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19 Apr 13:54

You Ought to Have a Look: Paris Climate Agreement

by Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger, Patrick J. Michaels

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

With Earth Day and the grand signing ceremony for the Paris Climate Agreement just around the corner, we thought it apt to highlight some relevant stories from around the web, particularly those critical of the central climate control enterprise.

Recall that we have pointed out the Paris Climate Agreement represents little more than a business-as-usual approach that has been spun to suggest that it represents a collective, international effort in response to a climate change “concern.” Increasing opportunities for riding your bike (etc.) now have been rebranded as efforts to save the world. Right.

We’ve shown that the U.S. pledge under the Paris “Don’t Call It a Treaty” Agreement, while a bit more aggressive than many, turns out to basically be impossible. Putting our name on such pledge seems a bit disingenuous, to put it mildly.

On top of all this comes a new economic analysis from the Heritage Foundation that basically shows that the U.S. intension under the Agreement would be mucho bad news. Here are the Key Points from the report “Consequences of Paris Protocol: Devastating Economic Costs, Essentially Zero Environmental Benefits”:


The justifications for all these findings are described in detail in the full report.

Clearly, considering all the negatives stacked up against the U.S.’s commitment under the Paris Agreement, it’s hard to find any justification for signing it that is built upon anything but false premises.

Next up is a notable article (h/t Judy Curry) called “Twilight of the Climate Change Movement” authored by Mario Loyola, Senior Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, that appears in The American Interest. Loyola points out that despite the “fanfare” surrounding the Paris Agreement, “the climate change movement faces big trouble ahead.”  Loyola explains:

Its principal propositions contain two major fallacies that can only become more glaring with time. First, in stark contrast to popular belief and to the public statements of government officials and many scientists, the science on which the dire predictions of manmade climate change is based is nowhere near the level of understanding or certainty that popular discourse commonly ascribes to it. Second, and relatedly, the movement’s embrace of an absolute form of the precautionary principle distorts rational cost-benefit analysis, or throws it out the window altogether.

Lots of good information in this article, including a review of the uncertainties in the science of climate change and how those uncertainties are downplayed, or swept away, in the pursuit of an anti-industrialist agenda—be sure to check out the whole thing.

Extending a look at the dangers of an anti-industrialist agenda, Cato Adjunct Scholar Alex Epstein gave a dazzling performance in presenting testimony before the April 13th hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee “Examining the Role of Environmental Policies on Access to Energy and Economic Opportunity.” Alex laid out why restricting energy choice—which is the main premise of centralized efforts to mitigate climate change—is a really bad idea:

The energy industry is the industry that powers every other industry. To the extent energy is affordable, plentiful, and reliable, human beings thrive. To the extent energy is unaffordable, scarce, or unreliable, human beings suffer. 

His written testimony is available here.

But we’d be remiss if we left you only with that.

The real fireworks were in his oral testimony and included a tussle with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a call for an apology or resignation from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and telling the committee that most of them would probably not be alive today without cheap, plentiful, reliable energy. The highlights are available here. It is most enjoyable!

And finally, last, but certainly not least, is the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass’s excellent piece in the current issue of National Affairs, titled “The New Central Planners.” The piece critically examines the administrative state’s seemingly unquenchable desire to fix market “failures”—a conceit that is perhaps nowhere more on display than in the climate change issue. Here’s a taste:

By asserting that their frameworks, tools, and data prove government action will enhance market efficiency, economists are engaging in a new form of central planning. It differs in degree from traditional command-and-control socialism, but not in kind. It is less absolute — the market economy provides a baseline until an intervention occurs. It is less totalitarian — plans are executed through rules and incentives that alter the behavior of market actors instead of through the direct assignment of resources. But it is rooted in the same conceit that technical expertise can outperform market forces and deserves deference where applied. It suffers from the same challenges of incomplete information, heterogeneous preferences, and subjective values. It relies on the same refusal to acknowledge the inherent tradeoffs that underlie the allocation of scarce resources. And, as a result, it also reduces democratic accountability, economic efficiency, and total welfare.

The alternative to technocratic planning is not post-modern, nihilistic resignation to the impossibility of evaluating policy. It is an administrative state designed around a recognition that market signals and political preferences provide a better guide than can bureaucratic analysis, that those signals and preferences vary locally, and that optimization requires constant recalibration. Many current efforts at regulatory reform focus on increasing the influence of cost-benefit analysis, but in fact we need to reduce it. Management within the executive, delegation from the legislature, and oversight by the judiciary should all assume that technocratic expertise lies only in designing the specific rules to implement when there is a political demand for intervention, not in determining when such interventions are appropriate.

Oren’s article is so chock-full of good stuff that it’s really hard to decide what to excerpt, so be sure to take the time and read his entire essay. We’ll sure that it’ll be time well spent. The same is true for all of the above articles. You really ought to have a look!

11 Mar 16:00

It’s in the “Want,” Not Just the “Will”

by Guest

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2It was Fall 2013, and I was just finishing up my annual physical checkup. This year was no different: hearing from the doctor about how my bloodwork numbers were incredibly bad and how I needed to explore some other options in my diet (and needed more exercise). I was also informed my weight was at 332 lbs, the heaviest I had ever weighed in my life. When it was time for me to leave the doctor’s office, I even received a gift, considering my numbers were on the edge of me becoming diabetic: I got to take home a blood glucose monitor, just to kind of keep an eye on things. That little device would never come out of the box.

In the meantime, I would go on with my daily routine. Waking up in the morning, after not getting enough rest, dreading getting out of bed and walking on my sore knees and painful plantar fasciitis feet as I got ready for my workday. I just so happened to work at a grocery store, so anything I wanted food wise was available to me on an almost daily basis, and I was sure to take advantage of that. Fresh bakery donuts in the morning, whole frozen pizzas or frozen dinners, conveniently prepared in the break-room microwave for lunch, and pick me up snacks in the afternoon, all right there. I needed those things, because, dang, I was hungry and I was working hard, right?

Sure, I was overweight, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t ever tried not to be. As far as I can remember, I had always been considered overweight. A few years before reaching my heaviest, I had a couple hernia surgeries and each time was reminded that I was “morbidly” obese. At one of these consultations, the idea of bariatric surgery was even pitched to me. So around that time I took interest in some diets, with none of them really staying with me or making me feel like I wasn’t depraving myself of something. I did lose 20 lbs at one point, proving that I could at least lose weight, but it ferociously came back to me with additional weight added on. But in the Spring of 2014, I noticed someone who had lost a decent amount of weight and was determined to find out how they did it. I found out that I needed to look up Mark’s Daily Apple.

Wheels were about to be set in motion, or should I say, I was about to be set in motion on. I really like information and MDA seemed like it had much to offer. So I poured over the website quite a bit, and on July 1, 2014, decided I would give some of the principles a shot. I set what I felt were small, realistic goals, and decided to pursue them. The grocery store wasn’t all bad after all as it’s not a sedentary job, and it did allow me to lift heavy things now and again. There were also a lot of opportunities for me to look at labels and see just what I had been putting into my body, and it alarmed me. I started eating different, kept a watchful eye on my carb intake, and didn’t feel it was unbearable. I never knew I liked almonds so much, or that I could crave a good salad over a bunch of potato chips any day, and heck, grass fed beef tasted so much better than any beef I had eaten in the past.


After a few months the weight was steadily coming off. I decided I would start taking walks outside every now and then. I was enjoying being outside and getting some fresh air and sunlight. However, I knew cold weather season was on the horizon, so, I needed to get indoors, but somehow keep up my activity. So, I joined a gym and just started strolling on the treadmill for awhile. Eventually I decided I wanted to try to speed it up and try the running thing, and decided I wanted to get some sort of weightlifting in as well. The weight continued to come off in a steady manner and I wasn’t starving.


That brings me to where I am now on this journey. I sit here today weighing 178 lbs, having run one 10k and two 5k’s with very reasonable results (2nd in my age group in one!). There will be more runs in my future. But, most importantly, the Primal lifestyle will continue into my future. I no longer have to get out of bed in the morning with my foot or knees hurting. I’ve been to the doctor recently for another one of those annual physicals, and my numbers have taken a complete turnaround, with nowhere close to the word “diabetes” being brought up. Having just turned the age of 40, I think I may be in the best shape I have been in my life.

FEB16My story reads pretty clear and smooth, but, I will be the first to say it necessarily wasn’t, I just didn’t allow myself to give up. I had the foggy low carb flu in the beginning. I had some bumps in the road, but, you just get back to it and tomorrow is a new start. I still have some cravings and I still eat some bad things (80/20 rule, thank you!). You just have to be mindful of yourself and let your body reset, I think that is what has been most impactful to me. When I eat something out of the guidelines now, I can definitely feel how it alters the way I feel, giving me insight into whether I actually want to eat that option in the future. There really is so much more to The Primal Blueprint than the weight loss, I just can’t begin to write it all here and that is why I believe it works for me.

I have always been a little reluctant to write my “Success Story” because, what you have read here are just “chapters.” My story is not done, I can confidently say that with the lifestyle The Primal Blueprint has given me. Along my journey I have heard things such as “Determination” and “Willpower” and it brought to mind to me one day early on in the process, that it was “WANTpower.” So, I extend to you the questions, how bad do you “want” to lose weight, have a better understanding of your body, or even just simply feel better? You can do it, it can be done and with the help of MDA, I became proof!


Tadd Davis

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11 Mar 15:35

$50 Million Renewable Energy Scam

by Eric Worrall
Guest essay by Eric Worrall A Pennsylvania newspaper has reported details of a $50 million alleged renewable energy scam. More shocking is how easy it was, to allegedly defraud government subsidies. An Easton engineer has admitted he rubber-stamped false reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the owners of two Lehigh Valley biofuel companies…
08 Mar 12:23

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


… is from page 123 of Daniel Griswold’s excellent 2009 book, Mad About Trade:

For a nation, free trade is like fresh air and exercise.  It can be uncomfortable at first as the body adjusts to the new regime.  We breathe hard, we sweat, and our muscles ache.  But soon our aerobic capacity expands, and we discover that we can run faster and farther, we can lift more weight, and we can more quickly shake off the ups and downs of life.  In contrast, protectionism is like lounging on the couch, watching reruns, and eating Cheetos in a stale room with the windows shuttered.  It may feel comforting in the short run, but it leads to flabbiness, fatigue, and decline for the protected parts of the body.

DJBx: And I add: decline, therefore, for the entire body – not to mention stupidity.

17 Feb 17:16

How not to measure temperature (or climate change) #96

by Anthony Watts
From the “global warming data looks better with heat-sinks and air conditioners” department. Dr. Mark Albright, of the University of Washington writes: Here is a great example of how NOT to measure the climate! On our way back to Tucson from Phoenix on Monday we stopped by to see the Picacho 8 SE coop site…
22 Jan 03:29

Pennsylvania Man Slammed to Ground by Cop for Singing Forced to Accept Plea Deal

by Severin Johnson

H/t Remlaps

Over the summer we reported on a story out of Allentown Pennsylvania, involving James Ochse, who is better known as the Allentown singing man in an ultra viral video where he slammed to the ground by a cop.

In the video, Allentown police officer Randy Busch can be seen approaching the singing man. After a few words are exchanged, Ochse is clearly seen turning away to leave but Busch was not having it and decided to slam this small, 90 pound, 63-year-old man face-first on the ground, leaving Ochse screaming in pain.

While tears ran down his face, he is hauled off on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. For singing. Yes, singing. And only singing.

In fact, any claims of him disturbing others and being a nuisance were quickly put to sleep when it was realized that the people were filming him out of enjoyment and even cheered him on during his chorus.

Officer Randy Busch, not realizing he was on camera, submits a police report alleging that Ochse poked him in the chest and was loud and obnoxious. When the video surfaced a day later, it generated nearly a million views overnight, many coming from other countries.

Nobody was in favor with what they saw with many commenters demanding justice. Well “Justice” has finally been served.

James Ochse saw his day in court yesterday morning and upon his so called attorney’s advice, took a plea deal.

Lehigh Valley Live reports:

“On Wednesday, prosecutors withdrew three of the cases and changed some of the remaining charges for a plea deal. Ochse pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and two counts of disorderly conduct, and was sentenced to one year of probation.”

“The interests of the commonwealth and the interests of the client are not so far apart,” Holihan said of the deal. “The police don’t want to deal with Jim, Jim doesn’t want to deal with the police.”

I would like to show you all how they managed to do this. After the obvious assault had taken place, the police managed to arrest Ochse two more times before his trial.

They piled on charges and added the cherry on top that James is on probation for breaking into his old house and hanging there for a few days while his ex was out of town. (Hardend criminal right?)

Lets break down his other arrest too. Ochse was crossing the street with a cane and was nearly hit by an unlicensed, and texting driver.

One would think that Ochse was the victim here but no. Leave it to police to arrest someone for getting too angry when nearly being killed. James hit the car with his cane and was yelling at the driver so therefore, he is a dangerous criminal, right?

The third arrest was for singing. Yes, again. Ochse, aside from being a great singer, is also a brave man. He continued to walk up and down town singing despite his cane and severe injuries. In doing so, the storm troopers of the Allentown Police department were angered and rearrested him. For singing. Again.

The state is even calling Ochse a mental health case. Blasting his medical history all over the media following the guilty plea. The man has served his country in a number of scary places.

He has had it rough but hes a great kind man. It makes me beyond angry to see them do this to him. The guy has some depression issues like many in this country. But he’s not the dangerous nut job they want us to believe he is.

I’ll let you be the judge since I was fortunate enough to sit down with him to talk. Watch the video below.

Seems pretty dangerous, huh? This is how they do it. Spelled out and watched by all of the world. They make the victim the criminal. They use the media to spin their story and the lawyers wrap it all up in a nice little bow.

Wait! That’s not all everyone! We cant forget about the cop that was seen doing something wrong. Remember the one that started this whole chain of events?

Officer Randy Busch never lost a day of work. He was never sanctioned, demoted , docked or even reprimanded. How could he be? All the attention was on the victim right away as a possible criminal. See how they did that? Pretty cool huh?

Video below is Ochse and myself addressing the Allentown City Council after the assault. Not quite the man he’s portrayed to be, is he? Remember this could be any of us. They don’t care about us or justice.

I was able to reach Ochse for a comment and he stated, “It was just a bunch of charges. Too many to fight. I’m innocent but it would not have mattered.”

Ochse also stated that his civil case is still being fought and his attorney in that case is confident his plea will not affect a judgement.

The post Pennsylvania Man Slammed to Ground by Cop for Singing Forced to Accept Plea Deal appeared first on PINAC News.

01 Dec 14:53

A Story about My Mom, Haiti, and Irresistible Math

by Pat

Pat will double your donation and then Heifer International will double that amount. A good day to donate if Heifer International is a charity you are considering supporting.

As I write this blog, Worldbuilders has raised nearly $516,000.

That was going to be my big announcement today, that we broke half a million dollars.

But it turns out I actually have a much bigger piece of news to share.

Today, Heifer International is running a special event in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. For one day, all donations made to Heifer will be matched and put toward their work in Haiti.

There’s two reasons that this is a big deal for me.

The first reason has to do with my mom. I don’t talk about her a lot on the blog, though I think of her constantly.

Marge and Patrick at Beach 1-1

(Here she is. With her little boy, long ago.)

You see, years and years ago, my mom went to Haiti.

It’s a long story, but the nutshell version is that she moved down to Haiti for two weeks to help run an orphanage in Port au Prince. This orphanage took care of babies that people abandoned at hospitals, usually because the babies were really sick, or they had permanently debilitating medical conditions. The parents left the children because they were desperately poor, and had no way to pay for their care.

Marge 1 068 (2) - Copy

But the hospitals couldn’t afford to care for the kids, either. Because the government in Haiti doesn’t pay for that. And the orphanage wasn’t in the nice part of town, so the government wasn’t giving them any money either. As a result, this wasn’t one of those posh orphanages like in Annie. They didn’t have beds for the kids, for one thing. But that doesn’t even begin to paint the picture for you. Huge swaths of Port au Prince don’t have any infrastructure at all, so the orphanage didn’t have luxuries like, say, running water.

Imagine that. Imagine taking care of these poor disabled babies and not having any running water. And I don’t mean that they couldn’t take showers regularly. I mean nothing came out of the faucets. They got water out of a cistern that was open to the air. They hoped for rain to re-fill it, and they had to boil every drop they drank and cooked with.

As a result, my mom came back from Haiti with a parasitic infection that took her years of serious medicine to get rid of.

She also came back with stories.

Marge in Haiti

I could tell you a lot of stories about the time my mother spent there. But the truth is, if you’ve read my books, you already know some of them. When she was there, my mom met an old barefoot man who took care of orphan boys with physical and developmental problems. A lot of times the boys were dangerous to themselves or others.

I saw a picture of him once. My mom said he was barefoot all the time, and she suspected he might have been a Trappist monk at some point in his life.

Sound familiar?

The stories my mom brought back from Haiti gave me my first glimmering realization that not everyone’s life was like mine. Not everyone could microwave a burrito when they got hungry. Not everyone had clean water to drink. There was an entirely different world out there where people were so poor, they had to abandon their babies if they were born sick.

So. That’s the first part of the reason I’m excited about Heifer matching donations today and all the proceeds are going to projects in Haiti. Because the roots of Worldbuilders go all the way back to my mom’s experiences there. The stories she told me.

The second reason I’m excited is when we caught wind of Heifer’s event last night, we gave them a call and did our very best fast-talking. And because Heifer is full of cool people, they’ve agreed to let our fundraiser take part in their event.

This means, that for the entire day, every dollar you donate on the Worldbuilders team page will be matched. (And you’ll be entered in our prize lottery.)

This is great news for us. Huge news. And I can’t thank Heifer enough for being willing to work with us on such short notice to make this happen.

But even so, something hasn’t been sitting right with me. I’ve been up all night rolling this around in my head. I’ve been looking through old pictures and thinking about my mom.

Marge 1 001 (3) - Copy

If my mom was still around, she would be moving heaven and earth today for this fundraiser. She’s be baking cookies and making quilts and talking to people at church. She would be filming goofy stretch goals and helping us package up orders in Tinker’s Packs.

And she’d do more than that. She’d put her money where her mouth was.

But here’s the thing. At the start of this year’s fundraiser, I’d decided that I wasn’t going to donate any more money to Worldbuilders. I’d talked myself out of it. I’d already given a bunch of money to charity this year, (Syrian Refugees, First Book, etc.) I’d done my part. I was going to be done.

And besides, I’ve kinda been saving up to build a house out in the country.

And besides, I already give a bunch of my time and energy to the fundraiser, right?

And then I think about my mom. And I think about kids in Haiti.

So here’s what we’re going to do.

If you donate to Worldbuilders today. I’m going to match your donation. Then we’re going to take ALL that money to Heifer and they’ll match both of us. So if you chip in today, your donation will be doubled, then doubled again.

I’ll match up to 100,000 dollars. I’ll let you do the math on that.

Come on, folks. Let’s be awesome together.

Here’s your link.

[Edit: Hey guys, Amanda here! I'll be in the comments answering questions all day, and we've had a fair number come in already, but you can always email us at questions [@] as well]

16 Oct 16:00

Wolf Claims More Student Hostages

by Commonwealth Foundation

Earlier this week, The Neighborhood Academy, a private school in Pittsburgh, held a rally in the state Capitol to highlight Gov. Wolf’s withholding tax credits for student scholarships.

Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program (EITC), along with the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), lets businesses contribute funds for scholarships so  thousands of low-income students across Pennsylvania can attend private school.

For students, this is a lifeline to better or safer schools. For schools like The Neighborhood Academy serving high poverty areas, the scholarships are essential to survival.  

Dennis Owens at ABC 27 has the story.

The Wolf administration justifies withholding tax credits by claiming its “hands are tied” due to the budget impasse.

But this makes little sense. The EITC and OSTC are not appropriations that are part of the budget.

Instead, they’re part of Pennsylvania’s tax code. This code is in effect despite the budget impasse. After all, everyone reading this is still paying taxes.

Wolf insists he “won’t cave” in his pursuit of the white whale of higher taxes. In his own words, “I want to keep the pressure up”.

Unfortunately, holding school children hostage has become part of that "pressure."

19 Sep 22:30

svartvitkatt: The kakapo, New Zealand’s flightless parrot...


The kakapo, New Zealand’s flightless parrot (x)

I’ll take a dozen.

15 Sep 00:46

La Heroicas ratas detectaminas africanas.

La Heroicas ratas detectaminas africanas.

02 Sep 11:45

Are You Crazy or is it Just Your Microbiota?

by Kevin Cann

Written by: Kevin Cann

For the millions of people in the world that suffer from mental illness, just snapping out of their negative moods is not an option. You may ask someone why they feel angry or sad all of the time, and they just can’t give you an explanation. They might say something like “I do not know why I feel like this, but I just do.” For those of us that do not suffer from mental illness this may be very difficult to comprehend. However, for those that are suffering, they may not truly know what is bothering them, and there is a reason for this.

We have ten times more bacteria in our bodies than we have human cells. Each one of us is an individual planet that gives refuge to hundreds of trillions of different bacteria. These bacteria actually influence the person that we are, and much like no individual is the same, no individual has the exact same bacterial makeup. These bacteria can actually influence our behavior, and an argument could be formed that they make us who we are.

These bacteria release chemicals into our bloodstream that can cross the blood brain barrier and actually influence our mood and behavior. They release some of the same chemicals used by our neurons. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters, and some examples of them are serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

The most popular group of prescription anti-depressants are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). They increase the amount of serotonin around the neuron, and in return our depression and anxiety should diminish. The problem with prescription drugs is over time they lead to desensitization of the receptor cells so more is needed until the system becomes overworked and the medications no longer produce the desirable outcome. This is why medications for mood disorders are constantly being increased and changed.

If mood disorders are a decrease, or loss of balance with these neurotransmitters, and our gut bacteria produce these chemicals, then perhaps the next question should be “is there an imbalance in gut bacteria leading to the imbalance in neurotransmitters?”

This is a question that Dr. Emeran Mayer of the University of California. Los Angeles asked. He and his team looked at MRI scans and microbiota makeup of thousands of volunteers. What they found was nothing short of remarkable. They found that the connections of brain regions differed depending on the makeup of the gut bacteria (1).

This research does not show definitively that our gut bacteria is the cause for mental illness. However, there have been some promising studies performed on mice. One study in particular, researchers fed one group of mice broth that was fortified with lactobacillus rhamnosus, and one group of mice broth without any of the bacteria.

The researchers continued this feeding for approximately a month, and then tested the mice for signs of anxiety and depression. This is done by timing how long it takes the mice to enter unexplored areas of a maze. They also measured mRNA gene expression associated with anxiety and depression and stress levels in the mice. The mice fed the broth with the bacteria showed less anxiety and depression signs than the control group (2).

Now mice are not humans. Humans have a much more complex environment that can influence their emotions in a number of ways. However, many people report an increase in mood and energy when they take up a paleo diet (along with a number of other positive health issues). Perhaps a reason for this has to do with the influence the paleo diet has on our gut flora.

Our gut microbiome has evolved with us from the beginning. Breads, pastas, and other processed foods are a relatively new piece to our diet. Our gut bacteria require fruits, vegetables, and meats to flourish. They actually feed off of the fiber that we do not digest. If we have a diet that is high in processed foods and lower in fruits and vegetables, this can cause an unwanted shift in our gut flora that can lead to negative mood, lower energy, and even obesity.

The answer to having a better mood may not require a prescription (unless prescriptions of probiotics become available). In some cases, like that of major depressive disorder, medication may be a requirement to feel better. Options should always be discussed with a doctor first. However, cleaning up the diet and taking a probiotic does not come with negative consequences. The only consequences of a eating more fruits, vegetables, and meats is feeling better.

01 Sep 12:01

Union Scheme to Prevent Teachers from Leaving: Make Process Confusing, Set One-Month Time Limit

by Robby Soave

Are you a Michigan public teacher who wants to leave your union? Sorry, you’re too late.

Michigan is a Right-to-Work state, and teachers have the right to opt-out of their union—but only if they do so during the month of August, and only if they manage to find the top secret post office box that accepts union resignations, according to the Michigan Education Association.

It’s a straightforward conflict: employees in Michigan won the legal right to leave their collective bargaining arrangements in 2012, but public employee unions—including the MEA, which represent teachers—want to keep as many dues-paying members in their clutches as possible. To that end, the MEA has mandated that teachers must declare their intention to opt-out during the month of August.

But that’s not all. The MEA also requires members to send their union resignations to an obscure P.O. Box, rather than MEA headquarters. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports:

In an apparent effort to make it even more difficult or even stop school employees from exercising their right under right-to-work to not pay union dues or fees, the state’s largest teachers union has quietly set up an obscure post office box address to which members must send the required opt-out paperwork. It's P.O. Box 51 East Lansing, MI 48826.

Based on a letter the Michigan Education Association sent to members who had tried to get out, and discussions with some of them, resignation requests sent to the regular union headquarters address will not be honored.

An extensive search of the union's websites found references to the post office box address on just one page of MEA's main website, and on one affiliate union’s website. There is no record of this post office box address existing before this month. In the past, union members who wanted to opt out just had to send notification to the address of the MEA's headquarters in East Lansing.

When asked for comment by Mackinac reporter Tom Gantert, MEA declined to provide a rationale for its actions. It’s hard not to see the new P.O. Box as a thinly-veiled attempt to make the opt-out process so cumbersome that members exceed the one-month time limit.

But there’s some good news for teachers who missed the deadline: in June, an administrative law judge ruled that employees have the legal right to opt-out at any time, and the Michigan Employment Relations Commission is inclined to support that decision.

01 Sep 12:35

4 Reasons This Article About E-Cigarettes Is Bad

by Jacob Sullum

Michael Siegel highlights an egregiously misleading Inquisitr piece about electronic cigarettes that parrots the talking points of anti-smoking activists and public health officials who irrationally view these products with fear and loathing. Dieter Holger's public disservice article nicely illustrates the evasions, rhetorical tricks, and outright lies frequently employed by e-cigarette alarmists.

Start with the title: "7 Reasons E-Cigarettes Are Bad." Compared to what? Since the relevant comparison is conventional cigarettes, which are indisputably much more dangerous, the title is an empty distraction. Holger continues to dodge the central issue in his introduction:

Are e-cigarettes really any better than smoking a cigarette? Here are seven reasons e-cigarettes pose dangers to our health.

Holger is determined not to answer the question he poses, so he follows it with a non sequitur. Even if "e-cigarettes pose dangers to our health," of course, that does not mean they are just as hazardous as conventional cigarettes. In fact, as Public Health England (PHE) emphasizes in a recent report, they are something like 95 percent safer.

Holger avers that "e-cigarettes contain plenty of cancerous chemicals" and "their fair share of toxic chemicals," statements that are utterly uninformative in this context. How much, after all, is "plenty" or "their fair share"? As the PHE report notes, "most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and the chemicals which are present pose limited danger" because they are typically present at very low levels.

Later Holger concedes that "e-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic materials as cigarettes (like tar)." There is no might about it, since e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco or anything else. For the same reason, Holger is clearly wrong when he states that "e-cigarettes might create the equivalent of secondhand smoke."

Similarly, citing evidence of short-term changes in airway resistance during vaping, Holger warns that "e-cigarettes have negative effects on lungs." But as Siegel notes, these effects are far less serious than the respiratory damage caused by smoking, and smokers who switch to vaping "experience an immediate improvement in their respiratory symptoms and lung function." 

Holger asserts that "e-cigarettes are just as addictive as smoking tobacco," based purely on the observation that they contain nicotine. But as Siegel notes, research indicates that vapers score lower than smokers on measures of dependence, possibly because e-cigarettes do not deliver nicotine as efficiently as the conventional kind. More to the point, addiction to cigarettes is a concern mainly because of the harm it causes, and vaping causes much less harm.

Like CDC Director Tom Frieden, Holger warns that "e-cigarettes could be a gateway into tobacco products for youth." As the PHE report points out, it's not clear what that means. But assuming it means vaping leads to smoking among people who otherwise never would have tried tobacco, there is no evidence it is happening. To the contrary, smoking among teenagers continues to fall as vaping rises, as Holger implicitly concedes in the very same paragraph.

Like Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, Holger claims "e-cigarettes won't help you quit." How can he possibly know that? Thousands of former smokers say otherwise, and the scientific evidence reviewed by PHE indicates that e-cigarettes "can help people to quit smoking and reduce their cigarette consumption."

If you follow Holger's model, you too can produce brazenly uninformative articles about e-cigarettes. Just remember to 1) implicitly equate e-cigarettes with conventional cigarettes, 2) avoid any clear discussion of relative hazards, 3) deny the existence of former smokers who used e-cigarettes to quit, and 4) mention children, preferably early and often.

01 Sep 16:27

Life Without Parole for a First-Time, Nonviolent Drug Offender

by Nick Gillespie

Over at Red State, Leon H. Wolf introduces us to the heartbreaking case of Sharanda Jones, who is cooling her heels in a federal prison until she dies there.

In 1999, Jones was 

convicted of a single, non-violent drug offense involving crack cocaine. This conviction stemmed from her first ever arrest, and she was not even caught with crack in her possession....

Sharanda was convicted based on the testimony of two government informants who themselves were facing draconian drug sentences. The thrust of their testimony was that they had, over the course of several years, received several shipments of crack cocaine from Sharanda, who according to their understanding had brought the cocaine up from Houston to Terrell (northeast Dallas metro area) for them. There was no allegation that Sharanda had ever committed a violent act, and she was not ever caught with any amount of crack in her possession. By the uncontested testimony at trial, Sharanda did not supply the crack herself or distribute it, but rather acted as a conduit to transfer it from Houston to Terrell.

Sharanda was initially charged with seven criminal counts, and pled not guilty to all seven.

Read the whole thing here and I suspect you'll agree with Wolf's headline plea: "President Obama, Commute Sharanda Jones' Sentence."

Earlier this summer, The Washington Post wrote about Jones. In 2014, the paper noted, Attorney General Eric Holder began granting clemency to non-violent drug offenders who had been model prisoners. There are about 100,000 federal prisoners in on drug charges, "among them thousands of nonviolent offenders sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Most are poor, and four in five are African American or Hispanic."

Jones applied under that program, reported the Post.

It has been a halting process, however. Only 89 prisoners of the more than 35,000 who have filed applications have been freed. They include 46 inmates who were granted clemency on Monday by Obama.

Jones wasn’t among them.

Red State's Wolf concludes

Until a day comes where one [there is] a more politically palatable solution, all Sharanda Jones can do is pray that someday, someone in a position of authority will determine that she has been punished enough, and that she should be given the second chance that we all deep down believe that we deserve for our mistakes.

Jones' case—and all the others like, especially in these early days of the end of the war on pot and, one assumes eventually, the end of the war on drugs—should haunt us all.

Your kids and your grandkids will one day ask, What did you do during the drug war? I hope that we will all be able to answer in a way that makes our descendants proud—and more free.

Hat Tip: Popehat.

02 Sep 00:41

Georgia Cops Shoot Resident, Kill His Dog After Responding to Wrong Home During 911 Call

by Ed Krayewski

Three officers in DeKalb County, Georgia, were responding to a 911 call about a possible burglar outside the last house on Boulderwoods Drive in Atlanta but entered the second house on the street, because, police say, it "matched the physical description of the house." They entered through a rear door they said was unlocked and ran into Chris McKinley, who had been watching a movie with his wife and 1-year-old child before entering another room with his dog. The cops shot McKinley, wounding him, and shot and killed his dog.

What's more, after using potentially deadly force, the police officers did not secure the crime scene they had created. McKinley stumbled outside, and ran into a neighbor who gave him first aid. She says McKinley kept repeating "Why did they shoot me? Why did they kill my dog?"

Police insist they're taking responsibility. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

"Are we perfect?" DeKalb director of public safety Cedric Alexander said. "Absolutely not. But when we find a mistake, we own it. We own the fact that we were at the wrong house. We didn't hide it. We didn't mismanage it. We were at the wrong location based on information that was given to us."

Pro-tip for Alexander: if you're blaming your mistake on what someone else told you, you can't say you're "owning" it. In fact, you're kind of disowning it.

The incident is at least the fourth questionable police shooting in DeKalb County in the last two years. None appeared to result in termination of employment for any police officer.

Alexander wasn't done with the excuses either. More:

Alexander defended officers in DeKalb and throughout the country, saying they "have a tough job."

"In light of everything going on in the country right now, anytime officers have to respond to a call, they're checking and double checking themselves," he said Tuesday. "A lot of the criticisms and mockeries they've sustained across the country and even locally is just unfair."

Perhaps the police officers who shot McKinley and killed his dog after entering the wrong home in response to a possible burglary called should've triple checked. Or, you know, just stopped for a second and thought about what they were doing. But if they're unlikely to face any consequences for their actions, legally, professionally, or otherwise, what incentive would they have to do it?

Police officers have been complaining recently that the national attention paid to police brutality and misconduct has made their job harder. The coverage isn't going anywhere, so perhaps police officers interested in improving their image should take a harder stance against police officers who make mistakes that end with innocent people seriously injured and, in other cases, killed.

h/t Matt W.

02 Sep 04:01

Denver's Unconstitutional Harassment of Jury Nullification Activists

by Jacob Sullum

This Saturday is Jury Rights Day, which commemorates the 1670 acquittal of Quaker leader William Penn by English jurors who refused to convict him even though he had clearly violated a ban on dissenting religious assemblies. Denver is celebrating the occasion by harassing activists who seek to inform the public about the principle embodied in Penn's acquittal: the right of jurors to reject the enforcement of unjust laws, a.k.a. jury nullification.

After two local activists, Mark Iannicelli and Eric Brandt, distributed jury nullification pamphlets outside the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver on July 27, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey charged each of them with seven counts of jury tampering, a felony punishable by one to three years in prison. The seven counts were based on pamphlets received by seven jury pool members.

The statute cited by Morrissey makes it a crime to "communicate with a juror" outside of a judicial proceeding "with intent to influence [the] juror's vote, opinion, decision, or other action in a case." But neither Iannicelli nor Brandt is accused of trying to affect the outcome of any particular case. They were merely distributing general information about jury rights.

Denver conceded such activity is constitutionally protected after David Lane, the attorney who represents Iannicelli and Brandt, filed a First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of two other activists and the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA). The city stipulated that "Plaintiffs who wish to engage in peacefully passing out jury nullification literature to passersby on the [courthouse] Plaza are entitled to do so."

Denver promised it "will not arrest or otherwise charge Plaintiffs for handing out literature regarding jury nullification so long as Plaintiffs do not violate Colorado law or Denver's Revised Municipal Code." The city added that "Plaintiffs' proposed intent of peacefully handing out jury nullification literature to or discussing jury nullification with passersby at the Plaza, without more, does not violate Colorado law."

Does that mean Morrissey plans to drop the jury tampering charges against Iannicelli and Brandt? Not according to Lynn Kimbrough, Morrissey's public information officer. "Their charges still stand," she says. "They weren't arrested for passing out literature. They certainly have a free speech right to do that."

Rather, says Kimbrough, they were arrested on suspicion of jury tampering. When I ask her to explain the difference between what Denver deems a crime and what it recognizes as constitutionally protected activity, she says she can't comment on the details of a pending criminal case. It seems activists who don't want to get arrested will just have to guess where the line is.

The speech-chilling uncertainty was compounded by an incident that happened last week, the day after U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez issued an injunction protecting FIJA pamphleteers. Police descended upon Eric Verlo and Janet Matzen, the two activists who had sought the injunction, as they and several associates were passing out FIJA literature at the courthouse.

According to a motion filed by Lane, who asked Martinez to hold Denver Police Chief Robert C. White in contempt of court, the cops seized "all literature regarding jury nullification including about 1,000 pamphlets, a small shade shelter, a table, four chairs, buckets, a cooler, signs and other items." He adds that the officers even "attempted to take personal property such as purses, computers, backpacks and other items" from the activists, but "the pamphleteers resisted the attempts by the police to steal their personal property."

The city says the seized items constituted illegal "encumbrances of the right-of-way" under Denver's municipal code. Although the code does not define that term, a photo Lane submitted along with his motion shows Verlo et al. were not obstructing traffic into or out of the courthouse.

"The only plausible explanation for this is that the police were acting in retaliation for the exercise of the free speech rights of the pamphleteers," Lane writes. It seems Denver is willing to tolerate jury nullification activists in theory but not in practice.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

31 Aug 14:54

Quotation of the day from 1910 on the ‘utterly fallacious principle’ of government price-fixing…..

by Mark Perry

…. is from Frederic Jesup Stimson‘s 1910 book “Popular Law-Making: A Study of the Origin, History, and Present Tendencies of Law-Making By Statute” (emphasis added):

And now we find the first statutory origin of that utterly fallacious principle — although alive today — that the state, in a free country, a legislature-governed country, has the right, when expedient, to fix the price of anything, wages or other commodities; fallacious, I say, except possibly as to the charges of corporations, which are given special privileges by the government; the principle, which .prevailed throughout the Middle Ages, of fixing the prices of all things. In this case the price was on bread; but you find now for many centuries an attempt to fix the price of almost everything; and of labor, too, what wages a man should be paid. It lasted persistently for centuries and centuries, and it was only under the influence of modem political economy, Adam Smith and other quite modem writers, that the principle that it was possible to fix prices of commodities was utterly eradicated from the English mind.

And you hardly got it out of England before it reappeared in the United States. It is not a new-fangled principle. You find the newspapers commonly talk about fixing prices by law as if it were something utterly unheard of and utterly new. It is not so. It is on the contrary as old as almost any legislation we have, and you can make no argument against it on that ground. It has always been the custom of our ancestors to regulate the prices of wages by law, and the notion that it was either unconstitutional or inexpedient dates from a very few years back; yet all such attempts at legislation have utterly disappeared from any modem statute book. In no State of our forty-six States is any one so unintelligent, even in introducing bills in the legislature, as today to propose that the price of a ton of coal or a loaf of bread shall be so much.

This is the importance of these early laws, even when obsolete; because we never know when some agitator may not pop up with some new proposal — something he thinks new — which he thinks, if adopted, will revolutionize society. If you can show him that his new discovery is not only not new, but was tried, and tried in vain, during two or three centuries in the life of our own ancestors, until an enraged public abolished it, it will destroy any effect that he is likely to make upon the average legislature.

MP: Alas, the appeal of “utterly fallacious principles” (government price-fixing, e.g. minimum wage laws), “free lunches” and “getting something for nothing” never dies and we never seem to learn from history….

HT: Jeff Brown

The post Quotation of the day from 1910 on the ‘utterly fallacious principle’ of government price-fixing….. appeared first on AEI.

31 Aug 18:12

China Rocked By Another Massive Chemical Explosion, People's Daily Reports

by Tyler Durden

Bizarre. Coincidence or destruction of evidence?

Seriously, what the f##k is going on over there?


This is the second explosion in Shandong, which both follow the huge and deadly explosion in Tianjin.

We'll await the details which we imagine will suggest that, as was the case in Tianjin, many more tonnes of something terribly toxic were stored than is allowed under China's regulatory regime which apparently only applies to those who are not somehow connected to the Politburo.

After the last Shandong explosion, The People's Daily reported that the plant contained adiponitrile, which the CDC says can cause "irritation eyes, skin, respiratory system; headache, dizziness, lassitude (weakness, exhaustion), confusion, convulsions; blurred vision; dyspnea (breathing difficulty); abdominal pain, nausea, [and] vomiting."


Breaking: A blast seen and heard in a chemical industry zone in Lijin, Dongying City of Shandong around 23:25 Mon.

— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) August 31, 2015

Sur #weibo, série de clichés de l'explosion de #Shandong

— Breaking3zero (@Breaking3zero) August 31, 2015

This clip has just been posted to a Weibo account - reportedly showing tonight's explosion (we are unable to confirm this is not the previous Shandong explosion though that was more twlight than dead of night)...

31 Aug 10:00


by Mike

Tugboat Birdhouse on a pole, Clarksville, Missouri, June 8, 2007
Tugboat Birdhouse on a pole, Clarksville, Missouri, June 8, 2007

31 Aug 14:30

For Progressives, First Amendment Comes in Second

by A. Barton Hinkle

Progressive America is troubled. Some of its leading lights fret that if something is not done soon, government will actually need a good reason to censor other people's speech.

Such is the ominous upshot of a seemingly minor Supreme Court case that could have "far-reaching consequences," as The New York Times put it recently.

The case (Reed v. Town of Gilbert) concerned a sign ordinance in Gilbert, Ariz., that imposed tighter restrictions on church signs than on political ones. The entire Supreme Court said that was ridiculous, and struck the measure down. Government cannot blithely discriminate against certain speech or speakers based on content.

Six of the justices said the test known as strict scrutiny—which requires government to cite a compelling state interest for a law, and to tailor the law narrowly to fit that interes—applies not just to some narrow forms of censorship, but to any topic-based restriction on speech.

As The Times' Adam Liptak notes, "the decision has already required lower courts to strike down laws barring panhandling, automated phone calls and 'ballot selfies.' '' He cites Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School, who takes the view that the court (in Liptak's words) "did not think through the consequences" of its ruling in the sign case.

And thereby hangs a tale. In recent years it has become increasingly obvious that many liberals view the right to free speech as an instrumental good, rather than an intrinsic one—i.e., they favor free speech not as an end in itself, but merely as means to achieve other ends. And wherever free speech impedes other agendas, wherever it produces consequences liberals find discomfiting, it should give way.

Ballot selfies erode the privacy of the voting booth, which in turn could make vote-buying and voter intimidation easier. Hence New Hampshire passed a law last year that subjected anyone displaying a ballot selfie to a $1,000 fine. Other states are considering similar measures—or at least they were, until a federal court struck down New Hampshire's law, on the grounds that such photos enjoy First Amendment protection.

Similar concerns animate efforts to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. In that case, the government wanted the authority to prohibit the dissemination of a movie; the Supreme Court said the nonprofit group Citizens United had a First Amendment right to air it. Critics of the ruling think government should restrict some people's speech in the name of a "level playing field."

In a similar vein, many progressives detest First Amendment protections against business regulations. Post, for example, wrote with alarm about a court ruling that struck down tour-guide licensing in Washington, D.C. on First Amendment grounds.

Around the country, other small entrepreneurs—veterinarians, dieticians, even newspaper columnists—have challenged similar occupational licensing on free-speech grounds as well. "The First Amendment,"Post bemoaned, "seems to have been transformed into a straitjacket for our institutions of democratic governance."

Well, yes. That's exactly what the Bill of Rights is for.


A Harvard professor, Jerry Avorn, has objected to another recent federal court ruling that upheld the speech rights of business interests. Earlier this month a Manhattan district judge said the FDA could not prohibit drug companies from providing truthful, non-misleading information about non-label uses for various drugs.

As health-care writer John Goodman noted in Forbes, prior to the ruling drug company employees could go to prison simply for giving doctors copies of peer-reviewed research published in medical journals showing that a drug approved to treat Disease X also turns out to be effective in treating Disease Y. (This despite the fact that doctors are perfectly free to prescribe drugs for such off-label uses.)

Avorn thinks that's how things should remain—and wrote as much in a journal article titled, "In Opposition to Liberty: We Need a 'Sovereign' to Govern Drug Claims." Even if doing so violates the First Amendment? Apparently so.

Back in March, Liptak noted that while "liberals used to love the First Amendment... that was in an era when courts used it mostly to protect powerless people like civil rights activists and war protesters." But now business interests are seeking free-speech protections, and courts are obliging. "Once the patron saint of protesters and the disenfranchised, the First Amendment has become the darling of economic libertarians," complains Columbia University law professor Tim Wu.

The attitude revealed by such laments was best summed up by Nat Hentoff in a book title: Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee.

It is not comforting that complaints like these come from some of the country's leading legal minds, because they expose a grievous misunderstanding of rights.

Rights are, as legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin put it, "trumps" that outweigh competing considerations — not because of cost/benefit calculations but by definition. Their intrinsic worth does not increase or diminish depending on who exercises them. It is just as wrong to allow censorship of one speaker—rich or poor, black or white, Koch brother or Occupy Wall Street protester—as it is to allow censorship of another. And it is impossible, in any intellectually honest way, to protect the free speech of some speakers without adopting general principles that protect the free speech of all others.

This helps explain the trend noted by Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe in a March essay, which he sees as transforming First Amendment law "into a charter of largely untrammeled libertarianism in which the regulation of virtually all forms of speech and all kinds of speakers is treated with the same heavy dose of judicial skepticism."

That, he might have added, is exactly as it should be.

28 Aug 16:03

Obama Administration Declares War on Franchisors and Subcontractors

by Walter Olson

In a series of unilateral moves, the Obama administration has been introducing an entirely new regime of labor law without benefit of legislation, upending decades’ worth of precedent so as to herd as many workers into unions as possible. The newest, yesterday, from the National Labor Relations Board, is also probably the most drastic yet: in a case against waste hauler Browning-Ferris Industries, the Board declared that from now on, franchisors and companies that employ subcontractors and temporary staffing agencies will often be treated as if they were really direct employers of those other firms’ workforces: they will be held liable for alleged labor law violations at the other workplaces, and will be under legal compulsion to bargain with unions deemed to represent their staff. The new test, one of “industrial realities,” will ask whether the remote company has the power, even the potential power, to significantly influence working conditions or wages at the subcontractor or franchisee; a previous test sought to determine whether the remote company exercised “ ‘direct and immediate impact’ on the worker’s terms and conditions — say, if that second company is involved in hiring and determining pay levels.”

This is a really big deal; as our friend Iain Murray puts it at CEI, it has the potential to “set back the clock 40 years, to an era of corporate giants when few people had the option of being their own bosses while pursuing innovative employment arrangements.”

  • A tech start-up currently contracts out for janitorial, cafeteria, and landscaping services. It will now be at legal risk should its hired contractors be later found to have violated labor law in some way, as by improperly resisting unionization. If it wants to avoid this danger of vicarious liability, it may have to fire the outside firms and directly hire workers of its own.
  • A national fast-food chain currently employs only headquarters staff, with franchisees employing all the staff at local restaurants. Union organizers can now insist that it bargain centrally with local organizers, at risk for alleged infractions by the franchisees. To escape, it can either try to replace its franchise model with company-owned outlets – so that it can directly control compliance – or at least try to exert more control over franchisees, twisting their arms to recognize unions or requiring that an agent of the franchiser be on site at all times to monitor labor law compliance.

Writes management-side labor lawyer Jon Hyman:

If staffing agencies and franchisors are now equal under the National Labor Relations Act with their customers and franchisees, then we will see the end of staffing agencies and franchises as viable business models. Moreover, do not think for a second that this expansion of joint-employer liability will stop at the NLRB. The Department of Labor recently announced that it is exploring a similar expansion of liability for OSHA violations. And the EEOC is similarly exploring the issue for discrimination liability.

And Beth Milito, senior legal counsel at the National Federation of Independent Business, quoted at The Hill: “It will make it much harder for self-employed subcontractors to get jobs.” What will happen to the thriving white-van culture of small skilled contractors that now provides upward mobility to so many tradespeople? Trade it in for a company van, start punching someone’s clock, and just forget about building a business of your own.

What do advocates of these changes intend to accomplish by destroying the economics of business relationships under which millions of Americans are presently employed? For many, the aim is to force much more of the economy into the mold of large-payroll, unionized employers, a system for which the 1950s are often (wrongly) idealized.

One wonders whether many of the smart New Economy people who bought into the Obama administration’s promises really knew what they were buying.

28 Aug 18:23

Wyoming Farmer Sues EPA Over $16 Million in Potential Fines Over Building Drinking Water Pond for His Livestock

by Brian Doherty

With the help of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), Wyoming farmer Andy Johnson is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court in Wyoming over their insistence that he needed a federal permit to build a stock pond on his land in 2012.

He's facing $37,500 in daily fines from EPA threat unless and until he "restore[s] the property to its prior condition pursuant to a federally approved restoration and mitigation plan." That fine hanging over his head is now above $16 million.

Summary and commentary from the lawsuit as filed about why Johnson thinks the EPA is out of line:

Before constructing the stock pond, Johnson obtained all the necessary state and local permits. He performed the work himself and took every care to maximize the pond’s incidental environmental benefits....

Why should the Feds step in? 

Section 404 of the [Clean Water] Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1344, authorizes the issuance of federal permits for the discharge of dredge and fill material, i.e., rocks or soils, into the navigable waters of the United States. Subsection “f” of Section 404, 33 U.S.C. § 1344(f), contains a list of activities that result in discharges of dredge and fill material that are exempt from regulation under the Clean Water Act. This list includes discharges “for the purpose of construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds.” 33 U.S.C. § 1344(f)(1)(C).

The only way an exempt activity can become subject to the act’s requirements is if it both (a) is for the purpose of bringing an area of the navigable waters into a use to which it was not previously subject, and (b) impairs the flow or circulation or reduces the reach of navigable waters...

The suit goes on to explain how the Supreme Court's 2006 Rapanos v. U.S. case defined the waters over which the federal Clean Water Act has hold, and they insist that Johnson's pond is not the sort of water the feds have any jurisdiction over:

Johnson’s construction of a stock pond on his private property, and any associated deposit of dredge and fill materials, is exempt from regulation under the Clean Water Act. Johnson did not change the use of this water, which has long been a source of water for his and prior owners’ livestock. Nor did he impair the flow or circulation or reduce the reach of any navigable water.

Johnson’s construction of a stock pond is also beyond the reach of the Clean Water Act because six-mile creek is not a “water of the United States.” The water that flows over Johnson’s property is return flow from upstream agricultural users as it makes its way to a controlled irrigation canal and reservoir. It is not a tributary of any traditional navigable water nor is there any significant nexus between it and any traditional navigable waters.

EPA’s compliance order—which determines that Johnson’s construction of a stock pond on his private property violated the Clean Water Act—is therefore arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to law.

Johnson wants to get the EPA to admit it has no jurisdiction over his pond, stop threatening him, and pay his legal fees.

The Pacific Legal Foundation's press release announcing the suit with some juicy states v. fed authority details:

“For more than a year, Andy Johnson has sought to explain EPA’s error to it,” said [PLF attorney Jonathan] Wood.  “He provided them a report on the project prepared by a former Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer that lauds its many environmental benefits.  Of course, he pointed to his receiving all the necessary state and local permits.  But EPA won’t budge, or even explain why it should be able to ignore the law’s exemption for stock ponds.”

Indeed, the EPA continues its crusade against Johnson even though Wyoming state officials have said that he complied with all state requirements.  The state engineer, for instance, says that Andy’s state permit is “in good standing and entitled to be exercised exactly as permitted.”

Gov. Matt Mead, in a statement, said:  “Mr. Johnson permitted and constructed his stock water pond appropriately. ... The actions of the EPA in regard to Mr. Johnson have been heavy-handed.”

Shikha Dalmia in Reason on the roots of the Rapanos case.

28 Aug 12:45

A Japanese paradise flycatcher feeding its baby. This migratory...

A Japanese paradise flycatcher feeding its baby. This migratory species is suspected to be in moderately rapid decline as a result of habitat degradation and loss on its wintering grounds.

28 Aug 14:30

Oil Surges To $45 After Saudi Troops Invade Yemen

by Tyler Durden

For the 3rd day in a row, crude oil prices are spiking as the short squeeze morphs into a war premium. Heberler reports that Saudi ground troops have entered Northern Yemen and seized control of two areas in the Saada province. WTI is now above $45...

As we noted previously, boots have been on the ground there (and tank tracks) since early July...


But, as Haberler reports, forces seize control of two areas in Yemen’s Saada province in the first actual ground offensive by The Saudis...

Saudi Arabian ground troops have advanced into northern Yemen, in a bid to push back against Houthi Shia militia and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, military and tribal sources said.


This is Saudi Arabia's first ground offensive in Yemen since it launched an extensive military campaign in March targeting Houthi positions.


The sources told Anadolu Agency that Saudi Arabian troops advanced into Saada province after Houthi militants recently stormed Saudi positions in the southern Saudi province of Jizan.


"Saudi ground forces seized control of two areas in Saada province and intend to advance toward Houthi positions," sources said.


Yemen descended into chaos last September, when the Houthis overran capital Sanaa and other provinces, prompting Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies to launch a massive air campaign against the Shia group.


Pro-Hadi forces – backed by Saudi-led air power – have managed recently to retake Aden and Taiz from the Houthis.

And the result...


Makes you wonder who got the nod of the invasion yesterday?

*  *  *

We have however seen this size 3-day explosion before...


Charts: Bloomberg

28 Aug 04:01

The Next Front in the War on Religious Freedom

by David Harsanyi

Stop bellyaching about Washington. All the country's best fascists are on your local city council.

Not long ago, Colorado became a leader in the fight against religious freedom, when its Civil Rights Commission, self-appointed ministers of justice and theology, decided that a shopkeeper who refuses to participate in a gay wedding ceremony must be smeared and fined out of business. A Colorado appeals court says this is kosher, finding that the brittle sensitivities of a cakeless couple outweigh the constitutional rights of Christian business owners.

Now, in an effort to save everyone some time, the cultural imperialists at the Denver City Council have decided to skip the pretense of some trumped-up injustice and jumped right to discriminating against a business solely because of the beliefs of its CEO.

The Denver City Council's Business Development Committee has stalled a seven-year deal with Chick-fil-A because CEO Dan Cathy spoke out against gay marriage back in 2012. Cathy, after being flogged for this misconduct, backed off, saying he regretted getting involved. But that won't do. There are no prisoners in this culture war. So the city council will meet in a couple of weeks to take up the topic again. Not so the members can take time to chew over the significance of a city's punishing its citizens for their thoughts and beliefs or even to weigh the importance of tolerance in a vibrant city such as Denver. They're waiting to have a closed-door committee hearing with city attorneys, who will brief them on the legal implications and practicality of shutting down apostates.

The only thing that might stop Denver from pulling this concession from an apologetic Christian, then, would be a few risk-averse bureaucrats. This, even though Chick-fil-A has not been accused of any infraction or crime. No one has even suggested it's guilty of make-believe acts of discrimination. Chick-fil-A has given assurances, in fact, as all other concessionaires at Denver International Airport restaurants have, it will follow nondiscrimination policies laid out by law, which include protections for sexual orientation.

So what's the point? Well, Councilwoman Robin Kniech asked a concessionaire this question: "If the national corporation with which you are affiliated once again puts themselves at the center of a national debate about depriving people and their families of rights, would you as a concessionaire have any ability to influence that?"

"I don't believe so," he answered.

"I don't think you would, either," Kniech said. "And that's my concern."

So that's her concern? Setting aside the oversimplification of the debate surrounding marriage, since when is it the interest of a city councilor to monitor the political activities of citizens and wonder how she deals with vendors who displease her sensibilities? Do Americans with minority opinions function under some different set of laws? The only entity with the power to deprive anyone or anyone's family of rights, in this case, is the city council. So please tell me how Kniech isn't a petty tyrant.

Of course, Denver is not alone. A few years back, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) supported an alderman's efforts to block Chick-fil-A from opening in his city because of, as the media like to say, the "anti-gay views" of its CEO, which, only a couple of years beforehand, had been the anti-gay views of President Barack Obama and Emanuel, his chief of staff. The Chicago City Council didn't go through with it, after "assurances" from the company that the virtue of Chicago would be protected.

Denver Councilman Paul Lopez, who is leading the intellectual charge for the ban, a task that meshes poorly with his skill set, says that in the end, opposition to the chain at the airport is "really, truly a moral issue." Now, when the Founding Fathers told us that government can make no law respecting an establishment of religion, I took it to mean that the belief system of a union-installed sock puppet on a city council would be completely irrelevant in matters of expression and faith. Really, truly.

Now, people are free to boycott and protest whomever they please. Citizens and elected officials have every right to work to cut off taxpayer funding to businesses and institutions they find morally distasteful. But if the city council of Anytown, USA, were to concoct reasons to deny permits to gay business owners who support same-sex marriage, many Americans would find that rightfully appalling. If you're OK with the idea of a city council's denying Christians who believe in traditional marriage the same freedom, you're a massive hypocrite, and probably worse.


26 Aug 18:53

...And It's Gone!

by Tyler Durden

Damn It Janet!



Source: @NorthmanTrader

26 Aug 20:53

Windows 10 Reserves The Right To Block Pirated Games And 'Unauthorized' Hardware

by Karl Bode

Apparently windows 10 is spyware.

While Windows 8 annoyed many users for its attempt to duct-tape two disparate computing styles (traditional Windows and a touch interface) together while demanding you stand impressed by the genius of such a move, Windows 10 initially appeared to be seeing some positive responses (at least among those who use Windows). That was, at least until people started to realize how nosy the operating system is, how frequently it feels the need to phone home to Redmond, and some of the more obnoxious language buried in the terms of service.

Not too surprisingly (this is Microsoft we're talking about) the OS opts users in to all manner of information sharing from the start, and there's some indication the OS doesn't really heed its own opt-out settings for many of these "services":
"Unfortunately for privacy advocates, these controls don't appear to be sufficient to completely prevent the operating system from going online and communicating with Microsoft's servers. For example, even with Cortana and searching the Web from the Start menu disabled, opening Start and typing will send a request to to request a file called threshold.appcache which appears to contain some Cortana information, even though Cortana is disabled. The request for this file appears to contain a random machine ID that persists across reboots.
While much of this phoning home appears to be innocuous, it's obviously annoying to users who expect an OS that operates quietly and securely on the network. Other ingrained features of the OS may or may not be more troublesome, depending on how seriously you'd like to take the Microsoft's fine print. One provision in particular appears to have caught the eye of numerous news outlets: namely that Microsoft has the ability and reserves the right to disable first-party (aka Microsoft) titles should they be found to be pirated. The TOS also notes that Microsoft reserves the right to block "unauthorized hardware":
"We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices. You may also be required to update the software to continue using the Services."
Comforting! It's possible Microsoft will never utilize this particular portion of its TOS, but its inclusion is understandably troubling all the same, and with the capability embedded, it's hard to think our friends at the MPAA and BSA won't urge Microsoft to include their products. Update: one commenter points out the TOS in question that has everyone in a tizzy refers to Windows services, not necessarily Windows 10. Windows 10 is covered by Microsoft Software License Terms. In short, while Microsoft could declare Windows 10 as a service, it still seems highly unlikely that the company is going to invite the wrath of millions by using Windows 10 as a piracy and device nanny, especially if they want the OS to succeed.

If you're looking for some additional bright side, Windows 10 at least blocks some of the more obnoxious, invasive flavors of DRM that have made the rounds over the last few years, including SecureROM and SafeDisc. Unfortunately, that means titles that used this DRM simply won't work on the new OS without a patch.

Either way, worries about Windows 10's spying and reporting habits appear to have freaked out a few BitTorrent trackers. One tracker by the name of iTS has decided to block all Windows 10 users entirely, redirecting them to this YouTube video explaining the perceived dangers of the new OS. In a post over at Reddit, tracker admins explain why they're not particularly welcoming of Windows 10 users:
"Many of you might have heard or read about the terrible privacy policy of windows 10 recently. Unfortunately Microsoft decided to revoke any kind of data protection and submit whatever they can gather to not only themselves but also others. One of those is one of the largest anti-piracy company called MarkMonitor. Amongst other things windows 10 sends the contents of your local disks directly to one of their servers. Obviously this goes way too far and is a serious threat to sites like ours which is why we had to take measures."
This is likely somewhat of an overreaction, since Microsoft has been working with MarkMonitor for many years now, in some instances to protect customers from phishing attacks. Still, it's understandable that Microsoft's decision to embed Windows 10 with all manner of chatty behaviors would raise a few eyebrows. If Redmond wants to avoid the fractured adoption issues that plagued earlier versions of Windows, hopefully executives there can be publicly pressured to ensure that opting out of the more chatty and invasive aspects of the new OS actually works.

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27 Aug 10:13

Study: 15% Of Wireless Users Now Tracked By Stealth Headers, Or 'Zombie Cookies'

by Karl Bode
Earlier this year AT&T and Verizon were caught modifying wireless user traffic to inject unique identifier headers (UIDH). This allowed the carriers to ignore a user's privacy preferences on the browser level and track all online behavior. In Verizon's case, the practice wasn't discovered for two years after implementation, and the carrier only integrated a working opt out mechanism only after another six months of public criticism. Verizon and AT&T of course denied that these headers could be abused by third parties. Shortly thereafter it was illustrated that it was relatively easy for these headers to be abused by third parties.

While the fracas over these "stealth" or "zombie" cookies has quieted down since, a new study suggests use of such stealth tracking is increasing around the world as carriers push to nab their share of the advertising pie. Consumer advocacy group Access has been running a website called, which analyzes user traffic to determine whether or not carriers are fiddling with their packets to track online behavior. According to a new study from the group (pdf) examining around 200,000 such tests, about 15% of site visitors were being tracked by the carriers in this fashion all over the globe:Globally, the report notes that AT&T, Bell Canada, Bharti Airtel, Cricket, Telefonica de España, Verizon, Viettel Peru S.a.c., Vodafone NL, and Vodafone Spain are all now using stealth headers. In many of these instances there's no opt-out mechanisms in place for users, or the opt-in mechanisms that exist don't actually work. Most regulators meanwhile don't even realize this technology exists, much less have any plan to protect user privacy via hard opt-out requirements. The practice itself, and the stored data, the group's authors note, makes a delicious target for hackers and the intelligence community alike:
"Using tracking headers also raises concerns related to data retention. When “honey pots” of sensitive information, such as data on browsing, location, and phone numbers, are collected and stored, they attract malicious hacking and government surveillance. This kind of collection and retention of user data is unsustainable and unwise, and creates unmanageable risks for businesses and customers alike."
The W3C Consortium recently agreed, noting that stealth carrier tracking header injection is basically a privacy nightmare in the making that undermines user trust in the entire Internet:
"The aggregate effect of unsanctioned tracking is to undermine user trust in the Web itself. Moreover, if browsers cannot isolate activity between sites and offer users control over their data, they are unable to act as trusted agents for the user. Notably, unsanctioned tracking can be harmful even if non-identifying data is shared, because it provides the linkage among disparate information streams across contextual boundaries. For example the sharing of an opaque fingerprint among a set of unrelated online purchases can provide enough information to enable advertisers to determine that user of that browser is pregnant — and hence to target her with pregnancy-specific advertisements even before she has disclosed her pregnancy.
This is what has been happening while the marketing, tech and telecom industries bickered, prattled and grandstanded over do not track protections -- that this technology makes irrelevant anyway. And while companies like Verizon have repeatedly claimed that no privacy or transparency guidelines are necessary because "public shame" will keep them honest, keep in mind that it took security researchers two years before they even realized that the telco was doing this. It took another six months of pressure for Verizon to heed calls for basic opt-out mechanisms most Verizon users don't know exist. It makes you wonder: just how long will it take the press and public to realize future iterations of stealth tracking technology are being used?

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27 Aug 09:51

Ayres Natural Bridge

by Mike

After visiting Fort Fetterman on July 10, 2010, our next objective was to find Ayers Natural Bridge.

I had the GPS unit set for shortest distance instead of fastest time and, unfortunately, the shortest distance settings took us down a route that wasn’t! 

After we had gone through a farmyard, the “road” degenerated into a rutted, muddy path that was getting progressively worse.  I was on the verge of looking for a place to turn around when a farmer who set out after us on a four-wheel ATV caught up and told us that the track we were on wasn’t a road.  Apparently, we weren’t the first to be directed through his land by their GPS device.

Ayres Natural Bridge, Converse County, Wyoming, July 10, 2010
Ayres Natural Bridge, Converse County, Wyoming, July 10, 2010

When we made it to Ayers Natural Bridge, we found it was the centerpiece of a very nice county park.  We had a picnic and spent about an hour in the park.

Unlike most natural bridges formed by water, Ayers Natural Bridge still spans the stream that cut through it. In May 1920, the bridge and surrounding 150 acres of land was donated to Converse County by Andrew C. Ayres for use as a free park, which bears the same name as the formation.

The arch over the creek was occasionally visited by emigrants on the Emigrant Trails, but it wasn’t an easy undertaking.

Mathew C. Field – July 12, 1843: Rode off in advance of the camp with Sir Wm., to visit a remarkable mountain gorge – a natural bridge of solid rock,over a rapid torrent, the arch being regular as tho shaped by art – 30 feet from base to ceiling, and 50 to the top of the bridge – wild cliffs, 300 feet perpendicular beetled us, and the noisy current swept along among huge fragments of rock at our feet. We had a dangerous descent, and forced our way through an almost impervious thicket, being compelled to take the bed of the stream in gaining a position below. We called the water Bridge Creek!  (Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office)

Ayres Natural Bridge Park, Converse County, Wyoming, July 10, 2010
Ayres Natural Bridge Park

More information:

Ayres Natural Bridge

27 Aug 00:35

They're Going to Need a Bigger Currency: Venezuela's Socialist Meltdown Continues

by Brian Doherty

Latest from the inflationary meltdown in Venezuela, from Bloomberg:

Venezuela is preparing to issue bank notes in higher denominations next year as rampant inflation reduces the value of a 100-bolivar bill to just 14 cents on the black market.

The new notes -- of 500 and possibly 1,000 bolivars -- are expected to be released sometime after congressional elections are held on Dec. 6...

Many Venezuelans have to carry wads of cash in bags instead of wallets as soaring inflation and a declining currency increase the number of bills needed for everyday purchases. The situation is set to get worse. Inflation, already the fastest in the world, could end the year at 150 percent, said the official.

The government stopped releasing regular economic statistics in December, when it reported inflation had reached 69 percent.

And in a recent PBS Newshour photo essay (where, sadly but predictably, they blame the problems entirely on falling oil prices and not at all on government policy), you can see the current state of attempts to government-manage an inflationary socialist economy.

Artificially low retail gas prices in Venezuela lead, naturally, to black marketeers buying low there and selling high in Colombia.

Reason on Venezuela.