So what is a flip-flop?

It predates my writing career, but back during the 2004 Presidential campaign much hay was made over Democrat John Kerry’s attempts to be on both sides of various issues, including voting for something before he was against it. If you ask me, though, Kerry was by no means alone in terms of trying to cover all the bases and be all things to all people – the truth is that the further you go in politics, the more likely it is you will run across situations where your current action may well contradict something you did 10 years ago.

People are allowed to change their minds on issues, and I can use myself as an example: for a time I held the orthodox libertarian view that term limits artificially restrict voter choice and should be eliminated. While that makes a lot of sense on a philosophical level, in practice voter choices are more limited by the amount of money that naturally accrues to incumbents and by rules about ballot access that tend to favor the two major parties, enabling them to get their message out more effectively (and in turn more likely to succeed.) In keeping with the idea espoused by our Founding Fathers that representatives were only supposed to stand for election and do that public service for a term or two before returning to private life, I now feel that making it more difficult for people to make a career out of elected politics through term limits would bring us closer to the original intention. (Nor should we forget that only the House was supposed to be elected by the people directly - Senators were appointed through the respective state legislatures until the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913.*) There is a compelling argument to be made, though, which contends that if term limits were adopted then control of the government would be placed in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats that write the rules and regulations. But I also believe that if elected officials are relieved of the constant fundraising to stay in office they may come up with more bold ideas and real solutions to problems – not lip-service intended to keep government bureaucrats in place perpetually.

I could probably spend a couple thousand words pursuing that digression, but my real intention in putting pixels to screen today was to discuss the immigration “flip-flop” of Donald Trump in relation to other issues. I put the phrase in quotes because to me it was already baked into his campaign, and those who truly believed he would be a hardliner on immigration were being played for suckers. Early on I knew about the “big, beautiful door” and “touchback” amnesty so what was one of his strongest points when I analyzed all of the GOP Presidential hopefuls almost a year ago became more and more watered down as time went on.

The difference to me between a “flip-flop” and a legitimate change of heart, though, comes down to whether the words remain consistent and are followed by appropriate actions. Obviously as a challenger in a political campaign Donald Trump doesn’t have a record of votes to compare nor has he had to address the myriad issues that someone in political office is confronted with on a daily basis. As a case in point for the latter: a week or so ago I put up a Facebook post asking why utility trucks such as those operated by Delmarva Power have to go through truck scales (as I had observed that day) with my thought being: what if they were going to repair a major power outage? I can almost guarantee you that no other constituent had that thought in mind in the year or two my local Delegates have been in office, but to me the question was worth asking for the reason stated.

Let me use Trump as an example in two areas: immigration and abortion. As I see it, the recent statements from Trump on the prospect of amnesty represent a flip-flop of a rhetorical kind, although some may consider it the usual running to the center a Republican candidate is supposed to do after he or she runs right for the primary. It’s more magnified for Trump, however, because of the ferocity of his initial statements such as ”(Mexico is) sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In the weeks immediately after Trump’s announcement, the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been repeatedly deported yet kept returning into the United States buttressed Trump’s point. So the rhetoric remained hardline, thus, there is a certain element of Trump’s support base that probably feels completely sold out but will revert to reassuring themselves “he’s not Hillary” rather than admit buyer’s remorse from being sold a bill of goods.

It should be noted this Trump pivot, which may or may not bolster his standing among Hispanic voters, also comes at a time when he is also making a parallel push for black voters on a more legitimate question: what have the Democrats done for you lately – or for that matter since the Great Society era and civil rights struggles a half-century ago? Obviously he’s not going to the Obama/Clinton position of just letting any immigrant in, but this more recent concession is quite a different tone than the initial Trump ”build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” stance. Those who wanted a “pause” to immigration are surely disgusted with the turn of events over the last week or so, but there are enough Trump skeptics out there who can say nativists were warned regarding Trump and immigration.

Yet on abortion I think Donald Trump had a more legitimate change of heart toward being pro-life, a move he claims came from a personal experience. Of course, those who are farther along on the pro-life spectrum still question Trump’s bonafides based on his support for Planned Parenthood, but that is not the be-all and end-all of the movement – Planned Parenthood is more of a symptom of the disease than the disease itself. Certainly Donald Trump is not one who has led a monogamous lifestyle – and only God knows if any of his trysts have led to pregnancies eventually terminated - but small victories are still small victories nonetheless. Over the course of the campaign Trump has not shifted a great deal on the issue, with the horserace watchers more focused on the aspect of which evangelical leaders are backing Trump despite his faults and which ones are simply sitting this election out or voting for a more strictly values-based candidate, either on the ballot or as a write-in, as I may.

But there remains a trust issue with Trump that makes writing pieces like this necessary. (Not being able to trust Hillary Clinton any farther than they could throw her was already factored in for millions of voters, simply based on the litany of scandal and questionable decisions she’s made over a quarter-century.) I’ve argued before that 2016 is the election of the flawed individual, but perhaps character doesn’t count in America anymore. While the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have major character flaws, only Kerry lost the popular vote on Election Day – and conspiracy theorists still blame Diebold for that 2004 loss. So perhaps Republicans now believe that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” and selected their own person of questionable character just to pick up that long-desired W on Election Day.

And if you discount character, you quickly understand why there are people who walk among us that would say or do whatever is necessary, flipping and flopping on their beliefs and values, to get what they want – anything from the modest “15 minutes of fame” to the most powerful political office in the country. Upon that realization, it’s just a short step to pondering about the fate of this very republic we live in. America will survive, but with the leadership we seem to be attracting who will want to live there?

Women and men of values, character, and principle, please make yourself known. Your nation needs you, now more than ever.

*Ironically, Delaware and Maryland did not ratify the 17th Amendment until 2010 and 2012, respectively. In Maryland, only eight members of the House of Delegates properly voted against ratification – and one of the eight switched his vote to be against it only after it passed.

The totalitarian religion of peace?

August 23, 2016 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Culture and Politics, National politics, Politics · Comment 

By Cathy Keim

Totalitarian

adj.

Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed: “A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomousinstitutions in its drive to seize the human soul” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)

Totalitarian government. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011).

We are used to thinking of totalitarian ideologies as the two horrors that the United States fought in the 20th Century: Nazism, which we defeated in WWII, and communism, which we supposedly defeated through the Cold War. We now face a third form of totalitarian ideology, but due to our advanced immersion into politically correct thinking we are no longer able to mount a coherent defense. The new threat is Islam – not radical Islam, but Islam.

As I was researching this piece, I was looking for people that were willing to state that Islam is a totalitarian ideology equal to, but not the same as, communism and Nazism. What I found was that when these two ideologies first popped up, they were compared to Islam to explain their totalitarian thrust.

In an excellent article, Geert Wilders, Western Sages, and Totalitarian Islam, Andrew Bostom, who I had the pleasure of meeting last January at a conference, shows that contemporaneous with the advent of Bolshevism and Nazism, people were making the connection. I find this interesting because due to the PC mindset we are currently controlled by, you don’t see many of our political leaders or media personalities being willing to admit to this rather obvious connection.

Why do I find this connection so important? Because this gives us an historical precedent for resisting a totalitarian ideology. Our current leaders are unable to state the truth. The George W. Bush administration hid behind the Radical Islam moniker, stating that Islam was a religion of peace and the radical jihadists were not reflective of the great world religion, Islam. Under President Obama, this concept has morphed into the more ridiculous position that we cannot even call terrorist attacks perpetrated in the name of Allah, Islamic terrorism. Jihad is transformed into an internal spiritual battle rather than the violent struggle to subdue the kafir that it really is.

The distinction as to whether Islam is a religion of peace being perverted by evil men or whether Islam is a totalitarian ideology committed to subduing the entire world to a one world government (caliphate) under sharia law makes a huge difference in how you deal with practical matters, particularly immigration.

If it is the former, then you can try to screen out potential terrorists by checking on their backgrounds like you would a criminal. If it is the latter, then you have a much different problem on your hands. Would it be wise to bring in thousands and thousands of adherents to this totalitarian ideology and hope that they will become peaceful Americans?

First, let’s look at a lengthy quote from Dr. Bostom’s article where Karl Jung and then Karl Barth compare Nazism to Islam:

[D]uring an interview conducted in the late 1930s (published in 1939), Karl Jung was asked: “ … had [he] any views on what was likely to be the next step in religious development?” Jung replied, in reference to the Nazi fervor that had gripped Germany:

We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future.

Also published in 1939 was Karl Barth’s assessment (from The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day) of the similarity between Fascist totalitarianism and Islam:

Participation in this life, according to it the only worthy and blessed life, is what National Socialism, as a political experiment, promises to those who will of their own accord share in this experiment. And now it becomes understandable why, at the point where it meets with resistance, it can only crush and kill — with the might and right which belongs to Divinity! Islam of old as we know proceeded in this way. It is impossible to understand National Socialism unless we see it in fact as a new Islam, its myth as a new Allah, and Hitler as this new Allah’s Prophet.

Next Dr. Bostom presents the contemporary comparison between Communism and Islam:

Jules Monnerot’s 1949 Sociologie du Communisme was translated into English and published asSociology and Psychology of Communism in 1953. Monnerot elaborated at length upon a brief but remarkably prescient observation by Bertrand Russell, published already in 1920, which compared emerging Bolshevism to Islam. Russell had noted in his The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism:

Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam. … Those who accept Bolshevism become impervious to scientific evidence, and commit intellectual suicide. Even if all the doctrines of Bolshevism were true, this would still be the case, since no unbiased examination of them is tolerated. … Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism [Islam] rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.

These quotes show that prior to our politically correct environment, Islam was viewed as a totalitarian ideology on par with fascism and communism. So, how did we deal with them?

We fought WWII to crush the evil of fascism and we waged the Cold War for decades to curb the expansion of communism, declaring victory with the dissolution of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After the 9/11 attacks, the United States attacked Afghanistan and Iraq to destroy the governments that were giving shelter to terrorists. Due to our need for oil, we never identified the correct problem, nor the correct solution. Instead our leaders spoke of bringing democracy to the Middle East. We ousted the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq and installed new governments with constitutions based on sharia law.

If our leaders had bothered to understand the problem, they would not have ever uttered the words democracy and sharia law in the same sentence. Next came the Arab Spring, which was hailed as a breaking out of democracy all over the Middle East. In the ensuing years, the chorus of joy on the parts of our elites has changed to the cry to bring in refugees by the thousands as they flee the war, chaos, and starvation that has followed.

Libya is a dysfunctional state now controlled by terrorist factions. Syria is rent by a brutal civil war. Iraq is being ravished by ISIS with its Christian and Yazidi populations facing genocide. Egypt was sinking under the control of the Moslem Brotherhood until the military seized control. Turkey is faltering as Erdogan pushes it ever closer to sharia fundamentalism. Iran has made kidnapping pay and is released from any restraints on its rush to nuclear weapons.

Islam, like the Nazis and the communists, is never content to peacefully coexist with its neighbors. Its only mandate is to conquer, kill, subjugate, and then move on to the next territory until the entire world is prostrate beneath them.

Dr. Bostom continues with a quote from Bernard Lewis explaining the goals of Islam and Communism.

Quite obviously, the Ulama [religious leaders] of Islam are very different from the Communist Party. Nevertheless, on closer examination, we find certain uncomfortable resemblances. Both groups profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth; the answers are different in every respect, alike only in their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man. Both groups offer to their members and followers the agreeable sensation of belonging to a community of believers, who are always right, as against an outer world of unbelievers, who are always wrong. Both offer an exhilarating feeling of mission, of purpose, of being engaged in a collective adventure to accelerate the historically inevitable victory of the true faith over the infidel evil-doers. The traditional Islamic division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, two necessarily opposed groups, of which the first has the collective obligation of perpetual struggle against the second, also has obvious parallels in the Communist view of world affairs. There again, the content of belief is utterly different, but the aggressive fanaticism of the believer is the same. The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as “There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet” was laying his finger on a real affinity. The call to a Communist Jihad, a Holy War for the faith – a new faith, but against the self-same Western Christian enemy – might well strike a responsive note.

Now that the Middle East is in shambles and hordes of refugees are overwhelming Europe and heading towards the United States, it would be helpful if our leaders would find the backbone that our forefathers had and would come up with a strategy based on the reality before them to deal with Islam, rather than continuing to murmur lies about a religion of peace and how we should welcome the stranger.

From fracking to flatulence: the all-out assault on methane

Commentary by Marita Noon

What is the “biggest unfinished business for the Obama administration?” According to a report from Bill McKibben, the outspoken climate alarmist who calls for all fossil fuels to be kept in the ground, it is “to establish tight rules on methane emissions” – emissions that he blames on the “rapid spread of fracking.”

McKibben calls methane emissions a “disaster.” He claims “methane is much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide” and that it does more damage to the climate than coal. Methane, CH4, is the primary component of natural gas.

Apparently, his progressive friends in California agree, as they are now, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ): “seeking to curb the natural gas emanating from dairy farms” – more specifically cow manure and flatulence. The August 12 editorial says that the California Air Resources Board “suggests that dairy farms purchase technology to capture methane and then sell the biogas to customers.” It acknowledges that the supposed cure would only be cost-effective with “substantial government subsidies and regulatory credits.” WSJ points out that while California’s proposed regulations might produce the “least GHG intensive” gallon of milk in the world, it would also be the “most expensive.”

To buttress his anti-fracking argument, McKibben is selective on which studies he cites. He starts with a paper from “Harvard researchers” that shows increased methane emissions between 2002 and 2014 but doesn’t pinpoint the source of the methane. He, then, relies heavily on “a series of papers” from known fracking opponents: Cornell scientists Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea. Within his report, McKibben mentions Howarth’s bias, but, I believe, intentionally never mentions Ingraffea’s. Earlier this year, in sworn testimony, Ingraffea admitted he’d be lying if he said that every one of his papers on shale gas was “entirely objective.” Additionally, a group that Ingraffa co-founded and for which he serves as Board Chair, Emeritus: Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, received, at least, tens of thousands of dollars in coordination with wealthy foundations to support the broad movement of opposition to shale gas drilling.

Because of bias, McKibben claims to reach out to an “impeccably moderate referee”: Dan Lashof. Mckibben then goes on to report on Lashof as having been “in the inner circles of climate policy almost since it began.” In addition to writing reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and crafting Obama’s plan to cut “coal plant pollution,” Lashof was the “longtime head of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council” and he now serves as COO for “billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate America.” Lashof is hardly an “impeccably moderate referee.”

Because McKibben goes to great lengths trying to appear balanced in his conclusions, a casual reader of his report might think the research cited is all there is and, therefore, agree with his cataclysmic views. Fortunately, as a just-released paper makes clear, much more research needs to be considered before cementing public policy, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s “tight rules on methane emissions.”

In the 28 peer-reviewed pages (with nearly 70 footnotes) of Bill McKibben’s terrifying disregard for fracking facts, Isaac Orr, research fellow for energy and environment policy at The Heartland Institute, states: “Although McKibben – a journalist, not a scientist – accurately identifies methane as being exceptionally good at capturing heat in Earth’s atmosphere, his ‘the-sky-is-falling’ analysis is based on cherry-picking data useful to his cause, selectively interpreting the results of other studies, ignoring contradicting data, and failing to acknowledge the real uncertainties in our understanding of how much methane is entering the atmosphere. In the end, methane emissions aren’t nearly as terrifying as McKibben claims.”

In the Heartland Institute Policy Brief, Orr explains why it has been difficult to achieve consistent readings on methane emissions: “Tools have been developed only recently to measure accurately methane emissions, with new and better equipment progressively replacing less perfect methods.” He then details the various methods:

  • Direct measurement of emissions, on-site, identifies methane emissions from specific sources;
  • Ambient Air Monitoring uses aerial surveys, allows large areas to be surveyed, with results affected by uncertainties;
  • Life-Cycle Analyses draw on multiple sources to provide an integrated measure of emissions from the entire natural gas value chain; and
  • Meta-Analyses combine the results of multiple studies using different methodologies or databases to search for overarching trends, recurring facts, and robust findings.

Throughout the section on methodology, Orr draws attention to the results of the various techniques – which he says shows “great uncertainty about how much methane is entering the atmosphere, how much is produced by oil-and-natural gas production, and how emissions can be managed in the future.” He also points out that more than 75 studies examining methane emissions from oil and gas systems have been done, yet “McKibben chose an outdated study [Howarth/Ingraffea] that used unrealistic assumptions and reached inaccurate conclusions.” Additionally: “Natural gas producers have a powerful economic motive to reduce methane leakage and use technologies that capture methane emissions during the drilling and well completion phase.”

Orr calls McKibben’s assertions that methane emissions are from the oil-and-gas sector: “simplistic” and “inappropriate.” Regarding the Harvard study, he explains: “Estimating the contributions from different source types and regions is difficult because there are many different sources of methane, and those sources overlap in the same spatial area. For example, methane is produced naturally in wetlands – and it is worth noting that environmentalists support ‘restoring’ wetlands despite the increases in methane emissions this would cause. Methane also is produced by agriculture through growing rice and raising livestock, fast-growing activities in developing countries. This makes it difficult to calculate exactly where methane is coming from and what sources should be controlled.”

Based on McKibben’s approach, other sections of The Heartland report include: Methane and Global Warming, Repeating Gasland Falsehoods, and What’s the Fracking Alternative – with the latter being my favorite.

Because McKibben’s ultimate goal is to keep fossil fuels in the ground, he goes to great lengths to support how wind and solar – the fracking alternatives – have progressed (an argument that Orr takes apart). However, a careful read of McKibben’s version of the story reveals that he acknowledges that his preferred energy sources are uneconomic. Within his report, McKibben admits that fracking has “brought online new shale deposits across the continent.” He sarcastically derides politicians who viewed fracking as a win-win situation by suggesting they were cynically saying they “could appease the environmentalists with their incessant yammering about climate change without having to run up the cost of electricity.”

McKibben even attacks President Obama’s support of natural gas – made abundant thanks to the companion technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. (He’s not too happy with Secretary Clinton’s efforts either.) Here are a few of the key phrases McKibben uses in that paragraph: (Note: McKibben sees these as negatives.)

  • “The fracking boom offered one of the few economic bright spots”;
  • “Manufacturing jobs were actually returning from overseas, attracted by newly abundant energy”; and
  • “The tool that made restrictions on coal palatable.”

Combine these McKibben statements and he is clearly aware that his plan will take away one of the few economic bright spots; that due to higher priced electricity, manufacturing jobs will leave our shores; and coal regulations will be unpalatable. While McKibben touts the oft-mentioned line about Denmark generating 42 percent of its power from wind, Orr reminds us that the figure only accounts for electricity – not total energy. When factoring in all of Denmark’s energy consumption, wind, solar, and geothermal only account for 5 percent of the energy mix and, as Orr explains, Denmark has the highest electricity rates in Europe and is still dependent on fossil fuels for the vast majority of its energy.

I am often asked why the anti-fossil fuel crowd has so recently turned against the decades-old technology of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has provided such economic and environmental benefits and has become even safer due to ever-increasing advances. In his report, McKibben states what is essentially the answer I often give: “One of the nastiest side effects of the fracking boom, in fact, is that the expansion of natural gas has undercut the market for renewables.” It has upset the entire world-view of people like McKibben who’d banked on oil and natural gas being scarce – and therefore expensive. In that paradigm, wind and solar power would be the saviors. Now they are an expensive redundancy.

Worrying about whether methane emissions come from oil-and-gas activities, from agriculture, such as cow flatulence or rice farming, or from naturally occurring seeps may seem irrelevant to the average energy consumer’s day. However, when you consider that long-term, expensive public policy is being based on this topic, it is important to be informed fairly and accurately – and to communicate with your elected officials accordingly.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Woe unto them that call evil good: a frank discussion about life issues and the party platforms

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20, KJV

This fall in Maryland we will have four parties on the ballot: not just the Republicans and Democrats, but also the Libertarians and the Green Party. All four of them are represented on the Presidential ballot, with three also contending for United States Senate and for our First District Congressional seat. (There is no Libertarian running for Senate and no Green Party candidate in the First District. Around the state, there are six Libertarians and five Greens running for the House.)

As one who has a passionate interest in the subject, Cathy Keim sat down to take a look at the four parties and where they stand on life issues, particularly abortion. Most of us aren’t single-issue voters, but I think I speak for Cathy when I contend we are both convinced that the way a party looks at the subject of life is an indicator of how it interprets the intersection of liberty on the one hand and faith on the other – or, as I would put it, the location of the guardrails on America’s path.

The Declaration of Independence states our unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. One cannot partake of these unalienable rights if they are murdered in the womb, so to us it is just that simple that an American that believes in the founding principles of our nation must also embrace a pro-life position.

To approach this, we have decided to lay out each party’s platform on the subject and provide our take on it afterward. These will be placed in alphabetical order so the Democrats go first.

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Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion – regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose – and seek to overturn – federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.

We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexuality, race, income, disability, and other factors. We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

And we strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services, as well as protections for women against pregnancy discrimination. We are committed to creating a society where children are safe and can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. We recognize and support the importance of civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child. (Page 37 here.)

Also, on Page 46:

We will support sexual and reproductive health and rights around the globe. In addition to expanding the availability of affordable family planning information and contraceptive supplies, we believe that safe abortion must be part of comprehensive maternal and women’s health care and included as part of America’s global health programming. Therefore, we support the repeal of harmful restrictions that obstruct women’s access to health care information and services, including the “global gag rule” and the Helms Amendment that bars American assistance to provide safe, legal abortion throughout the developing world. (Emphasis ours.)

**********

Cathy: How can the Democrat Party write such drivel with a straight face?  They define reproductive health as including abortion and proceed to say that reproductive health is core to women’s,  men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing.  Except for the baby that is murdered in the womb.  The aborted baby’s health and wellbeing is certainly not benefited by legal abortion.

Once upon a time, they pretended that the baby was just a blob of tissue, but now they declare that even if life begins at conception, they would still demand that abortion be legal. Despite their claim that they want abortions to be safe, they have blocked and overturned any laws that have been passed to require abortion mills to conform to accepted standards of safety. You would be horrified if your vet subjected your dog to the kind of unsanitary, unsafe conditions that abortion mills routinely conduct their procedures under.

The Democrat Party plank on abortion definitely falls under the category of calling evil good.

Michael: What I can’t get over is the sheer hypocrisy of the Democrats standing for “creating a society where children are safe” when the one place you would think would be the safest is fair game for a mother’s ill-informed “choice.” And does it not reek of the same sort of eugenics made famous by Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) that the Democrats want to promote abortion “throughout the developing world?” Why not just call them “human weeds” while you are at it?

And once again they give their whole-hearted support to Planned Parenthood by claiming they “provide critical health services.” So do thousands of other facilities that don’t make millions of dollars performing abortions or stand accused of selling baby parts for profit.

Next we will turn to the Green Party, which recently finalized its 2016 platform.

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Women’s rights must be protected and expanded to guarantee each woman’s right as a full participant in society, free from sexual harassment, job discrimination or interference in the intensely personal choice about whether to have a child.

Women’s right to control their bodies is non-negotiable. It is essential that the option of a safe, legal abortion remains available. The “morning-after” pill must be affordable and easily accessible without a prescription, together with a government-sponsored public relations campaign to educate women about this form of contraception. Clinics must be accessible and must offer advice on contraception and the means for contraception; consultation about abortion and the performance of abortions, and; abortion regardless of age or marital status.

We endorse women’s right to use contraception and, when they choose, to have an abortion. This right cannot be limited to women’s age or marital status. Contraception and abortion must be included in all health insurance policies in the U.S., and any state government must be able to legally offer these services free of charge to women at the poverty level. Public health agencies operating abroad should be allowed to offer family planning, contraception, and abortion in all countries that ask for those services. We oppose our government’s habit of cutting family planning funds when those funds go to agencies in foreign countries that give out contraceptive devices, offer advice on abortion, and perform abortions.

We encourage women and men to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It is the inalienable right and duty of every woman to learn about her body and to be aware of the phases of her menstrual cycle, and it is the duty for every man to be aware of the functions and health of his and his partner’s bodies. This information is necessary for self-determination, to make informed decisions, and to prevent unintended consequences. Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls. The “morning-after” pill and option of a safe and legal abortion need to remain available. (This is under the heading of “Civil Rights.”)

Under “Health Care“:

The Green Party unequivocally supports a woman’s right to reproductive choice, no matter her marital status or age, and that contraception and safe, legal abortion procedures be available on demand and be included in all health insurance coverage in the U.S., as well as free of charge in any state where a woman’s income falls below the poverty level.

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Cathy: The Green Party seems to think that reproduction refers to the right to prevent or terminate a child. This is changing the meaning from good to evil. A child is to be prevented from being conceived (I find this hard to believe) by the woman knowing her menstrual cycle! This sounds rather like the rhythm method. Why bother when you can have a free morning after pill or a safe abortion on demand? Every part of this plank is geared towards preventing future citizens. Women are only equal if they do not get pregnant.

“Unplanned conception takes control away from individuals and makes them subject to external controls.” I would think that that sentence should read makes them subject to internal controls since the baby is inside the mother’s womb!

This whole conversation is ignoring the right of the baby to exist. They try to hide that by talking about prevention, but in the end, the right to abort the baby must be universal. Since any baby can be aborted, then there can be no protection for a baby that has Down’s syndrome or any other problems. This means that there is no call to prevent sex-selection abortions. What if the baby has a cleft palate which can fixed by surgery? Once the sanctity of life is broken, there is no end to the mischief that results.

The Green Party fails completely on the abortion issue, but that didn’t surprise you, did it?

Michael: The scariest part of their platform to me is the fact that they actually say abortion is a “right (that) cannot be limited to women’s age or marital status.” As I read this, they are perfectly fine with a 10 year old getting an abortion, whether the parent knows or not. There IS a surefire way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but then it would eliminate the choice a woman would have to sleep with a man. If the choice is made to engage in sexual activity, then there is a risk of pregnancy. Even if a woman is “aware of the phases of her menstrual cycle” there’s no guarantee that a time she thinks she’s safe is really a safe time. (Nor does this account for the inevitable failure of contraceptives.)

In essence, they are perfectly willing to absolve the women of all responsibility for their actions in the name of “individual rights.” And that leads us to the Libertarian Party.

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1.5 Abortion

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

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Cathy: The Libertarian Party takes a dive with their disingenuous attempt to leave abortion up to the individual.  If life is an unalienable right, then you cannot leave the choice up to the individual.  We do not leave it up to the individual to decide whether to murder someone, so why should we suddenly pretend that this is different?  The only difference is the size of the citizen.

Michael: They definitely punt on this question, and not in the least because “people can hold good-faith views on all sides.”

I believe that the Founders placed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in that order intentionally. It is difficult, if not impossible, to pursue happiness without liberty, but it is impossible to enjoy liberty without life. And this is why I believe a true libertarian would by necessity be pro-life. Rather than argue about the point of viability for the unborn, I presume that they enjoy the right to life upon conception and their right to life trumps the mother’s liberty, as expressed in the phony “right to privacy” the majority in Roe v. Wade made out of thin air.

I can agree that the federal government should be kept out of the abortion matter, because I believe it’s properly debated and adjudicated in the several states.

Finally, we get to the Republican Party, which has been traditionally the home of the pro-life movement.

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The Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life  

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. We oppose the non-consensual withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm, just as we oppose active and passive euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Republican leadership has led the effort to prohibit the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion and permitted States to extend health care coverage to children before birth. We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended. We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions - gender discrimination in its most lethal form - and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia. We call for a ban on the use of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. We support and applaud adult stem cell research to develop lifesaving therapies, and we oppose the killing of embryos for their stem cells. We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

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Cathy: The Republican Party plank is pretty good.  It covers a lot of areas that need to be protected.  However, it stops short of stating that from conception to natural death, life should be protected.  This includes children with Down’s syndrome, birth defects, and babies conceived by rape.  The baby should not be punished for the sins of the father.

Michael: It’s a very comprehensive platform. I think Cathy’s concern is covered somewhat by the opposition to “withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment…from people with disabilities.” But I especially like the mention of judges, who are vital in the effort to provide protection to the unborn – how many common-sense laws have been overturned by the unelected federal judiciary? Ask the state of Texas, which had a perfectly valid law regarding abortion clinics overturned by judicial fiat.

Yet with such a great platform one has to ask just how much the nominee believes in it, given his statements on Planned Parenthood and relatively recent conversion to a pro-life stance. I understand people can honestly change, but the proof is in the pudding and this nominee sometimes has difficulty keeping a story straight.

Cathy: If you are a person that believes that abortion is wrong, then the party platforms reduce the viable candidates immediately.  If you further look at which party has a chance of winning, then there is only one party that works for the pro-life individual.

Voters that are concerned with “social issues” are frequently reprimanded for being single issue voters or for holding the party back from success.  I hear those arguments, but they don’t hold much water if you are not allowed to ever draw your first breath.  The pro-life position is so basic that it leaves no room to discuss other policies.  Once we have determined that our future citizens have the right to safety in their mother’s womb, then we can talk about the other issues.

The Republican Party does many things that I do not always agree with, but they have still managed to hang onto their pro-life plank.  I also understand that not every candidate will fully support every plank, but from my survey of the candidates listed on the Maryland ballot, they all claim to stand on abortion where their parties’ plank would put them.

Consider this as you choose which candidate will receive your vote.

The few, the loud, the anti-fossil fuel crowd

Commentary by Marita Noon

If you get your news from the mainstream media, you likely think the views expressed by the environmental activists represent the majority of Americans. After all, their highly visible protests against the Keystone pipeline – sit-ins in front of the White House, locking themselves to the White House fence and then being arrested for it, and parading down the National Mall carrying a huge inflated tube emblazoned with the words: “Just say no to Keystone” – were effective. Despite repeated polling that showed a majority of Americans supported the pipeline, with a small minority opposed, the loud theatrics of the anti-fossil fuel crowd eventually won out. After years of stall tactics, President Obama finally bowed to their demands and said no to the job-creating infrastructure project.

Earlier this year, the usual group of suspects, led by well-known anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben, planned a “global wave of resistance” called BreakFree2016 - scheduled to take place from May 3-15 – on six continents. The event’s website announced the various activities, including an appearance and speech by McKibben, a Vermont resident, at the Colorado rally that promised: the “largest mass mobilizations for climate action in the history of Colorado.” It confirmed that there would be “civil disobedience.”

Did you hear about it? Probably not.

A news report of the planned Colorado activities said: “And on May 14, 350 Colorado is planning a day of speeches, live music and activities protesting oil and gas developments close to neighborhoods and schools in Thornton. The goal is to draw 1,000 people to the upcoming events.” The website, post-event, states: “about 800 people joined the action throughout the day” with “about 30-40 people” still there at the end of the day for the dramatic “frack-site” invasion. Yet, as even their own Facebook page photos indicate, not even 100 were present for the big McKibben speech. Without vendors and media, he may have had no audience at all.

After flying in to Denver, and then being driven to the protest site in a limousine, McKibben jetted off to Los Angeles, California, where he was joined by the greens’ “Daddy Warbucks,” billionaire political campaign donor Tom Steyer – with much the same results: a few hundred protesting fossil fuels and, as Energy In Depth reported, “the very social and economic underpinnings of liberal democracy.” The typical anti-everything protestors were present – but only a few.

In Iowa, as I addressed last week, a meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition – which according to the organizer includes those with “concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change” – expected a crowd of 200. Instead, according to the Ottumwa Courier, “only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.”

Now, Colorado is ground zero for “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year,” as Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for safety in food production and oil and gas production, called it. Two ballot initiatives, 75 and 78, have the potential to, according to Colorado regulators, “effectively halt new oil and gas development in as much as 90 percent of the state.” In order to get the initiatives on the ballot, 98,492 valid signatures needed to be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State by August 8 – no later than 3:00 p.m.

In June, The Tribune reported that Tricia Olson, who has pumped in most of the funding for a group backing initiatives 75 and 78, hoped to “collect 160,000 signatures to account for the invalid signatures that inevitably pop up.” (Politico just announced: “recent campaign finance reports were filed with the Colorado secretary of state, the Sierra Club gave $150,000, making it the largest single reported contributor to the anti-fracking effort.”)

Because the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on May 2, declared local fracking limits “invalid and unenforceable,” as state law trumps local ordinances, Olson sees the ballot initiatives as their “last ditch effort.”

On Monday, August 8, exercising stagecraft, at 2:30 p.m., dozens of supporters emptied a U-Haul truck and delivered box after box of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. They celebrated their “victory.” 350 Colorado, one of the groups behind the measures, proclaimed: “We did it! Over 100,000 signatures delivered on initiatives to limit fracking!” – not the 160,000 originally hoped for, and likely not enough to get on the ballot in November.

By CBS Denver’s accounting about 105,000 signatures were turned in – most in half empty boxes. Lynn Bartels, Colorado Secretary of State Communications Director, tweeted: “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.” Once the petitions were consolidated, there were roughly 50 empty boxes. Simon Lomax, an associate energy policy analyst with the conservative Independence Institute in Denver and a consultant who advises pro-business groups, said: “To make it look more impressive they added a bunch of empty boxes, or boxes with very few petitions. It just sort of shows, these groups don’t do substance, they just do deceptive publicity stunts.”

On CBS Denver, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler explained that since you need about 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot because, for a variety of reasons, at least 30 percent are rejected, you need to submit at least 140,000. He says that for the 105,000 signatures turned in to qualify would be “unprecedented,” something that “has never occurred in Colorado for a ballot initiative.” According to Gessler, the effort is “doomed” – though we will not know for sure until next month when the final counts are released.

Noted election reporter and national affairs columnist for the National Review, John Fund, told me: “If there is enough public support for an issue to get the votes needed to pass, getting a surplus of signatures to get it on the ballot is an easy task.”

Many Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, support hydraulic fracturing and have come out against the ballot initiatives. Politico posits that because mainstream environmentalists “fear that their movement will suffer a demoralizing defeat if the two proposals make it in front of the voters,” they “hope the ballot initiatives will die instead.”  Additionally, “A decisive referendum on oil and gas production would increase calls for [Hillary] Clinton to explicitly take a side.” She’s previously aligned with 75 and 78 – which could spoil her attempts to attract moderate Republicans she’ll need to win the state.

Despite their drama and declared “victory,” it doesn’t seem that the Colorado anti-fossil fuel crowd has enough signatures, or support, to make it onto the November ballot. They may be loud, but, alas, they are few.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The price to pay

It really wasn’t my intention to write about this election very much, as I would rather try to shape post-Trump conservatism, but there is an occasion here for a lesson to be taught.

Late last week we began hearing the rumbles about a letter to the RNC, signed by a number of concerned party members, urging them to stop financially supporting the flailing Trump campaign and concentrate their declining finances on saving the House and Senate from a Democratic takeover. The latter was already a strong possibility thanks to the sheer number of Republican seats in play – the TEA Party wave election of 2010 comes home to roost this year in the Senate. Among those signing are onetime Maryland YR chair Brian Griffiths and my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, who resigned earlier this summer as county chair in Prince George’s County because she, too, could not support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee.

While I have had my differences with Griffiths over the years, it’s more rare that I disagree with my friend Heather. Yet I believe there are two good arguments for keeping Trump in the GOP financial loop, despite their (likely correct) contention that it’s “throwing good money after bad.”

First of all, those who climbed aboard the Trump Train early on were completely and utterly convinced that he would absolutely steamroller Hillary Clinton just as he has built up his business empire. But now that the polls being reported on a near-daily basis continue to find Trump not only losing nationally but putting several “safe” GOP states in play, these backers not only claim the polls are “fake” but also point to other (non-scientific) polls showing Trump has a “YUGE” lead and analysis saying he’ll win in a “landslide.” So apparently this money is going to a good cause, right? These militant Trumpkins are going to be covered regardless – either he wins and then the purge of the #NeverTrump group from the GOP begins, or he loses because he said early on “I’m afraid the election going to be rigged.”

So if you withhold the GOP money from Donald Trump, it’s just going to be another thing to blame his loss on. “We had these huge rallies and we knew we had this election in the bag,” they will wail, “but Reince Priebus and the GOP establishment wouldn’t give us any support – they must have been in cahoots with Hillary.” Don’t you dare give them that excuse.

As for the second reason, the Republican Party simply needs to be taught a lesson on its own and sometimes the only way to get the point across is letting them utterly fail. They had the chance, several times, to do something to avoid this situation – closed primaries, penalties for skipping debates and insistence on participation to the end, or allowing convention delegates to vote their conscience, as examples - but they did none of these things, allowing a candidate with far less than 50% of the Republican vote to skate off with the nomination. (This doesn’t count the policy failures of Republicans in Congress.) As I have said before: you break it, you bought it. Give Trump the money he’s due, and when the election is lost all of those involved will hopefully resign in disgrace for what they have done to a great party and a great country.

So when I get my appeals for donations to the national Republican party (and even the state version) I’m not giving them a dime. This is actually nothing new for me, since I would rather give to the individual candidate I believe in than a party organization that will be as likely to support a candidate edging left of center as it would a conservative (and perhaps more.) And too often they place their thumb on the scale in a primary even though it’s against their policy to do so. (Heather surely recalls Rule 11 being used for Maryland in 2010.)

It looks more and more likely that a bitterly divided Republican Party will endure electoral disaster unseen in a decade this November. (Maybe it’s years ending in 6, since the last several of those have been horrible for national Republicans – they lost all of Congress in 2006, Bob Dole lost in 1996, they lost the Senate in 1986, and Gerald Ford was defeated in 1976. 1966 was the last successful one.) But just as the Democrats are now split between the radical progressives that backed Bernie Sanders and the establishment which went for Clinton, the GOP is rent asunder by the schism between conservatism and the alt-right populism best expressed by Donald Trump (and, to a certain extent prior to that, Sarah Palin.)

Once we get to 2017, the question will be that of who blinks first. After the new Congress and administration is sworn in, it will be time for the GOP to get together and select new leadership. If things go as expected in November, the January RNC meeting will be must-see TV for political junkies as the fate of the resistance is determined.

But if the right people are placed in charge, the few million dollars wasted on Trump at the expense of Congress will be a memory because many may be willing to open their wallets again. In that respect, perhaps the Trump candidacy will be the catharsis the GOP needed to begin on a path to a post-Trump conservatism. We can only hope.

Seeking action on Medicare

The mailing had everything needed for the shock value: a worried-looking senior citizen juxtaposed over a stack of paper stamped “DENIED.” “Worried About Government Bureaucracy Restricting Your Medicare?” it asked. If the piece of paper could listen I would tell it that I’m not even counting on having Medicare when I get to that age, but I figured this may be a fun bit of research and exploration to do. “Okay, I’ll bite,” I thought.

The mailing came to both my wife Kim and I as two separate “families” and was paid for by the American Action Network (AAN). So my first question was obvious: who is the American Action Network? According to Wikipedia, the AAN is “a nonprofit issue advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. which promotes center-right public policy. It was established in 2010 by Fred Malek and Norm Coleman as a 501(c)(4) organization.” On their behalf, the AAN argues its “primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.” So the heart must be the center and the mind must be right?

In essence, it’s a group similar to one I pointed out last week, Americans for Limited Government. AAN may have fancier digs and a larger mailing list and donor base, but they are just another of the thousands of issue advocacy groups orbiting around the capital region – one that has $1.7 million to spend on sending a piece that specifically asked me to, “Tell Congressman Andy Harris to Continue His Fight to Protect Your Medicare.” Since both Kim and I are registered as Republicans, I’m thinking the list was culled to specifically target GOP voters and it wouldn’t shock me if they also narrowed this mailing to only reach those over 50 (as Kim and I both are.) According to AAN, 61 districts in 27 states were targeted for the advocacy campaign, for a total cost (with print and digital ads) of $4.8 million.

To be specific, the mailing advocated the passage of two bills: H.R. 1190, which is better known as the Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015, and H.R. 5122, which doesn’t have a fancy title but is intended “To prohibit further action on the proposed rule regarding testing of Medicare part B prescription drug models.” Harris (as well as every other Republican present, and 11 Democrats) voted for the former bill last year, but it’s been bottled up in the Senate.

H.R. 1190 has two purposes: one is the termination of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (or, in the words of Sarah Palin, the “death panels”) while the other cuts billions of dollars in spending on the Prevention and Public Health Fund over the next decade. But because Barack Obama isn’t going to agree with this anyway, it’s apparent that the bill will go nowhere in the Senate (they won’t even make it past the cloture vote.)

The second bill, H.R. 5122, would eliminate spending on a proposed rule, which is 33 pages to explain that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to try a new method of payment for certain drugs administered to Medicare patients as a trial program. The overall idea is to encourage the use of lower-priced drugs, since the authors of the rule contend the providers use more expensive medications to take advantage of a flat 6 percent reimbursement rate. As an experiment, the rate would go down to 2.5% plus a flat $16 additional reimbursement. After its introduction the bill has apparently sat in a desk drawer someplace because no vote has been taken on it.

Yet AAN objects to both bills, and ”calls on seniors to advocate for two key legislative priorities: (1) H.R. 5122, to prevent the Obama Administration from changing the Medicare Part B payment policy for treatments, and (2) H.R. 1190, to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both bills will block bureaucrats from imposing harmful changes to Medicare that could threaten seniors’ access to care.”

So I investigated further, and found a missive Coleman wrote last month about this and other issues. Among the things Coleman said:

Despite assurances that ObamaCare would be the end all, be all, for health care reform in America, we now know that it is simply collapsing in on itself.  Insurers are fleeing the system - premiums are increasing - and recent court rulings have undermined the credibility of the financial assumptions used by liberals to justify the creation of ObamaCare.

All this is true. Yet Coleman goes on:

In the end, America doesn’t need only to reform government.

We need to reform the notion that government is the solution to our problems or the key to our future prosperity.

Again, truer words have never been spoken. But the premise of the AAN mailing is that of protecting a government program by appealing to the beneficiaries. (A subsidiary site operated by AAN and promoted on the mailing makes this clear: DontCutOurMedicare.com.) If government isn’t the solution to our problem, one would think AAN would be looking to repeal Medicare entirely (over a relatively lengthy sunset period, of course) to truly reform the notion that Americans should depend on our government for health care or feel entitled to it. At the very most, the idea of Medicare should be no more than a state-level initiative – if the people of Maryland want a lavish senior care program, let them adopt it as their own. However, those in Delaware may feel differently.

So the definition of “center-right” seems to be the same sore subject that millions of Donald Trump voters used as their excuse to vote against the “establishment.” While they have selected a deeply flawed vessel to amplify their message, it seems those frustrated voters are looking more for the “right” than the “center,” since all the center seems to be is the maintenance of a failed status quo.

On the other hand, one can argue that their objection is not about government involvement, but instead only a complaint about the originator of the idea. They don’t seem to have the same issues with the Medicare Part D program enacted under Republican President George W. Bush – which is, in some respects, similar to the pilot program H.R. 5122 seeks to defund because Part D tends to reward the usage of less expensive medication. It’s still the federal government subsidizing health care, but it was done in the name of a centrist ”compassionate conservatism” instead of the leftward ”fundamental change to America.”

To me, it’s very ironic that a group which wants to back away from the idea that our government is a solution sends out a directive to appeal to our very conservative representative to maintain a costly government entitlement program. Even more so, those who complain “don’t touch our Medicare” would be the first to object to expanding eligibility to cover those over 50 years of age, in part because it’s Hillary Clinton’s idea. (Trump seems to favor the Medicare status quo with a few tweaks, which may explain why much of the AAN target audience is his support base.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is figuring out where they got $4.8 million for the campaign. We have a few clues, but the backers of this group aren’t being very public about it. So if they were looking for exposure, I suppose this piece is added value to them. But I must say: the “center” of their “center-right” really comes out with this one, particularly if you consider the center as our current situation – a President pulling to the left and Congress mildly countering to the right. Then again, to AAN we are only a “democracy” anyway, so at the moment the people want largesse from the public treasury, with AAN’s large donors perhaps trying to preserve their cut of the proceeds.

While those on the Left, such as writer Igor Volsky, celebrated Medicare as a success and believe the issue is settled, I happen to think those Volsky cites who argued against the concept when it was first proposed over 50 years ago were proven correct. Volsky also quotes an exchange between then-Congressman Mike Pence and journalist Andrea Mitchell:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained his opposition to a new public health care option by arguing that Medicare spending has exceeded actuarial estimates from 1965. As Andrea Mitchell pointed out, somewhat jokingly, “I don’t know if you want to go back to Indiana and campaign against Medicare.”

Obviously those on the center-right don’t want to, so it’s going to take decades of re-education on the concepts of liberty and personal responsibility to counter the effects of the entitlement mentality society we live in today. Some may consider Medicare a success and wish it saved, but to achieve the rightsizing of government we need it’s clear Newt Gingrich was correct: Medicare does need to “wither on the vine.” Given the sheer number of insurance companies that now cater to the senior market, the problem Medicare was created to “solve” can easily be addressed by the private sector.

The pipeline’s approved. Environmentalists are angry.

Commentary by Marita Noon

Final federal approval for what is being called the “new Keystone” came from the Army Corps of Engineers on July 26 – allowing the pipeline to move forward. The 1,168-mile long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), also called the Bakken Pipeline, is comparable in length to the Keystone XL. It will cross four states and carry 450,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to a transfer terminal in Illinois where it will connect with other pipelines and be taken to refineries.

The $3.8 billion dollar project has pitted environmentalists against economic interests.

During the Keystone fight, outspoken opponent Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, said: “In America we should be focused on making sure that the oil in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and others, in Montana, that that oil is getting to market.” Now, thanks to DAPL, America’s oil will have a safer way to get “to market” – freeing up as many as 750 train cars a day to transport corn, soybeans, and grain. However, as soon as DAPL came on the scene, they moved the marker, and environmental opposition was mounted. Bold Iowa, a group that shares a website with Kleeb’s Bold Nebraska, says it has members willing to risk arrest in “nonviolent protests.” They are also training monitors to report any environmental violations or hazards.

On August 1, nine pieces of heavy equipment – excavators and bulldozers – were set on fire at three different DAPL construction sites, causing $3 million in damage. At the time of this writing, no arrests have been made. Additionally, protestors have gathered on the grounds of the North Dakota Capitol, calling for Governor Jack Dalrymple and legislators to put a halt to construction of the pipeline until their lawsuits are addressed.

On its “Stop the Bakken Pipeline” page, the Iowa Sierra Club posted: “A new pipeline will delay the US transition to clean and renewable energy and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The United States needs to move away from fossil fuel extractions and to energy sources that have less impact on climate change.”

The Club’s position sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. When she finally came out against Keystone, she said: “We need to be transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy.” She called the pipeline “a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change.”

Opposition, however, is not as broad-based as the environmental groups had hoped for. At an April meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition in Iowa, organizers were disappointed. Chairs were set up for 200, but only about 40 “trickled in.” In the four states the pipeline will cross, more than 90 percent, on average, of the landowners signed the voluntary easement agreements.

At its peak, the DAPL’s construction is expected to involve as many as 4,000 workers in each state and will require the purchase of $200 million in American-made heavy construction and related equipment from Caterpillar, Deere, and Vermeer.

Cory Bryson, Business Agent for Laborers Local 563 reports: “We’ve been inundated with calls from all over the country from people wanting to work on this pipeline project. Mainline pipeline projects like Dakota Access provide excellent working opportunities for our members and tremendous wages. The Laborers excel at this work.” No wonder men and women want to travel to the pipeline’s locale, some workers, most without college degrees, brag about banking $2,000-5,000 a week.

In Illinois, the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce has assembled hundreds of packets with information including restaurants, health-care facilities, RV sites, and laundromats. Executive Director Lisa Musch reports that her office has been receiving calls for months from people looking for rental properties. Teriann Gutierrez, owner of Buena Vista Farms, a resort-campground, and a retired plastics engineer, says: “I’ve been full since the beginning of April.” She told me the boost in population is bringing a lot of money into the community that has been hit hard with the loss of manufacturing jobs. DAPL is putting a lot of local people to work. Gutierrez is very thankful as the boom means she’ll be able to pay down debt.

“Like any major construction project, the DAPL will create, and more importantly maintain, high paying American jobs throughout the supply chain and throughout the nation,” North Dakota’s at-large Congressman Kevin Cramer said. “I’ve seen the crews that work on building the line and they take great pride in their craft. They spend money in local, usually rural, communities throughout the route. The steel suppliers and equipment manufacturers and distributors are just a few of the links in the chain. Everybody from fry cooks to hotel owners to financers are affected. Perhaps, most importantly, in a low price crude market, the economics of moving oil by the most efficient and safe manner possible preserves jobs on the production side of the equation as well.”

While DAPL is already creating lots of jobs, it is just one of many pipeline projects in the works that could be bringing much needed economic development to other communities and high-paying jobs for American workers. Gutierrez explained that, according to the workers staying at Buena Vista Farms: “The hardest thing is getting the permits. The long process holds up jobs.” Apparently, many of them made reservations but, then, had to delay them – and delay starting to work on the pipeline – because the permits hadn’t been approved as expected. It doesn’t have to be that way. Under President Obama, permitting for oil-and-gas activity has been slow-walked. Jobs have been held up.

Donald Trump has made clear that he’ll support pipelines and said he’ll invite TransCanada to reapply for the Keystone permit. On the other side, Clinton opposed Keystone and supports moving away from fossil fuels. Secretary of State John Kerry, Clinton’s successor, has implied that with “some 300 pipelines” we really don’t need any more. He said: “it’s not as if we’re pipeline-less.” A Clinton administration would likely extend the Obama delay tactic.

Whichever candidate wins in November will appoint agency heads who support his or her views – thus driving the policy direction.

Like Gutierrez, union members are grateful for the jobs. Last week, Dave Barnett, Pipeline Representative for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, told me: “We are pleased that the thousands of job opportunities associated with these projects are being decided on their need and merits, not on political pressures by extremists as the Keystone XL was.”

Whether the thousands of additional job opportunities materialize depends on American voters. Will we vote for pipelines that fuel the American economy and transport our natural resources safely and cheaply? Or, will we block job creation and economic development by voting with the environmentalists who want to “keep it in the ground?” In less than 100 days, we’ll have the answer to these important questions.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The first post-GOP teaching moment

It was about seven or eight years ago that I first came in contact with the group called Americans for Limited Government. One of their projects that I participated in for awhile was called Liberty Features Syndicate, which (as the name implied) was a syndication service that generally catered to small newspapers. For perhaps a year, I was one of their writers and every so often I would find out one of my 600-word columns was placed in some small-town newspaper. That was a neat experience, particularly the very first time when I found out my column was in a Kentucky newspaper fitting that description. For a moment I thought I was destined to be the next Ann Coulter. (Now I’m glad I’m not.) They also do the NetRightDaily site, which is where I first discovered Marita Noon as they also carry her weekly op-ed. Somewhere in their archives I’m sure most of my columns survive.

All that has gone by the wayside, but I remain Facebook friends with current ALG president Richard Manning. Over the last few months, though, I’ve been dismayed to see how a group which claims to be for limited government has climbed aboard the Trump train. A case in point was something they posted last week, which I want to use as an educational tool. It’s called “Trump’s the nominee, deal with it.” I’m going to go through it a little at a time and share my thoughts as we go.

Donald Trump is the nominee and the establishment is going to have to deal with it. These anonymous GOP sources speculating on what the process would be if Donald Trump chose to withdraw from the race for president should be identified and forever run out of the GOP.

I find this rhetoric to be disheartening and a little disingenuous. Manning should remember that 56% of the Republican voters did not support Trump, but when it came time for that group to be represented at the RNC Convention Trump was right there with the “establishment” to shut it down. It was a coordinated effort, so don’t tell me Trump is not part of the establishment when it serves his purpose, and vice versa. Personally, I believe the whole “Trump will withdraw” story is wishful thinking on the part of some, but given his meteoric personality it’s not outside the realm of possibility. If anyone deserves to be “forever run out of the GOP,” though, it’s the Trump/RNC “enforcers” who were at the convention intimidating the grassroots supporters of needed rule changes. That action was one of the reasons I left the party leadership.

Where were they when Mitt Romney was outed telling donors that 47 percent of the people were on government assistance, creating the exact class warfare narrative that the Democrats craved? These anonymous, cowardly whiners were more than likely busily making fortunes at the GOP trough.

Probably the same place they were when Trump alienated women voters with his remarks about Megyn Kelly – except those weren’t surreptitiously recorded like Romney’s remarks were. The Democrats are going to attempt their tactics of division regardless of what the Republican nominee says. The one thing to criticize Romney for? He was off by 2 points – it was actually 49 percent. One would think that a group advocating limited government would embrace that fact as a reason to begin work on the issue. The truth hurts sometimes.

The only reason that this circular firing squad story exists is because the D.C. establishment class cannot get over that Jeb lost and with his loss, their every four-year financial windfall went away. And that’s the ugly truth, Donald Trump’s real failure is his unwillingness to spend millions in consulting fees to keep the GOP consulting vultures at bay. If these consultants had not lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, they might have some validity in their concerns, but they are proven losers, and Trump doesn’t like losers.

This is perhaps Manning’s best point, but by making it about Trump he makes a mistake. Trump may not be using the consultant class, but the problem is that he’s losing just like in the other five elections (and the current polls track similarly to theirs.) If Trump were running at 60% in the polls Manning would have a great point, but the only thing about Trump at 60% is his negatives. We should hope that the consultant class withers on the vine, but the way to do that is through limiting government so there’s less financial incentive to be a consultant.

So, now they are all-in in trying to stop Trump, and by fostering speculation that he might drop out, they give their cohorts in the mainstream media the excuse to replay some mistakes that Trump has made and the campaign is trying to move on from.

They don’t have to replay mistakes because Trump creates a fresh batch on an almost-daily basis.

It is time to root out these conspirators to elect Hillary Clinton president, and not allow them to hide under the cloak of invisibility that cockroaches and vermin depend upon.

Someone really needs to do an exhaustive study on how many Democrats crossed over in the open primaries to help make Trump the GOP nominee. Oh, wait, those aren’t the conspirators Manning is referring to? My contention all along is that the only candidate Hillary could beat was Donald Trump, so I suppose the real conspiracy was within the group that talked Trump into running when there were already several in the race – remember, Trump was among the last to announce.

For the rest of us, Donald Trump is the only chance to end the Obama expansion of federal government power, his disastrous EPA regulations, Obamacare and his use of the enforcement powers of the Executive Branch as weapons against his political enemies.

For Trump, any and all of these will eventually be negotiable except for the last one. Given the ferocity of his attacks against his former Republican foes, I don’t doubt that Trump has an “enemies list” of his own, and it won’t be all the groups who have tormented conservatives the last eight years. The conservatives will remain in the crosshairs because Trump didn’t need party unity anyway.

Moreover, The Donald yo-yos between wailing about “draconian rules” regarding federal land and advocating the federal government remain in control of it. His stated health care plan repeals Obamacare, but he also vowed to make a deal with hospitals to take care of the poor at government expense. EPA regulations are bad unless you’re pandering to Iowa corn farmers.

In short, I truly don’t see any real support for limited government from Trump, which makes me wonder why ALG is involved in this election. To be honest, I’m sure Americans for Limited Government is a relatively modest group, living on a comparative shoestring as one of many thousands of advocacy groups around Washington, D.C. (That in and of itself is rather ironic. If they don’t like the inside-the-Beltway culture perhaps their headquarters should be in flyover country.) They take Trump’s outsider image to heart, even though he has donated thousands of dollars to political candidates on both sides.

But simply being an outsider with little political experience does not necessarily equate to limited government. And while some argue that with Trump we at least have a slim chance of success, let me remind you that failure to constrain government will once again be a Republican trait if Trump wins and governs on a platform where Obamacare is replaced by other government involvement, regulations are addressed in a capricious manner, and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are off limits to needed reform, let alone the true limitation of government that can be achieved by sunsetting the programs over a multi-decade period to provide an orderly transition.

I use this as a cautionary tale about consistency. If you believe the group’s mission statement, it’s a curiosity to me why they involved themselves in this race:

We are leaders in identifying, exposing and working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent the continued expansion of government. Never shying away from the big issues, ALG is perpetually ahead of the issue curve taking on issues like the $100 billion International Monetary Fund line of credit while others are still trying to spell IMF. This aggressive, non-partisan approach to the threats posed by an ever expanding government to our basic freedoms gives us the ability to honestly present the limited government perspective both inside the beltway and most importantly around the country.

It’s clear to me that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton will lift a finger to limit government; rather, they will rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I can understand the fear of Hillary Clinton being a third term of Barack Obama, but who’s to say Donald Trump wouldn’t be a third term of George W. Bush, where government expanded at an alarming rate, too? There were several other candidates who were willing to begin the process of rightsizing the federal Leviathan, but Trump prevailed as the “Republican, not the conservative” nominee. It’s troubling to me that the folks at ALG let party override principle and fear take the place of common sense.

So despite the admonition of Manning and friends, the only nonsense we need to stop is continually claiming that not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. One can be #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary at the same time. There are other candidates out there who hew closer to the principles of limited government, and one of those things which holds them back is the perception that no one other than a Republican or Democrat can win. In the end, the decision is up to the voters, so what ALG needs to do is return to stressing the value of limited government rather than shill for one flawed candidate against another.

The road I’m taking

Now that I have made my way onto the exit ramp, perhaps this is a good time to alert you about where I may wish to go.

I was told that leaving the Central Committee would be quite liberating, and I can see that being the case. Then again, I probably wasn’t your typical member anyway – early on, one of my cohorts was very concerned about my website and, honestly, he had some good points. Over the years I learned just how far I could take certain things and when it was right to keep things under my hat. I mentioned in my announcement post that I wouldn’t be covering certain meetings or the state convention anymore, and I have to admit there were a lot of readers for the state convention posts. But I suspect the next one will be more of a wake anyway, and I’ve already done my share of those.

It’s worth noting that my website predates my tenure on the WCRCC by about a year, since I was formally sworn in back in December 2006 at one of those wake conventions I noted - it was immediately after Bob Ehrlich lost and we found out the MDGOP was thousands and thousands of dollars in the hole. Among the things I wanted to do early on with my site was to speak about issues, which led to this comment about my site in 2006. (The original is lost, but the quote was placed here.) The author of the quote is Stephanie Dray, who was once a Maryland-based blogger (and part of the erstwhile Maryland Bloggers Alliance) but graduated to be a successful writer of historical fiction:

“This blog about Maryland politics is located in Salisbury, and that’s a good thing. In any discussion of Maryland politics, the Eastern Shore tends to be neglected. Monoblogue attempts to pick up the slack. Unusual for conservative commentary, the tone of this blog tends to be wonky. There’s a slew of useful links on the right-hand side, and it’s filled with content. A handy resource for those looking to learn more about Maryland politics.”

I know I have maintained a fair share of issue-oriented writing, mainly regarding manufacturing, the energy industry (which is how I became acquainted with Marita Noon), and other business-related items, but I think it’s time to focus more on that wonky tone in preparation for a post-Trump conservatism that will be infused with a heavy dose of libertarianism. One question I may need to ponder upon in these writings is the conflict and tension between the ideas of libertarianism and the authority placed on us by faith and religion. It’s argued that we cannot legislate morality, so how and what distance from the straight and narrow shall we place the guardrails?

So instead of doing so much reporting and interpretation of events - particularly on the horserace aspect of elections, which I know I concentrated a lot on in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign – I’m looking to shift focus and begin exploring the benefits of limited government. In addition, there are certain cultural influences I think need to be broadcast and expounded upon. (That’s one reason I miss having Cathy Keim’s commentary on my site, but I’m sure her hiatus is just temporary.)

That is the first lane of my road. In the other lane is a project I’ve started on, but progress has been somewhat slow. Once I clear some commitments out of the way, though, I’m hoping to have more time to write my second book. Instead of being based on a series of blog posts I did like So We May Breathe Free was, this will be all original writing.

As one who was a member of the TEA Party movement, I have experienced this political phenomenon firsthand. There are many who have written the obituary of the movement, but I think there’s a need to look at the entirety of the TEA Party era, explore its impact, and, if its death has already occurred, do the autopsy. It’s the basic premise of the book I’ve started to write, although as I do research I’ll be interested to see how my theories bear out. Perhaps it was really all a mirage.

Just as a Christian is called to be in this world, but not of this world, perhaps stepping away from active participation in the political process may be the best way to have a perspective on it. While I was bad at it anyway, now there’s no call to be an apologist for the actions and views of our candidates Donald Trump, Kathy Szeliga, and Andy Harris. Truth be told, I’m sure that even Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton aren’t completely bad people, but neither of them is a person of their word and we always need honest leadership.

When I was a child, we always looked up to those who would run for President. Richard Nixon resigned when he failed to uphold the honor of his office, but otherwise it was a situation where, while you may not agree with the people who ran for President on a political basis, you still found them trustworthy. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, George H.W. Bush: all fine men who differed in their political views but were men of character.

But when Bill Clinton ran for and won office, all that changed. The Democrats of the last 24 years (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton) seem to be flawed individuals. Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were not perfect, either, but I thought them honorable and decent in character.

Unfortunately, 2016 is the election of the flawed individual. I’m actually saddened that my involvement in the political process has coincided with the coarsening of political culture, and I feel that maybe the better step is to proceed as a recovering (albeit very low-level) politician. It’s been said that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, so my job now is to attempt to change history’s course in some small way by enlightening people about the advantages of liberty and, perhaps, the benefits of spiritual liberation.

That’s my road. I’ll surely be moving at a slower pace than I used to, but feel free to follow along nonetheless.

The Renewable Fuel Standard: “set up for fraud”

August 2, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

America’s rush to renewables has invited corruption and fraud.

Researcher Christine Lakatos and I, together, have produced the single largest body of work on green-energy crony-corruption. Our years of collaboration have revealed that those with special access and influence have cashed in on the various green-energy programs and benefitted from the mandates, rules, and regulations that accompany the huge scheme. Dozens of the projects, including biofuel, which required the unwitting investment of taxpayer dollars have failed – leaving employees without jobs, buildings without tenants, taxpayers without repayment, and cronies without pain (even snatching hefty bonuses on the way down). Most people know about Solyndra, the first bankruptcy, and some may know about Abengoa, the biggest bankruptcy, but there are many more.

These big projects allowed the politically connected to bilk taxpayers of billions and is the definition of corruption. But, there’s fraud in renewable energy, too – and, while it doesn’t hit us as hard as taxpayers, it does cost us as consumers.

Wednesday, July 20, representing the latest fraudster to be convicted – but not the first and surely not the last – “a jury found an Indiana man guilty of securities fraud and other crimes connected to a massive biodiesel fraud scheme,” reported Greenwire. It turns out, Jeffrey Wilson and his multistate cohorts pretended to manufacture biodiesel, which allowed them to claim renewable fuel credits – known as Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs. The Department of Justice said Wilson’s actions resulted in a $20 million loss to investors, $140 million in revenue, and $56 million in criminal profit.

I know more than most about the corruption surrounding green energy, but I hadn’t followed this. I dug further.

Just two weeks earlier, two men in Florida pled guilty to a “multistate biodiesel fraud scheme.” Biodiesel Magazine says Thomas Davanzo and Robert Fedyna operated several shell companies that were used to facilitate the “multistate scheme to defraud biodiesel buyers and U.S. taxpayers by fraudulently selling biodiesel credits and fraudulently claiming tax credits.”

Six months before, on December 21, 2015, two men were indicted on “101 charges alleging they abused incentives offered to companies that produced biodiesel fuels.” According to The Morning Call: “A federal prosecutor says they took subsidies for fuel they did not produce and sold renewable energy credits to unsuspecting buyers.” The charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, filing false tax documents, obstruction of the Internal Revenue Service, and obstructing a federal investigation. The indictment claims Dave Dunham and Ralph Tommaso used a complex scheme that reached from Lehigh Valley, PA, to Washington state and into Canada and allowed them to apply for and receive government subsidies for producing clean diesel.

Also in 2015, two Las Vegas men and an Australian man were sentenced to federal prison for schemes to generate and sell fraudulent biodiesel credits. In another case, Rodney Hailey, owner of Clean Green Fuels in Maryland, was convicted of selling $9 million in counterfeit RINs from his garage without even trying to make biodiesel. Hailey’s neighbors called authorities because they were alarmed by the “profusion of luxury cars” that showed up in his “suburban Baltimore neighborhood” – 22 in all, claims a report in Bioenergy Connection. Then there is Jeffrey David Gunselman, owner of Absolute Fuels in Lubbock, TX, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas for lying about producing biodiesel fuel and selling the resulting renewable fuel credits. Reports indicate that he generated some 48 million RINs without actually producing any biodiesel fuel. He’s remembered for using his ill-gotten gain to purchase, among numerous luxury items, a demilitarized Patton tank.

The most interesting biodiesel fraud case may be that of Philip Rivkin, founder and chief executive of Houston-based Green Diesel who is now serving a 10-year sentence for selling fraudulent RINs. Over a seven-year period he concocted an elaborate scheme that included, according to Bloomberg: “a three-story steel skeleton crammed with pipes and valves” – some of which were not connected to anything. In late 2008, Green Diesel did reportedly produce a batch of about 130,000 gallons of biodiesel, but the quality was “too poor for commercial sale.”

Biodiesel RINs have become a valuable commodity because, as a result of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), refiners are required to blend biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply and the RINs supposedly prove they’ve complied. Rivkin sold more than $78 million in sham RINs. He bragged about building a $500 million company without any debt. When he fled the U.S. in 2011, prior to his 2014 capture, he did so in his $3.4 million Canadair Challenger jet.

These cases of RIN fraud are just those who’ve been caught – but they all have a common thread. They aren’t the names we are used to in the green-energy corruption story like billionaires Warren Buffet and Tom Steyer or former politicos like Al Gore and Bill Richardson. They aren’t cronies who’ve used political connections to work the system. They are fraudsters who found a way to fortune through the flawed RFS – first enacted by Congress in 2005 and expanded in 2007 – which contains a credit-trading program.

In a July 25 report on the RFS, Marlo Lewis, Jr., a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, explains: “Each gallon of biofuel produced is assigned a unique 38-digit Renewable Identification Number (RIN). When a refiner sells a gallon of biofuel in the motor fuel market, it earns a RIN credit. A refiner that does not meet its annual obligation by actually blending and selling biofuel can comply by purchasing surplus RIN credits from another refiner that exceeded its obligation. A refiner can also bank surplus RIN credits to meet up to 20 percent of the following year’s obligation.”

Because the law requires ever-increasing quantities of biofuel be produced – even beyond what consumers want or most vehicles can handle – RINs offer refiners a way to presumably meet the mandates while providing the market with what it wants. But, according to Brendan E. Williams, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers executive vice president, biodiesel RINs are especially lucrative: “Ethanol RINs stay attached to physical gallons of ethanol until the ethanol gallon is blended with petroleum.  This separation usually occurs at terminals, which are rarely owned by ethanol producers. Once ethanol is blended, the RIN is detached and becomes a tradable commodity.  Therefore, rather than a refiner or ethanol producer, it is often the terminal operator who does the blending that controls ethanol RINs.  A refiner that has a terminal rack at the refinery for local gasoline distribution can also do this blending, but this is not the usual situation because refineries are not located everywhere.  Biodiesel RINs work differently. EPA allows biodiesel producers to detach the RIN as soon as the biodiesel is produced. There is no requirement for biodiesel to be blended to petroleum diesel before the RIN is detached. This difference highlights why there is more fraud in biodiesel. The biodiesel fraudsters lie about producing physical biodiesel just so they can generate RINs on paper to sell. This is made possible based on the previously mentioned fact that there is no requirement for biodiesel to be blended with petroleum diesel.” A graphic in the Bloomberg report adds: “Biodiesel RINs tend to cost more than ethanol RINs or other types because they are scarcer and can be used to satisfy multiple requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

“RIN swaps,” according to Bloomberg, “are usually agreed upon between companies, traders, and brokers via email, phone, texts, and chatroom messages.” The onus is on the buyers, “if the RINS are found to be fraudulent, the holder has to purchase new credits to replace the phony ones” – and the new credits must be purchased at the current price that may be higher than the original purchase.

Of course, the refiners’ purchase of RINs – and in the case of fraudulent RINs, the double purchase – is passed on to the consumer. We are stuck holding the bag for the fraudsters’ get-rich-quick scheme that is enabled by the RFS.

“Because refiners can buy them to satisfy their obligations to introduce renewable fuels into the national market,” Scott Irwin, an agriculture economic professor at the University of Illinois, according to The Morning Call, calls the RINs: “valuable.” He explains: “A combination of little regulation, the small-business nature of biodiesel producers and higher-than-expected prices for credits produced a rash of fraud. … It was kind of set up for fraud.”

Because the EPA, whose expertise is in things like oil spills and air pollution, isn’t equipped to handle these cases of sophisticated financial fraud, Bloomberg reports, it has reached out to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – “which is itself stretched thin because of its responsibilities under Dodd-Frank.” The lack of oversight made the RFS biodiesel program a “government playground for con artists.”

The biofuel fraud is just one prong in the growing push for RFS reform. The economic and technical realities of the “blend wall,” as detailed in Lewis’ report, is another. On July 27, Bloomberg chronicled the history of the unlikely third prong: big green groups’ biofuel blunder. They’ve now turned against ethanol due to the agricultural runoff in waterways and conversion of prairies to cropland. Environmentalists, who once championed biofuels, are now seen as a factor in “improving the odds that lawmakers might seek changes to the program next year.”

Reforming the RFS is not a partisan issue. Free market advocates don’t like the mandates. Consumers resist been forced to purchase something they don’t want. Environmentalists don’t like the loss of prairie land and damage to the water supply. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) says the RFS has “truly been a flop. The environmental promise has been transformed into an environmental detriment.”

The only resistance to calls for RFS repeal or reform comes from the biofuel producers lobby – though as I’ve previously addressed, corn ethanol would likely still be blended into our fuel supply at about the current levels as it is a valuable oxygenate that increases octane.

Lewis concludes his report with this admonition: “Congress should repeal the RFS so that consumer preference and competition, rather than central planning policies, determine which fuels succeed or fail in the U.S. marketplace. Failing that, Congress should sunset the RFS so it ends after 2022. In the meantime, the EPA should cap mandatory biofuel sales at the E10 blend wall, while allowing biofuel producers to sell as much additional renewable fuel as consumers actually want to buy.”

Every politician in Washington talks about getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse. Getting rid of the RFS would go a long way to achieving that goal.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Taking the exit ramp

This evening I may have made some of the more radical Trumpkins happy: I resigned from the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee and as an officer of the Wicomico County Republican Club. It was the time of my choosing.

My original draft of this piece was much more angry and bitter, but I think now on reflection that it’s just a mounting frustration with all things political. I can see the iceberg as I’m standing on the deck of the Titanic but no one hears my warnings.

This is the time of year that I normally would begin the process for putting together volunteers to help out at the Wicomico County Fair, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival. But after a lot of thought, I realized that I would be lying to myself if I thought I could sit at a Republican table and hand out signage and trinkets for a candidate who I cannot support in Donald Trump. It got me thinking that we supposedly have all these new people who are willing to support Trump but would not support previous Republicans we worked hard to elect, so they can take over that duty.

In the last few months I have made a number of steps on my life journey, deepening in my faith. Now I understand I should be the forgiving sort, and if the reported conversion of Donald Trump to be a “baby Christian” is the truth, then I am pleased to hear it. But there also have to be deeds associated with the words, and the problem I have with Trump is that his version of the truth changes like most people change their socks. I find the lack of consistency to be an issue; while I know no one is perfect I would at least like to see him work in that direction. To borrow from the message I listened to Sunday on 3 John, Trump to me is still more of a Diotrephes and not enough of a Demetrius.

Because of that change, I’ve also realized that the party I have occupied for most of my adult life (aside from the two years I was classified as a Democrat because of my own Operation Chaos I did as a college student) has moved away from me. A party steeped in conservatism and willing to stand up for Judeo-Christian values would have laughed Donald Trump out of the race before we even counted the votes in Iowa because he has very little of either. And while the GOP talked a good game over the last eight years saying what they would do for the sake of government restraint via conservative principles if they were given enough power, their rank-and-file voters (well, the plurality of rank-and-file voters) decided to select a candidate who is, on balance, not for limiting government or for conservative ideals. This group of 44% of the Republican voters instead elected a television star and huckster whose claim to fame is a brand that’s always for sale; a man to whom practically everything is negotiable at some point. Call me hardline, but I have principles that are not negotiable.

Trump is correct in noting that he was running for the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party, but until he came along during most of my life it was understood that the Republicans were the conservatives. Not anymore.

So I have become a free agent. A party that embraces Donald Trump is no party for me. Certainly I will lean heavily to the right, but I think it’s time I freed myself from the shackles of having to be a spokesperson for a party that nominated so poorly for the top of the ticket.

While I am at it, I have to make a couple other observations. There are a lot of Trump supporters who are vowing not to support Larry Hogan in 2018 because he won’t vote for The Donald – a stand from Hogan that I applauded and let him know that I did. So let me ask them: are you going to find a primary opponent? I can’t wait to see that one. While I’m not the greatest fan of everything Hogan has done, I must say that you Trump backers are looking up the wrong hill to die on. If you want to push Hogan to the right, it’s called giving him more conservatives in the General Assembly, not tossing a governor who has a reasonable chance at a second term where he can do a lot for the GOP - like redistrict the state in a fair manner.

I also have something to say to the “party over everything” people, mainly those heavily involved in the Maryland GOP, who keep saying “not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary.” I’m not voting for Hillary either, so neither side gets a vote from me. What you can’t seem to get through your heads is that, if Hillary is indeed elected in November, the moment she won the election was the moment you helped to nominate the extraordinarily unpopular, boorish, often truth-challenged Donald Trump to be the GOP standard-bearer. Not only did I not vote for him in the primary, I spent many weeks in the summer of 2015 researching candidates and can tell you that all but maybe one or two of Trump’s opponents would have been far better on top of the ticket. You chose to ignore me (and a lot of others who said basically the same thing) so you’ll get either a humiliating loss in November or a Republican president who will likely govern like the worst of Democrats, with the added “bonus” of making Congressional Republicans vote against their President. There were always a handful who voted against Bush’s government expansion, but most sold themselves out based on “party over everything.”  And what did it get us? Farther away from the ideals of our Founding Fathers, that’s what.

Unfortunately, the damage is yet to come: a lot of good people will be hurt by the short-sightedness of the portion of the GOP electorate that picked Trump. But I’m done carrying their water as a party officer, just as several of my friends and cohorts have already done. I was hoping against hope for a convention miracle; alas it was not to be.

This decision, however, will lead to a few changes here: no longer will I cover the Wicomico County Republican Club or the state party conventions. I may attend events after the election, but for now I think it’s better I do my own thing.

I guess the way I look at it there are three possibilities here: either Trump is going to lose to Hillary, he will beat Hillary and govern exactly as I predict he will, or he will be a great President and I will have assessed him incorrectly. Truly I wouldn’t mind being wrong for the sake of this great nation, but I have no evidence to believe I will be.

Finally, if I offended any of my erstwhile peers by my manner of springing this on you as the meeting tonight drew to a close, I’m truly sorry. But I believed I owed you an explanation. Some have been supportive and others not so much but that’s what I expected. It’s been a fun and rewarding ten years in the local Republican Party (not to mention another decade I did the same in Ohio) but all things must pass. So let it be.

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