Sunday, March 31, 2019

Environmentalists Seeking to Deprive NJ Residents of Reliable Energy

There is a dangerous movement in New Jersey to stifle the buildout of reliable energy infrastructure, particularly natural gas pipelines and power plants. And it’s had considerable success. Already, it has stopped construction of a new nat-gas power plant in Hillsborough. In  South Jersey, opposition to a nat-gas pipeline has caused the owners of a coal-fired power plant to abandon plans to convert it to natural gas.

Now, a coalition of environmental groups has called on Governor Phil Murphy to “halt a dozen proposed natural gas power plants and pipelines in New Jersey.” Empower NJ, as this group calls itself, wants Murphy to “focus entirely on developing green energy.” Brazenly belying its own title, Empower NJ calls only for unreliable, expensive wind and solar, not nuclear, the obvious choice for those truly committed to “green”--non-fossil fuel--energy.

I don’t know if Murphy even has the power to halt these projects. As of this writing, he has not done so. I submitted the following as yet unpublished letter to the NJ Star-Ledger:

To the editors,

Recent calls by the Environmentalist coalition Empower NJ for a “moratorium . . . on natural gas power plants and pipelines in New Jersey”  is a dangerous gamble that ignores the risk to human well-being (If Murphy wants to be N.J.'s Captain Planet, he’ll need to overcome Christie’s legacy first). We in NJ enjoy plentiful reliable energy because years ago farsighted energy producers foresaw the need for today’s energy, and put the infrastructure in place to meet it. The same foresight drives this new infrastructure. Technological breakthroughs may or may not somehow make “green” energy a viable replacement. But wishing won’t make it so. Neither will halting these energy projects. Hope is not foresight.

Whatever the effects of fossil fuel use on climate, the value of reliable energy to our lives is indisputable. Weather can be bad, as always. But energy deprivation would be catastrophic. When “green” energy companies demonstrate their products’ superiority, consumers will buy it without subsidies, mandates, or fossil fuel bans. Until then we should be thankful for the builders of nat-gas pipelines and power plants. It is they, not Environmentalists, who have our future energy security in mind.


Michael A. LaFerrara
Flemington, NJ

Related Reading:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Governor Murphy’s Plan to ‘Make New Jersey Great Again’

The message from New Jersey’s “progressive” Governor Phil Murphy is--Your life belongs to me, so I will take care of you. In a NJ Star-Ledger guest column, Governor: My 2020 budget will continue investments in education, NJ Transit, ensure tax fairness, Murphy wrote:

As governor, my job is to lay the framework upon which New Jersey’s future is written. That story must be one in which the middle class expands and thrives, businesses grow, and investments are made.

On Tuesday, I will present a new budget that will help us write this story by prioritizing our single greatest asset: our people. This budget will be the blueprint for making our middle class more secure, and for building the ramp that will carry more families into its ranks.

Our budget will restore responsible fiscal stewardship, invest in our people and communities, and ensure tax fairness for middle-class families taking it on the chin from rising inequality and President Trump’s harmful federal tax changes.

Prosperity requires prudence, responsibility, and a vision for the future.

This is a sampling. A lot is vague. But we know that “investment” means government spending other people’s money, not private people spending their own. And of course, there is the obligatory attack on “inequality”--”middle-class families taking it on the chin from rising inequality”--the same middle class that buys the goods and fills the jobs created by “the rich”. Exactly how someone else’s unequal economic achievements represent a danger to my chin has always escaped me.

I posted these comments:

This article reads more like a plan to grow the welfare class, not the middle class. What does “middle class” mean? The middle class is marked by individual self-reliance, not dependence; earning, not handouts. Middle class status is achieved by personal effort, not given. Prosperity is driven by individuals motivated by their own self-improvement, not some collective “vision.”

NJ residents are not “our people”—and their wealth is not “ours”—for politicians to control, tax, and buy. The state doesn’t own the people. They are not “assets” to be used for the purpose of some collective political scheme to “Make NJ Great Again.”

Prosperity’s first requirement is individual freedom and independence, not submission. Since the theme of this article centers around investment, education, and business growth, let me offer a concrete proposal--universal school choice, so people can invest their own education tax dollars as they see fit for their own children. Imagine the business growth as the field of education is opened up to entrepreneurship. The government is ours, not the other way around, and it should leave us more free to secure our own legitimate middle class status. Government’s job is to secure our rights, not economic level, equally, so each person person can make of their lives what they will. Educational freedom is a good place to start.

Related Reading:

Related Viewing:

John Tamny discusses the genius of capitalism and why rising wealth inequality is a great thing in front of a packed audience at Oklahoma State University!  [Youtube: The Unrelenting Beauty of Wealth Inequality

Monday, March 25, 2019

‘God-Given’ or Not, Rights Must be Defended on Rational Grounds

A common refrain used by conservatives to defend liberty is that our individual rights are “God-given.” “God-given” is left hanging with no further elaboration necessary. This leaves the defense of freedom at the mercy of others, including other theists, who simply retort, “Oh no, they’re not.” What then?

My view is that freedom is a requirement of human life, rooted in man’s nature and his relationship to existence, and that individual rights are the principles that can be derived from the observable facts of reality. Does this leave religious people incapable of effectively advocating for rights? Not at all.

We who love liberty and Americanism need to explain WHY we have rights. The Founders seemed to understand this. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, America’s official Founding document, “all men are . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Using the term “Creator” rather than “God” leaves room for wide interpretation as to how man got here. Indeed, the Declaration speaks of the “Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God,” implying that there is a rational basis for our rights, and that the rational basis for rights holds no matter how man originated.

Even if one believes that rights are “God-given” (I don’t), it’s still true that God created the reality in which man lives. So a defense of individual rights can still be based objectively on the observable facts of reality, without abandoning one’s belief in God. It is dangerous to defend rights merely on faith, which the “God-given” rationalization is all about. If rights are "unalienable", then by definition rights cannot be given to us. What is given can be taken away. "God-given" is not only ineffective. It contradicts the very idea of rights as unalienable, which means precisely that rights cannot be taken away by any person or human institution. All freedom lovers, theists and atheists alike, can and must defend rights factually, which means scientifically. We have reality on our side. We should all use it.

I recommend the following material for gaining a firm grounding in freedom based on individual rights:

The ideas of John Locke, summarized in John Locke: Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property

Man’s Rights—Ayn Rand

Friday, March 22, 2019

QUORA: 'Can anyone give me a logical reason why we Americans are the only democracy using an Electoral College to choose our presidents?'

I posted this answer:

Precisely because America was Founded on the principle of individual sovereignty and rights, whose government is a servant designed to protect those rights. As such, the democratic process was essential but not fundamental. America was never Founded as a democracy. It was a constitutionally limited republic.

There are numerous good reasons for having the Electoral College, in my view. But the most important was to head off a concentration of power within any one man or branch of the government. Given the primary objective of securing individual rights to life, liberty, and property, it was extremely important to limit government force through separation of powers to ward off tyranny—not just the tyranny of Kings, popes, and other kinds of dictators, but also the tyranny of an unconstrained popular vote. Hence, the Electoral College, under which the state legislatures, presumed to be less subject to mob passions and better informed by experience, were made responsible for choosing the electors, rather than depend on a direct national popular vote.

Keep in mind that state legislatures are popularly elected. But, being more seasoned by experience and legislative debate and compromise, they were considered to be an essential intermediary between the momentary and shifting passions of the popular masses and the extraordinary power of the presidency. The Electoral College must be considered within the context of the separation of powers doctrine, and thus a logical aspect of a free society based on individual rights.

Related Reading:

* [Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.]

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Welcome Recognition of the Islamist Threat from a ‘Mainstream’ Source

After the 9/11 Islamist attacks, President GW Bush and the Congress created The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission. It’s final report was issued on July 22, 2004 (PDF Version). It’s mandate, according to the preface, was to answer the question “How did the happen, and how can we avoid such tragedy again?” The report “provides a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. It also includes recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.”

The 2004 report was widely anticipated, publicized, and debated, and most of its practical recommendations have been wholly or partially implemented, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). What has not gotten much coverage is a new BPC report authored by the original 9/11 Commission members.

John Farmer Jr summarizes the new study in a guest column published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on September 11, 2017. Regarding the BPC report, “Defeating Terrorists, Not Terrorism: An Assessment of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy From 9/11 to ISIS,” Farmer observes that although . . .

the capacity of terrorist organizations to conduct far-flung, sophisticated operations like the 9/11 attacks has been disrupted if not totally degraded, [the BPC report observes that] "the threat of terrorism has metastasized. Last year, terrorists launched five times as many attacks as in 2001 . . . For each threat defused, another soon takes its place; for each terrorist group disrupted, another soon arises; for each terrorist killed, more eager recruits appear."

The BPC reports that “It is impossible to conclude that the enemy has been defeated,” and attempts to answer the question, “Why?” Hearteningly, the BPC report reads like a breath of fresh air—and truth. As Farmer writes in these excerpts:

Our successes have been significant, therefore, but largely tactical.  "For all of its battlefield and intelligence successes," the BPC Report notes, "the United States has demonstrated little ability to degrade support for the ideology underlying jihadist terrorism."

That ideology rejects the idea of a nation state as a western creation foisted upon Islam by colonial powers. It advocates a world as a unified caliphate under a single Islamist banner, and rejects utterly the notion of the separation of church and state, believing that "the Koran is our constitution" and that religious law should inform all aspects of daily life. It offers the disaffected a simple answer to every grievance, a simple solution to the world's complexities: violent jihad.

Its allure has proven extremely powerful as Islamic State has emerged from al-Qaeda.

Just as only Muslims can be effective in countering the Islamist version of Islam, only America and the west can be effective in countering the Islamist totalitarian rejection of our freedoms and way of life.

As a culture -- not just as a government -- we must expose the Islamist sloganeering of "Democracy hypocrisy! Democracy go to hell! Freedom go to hell!" for the prelude to tyranny that it represents. [My emphasis]

If this analysis sounds familiar, it’s because is mirrors what some voices have been saying since 9/11. And Elan Journo, co-author of Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond, wrote in 2016:

The problem goes way beyond ignorance. Ignorance is where everyone starts out. But the jihadists have never made their cause secret. Our enemy is defined, not primarily by their use of terrorist means, but by their ideological ends. They fight to create a society wherein Islamic religious law, or sharia, dominates every last detail of every individual’s life, a cause inspired and funded by patrons such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and above all, Iran. In our book, we call this political-ideological movement Islamic totalitarianism. [My emphasis]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali also comes to mind with her book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, in which she calls on Muslims “to bring their religion out of the seventh century and into the twenty-first.” Is their message finally breaking through to the “mainstream?”

What’s particularly noteworthy about the report Farmer summarizes is that the BPC group that authored it was co-chaired by Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, who headed the original 9/11 Commission Report. John Farmer Jr. himself has impressive credentials. He was New Jersey's attorney general on Sept. 11, 2001, a former senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, and is currently a university professor and special counsel to the president of Rutgers University. Farmer also contributed to this latest report. While I have not read the entire BPC report, I think that, given Farmer’s credentials and ties to the Commission, we can trust that he accurately summarizes the essentials of the report.

We can debate the recommendations of the BPC report. The main value of the report is that it identifies the true nature of the enemy as fundamentally rooted in Islamic text, rather than whitewashing this fact by trivializing the terrorists as “hijackers of a peaceful religion” or some such nonsense. The question is, what effect will the report have on the policies of our political leaders? Unfortunately, the BPC report hasn’t, to my knowledge, gotten much coverage. This is surprising, given the wide attention given to the findings and recommendations of the 2004 9/11 Commission Report. We can only speculate. But perhaps too many people don’t want to go where this report leads, for fear of “offending” rank-and-file Muslims. Just a few weeks after Farmer’s column, there appeared in the Star-Ledger a guest column by Muslim-American Fakhruddin Ahmed titled Trump's unwelcoming message to Muslim Americans like me, in which Ahmad criticized President Trump’s use of the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism” because it “conflate[s] Islam itself with terrorism and offend[s] the world's 1.6 billion Muslims who do not see a link between the two.” If Muslims themselves won’t acknowledge the obvious connection between aspects of their religion and terrorism, how will Muslims ever “be effective in countering the Islamist version of Islam,” as the BPC report urges?

Still, the report has been written and published. Have we reached a cultural and political turning point, where we can toss the “War on Terror” into the dustbin of history and finally acknowledge the much broader scope of the fight? Or will Kean, Hamilton, and Farmer be brushed off as another group of “Islamophobes”, or simply ignored for running afoul of political correctness?

That would be a shame. This report deserves the same wide exposure as the original report. We better hope this report is a cultural wakeup call, because right now the Islamic totalitarians are militarily weak—which is why they rely on terrorism against civilians. The fundamental battle is ideological, as Farmer observes. What will happen if our leaders continue to evade the real nature of the enemy until the Islamists acquire the military capacity, including nuclear weapons, to back up their ideology?

Only time will tell. But Defeating Terrorists, Not Terrorism: An Assessment of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy From 9/11 to ISIS is a hopeful sign. Farmer’s column is titled N.J.'s attorney general on 9/11: How to defeat Islamist terrorism, and is an interesting, worthwhile, and encouraging read.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Viva la Revolucion”! The Star-Ledger Exposes the Left’s Long-Running Plan for Complete Socialism

The New Jersey Star-Ledger had an enlightening editorial titled If these ideas are socialist, Viva la Revolucion!.

The use of the phrase “Viva la Revolucion” is very revealing. More on that later. The editorial referred to Donald Trump’s State-of-the-Union statement,

“America was founded on liberty and independence, and not government coercion, domination and control,” he declared in the State of the Union address. “We are born free, and we will stay free.”

What followed was a litany of prior and proposed socialist initiatives beginning, tellingly, with the Progressive Theodore Roosevelt.

When have we heard this before? In 1910 when Teddy Roosevelt warned that super-rich dynasties in America threatened democracy and called for an inheritance tax and a progressive income tax. We heard it when Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security, and again when Lyndon Johnson created Medicare. We heard it when Martin Luther King Jr. pressed to win voting rights for black Americans, and when protesters called for a halt to the carpet bombing of North Vietnam. It is a reflex.

Claiming that “Our economy is broken,” the Star-Ledger identifies a sampling, though not exhaustive, list of socialist Democratic proposals, spiced up with the usual reflexive jab at economic inequality.

I posted these comments, edited for clarity:

Every initiative listed here is socialist--and it started 100+ years ago. As the socialist schemes piled up, we were assured all along that it’s only a “safety net” for free market capitalism. “We do not want socialism,” the “liberals” assured us.

It was always a lie. All of those prior socialisms are now held up as justification for a new mountain of proposals--many evaded by the S-L--that add up to totalitarian socialism. They are pushed by a Democratic Party that is openly labeling itself socialist.

Socialism is not and never has been America. Socialism is collectivism--the subordination of the individual to the state. America is individualism--the equal protection of all individuals’ rights to live and trade freely, each according to her own values, living with a government designed to “secure these rights”, not violate them.

The turning point is near. It’s time for real Americans to stand up and demand respect for the right to earn a living, each keeping what he has earned, regardless of the amount. Economic inequality is the natural result of the freedom to work and make the most of one’s life, spreading the wealth through voluntary trade. The new socialists produce nothing--not goods or services; not jobs; not investment opportunities. They have nothing to offer but envy of achievement and the force of government. They seek only to control those who produce, and spread wealth that is not theirs through confiscation and handouts.

America is not the land of economic equality, imposed by government. It is the land of political equality--rights to life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness secured by government. There is NOTHING American about any socialist initiative, before or now. Where are the limits on government’s power? It’s time to draw the stop line before it is too late, and start repealing and/or privatizing the old “safety net” socialisms. Individualism/capitalism, not collectivism/socialism, is Americanism.


As an afterword, which was required due to the 1800 character limit on comments, I posted this reply to my comments:

Clarification: The right to vote and the Vietnam protests are not socialist initiatives. Voting and peacefully protesting are features of political equality, not socialism. They were thrown in as a sop to the philosophically challenged, to confuse the fundamental issue, which is socialism versus capitalism.

“Viva la Revolucion” is an apt phrase to use in the title of this editorial. The phrase refers primarily to the French Revolution, which ended in tyranny, or to the Cuban Revolution, which ended in tyranny. The Democratic Socialist “revolution” will be no different.


The Star-Ledger makes a number of false claims, such as that “After World War II, the gains of economic growth were shared broadly as the middle-class was born,” that there has been “remarkable explosion of wealth among the elites over the last generation, and . . . stagnant incomes for everyone else,” and that marginal income tax rate cuts, which the S-L labels “tax breaks at the rich,” have “repeatedly proven false” as economically advantageous to “common people.” However, one point the Star-Ledger does make has, unfortunately, a ring of truth to it:

It is revealing that Trump, and Republicans in general, have proposed nothing to stop this [socialist] trend. They have run out of ideas.

Instead, we hear these rantings about Venezuela. It’s an old trick. Don’t fall for it.

Venezuela is important, and it should be pointed out. But it’s not enough. The Democratic Socialists will fall back on their get-out-of-jail-free card: “They didn’t do it right. We’ll do it better, if you’ll only give us the power” The Republicans must take a vigorous moral stand for Americanism, explaining why the Democrats’ socialist agenda is a threat to individual “liberty and independence” and really does represent “government coercion, domination and control” of our individual lives.

Related Reading:

The Capitalist Manifesto--Andrew Bernstein

Related Viewing:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pharma Can’t ‘Bargain’ With a Medicare Monopsony

I was disappointed to read Paul Mulshine’s column advocating a change in the law allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with private drug makers (The Medicare drug issue: ‘Conservatives’ who don’t want to bargain for better prices? No way). He criticized other conservatives for labeling such “bargaining” as price controls. But that is precisely what this would be--back-door price controls.

Mulshine did make the valid point that America doesn’t really have a functioning free market in drugs, and did advocate for free market reforms:

The genuinely conservative position on Medicare is to call for the entire program to be privatized so private insurance companies can make whatever deals they want with the drug companies.

But if we’re stuck subsidizing those drugs, the very least we can demand is that the government pay the lowest price possible to the drug companies.

It’s the “But if we’re stuck” phrase that stuck in my craw.

I left these comments:

Medicare is a monopsony--a legally protected exclusive buyer of drugs for the senior market. It is also part of an institution that determines what drugs can be sold--and that has regulatory, taxing, and prosecutorial powers through multiple agencies--not to mention Congress. What “bargaining” power can a private company have with Medicare, a part of the whole coercive federal establishment? “Take-it-or-leave-it” is no choice at all for a drug company “dealing” with a government monopsony.

The solution to the problems caused by creeping socialism and government interference is not more socialism and government interference. That’s how, after decades, we have gotten to the point that a movement openly advocating full, totalitarian socialism is gaining traction in America by arguing that the whole point of the growing welfare state was precisely that--undiluted totalitarian socialism.

The solution is not to “defend the current system.” It is to take a stand against socialism and government interference and in favor of reforms geared toward more individual freedom. Privatizing Medicare is a good place to start. That will take guts, and may cost an election. But it’s the right thing to do, and will at least offer voters an alternative vision and choice.

Related Reading:

Moral Health Care vs. Universal Health Care
, by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh