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Rebel Governance: In Defense of the Common Sector

By Grant Mincy - Center for a Stateless Society
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Energy & Environment 
Life is pretty good here in the Volunteer State. As an East Tennessean I am particularly fond of the great Smoky Mountains, my scruffy little city of Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and surrounding colleges, a multitude of markets (including a rising craft beer scene) and an array of state parks. Just the other weekend my family and I, accompanied by some close friends, made our way out to Frozen Head State Park. Here, on a rather cool August afternoon, we built camp under Hemlock, Oak and Poplar, cooked over embers, played in the cool, trickling waters of Flat Fork and enjoyed our child’s laughter on his first overnight adventure in the Cumberland forest.
I live for these moments. Simple, quick escapes into the wild. It is a good break from the trials of the week. As an instructor of Natural and Behavioral Science at a local community college, it is nice to run into nature, sit, breathe and enjoy her complexity. It recharges me for the classroom and helps me give my best. In the halls of the academy I work to cultivate the interests of students, to teach them science, describe what we know about how the world operates, to note the mysteries that still need to be solved and to instill a sense of wonder regarding the natural environment. Science is much more than methodology, it is a way to understand our place in the cosmos and thus the human condition.
State parks and the halls of higher education are just two examples of spaces that mean a lot to me and many other Tennesseans. Whether it is the solace of the park or the curiosity of the classroom, these institutions reflect a human desire to explore, labor, leisure, wonder and create.
With this in mind, I am rather disturbed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) posted on August 11 to the Tennessee Department of General Services website. In a cost saving effort, the executive branch of Tennessee’s government is looking to outsource management of public institutions (including parks, campgrounds, research facilities, colleges, classrooms, prisons and National Guard armories) to the business sector. The RFP asked for private contractors to “provide a short narrative” regarding their expertise, qualifications, job timelines, service level agreements and geographic vendor presence.  I am equally disturbed that these conversations with private vendors have been going on for months with no public discussion of just how it would change the nature of these public goods — including how a new for-profit model might impact labor and admission to facilities.
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Oil's down, gasoline isn't. What's up?

By: Marita Noon (Diary) - Oilpro.com
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Energy & Environment
A little more than a year ago, oil prices were above $100 a barrel. The national average for gasoline was in the $3.50 range. In late spring, oil was $60ish and the national average for gas was around $2.70. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to $40 and below—yet, prices at the pump are just slightly less than they were when oil was almost double what it is today.
 
Oil and gasoline prices usually travel up or down in sync. But a few weeks ago the trend lines crossed and oil continued the sharp decline while gasoline has stayed steady—even increasing.
 
Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. Consumers are wondering: “What’s up?”
 
Even Congress is grilling refiners over the disparity.
 
While, like most markets, the answer is complicated, there are some simple responses that even Congress should be able to understand. The short explanation is “refineries”—but there’s more to that and some other components, too.
 
Within the U.S. exists approximately 20 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Fuel News explains that “on a perfect day,” these domestic facilities could process more than 18 million barrels of crude oil. But due, in large part, to an anti-fossil fuel attitude, it is virtually impossible to get a new refinery permitted in America. Most refineries today are old—the newest major one was completed in 1977. Most are at least 40 years old and some are more than 100. Despite signs of aging, refining capacity has continued to grow. Instead of producing at 70 percent capacity, as they were as little as a decade ago, most now run at 90 percent. They’ve become Rube Goldberg contraptions that have been modified, added on to, and upgraded. The system is strained.
 
To keep operating, these mature refineries need regular maintenance—usually done on the shoulders of the busy driving seasons and when systems need to be reconfigured for the different winter and summer blends. Even then, things break. Sometimes a quick repair can keep it up and running until the scheduled maintenance—known as “turnaround.” Sometimes, not. Fixing the equipment failures on the aging facilities can take weeks.
 
This year, several unexpected maintenance issues happened in the spring. Other refineries worked overtime to make up the shortage. That, plus low crude prices, means that many refiners didn’t shutdown for the usual spring turnaround. Fuel News notes, potential profit encouraged refiners to “get while the getting’s good.”
 
This pedal-to-the-metal approach is catching up with the sagging systems. On August 8, BP’s Whiting, IN, refinery, the largest supplier of gasoline in the Midwest, faced an unplanned shutdown due to a leak and possible fire hazard in its Pipestill 12 distillation unit—which processes about 40 percent of its 413,000 barrel per day capacity.
 
The closure of the largest of Whiting’s three units caused an immediate jump in gasoline prices in the Midwest. Stockpiles were drawn down to fill demand during summer’s peak driving season. Gasoline has been moved—via pipeline, truck, and train—from other parts of the country to balance out supply. So, while the biggest price increase was in states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois, prices raised nationwide beginning on August 11.
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Educating for Human Greatness

Anthony Dallmann-Jones 
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Education Choices 

Look, Let's face it, we still treat education as if it is a factory. The old assembly line model will continue to drive us into mediocrity.There is only one way to really change education so it is a vital force in kids' lives and, thereby, the nation's. EACH child's uniqueness, special gifts and talents should be nurtured so they FEEL their growth and SEE their potential expanding. Teaching everyone the same material may be easier, but it also insane. It MAKES problems. It CREATES expense. It REMOVES motivation to learn. The only thing it preserves? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We have had standards for decades...and calling them Common Core won't change a thing. "Common Core Standards" is a political term, not a learner-centered term. Worse still it is a money-maker for businesses - at the expense of our children's potential being stifled.

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Codex Alimentarius - Why Should Libertarians Care?

Scott C. Tips
Our America Initiative Advisory Council Member of Health Care Reform

“There is no wealth but life.”  - John Ruskin

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an international body created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider and create food and drink standards and guidelines for international trade.  Having spawned numerous committees and working groups to do its work, the Commission – or as it is known by the insiders, CAC – has already generated in its more than 50 years of existence many hundreds of food standards and guidelines ranging from natural mineral waters and cheeses to shrimp farming and dietary supplements.

The delegates at these meetings are typically government FDA-type functionaries and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) representatives, the vast majority of whom are trade-industry representatives.  One might think that such assembled intelligence and focused attention could not fail to generate solid, scientifically based food standards and guidelines. Yet, all too often, as with government projects and initiatives, that is exactly what happens.

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The Common Thread: Liberty

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) - Orange County Register
Honorary Member of Our America Initiative

The one common thread throughout our history that has been the link to progress and prosperity is Liberty. Not only is Liberty the soul of our country, it has been largely responsible for most of our commercial, social and artistic successes. And in large part Liberty is the answer to most problems that are still facing us today.  For example, please reflect upon the following.

Education: In places where parents have had the Liberty to choose where and how the government's money would be spent in educating their children, they have demanded – and received – excellence! How was this done? They were able, in places like Milwaukee, to choose their children's schools on the open market, and this promoted competition among all schools, whether they were public, private, military, vocational or religious schools. And that competition resulted in excellence in education. 

Healthcare:  In the 1950s and 60s, before government intruded heavily into the system, we had the best healthcare system in the world. Back then it was not even a topic of conversation that people could not find good quality healthcare for reasonable and competitive prices – and we had all of the emergency rooms we needed. But ever since 1965, when the government began its major intrusions, the healthcare system has transparently become worse. So how do we get our prior excellence back? A combination of medical savings accounts, for those who can take care of their own healthcare needs, and coupons that can be used to purchase medical insurance of their choice on the open market, for those who need some help. This still provides an important safety net, but also gets the government out of decisions about availability of healthcare services and prices. For example, today there are still two areas in which customer/patients can receive good quality medical services for reasonable and competitive prices.  What are they? Lasik eye surgery and cosmetic surgery. Why?  Because the government is not involved. We can reclaim the same for the rest of our medical system, if we again bring back Liberty and competition. 

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What will America look like if the environmentalists win?

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

In every war, there are winners and losers. Whether the war is ideological or physical, or even if a truce is declared—there are still battles that end in victory or defeat.
 
In the United States, and most of the western world, there is an ideological war with dire physical consequences. It is the war on fossil fuels. But, even if you understand (as I hope my readers do) that energy is central to everything in modern society, the war is much bigger than energy. It is about freedom. It is about control. It is about global governance.
 
In my book Energy Freedom, I make a case for why energy is so important and, therefore, why it is under attack. I posit: “What would the world be like if we could suddenly wave a magic wand and give the environmentalists everything they want?” I then detail how our lives would change and how it would not be the utopia one might first think. I develop the catch phrase: “Take away energy, take away freedom.”
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Liberty in Education

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

One of the most important things we can do as a society is to make the opportunity for excellence in education available to all children in our country.  But this is clearly not happening today, particularly in lower economic neighborhoods.  If we wish to change this, the first thing we need to decide is whether the purpose of our educational system is to provide excellence in education, or to protect below-average teachers.  Tragically, in most cases it appears that we have chosen the latter approach.   But if we would choose excellence, our chances for it to be realized would be maximized by giving parents the liberty of choosing where the government money will be spent for the education of their children.

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An open letter to Dr. Ben Carson-and all presidential candidates-on energy policies

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

Dear Dr. Carson,
 
Congratulations on your decision to run for President of the United States. I was at home writing at the time of your announcement. As a professional speaker and someone who has spent more than thirty years training speakers, I felt your presentation was stellar—especially considering that you delivered it without a note. I even posted the following on my Facebook page: “I have work to do but am captivated listening to Ben Carson”—which garnered many “likes” and favorable comments.
 
I say that to emphasize that I like you. I am glad that you’ve joined the voices that will be utilizing the platforms afforded to them as candidates to educate the public as they expound on important issues facing America today. In fact, the libertarian leaning Reason Magazine applauded you for this exact reason: “To my happy surprise, he spent a good chunk of his announcement speech hinting at a Ross Perot-style crusade against the massive national debt and its drag on the economic growth.” Matt Welch, Reason’s editor in chief continues: “I would be happy if he made such talk the centerpiece of his campaign, particularly at a time when the new GOP congressional majority is already going wobbly on spending. If the guy’s gonna be sucking up oxygen in the race, he might as well be focusing monomaniacally on the giant sucking sound of debt service.”
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Liberty and Healthcare

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

When I was growing up in the 1950s and middle 60s, it was not even a topic of conversation that people could not get quality
healthcare for reasonable and competitive prices.  And we had all of the Emergency Rooms we needed.  But that is obviously not true today.  Why?  Because in the middle 1960s the government began its significant intrusions into the healthcare area, and with every increase, the system has demonstrably gotten worse.  If you want your healthcare to be overseen by the equivalence of your local department of motor vehicles,that is where we are going.

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2016: House of Bush vs. the Westchester Hillbillies?

And in that case is there a silver lining for libertarians?

By Terry Michael - reason.com

Our aging empire can probably survive another Clinton or Bush presidency. But we who prize free minds and free markets might want to extend a big middle finger to the god-awful prospect of the 2016 election being won by a mini-monarch from one of America's two dynasties. The good news, possibly, is that a November match-up between the Democratic and Republican presidential heirs-apparent might foster a more vibrant Declaration of Independents: citizens seeking a choice of a less regal presidency, rather than old echos from a failing two-party system.

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