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Nature’s Course

 

When the children were small, one of their favorite outings was to the Frog Pond.

Don’t bother to conjure an image of a pristine body of water surrounded by verdant meadows with maybe a cow or two mooing nearby. Such places exist in Maine, but for reasons I can no longer recall, our family got into the habit of visiting what amounted to a glorified puddle alongside Route 90.

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Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political podcast number 161 it’s the Devin Nunes, Man of Steele edition of the show with your humble hosts, radio guy Todd Feinburg and nanophysicist Mike Stopa. In this week’s edition we dissect, trisect, septasect the Nunes memo, the Steele dossier (yichh!) and the FBI cabal that is working night and day to take Trump down.

This is a serious discussion. Of course the legacy media on the left (did I repeat myself?) are doing nothin but “debunking.” They call it fact checking but they set out with the clear and unvarnished objective to cut the Nunes memo down to size. Newsweek’s treatment is particularly egregious in its one-sidedness. But is the right a bit unhinged as well? Stopa thinks so, Todd is unconvinced. Is there really a conspiracy in the FBI? or is it simply partisanship that has gotten excessive? We will discuss.

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Need a break from the memo frenzy? Have some martinis with us! Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get a kick out of seeing the Democratic National Committee with less than half a million dollars on hand heading into the midterms while Republicans have $40 million ready to go. They also shake their heads as Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan wants to opt out of the Trump’s administration’s plans for offshore energy exploration, a move made much easier by government already granting an exemption for Florida. And they bang their heads against the desk as PolitiFact hired unhinged former Florida Rep. Alan Grayson to be part of their team, only to reverse course after liberals and conservatives howled in protest. Jim and Greg also share their unvarnished thoughts on Groundhog Day and offer their Superbowl predictions.

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Is Global Warming a Public Nuisance?

 

New York City and a number of California municipalities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have filed law suits against five major oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—for contributing to the increased risk of global warming. These complaints cite recent scientific reports that project that sea levels will rise from 0.2 meters to 2.0 meters (or 0.66 to 6.6 feet) by 2100, with a major loss of land surface area and serious climate disruptions. They further allege that the “Defendants had full knowledge that the fossil fuels would cause catastrophic harm.” The complaints rely chiefly upon public nuisance law, which prohibits unreasonably interfering with public rights in air and water through discharges of dangerous substances—in this instance, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These cities are demanding that each oil company named in the complaint contribute to an abatement fund to counteract the perceived future threats to the environment from global warming.

In this essay, I confine my attention to the soundness of the public nuisance theory offered by San Francisco and New York in order to explain why private lawsuits are the wrong instrument for dealing with the global warming threat. In full disclosure, in this essay, I provide my own independent legal analysis of these complaints, which I prepared for the Manufacturer’s Accountability Project, an organization that focuses on the impact of litigation on the manufacturing industry.

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enjoy learning that the Democratic National Committee is still mired in chaos and that the liberal establishment and the Bernie Sanders supporters are still feuding more than a year after the 2016 campaign and just months before the midterm elections. They also groan as the threat of a government shutdown looms and some Republicans think they can win the public relations battle, even though the media always pin the blame on Republicans, regardless of the circumstances. And they shred CNN for co-opting the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. to advance progressive environmental policies and for suggesting King was a socialist “before it was cool.”

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer House and Senate passage of tax cuts and tax reform, noting the vast majority of Americans will see bigger paychecks while the Obamacare individual mandate gets repealed and energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is given the green light. They also recoil at reports that Senate Republican leaders may have agreed to Obamacare bailouts and taxpayer-funded abortions in exchange for Sen. Susan Collins voting for the tax bill. And they discuss Rosie O’Donnell offering two million dollars apiece for Collins and Sen. Jeff Flake to vote against the tax legislation.

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California’s Single-Family Home Gridlock

 

In his excellent article, “The Great American Single-Family Home Problem,” Conor Dougherty, an economics reporter for the New York Times, offers a riveting account of a heated land-use dispute in Berkeley, California. In 2014, a real estate developer purchased a dilapidated home at 1310 Haskell Street in an estate sale. But his plan to rip that structure down to put three modern single-family homes on the lot met with intense local resistance. The neighbors claimed that the new homes would reduce street parking, block sunlight, and change the character of the neighborhood for the worse. Lawsuits delayed construction for several years even though that project complied with all local zoning ordinances. The story illustrates the fatal pathologies that grip land-use regulation in the United States.

In the short run, such regulations produce notable local victories. They slow down the projects and raise the costs of new construction, dulling the ardor of the hardiest developer. But these local victories can become regional disasters, as an acute housing shortage raises the prices of existing units to unaffordable levels, leading first to long commutes over clogged highways and then to outmigration by small businesses and individuals who cannot tolerate the grind. In response to this impasse in California, Governor Jerry Brown has backed a set of administrative reforms designed to prod wayward local governments to expedite issuing building permits. But it is highly unlikely that piecemeal reforms of this nature will make the slightest dent in the current housing crisis, partly because they are often packaged, as Dougherty notes, with proposals to subsidize affordable housing and demands that construction workers be paid prevailing (i.e. union) wages.

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Yes, Trump Has the Power to Shrink National Monuments

 

President Trump announced Monday that he will shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, declared only a year ago by President Obama, by 1 million acres (an 85 percent reduction). He also declared that he would shrink the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument by 800,000 acres (a 46 percent reduction).

Trump told a rally in Salt Lake City that he came to “reverse federal overreach” and took dramatic action “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. And guess what? They’re wrong.”

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Junk Obama’s Clean Power Plan

 

In 2015, the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Clean Power Plan (CPP) that prescribed detailed regulations for the control of carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-powered power plants as part of its effort to control climate change. Earlier this month, the Trump EPA under Scott Pruitt issued its own proposed rule to undo the Obama administration’s guidelines without a commitment to replace them with a substitute set of rules dedicated to the same end. In response to Pruitt’s major shift in policy direction, states like Massachusetts and New York are suing to prevent the new legal regime from going into effect.

Pruitt’s reversal in environmental policy raises two issues—one scientific and one legal. The scientific issue revolves around the 2009 endangerment findings from an Obama administration study, which determined that carbon dioxide emissions are a pollutant whose emissions levels must be regulated under the Clean Air Act (CAA) because “greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare.” Other chemicals on the list of six designated pollutants—like methane and nitrous oxide, with known toxicities—surely deserve that designation, but the Obama report overstates the risks of carbon dioxide to the environment.

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EPA Scientists Banned from Speaking at Climate Conference

 

The EPA administration is fighting back against the climate change ideologues. The agency has cancelled the speaking appearances of three scientists who were scheduled to speak at a non-EPA conference on subjects related to climate change.

These scientists contributed to a 400-plus-page report to be issued today on the status of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and its challenges, and there are fears that scientists are being silenced from speaking on this controversial subject. It’s widely known that the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, questions whether human activity is a major contributor to climate change.

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Recorded on October 6, 2017
A new administration means a new approach to federal energy approach, in the case of Donald Trump’s presidency, a new look at nuclear energy. Hoover research fellow Jeremy Carl, coauthor of Keeping the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants, examines the choices available to Trump on clean, green, and fossil energies.

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Americans watched with forlorn fascination as devastating hurricanes laid waste to stretches of Florida and Texas. Hoover research fellow Alice Hill explains how the nation can better prepare for future natural disasters. The key word is “resilience.”

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