On the Blog

Free-Market Principles Should Guide Road-Funding Solutions

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2016, 1:39 AM

As Americans hit the road during summer driving season, one thing that’s probably not on their minds is how the maintenance of those roads gets funded.

Over the past century, when consumers stopped to fill up at gas stations, they also filled up state and federal government highway funds through excise taxes, consumption taxes (which are included in the price of goods), and motor-fuel taxes. Now, as technological advancements and changing consumer habits work hand-in-hand to reduce the volume of motor fuel purchased, government infrastructure budgets have become increasingly strained, prompting lawmakers to increase tax rates.

Instead of trying to retain the status quo by increasing taxes on declining motor-fuel sales, now is the perfect time for legislators to experiment with fairer funding ideas — using common-sense, free-market principles as a guide to road-funding success.

Step one — or, rather, step zero — is to make sure road money is actually spent on roads. Currently, 15 percent of all federal gas tax revenue — about 3 cents for every gallon of gas purchased — is diverted away from funding road construction and toward subsidizing passenger trains and other forms of government-provided transportation. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to roughly $5.6 billion in inefficient spending.

After patching the leaks in the pipeline between the taxes consumers pay and the benefits consumers receive, the next step is to simplify the pipeline itself. Taxes are payments, and the people paying should be the ones using the things that are being paid for. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to today’s government highway funding laws. Gas taxes are paid by everyone who purchases gasoline — not by everyone who uses the government roads.

One, very direct way to uphold this user-benefit principle — a key free-market idea — is to get rid of excise taxes and replace it with a mileage-based user fee (MBUF). The number of miles an individual travels is much more directly connected to the miles of roads “consumed.”

With MBUFs, the fee can vary with the congestion rate of particular highways — just as the price of a good in a free market increases as demand spikes — without violating consumers’ privacy.

In Oregon, the state government has been test-driving such a program, alleviating potential privacy concerns by simply keeping track of how much is owed, rather than when or where people drive. Marc Scribner, a research fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that Oregon’s program proves privacy and user-fee funding are not mutually exclusive:

“An on-board computer … assigned miles driven to various categories: public roads or private property, in-state or out-of-state roads. That mileage was then tallied and processed by a trusted third party, without ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] receiving any location data. Fuel tax rebates based on mileage data were then applied and charges were assessed — again, without the government obtaining individualized location data.”

Oregon provides just one model. The current patchwork of local, state, and federal gas excise taxes is so inefficient and wasteful that almost any alternative funding framework lawmakers rally around would be superior.

The time for experimenting is now. Lawmakers should seize the opportunity by thinking outside the gas-tax box and devising more consumer-friendly and cost-effective ways to fund the government roads on which we drive.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

Let’s Get Smart About Classroom Technology

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 4:32 PM

Online retail giant Amazon established itself more firmly in the education technology market this week by introducing Amazon Inspire, an online resource that will offer teachers and students free instructional materials. Amazon Inspire is set to launch in the fall, just in time for the upcoming school year.

The debate over whether the use of technology in U.S. classrooms advances student achievement or hinders it is a persistent one. Tech supporters contend the virtual world offers nearly limitless opportunities for students to learn in ways the physical world can’t. Proponents of “old-fashioned” learning, on the other hand, say there are advantages to the traditional system that technology can never replace.

Amazon’s online platform sounds promising. It’s a way for fellow teachers to share lesson plans, learning tools, and materials, which will be helpful considering, as TechCrunch reports, “Amazon estimates that teachers spend around 12 hours a week looking for course materials.”

Is it just me, or does 12 hours seem like a lot of time? Teachers put in long hours as it is preparing for classes, creating assessments, grading assignments, and often helping with extra-curricular activities as well.

With such an abundance of classical literature and brilliant human thought to explore, you’d think “looking for course materials” would be the least of a teacher’s worries in the modern, tech-savvy world. Many teachers probably spend as much time searching for online materials and learning how to use ever-evolving technology as they do using it to teach. Research by Virgin Media Business, released in 2015, found only 15 percent of teachers are confident using technology, despite a large majority using technology in most of their lessons. How much time is spent training and retraining qualified teachers to use a computer to do their job for them?

And let’s not forget the time and money spent to install, upgrade, and repair these technological tools. School districts feel pressured to supply students with the flashiest, most state-of-the-art equipment, because the more money you spend on students, the more you care about them, right?  Tech companies — which, according to the New York Times, receive “more than $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content” — approve of this logic. But last time I checked, the $6.85 Penguin paperback edition of Pride and Prejudice didn’t require a complete system reboot.

My sister Rebecca, a teacher in New Jersey, experiences what many fellow teachers complain of: technology distracting students. According to CampusTechnology, a study published in the Journal of Media Education earlier in 2016 found research shows “students spend a fifth of their time in class doing things on their devices that have nothing to do with their school work.”

My sister outlawed her students’ laptops, because, as surprising as it sounds, teenage girls tend to be more interested in online shopping, checking social media, and instant messaging each other on their tech devices than they are in declining Latin nouns on a blackboard. Imagine!

Teachers aren’t the only ones burdened by a tech-heavy classroom. Students aren’t learning as well as they used to. Many studies have found traditional methods of learning — with pen, paper, and textbook — improve students’ cognitive abilities.

Scientific American reported on a 2014 study that found students “who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops.” The authors of the study, which is titled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” found because students who are taking notes by hand can’t possibly write down every word of a lecture, they “instead … listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.” Taking notes by hand, the article says, “forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,’ and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. Students who type their notes can do so very quickly, without processing what the words mean.”

Many other studies have also found “old-school” methods of learning, such as writing things down by hand and drilling kids in math facts, are better for retaining knowledge, memorization, and developing motor skills.

The allure of technology in teaching children is understandable. Technology is entertaining. Like a video game, there are moving pictures, interesting sounds, and fun colors. It gets a kid’s attention, but what holds it? A 2012 Pew Research study found 87 percent of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers thought the Internet and digital search tools created an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

Let’s also consider students’ abilities, or lack thereof, to look outside of a screen and be stirred with a healthy curiosity about humanity and the world around them. A well-rounded education should encourage inquisitive minds to use their brains rather than rely on a personal digital assistant to find answers. There will be times when the GPS won’t work, “autocorrect” won’t know how to spell a word, and nothing but good, old-fashioned problem-solving skills will do.

Technology in itself is not bad. It’s an exciting and valuable instrument that allows us to do amazing things. But when it comes to educating young people, it should be considered a supplementary tool used to enhance the learning experience and reinforce traditional teaching, not replace it.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Scott Lincicome: How to Help Free Markets Defeat Protectionism

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 4:16 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, research fellow and managing editor Jesse Hathaway is joined by Scott Lincicome, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and visiting lecturer at Duke University. Hathaway and Lincicome talk about how both major political parties used to believe in free-market trade, how both parties have been hijacked by cronyist anti-trade sentiment, and what conservatives can do to make American economic policy great again.

Lincicome, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and visiting lecturer at Duke University, joins the show, explaining why politicians find promoting protectionism easier than promoting real free-trade solutions, and explains how believers in free-market principles can “flip the script” and make free-market principles popular again.

There is a moral case to be made for free trade and people should be talking about freer international trade helps everyday people, Lincicome says, instead of treating international trade deals as scoreboards and worrying about export-import imbalances. By worrying about numerical equality on the ledgers and not worrying about getting the government out of the way of voluntary transactions and exchanges, Lincicome says lawmakers have failed to fight fallacies about how free trade works—ultimately failing the people they serve.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Making American Medicine Great Again

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 10:45 AM

The Republicans are at it again: trying to tweak a bad idea, make it “bipartisan,” and set a flawed system more firmly in concrete. What we really need is a Republican reform – one that can restore the republic, along with medicine.

Yes, Obamacare needs to be repealed – every last syllable. But that’s not all. To make America and American medicine great again, we need to remember what made it great in the first place. It was, to quote Dinesh D’Souza’s great insight in his book “Stealing America,” the “anti-theft” society. That’s what attracted people like him from all over the world, including India, to come here and become great Americans. They certainly did not risk everything to come to America and turn it into what they had left behind.

To put what we need to do into a few words: Stop the lying and the stealing. Simple. But far from easy. Once a country has become addicted to theft – redistribution of wealth – it’s hard to stop it. Almost everybody has something to lose, and the benefits are hard to see.

The benefits of stopping the plunder could include:

  • An immediate 15 percent raise for all working people;
  • A big increase in job opportunities;
  • An enormous drop in the price of medical care (50 percent or more);
  • Timely access to a doctor who is happy to see you and has plenty of time for you.

Does that sound worthwhile?

To get there, we have to get to the root of the problem: the tax code and Medicare. During World War II, wage and price controls made it hard to find workers, so companies started paying in tax-free medical benefits. More and more medical care was paid for through third parties (“insurance companies”). Then came Medicare – for the people who needed the most care – which paid through government and its private partners, such as Blue Cross, which administered the system. Prices doubled or tripled overnight.

My first proposal is to stop the Big Lie of the Social Security/Medicare system and abolish the payroll tax. There’s the 15 percent pay raise. The employer’s “contribution” has to come out of the worker’s earnings, too. Without the added expense of payroll taxes, more employers could hire more people.

The payroll tax is a first-dollar tax. No one can (legally) earn a dollar to buy milk for the baby or bus fare to get to work without paying 15 cents to Social Security/Medicare. And no, it is not a contribution to an individual’s retirement, even though it is represented as such. It is just a tax, as the U.S. Supreme Court determined long ago. The worker has no legal, contractual claim on any return at all. He’ll get whatever Congress allots when he reaches retirement age. Minorities with a shorter life expectancy will end up getting less. When the government runs out of revenue – pyramid schemes always run out of enough new subscribers – that’s just too bad.

The worker’s “contribution” is immediately spent – on other people’s retirement or medical care (some of them very rich). And also on the well-compensated army of white-collar employees who shuffle the money around. Probably half or less of the revenue that comes into Medicare is spent on medical goods and services.

But what would we do without Medicare, or other “insurance”? How could we afford care? Well, if you can’t afford to pay for something, how can you afford to pay two to three times as much by passing the money through a third party?

Some people seem to think that enrolling in insurance is like the scene in “Laurel and Hardy” where Stan, faced with the lunch bill, puts his last nickel in the slot machine and hits the jackpot. Yet people know that slot machines aren’t a magic money-multiplying machine.

Insurance is a way to voluntarily share unpredictable but catastrophic risks. It is not a way to get other people to unwillingly pay your bills. Neither Obamacare nor Medicare is really insurance. In fact, they outlaw true insurance for medical care and force most people into a beggar-thy-neighbor prepayment scheme.

Of course, we cannot suddenly cut off payments to older people who relied on politicians’ promises. But they will be hurt more than anyone else if we allow the American system to collapse.

Obamacare loots Medicare to help fund the scheme. Some Republican proposals would impose Medicare risk-adjustment methods on the whole economy – without admitting that the system is insolvent.

We need an Operation: Restoring Honesty. Major surgery, not a tummy tuck. It should start with Medicare.

Categories: On the Blog

Education Savings Accounts Are the ‘Pokémon Go’ of Education Reform

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 9:33 AM

Image by Lydia

Pokémon Go, a game app for smartphone users, has become a worldwide phenomenon just days after being released. Pokémon Go allows players to virtually capture “wild,” fictional Pokémon creatures that appear in the app’s map, which is based on real-world locations. Using a form of “augmented reality,” users are able to see these mythical animals roaming the world around them, which has led to people, both young and old, frantically running around town on virtual quests.

Pokémon Go provides a revolutionary gaming experience to users by freeing them from normal virtual constraints. If unencumbered by government regulations, education savings accounts (ESAs) could, similar to Pokémon Go, unbind education from the physical classroom, allowing limitless education augmentation. ESAs are the Pokémon Go of education.

Similar to the way Pokémon Go provides users with an unbound variety of Pokémon to search and catch, an ESA provides parents and students access to an unbound selection of interactive, exploratory, and individualized education opportunities. How players explore the outside for their desired Pokémon is how parents and children can seek education options, or education Pokémon, in brick-and-mortar institutions, virtual classrooms, field trips to interesting and out-of-the-box sites, specialized therapies, or anywhere their imaginations and needs take them.

Education savings accounts enable parents to pay for myriad education needs, such as math tutors, English tutors, foreign-language instructors, and special-needs therapies. Parents can power up their ESAs by choosing to save money each year. This is similar to powering up your Pokémon from collecting enough “stardust” or enough Pokémon to evolve them. The powered up ESA will allow children to seek and capture more individualized materials and experiences to meet their learning needs. It’s like being able to search and find Charmander, Squirtle, Jigglypuff, or any other Pokémon—whenever, wherever, and how often you desire, while still being able to power your current Pokémon.

Arizona has the longest running ESA program in the country. The program was initially limited to students with special needs but has since expanded to students in failing schools and to other exceptions. The parents with ESAs love the program because it allows parents to choose to pay for a single class or multiple classes in their local public school, a private school, a virtual school or purchase curriculum for self-study. Being assigned to one single school is like only being allowed to find Pikachu and not the other, more valuable, Pokémon. Florida and Mississippi are the only two other states with an active ESA program that is limited to special-need students, and Tennessee’s will begin in fall 2017. Nevada passed a near-universal ESA program with 93 percent of students in the state eligible. Nevada’s ESA program is currently being challenged in court by two different groups. Until the court rules, the program cannot start.

The Pokémon universe expands over time adding new creatures, new battles, new competitions, and new badge collections. ESA options are expanding in the same way with the addition of new classes, new school opportunities, specialty tutoring, and specialized therapies.

The new technology that now allows augmented reality on your cell phone will allow the creation of new education Pokémon we can’t even dream of today. Examples of what technology can do today are eye exams via a cell phone or medical devices like wireless blood pressure, portable EKG, otoscope, glucometer, portable ultrasound, brain scanner, and even a microscope that can plug into your iPhone.

The future possibilities are limitless as more parents are free to search and choose the education Pokémon their child wants and needs. Education does not have to be bound to a classroom or limited by a bureaucrat any longer. It certainly should not be bound by your zipcode. To quote Mewtwo, “I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” Go choose your education Pokémon.

Categories: On the Blog

The ACLU is Anti-Patient and Anti-Student

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 1:30 AM

In April 2015, Nevada implemented the nation’s first universal education savings account (ESA) program, which is designed to allow parents to use some or all of the funding that would go toward their child’s traditional public education on things such as private school tuition, textbooks, and tutoring.

In August, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Nevada over its ESA program, alleging it violates the state’s Blaine Amendment, a state constitutional ban against using public money for “sectarian purposes.” Blaine amendments, which exist in many states across the country, were borne out of anti-Catholic bigotry in the 1800s.

In May, Nevada District Judge Eric Johnson dismissed the lawsuit, ruling, “The state has no influence or control over how any parent makes his or her genuine and independent choice to spend his or her ESA funds.”

Johnson also wrote in his decision, “Parents, if they choose to use the ESA program, must expend the ESA funds for secular education goods and services, even if they choose to obtain those services from religion affiliated schools.”

The ACLU is now appealing the ruling. The organization’s legal director in Nevada, Amy Rose, said in a statement the purpose of the appeal is “to cease private religious schools’ ability to use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate and discriminate against students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and other grounds.”

Despite the ACLU’s mission statement, which claims to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” this most recent appeal exposes the organization’s true goal of destroying the liberty granted to parents and their children by the ESA law. The only thing the ACLU cares about defending and preserving here are entrenched, traditional government schools.

After all, as Joy Pullmann, a senior education research fellow for The Heartland Institute, points out, Johnson’s decision “is in line with long-standing nationwide precedent in various federal and state courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Nevada State Education Association is also — not surprisingly — opposed to the ESA program, namely because it “siphons money away from public schools,” an assertion not based on reality. And never mind that earlier this year, Nevada ranked dead-last in the nation for education quality. Even if ESAs do deplete public schools of their funding (they actually raise per-pupil funding in public schools), what’s the point of funding a public institution that has proven incapable of fulfilling its purpose? More money will not solve Nevada’s education problem. Empowering 96 percent of Nevada students to be eligible for ESAs, however, will.

Medicare or Medicaid recipients are free to use their taxpayer-funded benefits at religiously affiliated hospitals, and there are countless other ways taxpayer money is spent to fund organizations with philosophical or religious affiliations — Planned Parenthood comes to mind. Yet, the ACLU does not protest.

There’s just something about public schools that serves as a catalyst for leftists to do everything they can to ensure freedom of choice is halted at any cost. Their insistence that traditional public schools should be considered sacred and funded extravagantly without any questions is bewildering at best. The ACLU should be happy Nevada’s ESA program gives parents the liberty to educate their children in a way they, togetherwith the government (program funds must be authorized), see fit.

Why is the ACLU opposed to parental choice, opposed to parents giving their children a better education, and opposed to freeing kids from a failing system and giving them the flexibility to escape a detrimental environment? Because the American Civil Liberties Union has nothing to do with liberty.

[Originally published at the Reno Gazette-Journal]

Categories: On the Blog

The Hillary Treatment for Climate Fraudsters?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2016, 6:39 PM

State AG actions reveal double standard for scientists who promote alarmist climate claims

This past March, seventeen attorneys general launched a coordinated effort to investigate, pursue and prosecute companies, think tanks and other organizations who say there is little credible evidence that human “greenhouse gas” emissions are causing “dangerous” or “catastrophic” manmade climate change.

The AGs said their targets’ actions constitute “fraud” – which they described as using “polished public relations campaigns” to “muddle the truth,” “discredit prevailing climate science,” and “mislead” people about threats from higher temperatures, rising seas, floods and more severe weather. Their real goal is to intimidate and silence targeted groups, and bankrupt them with legal fees, court costs and lost funding.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, CFACT, ExxonMobil and other “climate denier” organizations fought back vigorously, refusing to surrender their constitutional rights to participate in this vital public policy debate. The AGs’ bravado and prosecutions began fraying at the edges.

But one wonders: How will these intrepid protectors of the public interest respond to Real Climate Fraud? To intentional misrepresentations of material facts, with knowledge of their falsity, and for the purpose of inducing persons or institutions to act, with resulting injury or damage.

Will those AGs – or other state AGs, Congress, state legislatures or the Justice Department – investigate the growing list of highly questionable actions by scientists and others who receive billions in taxpayer and consumer funds for renewable energy programs and research into manmade climate cataclysm scares … to justify policies, laws and regulations that raise energy costs, destroy fossil fuel companies and jobs, force layoffs in other industries, and harm poor, minority and working class families?

Or will they respond the way FBI Director Comey did to Hillary Clinton’s reckless disregard for national security secrets: ignore the bad conduct, and reward transgressors with more money, prestige and power?

The case for widespread misconduct by members of the $1.5-trillion-per-year Climate Change & Renewable Energy Complex grows more compelling, and disturbing, by the day. A complete listing and analysis would require books, but these few examples underscore the seriousness of the global problem.

Crisis fabrication. After warming 1910-1940, cooling 1940-1975, warming 1975-1998, not budging 1998-2015, Earth warmed slightly 2015-2016 amid a strong El Niño. No category 3-5 hurricane has hit the United States for a record 10-1/2 years. Seas are rising at 7 inches per century. Arctic ice is near normal; Antarctic ice at a record high. There are more polar bears than ever.

But the White House, EPA, UN and media falsely claim we face an unprecedented crisis – and must quickly replace reliable, affordable hydrocarbons with expensive, subsidized, unreliable renewable energy, and let unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats control our lives, livelihoods and living standards. Any warming, any weather event, is our fault – the result of using fossil fuels to power our economy.

Data manipulation. When actual measurements don’t support climate chaos claims, dishonest scientists “homogenize” and manipulate them to create imaginary warming trends. Phil Jones, his British team and their US counterparts eliminated centuries of Little Ice Age cooling and created new records showing planetary temperatures suddenly spiking in recent decades. They used ClimateGate emails to devise devious schemes preventing outside analysts from examining their data, computer algorithms and methodologies – and then “lost” information that peer reviewers wanted to examine.

NOAA’s clever climate consortium adjusted accurate sea-surface temperature data from scientific ocean buoys upward by a quarter-degree, to “homogenize” them with records from engine intake systems contaminated by shipboard heat – thereby creating a previously undetected warming trend.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology revised Rutherglen weather station data to convert 100 years of data showing a slight cooling trend into a warming of several degrees per century. As with other “adjustments” (by NASA, for instance) the revisions always create warming trends – never a slight cooling – and climate crisis scientists always say humans caused the warming, even though they are unable to separate natural forces, cycles and fluctuations from alleged human influences.

GIGO computer models. Climate models assume post-1975 warming is due to manmade carbon dioxide; exaggerate climate sensitivity to CO2 levels; and simplify or ignore vital natural forces like solar energy variations, cosmic ray fluxes, heat-reflecting clouds, and recurrent phenomena like El Niño and La Niña. They conjure up “scenarios” that alarmists treat as valid predictions of what will happen if we don’t slash fossil fuel use. Models replace actual evidence, and play an important role in climate battles.

It’s complete GIGO: faulty assumptions, data, algorithms, analytical methodologies and other garbage in – predictive garbage out. That’s why “hockey stick” and other models are so out of touch with reality. In fact, an official IPCC graph showed that every UN climate model between 1990 and 2012 predicted that average global temperatures would be as much as 0.9 degrees C (1.6 F) higher than they actually were! The inconvenient graph was revised for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 report.

Report manipulation. Activists and bureaucrats always finalize the Summary for Policymakers, the only IPCC climate document that most voters, elected officials and journalists ever read. They want to ensure that already politicized climate “science” does not undermine or contradict political themes and agendas.

A 1995 State Department document reveals the extent of this interference and manipulation. The 30-page document gave detailed instructions as to how the Clinton White House wanted the summary’s scientific explanations and conclusions revised, to make alleged climate and weather trends even more worrisome. Donna Laframboise and others document the bias, distortion and deception that dominate IPCC actions.

Consensus fabrication. Claims of a 97% consensus on climate cataclysm science are likewise slippery, and based on bait-and-switch tactics that look only at study abstracts of studies and then misrepresent what the abstracts say, ask one question but base their conclusions on a different one, or use other strategies and misrepresentations to hide the disagreements and debates that still dominate this topic.

Cost-benefit falsification. The US Government has mastered this fraudulent tactic, especially in its “social cost of carbon” calculations. EPA and other agencies blame methane and carbon dioxide emissions for every conceivable impact on agriculture, forests, water resources, “forced migration” of people and wildlife, human health and disease, rising sea levels, flooded coastal cities, too much or too little rain. They totally ignore the way more CO2 makes plants grow faster and better, with less water.

They also ignore the enormous benefits of fossil fuels for 80% of all the energy we use to transport people and products, generate reliable, affordable electricity, and manufacture fertilizers, plastics and thousands of other products. And they ignore the ways anti-energy regulations raise hospital, factory and small business costs, kill jobs, and reduce living standards, health and welfare for millions of people.

Why would they do these things? The US federal government alone spent $11.6 billion on “green” energy and climate “research” and “mitigation” programs in 2014. That money did not go to scientists who question “dangerous manmade climate change” doctrines.

Recipients and their parent institutions are determined to preserve this funding, protect their reputations and prestige, and maintain their influence and control over policies, laws, regulations, and wind, solar and biofuel mandates and subsidies. It is all inextricably tied to silencing inconvenient questions and, if needs be, engaging in systemic, systematic exaggeration, falsification and misrepresentation. And then they claim these Orwellian tactics are Best Practice standards, essential for quality control in climate science!

So, AGs, by all means let’s investigate. But let’s not criminalize differences of opinion. Let’s root out actual fraud, let real science prevail, and protect our livelihoods and living standards from unscrupulous people and organizations that are using fraudulent climate chaos claims to control energy use, transform the US and global economic systems, and redistribute the world’s wealth.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Students Learn Climate Change Advocacy, Not Climate Science

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2016, 4:01 PM

For almost thirty years, I have taught climate science at three different universities. What I have observed is that students are increasingly being fed climate change advocacy as a surrogate for becoming climate science literate. This makes them easy targets for the climate alarmism that pervades America today.

Earth’s climate probably is the most complicated non-living system one can study because it naturally is an integration of chemistry, physics, biology, geology, hydrology, oceanography, and cryology and also includes human behavior by responding to and affecting human activities. Current concerns over climate change have further pushed climate science to the forefront of scientific inquiry.

What should we be teaching college students about it?

At the very least, a student should be able to identify and describe the basic processes that cause the climate of the Earth to vary from Pole to Equator, from the coast to the center of the continent, and from the Dead Sea Depression to the top of Mount Everest. A still more literate student would understand how the oceans, the biosphere, the cryosphere, the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere all integrate to produce our very complicated climate.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s definition of climate science literacy raises the question of whether climatology is even a science. It defines climate science literacy as “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.”

How can students understand and put into perspective their influence on the Earth’s climate if they don’t understand the myriad of processes that affect our climate—or understand the complexity of climate itself? And if they don’t understand these processes, how can they possibly comprehend how climate influences them and society in general?

Worse still, many of our colleges are working against scientific literacy for students.

At the University of Delaware, the Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE CLEAR) defines the distinction between weather and climate by stating that “climate is measured over hundreds or thousands of years” and defines climate as “average weather.” That presupposes that climate is static, or should be, and that climate change is unordinary in our lifetime and, by implication, undesirable.

Climate, however, is not static but highly variable on timescales from years to millennia—for reasons that include, but are not limited to, human activity.

This program identifies rising concentrations of greenhouse gases—most notably carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—as the only reason why temperatures have risen about 2°C over the last decade and will supposedly continue to rise over the next century. Students are then instructed to save energy, calculate their carbon footprint, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Mastering these concepts leads to “climate science literacy.”

In the past, I have been invited to speak at three different universities during their semester-long and college-wide focus on climate science literacy. At all three, two movies were required viewing by all students to assist them in becoming climate science literate: Al Gore’s biased version of climate science, An Inconvenient Truth, and the 2004 climate science fiction disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow.

This past spring, the University of Delaware sponsored an Environmental Film Festival featuring six films. Among them only An Inconvenient Truth touched at all on the subject of climate science, albeit in such a highly flawed way that in Britain, students must be warned about its bias. The other films were activist-oriented and included movies that are admittedly science fiction or focused on “climate change solutions.”

For these films, faculty members were selected to moderate discussions. Scientifically based faculty could have been chosen from the university’s College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment. Instead, the discussion of An Inconvenient Truth was led by a professor of philosophy and one movie—a documentary on climate change solutions that argues solutions are pertinent irrespective of the science—was moderated by a civil engineer.

Discussion of the remaining four films was led by professors of history, English, and journalism. Clearly, there was little interest in the substance of climate science.

Many fundamentals of climate science are absent from university efforts at promoting climate science literacy. For example, students seldom learn that the most important chemical compound with respect to the Earth’s climate is not carbon dioxide, but water. Water influences almost every aspect of the Earth’s energy balance because it is so prevalent but also because it appears in solid, liquid, and gas form in substantial quantities and energy is transferred by the mobility of water and when it changes state. Since precipitation varies considerably from year-to-year, changes in water availability substantially affect our climate every year.

Hearing about water, however, doesn’t set off alarms like carbon dioxide does.

Contributing to the increased focus on climate change advocacy is the pressure placed on faculty members who do not sign on to the advocacy bandwagon. The University of Delaware has played the role of activist and used FOIA requests to attempt to intimidate me because I have spoken out about climate change alarmism. In my article published in Academic Questions,“The University vs. Academic Freedom,” I discussed my university’s willingness to go along with Greenpeace in its quest for documents and emails pertaining to my research.

Much grant money and fame is to be had for those who follow the environmental advocates’ game plan. Conversely, the penalty for not going along with the alarmist position is quite severe.

For example, one of the films shown at the University of Delaware’s film festival presents those who disagree with climate change extremism as mere pundits for hire who misrepresent themselves as a scientific authority. Young faculty members were thereby sent a pointed message: Adopt the advocacy position or you jeopardize your career.

Making matters worse, consider Senate Bill 3074, which was introduced into the U.S. Senate on June 16 of this year. It authorizes the establishment of a national climate change education program. Once again, the emphasis lies on teaching advocacy rather than teaching science and increasing scientific knowledge and comprehension.

The director of the National Center for Science Education commented that the bill was designed to “[equip] students with the knowledge and knowhow required for them to flourish in a warming world.” Unfortunately, it will do little to educate them regarding climate science.

I fear that our education of climate science has been co-opted to satisfy the climate change fearmongering agenda that pervades our society today. Instead of teaching the science behind the Earth’s climate, advocates have taken the initiative to convert it to a social agenda of environmental activism.

Climatology, unfortunately, has been transformed into a social science. While there is nothing wrong with the social sciences, the flaws underpinning climate science advocacy are masked by the ‘concern for the environment’ when climate is no longer treated as a physical science.

Climate science must return to being a real science and not simply a vehicle to promote advocacy talking points. When that happens, students will find that scientific facts are the real “inconvenient truth.”

[Originally published at The John William Pope Center]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH): Radical Environmentalists Preventing Solutions to Zika

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2016, 3:44 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH) – chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, joins managing editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the Zika virus and potential solutions to dealing with this issue.

Representative Gibbs has been pushing legislation lately that would allow spraying to kill mosquitoes potentially carrying the Zika virus, as well as other tropical diseases. You would think this bill would be a slam dunk, but this is not the case. Radical environmentalists have opposed this life saving bill due to false fears raised about water pollution.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Applachian Trail Adventure Story Born Through a Dying Fish Study

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2016, 12:50 PM

Cedric C. Keith’s “The Dying Fish: A Sojourn to the Source,” is a retelling of Keith’s 4,000-mile walk through the eastern wilderness prompted by his desire to save the Eastern Brook Trout. Born from an early childhood fascination with the Eastern Brook, Keith’s journey would lead him to roads often left untraveled and tinged with rugged American spirit. His close witness to the resiliency of the environment would encourage Keith’s hope in regards to the recovery of the environment following centuries of human development.

The entertaining and educational Cedric Keith book event was held at The Heartland Institute’s headquarters in Arlington Heights on Thursday, July 7th. The livestream of the event as well as the corresponding podcast can be viewed here and here. Joseph Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute, prefaced Keith’s speech with his own similar experiences. Like Keith, Bast had also hiked the Appalachian Trail and had worked as a janitor prior to his journey.

Cedric Keith and his fascination with the brook trout

Keith began his talk by thanking Bast for the invitation and his personal interest, declaring himself to be an inexperienced speaker. Keith launched into a few basic facts on the trout, explaining that the Appalachian brook trout is a small fish that spans roughly five inches while the Canadian brook trout reaches a larger size as a result of colder water temperatures. Brook trout spawning occurs from late September to early November where eggs are laid in the gravel of head water streams for winter incubation. The nature of the brook trout is such that they flourish only in unpolluted head water sources; thus, the trout serves as the hallmark of a healthy water source. This explains why the habitats in which they live are mostly remote and remain relatively unaffected by human activity.  The original premise of his project was to simply learn more about the trout while raising awareness for its preservation.

Keith recounted his early interest in the brook trout, catching and holding the fish to observe its beauty as a child. As an adult, there were four concerns that drew Keith to the preservation of the brook trout specifically, those are: rapid changes in the land since 1600, rising temperatures, pollution, and the introduction of non-native fish like the brown and rainbow trout in the mid-19th century. These four factors, while having an acute impact on the brook trout, are all rooted in major environmental changes with widespread impact.

Cedric’s thoughts turn into action

After reading the “Eastern Brook Trout Join Venture Report” from 2007 and learning of the trout population’s rapid decline since the pre-Columbian era, Keith felt compelled to take action towards its preservation.  Keith explained that at the time of his journey, he was unattached and working as a janitor. He asked himself, “Why not do something that would be crazy and incredible and simultaneously help the brook trout?” He was aware that an informational book of internet research would not sell, ultimately deciding to hike the Appalachian trail and do field work instead.

Cedric’s began his journey in the intense Georgia summer heat, an inexperienced backpacker with little idea of what was to come. The completion of his expedition would require half a decade of mind rewiring, culminating in a substantial change in his world viewpoint. Through his trek, Keith learned that within his solitude was extraordinary freedom.

Cedric describes his trek

In year one, the absence or presence of the brook trout was determined with a fly rod with study sites few and far between.  Keith deemed this expedition a failure but as ultimately necessary in teaching him how to live in the wild. This first leg led him to recognize his actual physical limits beyond his fears. His first year ended in West Virginia. In his second year, Keith began from the same starting point in Georgia but was able to finish much further north in Pennsylvania. Year three yielded considerable data on how the brook trout was faring. In the wild, Keith discovered that every day presented a challenge. He was plagued by foot sores, bugs, bears, and constant dampness. Through his daily struggle, Keith came to understand our existence within the civilized world to be incredibly fabricated in comparison to the state of nature. The safety extant following his return from the wilderness led him to become more docile, finding no need to resist constraints or ward off human competition.

Writing the book

Listening to him talk, it was surprising to learn of Cedric’s internal conflict in pursing an environmentally charged issue even before beginning. Raised within the church, Keith observed that conservatives often shy away from environmental issues entirely.  Even so, Cedric was able to find a higher social order somewhere off in the trees, noting how George Washington and other founding fathers similarly came out of the wilderness. “The Dying” took three years to write and is a derivative of the Keith’s daily journals while in the wilderness. Realizing that a technical field journal detailing every particular fact about the brook trout would be uninteresting, Cedric included his many adventures and experiences along the Appalachian trail. Cedric’s book as a whole is a personal story with a rough start given his prior ignorance to the realities of his trek but a deeply philosophical conclusion. What were Keith’s conclusions?  You’ll have to read Cedric’s book to find out the true state of the Appalachian brook trout.

[Originally published at the Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Give PA Patients Right to Try Experimental Drugs and Treatments

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2016, 1:00 AM

Pennsylvania, one of the first colonies-turned-states to declare unalienable a person’s right to life, must act soon to avoid becoming one of the last states to secure for terminally ill patients the right to try to save their own lives.

It is natural for people to try to extend their lives and improve their quality of life, and it is fitting for people whose lives are at risk to do all they can to save themselves. Most will agree people have a fundamental right to do so, provided they exercise this right without encroaching on the rights of others.

These self-evident truths are much on the minds of patients who have received a terminal diagnosis. Unfortunately, many of these people have discovered that exhausting all treatment options is harder to accomplish legally than exhausting all treatment options approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA requires manufacturers of drugs and medical devices to obtain approval before making their products available to patients. Many products make it through Phase 1 of FDA testing only to languish in the system. The entire process for approving a drug can take 15 years. Obviously, that’s too long for patients who have already received a terminal diagnosis. This period will also prove too long for many people who are currently healthy and who will receive a terminal diagnosis later in life.

Legislation pending before the Pennsylvania Senate – the Right to Try Act, House Bill 1104 – would use state law to help create a path by which manufacturers of experimental drugs and medical devices could offer their partially approved products to eligible patients, many of whom are out of options.

The bill would apply to patients who have received a terminal diagnosis from a physician, considered all treatment options already fully approved by FDA, and consented to experimental treatment recommended by a physician. In addition to giving patients options, the bill would protect physicians who recommend such treatments and the manufacturers who produce them from recrimination for unsuccessful treatment.

Under the bill, patients who opt for such treatments would pay for them unless the drug or medical device manufacturer waives the costs. Patients’ insurers would not have to foot the bill.

One objection to right-to-try legislation is that some patients already obtain access to experimental treatments through the FDA’s expanded-access program, also called compassionate use. Although the FDA reports that more than 99 percent of applicants gain permission to try investigational new drugs through expanded access, its figures “do not show the number of requests that were squelched because of agency regulations before they were ever filed,” according to a 2016 report by the Goldwater Institute, which estimates that only 1 percent of clinical trials leverage the FDA’s compassionate-use program. (FDA Commissioner Robert Califf acknowledged the application process’ “procedural burdens” when releasing a simplified expanded-access application form on June 2.)

Support for commonsense right-to-try legislation transcends partisan politics. The Pennsylvania House already voted 182-0, with 20 lawmakers abstaining, to approve H.B. 1104 on June 16.

Although passing the Right-to-Try Act in Pennsylvania would not supersede the FDA legal barrier that prevents drug and device manufacturers from offering their products to eligible patients, Congress is considering legislation that would activate state right-to-try laws. The Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) in May, would provide manufacturers and patients with the protection they need to exercise their right to try. The bill builds on its House counterpart, which was introduced last year.

As of June, 30 states had passed right-to-try legislation in anticipation of federal lawmakers eventually catching up. Many states, including New Hampshire, South Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, and Idaho, passed these laws just this year.

 Pennsylvania is one of 19 states whose lawmakers have introduced but not passed right-to-try legislation since 2015. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a right-to-try bill in October, but a new bill passed the state Assembly 77-2 in May.

Pennsylvanians have a long tradition of carefully balancing the powers of the federal government with the powers of the commonwealth and of other states. In doing so today, the state’s residents can think of more constructive purposes for the federal government than to referee patients, doctors, and medical pioneers.

Terminally ill patients should be free to try to extend and improve their lives. The Pennsylvania Senate should pass the Right to Try Act to ensure that only the federal government, not state officials, is delaying Pennsylvanians’ right to try.

[Originally published at the Philidelphia Inquirer]

Categories: On the Blog

Mann Abandons Science, Will the UK Abandon the Paris Climate Agreement?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2016, 4:15 PM

Europe map – highly detailed vector illustration

Climate scientist Michael Mann has given up trying to justify climate alarmism by pointing to scientific evidence, stating at a meeting of the Democratic platform-drafting committee, data and models “increasingly are unnecessary” because the impact is obvious. The Washington Times quotes Mann saying, “Fundamentally, I’m a climate scientist and have spent much of my career with my head buried in climate-model output and observational climate data trying to tease out the signal of human-caused climate change … [but] these tools … increasingly are unnecessary because we can see climate change, the impacts of climate change, now, playing out in real time, on our television screens, in the 24-hour news cycle.”

What Mann counts as an obvious or visible sign of human-caused climate change is puzzling to me. Scientific evidence is mounting daily showing the climate is less sensitive to carbon dioxide and that natural factors are playing a greater role in climate change than alarmists like Mann have claimed. In addition, the weather events (the evidence of our senses) cited by Mann as showing “the signal of climate change is no longer subtle, it is obvious” – hurricanes, flooding in Texas and South Carolina, the California drought, and heat waves in Arizona – are either not historically unusual or actually contradict climate disaster predictions.

Neither droughts nor extreme rainfall events are outside historic norms, polar bear populations are stable or growing as is ice extent in Antarctica, and the United States is experiencing a nine-year “hurricane drought” of Category 3 storms starting in 2006, beating the previous mark of eight years from 1861–1868, the longest such streak since such recording began in 1851.

This leaves me asking: Dr. Mann, where is this evidence of human-caused climate change of which you speak?

While Mann, consigns climate science to the dust bin, many are wondering if the United Kingdom will do the same to the Paris Climate agreement.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) vote to leave the European Union (EU) is throwing climate commitments into doubt. Many in the Brexit camp were climate skeptics. Europe’s green leaders and outgoing United Nations climate head Christiana Figueres had warned against Brexit, calling on voters to oppose separation. Figueres noted Britain’s climate-action pledge was included in the EU’s pledge, thus, “From the point of view of the Paris agreement, the U.K. is part of the EU and has put in its effort as part of the EU, so anything that would change that would require then a recalibration.”

The EU intended to deliver to Brussels later this month its climate action plans detailing how the 28 member states would meet the goals set in 2015’s Paris climate agreement to cut emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2040. With the UK’s pending withdrawal from the EU, such plans will likely be put on hold. The climate website Climate Home tweeted, “A UK exit from the European Union is likely to be bitter and protracted, soaking up the political will of a region that has long led on tackling climate change … http://sumo.ly/kEKD via @ClimateHome.”

“The reality is the EU will be utterly inward looking and navel gazing – it will be very hard to deal with any other serious issues [during the Brexit negotiations],” said Chris Huhne, the UK’s energy and climate chief between 2010 and 2012.

Climate alarmists fear a new post-Brexit, post-David Cameron government in Britain could be less committed to climate action. Cameron, who resigned as prime minister after campaigning hard to keep Britain in the EU, was replaced by Theresa May, another member of the Conservative Party, who The Independent pronounced is not “green.” In a speech she gave on July 11, 2016, the day she was announced as the new prime minister, May said, “I want to see an energy policy that emphasizes the reliability of supply and lower costs for users.”

Only if the UK ends its support for renewable energy can it meet that goal. Since many of the conservatives who campaigned for Brexit are climate skeptics, they will likely have more power in a new government. A poll of 1,168 people by ComRes taken before the Brexit vote found Brexit supporters were twice as likely to believe climate science is a hoax as those polled who supported staying in the EU. A group of approximately 100 Conservative MPs, including energy minister Andrea Leadsom, calling themselves “Fresh Start,” released an energy policy paper in May 2016 calling for ending the UK’s renewable energy targets for 2020 and investing in shale gas development and new nuclear energy.

Will this be a case of “As goes the UK both on EU membership and Climate, so goes many other EU members?” Only time will tell.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep47): The Shrinking Middle-Class, Removing Barriers in Your State, and ColoradoCare

Somewhat Reasonable - July 15, 2016, 3:53 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #47 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the American Enterprise Institute, the Platte Institute, and the Pacific Research Institute.

Featured Work of the Week

In this Featured Work of the Week segment, Donny and John discuss a research paper from the American Enterprise Institute titled “The Obama Economy and the Shrinking Middle Class.” The paper explains the conditions the middle class has been suffering under over the past 7 years. These conditions include poor yearly GDP growth, a stagnant “real” unemployment rate, and reduction in economic freedom for entrepreneurs. Donny and John review the study and react to its conclusions.

In the World of Think Tankery

In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny and John look at the first two parts of a six-part series from the Platte Institute titled “Removing Barriers in Nebraska.” The policy series as a whole attempts to determine why there is a continuing outflow of capital to neighboring states and how to prevent that outflow. As Donny mentions in the segment, while this study is specific to Nebraska, the approach and the conclusions can be applied to every state across the country.

In the last part of this segment, Donny and John once again talk about ColoradoCare – a proposed statewide single-payer healthcare system. The article titled “Don’t Buy the Coloradocare Single Payer Snake Oil,” is authored by Sally C. Pipes, CEO and President of the Pacific Research Center. Pipes lays out why the plan WILL fail and highlights how similar plans are already harming citizens in states around the country, and countries around the world.

Events

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

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Categories: On the Blog

These Fatal Shootings are No Isolated Incidents

Somewhat Reasonable - July 15, 2016, 3:52 PM

Six days ago, in Poland, the President reacted to two fatal shootings of young black men by police, one in Louisiana and another in Minnesota, by saying, “these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents.” The message was clear enough. Two days later, an African American took revenge on a police force in Texas that, the way he saw things, was part of a system of law enforcement that was murdering young black men.

Over the past two years, one in four people killed by police have been African American. This is about double the number of blacks in the general population and it indicates that something is wrong. The President says that what is wrong is law enforcement. His knee-jerk response, time and time, is to blame the police. He has called the police stupid and racist. If a Muslim were to walk into a night club and shoot a hundred people, he would quick say there is no evidence this was part of a larger movement. But, from halfway around the world, he responds to two killings by police is to say it’s not an isolated incident.

If the disproportionate number of black people being killed by the police isn’t due to police racism, to what is it due? At a superficial level, it is due to more confrontations of black people with police, such as arrests, convictions and incarcerations. But, this is only a superficial analysis. It immediately begs the question why are there more such confrontations.

It is when you dig down that you find the real controversy. For some, the underlying reason for crime is a lack of income. For others, the underlying reason is a lack of work. If the underlying reason is merely a lack of income, then the answer is more welfare programs and redistribution of the wealth. If TANF, SNAP, SCHIP, EITC, etc., exhaust the alphabet, we need more letters. But, if the underlying reason is a lack of work, then the answer is a more vibrant economy.

The good news is that the current nationwide trend regarding black crime is positive. From a peak of 51 percent in 1994, blacks as a percent of the prison population of the United States have fallen to 36 percent in 2014. This is still about three times the percent of blacks in the general population, but its a significantly lower multiple than it was a generation ago.

The bad news is that, while crime is trending down nationwide, it is trending up in many cities. The scenario of Baltimore is being played out across the country. The police are cowed into passivity by intense scrutiny and accusations of racism, and neighborhoods fall into anarchy. Murder rates increase. Criminal gangs take over. Decent people flee. The social fabric of the city is ripped asunder.

The President, on his arrival in Dallas, used the occasion to lecture white people about how their black neighbors and coworkers don’t want to hear any disagreement from his view of what is the fundamental problem. The economics and sociology of crime are settled science as far as he is concerned.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Senate Democrats Threaten Climate Realists … and You

Somewhat Reasonable - July 15, 2016, 3:11 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Global Warming Skepticism Is Not Fraud
Joseph Bast, Breitbart
Heartland President Joseph Bast responds to a Yale law professor who says expressing skepticism about the Obama administration’s climate change position amounts to fraud and is not protected by the First Amendment. The fact that there is no scientific consensus on the causes and consequences of climate change completely debunks this position, and means alarmists who accuse their opponents of fraud ought to stand trial for libel. LEARN MORE

Forcing Unrealistic Hikes Endangers Drivers, Zaps the Economy
H. Sterling Burnett, Seattle Times
National fuel economy standards will require new vehicles to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon starting with the 2025 model year, endangering the safety of drivers and their passengers. To achieve the mileage standard, manufacturers must reduce the weight of vehicles and restrict consumer access to SUVs and trucks. Forcing people into lighter vehicles already has caused more deaths than the number of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. LEARN MORE

Senate Democrats Threaten Climate Realists … and You
Jim Lakely, Somewhat Reasonable
Nineteen Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, took to the floor of the United States Senate this week to attack the free speech rights of individuals and organizations that disagree with the government dogma on the causes and consequences of global warming. Make no mistake: This is an abuse of power and an attempt to intimidate American citizens to keep quiet, and to send those who support them running scared. It will not work. LEARN MORE

Featured Podcast: In The Tank (ep46): #OurAmerica, Monopolies and Antitrust, and Sin Taxes
Director of Communications Jim Lakely joins New Media Specialist Donny Kendal and Government Relations Director John Nothdurft in this week’s episode of the In The Tank Podcast to talk about the #OurAmerica Campaign and American exceptionalism. They also take on a Center for American Progress study on reviving antitrust laws, pointing out where the report went wrong and suggesting real solutions to the perceived problems. Lastly, they discuss sin taxes, why they are unreliable and should be avoided. LISTEN TO MORE

Visit Heartland’s #OurAmerica page to find other memes to share and
ideas on how to promote our shared values

Early Bird Rates for Heartland’s 32nd Anniversary Benefit Dinner END SOON!
On Thursday, September 15, The Heartland Institute will celebrate its 32nd anniversary with a reception and dinner at The Cotillion, a fine banquet hall in Palatine, Illinois. Our keynote speaker will be political satirist and author P.J. O’Rourke, who will deliver an incisive and funny address about the 2016 election and the state of politics and culture in America today. Early bird rates end July 31 and seats will fill up fast, so don’t hesitate. Buy your tickets today! READ MORE

In Draft Platform, Democrats Bare Their Souls (and Teeth)
Tim Benson, Townhall
On June 25, 15 of progressivism’s greatest minds (and Cornel West), formally known as the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee, put their seal of approval on a document that will be presented at the party convention. It is a fantastic document, in the true sense of the word: fantasy. For instance, the committee unanimously agreed America should operate fossil-fuel-free in 34 years – about as realistic as planning to power the country entirely on pixie dust and unicorn flatulence. LEARN MORE

Massachusetts Is Latest State to Consider Single-Payer Health Care
Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary
As Massachusetts lawmakers continue to consider a statewide single-payer health care system, new research shows how improbable and expensive the plan would be. Bill Vernon, state director of the Massachusetts branch of the National Federation of Independent Business, explains the cost of health care will be guaranteed to rise under a single-payer system because demand naturally exceeds supply. This trend is seen all around the world as universal health care systems fail to provide needed care. LEARN MORE

Time to Stop Pretending Tests Equal School Accountability
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
Choice-oriented education reformers need to demonstrate why ceding all power to the technocrats is not just inefficient, but immoral and destructive of the real purpose of education. That real purpose, as our state constitutions and founding documents such as the Northwest Ordinance say openly, is securing to posterity the blessings of self-government. An American education ought to lead young men and women into mature discharge of their duties before God, family, and country. You’ll find no skills directly related to this on standardized tests because tests aren’t designed to measure this greater purpose. And that’s a major reason tests should no longer be allowed to drive American education. LEARN MORE

Bonus Podcast: Jay Lehr: The Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia
Are you looking for a comprehensive book that covers all major sources of energy, sorting out the myths and facts? Look no further. Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr joins the podcast to discuss the recently released Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia, of which he is editor. Lehr describes the shortcomings of wind and solar power and explains why the environmental left is so reluctant to embrace natural gas, hydro power, and nuclear power. LISTEN TO MORE

Cat Fight in North Carolina Over Health Care CON Law
Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report
A play called late in the game in the latest session of the North Carolina General Assembly presented lawmakers with a bizarre choice: adopt the bobcat as the official state cat, or adopt a vital health care reform proposal that would repeal the state’s certificate of need law (CON). Neither the bobcat designation nor repeal of the state’s CON law made it to the governor’s desk. Tar Heels likely will survive the first failure, but they will suffer under the second. LEARN MORE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Patrick Moore: Celebrate CO2

Somewhat Reasonable - July 14, 2016, 4:14 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and a leader in the international environmental field, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about how he ultimately broke with Greenpeace.

Dr. Moore forcefully rebuts Greenpeace’s arguments against GMO foods and in particular their harmful campaign against golden rice. He also addresses why he supports Resolute Forest Products in their case against Greenpeace, and taking on Greenpeace and other climate alarmists. Moore says we should celebrate rising carbon dioxide and that the worlds plants need more not less of it.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Truth About GMO Crops

Somewhat Reasonable - July 14, 2016, 2:08 PM

Under the assumption that your table is set with genetically modified foods, what does that mean, and should you be concerned for your health? On Wednesday, June 29, The Heartland Institute featured Julie Kelly, who has become one of the leading, non-scientists raising her voice in the sometimes contentious debate over the safety of this nation’s food system regarding GMOs.

Julie Kelly refers to herself as an “accidental activist.” Originally a stay-at-home mom with a background in political consulting, Kelly’s love for food led her to teaching cooking classes — which led her become displeased with how the food movement, usually on the left, was telling us what we should eat and shouldn’t eat.

Kelly gained national prominence after the Wall Street Journal in October 2014 published her op-ed that exposed the political activism of one of Americas most well-known celebrity chefs, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio. That moment launched her into a food fight of words — from GMOs, to the national school lunch program, to the national dietary guidelines. Since Kelly’s first WSJ op-ed, she has had four more published. Julie is also a featured contributor to both National Review Online and the Genetic Literary Project, a scientific-based website.

Guided by research, Kelly has become a staunch defender of American agriculture and biotechnology to improve the world’s food supply — fostered, in part, by her concern about the food her daughters were consuming, and to improve her cooking classes. As Kelly described the GMO controversy: It is not a science or an agricultural issue, but more of a political issue as dictated by environmental groups.   

What are GMOs?

Everything we eat has been modified over a period of time. None of our food is “natural,” not even kale, which is genetically derived from broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts. Specifically, a genetically modified (GM) is a plant developed through a process in which a copy of a desired gene or section of genetic material from one plant or organism is placed in another plant. The only GMOs commercially available in the U.S. are the following nine crops: soybeans, corn (field and sweet), papaya, potato, canola, cotton, alfalfa, summer squash, and sugar beets. (Sugar is the same whether it comes from cane or beets. The molecule doesn’t change. One half of the sugar we use comes from beets.) Kelly noted that the Hershey chocolate company is getting rid of GMO sugar from sugar beets to make the claim that its products are GMO free. Why? Because sugar beet farming is 100 percent GMO farming.

Just as important, Kelly said, is to know is what a GMO isn’t. It’s not an ingredient in the food we eat, which may be made using one or more of the eight common GM crops. Nor are GMOs the same as processed foods — which may contain one or more of the eight GM crops, or they can be made with organic or other non-GM ingredients.

Kelly acknowledged that within the last year a new promising form of gene-editing tool has been developed known as CRISPR/Cas9, which doesn’t involve using genes from other plant species. Instead, modification is achieved through the precise editing of an organism’s native genome. Food produced this way falls under the catgory of genome-edited crops(GECs). Some believe that genome editing is a more efficient and precise method of manipulating genes than the conventional GMO breeding methods we have used for millennia.

Magic of Genetics (GMOs)

Now that we know what GMOs are, why were the nine GMO commercially crops available in the U.S. created in the first place? It might surprise many to know that GMO crops were created to achieve a desired trait in order to better meet a customer’s needs. It is amazing what is happening in agriculture. Mitch Daniels is a great defender of GMOs. Consider the following to judge the value of GMO crops to the farmer through the use of genetically engineered seeds:

  1. Insect resistance crops.
  2. Drought resistance crops.
  3. Herbicide tolerance crops.
  4. Disease resistance crops. (It was through genetic modification the Hawaiian papaya industry was able to overcome the papaya ringspot virus, that had the potential to devastate that industry.)
  5. Increased and enhanced nutritional content. (Genetically modified soybeans with a healthier oil profile are used in a new, heart-healthy soybean oil.)

Transition from no prejudice to embracing safety of GMOs

Julie Kelly started her writing career without any prejudice at all — that is, until she observed the global battle over golden rice. This rice contains beta-carotene which helps fight Vitamin A deficiency in children and pregnant women. A battle also exists over the Vitamin A enriched sweet potato. Millions of pre-age school children around the world go blind for lack of Vitamin A. While there is no concern any longer in America about children not getting enough Vitamin A, why should Vitamin A be denied to children who desperately need it in countries like Africa?

Julie has unconditionally come to believe that GMOs are perfectly safe to consume. Her stance is supported by numerous scientific organizations. An exhaustive report from the National Academies of Sciences released on May 17, 2016, reports that genetically engineered crops are safe for humans and animals to eat, and have not caused increases in cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism or allergies. Consider also a letter signed by more than 100 scientists asking Greenpeace to end its smear campaign against GMOs: “We urge Greenpeace and their followers to examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with food and crops improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of relevant scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon its campaign against ‘genetically modified organisms’ in general and particularly against golden rice.”

Exploitation of Moms

As to why GMOs are maligned as being unsafe to consume, Julie attributes opposition to wealthy individuals and environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, who exploit mothers by convincing them that the food system is broken and expensive organic foods is the way to go. Fortunes have been made through exploitation of the truth.

Much of the opposition to consuming GMO crops has its basis in herbicides, specifically Roundup, a common commercial and industrial weed killer. Through genetic engineering, “Roundup Ready” crops have been developed to permit direct, “over the top” application of the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate found in Roundup to kill nearby weeds without killing the crops

Test have shown that Roundup can be safely used and does not cause cancer — and, besides, it is not sprayed all over the crops close to harvest. After all, farmers and their children eat their own food without concern. These facts don’t deter the fear mongers, however. The Internet is awash in articles condemning the use of Roundup.

 What about the push toward labeling food?

Don’t people have a right to know what is going into their food? Of course. But what if GMO labeling mandates have nothing to do with health, nutrition, or safety? Vermont was the first state to require labeling of any food containing GMO — with the exceptions of beer and cheese. Think about why that is, Kelly said.

There is also currently a move in the U.S. Senate to pass a GMO labeling bill, but a national solution will be difficult to achieve both consumer-wise and politically. The bill proposed by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. would allow food companies to choose between disclosing GMO status on the packages, on a QR code, or a call-in line — and it would also preempt state-level laws, such as Vermont’s. Labels would be required for a product “that contains genetic material,” which would exempt many ingredients derived from GMO crops that no longer contain “genetic material” after being processed. Julie stands squarely against the Senate bill.

In conclusion:

  • Our food system is safe and affordable.
  • The application of safe chemicals to our crops has replaced is labor to the point that only 2 percent of our population is involved in farming.
  • And moms: Stop worrying. Organic food is no safer than GMOs. It just costs more.

[Originally published at the Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Tax Hampton Roads to Pay for Metro

Somewhat Reasonable - July 14, 2016, 2:01 PM

Three cheers to the 11 Virginia General Assembly delegates who appropriately articulated to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that the newly created “Metro Safety Commission should not be used as a vehicle to propose or recommend a new dedicated funding stream or tax increase to support Metro.”

The lawmakers should be applauded for acknowledging the poor management and incompetency that plagues WMATA, the mass transit rail system serving areas of Maryland, Virginia and Washington. The delegates say the most logical solution to the transit system’s financial woes is for WMATA to “get [its] labor and operations costs under control.”

As simple as that solution may sound, the reality is WMATA is a complete mess, and radical reforms are needed to turn this situation around. The Washington Post reported in April on just some of WMATA’s failures over the past year, which included passengers getting sick, including one who died; smoke-filled tunnels; fires; and a derailment. Then, on March 16, “the entire subway was shut down for 24 hours for urgent safety repairs.”

As available statistics show, riders have taken notice of WMATA’s failures, and they have chosen to look elsewhere to fulfill their transportation needs. According to the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Metro ridership “is down by 5 percent since 2010 and continues to fall, even as the region’s population grows.” While the agency has largely deflected blame for the lag in numbers, in October, Metro did take note of the “frequency of severe delays” that affected its ridership volume.

The 11 delegates are absolutely correct to refuse to provide additional funding to this ineffectual transit system at the expense of Virginia’s taxpayers, especially when the few benefits WMATA offers applies only to a very limited segment of the commonwealth’s population.

In fiscal year 2016, the transportation budget allocated more than $314 million to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Fund, while Hampton Roads received approximately $168 million. Hampton Roads’ highways are so bad that in 2013, the Virginia Department of Transportation had to pay motorists for damage to their vehicles caused by potholes that suddenly appeared after a February storm.

Hampton Roads will need additional funds in the future to address other serious regional transportation issues, as more than one-fifth of its bridges are 50 years old or older. The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization reported in 2012 that “the region would need $8 billion over the next 25 years to keep up existing bridges.”

Metro already is receiving more than its fair share of state funding. As the 11 delegates opposing additional funding explained, the state already committed in 2007 to provide $50 million a year in capital funding for 10 years to help pay for much-needed Metro improvements, and in 2013, the General Assembly agreed to provide $300 million in state funds to help pay for the construction of Metro’s Silver Line. According to the letter penned by the 11 delegates, the commonwealth also “provides an annual operating subsidy to WMATA of about $100 million,” and it receives even more funding from Maryland and Washington taxpayers.

After scores of issues, underperformance and ineffective management, the General Assembly should not provide additional tax dollars to clean up Metro’s mess. Throwing more tax dollars at WMATA’s problems would only be putting a Band-Aid on the system; it wouldn’t fix the underlying issues that keep the agency from performing at an effective level.

WMATA and regional leaders should look at ways Metro can earn additional revenue for itself, rather than rely on handouts funded by many taxpayers who will never use the service they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars propping up.

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Biggest Impediment To Economic Advancement: Government

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 6:51 PM

The U.S. economy continues its Barack Obama Administration-long hobbled limp. President Obama will be our nations first to never, ever have even one year of 3% or higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

We are the United States of Anemia.

Why? Government. The private sector is under full-on governmental assault.

Just the federal government just last year taxed away more than $3.2 trillion. But it spent nearly $3.7 trillion, which means it borrowed the other $0.5 trillion – even more coin rendered unavailable for much better private sector use. And just federal regulations impose compliance costs of an additional $1.9 trillion.

That’s nearly $6 trillion per annum in just federal government impediment. More than one-third of our entire $17.4 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Then you add in the fifty state governments. And the 3,007 county governments. And the multitudinous city and town governments. And….

I can’t imagine why the economy isn’t roaring.

But one example of progress impediment? Governments’ (at all levels) opposition to the petroleum drilling technique known as fracking.

Federal Judge Blocks Major Fracking Rule, Calling It ‘Contrary To Law’: “U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Tuesday…(ruled) that the federal agency’s claim that it had ‘implicit’ congressional authority for the regulations ‘lacks common sense.’”

“Lacks common sense” is a very fair assessment – and not just legally. Where fracking has occurred – it has thrived on a monumental scale. (Hello, North Dakota.) And has been a fundamental component of the private sector’s fundamental transformation of not just the global oil market and the broader global economy – but geopolitics as well.

We’ve been searching for decades for a way to “end our dependence on foreign oil.” Fracking delivered it. Government didn’t deliver – it opposed the private sector doing so.

Meanwhile, what has government spent the last several decades doing to “end our dependence on foreign oil?” Wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on “green energy” (solar, wind, ethanol, etc). Which is neither green nor energy – and costs exponentially more than traditional energy sources.

Renewable Energy ‘Simply WON’T WORK’ (Say) Top Google Engineers: “Windmills, solar, tidal – all a ‘false hope’, say Stanford PhDs.”

Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’

The government isn’t picking winners and losers – it’s picking losers at the expense of winners.

“Green energy” can not exist to not-produce energy – without these massive government money infusions. Even consistently bizarre Europe is beginning to get reacquainted with this reality. And thus so too is their “green energy” “industry.”

Europe’s Green Energy Industry Faces Collapse As Subsidies Are Cut

Spain’s Green Energy Production Crippled Without Subsidy Crutch

Germany Votes To Abandon Most Green Energy Subsidies

The private sector delivers results – government delivers disasters.

So when, in the pursuit of Network Neutrality, the Obama Administration power-grabbed the entire Internet – serious flags should have been raised.

In fact many were. The Tech Sector’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and we free market Reality-lovers practically dislocated shoulders waving them. Warning that slamming the network with so many additional regulations (and prospective taxes) would make it much harder for the Internet’s incredible growth to continue.

Let us consider the wireless Web. Look on your cell phone – for the little letters “4G.” As in Fourth Generation – the current-most-advanced wireless network. For the last many years, wireless providers have spent lots of time and lots of money developing “5G” – the next generation, and a huge technological step forward. Much faster speeds – opening up to blossom theInternet of Things:

“(T)he network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.”

Verizon aims to roll out “5G” in 2017. AT&T says it will beat Verizon to the punch (you have to love private sector completion). Other providers are working to join them as rapidly as possible (you really have to love private sector completion).

But then the Obama Administration dropped its Net Neutrality anvil. Unlike Wile E. Coyote – they didn’t miss.

And with our arms in slings – we sadly, knowingly read this from across the Pond:

European Telecom Companies Deliver ‘5G Manifesto’ to Recommend Against Net Neutrality Regulation

“On July 7, a coalition of 20 telecom companies in the continent — including Vodafone, Telenor, Orange, Nokia, BT, Ericsson, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, and Hutchison — put together the ‘5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe.’…

“While the document is mostly used to outline the key advantages of 5G, its purpose serves to warn governments of the potential dangers of over-regulation of the open internet, essentially arguing against intervention.

“‘The telecom Industry warns that the current Net Neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC, create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment,’ the document states. ‘Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.’”

The Left bizarrely wants to make us more like Europe. Now, in many instances, we’re worse.

There is here already so much pre-Net Neutrality money and energy inertia behind our “5G” rollout – that we will get there.

But this government straightjacket absolutely jeopardizes the next, necessary, massive influxes of cash and attending effort necessary to fully form “5G” – and to create, develop and deliver whatever comes next.

Which won’t come next – because government got in the way.

As we warned. As Europe’s telecom companies are warning.

The Left, still, isn’t listening.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jay Lehr: The Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 3:55 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia.

Lehr discusses the myths and facts surrounding shale gas and renewable power sources. In this dicsussion, Lehr also covers hydro power and nuclear power.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog
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