By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil –
What is happening on our college campuses? Are college administrators going to wait until there is a terrible tragedy before taking aggressive, appropriate action to stop the inappropriate behavior of students who exhibit radical behavior and cross the line of what is acceptable and safe? Judging recent examples, there is reason to be concerned that some students, possibly some of whom are under the influence of outside radical groups, or some of whom may be negatively influenced by professors, might eventually allow their emotions to evolve into tragic actions.
The most recent example to illustrate the radical change on campuses occurred at California State University, Los Angeles on February 25, 2016. Ben Shapiro, who represents Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), was invited to speak at the school. Liberal students did not have to work hard to persuade CSULA President William Covino to cancel the event, because the President is a known leftist ideologue. Covino cancelled Shapiro’s opportunity to speak by claiming he wanted to provide an expanded venue with opposing speakers on the subject of censored speech and diversity issues. However, Covino did not offer any specifics as to a new date. Also suspicious was that the school had previously invited and allowed many controversial liberals to speak without any opposition voice.
Having learned that “Black Lives Matter” protesters were involved in the effort to keep Shapiro from speaking, and knowing there were students who worked hard to advertise and encourage attendance, Shapiro decided not to disappoint the students and decided to speak as scheduled.
Those involved in trying to keep Shapiro from expressing his viewpoints began plotting more aggressive ways to deny students from hearing his speech, including tactics such as:
- Bullying of students planning on attending.
- Physically intimidating those who did attend, including a female reporter trying to film the unruly crowd.
- Protestors barring attendees from entering the room in which Shapiro was speaking.
- Turning on the fire alarm to disrupt Shapiro’s speech for those who had found an alternate entrance into the room.
The school staff at CSULA certainly understood there would likely be a problem, yet police presence on the campus remained thin. The situation could have escalated into a much bigger problem which begs the questions: 1. Why didn’t the school administration foresee the potential of an aggressive assault that could easily have escalated into something far more serious. 2. Were the perpetrators disciplined? 3. Has the University president made this an example of what must not happen again on this campus? These are questions that deserve answers not just for the sake of impacted students but for the public as well.
Political correctness has become a problem
A bigger problem is that there is a growing number schools that are experiencing similar problems on their campuses. Yale University is an example. Members of the Black Student Alliance physically surrounded a school administrator to verbally attack him for, of all things, standing up for free speech. The conversation was not a friendly one, and the dangerous, angry confrontation was caught on film. Instead of the students being reprimanded and disciplined, a group of largely Black students confronted President Peter Salovey at his home with a set of demands claiming they did not feel safe, that the University needed to address racism at Yale, and demanded the resignation of the administrator they had attacked claiming that the statements made by President Salovey lacked sensitivity to Black concerns. This type of bullying of teachers, professors, and school administrators by Black groups is not unusual, and the intimidating students often end up getting their way.
The Virginia Tech Young Americans for Freedom were defunded over an immigration event at the school, due to the Student Budget Board taking issue with a flyer used to advertise the event. The flyer read, “Alien Invasion: How Illegal Immigration is Hurting America.” The board voted to defund the student chapter stating:
“The combination of language and imagery is offensive, insensitive and a blatant act of disrespect towards the immigrant community and the Virginia Tech community at large.” Supporters of the group responded “It is an outrageous effort on the part of these students to control speech to determine what is said and how it is said.”
To the universities credit, they reversed the decision and continued to fund the student group.
The University of California system considered adopting a policy that encouraged students to report “derogatory language reflecting stereotypes or prejudices.” Imagine, that! An attempt was made at the University level to ignore and/or deny our Constitution and First Amendment Right to free speech. Fortunately, enough people found that outrageous and complained to the Administration, who then reversed their decision.
A Penn State official ordered a group distributing pocket Constitutions to cease their efforts even though it was Constitution Day and they were in a campus designated “Safe Space”. Conservative students believe “Safe spaces” are a way for administrators to further isolate them from expressing their political views and/or messages.
American Sniper was cancelled at the University of Michigan after Muslim and Middle Eastern students complained the movie made them feel “uncomfortable.” Only after YAF Chairman Grant Strobel appeared on Fox News to explain what happened did the University announce the film would be shown as previously planned.
While these examples illustrate that political correctness has become a problem on our college campuses, it also indicates the administration on many campuses are willing to reconsider their poor decisions when confronted with facts and an opposing viewpoint. That makes it important for campus conservative groups to have a source that can guide them on the law and their rights.
Blackmail by students to achieve demands
However, other Universities have not had the courage to confront student groups who have resorted to blatant blackmail to achieve their demands. Consider students at the University of Missouri who decided President Tim Wolfe was not doing enough to satisfy their definition of what the University should be doing to stop racism. With the help of members of the Missouri football players, most of whom are Black and with the blessing of their team’s coach, they joined activist groups demanding the resignation of the University president, claiming if their demands were not met, they would refuse to play in the upcoming important football game. The football players joined the protest after a Black graduate student, Jonathan Butler, began a hunger strike one week earlier. Butler said the strike would either end with Wolfe leaving his post or Butler dying. In their letter of demands, student government leaders pointed to University officials remaining silent in the aftermath of Ferguson and claimed that exacerbated tensions on campus. Butler, the student who went on the hunger strike, echoed that sentiment. Canceling the game would have cost the university in excess of $1 million. Wolfe met the demands of the students and resigned so that he would not be responsible for any harm to the University. There are some who have compared this to the danger of and reason why America adopted the policy of never negotiating with terrorists – once one capitulates to a terrorist, the demands never stop.
Vox published an essay from a liberal professor who confessed that the zealotry of his own students frightened him. Salon published an article from a Black feminist film studies lecturer, describing her “disastrous” attempt to accommodate her students’ strangely aggressive emotional fragility. The one positive result of the students’ aggressiveness is that some academics on the left have finally awakened to the fact it was largely the liberal professors themselves who created the monster they are now currently experiencing. Many liberal professors have used the classroom to promote their liberal ideals which often are presented as White dominance and the suppression of Blacks. Did they expect that philosophy to help racial relations.
Can the genie be put back in the bottle?
It remains to be seen if professors will now dial back their classroom dialogues and instead promote positive concepts of respect for all people and thus begin to stress the proper way to facilitate positive changes. Certainly pitting one group against another and skewing the discussion to a specific liberal viewpoint is not the solution, as it has resulted in an unhealthy increase of racial tension on campuses. Thus, just when the nation elected a Black man and other Blacks were selected to the highest positions in our government, racism wormed its way back into our society. One could almost be persuaded to think it was deliberate. However, who would ever intentionally want and/or benefit from such an unhealthy scenario.
The public is awakening to the unfortunate changes college professors have introduced to students which have largely produced student behavior that is unacceptable by historical standards as well as common sense. It has spilled out into the general public and provided an increase in racism within the general public as well. The question now seems to be how does one put the genie back into the bottle? Our schools have nurtured and condoned “progressive” thinking for decades, and intentionally or not, it created increased tension between Blacks and White students. It has now reached a critical point that must be seriously addressed. Possibly before we see improvement, we must analyze the genesis of the problem. We must also discuss the best way to initiate fair, equitable, and positive changes in our University system that provide some basic, common sense recommendations for administrators and professors.
Our follow-up article will deal with some facts that will explore and might explain in part the reasons for changes we see in our schools and suggest recommendations as to how to create a more objective, balanced classroom and campus environment for all students. This is essential because college students are our future. What they are taught and learn today will be the direction of America tomorrow. This is one area we all must examine and get right for the sake of our children’s and grandchildren’s future.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Todd Myers, director of the environment program at the Washington Policy Center in Washington State, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his new paper showing the failure of “green schools” to be energy-efficient.
Myers discusses his new paper showing green schools and upgrades in North Carolina cost more to build and end up costing more for energy because they use more energy than promised. Myers’ research in school districts in Nevada, Texas, Washington State, Colorado and now North Carolina show the energy savings promised from building green is all hype and no substance.
In this episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Salisbury University associate professor of economics Dustin Chambers about a new paper published by the Mercatus Center, examining how federal regulations affect the prices of consumer goods, and consumers themselves.
Chambers explains how regulations act like a regressive tax, taxing people who earn less money more heavily than others, eating up more of their paychecks. Regulators and policymakers often claim that regulations are intended to protect the poorest and most vulnerable consumers, Chambers says, but the effects of regulations are most harmful to the poor because regulations drive up the cost of doing business, resulting in higher prices. By considering the cost of regulations and limiting the raw number of regulations the government is allowed to enact, Chambers says lawmakers can offer a form of “tax relief” by applying common sense to their decision-making processes.
At his February 16 press conference discussing the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the newly vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, President Barack Obama said, “The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now.” And so it is.
Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states the president “shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to … nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States … .”
Many pundits and legal scholars would like the American people to believe the “advice and consent” of the Senate is a mere formality, but that is simply not the case. This particular provision was intentionally included for the purpose of mitigating the power granted to the executive branch.
According to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 76, the Founding Fathers considered and rejected giving the president the sole power to appoint, determining consent from the U.S. Senate is vital for ensuring there exists an appropriate balance of powers. For those who argue the Senate’s role in the confirmation process is simply to act as a rubber stamp for the executive branch is to deny the arguments plainly asserted in Federalist No. 76 and in other writings produced by the very same people who helped to craft the Constitution.
There is no disputing the Founding Fathers believed the Senate ought to play an important role in the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice, but it is not clear whether the Senate will actually accept that role. A long history of Congress willingly choosing to give up its constitutional authority does not override the power, duties and responsibilities given to the Senate by the Constitution. The United States is at a crossroads, and Congress can no longer shirk its duties.
Over the past 100 years, the nation’s courts have been loaded with judges who believe the Constitution is a “living document” that can and should be reinterpreted with each new generation. Obama himself holds this view, and it is reasonable to assume any judge he chooses would hold that understanding of the Constitution as well.
This position not only contradicts the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, it undermines the very heart of good lawmaking: If words can mean anything to anyone at any time, then what good is a law?
Even if the next justice is an originalist, the country’s highest court will simply be back to the status quo, where one “swing justice” determines the meaning of seemingly plain constitutional provisions. This is unacceptable, which brings us to a second problem that must be addressed: Congress, not the Supreme Court, is really to blame for the United States’ present circumstances.
The Founders set up three branches of government to protect the liberty and rights of the people, but the three branches are not equal in all respects. InFederalist No. 51, Madison wrote, “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” To modern American eyes, this claim should sound quite shocking. Over the past seven years, the president and Supreme Court have reshaped many of the nation’s longest-held beliefs, and Congress has often been far too willing to kowtow to the power of the other two branches.
Our Founders never envisioned a national legislative branch that would ignore its vital role in the federal government. Hamilton even wrote inFederalist No. 78, “… the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution.”
In order to recover the individual liberties guaranteed to the people by the Constitution – as well as to protect those rights still remaining, if only by a thread – Congress must reassert its constitutional authority by again taking control of the power of the purse and its duty to ensure the president appoints justices who will uphold the Constitution, rather than destroy it. Until that happens, our rights will continue to be determined and ruled by an unelected committee of nine individuals.
Rest in peace Justice Antonin Scalia, a truly faithful servant to the Constitution and individual liberty. Now it is up to us to ensure his legacy lives on.
Bette Grande (email@example.com) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and a former representative of the 41st District in the North Dakota Legislature, serving from 1996 to 2014.
The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a personal tragedy for his loved ones and a loss for any and all who love liberty.
While Scalia’s time serving on the Supreme Court influenced a wide range of issues, his critical analyses and carefully crafted opinions on environmental issues had an outsized impact on environmental policy and law. Scalia’s vote was often the difference between protecting individual liberty against attempts to expand government power and rulings that would have imposed the misanthropic wishes of radical environmentalists on the public.
Scalia was not opposed to environmental protection, but he also didn’t believe the environment was a sacred cow that must be protected or promoted at the expense of other legitimate societal goals or, more importantly for Scalia, by ignoring the limits placed on government by the U.S. Constitution and the actual wording of environmental laws.
During his nearly three decades on the court, Scalia helped define and delimit the concept of standing in environmental cases; he made clear regulations or laws that reduce or destroy property rights or property values to protect environmental goals amount to takings, meriting compensation; and he established in many instances costs have to be considered when writing environmental rules.
In three important majority opinions, beginning with Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992), Scalia established strict limits on when environmental groups can claim standing to challenge or enforce environmental laws or regulations in court. “Standing” refers to whether the party bringing a lawsuit can show it is directly “injured” by the actions of another party. Establishing standing is a critical legal hurdle in environmental cases, and before Scalia’s Lujan decision, there was no definitive standard for how to establish standing in these cases.
Scalia’s deft and ultimately persuasive analysis of what it takes to establish standing put an end to federal courts simply assuming environmentalists were harmed when a law or statute wasn’t enforced in a way they said it should be.
Scalia proved to be a stalwart defender of property rights. In his opinion in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission (1987), Scalia wrote California had to compensate coastal property owners if it wished to force them to maintain pathways for the public to access beaches. In Lucas v. South Carolina Coast Council (1992), Scalia clarified and expanded the idea of a “regulatory taking,” which is a regulation that limits a property owner’s use of his or her property or diminishes the value of the property so severely, it amounts to a government taking, similar to an exercise of eminent domain to promote a public purpose, and therefore warrants compensation.
Writing for SCOTUS in Lucas, Scalia determined because a South Carolina law aimed at protecting barrier islands from erosion prevented a landowner from building houses on his property, it effectively rendered the property valueless, amounting to an unconstitutional taking.
A majority decision written by Scalia overturning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule in 2015 made it clear costs imposed by environmental regulations should be a consideration when determining whether rules are reasonable. In his majority decision in the MATS case, Scalia wrote, “EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants. … It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars of economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.”
If President Barack Obama fills the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Scalia’s death with a justice who promotes radical environmentalism, instead of defending individual liberty, the bulwark Scalia built up against overweening government regulations aimed at promoting some ideal of environmental purity will be eroded, and the nation will be much worse off for it.
Today, the United States remains on the edge of a regulatory abyss, and Scalia’s steady hand is no longer firmly on the tiller. I didn’t know Justice Scalia, but I mourn his death and will miss his presence on the nation’s most important court.
Let’s hope the individual who fills his seat will be as committed to the cause of liberty—secured by the Constitution, which establishes a federal government of extremely limited powers—as Scalia was.
Health Care News (HCN) Managing Editor Michael Hamilton joined Dave Elswick on radio row at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland
Broadcasting on The Answer 96.5 KHTE-FM, the two discussed what Elswick described as a “hot issue” for his listeners in Little Rock: Arkansas’s troubled Medicaid expansion.
Jump to minute 49:58, immediately after Elswick’s interview of Tax Pledge legend Grover Norquist.
Elswick could not have called on Heartland’s expertise at a better time. The forthcoming (April) issue of HCN features articles on the flawed theory and praxis of Medicaid expansion in half a dozen states, including Arkansas–via Nebraska.
HCN wrote on Nebraska’s fondness for pointing to Arkansas’s costly and unpredictable Medicaid expansion as a cautionary tale warning Cornhuskers against implementing the same expansion model.
The same print issue features an interview by Hamilton of Charlie Katebi, policy analyst at the Wyoming Liberty Group and Heartland policy advisor, in which Katebi explains why “nontraditional” models of expanding Medicaid, like Arkansas’s, don’t actually offer governors any flexibility to speak of when it comes to expanding their Medicaid programs.
Listen to the interview and head over to The Heartlander‘s Health Care News section to read health care policy free and clear.
Image via Thinkstock
In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the abundant supply of oil and gas that exists due to fracking and in the future, Shale rock development and methane hydrates.
Lehr argues we could have a 1000 year supply of fossil fuels. Lehr also explains why who owns the mineral rights makes a difference in when and to what extent oil and gas development takes place and how it also effects the environmental impacts from oil and gas production.
Separating reality from ideology and political agendas is difficult, but essential, if we are to revitalize our economy and help the world’s poorest families take their rightful places among Earth’s prosperous people. Energy reality is certainly in our favor. But ideological forces are powerful and persistent.
Right now, 82% of all US energy and 87% of world energy comes from oil, natural gas and coal. Less than 3% is non-hydroelectric renewable energy – and globally half of that is traditional biomass: wood, grass and animal dung that cause millions of respiratory infections and deaths every year. Thankfully, the transition to fossil fuels and electricity continues apace, replacing biomass and lifting billions out of abject poverty, with wind and solar meeting basic needs in remote areas until electricity grids arrive.
In the USA, hydraulic fracturing has taken petroleum production to its highest level since 1972, and oil imports to their lowest level since 1995. America now exports crude oil, natural gas and refined products.
The fracking genie cannot be put back in the bottle. In fact, it is being adopted all over the world, opening new shale oil and gas fields, prolonging the life of conventional fields, leaving less energy in the ground, and giving the world another century or more of abundant, reliable, affordable petroleum. That’s plenty of time to develop new energy technologies that actually work without mandates and enormous subsidies.
So much for the “peak oil” scare. Indeed, in some ways, the world’s current problem is too much oil.
In the face of this global abundance and tepid American, European, Chinese and world economies, Saudi Arabia has increased its oil production, to maintain market share and try to drive more US oil companies out of business. Oil prices have plummeted from $136 per barrel in 2008 to less than $35 or even $30 today. Natural gas has gone from $13.50 per million Btu in 2009 to $3 or less today.
Those low prices are saving families billions of dollars a year, and spurring investments in new US petrochemical and other manufacturing facilities. However, they have also cost thousands of oil patch jobs, left many energy companies near bankruptcy, and sent shockwaves through states and countries that depend on energy production and revenues for their tax base, government programs and public assistance. Prices will eventually rise again, but nowhere close to those record highs.
Amid this turmoil, as if to ensure more petroleum industry bankruptcies, President Obama wants to slap a $10.25 tax on every barrel of produced oil, and use the revenues to bolster his climate change and renewable energy agenda. Under her presidency, says Hillary Clinton, a ban on oil, gas and coal production from federal lands would be a “done deal” and the United States would have “at least 50% clean or carbon-free energy by 2050.”
Such policies would kill millions of jobs, torpedo the manufacturing renaissance, eliminate the assumed revenues by strangling the oil production that generates them, impact croplands and wildlife habitats, and prolong America’s economic doldrums. They would hammer poor, minority and blue-collar families, which spend much higher portions of their budgets on energy than do wealthy households.
Renewable energy schemes defy the laws of nature and economics. Government commands cannot make apples fall upward from Newton’s tree – or turn economic losers into success stories.
As a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study explains, without government mandates and massive taxpayer subsidies, “green” energy simply cannot compete with conventional fuels and power plants. Wind, solar and biofuel “alternatives” work only when traditional energy prices are extremely high – which in the absence of a major Middle East or global war is not likely to happen for some time.
Similarly, a brand-new University of Chicago study found that oil prices would have to top $350 a barrel before Tesla and other electric cars become cheaper to operate than gasoline-powered vehicles! That’s because battery and charging costs are $325 per kilowatt-hour for plug-in models. No wonder Americans bought only 116,099 electric cars in 2015 – out of a record 17,500,000 cars and light trucks sold – despite huge rebates, free charging stations and single-occupant access to express lanes for electric cars.
Nevertheless, renewable energy mandates have a lot going for them. They reward political cronies. They put unelected, unaccountable activists and bureaucrats in charge of our energy decisions and living standards. They redistribute wealth: from taxpayers to politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, wealthy investors, and workers and senior management in lucky greenback green industries and corporations.
By virtue of their wealth, political power, or employment by government agencies that operate under different rules than those they enforce on citizens and businesses, these chosen few are also shielded from the consequences of policies and decisions they impose on the rest of us.
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Tom Steyer, Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Elon Musk, EPA and DOE officials, and climate researchers who receive millions in taxpayer funding insist that manmade global warming threatens the world, and renewable energy is the solution. But for them to lecture us and dictate our livelihoods and living standards – while enjoying their mansions, yachts, limousines and jet-setter lifestyles – strikes many as hypocritical and intolerable.
Moreover, less developed countries signed the Paris treaty to get trillions of dollars in climate change “adaptation” and “compensation” funds; they have no intention of curbing their economic growth, fossil fuel use or CO2 emissions anytime soon. Non-elite Americans’ energy and economic sacrifices will thus bring no global benefits. It is also true that a then healthier oil industry generated the only economic and employment bright spots that (in conjunction with lies about Benghazi) got President Obama reelected.
But none of this is preventing the president from launching a final regulatory assault, to carve his policy agenda in stone, reward his allies, and pummel states and companies on his “enemies of nature” list. Nor does it prevent him from telling Africans to develop only to the extent enabled by “sustainable” wind, solar and biofuel energy because, if each of you “has got a car and a big house, the planet will boil over.”
While bridges and defense languish, he dedicates billions of dollars in his last budget for “clean” energy research, such as E. coli bacteria for next-generation biofuels; billions for climate cataclysm studies; and $2 billion for “vulnerable” Alaskan and Lower 48 communities “threatened” by oceans that are rising at barely seven inches per century. (He ignores the fact that Arctic warming and cooling cycles go back centuries, and scientists still cannot differentiate between natural and human factors in climate change.)
Mr. Obama wants his BLM, EPA, USFS, USFWS, BOEM, OSHA and other alphabet-soup agencies to implement dozens of costly but environmentally meaningless rules on energy production from federal lands. That will further cripple western state economies, just as his administration did to West Virginia.
Meanwhile, in another rubberstamp of heavy-handed government actions, the post-Scalia Supreme Court just ruled that EPA may continue forcing states and utility companies to spend billions of dollars trying to comply with coal-fired power plant rules, while lower courts spend years reviewing challenges to them.
And still erudite “experts” ponder why the US economy is stagnant. Here’s part of the answer: Crushing tax rates and an impenetrable Tax Code. Regulations that cost companies and families nearly $2 trillion a year. Bureaucrats who impose costly agendas with no accountability for blatant incompetence, outright fraud or intentional harm. Too many programs that reward people for not working, not looking for work, not finishing school, and having children they can’t care for with guys who can’t bother to be fathers.
The 2016 election year stakes are huge. Candidates need to end the insults, and start focusing on issues that matter, amid Mr. Obama’s ongoing efforts to “fundamentally transform” the United States. Voters need to ask tough questions – and demand to know exactly how candidates intend to “make America great again,” control the federal behemoth and pay for all these “essential” government programs.
President Barack Obama repeatedly pledged he would run the most transparent administration in the history of the United States during both of his presidential campaigns, but the evidence shows Obama’s administration has not only failed to meet that standard, it has actively worked to conceal important information from the public.
For instance, in March 2015, the Obama administration rescinded a regulation requiring the administration to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, thereby exempting itself from public scrutiny and oversight. So much for transparency.
The Obama administration’s action should not surprise anyone. An Associated Press investigation conducted in 2014 shows secrecy has increased dramatically under Obama’s time in office. In 2013, the Obama administration censored or denied 244,675 FOIA requests, which amounts to about 36% of the FOIA applications the administration received. This rejection rate is higher than under any previous presidential administration. Another 196,034 FOIA requests were denied because the government claimed it couldn’t find records or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper. In 2014, the figures were even worse. More than 250,000, or about 39%, of FOIA requests were either censored or denied. In 215,584 other instances, the government said the records could not be found or it decided the requests were unreasonable.
Secrecy on matters of environmental science
Memos and information related to national security deserve heightened scrutiny before being released—if they are released at all—but the Obama administration has concealed or denied the release of critical information not related to national security as well, such as the scientific information used to justify environmental regulations. Obama’s lack of transparency when it comes to environmental science makes it very difficult for independent researchers to review important data the government relies on to ensure environmental regulations are justified and based on sound science.
Multiple U.S. Senate reports have found Obama administration officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government environmental agencies have repeatedly attempted to avoid public input at meetings or have worked to limit scrutiny by hiding information that ought to have been made readily available, violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), widely known as the “open meetings law.”
EPA utilized a variety of techniques to hide information from the public. To avoid having the names of environmental lobbyists appear on agency visitor logs, EPA employees met them at nearby cafes, parks and at townhouses. After this practice became known, officials fought against disclosure in court, arguing the names and dates were immune to FOIA requests. In violation of official administration policies, EPA and environmental activists used personal email accounts, rather than work email accounts, to exchange ideas, develop regulations, and coordinate public relations and marketing plans to generate support for proposed agency regulations. Officials have also used FACA loopholes and FOIA exemptions to close more than 60% of committee meetings to the public.
Cases of unjustified secrecy
On March 2, 2015, Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blasted the Environmental Protection Agency for mishandling FOIA requests. Lamberth wrote, “Either EPA sought to evade … lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents, or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark’s request. Either scenario reflects poorly on EPA and surely serves to diminish the public’s trust in the agency.”
Another investigation found EPA vetoed a proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska before it had even conducted a scientific review, suggesting a political motivation behind the decision, rather than one based on environmental concerns. A string of emails from December 2010 show numerous EPA employees were working hand-in-hand with environmental lobbyists for years to prevent the mine from being approved. In one email, EPA’s Richard Parkin asks EPA attorney Cara Steiner-Riley, “Cara, in terms of the record for the decision making … are message chains such as this one, protectable from FOIA? should we be concerned with that?”
In 2015, The New York Times revealed EPA worked with non-government environmental groups to gin-up support for its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, a regulation giving EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers control over virtually all U.S. waters.
The Obama administration directed EPA to create broad public outreach campaigns to garner support for WOTUS, among other federal environmental regulations. EPA responded by developing a social media marketing campaign, created in conjunction with the Sierra Club and Organizing for Action. This violated three decades of Justice Department legal opinions saying federal agencies should not engage in substantial “grass roots” lobbying, which is defined as “communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, … intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a study in June 2015 that claimed Earth was not in the midst of a nearly two-decades-long hiatus in rising temperatures, contradicting the findings made by every other source of temperature data to date, including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This led U.S. House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) to open an oversight investigation to determine how NOAA attained its results. After NOAA refused requests made by Smith to have access to the data, work product, and emails exchanged between scientists that resulted in NOAA’s surprising result, Smith’s committee issued a subpoena to obtain the information.
Co-authored by Lennie Jarratt & Timothy Benson
The Network for Public Education (NPE), an anti-educational choice organization, released a new publication titled “Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card,” which, distressingly, many media outlets are reporting as an honest-to-goodness objective study, instead of the piece of subjective advocacy it truly is.
NPE’s report card is essentially a rating system that attempts to show how well each state is protecting public schools controlled by the state — the government-education complex. In an introduction to the report posted online, Carol Burris, national director for NPE, writes, “Our grades reflect the values that we believe in — stability in the teaching force, a rejection of high stakes testing, small class sizes, integrated schools, preschool education, a recognition that poverty matters and of course a sound rejection of charters, vouchers and other forms of privatization.”
One important category that’s missing from NPE’s list of criteria is students’ educational outcomes. NPE’s ratings reveal absolutely nothing about how students are performing; they were created solely for the purposes of blocking accountability, protecting jobs, increasing salaries and maintaining mediocre standards, all of which is the result of continued government control over the U.S. education system.
A major focus of NPE’s rankings is standardized testing. NPE heavily penalizes states who utilize testing to evaluate progress. If a state tests students to see if they are prepared for the next grade level, the state receives low marks. If a state tests students to see if they are ready for graduation, they receive low marks. If a state wants to hold a teacher or a school accountable for preparing its students, the state receives a low mark. In other words, the NPE report card seeks to ensure parents never know how poorly their children are being taught by protecting the teachers and schools from any accountability for failing to educate them properly.
A second significant focus of the report is the teachers themselves. The rankings reward states that highly value teachers with many years of experience. This is a huge mistake, however, because numerous studies show the amount of time a teacher spends in the classroom is the least effective indicator of how well that educator helps students learn. The most effective indicator is a teacher’s mastery of his or her subject, but NPE’s rankings do not take into account a teacher’s knowledge of the subject matter. It instead relies on certification requirements, university preparedness and seniority to evaluate teachers. These requirements create a semi-closed system by creating costly and time-consuming hoops to jump through. This restrictive system prevents many with subject-matter expertise from entering the classroom and creates a barrier to teacher diversity in the classroom.
A third major factor in NPE’s ratings system is a state’s “resistance to privatization.” NPE praises states that work to restrict educational choice for parents and gives low marks to states that embrace parent-empowering choice programs, such as vouchers and education savings accounts. This ignores the overwhelming evidence supporting the claim school vouchers, education tax credits and education savings accounts have helped thousands of impoverished students escape from the underserved and failing public schools they were once forced to attend.
NPE’s fatal conceit is the same fatal conceit of all those who place their trust in bureaucrats and faraway “experts” over the needs and concerns of the people they purportedly try to serve. As Adam Smith described, “[They] seem to imagine that [they] can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces on the chessboard.”
If NPE truly wants to improve the U.S. education system, it should support expanding the availability of educational choice programs nationwide. Not only would this be good for children, it would also be beneficial for the nation’s public schools, which would be compelled to find ways to step up their game. The goal should be to allow every parent to choose, require every school — public, private or charter — to compete, and to give every child an opportunity to attend a quality school.
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $40 million grant to Southern Co., which co-owns and operates six nuclear reactors facilities in Alabama and Georgia, to develop Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs). The full $40 million is not guaranteed but rather will be paid out over time if DOE is satisfied with the project’s progress at various stages. In an MSR, the nuclear fuel is immediately dissolved in salt and continuously circulated, creating non-stop fission. In contrast to conventional nuclear reactors, which use only about 3 percent of the nuclear fuel, MSRs use almost all of the nuclear material, producing far less spent nuclear fuel. The spent material left over from an MSR is substantially less radioactive than conventional spent nuclear fuel, requiring safe storage for only a few hundred rather than 10,000 years. MSRs have an additional characteristic that promises to prevent Fukushima-style incidents, since the salt in which the fuel is mixed keeps it cool even if the reactor shuts down.
Erich Schneider, an associate professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers with whom he collaborates, say the safety characteristics of MSRs make them considerably less expensive to build than conventional reactors, resulting in electric power produced at lower costs than even natural gas- fired power. Schneider foresees a day when MSRs would replace natural gas as the dominant partner of variable, intermittent, renewable sources of electricity like wind and solar power, cutting carbon dioxide emissions to near zero from electric power operations.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is expanding the scope of his investigation into NOAA’s research claiming there has been no hiatus in warming temperatures. He cited the “slow pace and limited scope” of NOAA’s response to the committee’s October 2015 subpoena for documents related to that research. NOAA has provided more than 300 pages of e-mails and other documents produced by political appointees and by NOAA’s director of communications, but the agency refuses to hand over records of its internal scientific deliberations.
In his letter notifying NOAA of the expanded probe Smith writes, “The speed with which NOAA has conducted these searches and produced documents creates the perception that the Agency is deliberately attempting to impede and hinder the Committee’s oversight.” Originally focused on whether NOAA’s research satisfies the high standards required by the 2001 Data Quality Act to “ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information, including statistical information,” the House committee probe now asks to what extent, if any, the Obama administration and NOAA are collaborating to manipulate research in order to push the political agenda of fighting climate change.
NOAA issued a press release touting its “no pause” finding just as EPA launched its controversial Clean Power Plan and as the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris was looming. Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA about the substance or timing of the study and press statements prior to issuing them? Smith hopes to find out.
“It’s perfectly reasonable for the committee to have oversight over any sort of political influence over the science,” the journal Nature quotes Michael Halpern, program manager for the UCS Center for Science and Democracy, as saying.
Few outside of Alphabet-Google understand the immense market, economic, and technological power of an unaccountable monopoly over the underlying software that controls most all mobile devices in the world. Fortunately EU antitrust enforcers are some of the few who understand it.
Android, Alphabet-Google’s licensable mobile operating system, is an apparent EU/global monopoly facing an apparent EU antitrust case in its future.
This analysis explains why Android is a monopoly for antitrust purposes; what the crux of the Android antitrust case is; and why such a case would enjoy a uniquely solid foundation.
This matter is especially timely and relevant because the EU’s Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager is apparently on path to formally rule that Google’s “general online search services” are dominant and that Google Shopping has abused its search dominance. She is also expected to issue a formal EU Statement of Objections against Google-Android for anticompetitively foreclosing mobile OS competition and for tying/bundling its dominant search-related apps with its Android operating system to further foreclose competition in additional markets.
I. How is Android a monopoly for antitrust purposes?
Android, with a unique >1.5 billion monthly active users, is the only viable licensable mobile operating system globally, uniquely licensed by a critical mass of 400 OEMs, >550 carriers, and ~4,000 distinct devices — per Google.
In addition, Google commands the world’s leading browser-based operating system, Chrome, with >1 billion users and 57% market share globally, which is 3.5 times the share of the next competitor, Microsoft Explorer, per StatCounter. Google plans to consolidate Chrome with Android in 2016 per the WSJ.
What about Apple iOS?
For antitrust purposes, iOS is not a competitor to Android because iOS is an exclusive proprietary software operating system that cannot be licensed to any OEM like Android can. This licensable OS market definition is essentially settled antitrust precedent in both the EU and U.S. final rulings in the Microsoft OS antitrust cases: Microsoft v. Commission and United States v. Microsoft Corp.. Both cases found Microsoft guilty of abusing its Windows OS monopoly by contractually tying its free Explorer browser to its Windows OS to kill the first-mover browser, Netscape.
Given Apple’s iOS is not a competitor for antitrust purposes, Gartner stats per Statista show Google commands ~97% market share of 2015 global smartphone shipments, a monopoly position by most reasonable measure.
What about Microsoft?
In writing off its signature mobile acquisition, Nokia, Microsoft tacitly acknowledged defeat in mobile, and since has strategically pivoted away from being a “mobile-first” company to being a cloud-first enterprise company. Tellingly, Microsoft is folding its separate mobile OS functionality into its flagship Windows 10 OS.
Confirming that Microsoft and other potential mobile OS competitors are not significant competitors to the de facto Android mobile OS monopoly, Facebook-WhatsApp announced in a blog post that by the end of 2016, WhatsApp Messenger would “focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use.” Thus it would no longer support the OSs of Nokia, Blackberry or Windows Phone 7.1. This is real world evidence that other mobile operating systems cannot offer developers enough user audience or app store distribution to be worth developers’ time.
Android is an apparent monopoly mobile operating system in the EU and globally.
II. The crux of the apparent Androidopoly antitrust case
Google, in contractually tying all its search-related apps (Search, Chrome, YouTube, Maps, Play, etc.) to its free Android mobile OS, not only has foreclosed competition in the mobile OS market, but also foreclosed competition in the mobile markets for “general online search services,” advertising services, metadata analytics, browsers, app monetization, maps/location services, video distribution, among others.
Specifically, Google is de facto cornering multiple digital and metadata markets simultaneously, by contractually forcing most all global OEMs, carriers, and devices to default to Google’s already 90+% share of the “general online search services” market, and also to Google’s other market-leading, search-driven and metadata-generating, advertising apps: Chrome, YouTube, Maps, Play, Gmail, Drive, etc. — so Google’s products and services are guaranteed to be positioned most advantageously on the home screens of most all of the world’s smartphones and tablets.
This tying/bundling strategy is highly effective because it exploits Google’s unique inside knowledge of global Internet user behavior, i.e. Google is confident Internet users will automatically acquiesce >90% of the time to any new automatic, Google-forced, default change or setting — with or without an opt-out. Absent antitrust accountability, Google can do whatever it wants with Android and its apps.
The problems/harms from Google’s leveraging its dominance in “general online search services” into the mobile OS market and further into the markets for the underlying Internet utility functions of access to: online information, apps, advertising, data/metadata monetization, computing, storage, etc. – are unprecedented in their scale, scope and reach.
The common harm to consumer welfare and innovation from Google’s anticompetitive behavior — in the EU’s charges involving “general online search services,” and the EU’s formalinvestigation into “mobile operating systems, [and] mobile communication applications and services” — is foreclosing competition, user competitive choice, and competitive innovation, by hindering the development and market access of rival products and services by systematically favoring Google’s products and services over rivals products and services.
III. Why an EU-Android antitrust case would enjoy a uniquely solid foundation
A potential EU Android case would greatly benefit from three unique and powerfully supportive circumstances.
First, assuming the EU as expected formally rules Google Search to be dominant and that it abused its search dominance in Google Shopping, an Android case that at least in part charges that Google contractually tied its dominant search apps to Android to extend its desktop ~90% search dominance into ~90% mobile search market share — then would not have to re-prove the most difficult part of the case, the market definitions and the findings of dominance, but only the abuses of dominance part, which relatively is a much easier task.
Second, it is unprecedented that Google has effectively repeated the violations of what another high-profile company did over the last twenty years that was proven illegal in both the EU and U.S.
While there are precious few antitrust precedents overall, the biggest, most-relevant, antitrust precedent that the EU does enjoy — fits much of Google’s illegal Android behavior almost like a glove.
EU antitrust enforcers are very familiar with how anticompetitive it is for a dominant operating system to tie a product to extend its dominance into an adjacent market, because of what Microsoft did in snuffing out Netscape by bundling its free Internet Explorer browser with its paid dominant Windows OS in the late 1990s.
While Google’s sequence was different in tying its dominant search capability to its free Android OS, the anticompetitive effect was the same in extending its dominance from one market to another. And that extended Android OS dominance affords Google the market power to dominate additional strategic markets like browsers, maps/location services, advertising, etc.
Third, an impetus that adds urgency and gravity to a potential Android antitrust case is that Google is now poised to eerily repeat the core offense of the Microsoft case. Google’s current plans to integrate/bundle its Android OS with its Chrome browser-based OS is a potential eerie replay of Microsoft illegally-bundling a dominant operating system with a browser, this time with a monopoly Google-Android mobile operating system bundled with a world-leading browser commanding a fast-growing 57% share that is on path to ~80-90% global market share in relatively short order — given the effectiveness of Android’s contractual tying behavior to date.
Google claims technology and innovation are inherently “disruptive” and dismiss complainants as those who can’t keep up and thus deserve no redress. This is a classic self-serving, straw man argument.
The illegal behaviors that Google has already been charged with, and will likely be charged with again in the future, are not a result of technology or innovation, but of Google leaders deciding to override their technology and manipulate their algorithms to favor Google content over rivals content, because they could, and by deciding to negotiate hundreds of Android-OEM contracts to systematically tie/bundle their dominant search services and apps to override market forces and favor Google apps over rivals apps on smartphones’ home screens, because they could.
Via search and Android, Google at core is an intermediary/broker between most everyone and most everything on the Internet. And Google established their intermediary dominance by consistently promising that they worked for user interests and that they never would manipulate search rankings for profit.
Damningly, the EU is enforcing antitrust law against Google because Google has not acted as the ‘honest broker’ that they have publicly represented themselves to be to gain user trust globally, but in actuality have acted systematically as a biased-broker, which non-transparently and monopolistically favors its own products and services over rivals’ offerings in a way that forecloses competitive choice and innovation.
Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.
Co-authored by Paul Driessen and Mark Duchamp
Environmentalists say navy sonar hurts whales, but ignore impacts of offshore wind farms
Between January 9 and February 4 this year, 29 sperm whales got stranded and died on English, German and Dutch beaches. Environmentalists and the news media offered multiple explanations – except the most obvious and likely one: offshore wind farms.
Indeed, that area has the world’s biggest concentration of offshore wind turbines, and there is ample evidence that their acoustic pollution can interfere with whale communication and navigation.
However, Britain’s Guardian looked for answers everywhere but in the right place. That’s not surprising, as it tends to support wind energy no matter the cost to people or the environment. After consulting with a marine environmental group, the paper concluded: “The North Sea acts as a trap.… It’s virtually impossible for [whales] to find their way out through the narrow English Channel.”
No it’s not. These intelligent animals would naturally have found their way to and through the Channel by simply following the coast of England or continental Europe. But the author seems determined to pursue his “explanation,” even when it becomes increasingly illogical. “The [trapped] whales become dehydrated because they obtain their water from squid,” he argues, before acknowledging that “the dead Dutch and German animals were well-fed,” and that the North Sea’s squid population has increased in recent years.
The article discards Royal Navy sonar and explosives, because “big naval exercises in UK waters are unusual in midwinter.” Finally, the author concludes with this quote from his purported expert: “When there’s a mass stranding, it’s always wise to look at possible human effects. But, at the moment, I don’t see anything pointing in that direction.” He should look a bit harder. Not everyone is so blind.
Indeed, “researchers at the University of St. Andrews have found that the noise made by offshore wind farms can interfere with a whale’s sonar, and can in tragic cases see them driven onto beaches where they often die,” a UK Daily Mail article observed.
It is certainly possible that permanent damage to the cetaceans’ middle and inner ears, and thus to their built-in sonar, can result from large air guns used during seismic surveys and from violent bursts of noise associated with pilings being rammed into the rock bed. Wind promoters themselves admit that their pile-driving can be heard up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) underwater, and can be harmful to whales that happen to be nearby. But unless these injuries cause external bleeding, they are very difficult to detect.
Natural phenomena such as seaquakes, underwater volcanic eruptions and meteorites crashing into the oceans have likely been the cause of whale beachings throughout history, by injuring the animals’ inner ears and sonar organs, frightening and disorienting them, and causing them to seek refuge in shallow waters. In more recent years, “military exercises using mid-frequency sonar have been linked quite clearly to the disorientation and death of beaked whales,” says The Guardian.
Low frequency sonar can be even more dangerous, the Natural Resource Defense Council asserts. “Some systems operate at more than 235 decibels,” the NRDC has said, “producing sound waves that can travel across tens or even hundreds of miles of ocean. During testing off the California coast, noise from the Navy’s main low-frequency sonar system was detected across the breadth of the northern Pacific Ocean.”
The U.S. Navy itself has recognized the danger that sonar systems represent for marine mammals. As reported in Science magazine: “In a landmark study, the U.S. Navy has concluded that it killed at least six whales in an accident involving common ship-based sonar. The finding, announced late last month by the Navy and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), may complicate Navy plans to field a powerful new sonar system designed to detect enemy submarines at long distances,” despite how important that system and its submarine and surface ship counterparts are for national security.
It has been said the “low-frequency active sonar” from this system would be the loudest sound ever put into the seas, The Guardian states. But wind turbines also emit low frequency noise, including dangerous infrasound. At sea, these vibrations are transmitted via the masts to the water, and via the pilings to the rock bed. They can travel up to 31 miles (50 kilometers).
Granted, the acoustic pollution caused by sonar – particularly powerful navy systems – is greater than that from wind turbines. But wind turbine noise and infrasound are nearly constant, last as long as the turbines are in place and come from multiple directions, as in the areas where the whales were recently stranded.
On land, although the wind industry continues to deny any culpability, evidence is mounting that low frequency and particularly infrasound waves emitted by wind turbines have significant adverse effects on local residents, including sleep deprivation, headaches, tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rates) and a dozen other ailments. Underwater, a milieu where sound waves travel much farther, it would be irresponsible and unscientific to argue that whales are not affected by operating wind turbines, all the more because cetaceans use their sonar to “see” what’s around them
As scientists have pointed out, “It is likely that acoustic masking by anthropogenic sounds is having an increasingly prevalent impact on animals’ access to acoustic information that is essential for communication and other important activities, such as navigation and prey/predator detection.”
“Blinded” by this masking, whales and dolphins could seek refuge in shallow waters, away from big ships and killer whales. There, low tides could surprise them, as large pelagic species have limited experience with tidal flows.
In September 2012, 19 pilot whales, a minke whale and a large sei whale beached on the coast of Scotland opposite an area where air guns were being used by ships surveying the ocean floor, as a prelude to installing offshore wind farms. “A second pod of 24 pilot whales was spotted in shallow water by Cellardyke around the same time, but [it] returned to sea without beaching,” the article noted.
Offshore turbines were also associated with “many” stillborn baby seals washing up onshore near the UK’s Scroby Sands wind farm in June 2005. “It’s hard not to conclude the wind farm is responsible,” the author concluded.
Many more similar deaths may well have been caused by wind farms at sea. The scientific and environmental literature abounds in warnings about risks to marine mammals from man-made noise.
Modern 8-megawatt offshore turbines are 656 feet (200 meters) above the waves; their rotating blades sweep across a 538-foot (164-meter) diameter. Those enormous blades create powerful pulsating infrasound and exact a toll on many species of marine birds, and even on bats that are attracted to the turbines as far as 9 miles (14 km) offshore.
In a February 2005 letter, the Massachusetts Audubon Society estimated that the proposed Cape Cod wind project alone would kill up to 6,600 marine birds each year, including the roseate tern, which is on the endangered list.
Do we really want to add marine mammals to the slaughter of birds and bats, by expanding this intermittent, harmful, enormously expensive and heavily subsidized energy source in marine habitats?
In addition, having forests of these enormous turbines off our coasts will greatly increase the risk of collisions for surface vessels, especially in storms or dense fog, as well as for submarines. It will also impair radar and sonar detection of hostile ships and low-flying aircraft, including potential terrorists, and make coastal waters more dangerous for Coast Guard helicopters and other rescue operations.
The offshore wind industry makes no sense from an economic, environmental, defense or shipping perspective. To exempt these enormous installations from endangered species and other laws that are applied with a heavy hand to all other industries – and even to the U.S. and Royal Navy – is irresponsible, and even criminal.
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. Mark Duchamp is president of Save the Eagles International.
Uncle Sam is becoming “Uncle Shrink” to millions of schoolchildren, including many preschoolers, who are now subject to various psychology-focused educational components that have been implanted in federal education legislation over the past decade.
One of the most influential ways the federal government is molding young minds is through “social and emotional learning” (SEL) programs, a prominent feature of the omnibus Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015.
SEL has no clear definition in federal law, but many education sites tout SEL as instilling in students the necessary attitudes and skills that will supposedly enable them to manage their emotions, which in turn theoretically helps them do good things, such as showing empathy for others.
Very much in the same vein is the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA), which is currently being considered by Congress and will likely be passed soon. SETRA is a reauthorization of a George W. Bush-era law that extended the U.S. Education Department’s research arm into the collection of personal data about students and also authorized the use of linked state longitudinal databases.
Proceeding so far with minimal debate in Washington, DC, SETRA would expand federal education research to pupils’ “social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively.”
This kind of subjective probing of children’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior amounts to psychological profiling that (thanks to electronic dossiers) could haunt an individual throughout a lifetime.
Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician who has tracked this trend for years as the president of Education Liberty Watch, laments, “Parents are expected to submit their children to this kind of government profiling and psychological experimentation with no explanation, no way to express concern, [and no way to] opt their children out.”
Effrem also says SETRA is incredibly problematic because parents are afforded “no way to see the federally mandated assessments or to find out what private, sensitive psychological data was collected on their children as part of some online assessment and shared with some third-party vendor without their consent.”
Starting with the 2016–17 school year, the exploration of what education theorists call “the affective domain”—meaning feelings and emotions, as opposed to actual thought—will spread to the fairly well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the Nation’s Report Card. A background survey accompanying NAEP will attempt to assess a child’s grit and motivation, among other qualities.
If the late John Wayne showed “true grit” in his Western movies—grit being perseverance in pursuit of a goal—how in tarnation does a student exhibit that trait by filling out a federal form? The kid may be tired, he may be sick, or he might just be sick and tired of being psychoanalyzed by proxy, but his facetious answers will rank him low on the Grit-o-Meter, and if that nugget pops up some day from a database, it might cost him a job.
Parents and educators concerned about ESSA, the successor to No Child Left Behind and the latest version of the mammoth Elementary and Secondary Education Act, should watch carefully for a big push by some to advance federal preschool programs now that a $250 million program of competitive grants for state pre-K initiatives has been made permanent in federal law. This will bolster the Obama administration’s latest version of Race to the Top, the Early Learning Challenge—also known as “Baby Common Core”—which encourages the socio-emotional assessment of preschoolers.
The proposals made by two states that are eagerly seeking their cuts of the loot indicate where all this is heading: “California will offer additional provider training in assessing social-emotional learning and ensure greater access to developmental and behavioral screenings. … [Minnesota’s] existing birth-to-five child development standards will be aligned with K–12 standards, which will [be] expanded to include non-academic developmental domains for children ages five to 12,” according to a summary by the federally supported Early Learning Challenge Collaborative.
ESSA also calls for an extensive “family engagement policy,” which, according to a recent policy draft by the U.S. Departments of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, will begin prenatally and continue “throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences.”
Along the way, say the bureaucratic behemoths, the government must “prioritize engagement around children’s social-emotional and behavioral health.”
In plain language, this means the government will assess children every single step (or crawl) of the way, from cradle to career, to be certain they acquire all the attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions the omniscient, omnipotent government deems they must have. SEL, baby, SEL.
Uncle Shrink approves, but what about U.S. parents? Are they ready to let the government assume their child-rearing responsibilities?
In 1952, the Council of State Governments reported that less than 5 percent of U.S. workers were required to be licensed to legally perform their jobs. Economists Morris M. Kleiner and Alan B. Krueger put that number at 29 percent in 2008 — a nearly 500 percent increase in American workers licensed over the last half century.
Advocates of occupational licensure argue that it protects the public interest by excluding incompetent and unethical individuals from sensitive jobs. This is certainly the case in some fields, such as health care — but in general, research reveals weak evidence that licensure confers a tangible benefit on public safety or the overall quality of services provided to consumers. What it mainly does is increase costs: Kleiner estimates that licensing increases prices 5 to 33 percent, depending on the occupation and geographic location.
Deregulation, however, has faced strenuous political opposition. In an article last year, economists Robert J. Thornton and Edward J. Timmons investigated the phenomenon of “de-licensing.” Examining 40 years’ worth of records, the authors found only eight examples of this phenomenon at the state level, and in four of those cases, efforts to re-license the occupations followed soon afterward.
Given the political difficulty of removing licensure requirements, more modest state-level policy proposals are more likely to succeed. For example, states could shift from licensure to state certification, which is less restrictive.
Here are some other options for state policymakers:
Use cost-benefit analysis before requiring licenses in newly emerging occupations. Implicit in this approach is a high barrier to licensure. Lawmakers should start with an assumption of no regulation.
Coordinate with other states. The Council of State Governments, for example, could be effective in coordinating efforts to harmonize requirements across the states and develop interstate compacts for licensure reciprocity.
Reassess the scope of practice among existing regulated occupations. While so-called “turf wars” among occupations can be intense, a public airing of such concerns can often result in increased competition and innovation. For example, the present environment allows consumers a choice among various licensed mental health providers offering similar (but differentiated) services at a range of hourly rates.
While increasing labor mobility and consumer choice, reducing barriers to entry, and improving the climate for service innovation are all laudable goals, more modest, targeted attempts at reform will be easier to achieve and should be considered a major policy success.
Looking backwards makes it hard to see what’s right in front of you.
Looking backwards at 1934-era Title II telephone utility law, the FCC concluded in its 2015 Open Internet Order that only broadband providers could be “gatekeepers” warranting net neutrality regulation to “protect and promote the “virtuous cycle” that drives innovation and investment on the Internet.”
That’s because the FCC is apparently oblivious to the very different 21st century communications “gatekeepers” right in front of them that command dramatically more potential “gatekeeper” market power than any broadband provider.
The FCC should listen to what one 21st century communications provider, which commands well over a billion social and communications users globally, has to say about the dominance of edge platforms.
Facebook-WhatsApp blogged last week, and stated that after 2016 it will no longer support the competitive mobile operating systems from Nokia, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7.1, in order “to focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use.”
Tellingly, Statista’s reporting of this, spotlighted the reality of Facebook-WhatsApp’s decision:
“WhatsApp’s plan to focus on fewer platforms is the latest of many signs pointing in the same direction: the mobile platform war is over and there are two big winners. Last year, Android [81.6% share] and [Apple] iOS devices [15.9% share] accounted for 97.5 percent of global smartphone sales, up from just 38 percent in 2010. As Android and iOS gobbled up market share, all other platforms have sooner or later been caught in the same vicious circle: publishers and app developers prefer platforms with large audiences and users choose platforms based on the availability of their favorite apps. Once the users jump ship, app developers soon follow and vice versa.” [Bold added for emphasis and to contrast the FCC’s assumption that there can be an edge “virtuous cycle,” if gatekeepers must be neutral.]
Mobile operating systems may be the ultimate, non-neutral, Internet network gatekeepers. They control if their preferred content and apps are used by default or positioned best on a device homepage for maximal adoption. They also can block images; block apps from loading; throttle display advertising traffic from loading; offer mobile content fast lanes; or engage in paid prioritization to favor their preferred content.
Facebook-WhatsApp and Statista are not the only ones capable of seeing that edge platforms can be dominant gatekeepers.
Widely respected Silicon Valley insider Om Malik triggered the discussion of the dominance of edge platforms with a blunt, must read, year-end, New Yorker op-ed entitled: In Silicon Valley Now, its Almost Always Winner Takes All, in which he concluded “most competition in Silicon Valley now heads toward there being one monopolistic winner.”
Then the New York Times technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, strongly confirmed Mr. Malik’s overall assessment in his column, “Tech’s Frightful Five Will Dominate Digital Life for Forseeable Future,” in which he concludes the five “inescapable” platforms are Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, and which represent “the basic building blocks on which every other business, even would be competitors, depend.”
If the FCC would only look forward to what is happening right in front of them, the FCC could see that they have been totally ignoring the gatekeeper risks of the dominant edge communications platforms, which are vastly greater in both horizontal and vertical market power.
Since Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, generally command ~billion+ user, global scale and scope, compared to broadband providers’ more limited national or regional scale and scope, of at most ~125 million users, the dominant edge platforms thus command ~10-25 times more users than broadband providers.
However, that understates their relative dominance, because of the well-known ‘network effects’ of Metcalfe’s Law. It posits that the “value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2).” Thus the network-effect value-differential of the global dominant edge platforms relative to national broadband providers is ~102 to ~252 times more, or a staggering ~100 to ~625 times more relative horizontal market power.
Moreover, while the FCC and DOJ have held broadband providers to a ~33% horizontal market share limit in blocking AT&T-T-Mobile and Comcast-TWC, and threatening to block Sprint-T-Mobile, the FCC, DOJ and FTC have routinely ignored transactions and non-neutral network behavior by dominant edge providers, which command vastly more problematic, 75-90+%, horizontal market shares.
And since the FCC predicates much of its net neutrality policy on the notion that vertically-integrated “gatekeepers” have a commercial incentive to not be neutral, it is arbitrary and hypocritical that the FCC has no concerns about obvious non-neutral behavior by the two dominant and maximally-vertically-integrated smartphone OS providers, Android and Apple, which command 81.6% and 15.9% global market share respectively.
If the main antitrust case of the last two decades was Microsoft’s anticompetitive abuse of its operating system market power, why is the FCC willfully blind about the threats to an Open Internet from non-neutral, dominant edge mobile operating system platforms?
Given that the FCC has produced an arbitrary Open Internet Order that regulates ISPupstream traffic as a Title II utility, but nonsensically leaves unregulated the alleged “terminating monopoly” downstream traffic to the ISP, it should be no surprise that, the FCC arbitrarily would over-regulate competitive broadband providers as non-neutral gatekeepers based on scant evidence of a problem, while turning a total blind eye to obviously-dominantedge platform gatekeepers who routinely operate vastly larger Internet networks non-neutrally.
To paraphrase the great American philosopher, Forest Gump: Arbitrary is as arbitrary does.
Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, a research consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.
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.Help Us Fix Wikipedia Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Are you surprised to read on Wikipedia that The Heartland Institute is an unreliable front group for major corporations and that it is “best known” for its work on tobacco control? That surprised us, too. Left-wing activists have taken over Heartland’s Wikipedia page, removing objective descriptions of our programs and publications and replacing them with lies, errors, and outright libelous claims. Heartland’s Wikipedia page should reflect the fact that the organization has consistently supported sound science and free-markets. Can you help? READ MORE Government Science Secrecy Grows Under President Obama H. Sterling Burnett, Forbes Do you remember when candidate Barack Obama repeatedly pledged he would run the most transparent administration in the history of the United States? Fast-forward to today and find President Obama’s administration has actively worked to conceal important information from the public. The administration has been far more opaque than transparent, with a record number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) denials and ongoing refusals to make public scientific information used to justify environmental regulations. READ MORE Heartland Honored to Open the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center The late Andrew Breitbart was a pioneer who created his own media empire to fight back against the liberal mainstream media and give voice to conservatives, libertarians, and free-market capitalists. To honor his legacy, Heartland’s state-of-the-art meeting space – which has the ability to live-stream events – will be available for free to any group dedicated to advancing liberty and free markets. Heartland is proud that its event space now carries Andrew Breitbart’s name. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Introducing Michael Hamilton, Heartland’s New Managing Editor for Health Care News In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, host Donald Kendal introduces Heartland’s new managing editor of Health Care News, Michael Hamilton. Hamilton talks about his background and several topics that will be featured in the upcoming issue of Health Care News, bringing listeners up-to-date on Medicaid expansion, right to try legislation, certificate of need laws, and the advancement of direct primary care. LISTEN TO MORE March 9 Event: There Is No “Scientific Consensus” on Global Warming The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the myth that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Heartland President Joseph Bast, who edited the book, will discuss his findings and bid a fond farewell to one of the coauthors, Robert Carter who passed away on January 19, at a free event in the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center on Wednesday, March 9. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy. To get a free copy, become a Heartland donor or attend the March 9 event! Health Care Hackers Causing Chaos Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report A disturbing trend is growing where hackers invade computer systems of medical centers, shut down important hospital functions, and hold records for ransom. The worst part of these electronic sieges is the fact they are exacerbated by legislation related to the Affordable Care Act. The Obama-backed Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act required all medical providers to digitize medical records. Since the passage of this law, tens of millions of patient records have been stolen. READ MORE Many Science Teachers Not Stampeded into Climate Alarmism H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly As the general public becomes less convinced of the cataclysmic predictions from global warming alarmists, support is beginning to wane even in traditional strongholds: the nation’s public schools. A recent survey of middle- and high-school science teachers in all 50 states shows nearly half refuse to brainwash students into believing humans are causing catastrophic climate change. Since it appears the global warming debate is alive and well in our public schools, perhaps now is the time for further outreach of sound science to our nation’s teachers. READ MORE
Reforming Florida’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary Florida has terrible laws on civil forfeiture – a controversial legal process through which law enforcement agencies take personal assets from individuals or groups merely suspected of a crime or illegal activity. The law essentially considers citizens guilty until proven innocent, forcing people to prove they were not aware their property was being used illegally. Florida lawmakers are considering two proposals that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a criminal conviction before they can confiscate cash or property. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Sophia Cope – Apple vs. The Federal Government A great debate has been occurring in the aftermath of a court order demanding that Apple give the Federal Bureau of Investigation access to an iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Sophia Cope joins host Jesse Hathaway to discuss the situation, as well as Apple CEO Tim Cook’s decision to fight the court order. Cope says the government is seeking to set a dangerous precedent that could lead to mass surveillance by requiring Apple to hack into its own products. LISTEN TO MORE Grading States to Protect the Government-Education Complex Timothy Benson and Lennie Jarratt,Washington Times Advocating a specific viewpoint is fine; advocating a specific viewpoint under the guise of objectivity is another story. A recent study by the Network for Public Education, which aims to grade states based on their school systems, is being looked at by the media as an honest-to-goodness objective study. In reality, the report is a rating system that attempts to show how well each state is protecting its public schools from school choice. READ MORE Good and Bad News Seen in Louisiana Voucher Results Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly A recently released study on Louisiana’s voucher program shows mixed results. The report found negative effects for the participating children, a rare finding for school voucher programs. On the positive side, the program was shown to increase racial integration and may have increased academic achievement in public schools. The Louisiana Federation for Children released its own report showing the lowest-performing voucher students have closed half the gap between them and the state average. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In The Tank Podcast (ep28): Civil Asset Forfeiture, Growth in Regulatory Paperwork, and Film Subsidies
With John Nothdurft out of the office, host Donny Kendal is joined by Heartland Executive Editor Justin Haskins in episode #28 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, stories, and light-hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Institute for Policy Innovation, the American Action Forum, and Reason.
Featured Work of the Week
Featured this week is a report by the Institute for Policy Innovation titled “Civil Asset Forfeiture and the Constitution.” The report explains what civil asset forfeiture is, why its dangerous, and what specific parts of the Constitution it infringes upon.
Linked here are Heartland’s Research & Commentary reports.
In the World of Think Tankery
Today Donny and Justin talk about a report from the American Action Forum titled “The Explosive Growth in HHS Paperwork.” The report explains how the paperwork related to Health and Human Services has skyrocketed in the past two decades.
During this discussion, Justin refers to points made in his Consumer Power Report newsletter – a weekly newsletter covering the top health care stories of the week.
They also talk about a Reason article titled “No Matter Who Wins at the Oscars, Taxpayers Lose on Film Subsidies.” The article explains why states offer movie studios subsides to film in their state and why it’s not a good investment.
Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.
Mackinac Center – Can I Catch a Ride: Regulating Uber and Lyft (Wednesday, March 9) @ the Radisson Hotel in Lansing, Michigan.
Heartland Institute – Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: Featuring Heartland President Joseph Bast (Wednesday, March 9) @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
Heritage Foundation – A Brief History of the Cold War (Wednesday, March 9) @ The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, in the tank, itt, donny kendal, justin haskins, institute for policy innovation, american action forum, reason, civil asset forfeiture, hhs paperwork, regulation, constitution, oscars, film subsidies, heritage foundation, think tanks
Everything in Washington, D.C. established to do X – ends up doing X, Y, Z, and triplets of every letter in the alphabet. This anti-federalism is fueled by several basic precepts. Of course DC wants as much power as it can grab. The more power it wields – the more it can lord over us and the more favors it can dole out. And the more coin it can spend – and the more coin it can justify taking from us.
But the states bear a lot of the culpability too. The more the states off-load onto the Feds – the less for which they themselves are responsible. Politically and financially. The more the Feds do what states should be doing – the more coin the states have for other silliness.
And here is a vitally important component: States can’t print money and have to at least pretend to balance their budgets. The Feds are not constrained by either of those two tethers to Reality. (Hello, $4.5 trillion in phony Quantitative Easing coin and $19 trillion in debt.)
Want yet another example of the DC alphabet growing? Behold the United States Army Corps of Engineers: “A 23,000-employee federal agency that works on a wide range of infrastructure projects for military and civilian purposes. It’s an honorable history in helping build everything from the Washington Monument to the Panama Canal. But like many federal agencies it is prone to mission creep, pork-barrel projects, and outrageous cost overruns.”
Here comes the creep: “On a recent trip to Missouri, it now looks as if Corps may be expanding into the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Since the country has hundreds of these, this is a worrisome precedent. The West Lake Landfill, near St. Louis’s Lambert International Airport, has been a local eyesore since 1974 but has posed no discernible danger to local public health and safety despite some radiological material left over the 1940s Manhattan Project being present….(A)fter 25 years, (the Feds) have completely dropped the ball and now there has been no cleanup.”
This itself is a lesson. Perhaps we should stop waiting (decades) for the Feds, get off our respective scnheids – and do things for ourselves.
But the awful Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally awoke from its tax-dollar-gorging-induced slumber. “(T)he EPA announced it would clean up the site and also build a physical isolation barrier preventing any subsurface fire from spreading. The plan was to involve to the West Lake site, all in 2016. Crucially, the plans involve private sector parties paying much of the cost of the cleanup.”
Wait – We the Taxpayers aren’t on the hook? How refreshing. And after all that wasted time – this privately-funded cleanup is up and running and ready to go.
But of course this federal-government-less problem solving can not be allowed to stand. Enter the Missouri politician contingent: Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat Representative William Lacy Clay and Republican Representative Ann Wagner (because the DC insanity is absolutely bipartisan). These three are waving around our National Debt credit card – and looking for even more things for the Corps to do.
“The U.S. Senate passed a ($400+ million, zero-hearings-held) bill to give the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to clean up the radioactive waste. ‘With the passage of this legislation today, the Senate has demonstrated that voices of the community around West Lake Landfill are being heard,’ Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri proclaimed. Missouri Reps. William Lacy Clay and Ann Wagner have introduced companion legislation in the House (HR 4100) – and also demanded it be passed immediately with no hearings.”
Oh look – another terrible bill DC pols are jamming through with zero examination. But after a quarter century of federal lameness – why this sudden urgency? “One possible reason for the haste is that a main backer of the McCaskill bill is the Teamsters Union, a politically powerful player in the St. Louis area. The union says it is concerned the landfill represents ‘a human rights violation.’”
But for the preceding twenty-five years it did not? Wait for it… “It also worries that landfill workers at the site ‘lack a union and are left without a means to voice concerns without fear of retaliation.’ Transferring control of the project to the Corps of Engineers could mean more union involvement in the cleanup….”
There it is. Favors for some – at the exorbitant expense of the rest of us.
The West Lake, Missouri Landfill is a mess – and has been for a long time. But finally, FINALLY – it is on the verge of being solved. With private coin, no less. Washington, D.C. is a much bigger mess – and has been for a much longer time. The Feds mandating DC’s harmonic convergence with West Lake is a quintessential visual aide of all that is wrong with Washington.
Anti-federalism, overreach, zero transparency, cronyism – and redundancy via unnecessary meddling and ridiculous and unwarranted spending. Bravo, Senator and Representatives. And everyone else that voted or intends to vote for this utterly-unnecessary disaster-in-the-making.
This, like so much in DC, brings to mind the words of World War II-era theater producer Martin Gabel: “Don’t just do something – stand there.”