Rein in the EPA – Carefully

We have to protect the environment.  Our lives and the future of the human race depend on it.  No one wants US cities to look like Beijing during high smog events.  No one wants to drink contaminated water or see rivers full of garbage.  The EPA has a valid function so it shouldn’t be abolished.  I think it has gotten “drunk on power” under the previous administration and needs to be reined in somewhat.  It seems to have morphed from basing actions on scientific studies and cost/benefit analyses to basing actions on bureaucratic authority.  That’s often a problem with agencies that can make rules but have no accountability to the voters.  It’s particularly noticeable in that the EPA rushed through some new rules in the last few days of the Obama administration.  Was that really enough time for a thorough analysis?  The EPA’s job is protecting the environment, not bureaucratic jobs.

Rather than delve into the controversial topic of climate change I’ll discuss a local matter that can really hurt taxpayers, and that’s wastewater treatment, a subject that’s very localized.  Suppose a city has wastewater treatment plants that meet current discharge specifications.  A company develops a treatment method that is more efficient, i.e., can better clean the water, and suddenly the city gets a notice from the EPA that they must meet this new “standard” or face ridiculously high fines.  Does the EPA have to provide scientific evidence that this new standard is necessary or are they working to “as low as achievable”?  That’s not science, it’s pandering to industry.

Another issue that involves local water is the EPA effort to exert control over virtually every body of water in the country, including small privately-owned ponds and “ephemeral” water (streams and puddles that only exist seasonally).  This extension of the EPA’s original mandate along with its power to levy fines has made life miserable for some farmers and other landowners.  Unless the landowner is using those small waters to dispose of toxic materials (which is illegal anyway) this is nothing but a bureaucratic power grab.

I’m offering the following suggestions to “bring the EPA down to earth” without destroying the earth:

  1.  Temporarily freeze all regulations that were issued between January 1, 2017 and January 21, 2017 until they are adequately reviewed for necessity.
  2. Establish a “show me the science” policy for cities faced with sudden revisions to local requirements for matters like wastewater treatment that would require costly upgrades to plants that meet current specifications.  Explain to the community why the change is needed in plain English, and allow a reasonable implementation time.
  3. Reexamine the EPA authority to levy very high fines, specifically in cases involving changes to standards that are currently being met (as opposed to willful violators).  This is a power that is subject to abuse and that drains money needed to make the changes.
  4. EPA officials need to understand that with authority comes accountability.  Fire employees involved in the Animas river disaster and bar involved contractors from Federal contracts for 10 years.

Constitutional Rights Amendment Needed

I’d like to propose a preemptive addition to the Constitution that could prevent future erosion of our freedom.  This amendment would prohibit four things from happening to human beings in the future:

Universal marking or tracking of human citizens using implanted devices, mandatory tracking devices on their person or private vehicle,  tattoos,  branding, and/or any other personal marking or tracking technology to be developed would be prohibited.

Universal mandatory video or audio monitoring within private residences would be prohibited.

Embedding or attaching timed or remotely activated devices to humans that are intended to cause pain, suffering, immobilization, or death would be prohibited.

A universal biometric database containing all human citizens’ DNA profiles, fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition, and/or other unique markers later discovered would be prohibited.

This would not prevent maintenance of convicted criminal data by law enforcement, use of externally-worn GPS tracking devices as part of a court-ordered sentence or probation requirement, use of Tasers by police, or DNA databases for military personnel entering combat.  It would simply prevent such technology from being used to infringe on the freedom of the population as a whole.

Note: This is a revision to a previous concept.  I’ve added the word “human” to hedge against advances in technology.  While robots may look human and be given ever more sophisticated programming they will never be “human” and are not entitled to any human rights.

President-Elect Trump

Congratulations to President-elect Donald J. Trump.  His is not just a personal victory; it’s a victory for conservatives who are tired of a socialist agenda, it’s a victory for middle USA voters, and it’s a victory for freedom.  Hillary would have continued President Obama’s assault on the Bill of Rights and Soros’ globalist agenda.  Now we will have a president who will stand up for our sovereignty and put our citizens first.  We will have a president who wants to strengthen our weakened military, modernize our aging infrastructure, revitalize industry, and restore global respect to our nation.

I’ll admit I was skeptical at times, particularly when his poll numbers were climbing and then he’d say something that would rally the liberal media against him, but in the end Hillary’s own dishonesty and corruption defeated her.  After eight years of a liberal politician in the White House it will be good to give a businessman a chance at running the country.

The Electoral College system worked as it should too, giving those middle USA voters a voice that’s long been suppressed by high-population left-wing states.  California “values” aren’t everyone’s values and shouldn’t be forced on everyone.  Anyone who wants to live in California, aka Mexifornia, is free to do so.  Personally I don’t think of Che Guevera or Chairman Mao as heroes nor do I consider the former Soviet Union to be the ideal model for a state.

Those who say that Trump threatens civil rights are ignoring the fact that we have civil rights laws that a president can’t override.  No president can direct that women be paid less than men or that Blacks must sit at the back of the bus.  What he can do is rescind previous executive orders that did override existing laws and tell agencies like Immigration to do their jobs.  He and his Supreme Court appointees can also uphold the Bill of Rights, something that liberals see as an obstacle to their socialist agenda.  Maybe he could even end the leftist indoctrination in public schools that has young children frightened and holding protest signs that they don’t even understand.  Should we be training the next generation to accept serfdom?

Liberalism is socialism and socialism is total control of people and their property.

The China Cartel

Carfentanil is a synthetic opiod that is 10,000 times more powerful than heroin.  It has no legal medical use for humans.  It’s so deadly that a lethal dose can be absorbed through the skin.  It’s so deadly that the government considers it a potential WMD with lethal effects comparable to nerve gas!

Who sells this poison?  China, that’s who.  At this time China hasn’t even made it illegal, and claims that enforcement would be difficult with over 100,000 labs, many of which are illegal.

Who buys this poison?  Drug cartels buy it to mix with heroin to create a more powerful addictive (and deadly) drug, thus “stretching” the heroin supply.  The question is: who else is buying it?  ISIS?  Hamas?  Iran?  North Korea?  Some disgruntled “lone wolf”?

What’s my point?  As I said in “Crouching Tiger”, China is not our friend.  They’re happy to take our money but just as happy to contribute to the decline of the West.

Habitat III – The New Urban Agenda

This month (October 2016), the UN is holding the third of it’s global conferences on cities; previous ones were held in 1976 and 1996.  The objective is to bring together government officials, industry leaders, planners, and environmental experts to discuss the future of cities around the world.  The State Department is representing the US government.  Increasing populations will have a major effect on urban environments and demands for services during the 21st century.  I’m all for sharing ideas, identifying best practices, and making the world better; however since the UN has become the global advocate for socialism we conservatives have to look at it with a bit of skepticism.  If you haven’t read their draft document it’s available on the Habitat III website.

Like UN Agenda 21 the draft has some lofty goals.  They’d like cities to be clean, safe, sustainable, and provide opportunities for all (nothing wrong with that).  They’d like to eliminate poverty, hunger, violence, inequality, discrimination, environmental degradation, and a list of diseases.

Like UN Agenda 21 the draft has the usual list of hypocritical goals.  The UN wants equality and equal opportunity for girls and women, and an end to discrimination.  We’re trying in the West, but no Muslim country will ever grant equality to women, who are often treated as less than human.  Countries that stone rape victims for adultery and hang men for being gay don’t see equality as a virtue.  The UN wants justice.  Tell that to countries that still torture, flog, and mutilate criminals.  The UN wants participatory government.  Tell that to communist countries like China where speaking out might get you 12 years hard labor.  The authors of this document are fully aware of these harsh and unchanging realities in totalitarian and theocratic states.

Unlike UN Agenda 21 there’s no obvious explicit demand for billions of dollars to be redistributed from developed nations to the third world but it is implicit.  Countries that can’t even end their own internal conflicts aren’t going to generate the cash to build clean water systems, productive farms, modern infrastructure, and the host of services needed in a city.

Their draft items often begin with “We will …” so let’s use that to draw our “line in the sand”.

We will listen, share, and learn.  We can combine past experiences with new knowledge to build better cities in the future.

We will work with the teams to identify best practices as well as chronic problem areas.

We will use new developments and best practices for our cities that will work within our legal, financial, and cultural environment.

We will work to protect our environment within current practical technology and will continue research on new technologies.

We will help other nations reach their objectives within financial reason and as long as the safety of US aid workers can be assured.

We will NOT implement any objectives that would deprive US citizens of their constitutional rights within our borders.  For example, if their “eliminate all forms of violence” means gun confiscation, that’s unconstitutional here.  There’s a fundamental reality that there will always be bad people who want to hurt good people and that self-defense is a fundamental human right.

We will NOT allow foreign troops operating under the UN flag to conduct any operations against US citizens within our borders.  The UN is an organization, not a legitimate state, so It’s military powers are limited, or at least should be.

None of this advocates isolationism, aggression, or abandoning our allies; it’s simply sovereignty.  Borders matter, and yes, I want secure borders.  A nation without borders will either descend into chaos or tyranny.

 

The USA can work with the world without surrendering to it.

Where’s the North Pole?

M1: “Ummm… where’s the North Pole?”

M2: “I dunno… up north I guess.”

M1: “where’s north?”

M2: “I dunno… but someone does… check Wiki.”

 

Would anyone like to draw a cartoon to go with that hypothetical exchange?  It might be funny if it didn’t reflect a truth.

A recent survey by a fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH regarding attitudes towards climate change and science itself revealed that less than one in five Americans know that thousands of their fellow citizens live and work above the Arctic Circle (where’s Alaska?) and that less than half know where the North and South Poles are located.  Although this survey was looking at the attitudes of  different political supporters, it, along with previous studies regarding educational attainment and international testing, deliver a scathing indictment of the public school system.  The most expensive public school system in the world isn’t educating its students for that real world!  If people don’t know where Alaska or the Poles are, it’s not because of their political views, it’s because they never learned geography (even of their own nation).  If people don’t know how our government is supposed to work it’s because they never learned civics.  If, as business leaders have said, young employees can’t write a coherent sentence, it’s because they never learned English grammar.  Likewise for science, mathematics, history, and any other subject.

Sadly, liberals who demand “one-size-fits-all” Common Core schools while ignoring successful alternatives like charter and magnet schools, are putting politics ahead of the children.  If they think  that kids need to spend more time “feeling good”, or feeling guilty for the actions of people 200 years ago, or questioning their gender, they’re only contributing to the decline in learning.  Indoctrination isn’t education.

The first step in reversing this downward trend is accountability.  Start by ending tenure, a luxury that other professions don’t enjoy.  Taxpayers need to be asking what they’re paying for, e.g.,  will a shiny new school building really mean a better education or is it just a better resume for the mayor?  Parents need to demand accountability, but so do teachers.  It’s up to the parents to see that homework is done, to attend scheduled meetings, and to teach their children respect for others.  The more we expect the schools to do the jobs of parents the less time the schools will have to do their own job: educating.

The second step is to get Federal government control out of education.  Over fifty years of “Fed Ed” and a trillion dollars later we haven’t gained that much.  Return control of the schools to the states, hand them a copy of my “Mission Statement for Schools”, and tell them to shape up.  If the parents care and the states want to compete economically and attract business, they’ll deliver.

The third step is to “put America first” so that business can thrive.  Make sure that trade agreements guarantee fair trade, not just “free trade”.  Put citizens first by limiting immigration to what the economy can absorb without reducing wages or seeing US workers replaced by H1B visa holders.  Reform our tax code and stop rewarding companies that move operations overseas.  We don’t have to be isolationist, just sovereign.  The future of our nation depends on it.

Disabled Lives Matter

Black Americans often say that young black men must be warned about how do deal with police and other authorities, i.e., very carefully.  Evidently disabled people and their caretakers need the same type of warning as we see more violence against the disabled by authorities who are supposed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.

A few months ago a disabled teenage girl suffering from brain cancer was beaten until bloody by TSA agents.  She became confused when an alarm went off so they immediately threw her to the floor and arrested her.  TSA agents have also been accused of hassling a 9-year old boy who has a pacemaker after undergoing multiple surgeries for heart defects.  Unfortunately TSA agents are Federal employees so they enjoy substantial protection against being fired for using excessive force.

Recently an unarmed deaf man was shot and killed by a state police officer who pursued him for a traffic violation.  The victim didn’t respond to the officer’s commands because he couldn’t hear them, but the officer must have thought that sign language posed a lethal threat.  There have been no protests, no demonstrations, and little media coverage because this situation doesn’t fit the mold that the liberal media wants to publicize: the officer was black and the victim was white.  If the races were reversed so would be the media coverage.  There would also be protests and maybe even a remark from the President.  This sure looks like a use of excessive force (or is it a hate crime?).  If the victim was unarmed but the officer felt threatened, a Taser would have subdued him.  Will the officer be charged or will filing charges against a black officer be called racism?

We hear how police officers around the country are being trained to be sensitive to Islam so they don’t “offend” anyone.  Instead of indoctrinating officers in the latest manifestation of political correctness they should be teaching them the difference between sign language and Kung Fu fighting.  An unarmed young father didn’t deserve to die for a traffic ticket.

Any police officer who can’t recognize a deaf person doesn’t belong in uniform. File charges or admit that disabled lives don’t matter in the USA.

Update:  From New Hampshire comes a news story that proves that it was not necessary for a cop to shoot an unarmed deaf man.  A distraught man who wanted to commit “suicide by cop” approached officers with razor blades.  The officers had the unquestionable authority to shoot an armed assailant, but instead they Tased him.  No officers were harmed and hopefully the suicidal man will get mental health treatment.  So, why did a black cop shoot an unarmed deaf man?  Maybe he hates disabled people.  Maybe he was exacting revenge for the shooting of black motorists by white cops.  Maybe he was just having a bad day.  Regardless, he murdered an unarmed man over a traffic stop.  In the interest of justice for a family that lost their father charges should be filed, and the shooting investigated as a hate crime.

Christmas Update:  Officers in California destroyed a family’s Christmas joy by killing an unarmed 73-year old grandfather who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  They were primed to shoot by a false report that he was armed.  Of course there were no body cameras, no dash camera, just the word of the cops against a dead grandfather.  Sue the city and the person who lied (that person didn’t recognize their own neighbor so how could they recognize a gun in the dark?).

2017 Update:  Tragically another deaf man was gunned down by cops. He was returning home from a walk.  Unfortunately he routinely carried a walking stick.  When he “refused” to drop this “weapon” (because he couldn’t hear the order) he was murdered. Now if he had been carrying a shotgun the use of deadly force would have been justified, but wouldn’t a Taser have protected the officers from the perceived threat of a stick? Why has deadly force become the standard police response to any “threat” rather than the last resort it used to be? Is the USA becoming a police state?
In 2017 we even saw an unarmed woman shot and killed while trying to report a suspected crime to the police. Of course the shooting officer ( who broke every procedural rule and endangered his partner by firing across his body) is a Black Muslim from the anarchical nation of Somalia, so he’s in a “protected class” and will probably not face any charges for an action that would land any civilian (or white police officer) in prison for a long time. Our ultra-liberal media was as quiet as possible about this shooting, even though it would have advocated days of rage if the races had been reversed.  Political correctness always trumps justice in the USA today.

The Iceberg

Thanks to technological advances like radar and satellite tracking, icebergs aren’t the bane of shipping that they once were, but we can still learn something from them.  Most of the mass of an iceberg is under water, which is why people refer to the “tip” of an iceberg.  Well, the national debt is like an iceberg in some ways.

We see a number, right now over 19 trillion dollars.  That number is so large that nothing in our everyday experience helps us to comprehend it.  It’s almost doubled in less than eight years under the progressive Obama administration and there’s no reason to think that Democrats would curb that growth.  That’s an annual increase of around 9%.  Are your CDs paying that?

What we don’t see is what lurks beneath that number; the impact on our economy and national security.  Like any other debt, the national debt isn’t free; the government must pay interest on that debt to the bondholders.  Interest rates have been at record lows for years but they won’t stay there forever.  As interest rates rise the government will have to pay higher interest on new debt as it’s issued.  This is one part of the debt iceberg we don’t see.  Debt interest is paid from tax revenues, so as the debt rises the government will either have less money to spend on national defense, social programs, and environmental protection or it will have to raise taxes.  A second part of the debt iceberg that’s largely hidden is that the debt eventually has to be repaid as the bonds mature.  This is a huge and growing mortgage on future generations.  Of course that debt can always be refinanced at a higher interest rate but we all know where that leads: bankruptcy.  The third, and least conspicuous hidden part of the debt iceberg is that trillions of dollars in US debt are held by foreign countries.  That gives these countries leverage to demand special treatment and even an economic weapon to use against us in case of a conflict.

Here’s something to think about.  The national debt is now over 105% of the US GDP.  That’s right, it’s higher than the total annual output of our nation.  Anyone who thinks this can go on forever must believe that money grows on trees.

Here’s what we need to bring this situation under control before the iceberg of debt sinks the ship of state:

  1. Responsible elected officials who recognize the problem and are actually willing to do something about it.  This means keeping spending within revenues and actively reducing outstanding debt.
  2. A plan to reduce the outstanding debt.  If we ever get real tax reform (not just more pages of rules) this should be part of it.  For example, under a flat tax we could have Flat+1, where the flat portion covered expenses, 1/2 of the extra 1% goes to debt reduction, and the other 1/2 of the extra 1% goes to upgrading our infrastructure (see “Infrastructure: Circulatory System of a Nation” for more on this issue).
  3. Limits on both the total amount of debt that can be held by foreign countries and the portion of that amount that can be held by any one country.  See “The More You Owe Me the More I Own You” for further discussion of limits on foreign debt.

 

Retroactive Laws: A New Assault on Private Property

A retroactive law is a law that criminalizes a past action that wasn’t a crime at the time.  Known as “ex post facto” laws, they are strictly and unambiguously prohibited by Article I, Section 9 (for Congress) and Section 10 (for states) of our Constitution.  They can be used to punish a person and/or to seize their property which is why such laws are banned.  Progressives, however, see the Constitution as an obstacle to their agenda.  I’ll look at one example of how they’re being used and then discuss the very slippery slope of ex post facto laws.

The state of California has passed some restrictive new gun laws.  One bans the manufacture and sale of high capacity magazines; the other (SB1446) prohibits possession of such magazines (hence requires confiscation) that were legally purchased in the past.  The constitutionality of the first law may be under debate everywhere but the second one is clearly unconstitutional.  It’s a retroactive ban, therefore it’s a ex post facto law.  Those who don’t submit to a mandatory “buyback” will be criminalized for what was a legal activity at the time of purchase.  The term “buyback” itself is a misnomer.  The government can’t buy back something it never owned.  If the government asserts ownership of all private property it’s a communist government.  Unless the government is paying full retail value for confiscated items it’s also theft.  Obviously confiscation of items obtained illegally or used for criminal purposes is a different matter that doesn’t involve ex post facto laws.

OK, you don’t care about the Second Amendment, but let’s look at just how slippery a slope ex post facto laws against private property could become.

The EPA has issued increasingly strict tailpipe emission and gas mileage requirements for cars and other light vehicles.  Tier I took affect in 1994, Tier 2 in 2004, and the Obama administration has approved even stricter mileage requirements in the future.  The standards that took effect in 1994 and 2004 effectively banned the future sale of new vehicles that didn’t meet those standards but they didn’t ban the ownership of older vehicles.  Suppose, however, that our progressive government, influenced by the socialist UN, decided to confiscate all vehicles that didn’t meet Tier 2 standards?  Of course they’d pay owners some token sum for surrendering their means of transportation but it would impose the greatest hardship on those who could least afford it.  Do they care?  NO!  Most politicians are rich.  As  I said once before, rich elitists will always live above the messes they cause for the masses.

You don’t think this could happen?  Don’t make me say “I told you so” again!  Over a year ago I predicted that we might someday see an environmental impact tax on meat.  Now the UN is actively recommending such a tax and Denmark is considering one.  Socialists are as relentless as ISIS when it comes to imposing their will on everyone.

The concept that private property that is obtained legally and not used for criminal purposes belongs to individuals, not the government, is fundamental to our freedom and our entire way of life.  Don’t let socialists incrementally deprive us of that freedom.

Cancer Moonshot or Drunken Birds?

President Obama has said he would like to see a “moonshot” effort to cure cancer.  Remember that he’s also said “put America first” and “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”.

So, if we need serious medical research on cancer, why is the government squandering our tax dollars on research grants that have no apparent value to relieving human suffering or protecting the environment?  The NIH gave 5 million dollars to study if birds slurred their songs when drunk; the NSF awarded 3.9 million to study sexy goldfish; and, the worst, the NIH gave 3.5 million dollars to China to study why people see the face of Jesus in toast!  Why are we giving millions of dollars to Communist China?  If we’re going to squander money at least keep it in our economy.  As I’ve said before, China is NOT our friend.

While on the subject of cancer, lung cancer is the number 1 cancer killer, yet lung cancer research is vastly under funded compared with other common cancers.  There are no high profile fund raising events, free screenings, or commercials advocating for lung cancer victims.  While survival rates for breast, colon, and skin cancers have improved significantly in the past 40 years the survival rate for lung cancer has barely moved.  There’s an unholy reason for that.  Lung cancer is associated with smoking (although its also caused by radon gas and pollution), so years ago the nation decided that smokers were morally weak and therefore “deserved” what they got.  That attitude is similar to the one which we saw during the early years of the AIDS epidemic when gays were considered morally weak and deserved what they got.  Political activism changed that situation but there’s no activism for lung cancer victims.  Now that addiction is considered a medical problem rather than a moral weakness there’s no excuse to keep lung cancer research at a low priority.  Many consider nicotine to be more addictive than heroin.  The fact that we squander millions of dollars on goofy grants shows just how dysfunctional our government has become.  Agencies that can’t assign sensible priorities to research are assuming that tax dollars are unlimited.  They need a lesson, starting with a few firings.

Hats off to medical research though.  They may not be able to help lung cancer victims but they can grow longer eyelashes (wink, wink).