Wednesday, August 31, 2011

House Bill Proposes Defunding the U.N. Gradually

The sooner the better.

From Investor's Business Daily:

Politics: The United Nations has long been a font of waste, corruption, fraud and anti-Americanism. Always in need of "reform," it's never happened. But a House bill may change that, and it can't pass soon enough. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced a 153-page bill Tuesday to gradually defund the U.N. until it lives up to its goals and accounts for its actions. Seems the fat checks coming in from U.S. taxpayers have given the U.N. the idea it can be as anti-American as its dollars allow, especially with the "leading from behind" crowd in the White House going along. Ros-Lehtinen's proposal has teeth and deserves to be passed. H.R. 2829 will make U.S. funding "voluntary" rather than based on what the U.N. itself "assesses." Passage means the U.N. won't be able to spit in the face of its largest donor without consequences. That's fair to taxpayers, of course, and U.N. bureaucrats will scream. It's about time they did. The U.N.'s latest stunt is to make Palestine a state and voting member without requiring it to admit Israel's right to exist. That proposal, coming up in the fall, stands to upset the balance of power in the Middle East, bankroll terror, put U.N. muscle behind a new rogue state and isolate Israel.
Read the rest at IBD.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Washington Examiner: Economy is Drowning Under Regulatory Flood

Under the title "Obama's regulatory flood is drowning economic growth" the Washington Examiner has an editorial explaining why businesses are reluctant to do anything: thousands of new regulations in the works including EPA initiatives destructive to the tune of $90bln.
One doesn't have to look far for an explanation of why the economy grew at an anemic 1 percent rate during the last quarter.

Businesses large and small face more uncertainty today about the federal regulatory environment than at any point since the New Deal radically increased the role of the government in the nation's economy. Thanks to Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, plus President Obama's decision to use bureaucratic regulation to start major initiatives like cap and trade that Congress refused to pass, the federal bureaucracy has been drafting new regulations at an unprecedented pace. Seeing this tsunami of red tape flooding out of Washington, company owners and executives wisely opt to delay new hires and investments until they have a clearer idea how much their already huge compliance costs will increase and how the markets will be warped by changes mandated by the bureaucrats.

As House Speaker John Boehner noted earlier this week in a blog post, "a simple scan of the Obama administration's current regulatory agenda indicates that the administration currently has 4,257 new regulatory actions in the works, of which at least 219 will have an economic impact of $100 million or more. That is an increase of nearly 15 percent over last year, when a similar search showed 191 new economically significant regulatory actions by the administration to be in the works." Even before those 4,257 new regulations go into effect, the Federal Register shows more than 81,000 pages of regulations, which result in compliance costs in excess of $1.7 trillion, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute's "Ten Thousand Commandments: How much regulation is enough" report for 2010.

Regulation Watch - 08-29-2011

This might be my last regulation watch for a while. Its been informative for me and hopefully for you. Rather than try to summarize all the happenings each week, I'll probably just highlight particular events in individual posts. For those who want to continue monitoring the regulatory bodies, I recommend Investor's Business Daily's opinion pages for most news and the for NLRB news. 

  • CEO explains how Obama is killing the economy.
  • Obama's idea of regulatory relief? Giving you two more years to comply with the existing regulations. Besides being ridiculously beside the point, isn't he piling up all his awful policies to take effect in the first year of his second term?
  • Nearly all regulations survive Obama 'reforms'
  • Think the government handled the financial crisis badly? Just wait, because health care is next.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

Good Calories, Bad Calories is about science, history and politics. It is a book that explores the conventional wisdom concerning the so-called diseases of civilization: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity. It explores and debunks the conventional wisdom that heart disease is caused by fat consumption and then thoroughly describes and supports a long-standing alternative hypothesis, that the diseases of civilization are caused by refined carbohydrates (flour, sugar, white rice, etc.). As such it is loosely connected with the Atkins and Paleo diets, but is not a diet book. The only diets mentioned are those in the numerous studies he describes.

The first half of the book focuses on heart disease, its supposed causes, the government agencies and institutions pushing the fat/cholesterol hypothesis, and the problems with that hypothesis. Turns out there's very little connection between eating fat and high cholesterol, and a tenuous connection between high cholesterol and heart disease. Why then would the government and academics have been pushing this for so many decades?  Because the views of an aggressive academic, Ancel Keys, who had been crusading against fat for a good while, with poor scientific support, was picked up and made official government policy in 1977.
It's possible to point to a single day when the controversy was shifted irrevocably in favor of Keys's hypothesis--Friday, January 14, 1977, when Senator George McGovern announced the publication of the first Dietary Goals for the United States. The document was "the first comprehensive statement by any branch of the Federal Government on risk factors in the American diet," said McGovern. [Today that would be reason enough to dismiss it. Not so then.]

This was the first time that any government institution (as opposed to private groups like the AHA) had told Americans they could improve their health by eating less fat. In so doing, Dietary Goals sparked a chain reaction of dietary advice from government agencies and the press that reverberates still, and the document itself became gospel. It is hard to overstate its impact. Dietary Goals took a grab bag of ambiguous studies and speculation, acknowledged that the claims were scientifically contentious, and then officially bestowed on one interpretation the aura of established fact.

One reporter suggested that the reason for the pamphlet was that the committee, which included such figures as McGovern, Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole and Hubert Humphrey, was facing a downgrade to a subcommittee and needed to prove its usefulness. The consequence? First the national media, then the academic institutions got behind the committee recommendations and dietary fat was under assault for the next 30 years. And according to the rest of Taubes' book, the resulting reduction in dietary fat has lead to a dramatic increase in dietary carbohydrates and all the diseases (and more) that were intended to be reduced by the recommendation in the first place.

Its worth pointing out that Keys used that scare tactic so common among environmentalists today: the data is inconclusive, but we have to act now to save lives.

Taubes is a science journalist and states in the book that it wouldn't have been possible without the internet. He used the internet to help him cover a vast amount of english and foreign literature, to track down and interview scientists and politicians, in brief to survey the entire literature of diet and disease from the first fad diet in the mid-19th century to the present. The literature covers hundreds of studies as well as numerous descriptions of cultural differences in diet and their consequences for disease.

Taubes' positive contention is that consuming carbohydrates leads to insulin production. Insulin signals cells to convert circulating sugars to fat. If you're not ingesting sufficient calories to feed your cells as well as accumulate that fat, then you starve your cells (even while accumulating fat) and become hungry. Chronically high carb consumption and insulin levels can then lead to obesity (even in the face of vigorous attempts to diet and excercise), insulin resistance (type II diabetes), feeds nascent cancer growths, and perhaps causes some other ailments due to glycation (Alzheimers, aging, cataracts, loss of skin suppleness).

It wasn't until I read  The Logical Leap by David Harriman that I realized what I liked so much about Taubes' book: he attempts to survey the entire field of nutrition and integrate it all in support of a single hypothesis. (The same process Harriman describes of Newton and other scientific greats.) Respectful of his reader, Taubes often indicates the epistemological status of various contentions, i.e. what's certain, what's probable, what's possible. Of the carbohydrate hypothesis he indicates that it is probable, but still requires rigorously controlled human studies. Hopefully this will happen soon, and if it does it'll be thanks to Taubes. (See this recent study on low-carb diets and cancer.)

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in diet, disastrous government campaigns, science or anyone who has struggled with weight problems or just wants to eat healthier.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Regulation Watch - 08-22-2011

  • Obama dismisses farmer's concerns about regulations: 'don't always believe what you hear'.
  • Woohoo. Obama announces new rural economic plan during midwest bus tour.
  • Upgrading America. 'Liberals try to blame every economic woe on “market failures,” but where is this free market exactly? From top to bottom, there’s not one inch of our economy on which the government does not exert some control.'
  • Parallels between Obama and FDR grow.
  • Regulatory sector booming under Obama.
  • ATF promotes three key supervisors of gun running operation that put guns in drug cartel hands.
  • ATF implementing multiple gun sales regulations despite sham gun running controversy, caused by itself.
  • Nice title: "The Edge of Reason", U2's The Edge steps into the irrational world of the California Coastal Commission jurisdiction as he tries to build a complex of homes in Malibu. An excellent piece on the insanity that is the CCC.
  • Mike Ward: redistricting panel broke law.
  • I'm pro-immigration, but simply refusing to implement immigration laws administratively is not the way to govern a republic.
  • Administration favors "restructuring Fannie and Freddie as public utilities overseen by a government regulator."
  • Just in time for the bus tour, administration retreats on requiring commercial drivers licenses for farmers.
  • NLRB exists because workers would supposedly 'have a gun to their head' in negotiations with a company that could legally fire them, and yet its the unions that are the perpetrators of actual violence, like shooting non-union bosses.
  • More on union violence from IBD.
  • Burying evidence of its incompetence. SEC files were illegally destroyed, lawyer says.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dead End of the Amorphous Public Good

I have discussed previously the irrationality of the altruist/collectivist morality. It is an arbitrary morality that contradicts reality and defies definition or implementation. There's no reason on earth a living being should sacrifice its life. Nor can sacrifice be a standard for action since that would ultimately mean sacrifice of life itself (i.e. death). Attempting to substitute collectivist notions like the 'good of society' in order to shore up the irrational altruist morality doesn't help. The 'good of society' is just as arbitrary and just as immeasurable.

Since the 'good of society' can't be defined, measured or justified, its advocates assume a moral blank check to declare whatever they feel is good as the 'good of society'. What the apostles of the public good feel is good ranges from the relatively benign (e.g. full employment) to the horrific (e.g. mass extermination of whole classes, races or political enemies). Once you grant that 'society' is something separate and above a collection of individuals, once you divorce morality from the lives of individuals, then you can claim anything of that mystical 'society'. And so you arrive at the absurdity of Socialists, Communists, Fascists, Environmentalists, and Theocrats claiming that policies that hurt every actual individual are somehow beneficial to the 'public good'.

ATF victim Terry Nichols' family ran smack into this absurdity last week. Terry Nichols was the Border Patrol agent who was killed by an AK-47 funneled into the hands of Mexican drug cartels by the Obama administration-sanctioned Fast and Furious gun running program. Nichols' family has requested recognition as crime victims by the court trying the straw buyer. From Fox News:
Terry Nichols
However in this case, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke argues because the family was not "directly or proximately harmed" by the illegal purchase of the murder weapon, it does not meet the definition of "crime victim" in the Avila case. Burke claims the victim of the Avila's gun purchases, "is not any particular person, but society in general."
Think about that a bit. A U.S. Attorney argues that a routine request by a victim's family should be rejected because the actual victim is "not any particular person, but society in general." He doesn't say that Terry Nichols was the only victim, or that other future victims of crimes committed with the buyers weapons will be victims, he says that no particular person was the victim. 'Society in general' was the victim. This is the dead end of the collectivist morality, within which a dead individual is not a victim, nor is a family with a murdered member. Collectivism recognizes no individuals, even if they're lying bloody in the street. According to collectivism and the apostles of the public good, only 'society' apart from any actual individuals has moral or legal status.

Next time you see 'society' or 'the public' used in some argument, think about Terry Nichols and his family. Think about the fact that a dead and buried Border Patrol agent and his grieving family don't count as 'society', that no individual counts as 'society'. Think of the blank check you grant those that wish to enslave you by accepting that they can do anything in the name of 'society' and your piddling individual life, or death, doesn't matter.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Regulation Watch - 08-15-2011

  •  Stopping Obama's recess appointments in regulatory agencies. Video:
  • "Some Democrats believe the way to improve our economy is to borrow and spend another trillion stimulus dollars, while some Republicans believe the answer is reducing taxes. On the contrary, the real problem with our sagging economy comes from the oppressive regulations that are continuing to pile up from both the federal government and state governments."
  • Obama's bid to regulate itself out of recession.
  • To rule means to reign. The administration proposed 229 new rules in July and finalized another 379. Economic damage estimated at $9.5 billion.

  • Disturbing hints about forcing existing homeowners to retrofit for energy efficiency.
  • Anonymous tip leads to confiscation of experts' rabbit farm w/o warrant.
  • Denver media outlets fail to cover multitude of juicy stories behind rabbit farm raid.
  • EPA and administration committed to Agenda 21 cap & trade future. 'The Obama administration has again reminded Washington that if Congress won’t legislate, the EPA will regulate.  Those who have spent years stalling need to understand: killing a Senate bill is no longer success.   And if Congress won’t legislate a solution, the EPA will regulate one' John Kerry (D-MA). Can you say 'unconstitutional'? If congress won't legislate, then it should not be law.
  • EPA threatens to close down more Texas coal electricity plants in midst of record heat wave and electricity usage.
  • Fed's rate timing is politically curious. Trying to help Obama's re-election by keeping interest rates at zero until 2013? "The Fed has been implicated as a leading cause in the last five recessions. It either keeps interest rates too low for too long, setting off inflation and creating market bubbles, or it pushes rates too high, too fast, causing markets, asset prices and the economy to stumble."
  • Excellent talk by Lee Hieb, MD of AAPS on government regulation of medicine. Video: 
  • 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rules Obamacare individual mandate unconstitutional. Surpreme Court next stop.
  • Appeals court uses language from Institute for Justice in striking down Obamacare.
  • White House responds to Appeals judgement that Obamacare individual mandate is unconstitutional. "when people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, those with insurance and taxpayers are often left to pick up the tab" 
  • Gov't considers turning foreclosures into rentals. Since the gov't guarantees most mortgages, doesn't this mean we'll all eventually be renting from the gov't? Soviet Moscow anyone?
  • Fannie, Freddie and abject failure.
  • Freddie Mac asks for another $1.5 billion in aid.
  • Federal judge throws out Obama administration rules that sought to slow down environmental review of oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
  • Michelle Malkin on same case. Lots of links to Salazar's past evil.
Ratings Cartel
  • A propos of the S&P downgrade. "But these agencies are themselves the creatures of government and of the regulatory state. They were the answer to the problems that regulators previously promised to fix. In order to ensure the solvency of the banks, regulators issued rules about what kind of risks banks could take. But those rules required someone to rate the risk levels of various investments, a job that was outsourced to the ratings agencies."
U.S. Postal Service
  • Postal Service tears up collective bargaining and drops its health care and retirement programs.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Regulation Watch - 08-08-2011

The big news this last week was the deal establishment Republican's struck a deal with the Democrats and Obama. In it they agreed to raise the debt ceiling by about a trillion over the next year and pretended to cut spending by the same amount over ten years. In addition, the 'cuts' aren't cuts, i.e. less spending relative to last year, they are only less compared to the increases they'd planned. Those are the savings you get when you go on a shopping spree, but only buy items on sale. Those aren't the kind of savings you can put in the bank or use to pay off bills.

The debt compromise also creates what's being called a 'super senate' that will have the power to write legislation and submit it for votes in the House and Senate without amendment in the House and without the possibility of filibuster in the Senate. As with all the regulatory agencies monitored here, we have yet another unaccountable and probably unconstitutional body writing our laws, a non-Congress doing the job of Congress. I suspect the super senate was the real reason for the compromise and is a sort of answer to the tea party by the establishment, 'you're not welcome.' It will be populated by the staunchest statists among the Democrats and the most compromising, pragmatist Republicans. Video of Judge Napolitano discussing here:

  • Government creates logo for 'Department of Innovation', depicts machine that can't work.
  • Mark Steyn on the debt deal. '"Cutting federal spending by $900 billion over 10 years" is Washington-speak for increasing federal spending by $7 trillion over 10 years. And, as Washington had originally planned to increase it by $8 trillion, that counts as a cut. If they'd planned to increase it by $20 trillion and then settled for merely $15 trillion, they could have saved five trillion.'
  • S&P downgrades the U.S. to AA+ in response to non-cuts in debt deal. Probably related to last week's news that the ratings cartel might be dethroned and a new federal ratings agency created.
  • More new warnings about the 'Secret Patriot Act'. When will congress re-assert its power to balance the president?
  • Cruel Laws by Walter Williams.
  • Tales of petty tyranny.
  • Case against Oak Park front yard garden dropped after public outcry.

  • Wayne Iverson, M.D., hosts new documentary "Sick and Sicker" in Poway, August 24th. Also considering congressional run in newly created district.
  • Democratic congressman passes bill mandataing fitted sheets in hotels. Ok this isn't a regulation created by an unaccountable agency, but still...
  • State plans to end regulation of funeral homes. Head of examining board warns of loss of credibility.
  • Ted Nuggent blasts the NEA. "Instead of using their bully pulpit to demand educational upgrades across the board, the NEA works hard to ensure that teachers get tenure, more sick days, pensions supported by taxpayers and more and more benefits. The NEA couldn’t give a damn about children, and the test scores prove it. Shame on the NEA."
  • Wonderful. Obama's proposed federal emissions standards are as bad as California's, CARB might not need a second set of regulations.
  • EPA regulations close 10 coal plants in Michigan.
  • FCC meddling with cable provider contracts, tells them they can't drop networks during contract disputes. Sounds a lot like the anti-retaliation B.S. in union contract disputes.
  • Peter Schiff podcast interview of Jack Bolinsky on how the FDA bans safe and cheap drugs so that you can buy unsafe, expensive drugs instead. Progesterone is the story this time. Buy a topical cream for tens of dollars a month, or government approved medicine for thousands. Audio:
  • Federal agents arrest Rawesome foods owner, being held on $123,000 bail. His crime? Producing milk without a license.
  • Melatonin Brownies known as "Lazy Larries" are unsafe according to FDA. No known victims.
  • FDA seeks public comment on food-safety fees it'll charge large food producers so that it can drive out of business smaller producers.
New York
  • UN's Small Arms Treaty and efforts to control guns in what should be sovereign nations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Regulation Watch - 08-01-2011

  • Obama: It's tempting to bypass congress and change the rules on my own. Hold on, isn't he doing that everyday through the regulatory agencies?
  • Over $28b in new major regulations since Obama took office.
  • Time for the government to get out of the business of regulating marriage.
  • Obama plans to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within 25 years, will destroy freight traffic to do it. Is he following the plot of Atlas Shrugged on purpose?
  • President of Columbia University calls for nationalized news service along the lines of the BBC World Service, China's Xunhua and Al-Jazeera.
  • Cigarette Tax funded terrorism in a strange way.
  • Superior Court finds California Coastal Commission violated the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution by demanding that the Sterlings record an open space deed restriction on their property as a condition for getting a permit to build their family home.
  • CARB fines Texas company $52,000 for not testing trucks on time. Definitely not retaliation for all the California jobs that are moving to Texas.
  • Re: public education advocates sending their kids to private schools, "What would you think of a chef who wouldn't eat at his own restaurant?"
  • Surprise. Atlanta cheating scandal doesn't make it onto the agenda of the NEA convention.
  • EPA pretends current air standards aren't 'legally defensible', but misses own deadline to impose stricter standards. I remind you of two things from previous posts. The EPA funds the very groups that sue it to enforce or tighten regulations. The FDA is removing the last over-the-counter asthma inhaler because of CFC restrictions. Conclusion? The EPA could care less about legality or human health, they just want to kill industry.
  • Scientist who claimed global warming was drowning polar bears is under investigation. Another case of environmentalist 'science' unravelling.
  • After listening to two hours of people trashing companies and blaming them for everything, entrepreneur decides not to open coal mine. A mind on strike, refusing to accept guild for being productive?
  • 'I'm just quitting': A scene right out of 'Atlas Shrugged' in Birmhingham.
  • Obama's fuel economy standards threaten the economy.
  • D.C.'s deadly fixation on auto fuel economy mandates.
  • Virginia Republican advocates states issuing or recognizing gold and silver money.
  • Obama's General Motors about to again handsomely reward unions at our expense? 
Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Surprise. Destroying logging in the northwest didn't save the spotted owl. Planning to now kill barred owls, one of the spotted owls competitors (besides humans!).
  • "The real news about Medicare should be the Gang of 15, namely the IPAB or Independent Payment Advisory Board. It is charged with putting a lid on Medicare spending, with no judicial or congressional oversight. The only tool it is allowed to use is to not pay for services, or to pay far below cost...But the government prefers to emphasize the AWV or annual wellness visit. You get a "free" visit to the doctor, or rather "health care provider," and that’s somehow supposed to keep you well. At least it will keep sick people out of the doctor’s office, which will be jammed with people having AWVs, for which the doctor gets paid better."
  • Medicine experiencing what every heavily regulated industry has: the burden of regulations is better born by larger institutions (economies of scale and all that). Private practice shrinking, doctors fleeing to hospitals.
  • Assistant secretary at the Department of Labor resigned after an internal investigation found he improperly steered federal contracts to friends and former colleagues.
  • Soros moves to avoid Dodd-Frank.
  • Good PJTV commentary on George Soros' avoidance of Dodd-Frank regulations by kicking out $1b from his fund.
  • This one deserves a close read and some thought. SEC approves plan to remove legal requirements to use rating agency cartel from various rulebooks. The ratings agency cartel has performed abysmally and deserves to be dethroned. But the SEC is proposing to replace the cartel with a federal ratings agency! The Office of Credit Ratings. Laughable. Keep in mind that the various ratings agencies have been threatening to recognize the poor credit risk of the U.S. Perhaps it was time to delegitimize them so that the new federal ratings agency can step in and declare U.S. bonds AAA+++.
  • Good discussion of the ratings agency cartel and their uselessness, starting at 2:00.
  • SEC adopts large trader reporting system, bringing government and financial institutions even closer. Nothing bad could come of that.
  • Montana plans to fight regulations that treat farmers as commercial truck drivers. "Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., wrote FMCSA Director Anne Ferro, telling her that it's senseless to require farmers to carry a commercial driver's license, submit health records and log miles — things currently required of professional truck drivers."
  • Omaha's Livability plan has two prongs, increasing traffic delays and increasing driving costs. Seriously.