Llewellyn King: Are the Environmentalists Making Another Mistake?
By Llewellyn King
I’m a tree-hugger. Yep, an environmentalist, but I wouldn’t care to be known as such. Just the word suspiciously signals virtue, and environmentalists and their movement haven’t always been on the side of the environment.
In the 1970s and 1980s, I sat through many meetings when environmentalists advocated for coal over nuclear. That’s like their original sin.
Today, quite a few who care about the environment realize that that was a mistake — a bad mistake. Reluctantly, many have come to see that nuclear is a carbon-free and a very compact source of a lot of electricity.
But long years of environmental opposition have taken their toll on public acceptance and on the economics of new plants. Delay, obfuscations and untruths about both nuclear safety and nuclear waste came together to hobble the industry over the past 40 years.
Waves of anti-nuclear campaigners, like Ralph Nader and Amory Lovins, have been so keen to oppose nuclear that they’ve allowed the environment to receive untold millions of tons of carbon, which wouldn’t have been the case if they hadn’t chosen to wage war on a single technology.
Blame some of this on the 1960s. It was the decade in which the establishment was under attack as never before.
It was a decade in which the young, faced with the draft and Vietnam, started to look at society and the powers that controlled it. They found that the establishment and its institutions could be held accountable for much that was wrong.
Foremost was the war in Vietnam. Then there was the civil rights movement, where it was seen that large institutions had condoned, if not promoted, racial segregation and oppression. Along the way, there was the start of the women’s movement with books like Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique,” published in 1963.
And, of course, there was the environmental movement itself, ignited by Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” in 1962. The establishment, the grownups, had been weighed and found wanting.
Meanwhile the utility industry was happily buying into nuclear power. Growth rates in electric demand had been at 7.5 percent a year for most of the post-World War II period, and utilities thought they needed a huge amount of new power. Actually, demand was leveling off. Nuclear looked like the solution, and the utilities were unrecognizing of the complexity of the technology. One Atomic Energy Commission member, Lewis Strauss, even predicted electricity “too cheap to meter.”
Proponents of nuclear gave its enemies a devastating advantage, a lethal handle. They created a licensing procedure that gave the public unrestricted access to intervene in nuclear licensing.
Nuclear was a fundraising gift to the environmentalists — a gift that kept on giving.
The environmental movement, having found the devil back then, has found twin holy grails today: solar and wind. The movement is promoting them with the same fervor, the same blind certainty with which they once opposed nuclear.
Is the movement going too far again? Certainly, improvements in batteries will overcome the intermittent nature of both sources. But they can’t overcome the second law of thermodynamics: You can’t get more electric energy out of a square meter of a solar cell than sunlight falls on it. That’s absolute. Likewise, with wind: No more energy can be extracted from the wind than it contains. More research won’t change that.
On the other hand, more nuclear research will produce everything from better power plants, to ships and submarines, to nuclear waste-eating reactors. That’s saying nothing about medicine or space exploration.
A few windmills are delightful. Thousands of them are terrifying ugly. Hundreds of thousands of them are being installed.
Likewise, solar panels. Those on the roof at Walmart are great. Thousands and thousands of acres of Southwest desert or good farmland anywhere going down to solar farms is less appealing.
Low density in electricity production means heavy, possibly abusive land use, as demand for wind and solar is pushed. By contrast most nuclear problems will be solved by science, including waste.
Group-think in the environmental movement severely affected nuclear as an option. Now the group passion for “renewables” may be another wrong environmental turn.
Renewable is a disingenuous word: All those wind towers, turbines and solar panels will have to be dismantled and disposed at the end of their productive life. That detritus isn’t renewable.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His email is email@example.com. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
What was the first Bible like?
August 30, 2018
Associate Professor in New Testament, NLA University College, Bergen; and Lecturer in New Testament, University of Aberdeen
Tomas Bokedal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Aberdeen provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
In the years after Jesus was crucified at Calvary, the story of his life, death and resurrection was not immediately written down. The experiences of disciples like Matthew and John would have been told and retold at many dinner tables and firesides, perhaps for decades, before anyone recorded them for posterity. St Paul, whose writings are equally central to the New Testament, was not even present among the early believers until a few years after Jesus’ execution.
But if many people will have an idea of this gap between the events of the New Testament and the book that emerged, few probably appreciate how little we know about the first Christian Bible. The oldest complete New Testament that survives today is from the fourth century, but it had predecessors which have long since turned to dust.
So what did the original Christian Bible look like? How and where did it emerge? And why are we scholars still arguing about this some 1,800 years after the event?
From oral to written
Historical accuracy is central to the New Testament. The issues at stake were pondered in the book itself by Luke the Evangelist as he discusses the reasons for writing what became his eponymous Gospel. He writes: “I too decided to write an orderly account … so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
In the second century, church father Irenaeus of Lyons argued for the validity of the Gospels by claiming that what the authors first preached, after receiving “perfect knowledge” from God, they later put down in writing. Today, scholars differ on these issues – from the American writer Bart Ehrman stressing how much accounts would be changed by the oral tradition; to his Australian counterpart Michael Bird’s argument that historical ambiguities must be tempered by the fact that the books are the word of God; or the British scholar Richard Bauckham’s emphasis on eye-witnesses as guarantors behind the oral and written gospel.
The first New Testament books to be written down are reckoned to be the 13 that comprise Paul’s letters (circa 48-64 CE), probably beginning with 1 Thessalonians or Galatians. Then comes the Gospel of Mark (circa 60-75 CE). The remaining books – the other three Gospels, letters of Peter, John and others as well as Revelation – were all added before or around the end of the first century. By the mid-to-late hundreds CE, major church libraries would have had copies of these, sometimes alongside other manuscripts later deemed apocrypha.
The point at which the books come to be seen as actual scripture and canon is a matter of debate. Some point to when they came to be used in weekly worship services, circa 100 CE and in some cases earlier. Here they were treated on a par with the old Jewish Scriptures that would become the Old Testament, which for centuries had been taking pride of place in synagogues all over latter-day Israel and the wider Middle East.
Others emphasise the moment before or around 200 CE when the titles “Old” and “New Testament” were introduced by the church. This dramatic shift clearly acknowledges two major collections with scriptural status making up the Christian Bible – relating to one another as old and new covenant, prophecy and fulfilment. This reveals that the first Christian two-testament bible was by now in place.
This is not official or precise enough for another group of scholars, however. They prefer to focus on the late fourth century, when the so-called canon lists entered the scene – such as the one laid down by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in 367 CE, which acknowledges 22 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books.
The oldest surviving full text of the New Testament is the beautifully written Codex Sinaiticus, which was “discovered” at the St Catherine monastery at the base of Mt Sinai in Egypt in the 1840s and 1850s. Dating from circa 325-360 CE, it is not known where it was scribed – perhaps Rome or Egypt. It is made from parchment of animal hides, with text on both sides of the page, written in continuous Greek script. It combines the entire New and Old Testaments, though only about half of the old survives (the New Testament has some fairly minor defects).
Sinaiticus may not be the oldest extant bible, however. Another compendium of Old and New Testaments is the Codex Vaticanus, which is from around 300-350 CE, though substantial amounts of both testaments are missing. These bibles differ from one another in some respects, and also from modern bibles – after the 27 New Testament books, for example, Sinaiticus includes as an appendix the two popular Christian edifying writings Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas. Both bibles also have a different running order – placing Paul’s letters after the Gospels (Sinaiticus), or after Acts and the Catholic Epistles (Vaticanus).
They both contain interesting features such as special devotional or creedal demarcations of sacred names, known as nomina sacra. These shorten words like “Jesus”, “Christ”, “God”, “Lord”, “Spirit”, “cross” and “crucify”, to their first and last letters, highlighted with a horizontal overbar. For example, the Greek name for Jesus, Ἰησοῦς, is written as ⲓ̅ⲥ̅; while God, θεός, is ⲑ̅ⲥ̅. Later bibles sometimes presented these in gold letters or render them bigger or more ornamental, and the practice endured until bible printing began around the time of the Reformation.
Though Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are both thought to have been copied from long-lost predecessors, in one format or the other, previous and later standardised New Testaments consisted of a four-volume collection of individual codices – the fourfold Gospel; Acts and seven Catholic Epistles; Paul’s 14 letters (including Hebrews); and the Book of Revelation. They were effectively collections of collections.
But in the absence of a single book prior to the fourth century, we have to content ourselves with the many surviving older fragments sensationally found during the 20th century. We now have some 50 fragmentary New Testament manuscripts written on papyrus that date from the second and third centuries – including the valuable Papyrus 45 (fourfold Gospel and Acts), and Papyrus 46 (a collection of Pauline letters). In all, these comprise almost complete or partial versions of 20 of the 27 books in the New Testament.
The quest will likely continue for additional sources of the original books of the New Testament. Since it is somewhat unlikely anyone will ever find an older Bible comparable with Sinaiticus or Vaticanus, we will have to keep piecing together what we have, which is already quite a lot. It’s a fascinating story which will no doubt continue to provoke arguments between scholars and enthusiasts for many years into the future.
Guest opinion: Small businesses band together to support farm bill program
By Cora Fox, firstname.lastname@example.org, Center for Rural Affairs
The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), a sliver of the farm bill, is at risk. Alongside small businesses across the country, we’re asking Congress to support and restore funding of RMAP in the final farm bill.
This program offers access to loan capital through grants to organizations that provide training, technical assistance, or small loans to rural businesses nationwide. Since its creation in 2008, this funding has helped more than 2,100 small businesses in nearly every state create jobs and generate economic returns for their local communities.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses across the country employed nearly 56.8 million individuals in 2013. That same year, businesses that employed five to nine individuals created a surge of 84,020 additional jobs. U.S.’s small businesses are a driving force in the local economy, and it is important that programs supporting small businesses remain funded.
On Sept. 30, funding for small businesses through RMAP will expire if lawmakers do not take action. Neither the House or Senate versions of the 2018 farm bill have provided mandatory funding for the program, meaning RMAP will cease to function as a resource for small businesses across the country.
A conservative investment in this program pays dividends for years to come on the main streets of small town U.S.A. Now is the time to let Congress know small business programs, like RMAP, are vital to our rural communities.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.
No More Forgotten Wars: End US Support for Saudi Coalition War Crimes in Yemen
By Jared Keyel
If the US were to follow the rules of warfare written into US military law and treaties to which the US is a party, the US must immediately end its support for the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen. We should also marshal all of its diplomatic tools to end the conflict. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia, and allies such as the United Arab Emirates, have been waging a devastating war in support of the Government of Yemen against a Houthi insurgency. Amnesty International has called the conflict a “forgotten war” because its deadly consequences have failed to rise to the level of international crisis in media or government agendas. However, under former President Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, the US has been complicit in war crimes and the creation of a completely preventable humanitarian nightmare for the people of Yemen.
On August 28, 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing the brutal conduct of the war. As of June 2018, at least 6,475 civilians had been killed and more than 10,000 injured in the conflict. The report notes the “real figure is likely to be significantly higher.” While evidence “strongly suggests” that all parties to the conflict have violated international law, the report is clear that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes are responsible for the largest numbers of civilian deaths and injuries. Moreover, there is significant evidence that the Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly bombed civilian neighborhoods, medical facilities, markets, weddings, funerals, and even a school bus full of children. Intentionally attacking civilians is a war crime.
The United States has provided targeting support, intelligence, and mid-air refueling to Saudi fighter jets, enabling its continued bombardment. The US has also sold billions of dollars of sophisticated weaponry to Saudi Arabia, including cluster bombs, a weapon banned by UN treaty and outlawed by the majority of countries in the world. America’s actions have been lethal for Yemeni civilians. In the most recent example, news outlets reported in August 2018 that US-manufactured bombs killed 40 children, and others, in a single Saudi strike on a school bus. No matter how it is portrayed in media or by government representatives, aerial warfare is not clean and it is not precise.
On the ground, the situation is dire. The UN reports that arbitrary detention and torture in prisons controlled by UAE-affiliated forces is widespread, and government security forces have made a “common practice” of abduction and rape of women in order to extort money from victims’ families. In the careful language of human rights reporting, the UN states that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Saudi Arabia, UAE, and the government of Yemen have committed war crimes including rape and torture.Saudi Arabia and its allies have also blockaded Yemen by air and sea, preventing food and lifesaving medical supplies from entering the country. As a result, 8.4 million Yemenis were on the brink of famine as of April 2018. The collapse of healthcare infrastructure caused by the blockade has led to the largest series of cholera epidemics in modern history, affecting more than one million people.
The conditions in Yemen are unbearable and entirely man-made. Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United States, are causing massive suffering for millions of civilians. In March, US Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced a bill that would have ended US support for the war. The bill was defeated 55-44 with 10 Democrats joining the Republican majority. Before the vote, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that withdrawing US support would increase the risk to civilians. This argument strains credulity given that it is Saudi Arabia and its allies that are causing the majority of casualties. Furthermore, if McConnell were concerned about civilian safety, he would push congress and the Trump Administration to bring conflicting parties to a negotiating table.
Pursuing peaceful negotiations to end the conflict is an important diplomatic effort the United States should take immediately. It must also end its support for states and groups committing war crimes. The preponderance of evidence suggests Saudi Arabia is regularly violating the laws of war, and the US is complicit as long as it continues to enable Saudi actions. It must stop refueling Saudi jets and providing targeting intelligence. Crucially, the United States should initiate, and pressure other governments to support, an arms embargo on warring parties. At minimum, it must immediately suspend all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Finally, if US leaders claim to care about civilians in Yemen, they should drastically increase humanitarian aid for Yemenis whose suffering they have caused and the United States must reopen its refugee resettlement program to displaced Yemenis.
From 2015 to late 2016, the Obama Administration did not push for this moderate set of diplomatic initiatives and Trump is even less likely to take these actions. It is therefore incumbent upon Americans to call and write to their elected representatives to pressure them to end our support for the decimation of Yemen. If Americans care about human rights and international law, the bare minimum we can do is stop abetting war crimes against the people of Yemen.
Jared Keyel, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs, researching refugee resettlement in the United States.
Opinion: Why John McCain Was My Hero
By Norman F. Anderson
I grew up in a place where everyone went to war. Our models were fighter pilots. Our fathers and their friends all fought in World War II and Korea, fighting for our country, keeping everyone safe, and risking their lives to do it. Some were shot down, and everyone shot down was tortured.
These were serious men — trained, motivated men of purpose and self-confidence. Men like John McCain, Jerry Denton, Jim Stockdale and Everett Alvarez. They told us what we knew of who men were, and how you behaved when things went right and, even more important, how you behaved when things went wrong.
The nation is grieving today because we lost John McCain on Aug. 25 at age 81. McCain was a fighting hero, the representative of a generation of fighting heroes. From my vantage point — of that long ago 12-year-old boy — there are three critical facts that define the kind of heroism he demonstrated, and practiced so generously by many of his generation.
First, they were anonymous. They did their job, and then they went back into the line with no expectation of recognition or praise. These heroes were largely unseen — actually nearly all stayed in the shade. We tend to think of heroes as highly visible, out in front of the crowd. That wasn’t at all how these men saw their jobs — to fight for us and then retire back into the ranks.
Second, they were the embodiment of physical courage, flying jet engines — rockets. They ran up against life-and- death risks every day. But torture, like what McCain and many other men like him experienced on the other hand, was shocking — against the rules. Nobody knew the extent, even after Jerry Denton famously blinked the word torture during a TV piece in 1966.
But when we learned how McCain turned down a chance to skip the line and go home ahead of other POWs in Vietnam — that’s when we learned what true honor is.
McCain told his story in an Arizona Republic profile in 2007. “The Cat,” the commander of the prison camps, found out he was an admiral’s son and offered him early release.
“I just knew it wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said. McCain told The Cat that prisoners must be released in the order they were captured.
This spoke to us all of extraordinary physical courage. And it made us incredibly sensitive, like McCain was, to the plight of defenseless people everywhere.
Third, they were the embodiment of the highest moral purpose, fighters for their country. As McCain put it so eloquently, “success, wealth and celebrity, gained and kept for private interest, are small things. … But sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause, your self-respect is assured.”
They fought for an idea, a country that was the light of the world, man’s best hope. Nobody worked for money. They all had friends and relatives — civilians — who made a lot of money, but they had a higher purpose, to serve their country.
McCain’s death makes it clear that we are losing something we perhaps didn’t appreciate. We were once surrounded by warriors, and this gave us something to live up to, to strive for, to see as who we were, and who we ought to become. McCain was a person who showed us how to move forward when we are at our lowest point.
We are all better because John McCain was someone we could emulate, all his life. It’s why he meant so much to all of us, the maverick voice for courage, rules, honor and doing the right thing just because it was the right thing to do.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Norman F. Anderson is president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure Inc., a firm that focuses on infrastructure project development worldwide. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Taking On Trump Means Attacking His Brand
By Chris Gagin
Democrats are already looking ahead to the presidential race in 2020, with numerous candidates stating their intention to throw their hat into the primary ring. Conservative Republicans hoping to challenge President Trump in a GOP primary should too.
A successful primary challenge will depend on attacking Trump as a brand rather than Trump as a politician.
To succeed, conservatives must offer a better brand, rather than just compete for the ideological hearts and minds of voters. Think Pepsi taking on Coke, or Burger King challenging McDonald’s. Branding experts will tell you that taking on the marketplace’s top brand is daunting — but not impossible.
To make a conservative brand successful, it must be unique. Some experts have surmised that a brand is whatever your customers (in this case, voters) define it to be. From MAGA to Trump’s very name, the president’s populist power emanates from his brand: “a winner,” “tough negotiator,” and “billionaire” — an image built over decades.
The genius of MAGA is that it allows each individual voter to self-identify what would “Make America Great Again.” In that way, it allows each voter to believe Trump’s story, that Trump represents whatever they believe America needs. Through MAGA, ordinary men and women (or in some cases white nationalists, nativists and protectionists) come to believe that Trump actually cares about their causes or them as individuals.
Conservatives must offer a compelling brand alternative to this one if they hope to defeat Trump.
Don’t believe we are in a brand war? See if the president’s political strategy is visible in these building brand loyalty tips:
— Stand out by being different (businessman vs. politician).
— Know your target market, and cater to those people (non-college educated whites).
— Incorporate a series of positive, branded experiences (rallies).
— Allow your customers (voters) to interact with one another (via social media).
— Make your brand a component of personal identity. (’Nuff said.)
In the face of Trump’s successful branding, neither classic conservative nor progressive political arguments for or against this president stick.
In 2017, Facebook conducted research into brand loyalty. Of 14,700 adults surveyed, a remarkable 77 percent indicated they bought the same brands over and over again, with 37 percent self-identifying as “brand loyalists.” Trump has combined the strong branding of the commercial world with the tribal loyalties of politics.
To challenge the non-ideological Trump, conservatives need a brand of their own: a figure with whom voters can identify, and one who can directly attack Trump’s unique brand. A candidate who can do that while simultaneously embodying decency and presenting a clear, conservative vision without resorting to lies and fear mongering must have uncanny political skill. But that’s what it will take to persuade voters to switch over.
Conservatives must find a viable voice for voters to identify with to challenge meaningfully another aspect of Trump’s brand: the concept that ‘only he can solve America’s problems.’ Trump is moving the Republican Party toward a party of personality. But you can’t govern on just personality. We need a return to our values and principles.
Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven recently dared Trump to strip him of his security clearance. McRaven is a person who embodies decency and vision with a strong conservative core who can communicate without resorting to the fear-mongering and outright lies, which are the Achilles’ heel of Trump’s brand.
That is how a conservative Trump challenger can stand-out, as “different” and worthy of a voter switching brand loyalty. Because, despite what progressives may hope, no true conservative is ever going to cross-over to vote for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or any other progressive presidential hopeful.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Chris Gagin is a director of Defending Democracy Together. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Playbook for Labor in Today’s World
By Kenneth Rigmaiden
The anti-union ideologues were ecstatic this spring when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, tried to plunge a dagger in the heart of labor. As we saw in Janus, too often, old stereotypes, myths, falsehoods and attack ads, paid for by big monied special interest groups, overshadow the work that today’s unions actually do.
But the court’s ruling may have had the reverse effect, actually invigorating and strengthening unions so that working people can continue to speak up for safe and fair workplaces and for the people they serve.
This is the first Labor Day since that disappointing ruling, and unions are proud to say that we are here, we are strong, and we will continue to fight for the public good.
Just look at what happened during the so-called spring uprisings, when tens of thousands of teachers and their unions were joined by parents, students and community members to fight for the right of students to have well-funded classrooms, from basic supplies to modern technology. If not for the unions, who said “enough is enough,” red state lawmakers would continue impeding public school students in their pursuit of the American dream.
Unions make sure companies are held accountable for maintaining hazard-free factory floors and producing safe products.
Unions fight for safe staffing levels in hospitals, so that patient care isn’t delayed or jeopardized because a hospital would choose to skimp on the number of nurses and other healthcare workers on each shift to save money.
Unions fight for adequate training for all kinds of workers — from painting apprentices to first-responders to truck drivers.
Unions fight for livable wages, so employers can attract and retain top-notch workers, fight for health care coverage so that workers aren’t dependent on safety net programs, and fight for retirement benefits so that workers can enjoy their senior years in dignity.
Labor’s playbook for the 21st century includes making sure that as many workers as possible enjoy the benefits of union membership, including collaborating with management to improve workplaces and services. We are perpetually expanding our tent to better reflect the diversity of the modern era and the great country in which we live. Workers in unrepresented industries where workers desire and rightfully deserve representation.
Just today, a Gallup poll published said that “Labor Union Approval is Steady and at a 15-Year High.” “Union approval rating is high and rising at 62 percent, the highest in 15 years. This rating is being driven by young people with 65 percent among 18- to 35-year-olds and that we’re breaking down political barriers. Republicans nearly split at 45 percent to 47 percent.”
We are expanding our alliances with the community, something that we take very seriously. Our union members don’t just paint schools; we help expand opportunities for students. We understand that partnerships work, that it will take real, transformational relationships to rebuild our local economies.
We are aggressively creating and promoting pre-apprenticeship finishing industry programs for high school students to be career-ready and accredited when they graduate. Something of which this country, currently, is in desperate need.
We are committed to the neighborhoods in which we live and work, such as in Nashville, Tenn., where we donated fully loaded backpacks for children and helped sponsor book events.
And unions like ours are mobilizing our members to become even more active in their union and in their community. Constantly focused on finding innovative ways to connect with workers who share our pursuit of safety, stability and upward mobility. Simple, right? Workers and families across the country are seeing that so much more can be accomplished when we work collectively rather than individually.
We are mobilizing to affect real change. The year 2016 made it clearer than ever that elections truly matter. The political turmoil of the last year and a half, along with the Janus decision, have reignited our engines as we move into the November elections.
Our members are engaging politically and want to play an active part in the fall election season because we know that our nation’s economic and social well-being are at stake. We will be working with our allies on behalf of candidates who agree that the public deserves strong schools, affordable and accessible health care, and a strong economy that works for all — not just the 1 percent.
Unions are strong, growing and will continue to work for the common good so that everyone has the chance for a better life.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Kenneth Rigmaiden is general president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Despite Doomsday Predictions, Broadband Investment Is Up After End of Net Neutrality
By Liam Sigaud
In the months leading up to the end of net neutrality in June, you may have heard dire predictions that the move would “destroy everything that makes the internet great” and constitutes “a body blow to innovation and free expression.”
Despite those grim prognostications and other falsehoods meant to mislead and inflame the public, the decision by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules is making the internet better and more consumer friendly, from helping smaller broadband providers grow to creating more flexibility for internet innovation to thrive.
The FCC’s decision was merely a return to the decades-old, bipartisan regulatory approach that had catalyzed the internet’s enormous growth and innovation. Today, the basic principles of net neutrality are still intact, including some additional enforcement rules. What has changed is how the FCC proposed to regulate.
Keep in mind how this started. Despite many studies showing that consumers would be worse off under command-and-control internet regulations, the Obama administration and former FCC imposed restrictive regulations in early 2015, reclassifying the internet as a common carrier (think “public utility”) instead of an information service.
This decision was an unwarranted government intrusion into the market to control the internet and its providers with heavy, archaic rules. As early as 2009, when the Obama administration made initial moves toward tighter internet restrictions, the American Consumer Institute warned that onerous net neutrality regulations would hurt consumers, not protect them.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who led the effort to dismantle the net neutrality rules, has consistently argued that they dampened broadband investment and slowed innovation. Their repeal, he predicted, would reinvigorate private investment in the broadband sector.
New figures from a report released last month bolster Pai’s case. After years of decline, broadband providers are increasing their investments in capital, which means better, faster internet for consumers.
According to U.S. Telecom’s analysis, capital expenditures made by broadband providers in the United States fell from $73.6 billion in 2014 to $73 billion in 2015. In 2016, after new net neutrality rules were introduced, investments slumped to $70.6 billion. However, preliminary data show that U.S. broadband companies invested somewhere between $72 billion and $74 billion in network infrastructure in 2017, showing an increase of at least $1.4 billion from the year before.
While the overall growth in the economy is certainly a factor driving these trends, the imminent repeal of onerous net neutrality regulations played a key role.
U.S. Telecom points out that “it is no coincidence that the (slowdown in broadband investment) coincided with the previous FCC — in its final two years — abruptly shifting course down a sharply more regulatory path.”
The revival in investment in 2017 is a product of the FCC’s return to a sound regulatory approach centered on protecting consumers and leveling the playing field between service providers to encourage market competition.
Despite these changes at the federal level, some states such as Oregon, Vermont and Washington have passed their own, state-level “net neutrality” laws. The California legislature is currently considering a bill more far-reaching than any other, going farther than even the Title II legislation passed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. While these laws will almost certainly be challenged in court, the uncertainty they pose could chill the investment gains we’ve seen over the last two years.
Importantly, increased investments in broadband technology will help bring affordable high-speed internet to millions of rural Americans and spur new innovations that will benefit us all.
As the internet continues to develop rapidly and game-changing technologies — like 5G wireless networks and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities — are brought within reach of the average consumer, the importance of a stable, fair and nimble federal regulatory framework will only grow.
The FCC’s repeal of public utility-style regulations was a critical step toward building a better internet for everyone.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Liam Sigaud writes for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: New Respectability of Socialism
By James Huffman
Socialism is becoming respectable again.
The University of Chicago’s GenForward Survey of Americans found that 45 percent of people 18 to 34 years old have positive views on socialism. Sixty-one percent of Democrats in the age group take a positive view of socialism — as do 25 percent of Republicans.
These favorable views on socialism are finding expression at the polls. Bernie Sanders ran a competitive campaign for president as a Democratic Socialist. Running under the same label, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term New York Democratic congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district in the state’s Democratic primary, with close to 58 percent of the vote. Democratic Socialist Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic primary and is running unopposed in the general election to represent Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.
What explains this widespread embrace of socialism less than 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in the face of the socialist disaster that is Venezuela? A usual explanation is that these are examples of corrupted socialism and that nations like Sweden and Denmark offer counterexamples of socialism done right. But these small and homogeneous Scandinavian countries are exceptions to the record of failed socialism across history and around the globe. The explanation for socialism’s persistent appeal has to be deeper than the success (so far) of the Swedes and the Danes.
One explanation is obvious, if a bit cynical. The prospects of free health care, free college, subsidized housing and a guaranteed minimum income for all have strong appeal, even to many who can well afford to pay their own way. Why not provide all of this to everyone if we can?
But all indications are that we can’t. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher remarked many years ago, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” She might have added that the reason you run out of money is the diminished incentives for those other people to generate wealth. Only time will tell whether the Swedes and Danes are really exceptions, but a century of failed socialist experiments offers convincing evidence of the truth of Thatcher’s observation.
Writing recently in the New York Times, Corey Robins ignores the how-do-we-pay-for-it question by attributing to today’s socialists an objective more fundamental than mere wealth redistribution. For liberals, redistributionist policies serve to “alleviate economic misery,” Robins wrote. “For socialists, these are measures of emancipation, liberating men and women from the tyranny of the market and autocracy at work.”
“Socialism,” Robins said, “is workers who get us there, who decide what and where ‘there’ is.”
Anand Giridharadas, also writing in the Times, sees the same tyranny in the view of the “elites and the president … that the world should be changed by them, for the rest of us, not by us.”
For defenders of capitalism, this might be a reasonable critique of government, but is a surprising defense of socialism. How does public ownership and allocation of labor and capital free individuals from tyranny? Presumably the idea implicit in the Robins and Giridharadas arguments is that individuals will have their say in a legitimate democratic process, but there has never been a democracy on any but the most local scale that has not succumbed to rent seeking and political factions. The more we allow government to do, the more those opportunities exist and the greater the incentives to pursue personal profit through political influence.
Totally missing from this idea of socialism as freedom is individual responsibility. Capitalism frees individuals to pursue their own interests and exploit their own talents, but it also leaves them responsible to provide for themselves. Without making individuals responsible for their own welfare, socialism only frees people to depend on others. Good intentions are never enough.
So socialism will always have support, particularly among affluent youth who have been provided for since birth. It promises much while holding the individual responsible for little. Today’s socialists are either ignorant of the past failings of socialism or blinded by the promises of those who believe we can finally overcome human nature and the reality of scarce resources.
ABOUT THE WRITER
James Huffman is dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.