Cute. But sorry, renewables, the “Gig” is up…

A light-hearted tweet from Clean Energy NC on twitter hearkens back to Back to the Future (the scene, for those of you woefully in the dark about it):

Thing is, the time machine car was originally powered with a teensy pellet of plutonium. To generate an equivalent burst of energy naturally, compactly, they needed a bolt of lightning.

Renewable energy!? Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly!


Read more

Why Doesn’t the FBI Want the Public to Know What Happened in Orlando?

At the Washington Post, Jonathan Adler quotes a story from the Orlando Sentinal:

The FBI has asked law enforcement agencies who responded to Pulse nightclub to withhold records from the public, according to officials.

A June 20 letter from the FBI, attached to the City or Orlando’s lawsuit over withholding 911 calls and other records from 25 media outlets including the Orlando Sentinel, was also sent to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office with instructions pertaining to how they should respond to records requests.

The letter requests that agencies deny inquiries and directs departments to “immediately notify the FBI of any requests your agency received” so “the FBI can seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels, as necessary.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office sent the Sentinel the letter Tuesday night in response to a request for documents, video and audio recordings from the early morning hours of June 12.

Adler adds:

The Orlando Sentinel is suing for the release of additional 911 call transcripts and other information related to the attack. Local officials are apparently withholding this information due to the FBI request, but it is not apparent what legal authority the FBI has to prevent the disclosure of such information under applicable state law.

Obama administration promoting business with Iran

Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reports on the Obama administration’s efforts to promote business dealings involving Iran.

Obama administration officials are orchestrating an international campaign to encourage businesses and governments to reengage in the Iranian marketplace, prompting accusations from leading members of Congress that the White House is behaving as the Islamic Republic’s top global “lobbying shop,” according to conversations with lawmakers and multiple sources tracking the issue.

The administration’s efforts on Iran’s behalf—which go far beyond the requirements under last summer’s nuclear agreement—are said to have pressured the world’s foremost financial task force to reduce counter-terror efforts impacting Iran, despite Tehran’s role as the globe’s top exporter of terrorism.

The Financial Action Task Force’s decision coincides with multiple efforts, both public and private, by top U.S. officials to promote increased international trade with Iran. The pro-Iran effort, which is being helmed by the State Department, has caused internal rifts in the Obama administration among top officials who object to the effort.

Top lawmakers are now going on the offensive to combat these efforts following a decision late last week by the FATF, an intergovernmental body that counters money laundering, to roll back measures blocking business with Iran.

The FATF’s decision is being viewed as a coup for Iran and has been celebrated by administration supporters who helped lobby for the nuclear accord. Congressional opponents of the nuclear deal told the Washington Free Beacon that the administration is wrongly using the deal as an excuse to lobby on Iran’s behalf.

Walter Williams pans multiculturalism

Walter Williams‘ latest column at Human Events examines the impact of multiculturalism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that multiculturalism has “utterly failed,” adding that it was an illusion to think Germans and foreign workers could “live happily side by side.” The failure of multiculturalism is also seen in Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and other European countries. Immigrants coming from Africa and the Middle East refuse to assimilate and instead seek to import the failed cultures they fled.

Leftist diversity advocates and multiculturalists are right to argue that people of all races, religions and cultures should be equal in the eyes of the law. But their argument borders on idiocy when they argue that one set of cultural values cannot be judged superior to another and that to do so is Eurocentrism.

That’s unbridled nonsense. Ask a diversity/multiculturalism advocate: Is forcible female genital mutilation, as practiced in nearly 30 sub-Saharan African and Middle Eastern countries, a morally equivalent cultural value? Slavery is practiced in northern Sudan. In most of the Middle East, there are numerous limits placed on women, such as prohibitions on driving, employment and education. Under Islamic law, in some countries, female adulterers face death by stoning, and thieves are punished by having their hand severed. In some African and Middle Eastern countries, homosexuality is a crime, in some cases punishable by death. Are all these cultural values morally equivalent to those of the West?

The vital achievement of the West was the concept of individual rights, which saw its birth with the Magna Carta in 1215. The idea emerged that individuals have certain inalienable rights. Individuals do not exist to serve government; governments exist to protect their rights. But it was not until the 19th century that ideas of liberty received broad recognition. In the West, it was mostly through the works of British philosophers, such as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill.

Privatization’s promise

Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute has released a new study spelling out the advantages of privatizing government services.

A privatization revolution has swept the world since the 1980s. Following the United Kingdom’s lead, governments in more than 100 countries have transferred thousands of state-owned businesses to the private sector. Railroads, airports, energy companies, postal services, and other businesses valued at more than $3 trillion have been privatized. Governments of both the political right and left have unloaded state-owned businesses.

Despite the global success of privatization, reform have largely bypassed our own federal government. Indeed, many activities that have been transferred to the private sector abroad remain in government hands in this country. That creates an opportunity for U.S. policymakers to learn from foreign privatization and enact proven reforms here. …

… Privatization would allow entrepreneurs to take on challenges at which federal bureaucracies are failing. The United States is a land of huge talent and diversity. But to take full advantage of those assets, we should divest the government of activities that individuals and businesses can perform better by themselves.

Shocker! Leading IRS political hack likely broke the law

Eliana Johnson of National Review Online highlights some bad news for former IRS lackey Lois Lerner.

It is likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history: the transfer of some 1.25 million pages of confidential tax returns to the Department of Justice in October of 2010. And some say it may have been illegal.

The documents, which consisted chiefly of non-profit tax returns, were transferred to the DOJ’s criminal division from the IRS at the request of Lois Lerner, who wanted to get the information to the DOJ in advance of a meeting where she and several of the attorneys in the public integrity section of the department’s criminal division discussed their concerns about the increasing political activity of non-profit groups.

The Justice Department later told Congress that the documents contained confidential taxpayer information protected by federal law. The nature of that information hasn’t been made public, but the so-called “Schedule B” form, for example, which non-profit groups are required to attach to their tax returns, known as 990s, asks for the names and addresses of donors to the organization.

But we already knew that. The transfer of information at Lerner’s request came to light during a congressional investigation in 2014. What we know now, thanks to additional documents unearthed in years-long litigation by the good-government group Cause of Action, is that Lerner almost certainly broke the law when she transferred the documents. That casts a new light on the Justice Department’s decision last year not to prosecute Lerner, who had become the face of the IRS’s ham-handed effort to crack down on right-leaning groups, but against whom a criminal case might have been difficult to build.

National Review columnist calls for real analysis

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online wants to put data and research to work in fighting society’s largest public policy problems.

One of the most interesting projects of recent years is the Copenhagen Consensus, the Bjørn Lomborg–led project to apply welfare economics to deep-seated global problems, inviting economists and issue scholars to do some rigorous number-crunching and come up with some projects to maximize the bang/buck ratio. The recommendations have been surprisingly unsexy: micronutrient-supplement programs, bigger and better-structured subsidies for malaria prevention (those damned mosquitos, again), immunization, the spread of better agricultural practices, water projects.

Straight-up policy questions, notably barriers to trade, also are on the radar. While foreign aid accounts for only a tiny share of U.S. government spending, in absolute dollars the sums are considerable. It is spent better than you might expect: Thanks in no small part to President George W. Bush, the United States has made large investments in HIV prevention, especially in Africa, which actually seems to do some good. A great deal of money is spent on infrastructure projects and capacity-building for foreign states such as Afghanistan, which, even with the inevitable graft and waste, is probably the right approach.

What’s needed is a similar approach to domestic questions, and to a few foreign-relations questions closer to home. It’s a hard sell when a non-trivial share of the population has adopted “Eek! A Mexican!” as the main principle governing relations with our southern neighbor, but it is inarguable that the United States would be much, much better off if Mexico were a lot more like Canada and a lot less like Venezuela (Mexico is only two steps ahead of the late Boss Hugo’s socialist heap on the GDP/capita rankings) and if it had stronger institutions that were more capable of dealing with things like drug cartels and internal economic refugees. But who is going to help Mexico build that capacity? Guatemala?

In a sane world, U.S. political debate would be less about how rich men live in Greenwich and San Mateo Park and more about how the schools are run in Cleveland and Philadelphia, and we’d acknowledge that Mohammed al-Kaboom isn’t going to kill nearly as many Americans this year — or any year — as diabetes and prescription-drug addiction. We’d acknowledge that what is hurting the U.S. economy is mainly decisions made in Washington (and, Albany, Sacramento, Columbus, Lansing . . . ) and not schemes hatched in Beijing or Mexico City. The headlines would be about mosquitos, not about sharks. This isn’t a call for post-ideological “pragmatism,” which is almost always just 20th-century progressivism dressed up with a few dodgy charts, but rather for a genuine effort at discerning what actually can be done, at what cost, and establishing priorities among those things.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Carolina Journal Online reports on a state Senate proposal that would allow voters to address constitutional amendments targeting taxes, government savings, eminent domain, and hunting and fishing.

Jon Ham’s Daily Journal explains how media outlets lose their credibility when they refuse to cover similar political controversies with the same fervor.