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The Pope, climate change and VW

By: Marita Noon (Diary)- breitbart.com 9/28/2015 
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Energy & Environment


While Pope Francis was shuttled around during his historic visit to the U.S. in a Fiat, he shared the news cycle with Volkswagen.
The pope made headlines with his calls for action on climate change. USA Today touted: “Obama, Pope Francis praise each other on climate change.” In his September 23 speech from the White House lawn, the Pope addressed President Obama saying: “I find it encouraging that you are introducing an initiative for reducing air pollution.” Addressing that comment, Business Insider added: “He praised President Barack Obama for his proposals, which aim for the US to cut emissions by up to 28% over the next decade.”
The core of the entire climate change agenda is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions which proponents like to call “air pollution.” It comes from sources we can’t control: volcanoes; sources we can kind-of control: forest fires (better forest management would result in fewer fires) and human beings exhaling (reduce the population, reduce CO2 emissions); and sources we can control: the use of fossil fuels (we can virtually outlaw them as several countries, including the U.S., are trying to do).
The drive to cut CO2 emissions is at the root of Volkswagen’s unprecedented scandal that broke last week, resulting in the CEO’s abrupt ouster on September 23—the day that Pope Francis’ U.S. visit went into full swing.
With nonstop coverage of the papal activities—including his Fiat Popemobile—the Volkswagen story was likely lost on most Americans. But it is not going away.
On September 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed the scandal: Europe’s biggest auto maker, with 600,000 employees world-wide and 300,000 in Germany, utilized software on some VW and Audi diesel-powered cars to manipulate the results of routine emissions tests—allowing them pass strict emissions standards in Europe and the U.S. The “defeat devices” have reportedly been fitted to more than 11 million vehicles since 2008 and may cost Volkswagen up to $18 billion in fines in the U.S. alone. Owners of the impacted vehicles will need to have a heretofore unavailable “fix” installed and may have to provide a “proof of correction certificate” in order to renew their registration and will suffer “loss due to the diminished value of the cars.” As a result of the scandal, Volkswagen’s stock price and reputation have both fallen precipitously, and class-action lawsuits are already taking shape. Fund managers have been banned from buying VW’s stocks and bonds. Tens of thousands of new cars may remain unsold. USNews stated: “Whoever is responsible could face criminal charges in Germany.”
The question no one seems to be asking is: what would drive Europe’s biggest auto maker to make such a costly decision, to take a risk, from which it may be impossible to recover, and tarnish the “made-in-Germany brand”?
While the question isn’t asked, Reuters coverage of the story offers the answer: “Diesel engines use less fuel and emit less carbon—blamed for global warming—than standard gasoline engines. But they emit higher levels of toxic gases known as nitrogen oxides.”
In short, the answer is the drive to lower CO2 emissions and the policies that encourage reduction.
In BloombergView, Clive Crook offers this excellent explanation:
Beginning in the mid-1990s, mindful of their commitments to cut carbon emissions, Europe’s governments embarked on a prolonged drive to convert their car fleets from gasoline to diesel. With generous use of tax preferences, they succeeded. In the European Union as a whole, diesel vehicles now account for more than half of the market. In France, the first country to cross that threshold, diesel now accounts for roughly 80 percent of motor-fuel consumption.
What was the reasoning? Diesel contains more carbon than gasoline, but diesel engines burn less fuel: Net, switching to diesel ought to give you lower emissions of greenhouse gases. However, there’s a penalty in higher emissions of other pollutants, including particulates and nitrogen oxides, or NOx. Curbing those emissions requires expensive modifications to cars’ exhaust systems. To facilitate the switch, Europe made its emission standards for these other pollutants less stringent for diesel engines than for gasoline engines. The priority, after all, was to cut greenhouse gases.
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Is 2016 The Year Of Campaigning Dangerously?

By Bruce Majors - dailycaller.com 3:43 PM 9/25/2015
Our America Initiative Washington DC Director 

House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation today, only a year after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated by a tea party newbie in a primary. In the GOP presidential nomination race, three candidates who have never held office are in the lead, holding between them the support of almost two thirds of Republican primary voters. It’s open season on establishment politicians.

Carly Fiorina beats Hillary Clinton in a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday, 44-43 percent, demonstrating the power of open primary debates, where Fiorina’s performance launched her from the early “kiddie” event of the first GOP debate to prime time for the second Republican face off. Fiorina, like Dr. Ben Carson before her, is slowly catching up to front runner Donald Trump, and like Trump she is beginning to get a lot of earned media, including appearances on both cable news and late night talk shows. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton continues to flail in the polls, seesawing with Sanders week by week as to who wins Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states to hold primaries, and with Sanders and an as yet unannounced Joe Biden together catching up to her nationally.

It’s the year of the outsider, the commentariat tells us.

But that may prove true in more ways than they think.

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"Liberty vs. Policing for Profit"

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
Honorary Member of Our America Initiative

One of the cardinal rules of life is that Incentives Matter.  As stated so long ago by Adam Smith, the "Invisible Hand" of economic incentives is always involved in most of the decisions we make.  It may not always control the outcome, but (in addition to efficiently guiding the allocation of goods and services through a pricing system) it virtually always plays a part in it.  That is why the present laws governing the forfeiture of assets involved in transactions of illicit drugs (and from many lawful activities as well) must be changed.  Why?  Because Liberty demands that the people of our country not be subjected to the institutional corruptions that can be caused by the economic incentives of "policing for profit."              

As a practical matter, Liberty and asset forfeiture do not have to be mutually inconsistent.  If a person smuggles, possesses with intent to sell or sells presently illicit drugs, the assets used to accomplish those ends, or the assets that are purchased from the proceeds thereof, can and should be forfeited to the government.  But that should occur only after that person has been charged with and convicted of one of those offenses.  (In the meantime, the assets can be confiscated but held in trust for a reasonable period of time pending that conviction.)  Then once that person is convicted, the same jury should decide whether those assets were so used or purchased.  If that is the jury's finding, forfeit them.  But then deposit the forfeited cash or assets into the government's general fund – not to the police. 

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Not all energy is created equal

By: Marita Noon (Diary) - Oilpro.com
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Energy & Environment

Congress has taken action that actually advances free markets and limits government intrusion. I was in the room when, on September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee—with bipartisan support—advanced legislation to lift the 1970s-era ban on crude-oil exports. HR 702, “To adapt to changing crude oil market conditions,” is expected to receive a full floor vote within a matter of weeks.

The export ban is a relic of a bygone era during which ideas like “peak oil” and “energy scarcity” were the conventional wisdom. Despite all those who cried “wolf,” the U.S. is now the world’s largest combined oil-and-gas producer.

Ending this obsolete ban would unleash America’s energy producers on the global market, increasing domestic production and creating jobs. Additionally, reports from experts at the non-partisanEnergy Information Administration and Government Accountability Office, plus consultants at IHS, indicate that it will also lower prices at the pump. 

Like everything that seems to happen in Washington, DC, these days, this initial victory may have a price tag that prevents its final passage.

Getting the Democrats on board with removing the barrier to exporting America’s abundance may likely require giving them something they want. Morning Consult recently reported: “Momentum is building in Congress to repeal the antiquated ban on exporting crude oil. Lawmakers and energy industry representatives are talking about other energy policies that could be swapped or combined to achieve that objective. Renewable energy tax credits are part of the equation.”

Those “renewable energy tax credits” are mainly two: the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Like the oil-export ban, the wind PTC is an archaic policy that has no place in today’s modern reality of energy abundance.

Passed by Congress in 1992, the PTC pays the wind industry for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated over a ten-year period. No other mature energy source—natural gas, oil, or coal—can claim a similar carve out based on how much product they sell. The subsidy is so lavish that wind developers can sometimes sell their electricity at a loss and still profit. The New York Times has described this as wind’s “cannibal behavior” on the power grid.

The PTC costs taxpayers like you and me billions of dollars each year. Americans pay for wind twice: first in their federal tax bills, then in their local utility bills. According to a new study, commissioned by the Institute for Energy Research, electricity generated from new wind facilities is between three and four times as expensive as that from existing coal and nuclear power plants,.

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Vow: If Not Rand Paul, Gary Johnson

By Todd Seavey - splicetoday.com
Sep 18, 2015, 09:38AM

The libertarians must again prep to flee, says Todd Seavey. 

If there’s no big bump for Rand Paul in the next few Republican debates, libertarians must consider their other options. The Libertarian Party might make more sense in 2016 than in any prior election. I can hear you saying that’s not a high hurdle, but bear with me.

First, let me dispense with two common complaints from my fellow libertarians: (1) that no one should be weighing a vote for the Republicans in the first place and (2) that no one should vote at all.

There are undeniable strategic advantages (and built-in support networks) for anyone running as a major-party candidate, so it makes sense to try working through a major-party candidate if he’s darn close to libertarian. Few politicians have ever been closer than Rand Paul, and my enthusiasm for him is a natural function of seeing how far away the other major-party candidates are.

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DONEGAN: If GOP Debate Stage Can Fit 11, Let Third Parties In General Election Debates

If CNN can fit 11 candidates into its highly-successful Republican presidential debate, then what is the harm in including in general election debates the one or two third-party candidates each election cycle who successfully obtain ballot access in enough states to have a mathematical possibility of winning the presidency?

Wednesday’s prime-time CNN Republican presidential debate featuring 11 candidates was the “most watched” program in the news network’s history. According to CNN, an average of 22.9 million viewers tuned in and heard Republican presidential candidates debating the issues.

Meanwhile, based on claims that doing otherwise would overload the general election stage with too many candidates, the Commission on Presidential Debates’ rule requiring third-party candidates to garner a minimum of 15 percent support in five major nationwide polls prior to being included in a general election presidential debate effectively and pointlessly excludes the one or two third-party candidates each cycle who manage to achieve ballot access in enough states to have the possibility of winning the presidency. Obtaining ballot access is a Herculean challenge for independents as is, but only a candidate with extreme wealth like Ross Perot or Donald Trump could afford to purchase the amount of advertising necessary to achieve 15 percent in nationwide opinion polls without having the initial exposure of appearing in televised presidential debates.

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"Liberty and Government Officials"

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
Honorary Member of Our America Initiative

Hypothetical sign in a government office in Montana: "No hunting licenses issued: clerk a vegetarian."  Now that is not to compare nutrition beliefs to religious beliefs, but regardless of what a government official's personal, political or even religious beliefs are, all government officials must follow the law.  Of course, that brings us to the clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who declined to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because she believed that would violate her conservative Christian beliefs.   But she was rightfully sanctioned by a federal judge when she refused the judicial order to comply with the law. Liberty demands that no government officials be above the law, even if that law happens to do be at odds with their personal beliefs. In fact, when it comes down to it, she was not punished for practicing her religion, she was jailed for using the government to force others to comply with the practices of her religion. As a judge, I enforced many laws even when I did not agree with them.  I didn't have to do so quietly, but I still followed the law.

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‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’: The Loss of Our Freedoms in the Wake of 9/11

By John W. Whitehead - LewRockwell.com
September 9, 2015 

“Since mankind’s dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We’ve seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.” ― Alan Moore,V for Vendetta

What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and acclimated to life in the American Surveillance State.

The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time, but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for thephantom promise of safety and security has transitioned us to life in a society where government agents routinely practice violence on the citizens while, in conjunction with the Corporate State, spying on the most intimate details of our personal lives. 

Ironically, the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks occurs just days before the 228th anniversary of the ratification of our Constitution. Yet while there is much to mourn about the loss of our freedoms in the years since 9/11, there is virtually nothing to celebrate.

The Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which has historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

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Voters Want to Break the Political Establishment’s Stranglehold

By: Theresa Amato - NYtimes.com

Most adults in the United States think a third party is needed, according to a Gallup poll last year. That includes 71 percent of Independents, 46 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats polled.

Of course! The two-party system cannot capture the wealth of political ideas and solutions to societal problems that should be debated in our elections. Who wants to live with only two brands or flavors in the political arena while Americans believe in all kinds of innovation, choice and competition in the economic arena?

After the March primary coronations of the presumptive nominees, our country would benefit from less scripted, poll-tested and two-party-manipulated presidential elections. Voters deserve broader political discourse with more voices and more choices than they are currently offered on November general election ballots. The unsatisfactory, two-party stranglehold on the U.S. political system must go.

At the moment, neither Bernie Sanders nor Donald Trump within the two major parties will be beholden to the two-party talking points or the money machine donors who give to both parties, hedging their bets to ensure access, no matter which major party wins. Candidates, or possible candidates, from outside the two major parties are Jill Stein of the Green Party, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, of the Libertarian Party, and John Hostettler, former U.S. House member from Indiana.

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America’s Political Duopoly Stifles the Competition of Ideas

By: Micah Sifry - NYtimes.com 

Why is Donald Trump pledging his fealty to whomever the Republican Party nominates for president? And why is avowed "democratic socialist" Bernie Sanders running for the nomination of a political party, the Democratic Party, that has embraced the free enterprise system for decades?

The answer is America's two-party duopoly, a peculiar and long-lasting arrangement that has stifled political competition from other forces for more than a century. Thanks to laws passed by Democrats and Republicans and upheld by the courts, candidates of other parties face discriminatory ballot access and campaign financing hurdles, gerrymandering, exclusion from debates and media blackouts. It's no wonder then that even maverick politicians like Trump and Sanders opt to run as Republicans or Democrats, even when much of what they believe is outside of those parties' mainstreams.

The result leaves millions of voters frustrated by the lack of wider choices. Our politics is stagnating into an exquisite deadlock that only benefits major party incumbents, who relish blaming the other party for their inability to move the country forward even while they collude in keeping out newcomers.

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