Category Archives: Socialism

Land of Milk and Regulation

Review & Outlook: Land of Milk and Regulation – WSJ.com.

President Obama says he wants to purge regulations that are “just plain dumb,” like his humorous State of the Union bit about salmon. So perhaps he should review a new rule that is supposed to prevent oil spills akin to the Gulf Coast disaster—at the nation’s dairy farms.

Two weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that subjects dairy producers to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, which was created in 1970 to prevent oil discharges in navigable waters or near shorelines. Naturally, it usually applies to oil and natural gas outfits. But the EPA has discovered that milk contains “a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil,” as the agency put it in the Federal Register.

In other words, the EPA thinks the next blowout may happen in rural Vermont or Wisconsin. Other dangerous pollution risks that somehow haven’t made it onto the EPA docket include leaks from maple sugar taps and the vapors at Badger State breweries.

The EPA rule requires farms—as well as places that make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and the like—to prepare and implement an emergency management plan in the event of a milk catastrophe. Among dozens of requirements, farmers must train first responders in cleanup protocol and build “containment facilities” such as dikes or berms to mitigate offshore dairy slicks.

These plans must be in place by November, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is even running a $3 million program “to help farmers and ranchers comply with on-farm oil spill regulations.” You cannot make this stuff up.

The final rule is actually more lenient than the one the EPA originally proposed. The agency tried to claim jurisdiction over the design specifications of “milk containers and associated piping and appurtenances,” until the industry pointed out that such equipment was already overseen by the Food and Drug Administration, the USDA and state inspectors. The EPA conceded, “While these measures are not specifically intended for oil spill prevention, we believe they may prevent discharges of oil in quantities that are harmful.”

We appreciate Mr. Obama’s call for more regulatory reason, but it would be more credible if one of his key agencies wasn’t literally crying over unspilled milk.

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Pro-Christian atheist | Marvin Olasky

WORLD Magazine | Pro-Christian atheist | Marvin Olasky | Dec 18, 10.

An atheist praising Christianity is like a man biting a dog: It’s news. Atheist Sarah Elizabeth “S.E.” Cupp’s book Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity (Harper, 2010) is attracting second looks because it’s a pro-Christianity book by an atheist. Cupp, 31, is a regular guest on FOX News shows and a much-read blogger and columnist: She was a classically trained ballet dancer, graduated from Cornell, and enjoys fishing, target shooting, and NASCAR races.

Earlier this year you earned a master’s degree in religious studies at New York University, but I gather you made it up as you went along? I did, I made it up. You could design your own curriculum. I did a comparison study on the devotional practices of sports fans and the religious faithful, and that’s what I got a degree in. I call it religious studies.

Now you work with FOX. You must be good because you’re not blonde. Or cosmetically enhanced. It’s true. They all look alike. But I know most of them, and they are great people. It is a good place to work. It might look easy, but it’s not.

Mike Huckabee works there and wrote the introduction to your new book. Did he try to evangelize you? Everybody does. Every time I’m on Sean Hannity it’s “S.E., what do I need to do? You’re too smart for this, way too smart for this.” There are a lot of Christians at FOX, and they are lovely and nice, and I always think, “How nice that someone is thinking about my soul.” Really, it’s lovely.

Losing Our Religion is well-written but puzzling: As an atheist, why are you making statements about media bias similar to those made by conservative Christians? It’s inarguable. All you have to do is have eyes to see that MSNBC and The New York Times are absolutely threatened by Christian America. They’re threatened politically. They’re threatened ideologically. And it’s not just attacks, it’s lies. They’re lying about the genesis of our American beliefs. They’ll tell you, “Oh, the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians, they were atheists.” That’s crazy. It’s a lie, it’s a total lie.

You note that they’re wrong about the First Amendment. You have people saying that the whole point of the freedom of religion clause was to say that you should be doing religious things in private. That’s an absolute lie. The Founding Fathers wanted you to be free to be a public Catholic, to be a public Protestant. The liberal and secular media turn that around, imploring you to be faithful in private and to take religion out of the public sphere. That’s simply not why this country was created.

Many atheists see Christianity as intellectually inferior and see themselves doing a public service by enlightening people. Why don’t you see it that way? They’re proselytizing. I don’t believe in God but I’m not mad at Him. I don’t think He’s dangerous. It’s a really unenlightened view to think that 95 percent of the world doesn’t know what’s going on, but that I am part of the 5 percent of the world that doesn’t believe in God and knows the truth. For atheists to pretend to have all the answers while religion is on the fringe is not only incredibly presumptuous but a lie.

Sigmund Freud saw God as an illusion. Do you think that, or do you think He’s there and you just haven’t noticed yet? I don’t have kids, haven’t lost a parent yet, don’t know what kind of curveballs life is going to throw me. I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow. It’s really arrogant to say that I’m right and you’re all crazy, that I’ll always feel this way and the book is closed and you’re delusional.

You’re very complimentary to President Bush and his allusions to a Higher Power. If the Higher Power doesn’t exist, isn’t he a nutcase? It doesn’t exist for me. I fully believe it exists for him.

You’re saying that subjectively it exists for him, subjectively it doesn’t exist for you. So objectively, do you think there’s a God? No.

So if President Bush acted in certain ways because of his belief in something that doesn’t exist, doesn’t that sound like making policy decisions based on belief in the Easter bunny? No, because when you say you’re a Christian, there’s a value system implied. You may not live up to it, but the attempt is there, and I can look at it and understand your worldview. There is none of that in atheism.

When you say that you might be a sinner, is that subjective or objective? My values are probably very close to yours. They’re Judeo-Christian values. We all agree that murder’s not great. . . . But don’t we define murder in different ways, depending on our values? We do. But I think we agree at the end of the day that murdering people for no reason, not in self-defense but in cold blood, is bad.

What about very tiny people? Doesn’t it depend on our definition of people? Yes.

So how universal are your values? Well, we all have caveats—cultural, logistical, legal—but I think that people generally have the same impulses.

Moving on—I was struck by your answer to a question about death. You said that death was a peaceful thing to you, that the idea of nothingness was a very peaceful idea. That’s unusual. I don’t think anything happens. I’m not worried about judgment. Frankly, life is really hard. The idea that it will end at some point, that this trial will end, is reassuring. The only thing that scared me was I wanted to be published before I die. Once my book got published, huge sigh of relief.

It was important to you because . . . I wanted to leave a legacy, and that was the kind I wanted to leave. For some people it might be having children, or having money, or making contributions to causes. For me, I wanted to at 25 feel like I’d left something in print that captured my beliefs at the moment. That mattered to me a lot. More than anything else.

Tim Keller wrote a book called Counterfeit Gods. Can you make an idol out of publishing books? Oh it was, it was a golden calf. Absolutely. I feel like a good person to a large degree. I feel like I’m good to my family, like I’m charitable, like I give back to my friends. That was the one area I felt like I hadn’t done what I wanted to do, and I was afraid to die before I had the chance to do it. So having that put aside, knowing I had a book out there, was a relief, and I could focus on other things that are important to me.

If there were a God, would He love you more because you’d published a book? Oh I hope not. This was for me. It was a reward for 10 years of school and hard work and sacrifice and not doing some of the things that my peers did, and a private acknowledgment of hard work and discipline. It meant something to me. I was proud of myself.

You’d really like to believe in God? Oh yeah.

What kind of God would you like to believe in? A benevolent God but a challenging one. Someone who challenges you to a fight but is rooting for you to win. That’s who I’d like to imagine God is, someone who wants you to be your best and is going to push you to be your best, but is unconditionally going to be there for you when you fail. That sounds great. That sounds amazing. I’d love that.

What comes to mind when you think about Jesus? I’ve seen some really great movies about Jesus. I collect religious kitschy objects, so I have a lot of Jesus dolls around the house. When I think about Jesus, I think about one of my dolls. It’s terrible.

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Obama’s Rule-Making Loophole

I need some help here….

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President Obama’s executive order to sweep out the regulatory chimneys deserves the benefit of the doubt, if only on the chance that it does some modest good. But now that we’ve had a chance to inspect the fine print, there’s reason to believe this is less than meets the press release.

No sooner had Mr. Obama told the bureaucracies to subject all regulations to a cost-benefit test than the bureaucrats began telling reporters that they are already a model of modern efficiency, thank you very much. Among many others, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that it was “confident” it wouldn’t need to alter a single current or pending rule. “In fact, EPA’s rules consistently yield billions in cost savings that make them among the most cost-effective in the government.”

Perhaps the EPA’s confidence owes to a little-noticed proviso in Mr. Obama’s order. When the agencies weigh costs and benefits, the order says, they should always consider “values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts.”

Talk about economic elasticities. Equity and fairness can be defined to include more or less anything as a benefit. Under this calculus, a rule might pass Mr. Obama’s cost-benefit test if it imposes $999 billion in hard costs but supposedly results in a $1 trillion increase in human dignity, whatever that means in bureaucratic practice. Another rule could pass muster even if it reduces work and investment, as long as it also lessens income inequality.

Any cost-benefit analysis depends to some extent on matters of judgment, but typically the criteria are more economically tangible, such as how to price risk or the discount rate. No business would recognize Mr. Obama’s version, since his “values” loophole boils down to a preference for bigger government. The danger is that his executive order will transform an important tool to check excessive regulation into a way to justify whatever rule the permanent bureaucracy wants.

The current EPA is a perfect case study. One of Administrator Lisa Jackson’s top priorities is “explicitly integrating environmental justice considerations into the fabric of the EPA’s process,” as a July 2010 memo to all senior regulators put it.

“Environmental justice” is the left-wing grievance movement that claims pollution has a disproportionate effect on minorities and the poor. Ms. Jackson’s memo introduced new regulatory guidance—that is, rules about how to make rules—so every EPA action has “a particular focus on disadvantaged or vulnerable groups.”

Ms. Jackson wrote that a new goal for rulemaking, enforcement and permitting is to have “a measurable effect on environmental justice challenges.” But these amorphous concepts are not measurable at all. According to this guidance, EPA must nonetheless consider them when estimating the “economic impacts of regulations,” and even its scientific analysis should “encompass topics beyond just biology and chemistry.” So put on your lab coat and complete a randomized controlled experiment in politics.

Sure enough, EPA justifies its 2009 carbon “endangerment finding” by noting that climate change will “add further stress to an existing host of social problems that cities experience, including neighborhood degradation, traffic congestion, crime, unemployment, poverty, and inequities in health and well-being.” Oh, and it will “accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system, as many of the expected health effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the uninsured.”

So while Mr. Obama wants the country to think a new rigorous empiricism is guiding his government, his appointees can justify any rule that fits their ideological goals. This sounds more like the end of cost-benefit analysis than the beginning.

via Review & Outlook: Obama’s Rule-Making Loophole – WSJ.com.

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