CIA

VIDEOS: Why We’re Being Watched by Kelly Wright

Wikileaks has just published over 8,000 files they say were leaked from the CIA, explaining how the CIA developed the capacity to spy on you through your phone, your computer, and even your television. And Wikileaks’s Julian Assange claims these “Vault 7” documents are just one percent of all the CIA documents they have.

The media will be combing through these for weeks or months, so now is a perfect moment for us to reconsider the role of privacy, transparency, and limited government in a free society.

We’ve put together a quick list of the six best Learn Liberty resources on government spying and whistleblowing to help inform this discussion.

1. War Is Why We’re Being Watched

Why is the US government spying on its citizens in the first place? Professor Abby Hall Blanco says that expansive state snooping at home is actually the result of America’s military interventionism abroad:

2. Is Privacy the Price of Security?

Yes, you may think, the government is snooping on us, but it’s doing that to keep us safe!

That’s the most common justification for sweeping and intrusive surveillance, so we held a debate between two experts to get right to the heart of it. Moderated by TK Coleman, this debate between Professor Ronald Sievert and Cindy Cohn, the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was inspired in part by the revelations about NSA surveillance leaked by Edward Snowden in June 2013.

3. Freedom Requires Whistleblowers

People are already drawing parallels between the Snowden leaks and the Vault 7 revelations. If the leaks are indeed coming from a Snowden-like whistleblower, that will once again raise the issue of government prosecution of people who reveal classified information to the public.

Professor James Otteson argues that a free society requires a transparent government, and whistleblowers play a key role in creating that accountability. Otteson also sounds a warning that should resonate with many Americans today:

Maybe you’re not concerned about the invasions of privacy that the federal government agencies are engaging in because you think, “Well, I haven’t done anything wrong. What do I have to fear?” Maybe you think, “I like and support this president. I voted for him.”

But what about the next president?  The powers that we let the government have under one president are the same powers that the next president will have too.

What if the next president is one you don’t support? He, too, will have all the power that you were willing to give the president you now support.”

4. Encryption Is a Human Rights Issue

Documents from Vault 7 suggest that the CIA has been so stymied by encrypted-messaging apps, such as Signal and Whatsapp, that it has resorted to taking over entire smartphones to read messages before they are sent.

That turns out to be a costly, targeted, and time-consuming business that doesn’t allow for mass data collection. But for decades, government officials have tried to require tech companies to give the government a backdoor into their encryption. In “Encryption Is a Human Rights Issue,” Amul Kalia argues that protecting encryption from government is essential to our safety and freedom.

5. The Police Know Where You Live

It turns out that it’s not just spy agencies that have access to detailed information about your life. Ordinary police officers have it, too, and they often face little supervision or accountability. As Cassie Whalen explains, “Across the United States, police officers abuse their access to confidential databases to look up information on neighbors, love interests, politicians, and others who had no connection to a criminal investigation.”

Surveillance is a serious issue at every level of government.

6. Understanding NSA Surveillance

If you’re ready to take your learning to the next level, check out our complete video course on mass government surveillance with Professor Elizabeth Foley. In it, you’ll learn what you need to know to make sense of the NSA scandal in particular and mass surveillance in general.

Reprinted from Learn Liberty.

Kelly Wright

Kelly Wright

Kelly Wright is an Online Programs Coordinator at the Institute for Humane Studies.

RELATED ARTICLE: Deterrence and Human Nature

Repeal-and-Replace-Obamacare

GOP Repeal/Replace Bill Cuts Taxes By Nearly a Trillion Dollars

On the White House website one of the key accomplishments of President Trump’s first 50 days in office is:

PUTTING PATIENT HEALTHCARE FIRST: After years of false promises, rising costs, and shrinking accessibility, President Trump is championing reforms to put patients first.

  • President Trump has supported efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal the worst parts of Obamacare and replace them with the American Health Care Act.
  • President Trump acted on his first day in office to instruct Federal agencies to minimize the burden of Obamacare on Americans.

Katie Pavlich in a Townhall article titled ATR: Obamacare Replacement Cuts Taxes By Nearly a Trillion Dollars reports:

Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office released its official score for the Obamacare repeal and replacement bill, better known as the American Health Care Act.

Reaction to the scoring, which estimates an additional 21 million Americans will become uninsured by 2020, was mixed. House Speaker Paul Ryan said last night he is “encouraged” by the score. However, the Trump administration is hardly pleased.

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out. We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and for their families, not that the government forces them to buy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said at the White House Monday evening.

But Americans For Tax Reform sees some good news. If passed, the bill will cut taxes by $883 billion. Here’s where the cuts come from:

Medicine Cabinet Tax on HSAs and FSAs
Flexible Spending Account Tax
Chronic Care Tax
HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike
Ten Percent Excise Tax on Indoor Tanning
Health Insurance Tax
Employer Mandate Tax
Surtax on Investment Income
Payroll Tax Hike
Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers
Tax on Prescription Medicine
Elimination of Deduction for Retiree Prescription Drug Coverage
$500,000 Annual Executive Compensation Limit for Health Insurance Executives

You can read more about the details and specific amounts behind this list of tax repeals here.

As we have said, this bill is out in the open. Now is the time for every citizen to read it and then contact their U.S. Senators and member of Congress and tell them what you think about this bill.

We’ve come a long way to get to this point, we’ve got a long way to go to make sure it gets done right.

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After Paul Ryan Admits Obamacare Plan Needs Changes, Conservatives Hope to Strike Deal Uniting Party

House Leadership’s Health Bill Is Not What Republicans Promised. We Can Do Better

Which Parts of the Obamacare Replacement Face Trouble in the Senate

Conservative Lawmakers Join Rally Against GOP Health Care Plan

th_intelligence

Democrats and the Science of ‘Thintelligence’

Michael Crichton is a man, author, filmmaker, doctor, teacher and visionary. Crichton is the author of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park.

Crichton in Jurassic Park wrote, “They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and they call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences.”

Democrats suffer from “thintelligence.”

An example of Democrat’s thintelligence is climate change. In an March 9th, 2017 article titled 30 New (2017) Scientific Papers Crush The Hockey Stick Graph And ‘Global’-Scale Warming Claims Kenneth Richard writes:

There were at least 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 2016 demonstrating that  Today’s Warming Isn’t Global, Unprecedented, Or Remarkable.

As of the end of January, another 17 papers had already been published in 201717 New (2017) Scientific Papers Affirm Today’s Warming Is Not Global, Unprecedented, Or Remarkable

Within the last month, another 14 papers have been published that continue to cast doubt on the popularized conception of an especially unusual global-scale warming during modern times.

Yes, some regions of the Earth have been warming in recent decades or at some point in the last 100 years.  Some regions have been cooling for decades at a time.  And many regions have shown no significant net changes or trends in either direction relative to the last few hundred to thousands of years.  In other words, there is nothing historically unprecedented or remarkable about today’s climate when viewed in the context of natural variability.

Read more…

What natural variability deniers fail to see is “the surround.” By not seeing the surround they don’t see the consequences of their actions to try to halt the natural variability of the climate. Blinded by thintelligence they push forward an agenda to reduce CO2 emissions (CO2 being necessary for plant growth), regulate water use, impose CAFE standards on all motor vehicles and worst of all use food (corn) for fuel (ethanol).

There are three indisputable facts about the climate:

  1. The climate (weather) changes. If you don’t believe this just look out your window.
  2. These changes are cyclical that adhere to nature and nature’s laws (natural variability). If you don’t believe this then why does the earth have a summer, fall, winter and spring seasons?
  3. There is nothing that mankind can do change nature and nature’s laws. Man cannot control the weather (climate) by his own actions or inaction.

Crichton observed, “You know what’s wrong with scientific power? It’s a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are.”

Crichton warned, “In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.”

We agree with Dr. Crichton.

RELATED ARTICLE: Axing Wasteful EPA Program that Gave Leftist Groups Millions Called “Racist” – Judicial Watch

ismail-elshikh

The Radical Ties of the Imam Behind the Trump Immigration Lawsuit by Jordan Schachtel

Originally published in the Conservative Review, March 10, 2017:

The plaintiff listed in Hawaii’s lawsuit against President Trump’s executive order on immigration is a member of an organization that has several current and former leaders tied to terrorist activity.

Dr. Ismail Elshikh — the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii — is suing Trump in reaction to the second version of his immigration moratorium, which was signed on Monday. The order imposed a 90-day hold on foreign nationals from six terror-tied countries from entering the United States.

According to the Muslim Association of Hawaii website, Imam Elshikh is a member of the North American Imam Federation (NAIF), a fringe Islamic organization that has a board and current leadership stacked with radical Islamic connections.

Kyle Shideler, a terrorism expert and director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy, tells CR that it’s concerning that Imam Elshikh is a part of NAIF.

“Given NAIF’s history it should come as no surprise that the end goal of this lawsuit is, ultimately, weakening American counter-terrorism or immigration security efforts,” Shideler said.

He added: “That a member of an organization whose leaders have included a convicted war criminal, an individual who defended donating money to a Hamas linked charity, and an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism bombing wants to tell the American people who they can admit for immigration should say a lot about why such an executive order is needed in the first place.”

Steven Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, also voiced his concerns about Elshikh’s associations. He tells CR:

“NAIF is an extremely radical Islamist group whose leaders and members have defended some of the most violent terrorist groups in the world. Some members have been found to be actually linked to acts of Islamist terrorism. This is a group, some prosecutors have argued, whose incitement for violence could qualify their categorization as a providing material support for terrorism.”

Current NAIF board members include the former leader of an al-Qaeda-connected mosque and a radical preacher. Former leaders include a man convicted of leading an international death squad, and a prominent Islamist preacher who has praised Osama bin Laden.

Current NAIF leadership

Omar Shahin, a current board member of NAIF, is the former president of the Islamic Center of Tucson, a mosque that was once utilized as the “de-facto al-Qaeda headquarters in the United States,” according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism. As imam of the mosque, Shahin raised funds for the Holy Land Foundation, which was later shut down for funneling money to the terrorist group Hamas. He also held fundraisers for the Global Relief Foundation, which was later deemed by the U.S. Treasury Department to be connected to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

El Shikh received his PhD from the Graduate Theological Foundation Islamic Studies Department, which is headed by Shahin. The program was created in collaboration with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization that was started as a Muslim Brotherhood front group.

Dr. Waleed Meneese, another NAIF board member, has explicitly called for fellow Muslims to kill Jews. “When the Children of Israel returned to cause corruption in the time of our Prophet Muhammad,” Meneese said in a recent sermon. “And they disbelieved him, God destroyed him at his hand. In any case, God Almighty has promised them destruction whenever they cause corruption,” he said of the Jewish people.

Meneese has also called for the killing of apostates from Islam, and for the treating of non-Muslims as second-class citizens.

Former NAIF leadership

Ashrafuzzaman Khan is the former president of NAIF and a current leader at the Muslim Brotherhood-connected Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). In 2013, he was tried in a Bangladesh court as he was accused of drafting a kill list of intellectuals inside the country. He was charged with 11 counts of war crimes as the alleged leader of the Al-Badr death squad. In 2013, he and an accomplice were sentenced in absentia for the abduction and murder of 18 people, including nine university professors, six journalists, and three physicians.

Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim was the chairman of NAIF at the turn of the century. In 2005, he agreed to deportation to Qatar after U.S. authorities were concerned about his potential connections to terrorist organizations. Ghoneim has called Osama bin Laden a “martyred heroic mujahid” and is now closely tied to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He has been banned from entering several countries due to his radicalism.

LINK: Wagdi Ghoneim Video

Another former NAIF board member is Siraj Wahhaj, who was infamously listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Wahhaj testified in defense of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, who served a life sentence for being the mastermind behind terrorist plots in the United States.

What else?

The North American Imam Federation is perhaps best known as the group that allegedly planned and staged the “flying imams” incident. After a 2006 NAIF conference, several imams connected to the group were booted from a domestic flight after exhibiting bizarre, threatening behavior, terrifying fellow passengers. NAIF and the Hamas-tied Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) showcased the incident as a prime example of America’s supposed problem with “Islamophobia.”

President Trump’s immigration moratorium, blocking non-citizens from coming into the U.S. from the six terror havens of Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Libya, will go into effect next week, barring a successful legal challenge by Elshikh and Hawaii or other actors.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

A Short History of Islam in Hawaii

DTN: North American Imams Federation 

20170310_ADM_working-for-the-people_blog-header

President Trump’s First 50 Days of Action: Achieving Results for the American People

JUMPSTARTING JOB CREATION: President Donald J. Trump is looking out for the American workers who Washington has left behind.

  • President Trump has worked with the private sector to deliver tens of thousands of new jobs for Americans.
  • President Trump ordered the United States to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and negotiations.
  • President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to clear roadblocks to construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete its construction.
  • President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to help ensure that new pipeline construction and repair work use materials and equipment from the United States.

CUTTING GOVERNMENT RED TAPE: President Trump has quickly taken steps to get the Government out of the way of job creation.

  • President Trump directed each agency to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force to identify costly and unnecessary regulations in need of modification or repeal.
  • President Trump has required that for every new Federal regulation, two existing regulations be eliminated.
  • President Trump directed the Department of Commerce to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturers.
  • President Trump signed legislation, House Joint Resolution 38, to prevent the burdensome “Stream Protection Rule” from causing further harm to the coal industry.
  • President Trump ordered the review of the “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States,” known as the WOTUS rule, to evaluate whether it is stifling economic growth or job creation.

REFORMING WASHINGTON: President Trump has taken actions to reform the old Washington way of doing business and to ensure that his entire Administration are working for the American people.

  • President Trump put in place a hiring freeze for Federal civilian employees to stop the further expansion of an already bloated government.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order establishing new ethics commitments for all Executive branch appointees, putting in place a five-year lobbying ban and a permanent ban on lobbying for foreign governments, so that appointees serve the American people instead of their own interests.

PUTTING PATIENT HEALTHCARE FIRST: After years of false promises, rising costs, and shrinking accessibility, President Trump is championing reforms to put patients first.

  • President Trump has supported efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal the worst parts of Obamacare and replace them with the American Health Care Act.
  • President Trump acted on his first day in office to instruct Federal agencies to minimize the burden of Obamacare on Americans.

PRIORITIZING AMERICAN NATIONAL SECURITY: President Trump has taken action to ensure the safety and security of the United States homeland, its borders, and its people.

  • Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of the Treasury sanctioned 25 entities and individuals involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program.
  • President Trump implemented new protections against foreign terrorists entering our country.
  • President Trump has proposed increasing the military’s budget by $54 billion so that it can begin to rebuild.
  • As a result of a Presidential Memorandum President Trump signed on January 28, he has received a plan to defeat ISIS designed by the Secretary of Defense and other members of his Cabinet.
  • President Trump ordered a review of military readiness and made it the policy of the United States to rebuild the United States’ Armed Forces.
  • President Trump has negotiated to bring down the price of the F-35, saving millions of dollars.

DELIVERING ON IMMIGRATION REFORM: President Trump has made enforcing the Nation’s immigration laws a priority of his Administration.

  • President Trump signed an Executive Order to start work on a southern border wall.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order to enhance the public safety of Americans through enforcement of immigration laws.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order to halt funding to jurisdictions in the United States that do not comply with Federal immigration rules.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order to begin the removal of illegal immigrants who have committed certain crimes.
  • Following through on President Trump’s direction, the Department of Homeland Security will hire 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and agents and 5,000 border patrol agents.

RESTORING PUBLIC SAFETY TO AMERICAN COMMUNITIES: President Trump is following through on his promise to restore public safety for all Americans.

  • President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the Attorney General to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who engage in crimes against law enforcement officers.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order to establish a task force, led by the Attorney General, to reduce crime and restore public safety in communities across America.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order re-focusing the Federal Government’s energy and resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations, such as drug cartels.

HELPING WOMEN AND MINORITIES SUCCEED: President Trump knows the country cannot reach its potential unless every American has a chance to prosper.

  • President Trump signed an Executive Order strengthening and repositioning the Historically Black Colleges and Universities initiatives within the White House to foster better opportunities in higher education.
  • President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched the United States-Canada Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
  • President Trump signed into law the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act to encourage the National Science Foundation’s entrepreneurial programs to recruit and support women to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world.
  • President Trump signed into law the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act to encourage women to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), pursue careers in aerospace, and further advance the nation’s space science and exploration efforts.

KEEPING HIS PROMISE TO DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION: President Trump promised a U.S. Supreme Court justice in the mold of late Justice Antonin Scalia selected from his previously announced list of 20 judges

  • President Trump nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court because of his consistent record defending the Constitution.

RELATED ARTICLE: How President Trump Is Performing on His Promises Halfway to First 100 Days

headstart program

Head Start Programs Are Setting Kids Up for Failure by Annie Holmquist

In recent years, support for preschool education has grown by leaps and bounds. After all, who wouldn’t want to help adorable little kids get an early jump on success?

But the enthusiasm for Pre-K dampened a bit with the release of two studies, one from 2012 which studied children in a Head Start program and another from 2016 which studied children in Tennessee’s statewide preschool program. The Head Start study found that its children were more inclined to behavioral problems than those who did not participate. The Tennessee study, on the other hand, found that participants did worse academically several years into school than those who had not participated.We need to study the effects of preschool education more before we wholeheartedly commit to public Pre-K programs.

The news that these Pre-K programs may hurt rather than help was not received favorably by preschool advocates. And according to a recent Brookings Institute article by scholars Dale Farran and Mark Lipsey, Pre-K advocates have done their best to discredit these studies.

But as Farran and Lipsey explain, the attempts to dismiss these findings “are based on incorrect and misleading characterizations of each study.”

For starters, the Head Start study is dismissed on the grounds that some participants ended up in the wrong study group. But according to Farran and Lipsey, such occurrences happen in many scientific studies, and as such, are controlled for in the final statistics. The authors caution that this does not change the fact that children who participated in the Head Start program exhibited more aggressive behavior, the most concerning factor of the study.

Secondly, Farran and Lipsey explain that the Tennessee study is dismissed on the grounds that it is not a “high-quality” program such as those in major cities like Boston and Tulsa. However, when sample sizes are taken from each of these programs, Farran and Lipsey note that there is no major difference between the academic outcomes of each program. In other words, because of the similarity in the outcomes, those who dismiss the Tennessee preschool program as being low quality must also dismiss the programs they hold up as models.

Given this information, does it seem we need to study the effects of preschool education more before we wholeheartedly commit to public Pre-K programs? Is it possible that young children would learn more and have greater long-term success if they weren’t subjected to the classroom at such early ages?

Republished from Intellectual Takeout.

Trump7

President Trump opens ‘all available’ Gulf of Mexico waters to oil drilling

“Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy independent,” said Zinke.

And not only that: it will also cut off a great part of the funding for the global jihad, which goes from our gasoline money to oil-producing states, where all too much of it finds its way into the hands of the jihadists who have vowed to destroy the U.S. and the free world.

“Trump Opens ‘All Available’ Gulf Of Mexico Waters To Oil Drilling,” by Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, March 7, 2017:

The Department of the Interior will include “all available” federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico that have not already been leased out for offshore oil drilling.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Monday 73 million acres off the coast of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida would be offered at a lease sale in August as part of the Interior Department’s five-year leasing plan.

“Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy independent,” Zinke said in a statement.

Interior finalized its current five-year offshore leasing program in January, just before Trump took office. The current plan includes 11 potential lease sales — 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

The Obama administration, however, did not include any lease sales in most of the Arctic Ocean and all of the Atlantic Ocean. The administration initially considered offshore drilling in those areas, but decided not to on the urging of environment groups.For now, it seems like the Trump administration will stick with current policies. that could possibly change one Secretary Zinke gets all his appointees in place. The Senate confirmed Zinke last week, and it’s unclear when they will hold confirmation hearings for other high-level Interior positions.

“The Gulf is a vital part of that strategy to spur economic opportunities for industry, states, and local communities, to create jobs and home-grown energy and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Zinke said….

Shortly before leaving office, former President Barack Obama locked up even more offshore areas from drilling, issuing an executive order in December making 31 canyons in the Atlantic off limits to drilling. The order took 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic ocean out of play for drillers.

In that same order, Obama designated “the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing.”

Environmentalists supported keeping Arctic and Atlantic waters off limits to drilling. Activists say it’s necessary to protect marine life and slow global warming.

Trump, on the other hand, promised to boost U.S. energy production through opening more federal lands and waters for exploration and eliminating regulations. That includes rolling back Obama-era policies blocking offshore drilling.

“This is exactly the kind of investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work,” Trump said of Exxon’s investments announced Monday….

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AFDI: Appeal filed challenging federal statute authorizing censorship by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Hugh Fitzgerald: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl And His Orwellian Experience (Part I)

sergey-zolkin-5608

A Solid Case for the Full Adoption of LED Street Lighting

led street lights comparisonLEDs are fast replacing regular filament bulbs in many spaces. This is largely due to the ability of LEDs to save energy and provide a better quality of light. LEDs can be controlled to vary their intensity depending on traffic density and other factors. A typical HPS lamp uses 75% more electricity than an LED lamp. The quality of the LED light is higher, despite the lower power consumption.

There has been an argument that LED lights are 5 times more expensive to buy and install but a study showed that the street lights can pay for themselves within 6 years through the reduced electricity and recurrent maintenance costs.

Where LED street lighting has been tested, the problem that kept coming up was glare. The good news is that there are researchers in Germany who have made low-glare LEDs to be used for streetlighting. Here is our argument for the adoption of low-glare LEDs for street lights.

Environmental Conservation

One of the biggest drawbacks associated with the HPS lamps that are used for streetlights in many areas, is that they contribute to the mercury dumped on land.  HPS lights carry an estimated 6mg/100W of mercury while LEDs carry zero. The use of LEDs is also likely to reduce the emission of CO2 gases by 125 tons per year.

Dimming

It is possible to dim an HPS lamp. However, it is not easy to do so. The reason for that is special ballast is required to dim HPS lamps and the dimming limit is 50%. LEDs on the other hand can be dimmed easily. All that is needed is a small program to run the dimming. LEDs and the Internet of Things are easily compatible, making it possible to control LED lights remotely. A LED streetlight has a low dimming limit of 10%, which means it can be dimmed by more than 90%.

Longevity

The HPS lamp is likely to last between 10,000 and 24,000 hours before it burns up and needs replacing. While that is a decent mileage, LED lights can last well over 50,000 hours. The financial implication is that money spent on acquiring 2 HPS lamps can go towards the acquisition of an LED lamp.

Low-Glare

The most exciting development in LEDs for streetlighting is the discovery of a way through which to reduce glare. This has been a problem because it increases the risk of accidents happening. With this new development, there simply is no logical reason why streetlights should not be LED-lit.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by by Sergey Zolkin.

sgt-derrick-miller2

A Mother’s Plea for Her Son: The travesty of Derrick Miller

As a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel I stand with those soldiers who are put in harms way and are doing what they have been trained to do, close with and destroy the enemy using all means available.

I have written about the rules of engagement under the previous administration. In a column “President Obama killing our soldiers softly with his Rules of Engagement” Billy & Karen Vaughn wrote:

US soldiers in Afghanistan are now forced to fight a two-fronted war. Before each deployment, these soldiers understand fully that day after day they will do battle against relentless terrorists with shifting loyalties and unspeakable hatred. But what none of them could have foreseen was the killing field that would open from their rear…the Continental United States.

Our government’s incessant tightening of already restrictive ROE (Rules of Engagement), compounded by the failed COIN (Counterinsurgency) strategy—also known as “winning hearts and minds,” has made an otherwise primitive enemy formidable.

Our best and brightest come home in body bags as politicians and lawyers dine over white linen tablecloths; writing, modifying, and re-modifying these lethal rules…rules that favor the enemy rather than the American soldier. Rules so absurd they’re difficult to believe until you hear the same stories over and again from those returning from battle.

Billy and Karen Vaughn lost their son Navy SEAL Arron due to the rules of engagement, which benefit the enemy and harm, and kill, our men and women in uniform.

Sgt Derrick Miller

U.S. Army Sergeant Derrick Miller

I received this pleas for the mother of U.S. Army Sergeant Derrick Miller,

I am so thankful that Major Donahue asked me to send this e-mail to you today…

My name is Renee Myers and my son is Sgt. Derrick Miller of the Maryland National Guard.

Derrick is the kind of man every mother wants her son to grow up to be – strong, kind and loyal. He’s a proud daddy who adores his two daughters – this photo is one of my favorites of him holding his oldest daughter, Karina.

But what I love the most about my son is that he felt it was his duty as an American to join the National Guard. In fact, he volunteered for two of his three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, I wish I could go back in time and tell him not to…

Because for volunteering to defend our nation, Derrick has been sentenced to life in prison for doing exactly what the Army trained him to do!

You see, while on a combat mission in September of 2010, Derrick watched an Afghani national walk through his unit’s defense perimeter. The same man had been detained the day before under suspicion of driving insurgents to a nearby combat firefight.

So to be safe, Derrick and another U.S. soldier took him into custody for questioning with an Afghani interpreter.

Derrick asked the man why he was within the American defense perimeter. First, the man claimed to be an electrician responding to a downed power line. Then he claimed to be there to fix a water pump. Either way, he had no tools with him.

The Afghani grew more and more agitated as Derrick continued asking questions. Suddenly, he grabbed for Derrick’s weapon.

Derrick reacted immediately – firing and killing the suspect.

Richard, just days after the incident, Derrick was arrested and charged with “premeditated murder” of the Afghani insurgent!

For eight terrible months, we waited for the trial that would finally set the record straight and bring Derrick home to us. After all, there were witnesses who saw the whole incident and would testify on his behalf.

But instead, our government turned its back on Derrick – a decorated U.S. soldier – to appease Afghanistan officials.

Remember, another soldier had witnessed the interrogation and confirmed Derrick’s account. But he changed his story after the government threatened to charge him with accessory to murder.

The other witness was the Afghani translator. And in exchange for testifying against Derrick, he was granted U.S. citizenship.

Yes, our government brought him here to the U.S. and paid for him to live in an on-base hotel for six months with food, a personal van, and a $630 per month allowance – all provided at taxpayer expense!

Worst of all, the Army destroyed every bit of forensic evidence that could have proved Derrick was acting in self-defense. There were no photos. No autopsy. Nothing.

But I still believed the government would do the right thing. Instead, I held hands with my husband and Derrick’s wife, Katherine, and listened in shock as Derrick was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

His feet were shackled, his hands cuffed to a leather belt around his waist, and, just like that, my only child was taken from me.

Since then, the world has simply fallen apart for his precious family.

The military immediately stopped Derrick’s paychecks. Derrick’s wife and my husband and I had pooled together all our money to hire a civilian attorney to represent Derrick. It cost $50,000 – every cent we had.

Now, with no money in the bank, his wife couldn’t pay their mortgage, utilities, car payment, or Derrick’s student loans.

Derrick had always worked two jobs so his wife could stay home after their babies were born. Now she can’t. The girls are so little and they don’t understand. They ask her over and over again, Why can’t Daddy come home?”

They wake up at night and cry for him. And honestly, sometimes so do I.

Richard, I can’t bear the thought of the girls growing up without their dad. Or Derrick not being able to scoop them up in his arms before they’re grown. But we have only one hope left now…

You see, Major Donahue heard about Derrick’s case and contacted me immediately.

As you know, Major Donahue knows firsthand from combat tours of Vietnam that you can’t send U.S. soldiers into terrorist combat zones and second-guess their actions from a desk in Washington. And now UAP is ready to help Derrick.

But first, they have to raise money for an appeal, which will require hours of legal research, expert witnesses, and legal motions. Remember, UAP is a non-profit organization, which means they don’t receive any funding from the federal government – only private donations from patriotic Americans.

It also means that I’m going to take a deep breath and ask you one of the hardest questions I’ve ever asked another person:

Can you help me fight to free my son by sending a check for any amount to UAP?

Your gift is tax-deductible. And it will help us pay for Derrick’s appeal – and help other innocent soldiers who have been unfairly charged, too.

The federal government has already spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to convict Derrick and grant U.S. citizenship to the Afghani who testified against him.

But I must rely on the generous hearts of people like you to save my son.

That’s why I’m writing you today – to do what I can as the mother of a U.S. soldier to find good-hearted people out there who care about defending our nation’s troops.

Our attorney is going above and beyond the call of duty to fight for Derrick. But mounting his defense will cost us at least $30,000. It’s money we simply don’t have.

Can you please help UAP fund this legal battle and bring Derrick home to us?

Your $35 contribution could be the difference between letting my son rot in prison for the rest of his life for a “crime” he didn’t commit… or bringing him home to me and his girls where he belongs!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for any help you can send to UAP today.

Yours truly,

Mrs. Renee Myers

P.S. As a member of the National Guard who volunteered for two of his three tours of duty, my son has sacrificed so much for our country. Yet in return, our government has taken away his family and his freedom! Right now Derrick desperately needs to know that he hasn’t been forgotten! Thank you for whatever amount you can send today to give him hope and to help bring him home!

trump house speech

A Promise Kept: Trump Signs Repeal of Obama-Era Social Security Gun Prohibition Rule

On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump signed the repeal of an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that would have resulted in some 75,000 law-abiding beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year. 

The SSA rulemaking was issued in the waning weeks of Obama’s presidency and targeted those receiving disability insurance or Supplementary Security Income based on SSA’s listed mental disorders and who were appointed a “representative payee” to help them manage their benefits. The agency –for the first time in its history– sought to portray these individuals as “mental defectives” who were prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms under federal law. It had planned to notify them of their prohibited status and to report them to NICS.

Making matters worse, the beneficiaries would have had no ability to argue about their suitability to possess firearms before their rights were lost. Instead, they would have been reduced to filing a petition for “restoration” of their rights, an expensive and bureaucratic process that would have required them to pay for a mental health evaluation and to prove they were not dangerous, a premise the government never established in the first place.

The plan drew fire not just from the NRA, but also from the ACLU and a wide range of mental health advocacy and treatment groups from across the political spectrum. Also opposing the plan was the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities. The NCD issued a statement explaining:

Since the action was first proposed in 2013, NCD has consistently taken the position that equating the need for assistance in managing one’s finances with a false presumption of incapacity in other areas of life, including possession of a firearm, unnecessarily and unreasonably deprives individuals with disabilities of a constitutional right and increases the stigma that [affects] those who may need a representative payee. The overly broad classification of “mental disorder,” includes a wide range of limitations and a shifting set of criteria relevant to whether or not one can engage in substantial gainful activity. NCD remains steadfast in our position that this classification remains irrelevant to the question of whether one can be a responsible gun owner.

The SSA received tens of thousands of comments in opposition to the rule. The NRA-ILA’s submission explained in detail how the rule was contrary to the underlying statute, to the U.S. Constitution and would function mainly to stigmatize the SSA beneficiaries and discourage others from seeking treatment and benefits to which they were entitled. It also argued that there was no empirical support for the notion that the rule would promote public safety.

The SSA, however, ignored the comments and issued the rule essentially as proposed. 

It also brazenly brushed aside proffered evidence that the targeted beneficiaries were not at any increased risk for committing violence with firearms. “We are not attempting to imply a connection between mental illness and a propensity for violence, particularly gun violence,” the SSA wrote. “Rather, we are complying with our obligations under the NIAA, which require us to provide information from our records when an individual falls within one of the categories identified in 18 U.S.C. 922(g).”

Fortunately, pro-gun majorities in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate acted quickly to disapprove the rule under the Congressional Review Act, a federal statute that allows Congress to use an expedited legislative process to overrule administrative actions passed in the waning days of an outgoing administration.

The efforts to roll back this unjustified and legally unauthorized rule were predictably met with a withering barrage of negative and fake reporting from the anti-gun media, with supposed “news” outlets issuing such ludicrous headlines as “Senate, House hand guns to seriously mentally ill.” All these reports completely ignored the fact that existing restrictions on persons who had been involuntarily committed or adjudicated mentally incompetent remained fully intact. By acting to block the rule, Congress simply disapproved the Obama administration’s attempt to create a new class of prohibited persons by “reinterpreting” a federal gun control statute passed in 1968.

President Trump’s signing of the measure not only served to help repair the damage to the Second Amendment wrought by the Obama administration, it ushered in what many hope will be a new era of respect for the right to keep and bear arms. Just over a month into his presidency, Trump signed a free-standing pro-gun bill into law. 

The NRA, of course, was among the earliest and staunchest supporters of Trump’s presidential bid. We thank him for his quick action on this measure and look forward to working with him and the pro-gun majorities in Congress to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

trump-drain-the-swamp

‘Drain the Swamp’ Promise Drives Establishment Panic

I’m consistently asked this question by bewildered Republicans and Trump supporters: Why won’t Democrats give President Trump a chance? He was duly elected and yet the attacks began immediately. Why? There was an election and Trump won. Give him a chance.

It’s a reasonable question. And the answer is the perfect confluence of dynamics propelling this phenomena of immediate and historically intense opposition.

First, we need to understand that the response by Democrats, the media and the reactionary, organized and funded street Left, needs to be seen through the prism of why Trump was elected in the first place.

Trump’s campaign and election is a repudiation in every conceivable way of Obama’s policies, many of Bush’s policies and Congress’ game-playing. Many Americans did mediocre under Bush, and most did poorly under Obama. The reasons for which are a different topic, but they fall under the broadest umbrella of “The way Washington does things.” And the way Washington does things is to put Washington interests first. Not Americans’.

Trump tapped into those frustrations and angers at Washington, and into substantial American anxiety over the country’s direction and slow demise. The anger of Trump supporters was largely not race-based. Not immigrant-based. Obviously not gender-based.

It was Washington-based.

The swamp today

Washington is a well-oiled machine — for Washington interests.

The power structure within Washington — the most important, wealthy and powerful capitol in the world — is this: Politicians, beginning with the President and Congress; political appointees, starting with Cabinet members, then their deputies and so on; lobbyists, who are often former members of Congress and former political appointees (that’s the revolving door Trump is trying to close); and finally, the entrenched bureaucracy that makes a solid living by the tens of thousands, often accomplishing little more than self-perpetuating. The leaks damaging to Trump and appointees is coming from this final group.

The Washington metro area never suffered through the long recession and economic downturn that the rest of the country did. It never does. Because the billions of dollars — trillions, actually — just keep pouring into the Capitol.

This is the swamp that hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters chanted about at his campaign stops across the country.

When Trump was elected, he immediately set about keeping the promises he made over and over on the campaign trail. Draining would commence. That in itself is shocking, as it has long been accepted — by the media and “smart” circles, not so much the rest of America — that Republicans and Democrats alike say a lot of things during a campaign to get elected that we all know — wink, wink — they do not intend to act on.

This is the bait and switch. Clinton was never going to provide a middle class tax cut. Bush was never going to cut entitlements. Obama was never going to block gay marriage. The media knows it and is part of the act.

This Beltway acceptance of lying to the American people in “campaign mode” reflects the elite’s expectation that the masses are stupid enough to not see it during governing mode. That’s also how Washington works. But the people saw it, and found someone they believed would do what he said. The results are in. Trump is setting about the draining.

Rapid response

The establishment of both parties was rocked on their keisters by Trump’s election. His campaign mode is the same as his governing mode in terms of doing what he said he would. His quick actions on promises to start undoing the Washington that does not work for most Americans was like poking a mama grizzly in her den with her cubs.

Reaction was swift, from demonstrations without to leaks from within. The small minority of Republicans publicly opposing Trump gave cover to Democrats to go to unexplored extremes, beyond the normal political oppositions all presidents naturally face from the opposing party.

Because of Trump’s own careless linguistic excesses and thin skin, he provides continual fodder for the masses of the angry Left that was being used by the organized, funded elements of the Left.

Remember, these were people who were sure they were going to get the first woman president and losing to such an upstart apple cart over-turner was enraging. The demonstration organizers and funders are able to take that anger and frustration of the Left and use it to leverage their existing infrastructure of protesting machines. While many people in the demonstrations are sincerely upset, they are being used by the Left establishment.

So this impressive array came together: The Democrat establishment, just a small but cover-providing portion of the Republican establishment, the media establishment that Trump continues to engage head-on like no one else, the entrenched bureaucratic establishment (including the intelligence agencies) and ancillary establishments of lobbyists, experts, etc. They aligned in common cause against the man that most seems to threatened the system that has empowered and enriched them.

Trump is a highly imperfect vehicle for this undertaking, but this same array would have come together against any candidate who truly meant to “drain the swamp.” Trump just makes it a little easier with his public carelessness.

If Trump is allowed to do what he says he wants to do, it becomes the first loosening of the plug at the bottom of the swamp. A lot of political oxes will be gored, power and influence will be lost and cozy D.C. establishments on the Left and Right will be up-ended.

They won’t wait to see how he does because it is not in their best interests to do so, and they seem to have all the components in place to not wait.

Seismic change: Tuesday’s address to Congress

Key phrase being “seem to.”

This is vital, because Trump presented a dramatically different image of himself when he address the Joint Session of Congress Tuesday night — a State of the Union for a newly elected president. In it, Trump laid out a vision for the country that was not sifted through the heavy filter of media bias and negativity.

Trump was presidential, controlled, focused on his vision and agenda, compassionate and patriotic. He hit 80 percent conservative notes, 20 percent populist notes. The reviews even in the media were that Trump not only gave a great speech — because expectations are low with him on giving speeches — but a well above-average speech for any State of the Union or equivalent. It was a real effort at post-partisanship (to which the Democrats in attendance gave the metaphorical middle finger) and a forceful vision of a renewed America.

Even his fiercest enemies, such as Van Jones, said: “He became President of the United States in that moment, period.”

So if Trump not only does exactly what he promised to do in terms of the broadest “drain the swamp” actions, but does it with more of the gravitas expected of the office, then the Washington establishment will have two options: dig in deeper and ratchet up or give up and surrender.

There is no reason to think they will easily surrender their power, influence and wealth.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Moral Clarity: Get the Feds Out of Bathrooms

A New Era: Trump vs. Obama, White House vs. Shadow White House

10 Stunning But Quickly Forgotten Obama Comments

Time for a Legislative Override of Activist Courts

Illegal Immigration Drives Income Inequality

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Revolutionary Act.

cocaine marijuana

Time for the U.S. Department of Justice to crack down on Marijuana

President Trump said during his address to a joint session of Congress,

I have further ordered the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, along with the Department of State and the Director of National Intelligence, to coordinate an aggressive strategy to dismantle the criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation.

We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth — and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.

[ … ]

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

In The Daily Signal article “How Trump’s DOJ Can Start Enforcing Federal Marijuana Law” Cully Stimson reports:

On Thursday last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he “believe[s] that we will see greater enforcement” of the federal laws against recreational marijuana.

While he acknowledged that the question to which he was responding was better directed to the Department of Justice, Spicer said that state legalization of recreational marijuana “is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”

Spicer’s comments are welcome news for those advocating commonsense drug policy.

Scientists agree that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and no major national medical organization advocates legalization. Whether you agree with that or not, marijuana remains illegal for good reason.

Thorough scientific reviews by President Barack Obama’s Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration—as well as drug classification reviews by federal judges—have affirmed that marijuana should remain a Schedule 1 drug. Such drugs are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

As I have written here and here, the predictable consequences of marijuana legalization are beginning to emerge in states like Colorado and Washington.

Annual reports from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and the Colorado Department of Public Safety have analyzed the negative impact that marijuana legalization has had on health and public safety in Colorado.

Read more…

President Trump, unlike his predecessor, has not used drugs and does not drink. President Trump is concerned about the social cost of a society that finds the use, and expected abuse, of drugs and alcohol to be wrong on many levels.

Stimson presents eleven (11) commonsense recommendations which are consistent with an interest in public health and safety of all Americans.

This President can turn the tide on drug abuse and the debilitating effects and crime that accompany it. Crimes such as human trafficking,  murder, sale of heroin and cocaine and death.

RELATED STUDIES:

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

Stages and pathways of drug involvement: Examining the gateway hypothesis

Stages in adolescent involvement in drug use

devos+mgn

Video and Full Transcript of Betsy DeVos’ CPAC Interview with Kayleigh McEnany

On February 22, 2017, US ed sec Betsy DeVos participated in an interview with journalist and Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany, for the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).

Below is the full video followed by the full transcript of that interview (approx 9 minutes):

TRANSCRIPT

KM: Hi, Madam Secretary. It’s so great to be here with you.

BD: It’s great to be here with you, Kayleigh.

KM: now, let’s hear you guys if you could not be more excited about President Trump’s pick for secretary of education.

[applause]

KM: You are a phenomenal pick, and you have spent 30 years working on these issues that are so important to children, protecting our future, protecting children of all races, of all identities, is crucial, and you are doing that, and you have a history of doing that, and I couldn’t be more excited for what you have planned for the Department.

BD: Thank you. It’s an honor.

KM: It is. And on that note, a lot of news has been made in the last 24 hours. President Trump rescinded the Obama guidelines on transgender, and [applause] and let’s be very clear why he did that. President Obama acted lawlessly. He promised us that he would use his pen and his phone to circumvent Congress. He did so repeatedly, including with these guidelines that reinterpreted federal statute. So, you put out a letter afterwards basically saying that you want to protect all children, all students, and I wanted to give you an opportunity to clarify what you meant and state what you meant in the ethos of that letter.

BD: Sure. Thank you, Kayleigh. Well, I think the statement spoke to it, for itself to a large extent. But let me just say that this issue was a very huge example of the Obama administration’s overreach to suggest a one-size-fits-all, federal government approach, top-down approach to issues that are best dealt with and solved at a personal level and a local level. And I have made clear from the moment I’ve been in this job that it’s our, it’s our job to protect students, and to do that to the fullest extent that we can, and also to provide students, parents’ and teachers with more flexibility around how education is delivered and how education is experienced, and to protect and preserve personal freedoms.

KM: Absolutely. And on that note, talking about the states and empowering the parents, we as conservatives in this room fully believe that the states are the appropriate, robust actors in the field of education. We want parents to be empowered, and part of that is empowering the states. So, with that said, what is the role of the federal government in the Department of Education vis-a-vis the states?

BD: Well, the Department of Education has, in the past several years, played a very integral role, I would argue, in many ways, too much of a role. With the new implementation of the new ESSA rules and law, we will see a lot of that power returned to the states and a lot of the flexibility given to the states to do what they can do best on behalf of students. I think that’s the right direction. I think the role of the federal government should be as light a touch as possible. And the areas in which the Department of Education has an important role are really around the needs of special needs students and around some of the civil rights issues that we’ve referenced earlier.

KM: Undoubtedly. And one of the things I love in just communicating with you and you’re staff: I really get a sense that you want to unify the country and make real change, and I think there’s even evidence of that. You know, we’re at this time where the country’s so divided and there’s so much anger and so much disrespect for one another that we need people to come together on behalf of children in particular, in your case. And the evidence I saw with being with your staff was on day two, you picked up the phone and you made a call to the teachers union, to the ATF, to Randi Weingarner (sp), and you did this despite the fact that the other teachers union, the NEA, put out a statement saying, we refuse to have a relationship with Secretary DeVos. So, you have one teachers union kind of increasing division and another one, because you reached out and extended a hand, reaching back and extending a hand back to you. And I believe you’re going on a tour of local schools with Randi.

BD: Well, I had a great conversation with Randi, and I think it’s imperative that we work together to find common ground. If students represent 100 percent of our future, we need to be focused around what’s right for them and doing what’s right for them. My conversation with Randi was great, and we’ve agreed to visit schools together. I will visit a school that she selects, a traditional public school, and she will visit a “choice” school. So, I look forward to that opportunity.

KM: That’s fantastic. And another place where this opposition and divisiveness was showcased was during your confirmation hearings. I myself was appalled at the way Senator Warren conducted herself and her line of questioning. But by contrast, you had Senator Scott who told a beautiful story of how you grew up and how your family mortgaged everything they had to start a business, and you painted a cinder block building and worked on an assembly line, and I think that’s such an empowering story and I wonder if you would share a little bit of that because you are the American dream, and a lot of students out there are trying to achieve the same thing that your family achieved.

BD: Sure. Yes, my dad was a great entrepreneur, and inventor, and I recall well as a young child, about 7 or 8 years old, painting the first building with him as he put up a cement block building with his first factory that was a result of mortgaging everything, and I worked through different summers, summer jobs, at the plant, third shift on the visor plant. So, he invented the lighted sun visor for automobiles. So, anybody who enjoys those, you can thank my dad for that great invention. [applause] I think it was at the urging of my mom; she’d like to be able to see to put lipstick on while they were going somewhere at night. But yes, it was a really important experience for me to grow up in a home where everybody pitched in and where my parents really modeled what it was to pursue the American dream in a really meaningful way.

KM: Absolutely. That’s a really great story. And turning another page, because I heard you ask the audience, “Who in here are college students?” and I heard a lot of cheers. Something that’s really important to students, conservative students in particular, you know, I’m a recent law school graduate, so I can empathize with the students out there, is academic freedom, because a lot of times on college campuses, you feel that you speak at your own risk if you speak conservative thought. You are oftentimes bullied by your peers, and sometimes even your professors and your educators. So, what advice would you have for students out there who desperately want to share conservatism but feel bullied in doing so?

BD: Well, I think my first advice would be, don’t shut up. Keep talking. Keep making your arguments. [applause] You can do so respectfully and with civility, but I think you need to do so with confidence. We need to have opposing viewpoints and differing ideas in an academian (sp) environment and in any environment where ideas are necessary to be exchanged. And I just urge and encourage all the college students here– any student– to continue to bring your ideas and your viewpoints. That’s the best way to learn, and it’s the best way for us all to learn how to get along together, as well.

KM: Absolutely. One of the things that I loved about you when you were President Trump’s pick is the work that you have done on behalf of children in poverty. You helped 400,000 families in poverty and assisted them and gave them school choice [applause] and assisted in their educational pursuit. That’s fantastic. [applause] And that’s an absolutely indispensable part of President Trump’s agenda ahead is helping students in inner cities. So, what is your plan at the Department of Education to help children in poverty?

BD: Well, we know that education is the great equalizer, and it’s the real moment of opportunity for every student. And so, the notion that I can choose where my children go to school because I can afford to pay for it but my fellow Americans can’t because they don’t have the same economic means, it’s just it’s not right. It’s unjust. [applause] And I share the president’s view that we must and can do better for all Americans to provide each of them with an equal opportunity for a great education. And we will be working together to advance that during his administration.

KM: That’s great. Well, this nation is so blessed to have you as secretary of education, and President Trump could not have made a better choice. I am just so thrilled for your vision and so excited.

[applause]

BD: Thank you. Thank you.

[applause]

[end]

RELATED ARTICLE: On Education, the Left Protects a Miserable Status Quo

RELATED VIDEO: WATCH New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Speech at CPAC 2017

map of world water color

Which Country Punishes Productive People the Most? by Daniel J. Mitchell

Back in 2014, I shared some data from the Tax Foundation that measured the degree to which various developed nations punished high-income earners.

This measure of relative “progressivity” focused on personal income taxes. And that’s important because that levy often is the most onerous for highly productive residents of a nation.

But there are other taxes that also create a gap between what such taxpayers earn and produce and what they ultimately are able to consume and enjoy. What about the effects of payroll taxes? Of consumption taxes and other levies?

Looking at the Evidence

To answer that question, we have a very useful study from the European Policy Information Center on this topic. Authored by Alexander Fritz Englund and Jacob Lundberg, it looks at the total marginal tax rate on each nation’s most productive taxpayers.

They start with some sensible observations about why marginal tax rates matter, basically echoing what I wrote after last year’s Super Bowl.

Here’s what Englund and Lundberg wrote.

The marginal tax rate is the proportion of tax paid on the last euro earned. It is the relevant tax rate when deciding whether to work a few extra hours or accept a promotion, for example. As most income tax systems are progressive, the marginal tax rate on top incomes is usually also the highest marginal tax rate. It is an indicator of how progressive and distortionary the income tax is.”

They then explain why they include payroll taxes in their calculations.

The income tax alone does not provide a complete picture of how the tax system affects incentives to work and earn income. Many countries require employers and/or employees to pay social contributions. It is not uncommon for the associated benefits to be capped while the contribution itself is uncapped, meaning it is a de facto tax for high-income earners. Even those social contributions that are legally paid by the employer will in the end be paid by the employee as the employer should be expected to shift the burden of the tax through lower gross wages.”

Englund and Lundberg are correct. A payroll tax (sometimes called a “social insurance” levy) will be just as destructive as a regular income tax if workers aren’t “earning” some sort of additional benefit. And they’re also right when they point out that payroll taxes “paid” by employers actually are borne by workers.

They then explain why they include a measure of consumption taxation.

One must also take value-added taxes and other consumption taxes into account. Consumption taxes reduce the purchasing power of wage-earners and thus affect the return to working. In principle, it does not matter whether taxation takes place when income is earned or when it is consumed, as the ultimate purpose of work is consumption.”

Once again, the authors are spot on. Taxes undermine incentives to be productive by driving a wedge between pre-tax income and post-tax consumption, so you have to look at levies that grab your income as it is earned as well as levies that grab your income as it is spent.

All Things Considered

And when you begin to add everything together, you get the most accurate measure of government greed.

Taking all these taxes into account, one can compute the effective marginal tax rate. This shows how many cents the government receives for every euro of additional employee compensation paid by the firm. …If the top effective tax rate is 75 percent, as in Sweden, a person who contributes 100 additional euros to the economy will only be allowed to keep 25 euros while 75 euros are appropriated by the government. The tax system thus drives a wedge between the social and private return to work. …High marginal tax rates disconnect the private and social returns to economic activity and thereby the invisible hand ceases to function. For this reason, taxation causes distortions and is costly to society. High marginal tax rates make it less worthwhile to supply labour on the formal labour market and more worthwhile to spend time on household work, black market activities and tax avoidance.”

Here’s their data for various developed nations.

Keep in mind that these are the taxes that impact each nation’s most productive taxpayers. So that includes top income tax rates, both for the central governments and sub-national governments, as well as surtaxes. It includes various social insurance levies, to the extent such taxes apply to all income. And it includes a measure of estimated consumption taxation.

And here’s the ranking of all the nations. Shed a tear for entrepreneurs in Sweden, Belgium, and Portugal.

Slovakia wins the prize for the least-punitive tax regime, though it’s worth noting that Hong Kong easily would have the best system if it was included in the ranking.

U.S. Ranking

For what it’s worth, the United States does fairly well compared to other nations. This is not because our personal income tax is reasonable (see dark blue bars), but rather because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were unsuccessful in their efforts to bust the “wage base cap” and apply the Social Security payroll tax on all income. We also thankfully don’t have a value-added tax. These factors explain why our medium-blue and light-blue bars are the smallest.

By the way, this doesn’t mean we have a friendly system for upper-income taxpayers in America. They lose almost half of every dollar they generate for the economy. And whether one is looking at Tax Foundation numbers, Congressional Budget Office calculations, information from the New York Times, or data from the IRS, rich people in the United States are paying a hugely disproportionate share of the tax burden.

Though none of this satisfies the statists. They actually would like us to think that letting well-to-do taxpayers keep any of their money is akin to a handout.

Now would be an appropriate time to remind everyone that imposing high tax rates doesn’t necessarily mean collecting high tax revenues.

In the 1980s, for instance, upper-income taxpayers paid far more revenue to the government when Reagan lowered the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent.

Also, keep in mind that these calculations don’t measure the tax bias against saving and investment, so the tax burden on some upper-income taxpayers may be higher or lower depending on the degree to which countries penalize capital formation.

P.S. If one includes the perverse incentive effects of various redistribution programs, the very highest marginal tax rates (at least when measuring implicit rates) sometimes apply to a nation’s poor people.

P.P.S. Our statist friends sometimes justify punitive taxes as a way of using coercion to produce more equality, but the net effect of such policies is weaker growth and that means it is more difficult for lower-income and middle-income people to climb the economic ladder. In other words, unfettered markets are the best way to get social mobility.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

EDITORS NOTE: Marcus Tullius Cicero in 55 BC said,

 “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”
export import bank logo

The Ex-Im Bank Is the Heart of the Swamp by Daniel J. Mitchell

I’ve written many times that Washington is both a corrupt city and a corrupting city. My point is that decent people go into government and all too often wind up losing their ethical values as they learn to “play the game.”

I often joke that these are people who start out thinking Washington is a cesspool but eventually decide it’s a hot tub.

During the presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp,” which is similar to my cesspool example. My concern is that El Presidente may not understand (or perhaps not even care) that shrinking the size and scope of government is the only effective way to reduce Washington corruption.

In any event, we’re soon going to get a very strong sign about whether Trump was serious. With Republicans on Capitol Hill divided on how to deal with this cronyist institution, Trump basically has the tie-breaking vote on the issue.

In other words, he has the power to shut down this geyser of corporate welfare. But will he?

According the Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner, Trump may choose to wallow in the swamp rather than drain it.

President Trump now may be in favor of the Export-Import Bank, according to Republican lawmakers who met with him privately Thursday, even though Trump once condemned the bank as corporate welfare.

Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center is one on the Ex-Im Bank’s most tenacious opponents, and she’s very worried.

…if the reports are true that Trump has decided to support the restoration of the crony Export-Import Bank’s full lending authority, it would be akin to the president deciding to instead happily bathe in the swamp and gargle the muck. …If true, the news is only “great” for Boeing, GE, and the other major recipients of Ex-Im’s corporate welfare. It is also at odds with his campaign promises since much of the way the program works is that it gives cheap loans — backed by Americans all over the country — to foreign companies in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Restoring Ex-Im’s full lending-authority powers is renewing the policy to give cheap loans backed by workers in the Rust Belt to companies like Ryanair ($4 billion in guarantee loans over ten years) and Emirates Airlines ($3.9 billion over ten years) so they can have a large competitive advantage over U.S. domestic airlines like Delta and United. It continued to subsidize the large and prosperous state-owned Mexican oil company PEMEX ($9.7 billion over ten years). Seriously? That’s president Trump’s vision of draining the swamp?

Ugh. It will be very disappointing if Trump chooses corporate welfare over taxpayers.

What presumably matters most, though, is whether a bad decision on the Ex-Im Bank is a deviation or a harbinger of four years of cronyism.

In other words, when the dust settles, will the net effect of Trump’s policies be a bigger swamp or smaller swamp?

The New York Times opined that Trump is basically replacing one set of insiders with another set of insiders, which implies a bigger swamp.

Mr. Trump may be out to challenge one establishment — the liberal elite — but he is installing one of his own, filled with tycoons, Wall Street heavyweights, cronies and a new rank of shadowy wealthy “advisers” unaccountable to anyone but him. …Take first the Goldman Sachs crowd. The Trump campaign lambasted global financiers, led by Goldman, as having “robbed our working class,” but here come two of the alleged miscreants: Gary Cohn, Goldman’s president, named to lead the National Economic Council, and Steven Mnuchin, named as Treasury secretary. …Standing in the rain during Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech, farmers and factory workers, truckers, nurses and housekeepers greeted his anti-establishment words by cheering “Drain the Swamp!” even as the new president was standing knee-deep in a swamp of his own.

I’m skeptical of Trump, and I’m waiting to see whether Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin will be friends for taxpayers, so I’m far from a cheerleader for the current administration.

But I also think the New York Times is jumping the gun.

Maybe Trump will be a swamp-wallowing cronyist, but we don’t yet have enough evidence (though a bad decision on Ex-Im certainly would be a very bad omen).

Here’s another potential indicator of what may happen to the swamp under Trump’s reign.

Bloomberg reports that two former Trump campaign officials, Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett have cashed in by setting up a lobbying firm to take advantage of their connections.

The arrival of a new president typically means a gold rush for Washington lobbyists as companies, foreign governments, and interest groups scramble for access and influence in the administration. Trump’s arrival promises to be different—at least according to Trump. Throughout the campaign, he lambasted the capital as a den of insider corruption and repeatedly vowed to “drain the swamp,” a phrase second only in the Trump lexicon to “make America great again.” …Trump’s well-advertised disdain for lobbying might seem to augur poorly for a firm seeking to peddle influence. …“Business,” Lewandowski says, “has been very, very good.”

This rubs me the wrong way. I don’t want lobbyists to get rich.

But, to be fair, not all lobbying is bad. Many industries hire “representation” because they want to protect themselves from taxes and regulation. And they have a constitutional right to “petition” the government and contribute money, so I definitely don’t want to criminalize lobbying.

But as I’ve said over and over again, I’d like a much smaller government so that interest groups don’t have an incentive to do either the right kind of lobbying (self-protection) or the wrong kind of lobbying (seeking to obtain unearned wealth via the coercive power of government).

Here’s one final story about the oleaginous nature of Washington.

Wells Fargo is giving a big payout to Elaine Chao, the new Secretary of Transportation.

Chao, who joined Wells Fargo as a board member in 2011, has collected deferred stock options —  a compensation perk generally designed as a long-term retention strategy — that she would not be able to cash out if she left the firm to work for a competitor. Her financial disclosure notes that she will receive a “cash payout for my deferred stock compensation” upon confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. The document discloses that the payments will continue throughout her time in government, if she is confirmed. The payouts will begin in July 2017 and continue yearly through 2021. But Wells Fargo, like several banks and defense contractors, provides a special clause in its standard executive employment contract that offers flexibility for awarding compensation if executives leave the bank to enter “government service.” Such clauses, critics say, are structured to incentivize the so-called “reverse revolving door” of private sector officials burrowing into government. …Golden parachutes for executives leaving firms to enter government dogged several Obama administration officials. Jack Lew, upon leaving Citigroup to join the Obama administration in 2009, was given a cash payout as part of his incentive and retention awards that wouldn’t have been paid if he had left the firm to join a competitor or under ordinary circumstances. But Lew’s Citigroup contract stipulated that there was an exception for leaving to work in a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Northrop Grumman are among the other firms that have offered special financial rewards to executives who leave to enter government.

This rubs me the wrong way, just as it rubbed me the wrong way when one of Obama’s cabinet appointees got a similar payout.

But the more I think about it, the real question isn’t whether government officials get to keep stock options and other forms of deferred compensation when they jump to government.

What bothers me much more is why companies feel that it’s in their interest to hire people closely connected to government. What value did Jacob Lew bring to Citigroup? What value did Chao bring to Wells Fargo?

I suspect that the answer has a lot to do with financial institutions wanting people who can can pick up the phone and extract favors and information from senior officials in government.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a fan of Lew because he pushed for statism while at Treasury. By contrast, I am a fan of Chao because she was one of the few bright spots during the generally statist Bush years.

But I don’t want a system where private companies feel like they should hire either one of them simply because they have connections in Washington.

I hope that Trump will change this perverse set of incentives by “draining the swamp.” But unless he reduces the size and scope of government, the problem will get worse rather than better.

Republished from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.