological “Weeds” Thrive Across the Land

January 12th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

While recently rereading a classical literary piece from a century ago, I realized anew how each person is a microcosm of the demographic group or society to which he or she belongs. Truly, no man is an island, and we all bring to our society characteristics, traits, and attributes which contribute to the whole. When we analyze some of the notable events from the past year, we can’t help but realize how our individual contributions either ameliorate, or vitiate, the cumulative character of our society.

The book, As a Man Thinketh, by the English moralist James Allen, abounds in insightful truisms and verities. The following is but one of many such gems. “A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

As much idiocy as we observed playing out on the public stage this past year, it’s obvious that there are too many minds not being planted or cultivated with ennobling or productive seeds. And, according to Allen, the evidence is manifest behaviorally. Not unlike the timeless wisdom of Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Case in point, the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” social phenomenon that was spawned, and perpetuated, based on fictitious accounts of the tragic shooting of a young man in Ferguson, MO. The fact that such a fallacious mantra would gain such traction among the race-baiters, celebrities, misinformed, and even professional athletes, does not portend well for our culture. But why bother with facts and evidence, when a fabricated story can be so superbly spun for the sake of advancing an ideological narrative, or inciting riots and precipitating violence? This provides evidentiary validation of Allen’s thesis, that “an abundance of useless weed seeds” can bear sway in the absence of “useful,” and I might add, informed and fact-based “seeds.”

On a par with that evidentiary validation, but much more consequential in its long-term implications, is the request by law students at Columbia, Harvard, and other law schools, to postpone their final exams. They felt they had been “traumatized” due to their protests of the Ferguson and New York grand jury decisions to not charge policemen for perceived wrongful deaths. Would anyone even consider hiring an attorney who felt “traumatized” because they protested too strenuously, and felt themselves to be incapable of taking tests as a result? Aphorisms aplenty seem to apply in such an instance, primary of which is simply to “grow up.”

As we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Great Society “war on poverty,” the nation’s redistribution of over $22 trillion is one of those governmental policies that evokes great emotion yet, as inefficacious as it has been, clearly is bourn of ideological “weeds.” Our poverty rate is about the same today as it was fifty years ago, which means our wealth redistribution has accomplished nothing, and has not addressed the underlying societal issues which are causal to poverty.

Another example is regrettably provided by our president, who, after claiming that all of his policies were on the midterm electoral ballot, was thoroughly trounced as voters rejected his legislative and ideological pawns who supported his policies. Yet, in the aftermath of such a drubbing, became increasingly pertinacious, clinging to his rejected ideology, and claimed to hear what those who didn’t vote had to say. The mainstream media should have had a heyday with such vapidity, yet, as has been their wont over the past six years, gave the president a pass on his vacuity.

Equally vacuous was the president’s reference to the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph in an amnesty speech delivered last month. He may want to break down and actually read the Bible, if he’s going to “quote” from it. Mary and Joseph were not illegal aliens, and, contrary to his other “quote” from the Bible in the same speech, the Good Book says nothing about “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” It’s bad enough when our fellow countrymen fill their ignorant voids with uninformed “weeds,” but when our president does it, and he gets away with it, it does not bode well for our media or our society.

That such ignorance, bourn of ideological “weeds,” can flourish in our “enlightened” culture is indeed discomfiting. It’s enough to make one wonder if “The Walking Dead” TV series is more reflective of our collective consciousness, rather than simply apocalyptic TV fiction.

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