Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Senator Ted Cruz – A New Hope

Movie fans hold onto images and lines; take for example the original Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, the scene where Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker are gallivanting their way across the cosmos and all of the sudden Obi-Wan reacts after the planet of Alderaan had just been destroyed by the Evil Empire’s Death Star.  Luke asked what’s wrong, observing the changed countenance on his mentor.

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

If you look at movies, not so much for their entertainment value; but as morality plays intended to bring social issues before the public, then Star Wars is a classic good v evil, underdog v brute force with long odds against coming out on top.  Maybe that’s why it was so successful; folks pinned their hopes on good winning out in the end.

When I started writing this article it was originally titled, Senator Ted Cruz – A Disturbance in the Force; but the more I thought about his role in the morality play staged in Washington as he filibustered against ObamaCare the more he came across as a Luke Skywalker with the evil empire being represented by a full compliment of loyal Democrats and a few treacherous back stabbing Republicans.

Imagine Harry Reid covered head to toe in black, (actually it isn’t that hard to imagine) sitting around the conference table with an assortment of socialist Senators listening to the explanation of how the old Republic had been swept away? 

“I’ve just received word that the opposition has been dissolved permanently…We’ll get cloture on this bill and send it back to Congress stripped of any reference to de-fund ObamaCare.  ”

“What of the rebellion?”  One of them speaks out without regard for the power of the Force.

“The public is aware of how bad ObamaCare is, how it’s killing the economy, making businesses downsize or shorten 40 hours work weeks below 29 hours in order to avoid penalties…”, pausing for a moment,  “They have the entire bill, over 2000 pages which we never bothered to read before passing it.  The rebels might find a weakness…”

“Enough…Fear will keep the locals in line, fear of this battle station”

“The plans you refer to will soon be back in our hands.”  Reid’s voice grumbles out from the voice box attached to his throat.

“Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways…”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing...”  Off to the side you see an invisible hand crushing the throat of John Boehner on the other side of the conference table.

Witnessing the Senate’s lack of respect for We The People and our constitutional republic, it’s refreshing to have the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, rise to the occasion, light saber in hand and willing to stand up to the evil empire. 

Another movie came to mind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; if for no other reason than to contrast Ted Cruz standing up for a righteous cause while Senior Texas Senator, John Cornyn played the part of his back stabbing mentor.  When John Cornyn says he’s got your back, be warned, he’s got a knife hidden in the other hand waiting for the opportunity to break it off in you.

I doubt we’ll see John Cornyn bolt from the Senate floor as his conscience eats away at him, attempt to shoot himself out of guilt or beg forgiveness in front of the entire Senate for having sold his soul to the Obama administration and the socialist cause of single payer medical coverage.  That won’t happen, remember, this is reality and not the movies. 

Tomorrow when the sun comes up we’ll read about how Congress is working on a way to iron out their differences with the newly amended Senate legislation, legislation which no longer contains any reference to ObamaCare. 

The media will spin the story to make it appear as if conservatives are intent of shutting down government, making old people starve when their Social Security checks will need to be held back until additional funds are approved and the debt limit raised once more.  Our fighting men might run out of ammunition on the front lines and little children will be found running half naked through rat infested alleys looking in trash cans for anything to cover their feet.

Obi-Wan would wake up from a sound sleep and say, as ObamaCare is eventually implemented in full, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Ted Cruz, Jedi Knight/Senator has his work cut out for him, singing to the choir which has no intention of listening along with a news media more than willing to print up his obituary might deter some folks; but I’ve a feeling Ted Cruz really does have a kindred spirit in Luke Skywalker, something to give us all a new hope.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

To Protect and Serve

Everyone knows the mission of police departments; it’s emblazoned on almost every police cruiser from small towns with only a handful of officers to major metropolitan forces with thousands, “To Protect and Serve”.  I ought to know, being a retired police officer; but what does it mean, “To Protect and Serve”?

The Sunday afternoon movie was, The Blues Brothers; Jake and Elwood as played by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.   Watching the chase scenes was painful as time and time again police were portrayed as incompetent imbeciles intent on destroying as much equipment as possible with no regard for public safety. 

Here in Houston there was a Chase Policy written as part of Standard Operating Procedures which spelled out how many police units could be part of an active pursuit without bringing down the wrath of the Ivory Towers.  I’m pretty sure the chase scene showing thirty or more police cars driving at break neck speed through downtown Chicago as they piled up, skidded and flipped into heaps might have had a part in forming the Chase Policy; that and a few law suits costing big bucks, ya’ think?

As a matter of fact, and this goes back to the 80s when I was an active duty officer working for the Houston Police Department, The Blues Brothers movie at one time was included as part of In-Service Training.   I can only surmise it was to point out numerous ways police work should Not be done; but that is speculation on my part.

I remember another video shown at an earlier In-Service training regarding negative public relations, things police officers might do that annoy citizens.   There was one part of the video, portrayed as if it were an official recording, of a desk officer working at one of the sub-stations that had officers watching it slapping knees. 

A citizen walked in off the street to report his car stolen; but before he can get the officer’s attention he’s directed to sit on the bench while the officer finishes a phone call.  The fellow dutifully sits down figuring the call must be at least as important as his car being stolen; but that’s not at all the case.

“So, Herb, are we taking your Bass boat or mine this time?”  The officer goes on talking into the phone, “Yea, I’ll spring for a couple of six packs and some chips; but you’re gonna’ have to be on time or we’ll leave you sitting on the dock.”

As the minutes click by the good citizen becomes ticked off, enough to approach the desk.  The features on the citizen’s face match the slow burn that’s going on inside him.  The officer puts his hand over the receiver and redirects his attention to the citizen, “I told you to wait over there on the bench; are you deaf or just stupid?”  It’s been quite a number of years since I watched that video so I’m filling in the blanks without regard to accuracy; but you get the point.

“So we’ll be meeting at Jack’s place at 4:30 and then driving over together from there?”  The officer notices the citizen starting to get back up from the bench, “Hold on a second, Herb, I’ve got some moron walked in off the street who won’t follow simple instructions”, saying it loud enough for anyone with ears to hear.

The officer then glares at the fellow, “If you want me to, I’ll come over there and put the cuffs on; now sit down and shut up unless you want to spend the night in the tank.”  This goes on for a few more minutes; but instead of officers being embarrassed by the film, most everyone was too busy laughing.

My partner and I were still fairly new at being cops so we were taking notes, mostly of things we’d yet to have pulled off.  You can see how certain kinds of activity might annoy the good citizens.  Maybe some of the anti-police sites on the internet have gone a bit far; but it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the barrel.  The purpose of that block of training was to remind officers of their mission, To Protect and Serve.   

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Freedom of the Press is now an Entitlement?

Diane Feinstein and a few other well meaning Senators are in the process of defining who qualifies for 1st Amendment rights, or privileges as she put it, as the Senate Judiciary Committee attempts to iron out a “shield law for reporters or journalists from having to divulge their sources. 

This rush for an immediate fix regarding the press has nothing to do with a recent scandal in which the NSA ran rough shod over individual rights or private records and which the Justice Department claimed to have no knowledge; no there’s no connection, move along.  My Jedi mind tricks used to be more convincing.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; hummmm, Congress shall make no law abridging a God given or natural right which includes an individual’s freedom of speech or of the press. 

Re-defining who or who does not qualify as a member of the press would be an abridgement of that right, an attempt to limit God given rights by claiming rights are, in actuality, government privileges or entitlements.  

Red warning flags should be waving in the breeze as America is transformed from a constitutional republic into a totalitarian socialist state.  If ever we permit government to establish the premise that rights are dispensed, no different than entitlements, at that moment we have lost and the state has all power over us; we will have become subjects rather than citizens.

The 1st Amendment doesn’t say individual’s have to be paid employees, full time or part time nor does it place limits on who can claim to be a member of the press; limitations are placed on government, not individuals.

Saying the efforts of the Senate Judiciary Committee are well meaning is perhaps giving them far too much credit.  This legislation is an offense to liberties guaranteed to all under the 1st Amendment.  The elitist mentality on the Hill is exposed time and time again as they claim government as the source of rights, except they call rights privileges or entitlements or anything other than God given individual rights guaranteed to all.  What difference does it make?  (I know, that’s Hillary Clinton’s line in reference to the Benghazi debacle in which four Americans were murdered; but hey, it seems to fit here just as well.)

“I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I’m not going to go there,” said Feinstein during the committee meeting.

Everyone does have the right, that’s the point, Senator Feinstein.  It’s not within powers delegated to anyone in government to decide which citizens are to use their God given rights to freedom of the press, no more than it is within powers delegated to the Senate to decide which citizens have the right to own and bear arms.  (2nd Amendment rights are under attack too?  My goodness, next thing you know our 4th Amendment right to be secure in our person or homes from unreasonable searches will be up for grabs.)

“The bill now on the Senate floor would define a journalist as someone employed by or in contract with a media outlet for at least one year within the last 20 years or three months within the last five years; someone with a substantial track record of freelancing in the last five years; or a student journalist.”

In contrast to the full frontal assault by the Senate Judiciary Committee to define who qualifies as a journalist, Senator John Cornyn of Texas reminded everyone there are already plenty of laws on the books and we’d be better off if those in government would just follow those laws. 

“In a broadside against the Obama administration, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the legislation was merely a diversion by the White House. It was introduced three days after word emerged about the secret subpoenas of the AP records.
“A new law is not what we need,” Cornyn said. “We find ourselves here because of the abuses of the attorney general.” 

So the attempt to limit individual God given rights comes on the heels of yet another Obama administration scandal; now it makes sense.  Rather than remove Eric Holder from his position as Attorney General for violating the law it’s so much better to put the blame on amateurs who might blog about such usurpation’s of power and later claim they had the right as covered under the 1st Amendment. 

Several years ago I had a chance to obtain a Press Corp Hat Logo to put on my blog, a sure fire way to let folks who stumble upon my writings know that I was a serious journalist.  

I blew it; never bothered to save that neat looking hat logo complete with a Press Pass stuck in the satin band.  I’m told journalists wear Fedoras and spend part of their salary making sure it’s properly blocked so as to stand out in a crowd. 

Do you know the difference between a Vase (pronounce Vahhh-zzzz) and a Vase (pronounced Vay-ze)?  The answer, about twenty bucks; the same applies when comparing Press Corp hats and Fedoras; rumor has it only pimps wear Fedoras.  

I did watch Clark Gable play the part of a hard nosed newspaper city editor in Teacher’s Pet along side of Doris Day; that should count for something.   Take that Diane Feinstein; bet you have trouble with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How too.  

Folks in Washington have good reason to fear amateur journalists, bloggers or those who have only their love of truth involved when they type messages informing others of what’s going on in this country; modern day pamphleteers if you will.

Pamphleteers were largely responsible for opening the eyes of colonists prior to the Revolutionary War; folks who spent their hard earned money and time exposing the enemies of liberty by printing leaflets which they shared with anyone willing to read, predecessors of our modern day press corp. 

Ezra Taft Benson expressed in his talk, The Proper Role of Government, a thought most Americans share.

“Starting at the foundation of the pyramid, let us first consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know are human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise. As the French political economist, Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so succinctly, “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”’ (The Law, p.6)
America is sliding down yet another slippery slope if we permit elitists in Washington to re-define God given rights as entitlements or privileges.  Freedom of the press is not reserved as a government entitlement, a privilege limited to employees working for a political propaganda machine; any limitation regarding the press is an abridgment of a God given right. 

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Equal Protection Under the Law

In this day and age there are very few who can honestly say they comprehend the meaning of the phrase, Equal Protection Under the Law.  Simply put it means that everyone gets treated the same way regardless of race, religion, gender or as now seems to be the trend, regardless of which political party you support.

I tossed that last one in because it has over shadowed the legitimacy of our government for quite some time.  It goes back to an ancient philosophy, “To the victor go the spoils”; but in a constitutional republic how much is considered ‘for the taking’? 

Take for example the massive piece of legislation ObamaCare, perhaps one of the single most un-American bills to have ever come into existence.  Thousands of pages written in such a way as to be intentionally misleading and divisive and yet the Supreme Court held that it was constitutionally sound.  Makes you wonder if these black robed folks were the same ones who stood watch over Titanic, “No problems here, Sir, full steam ahead”.

There’s a news headline on Fox, Republicans move to halt ObamaCare ‘bailout’ for angry unions which illustrates how this legislation, as well as many others which have been passed, rewards certain segments of society at the expense of others.  In plain language, redistribution of wealth or pure socialism; hardly what our nation was ever intended to become.

“…reports have surfaced on a plan that would give union workers -- and only union workers -- subsidies to help pay for health insurance even if they're covered through their job. The purported "carve-out" could soothe the simmering discontent within Big Labor. The loyal Democratic supporters and early champions of ObamaCare say they have been slighted by the act’s final regulations, which they say is pushing some employees into part-time work and threatens their health insurance plans.”

If we are to accept any legislative efforts as constitutional they must pass a litmus test if you will, a test to see if the legislation fits within the limitations placed on government in order to protect all individual’s God given rights.

Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, The Proper Role of Government, defined the limitations we’ve placed on government as well as any other explanation prior to or after he gave that inspired message. 

“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.” 

Within the text of Benson’s talk he quoted some of the finest political philosophers of all time, to include John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Bastiat and James Madison to name a few.  The foundations of our constitutional republic reside in our founding documents, documents which reflect the wisdom of these men as they considered the relationship of civilized men within a self governed and ordered society.  

John Locke wrote nearly 300 years ago: 

“For nobody can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life of property of another.” (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 135; P.P.N.S. p. 93)

Benson elaborated on Locke’s truism:

“This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator.”

These basic principles of government apparently are not well known, at least by members of Congress who enact legislation contrary to or indifferent to limitations our constitution has placed on the government ‘We The People’ have established.  The Supreme Court has declared itself the final arbiter of law, as if they somehow have attained elite status and abilities which places them above the limitations of our constitutional republic. 

Getting back to the article about Big Labor Union members being unhappy with ObamaCare and how it does not cover all Americans equally under the law; the entire purpose of the bill was to redistribute wealth from those who have ‘enough and then some’ to those who need a helping hand, or as has been observed with far too many federal programs, those who would prefer others paid regardless of actual need.  Big Labor Union members who originally backed ObamaCare are upset, not because the bill was terrible to begin with; but because they’ve found out they’re on the side that has to pay for it all instead of getting a free ride.

Social Justice is a term which has been bandied about of late; a method of altering the outcome of today based on a secret formula, a formula known only to the elite, which presumes that those who are successful, (define successful), did so at the expense of those less fortunate and need to be penalized for taking unfair advantage.  Social Justice, or redistribution of wealth is the basis of most federal welfare programs.  It has little to do with helping the less fortunate achieve higher levels of competitive skills to become self sustaining; rather it enslaves everyone and eventually destroys all incentives, both for the producers as well as those on the dole.

In the case of ObamaCare, the lure of unbelievably low cost health care was used to hook those who are struggling to attain the ‘American Dream’ while making the successful among us help the less fortunate by making them feel guilty for not jumping on board.  ObamaCare is destroying the American Dream by micro-managing every aspect of business and individual liberty. 

I should add my two cents worth here; I was taught that the American Dream was obtaining self sufficiency, to stand on your own.  The ability to make it happen on your own is the American Dream, or at least that’s how I see it.

Then there’s a progressive version of the American Dream which equates home ownership, two cars in the garage, a large screen HD television, cell phones capable of high speed internet along with full coverage health insurance as if these were natural rights.  The latter version would also have you believe that the American Dream, as presented, is promised to all without regard for having earned any of these amenities; in other words pure socialism.

Businesses are now penalized for being successful, penalized to the point where it becomes advantageous to be less successful, have fewer full time employees eligible for ‘Cadillac’ health insurance plans while at the same time opening part time positions which are not penalized by the edicts of ObamaCare; everyone loses as the socialization of America is put into practice.

If you recall, prior to ObamaCare roughly 85 percent of Americans had health insurance to cover their basic needs with only 15 percent requiring government to step in and maintain minimal health requirements.  These 15 percent were being taken care of by local measures such as county hospitals or other philanthropic organizations.  100 percent of Americans are now enslaved to ObamaCare and all the unintended consequences of pure socialism.

The progressive movement seized upon the notion of guaranteeing affordable health care to everyone, as if it were a natural God given right.  If examined in detail the entire package was nothing more than a bald faced lie from the get go.  The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) was, from its inception, part of a greater agenda to alter the political foundations of America from being a constitutional republic transforming it into a socialized totalitarian government where the elite distributed all aspects of social needs at the expense of individual liberty. 

Now that ObamaCare has become the law of the land everyone is wondering, “How can I best survive or prosper under the new rules?”  Since those rules are hidden within thousands of pages, are intentionally deceptive and favor only those who are on the receiving end at the expense of those who produce, then it becomes painfully clear that ObamaCare does not fit within the limitations of our constitutional framework.

Labor Union members thought they were exempt from the massive costs associated with paying for ‘free healthcare’ so they jumped on board supporting ObamaCare.  They have slowly come to the realization that laws enacted which provide preferential treatment to one segment of society at the expense of another are just as easily twisted in such a way as to entrap the formerly exempted. 

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are God given rights.  Health care is not; it’s an entitlement program and, as with all entitlement programs, the elite get to decide who receives and who pays.  This is a hard pill to swallow; but the lies of socialism sound better than self governance to those being rewarded with the fruits taken by force from those who actually earned it through their labors. 

ObambaCare was never intended to serve everyone equally; it’s a redistribution of wealth scheme, only much more sinister as it enslaves an entire nation in one fell swoop. 

There’s a line in the Alabama state constitution which comes as near to perfection regarding the proper role of government as can be had.

“That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.”

Sadly, America, more specifically, those we have elected or appointed have ignored constitutional restraints placed on government in favor of entitlement programs which temporarily seem to improve the lives of the less fortunate.  There’s no such thing as a free ride or lunch, somebody has to pay and eventually expenses mount, as they always do, and expenses have far exceeded the ability to pay.  Whether this exceptional debt was unforeseen or part of a combination of seditious actions intended to alter our path towards pure socialism will be of little solace once our nation crumbles and self destructs. 

We have passed that point by several trillion dollars and yet there are those who continue demanding entitlements they have not earned, believing such entitlements are the same as God given rights. 

Let’s get back to equal protection under the law; that system actually worked and would still work if we used it.

Monday, September 09, 2013

To bee or not to bee

Reports of honeybees rapidly disappearing are greatly exaggerated  

By Paul Driessen   
Activist groups continue to promote scary stories that honeybees are rapidly disappearing, dying off at “mysteriously high rates,” potentially affecting one-third of our food crops and causing global food shortages. Time magazine says readers need to contemplate “a world without bees,” while other “mainstream media” articles have sported similar headlines. 

The Pesticide Action Network and NRDC are leading campaigns that claim insecticides, especially neonicotinoids, are at least “one of the key factors,” if not the principle or sole reason for bee die-offs. 

Thankfully, the facts tell a different story – two stories, actually. First, most bee populations and most managed hives are doing fine, despite periodic mass mortalities that date back over a thousand years. Second, where significant depopulations have occurred, many suspects have been identified, but none has yet been proven guilty, although researchers are closing in on several of them.

Major bee die-offs have been reported as far back as 950, 992 and 1443 AD in Ireland. 1869 brought the first recorded case of what we now call “colony collapse disorder,” in which hives full of honey are suddenly abandoned by their bees. More cases of CCD or “disappearing disease” have been reported in recent decades, and a study by bee researchers Robyn Underwood and Dennis vanEngelsdorp chronicles more than 25 significant bee die-offs between 1868 and 2003. However, contrary to activist campaigns and various news stories, both wild and managed bee populations are stable or growing worldwide.
Beekeeper-managed honeybees, of course, merit the most attention, since they pollinate many important food crops, including almonds, fruits and vegetables. (Wheat, rice and corn, on the other hand, do not depend at all on animal pollination.) The number of managed honeybee hives has increased some 45% globally since 1961, Marcelo Aizen and Lawrence Harder reported in Current Biology – even though pesticide overuse has decimated China’s bee populations.
Even in Western Europe, bee populations are gradually but steadily increasing. The trends are similar in other regions around the world, and much of the decline in overall European bee populations is due to a massive drop in managed honeybee hives in Eastern Europe, after subsidies ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, since neonicotinoid pesticides began enjoying widespread use in the 1990s, overall bee declines appear to be leveling off or have even diminished.
Nevertheless, in response to pressure campaigns, the EU banned neonics – an action that could well make matters worse, as farmers will be forced to use older, less effective, more bee-lethal insecticides like pyrethroids. Now environmentalists want a similar ban imposed by the EPA in the United States.
That’s a terrible idea. The fact is, bee populations tend to fluctuate, especially by region, and “it’s normal for a beekeeper to lose part of his hive over the winter months,” notes University of Montana bee scientist Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk. Of course, beekeepers want to minimize such losses, to avoid having to replace too many bees or hives before the next pollination season begins. It’s also true that the United States did experience a 31% loss in managed bee colonies during the 2012-2013 winter season, according to the US Agriculture Department

Major losses in beehives year after year make it hard for beekeepers to turn a profit, and many have left the industry. “We can replace the bees, but we can’t replace beekeepers with 40 years of experience,” says Tim Tucker, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. But all these are different issues from whether bees are dying off in unprecedented numbers, and what is causing the losses. 

Moreover, even 30% losses do not mean bees are on the verge of extinction. In fact, “the number of managed honeybee colonies in the United States has remained stable over the past 15 years, at about 1.5 million” – with 20,000 to 30,000 bees per hive – says Bryan Walsh, author of the Time article. 

That’s far fewer than the 5.8 million managed US hives in 1946. But this largely reflects competition from cheap imported honey from China and South America and “the general rural depopulation of the US over the past half-century,” Walsh notes. Extensive truck transport of managed hives, across many states and regions, to increasingly larger orchards and farms, also played a role in reducing managed hive numbers over these decades.

CCD cases began spiking in the USA in 2006, and beekeepers reported losing 30-90% of the bees in many hives. Thankfully, incidents of CCD are declining, and the mysterious phenomenon was apparently not a major factor over the past winter. But researchers are anxious to figure out what has been going on. 

Both Australia and Canada rely heavily on neonicotinoid pesticides. However, Australia’s honeybees are doing so well that farmers are exporting queen bees to start new colonies around the world; Canadian hives are also thriving. Those facts suggest that these chemicals are not a likely cause. Bees are also booming in Africa, Asia and South America. 

However, there definitely are areas where mass mortalities have been or remain a problem. Scientists and beekeepers are trying hard to figure out why that happens, and how future die-offs can be prevented. 

Walsh’s article suggests several probable culprits. Topping his list is the parasitic Varroa destructor mite that has ravaged U.S. bee colonies for three decades. Another is American foulbrood bacteria that kill developing bees. Other suspects include small hive beetles, viral diseases, fungal infections, overuse of miticides, failure of beekeepers to stay on top of colony health, or even the stress of colonies constantly being moved from state to state. Yet another might be the fact that millions of acres are planted in monocultures – like corn, with 40% of the crop used for ethanol, and soybeans, with 12% used for biodiesel – creating what Walsh calls “deserts” that are devoid of pollen and nectar for bees. 

A final suspect is the parasitic phorid fly, which lays eggs in bee abdomens. As larvae grow inside the bees, literally eating them alive, they affect the bees’ ability to function and cause them to walk around in circles, disoriented and with no apparent sense of direction. Biology professor John Hafernik’s San Francisco University research team said the “zombie-like” bees leave their hives at night, fly blindly toward light sources, and eventually die. The fly larvae then emerge from the dead bees. 

The team found evidence of the parasitic fly in 77% of the hives they sampled in the San Francisco Bay area, and in some South Dakota and Central Valley, California hives. In addition, many of the bees, phorid flies and larvae contained genetic traces from another parasite, as well as a virus that causes deformed wings. All these observations have been linked to colony collapse disorder. 

But because this evidence doesn’t fit their anti-insecticide fund-raising appeals, radical environmentalists have largely ignored it. They have likewise ignored strong evidence that innovative neonicotinoid pest control products do not harm bees when they are used properly. Sadly, activist noise has deflected public and regulator attention away from Varroa mites, phorid flies and other serious global threats to bees. 

The good news is that the decline in CCD occurrence has some researchers thinking it’s a cyclical malady that is entering a downswing – or that colonies are developing resistance. The bottom line is that worldwide trends show bees are flourishing. “A world without bees” is not likely.

So now, as I said in a previous article on this topic, we need to let science do its job, and not jump to conclusions or short-circuit the process. We need answers, not scapegoats – or the recurring bee mortality problem is likely to spread, go untreated or even get worse. 

See charts and additional information supplied below:

From -- What effect has Varroa had on the number of managed bee hives in other countries? 

Varroa had no perceptible effect on the number of hives reported in Europe. The number of honey bee hives in Europe declined sharply in the early 1990s, coinciding with the end of communism, and the end of state support for beekeepers, in the previously communist bloc countries of Eastern Europe. The number of hives reported Western European countries remained unchanged over the same period of time.

In the United States the number of managed hives declined steadily since the late 1940s, around 40 years before Varroa became established there. This decline reflects declining terms of trade for United States beekeepers as the result of competition with lower-cost honey producing countries in South America. In contrast, due to their competitive advantage, the number of hives in South America has grown steadily since the mid-1970s, despite Varroa already being established there. However, the J strain of V. destructor in South America is less damaging than the K strain of V. destructor in the United States.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

We paid for it. We have a right to see it.

Publicly-funded scientists who keep their work secret should be censured and cut off from future funding
By Ron Arnold
Who owns taxpayer-funded science? From the way many scientists behave, it’s not the taxpayers.
Many scientific studies funded by federal agencies – through grants, contracts or cooperative agreements – hide the guts of the science. What the scientists keep secret is the raw data they obtain and the methods they use to interpret it, as if those were personal possessions. It’s an especially outrageous attitude when their work is used to justify the horrendous, burdensome regulations.
Independent scientist Rob Roy Ramey recounted an extreme example: “A researcher tracked endangered desert bighorn sheep with government GPS radio collars to record precise animal locations for wildlife rangers. He then reset the access codes so only he could download the data remotely, and refused to surrender the codes. California Fish and Game had to track down and net-gun the bighorns from a helicopter, to manually download the data, costing a fortune and endangering both animals and people.”
Agency “science” frequently isn’t about data collection at all. Instead, it’s a “literature search,” with researchers in a library selecting papers and reports written by others, merely summarizing results and giving opinions of the actual scientists. These agency researchers never even see the underlying data, much less collect it in the field. The agency then holds up those second-hand opinions as if they had rigorously tested them against the data. Using this unscrupulous tactic, they can cherry-pick the literature to make any case they want, for any regulation they want to impose.
With so many federal reports containing no data – only conclusions put forth by another scientist – there is no way to debate, debunk or disprove the underlying facts. It’s almost impossible even to get court orders to track down and disclose the data, if Freedom of Information Act requests are denied, which they frequently are (legally or otherwise).
If there is no way to test a statement, hypothesis or theory, it is not science. It’s opinion or politics. If you hide the raw data, no one can test it, and it’s easy for agenda-driven “researchers” and regulators to implement laws that are based on junk science or even fraud.
Indeed, the only reason a scientist would want to hide his or her data and methods is to prevent others from discovering or demonstrating that they are false – or to surreptitiously seek personal profit from taxpayer-funded discoveries, which likewise are not the property of the discovering tax-paid scientist.
We shouldn’t base our regulations on untested and unscientific “science.” And yet American science is riddled with data secrecy. How can we know the nation isn’t paying for mathematical errors, unreliable methods, deliberate bias, peer-review collusion, outright fakery, or even criminal activity and fraud?
All these allegations against federal agencies have emerged repeatedly. They surfaced once again at an August 2, 2013 congressional hearing. House Natural Resources Committee under Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) has been investigating secretive and corrupted science. At his hearing, “Transparency and Sound Science Gone Extinct?” a panel of four witnesses honed in on the impacts of the Obama administration’s closed-door mega-settlements on endangered species and people.
These secretive Big Green lawsuit settlements use the Endangered Species Act to force agencies to list hundreds of species and make related habitat decisions, not because the science supports the need, but because Big Green settlement deadlines require it. They underscore the nasty reality that the Endangered Species Act is not about protecting species; it’s about land-use control. Everything in the ESA hinges on “critical habitat,” land that a bureaucrat can declare is off limits for public and private users, supposedly to serve a species’ needs, but with devastating impacts on people, jobs and private property.
Panel witness Damien Schiff, principal attorney of the Pacific Legal Foundation, testified that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself “estimated that the annual economic impact of critical habitat designation for the California gnatcatcher [a bird] is over $100 million.” It’s undoubtedly much higher than that.
One of the Natural Resources Defense Council's first publications was “Land Use Controls in the United States,” a 1977 handbook that taught activists how to separate land from use (and users and owners). The power to impose land-use controls anywhere is the real motive behind all current sue-and-settle back-room species-listing deadline deals between Big Green and President Obama’s bureaucrats.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe naturally defended his sue and settle deals. “Settlement agreements are often in the public's best interest, because we have no effective legal defense to most deadline cases,” he claimed. That’s a flat-out lie.
Ashe has a powerful legal defense that he refuses to use: Demand that the science underlying the species listing be tested to determine whether it is flawed, corrupt or fraudulent. He won’t use it for a good reason: recent revelations of false science by agency contractors – California’s Mad River Biologists. Failure to pass “truth” tests could totally invalidate the original listing and everything to do with it.
Why won't he use that moral, ethical and legal defense as an impartial arbiter? First, his agency authorized funding for most of the science. Second, most of the scientists are on his agency’s payroll. Third, politically, he can’t try to win because that would make the Obama administration look like it opposes endangered species protection – or is stealing people’s property and supporting fraud.
Operating under this mindset, the FWS becomes a political tool that uses science as its sword and shield. It cannot be an impartial arbiter. In fact, far from being honest and impartial, the FWS is rife with malicious officials, as witness Kent McMullen, chairman of Washington state’s Franklin County Natural Resources Advisory Committee, testified. His written testimony filled nine pages with outrageous FWS dirty tricks and skullduggery in his county – and in this supposedly free, honest, accountable country.
For example, announcements of critical habitat designations for the White Bluffs Bladderpod plant were deliberately kept “under the radar” in Franklin County, so that they could become law, before anyone could object. Only after Hastings asked county officials about it did the impending decision come to light.
McMullen said, “An FWS employee that apologized in private to a farm family told them that they had been told to keep the issue quiet and to not inform landowners or locals.”
The star witness was independent scientist Ramey, a PhD with 33 years of worldwide experience with threatened and endangered wildlife. Ramey hit key points hard: “The American people pay for data collection and research on threatened and endangered species through grants, contracts cooperative agreements, and administration of research permits. They pay the salaries of agency staff who collect data, and author, edit and publish papers based upon those data.” For the most part, regulations are based on those data, and these officials willingly go along with the crooked system.
“It is essential that the American people have the right to full access to those data in a timely manner,” Ramey continued. “A requirement that data and methods be provided in sufficient detail to allow third party reproduction would raise the bar on the quality and reproducibility of the science used in ESA decisions and benefit species recovery.  Failure to ensure this level of transparency will undermine the effectiveness of the very programs that the data were gathered for in the first place.”
Then Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), who chaired the hearing after Hastings had to leave, told the witnesses: “For all of you, this is a yes or no answer. I’m going to go down the line. ‘Would you agree that in this day and age of the Internet, it is both possible and preferable that actual data be used for ESA decisions that affect both species and people, and should the data be available for everyone to see online on the Internet?’” Mr. Shiff? “Yes.” Mr. Ashe? “Yes.” Mr. McCollum? “Yes.” Dr. Ramey? “Yes.”
They were all on the record, including Director Ashe, whose feet are now available for holding to the fire. Federal decision-making must be based on the best data, not just the best data “available.” That is in the public interest. It’s time we stopped tolerating fraud, abuse and property theft by federal regulators.
Washington Examiner columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. Portions of this report originally appeared in the Washington Examiner and are used here by permission. 

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Author: Ron Arnold
The Washington Examiner