Government Actions and Basic Premises

cropped-bob-shapiro.jpg   By Bob Shapiro

Many times, reversing your basic premise can give you valuable insights. Let’s look at oil, religion, and the US Constitution, as well as our political leaders actions in these spheres.

Looking around the world, we see numerous oil exporting countries who also are avowed enemies of the US, either outright like Venezuela and Iran, or surreptitiously like Saudi Arabia. While in the past, OPEC members have curtailed production to keep prices high, now they are in “pedal to the metal” mode, producing as much oil as they can, and have pushed the price so low, many analysts are declaring the death of American production.

Our leaders, most obviously President Obama, have been treating OPEC with kid gloves, while at the same time they are in an undeclared war on US produced energy – mostly of the fossil fuel variety. How might these seemingly at odds actions make sense together?

I expect that most Americans would believe, as a basic premise, that the elected President of the United States is working for the benefit of the American people. So, for the purposes of this mental exercise, let us assume the exact opposite – that President Obama is working AGAINST the best interest of America.

It is a well established fact that the availability of cheap, reliable energy is very well correlated to growth in a country’s Economy, to the people’s Standard of Living, and to the general Well-Being of all who live in that country.

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The Hood Robin Syndrome

By Willis Eschenbach – Re-Blogged From http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com

There’s a new study out, under the imprimatur of the Energy Institute of the Haas School of Business in Berkeley, California, entitled The Distributional Effects of U.S. Clean Energy Tax Credits.  As the title implies, it looks at who actually profited from the various “green energy” tax credits across the United States. SPOILER ALERT! It wasn’t the poor folks.

How much money are we talking about? Well, the paper says that from 2006 to 2012, the taxpayers have been on the hook for $18 BILLION DOLLARS to fund these subsidies, money that would have otherwise gone into the General Fund.

And just how much money is eighteen billion dollars? Here’s one way to think about eighteen gigabucks, regarding safe, clean drinking water.

Water Wells for Africa reports from their ongoing projects that on average it has cost them about $3.50 per person ($7,000 per well serving 2,000 people) to provide people with clean safe well water. So eighteen billion dollars is enough money to drill drinking water wells for three-quarters of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants. (Yes, I know that’s a gross simplification, some folks don’t live over a subterranean water table, and so on, but it is still enough money to drill the two and a half million wells that would be needed.)

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Perverse Climate “Morality”

Guest essay by Paul Driessen – Re-Blogged From http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com

Current climate policies mean energy deprivation, poverty, disease and death for billions.

You’ve got to admit, liberal are masters at describing every initiative they launch as “the moral thing to do.” Their campaign for draconian energy regulations and a new global warming treaty is no exception. Protecting people, wildlife and ecosystems from climate catastrophes is the greatest moral cause of our time, alarmist scientists, activists, politicians, bureaucrats, clerics and journalists insist. Rubbish.

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Civil Forfeiture for Labor Regulations

By Walter Olson – Re-Blogged From http://www.Reason.com

One reason for the public outcry over civil forfeiture is its unfairness as a matter of procedure: at a point when you’ve been convicted of nothing, law enforcement can seize your property and make you sue to get it back. And then if you want to challenge the government’s actions, the assets you need for a legal defense may themselves have been seized or frozen. So the pressure is to settle with prosecutors or police on unfavorable terms, perhaps getting back some of your bank account or of the value of your home or car but often without a practical chance to fight the case against you in court.

It isn’t just forfeiture law that can give the government this intimidating type of power. Under a provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor can seek what is known as a “hot goods” order, freezing the physical output of an employer that it suspects of having violated wage and hour law, all without having to prove its case at a trial.

In recent years — urged by such constituencies as labor unions, trial lawyers, and left-leaning academics — the Obama administration has greatly stepped up its enforcement of FLSA wage-hour law. Part of that enforcement has taken the form of a revitalized use of hot-goods orders, which even defenders of its approach concede had until recently been little-known. So far the most notable result has been a federal attack on blueberry growers in the Pacific Northwest — an onslaught high-handed enough to have been met with a stinging rebuke from a federal court last year, and which has now ended in humiliation with the dropping of charges against two growers and a refund of moneys extracted from them.

The case started in 2012 when the Labor Department told three Oregon farms it didn’t think the piecework rate system they used, which paid workers for pounds picked, resulted in high enough pay for field workers. Without spelling out exactly how it had arrived at this conclusion — an omission that would raise questions later — it obtained a hot-goods order against them, labeling an estimated $5 million worth of fresh blueberries as contraband forbidden to enter the channels of commerce for supermarket sale, processing, or any other use. And then it offered the growers a deal: if they wanted Washington to release their crop, they would have to not only fork over a demanded cash settlement but — this is the kicker — agree not to appeal.

It’s coercive enough to deploy the hot-goods power against a maker of steel ingots or knitted garments. But blueberries are a highly perishable crop that begins to lose value at once if not shipped. Indeed, no one could remember a case until the Obama years in which the hot-goods power had been used against agricultural produce at all, let alone one with a shelf life measured in days.

For the growers, of course, the proffered choice was no choice at all: rather than lose crops worth millions, they took the deal and agreed to pay $240,000. But outrage spread among farm groups, and the Oregon Farm Bureau offered to assist in a court case. The next year two of the growers went to court to challenge what had happened to them and undo the settlement. They told a federal court that the hot-goods order by its nature had prevented them from asserting their legal right to contest the department’s wage calculations or even find out what they were. One grower said the government’s tactics had amounted to “extortion.”

Making matters worse, the growers finally managed to uncover some of the department’s methodology in calculating wage underpayment. Here’s the Bend (Oregon) Bulletin in an editorial last month:

Do you know how the department determined some of the alleged labor violations? It guessed.

It determined that a picker could pick only a certain amount of blueberries in a day. [Since a larger amount had been picked than the number of reported workers would account for, it deduced that the farms must have used off-the-books time or laborers — W.O.] One farm hired a former Labor Department investigator to test that theory. He had workers pick blueberries on a field that had already been picked, and many picked well over that amount.

It’s hard — as in, really, really hard — to get a legal settlement thrown out on grounds of duress. But federal judges nonetheless sided with the growers and ruled that the Department had overstepped its powers. Federal district judge Michael McShane even wrote that the department’s conduct constituted “fraud.” Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives

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Obama Administration Encourages Illegals to Sign Up for Obamacare

(Reposted from EagleRising.com, by Tim Brown)

Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently told a group of Latino bloggers in an online chat that the Obama administration wants to make Obamacare available for illegal aliens.

You may recall back in 2009 that Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from my home state of South Carolina, yelled out “You lie!” to Barack Obama. He was chided and maligned in the press and even by so-called “conservatives” for calling Obama what he is. But do you recall what he said Obama was lying about? Let me refresh your memory.

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