How the EPA Makes Wildfires More Likely

Wildfires are claiming lives and destroying property across California. As they flee the deadly blazes, Californians should be aware that federal bureaucrats make such fires more likely to occur. Consider the case of U.S. Navy veteran Joe Robertson in Jefferson County, Montana. 

Robertson’s property was vulnerable to fires, so he built small protection ponds and dug a ditch, one foot wide and one foot deep, to supply firefighters in the event of an outbreak. The federal Environmental Protection Agency charged that under the Clean Water Act, the ditch was a federally protected commercial waterway and required a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, even though the nearest navigable waterway was 40 miles away. The federal government criminally prosecuted Robertson, 77, sent him to prison for 18 months and fined him $130,000, all upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Breakthrough Alzheimer’s Drug Puts FDA’s Drug-Approval Process into Question

After many successful years as a corporate manager, Roger retired in his late sixties to spend more time with family. Three years into retirement, his once energetic and outgoing demeanor deteriorated, and he no longer found interest in things he once enjoyed. Concerned, his physician referred him to a psychiatrist.

During his evaluation, Roger could not recall what day or month it was. He struggled to solve basic subtraction problems and performed poorly on a basic memory exercise. Unfortunately, Roger was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Prohibition and Gangs Make Marijuana a Deadly Business

My hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, has the highest crime rate of any city in Florida and is plagued with gun violence. Why? The headline of this article says, “Pot dealers blamed for local gun violence.” Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District in Florida, is quoted in the article as saying “the vast majority of gun violence relates to what we see–small-time, street corner marijuana dealers resolving their conflicts or disputes and robbing one another and using firearms to do it.”

Miss Virginia and the Political Realities of Public-School Reform

The political roots of the modern school-choice movement are still poorly understood nearly thirty years after the first publicly funded private-school voucher program was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1990. Miss Virginia, a narrative film in select theaters and Amazon Prime, helps fill this void, offering a rare look at the political realities underlying public school reform.

Directly inspired by real-life education reform activist Virginia Walden Ford, Miss Virginia tells the story of Virginia Walden (Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black), an African-American single parent turned education-reformer in Washington, D.C. As her teenage son, James (Niles Fitch), feels the lure of drug gangs and street life in their neighborhood, Walden tries to get him out of the failed public school and into a private-school alternative. At first, she tries to enroll him in a nearby religious school. The new school environment turns her son into an enthusiastic learner. But, even working two jobs, she can’t scrape up enough money to pay for the tuition.

How Leviathan Grew in 2019

The U.S. Treasury Department has released its final monthly treasury statement for the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year, including its final accounting for the entire year. It paints a scary picture of how the growth of government spending is behind the government’s resurgent annual budget deficit, which totaled $984 billion for the year, narrowly missing the trillion dollar mark by just $16 billion.

Sen. Rand Paul Eviscerates the Left in His New Book, The Case Against Socialism

Socialism has been tried on six continents and in numerous countries, but always with the same failed result. Despite geographic, economic, and other national differences, the experience of socialism follows a consistent trajectory, with its trademark features—poverty, shortages of resources, and repression—always on display.

Senator Rand Paul’s new book, The Case Against Socialism, is a timely response to the misguided enthusiasm for socialism that’s taken hold in the United States. From well-known members of Congress to college students, there is a growing fervor to go down the road that inevitably leads to serfdom. Senator Paul directly refutes the popular argument that socialism’s failures are simply the result of poor execution or improper implementation.

The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history, in large part because of the totalitarian governments committed to socialism.

Paul’s book is concise and informative, carefully researched and easy to read. I recommend it to all who are interested in understanding the popular deceptions that mask the true evils of socialism.

[This post first appeared in The American Conservative (10/16/19).]

Will the U.S. Supreme Court Stop the Federal Financial Protection Racket?

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case challenging the federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency, CNBC reports. A California law firm “alleges that the structure of the agency grants too much power to its director, in violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers.”

The CFPB director can be removed only for inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office, and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is already on record that, aside from the President of the United States, the CFPB boss is the most powerful person in the federal government. As the report recalls, the bureau is “a regulatory agency established in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis,” but there’s a bit more to it.

Erdoğan’s Mistake Is Worse Than a Crime

The famous quote mistakenly attributed to French Diplomat Talleyrand—“It is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake”—fits Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attack on the Kurds in northeastern Syria perfectly.

The defeat of the Syrian Kurds at the hands of the Turks, including the many casualties and tens of thousands of civilians who have had to flee the region, will serve to strengthen the resolve of those who believe that only terrorism can serve the cause of the Kurds vis-à-vis the Turkish state. One hundred years of Turkish nationalism, which started with the founding of the modern state under Kemal Atatürk, have not put out the fire of Kurdish nationalism despite the heavy repression that the Kurds have suffered periodically during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

How to Fix Government Employee Pensions

Across the United States, a large number of public employee pension funds face the serious risk of running into insolvency because politicians have promised millions of state and local bureaucrats far more generous retirement benefits than they are capable of paying.

Many of these politicians are more than willing to negotiate incredibly favorable contracts with the public employee unions that demand lavish pension benefits for their members in return for their political support. However, when it comes time to pay the bills associated with the deals they’ve made, these policymakers often turn to smoke-and-mirrors accounting tricks to hide just how far short they are in covering the costs of their largesse with taxpayer money. Some of their tricks include:

W. Dieter Tede (1933-2019)

W. Dieter Tede (1933-2019)

I was privileged to present a tribute at the memorial celebration for the life of Wolfgang Dieter Tede, on Saturday, October 19, 2019, at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Independent Institute for over twenty years, and here is an edited version of my presentation:

I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to speak in tribute about our very dear friend and colleague Dieter Tede, the remarkable immigrant who became a model global entrepreneur.

I first met Dieter in 1994 and visited with him and his beautiful wife, the late, renowned, mezzo-soprano singer, Margery Crockett Tede, in their lovely home in San Francisco. I already knew of his highly successful work in maritime shipping as Founding Partner of Marine Chartering Company, the worldwide, multi-service ocean transportation brokerage firm (see his engaging, illustrated book, The First Forty Years: Marine Chartering Company, Inc.) and other ventures, including producing vintage wines (Audubon Cellars and later the Hooper Creek Winery).

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