On the Blog

E-Cigarettes, a Better Way to Quit Smoking, Heartland Institute Panel Says

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 9:00 AM

Cigarette smoking has become significantly less popular in the U.S. over the past decade, it still remains a public-health scourge.  Smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year in this country, or about one of every five death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while an additional 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.  Clearly more needs to be done to get Americans to quit smoking.  

Some say electronic cigarettes can help wean smokers off tobacco, as little risk to their health.  For others, both of those assertions are false.  A 2011 appellate court decision confirming that e-cigarettes were to be regulated by the FDA was really a victory for American smokers.  Why?  1. The decision guaranteed that e-cigarettes would remain on the market.  2. It assured that e-cigarettes would be subjected to general controls that would promote the marketing of safe and quality-controlled products.  3. It allowed pharmaceutical companies to develop more satisfying nicotine medicines that could be used as recreational (and low risk) alternatives to cigarettes. 

An event at The Heartland Institute on Wednesday, April 20 was all about E-cigarettes and vaping as a low-risk alternative to tobacco products. The youtube video of the program can be viewed here.  E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize a mixture of water, propylene glycol, nicotine, and flavorings.  They are activated when the user inhales through the mouthpiece of the device, delivering a small dose of nicotine without any of the carcinogens derived from the combustion of tobacco that occurs in cigarettes.

Guest speakers Brian Foitak and Vitoria Vasconcellos present the pro-stance side

Featured speakers at Heartland’s event were Brian Fojtik and Victoria Vasconcellos. Both guest speakers took a pro-stance position on e-cigarettes as a safe and effective smoking cessation aid.

Fojtik’s career includes work in both the public and private sectors. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his law degree from Loyola University of Chicago.  Presently Mr. Fojtik is a Senior Fellow for the “Reason Foundation”, a free market think tank.

Victoria Vasconcellos is a former long-time smoker and owner of Cignot Inc., established in 2009.  Ms. Vasconcellos is also a founding member of the Illinois Chapter of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association.  SFATA is the Voice of the Electronic Vapor Industry.  Vasconcellos’s mission is to insure that smokers receive support and affordable access to what she considers a life changing option to smoking.  As a pathway for CASAA to expand its networking opportunities, in March of 2015 Ms. Vasconcellos was appointed as one of ten individuals to the newly created external CASAA Board of Advisors.

Introduced by moderator Jim Lakely, Communications Director at the Heartand Institute, Brian Fojtik wasted no time in praising Brad Radu, Heartland’s own Senior Fellow, who holds the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center.  Radu’s research focuses on the substitution of safer tobacco products by smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking with conventional cessation methods because of their addiction to nicotine. Five of Rodu’s excellent, informative articles will be shared at the end of Part 2.  All are noteworthy and well worth the extra time to read.

Also highly recommended by Mr. Foitik was Dr. Michael Siegel, a well-known and very highly respected professor at the Boston University School For Public Health.  Dr. Siegel is regarded as a tobacco control expert.  Siegel is further recognized as a strong voice for taking a stand against the sham methodologies of anti-vaping groups who deceitfully deploy scare tactics to misinform the public about e-cigarettes. In this article Dr. Siegel stands up to anti-vaping shams.

As one who smoked for 28 years before vaping, Brian Fojtik spoke of preferring flavors to tobacco and menthol, noting that those bothered by the fun flavors associate them with flavors children might find fun to use.

Health risks associated with E-cigarettes are discounted

Available evidence support the view that e-cigarettes are reasonably safe and far less risky than cigarettes. As exaggerated health concerns about e-cigarettes sound sensational, they are covered that way widely by the press.  Early reports suggested that e-cigarettes produce formaldehyde.  Since the formaldehyde component of cigarette smoke has been estimated to raise smokers’ risk of cancer by less than 1 part in 1,000, the amount found in e-cigarettes is indeed insignificant, as e-cigarettes release far less formaldehyde than tobacco cigarettes. 

These health risks often associated with e-cigarettes were discounted by Fojtik in light of the staggering death toll related to tobacco-related smoking:

  • It is the combustion of tobacco and the 4000 chemical substances that are produced when smoking cigarettes that are harmful to health of smokers, not the nicotine.  As such the U.S. Surgeon General and other experts have linked the vast majority of diseases associated with smoking to the combustion products of smoke, not to the nicotine that is present.
  • The dangers of electronic cigarettes are considerably lower than those of tobacco. From analysis of the constituents of e-cigarette vapor, e-cigarettes can be expected to be at least 95 to 99% safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes in terms of long-term health risks.
  • The vapor exhaled from e-cigarette users is highly unlikely to be harmful to bystanders; nicotine concentrations in exhaled vapor are too low to have pharmacological effects on bystanders. The vapor produced by e-cigarettes is simply not comparable to the thousands of toxic agents formed when tobacco is burned.
  • Randomized controlled trials show that e-cigarettes are effective in smoking cessation and studies of the use of e-cigarettes in real world settings show that they are more effective than other means for stopping smoking, including Nicotine Replacement Therapy.
  • Check this article by Clive Bates in which he presents 24 arguments related to e-cigarette science, policy, and politics in a Question and Answer format which supplements preceding bullet points.

Clive Bates was cited by speaker Brian Fojik as an importance e-cigarette pro voice.  Clive Bates, as was guest speaker Victoria Vasconcellos, was appointed to the newly created external CASAA Board of Advisor.  In the past Bates served as a Director General with the Welsh Government and also in its Department of Energy and Climate Change.  In September of 2014, Clive Bates contributed this fine article to the “Pharmaceutical Journal” (A Royal Pharmaceutical Society Publication):  Stop demonizing a potentially useful product for smokers.  

Needless to say, even when scientific studies so far have concluded that e-cigarette are safe, those who are against e-cigarettes will bring up the “risks to the population” argument. Often the result will be to ban the product until it can be proven safe.  The gate-way argument that an e-cigarette smoker will get hooked on nicotine and start smoking tobacco cigarettes has been disproved.  Most individuals who use e-cigarettes do so to move away from combustible tobacco, not toward smoking. 

Part 2 will be based on The Heartland Event about e-cigarettes and vaping, but it will also give additional insight into the controversy over e-cigarettes v. tobacco products.  Questions addressed include:  What does England have to say about e-cigarettes?  How did the war on vaping get started?  Why FDA approval of new products are prohibitive in cost and timely to receive and thus out-of-reach for the vaping community?  How pharmaceutical companies receives breaks in taxes? and How is Chicago dealing with e-cigarettes?

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Richard Armstrong: The Unintended Consequences of Medicare and Medicaid

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 3:46 PM

Today’s episode of the Health Care News Podcast explores the intersection of a subject we all care about–health care for the elderly and poor–and a subject we all have encountered even if we haven’t realized it–unintended consequences.

Dr. Richard Armstrong, treasurer of the Docs4PatientCare Foundation, joined Heartland Research Fellow and Managing Editor Michael Hamilton to explain how Medicare and Medicaid–two government-run, taxpayer-funded health care programs–inadvertently obstruct patients from accessing, and doctors from providing, the best possible care. Tune in until the end, when Armstrong and Hamilton discuss a cutting-edge, free-market solution gaining traction in 15 states and counting: direct primary care.

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

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Without This Option, School Choice Would Shrivel

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 8:40 AM

Would it be constitutional for a public school board to offer grants and scholarships to families wishing to choose private schooling, yet exclude those benefits for families who prefer for their children’s private school to be a religiously affiliated one?

That is a key question for jurists to sort out in an already complex school choice case that originated in Douglas County, Colorado—one that has taken so many twists and turns (the strangest coming in the past week) that it might eventually need a U.S. Supreme Court at full strength to settle.

Beyond the lawyers’ arguments over the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the anti-Catholic Blaine amendments—a 19th century relic still lurking in many state constitutions, including in Colorado—lies a practical consideration: Would private school choice be nearly as much a public good if patrons of religious schools were blackballed?

Extensive data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics in recent years fairly scream the answer: “No, it would not.” The statistics are available at the Council for American Private Education website, Capenet.org:

  • Private schools account for 24 percent of the nation’s schools (many have fewer than 300 students) and 10 percent of enrollment in prekindergarten through high school, but 80 percent of all these private school students attend religiously affiliated schools.
  • Eight in 10 parents of kids in religious schools report they are “very satisfied” with their child’s school. That compares with 56 percent of parents with children in assigned public schools, and 62 percent with kids in public charter or magnet schools.
  • Public school teachers are four times more likely than private school teachers to report “student disrespect for teachers” as a serious problem and eight times more likely to bemoan “lack of parental involvement.”
  • Private students’ scores are higher, on average, than public school students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is known as the Nation’s Report Card. On the 2010 NAEP history exam, for example, only 13 percent of private school students scored at the dismal “below basic” level, while 32 percent of public school pupils did.
  • Close to half of private school students (43 percent) go to Catholic schools, while 20 percent attend non-sectarian ones. Nondenominational Christian academies are next at 14 percent, followed by Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, and Calvinist schools.
  • Average tuition at a Catholic elementary school is $5,330, while it is $7,960 at other religious schools and $18,170 at non-sectarian private schools.

This statistical profile helps explain the reasons—which include academic excellence, wholesome values, discipline, and secure environment—so many parents would like to be able to choose a religiously oriented school. And it shows the value added for those enlightened public officials who realize that choice can shake up the system and make education better for everyone.

To its credit, the Douglas County Board of Education fully recognized the value of religious schools and made them an option when unveiling its groundbreaking program of school choice grants in 2011. Of course, that also made the scholarships a target of the American Civil Liberties Union and teachers unions, which want state courts to rule scholarship dollars, even those controlled by parental choice, violate state constitutions if any money winds up in parochial school coffers.

The Institute for Justice (IJ), a civil-liberties law firm, worked closely with the Douglas County Board of Education as its case experienced ups and downs within the Colorado judicial system. IJ also successfully advocated for the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision affirming the right of parents under the U.S. Constitution to use vouchers at whatever schools they deem best for their children.

After conflicting verdicts were delivered by lower courts, a sharply divided Colorado Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 the program fell afoul of the state’s Blaine amendment, which bars any public funding of religious entities. On March 15, the Douglas school board decided that a fifth of a loaf would be better than none at all and adopted a new choice program complying with the latest judicial verdict.

That decision brought about the most recent twist in this ongoing saga: an Institute of Justice lawsuit filed in the past week against its erstwhile ally, the Douglas County school board, on behalf of three families who wish to send their children to Valor Christian High School, which has won national recognition for its academic excellence.

In a statement, IJ Senior Attorney Michael Bindas sardonically observed, “The Douglas County Board of Education is now doing the very thing that it told the U.S. Supreme Court [in an appeal that’s still pending] is unconstitutional to do: excluding religious options from an otherwise generally available school choice program.”

Perhaps this rift will clarify the issue and hasten the day the Supreme Court finds unconstitutional all religious discrimination against parents who merely seek the best education for their children. If the verdict goes the other way, choice options will shrink dramatically.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Occupational Licensing Benefits Insiders, Shortchanges Millennials

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 8:30 AM

North Carolina lawmakers recently backed away from a proposed bill that would have reformed the state’s occupational licensing laws. In testimony given before the state legislature’s Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee, lobbyists convinced lawmakers to ditch plans to eliminate government licensing requirements for a dozen occupations and consolidate government licensing boards. The lobbyists argued removing government restrictions on occupations such as acupuncturists and athletic trainers would have endangered consumers’ health.

Contrary to the claims made by many current industry leaders, there is little economic evidence to suggest there is a connection between the number of “government permission slips” and public health or safety. Instead of protecting consumers from apparently dangerous fitness trainers, for example, occupational licensing regulations often serve to protect the financial interests of established businesses in the regulated field, shortchanging new job-seekers, especially younger Americans.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 40 percent of the nation’s current unemployed population were born between 1982 and 1994. These “Millennials” are being kept out of the workforce by policies enacted by and benefitting preceding generations, including occupational licensing regulations.

Across the nation, thousands of occupations require obtaining permission from the government before one can start working in his or her dream job or starting a business. For example, Florida millennials with a knack for home décor must spend $1,200 to take a National Council of Interior Design Qualification test, which is taken over the course of two full days, plus they must pay $150 to the state Board of Architecture and Interior Design, comprised of eight industry representatives and only three members of the general public, for the privilege of asking for permission to join the state’s guild.

Instead of protecting consumers from rogue interior decorators, these laws actually raise the barrier to entry, restricting supply and inflating consumer prices.

In 2015, Morris Kleiner, a professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota and a chair in labor policy for the AFL-CIO, examined how occupational licensing laws actually influenced the quality of products and services provided to consumers and the effect these laws have on employment. Kleiner says occupational licensing laws unnecessarily harm consumers by increasing prices of goods and services—all without providing corresponding increases in quality.

“[O]ccupational licensing transfers income from consumers (in the form of higher prices) to licensed workers (in the form of higher wages) with no apparent impact on reducing variations in earnings,” Kleiner wrote for The Hamilton Project. “In fact, standard economic models imply that the restrictions from occupational licensing can result in up to 2.85 million fewer jobs nationwide, with an annual cost to consumers of $203 billion. In addition, evidence suggests that occupational licensing can result in a loss in overall output of about 0.1 percent of annual consumption expenditures.”

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.4 percent of individuals between the ages of 20 and 24, people starting their working careers, are unemployed. By contrast, “Baby Boomers”—those in their 50s and beyond and are well-established in their careers—enjoy a very low unemployment rate of 3.9 percent.

Instead of continuing on the current course of making policies that benefit the advantaged and well-connected, lawmakers should work to knock down the barriers keeping the next generation out of work by trimming occupational licensing laws and reducing regulatory burdens. By eliminating policies that require people to ask crony insiders and government bureaucrats for permission to work, lawmakers can help people achieve their dreams and lower costs for consumers.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Flexible Greenhouse Accounting

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 8:15 AM

The greenhouse regulators approve burning trees and plant trash in power stations because that recycles the life-supporting natural gases – water vapour and carbon dioxide.

But if buried and given time, trees and plant trash can form peat, lignite or coal. If these are burned in power stations the carbon watchdogs condemn them for producing those terrible greenhouse gases – water vapour and carbon dioxide.

Similarly, herds of protected African antelope are allowed to consume native grasses and emit “good” natural gases-of-life – water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane.

But mobs of unloved Australian cattle grazing native grasses are vilified because they emit those dreadful greenhouse gases – water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane.

If we burn coal in a power station to transport commuters in electric trains or cars, it produces greenhouse gases – but that is OK.

But burning diesel in a road train hauling food to those commuters produces the same greenhouse gases – but now they are bad.

That should clarify the flexible principles of greenhouse accounting.

Categories: On the Blog

The Real Defense of Right to Try

Somewhat Reasonable - April 27, 2016, 3:50 PM

Advocates of the right to try argue that terminally ill patients should have access to treatments that have met the FDA’s safety requirements “but are not yet fully approved for market” (see Kurt Altman and Christina Sandefur’s “Right-To-Try Laws Fulfill The Constitution’s Promise Of Individual Liberty”). The FDA’s approval process takes years, and for thousands of terminally ill patients, those years may be the difference between life and death. Aware of the risks, many patients are nonetheless willing to try medicines and treatments that are still under investigation in clinical trials. For a significant number of these patients, the alternative is certain death.

But the right to try has no shortage of detractors, among them, Lisa Kearns, a bioethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center (for a representative sample of her work, see her article, “In Defense of the Nanny State”). In an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio’s Morning Edition, Kearns argued, “The whole ‘Right to Try’ movement is premised on the fact that these are life-saving, miracle drugs that are going to bring people back from the brink.” Kearns’s characterization of the rationale supporting the right to try is, of course, quite inaccurate. The critics of right to try bills deeply misunderstand them if they believe that the bills are necessarily either a statement about the quality of the pharmaceutical products at issue or an argument that pharmaceutical companies should be compelled to turn over an unfinished product against their wills.

These bills are decidedly not Panglossian endorsements of untested “miracle drugs,” premised on an unrealistic optimism. Rather the underlying argument of right to try bills takes individual sovereignty as its central premise, the whole point being that it doesn’t matter whether or not the desired treatment ultimately helps the patient — that a patient’s life and body are his own; and, therefore, no one may arbitrarily usurp the power to make important healthcare decisions for him, notwithstanding the condescending and self-assured claims that right to try advocates are dangling a false hope before patients.

A more accurate examination of the reasoning underpinning the right to try is offered by the dissenting opinion in the D.C. Circuit case of Abigail All. for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. Eschenbach, decided in 2006. Recognizing “the historic importance of the underlying right of a person to save her own life,” Judge Rogers’s dissent in that case contended that traditional common law considerations should guide the court in its balancing the government’s interests against those of the patient. Among the common law doctrines cited were those of self-defense, necessity, and interference with rescue, all of which implicate the underlying notion that “persons in mortal peril” have a right to attempt to save their lives using means that would perhaps be off limits under ordinary circumstances. The majority had focused unduly on the exceptions to this long-established right to the detriment of the right itself and a proper constitutional analysis.

The dissent further argued that, in holding that the right to try is not a protected liberty interest under the Due Process Clause, the majority had mistakenly conflated two distinct steps in the constitutional analysis, “the inquiry as to whether a fundamental right exists at all” and that of whether the government has actually produced proof of a compelling interest sufficient to override that right. The dissent thus advanced only the very modest proposition that courts, confronted with right to try cases, ought to actually discharge their duty of judicial review, “rather than merely accepting, under the rubric of rational basis scrutiny, any assertions the FDA chooses to offer.” The Abigail Alliance case furnishes yet another opportunity to reflect on the fact that the “rational basis” test for constitutionality is a test in name only. On paper, rational basis review asks the government body whether its law or regulation is rationally related to an interest that is legitimate, which would seem to rule out arbitrary, unreasonable mandates. In reality, though, when it violates one of those sadly disfavored individual rights that rates only the rational basis tests, the government almost always wins in court.

Half-hearted champions of substantive due process might take note. For while they may believe that the right to try quite properly belongs in the constitutional no man’s land of rational basis review — the province of fanatical libertarians — they may well feel differently if rights that they favor (e.g., rights to privacy and sexual freedom) come into question. That a bioethicist can’t see the ethical problem with government paternalistically standing in the way of individual choice and potentially beneficial healthcare is a sad commentary on contemporary ideas about the proper role of government. Sick people should not have to supplicate to government bureaucrats to assume certain risks in the desperate attempt to save themselves; such intimately personal health decisions are of no concern to the meddlers in government agencies, to anyone but the patient, his doctors, and his family.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Teresa Mull: Heartland’s New Research Fellow for Education

Somewhat Reasonable - April 27, 2016, 2:04 PM

In this episode of the Heartland Institute’s weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with the newest addition to the Heartland Institute family, Center for Education Transformation research fellow Teresa Mull, about how economic freedom and educational freedom are similar, sharing the goal of empowering consumers to make the choices that are right for them, instead of the choices government makes for people.

Hathaway and Mull also debate the constitutional issues raised by the upcoming movie Captain America 3: Civil War, and how government conscription violates the natural rights of individuals, both normal and super-powered alike. Fictional entrepreneur and superhero Tony Stark represents the power of free markets, Mull says, but Hathaway sides with Captain America, arguing that involuntary registration and conscription of super-humans infringes on their rights to self-determination, just as wartime military drafts rob citizens of their natural rights to decide to donate their service to the government.

With whom do you side: Hathaway or Mull? Regardless if you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, check out this special podcast and get to know the newest member of #TeamHeartland!

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Obama Administration is Vociferously Anti-Science

Somewhat Reasonable - April 27, 2016, 1:09 PM

We conservatives are incessantly assailed by the Left as “anti-science.” That we stand athwart scientific and technological advancement – yelling “Stop!” But time and again, it is Leftists that make decisions that fly in the face of actual, readily obvious science. And the Barack Obama Administration is rife with just these sorts of Luddites.

Mathematics is a science – so Leftists oppose it. Math dictates that when you make it more expensive for businesses to hire people – businesses will hire less people. Thus the minimum wage is anti-science. Uber-Left California Governor Jerry Brown admitted “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense” – before raising his state’s anyway. President Obama unilaterally raised the minimum wage for government contractors.

The science on global warming – oops, I mean climate change – is far from “settled.” Former high-ranking Obama Administration official Dr. Steven Koonin wrote “The idea that ‘Climate science is settled’ runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.”

The climate science evidence we do have is mounting – and it’s against the Leftist alarmists. Who have already woefully missed decades-worth of predictions. Who claim that carbon dioxide is a pollutant – when it is what everything plant on the planet inhales. Leftists claim that carbon dioxide raises global temperatures – all the while China and India’s CO2 outputs have exponentially exploded, while global temperatures have flatlined for now-going-on eighteen years.

Meanwhile, multiple alleged science institutions have been caught actively attacking science to protect the Left’s climate change myth. Amongst these anti-science scammers are United-Nations-touchstone East Anglia University and our own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Left’s anti-science-ness is so deep – and yet so superficial – President Obama tried to dodge culpability for his ongoing, terrible jobs record by blaming ATM machines.

This Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is just another anti-science Leftist entity. Time and again the FCC’s three Democrat Commissioners (one of whom also serves as Chairman) have voted for ridiculously anti-science unilateral power grabs. Particularly in their sites – the World Wide Web.

The Internet has become a free speech-free market Xanadu – and it has done so virtually government-free. Arguably no endeavor in human history has grown so huge, so fast – in large part because it has been virtually government-free.

If ever there was an “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” entity – the Web is it. This FCC has made it their mission to ignore Reality, mathematics, economics, technology and many other wings of science – and pretend what ain’t broke needs a whole lot of government fixing.

Beginning with their “reclassification” power grab. Where the FCC’s Democrats decided to go back in time eighty years and bizarrely superimpose 1934 landline telephone law – on to the Internet.

Basic science says “The Internet network is dramatically different and exponentially more complex than a telephone network.” Basic science says “Law written sixty years before the advent of the Internet – doesn’t really work on the Internet.” But these things matter not to the Luddites. This power grab had to happen – to set the table for a whole host of subsequent anti-science attacks.

Also currently under consideration – the “set-top-box” grab. Where the FCC’s Democrats will force cable television providers to crack open their own complex digital networks – and completely reconfigure them each and every time an outside company wants to offer a new set-top-box.

Basic science says “Reconfiguring these networks is a huge, very expensive undertaking. Forcing providers to do so time and again will dramatically increase the prices consumers pay for these services.” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he’s received e-mails from customers urging him to help lower their cable bills – and this bill-exploding proposal is his response.

Basic science says “The use of set-top-boxes is declining – as the use of applications (apps) is rising.” Thanks to technology and its advancement, every day your TV is becoming more like your smart phone – with rafts of apps, one for each individualized service. Rendering the set-top-box the soon-to-be-dinosaur of content delivery. And the backwards-looking, anti-science FCC is myopically fixating on the fossils.

Meanwhile, since about 2000 local governments have wasted hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars trying to be Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Wasted – because government has been abjectly awful at it. So awful – that twenty states passed laws prohibiting or limiting their down-ballot governments from wasting even more coin thereon.

The Obama Administration – undaunted by math and history – dumped $7.2 billion more into government broadband in the 2009 “Stimulus.” Which shockingly created even more of the exact same failures. Making those twenty states look a whole lot smarter than the Feds.

Who’s even more steadfastly impervious to facts than the Obama Administration? The Administration’s FCC. Which just last year ignored all of these failures at all levels of government – and overturned the sensible state laws prohibiting these failures.

We could go on, and on, and….

Of course these myriad Administration officials aren’t dim – they’re ideological zealots. For them – it’s government uber alles. And being pro-government means just about always being anti-science.

Because far too often science demands less government. And this Administration won’t stand for that.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

University Researchers Put Fracking Politics Before Science

Somewhat Reasonable - April 27, 2016, 9:17 AM

Geologists at the University of Cincinnati just wrapped up a three-year investigation of hydraulic fracturing and its impact on local water supplies.

The result? There’s no evidence—zero, zilch, nada—that fracking contaminates drinking water. Researchers hoped to keep these findings secret.

Why would a public research university boasting a top-100 geology program deliberately hide its work? Because, as lead researcher Amy Townsend-Small explained, “our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”

That an environmentalist ideologue would see evidence of fracking’s safety as “disappointing” is to be expected. But that a university would so flagrantly put politics before science is deeply troubling.

Hydraulic fracturing has significantly bolstered America’s energy independence by unlocking an abundance of domestic oil and gas. In fact, our country has officially surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the global leader in natural gas and oil production, respectively.

Just as important, these newfound energy resources have delivered economic benefits to Americans. In 2012, the average U.S. household had an extra $1,200 thanks to the energy boom. The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, supports more than 2 million jobs—a number that is expected to grow to nearly 5 million by 2025.

This energy renaissance has also helped the environment since fracking provides a cheaper, cleaner alternative to coal. Last April, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit a 27-year low, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, thanks largely to a widespread transition from coal to natural gas.

None of these benefits would matter if fracking endangered drinking water. So the University of Cincinnati’s report comes as good news. Of course, the findings only confirm what experts and policymakers have been saying for years.

Back in 2011, for instance, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson admitted that there hasn’t been a “proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.” Two years later, current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy affirmed Jackson’s remark, stating, “I am not aware of any definitive determinations that would contradict those statements.”

A review of the available research bears out both claims. Consider the Ground Water Protection Council’s recent study on gas exploration in Ohio, from 1983 until 2007, and in Texas, from 1993 until 2008.

According to that report, neither officials in Texas nor those in Ohio “identified a single groundwater contamination incident…at any of these horizontal shale gas wells” during those periods.

Similarly, a 2013 U.S. Geological Survey study on the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas found “that shale gas development, at least in this area, has been done without negatively impacting drinking water resources.” A 2015 EPA draft report confirmed these findings.

Fracking’s impressive safety record is partly due to the energy industry’s own vigilance; it has worked aggressively to improve the safety of oil and gas production.

The University of Cincinnati’s fracking research further establishes what myriad studies have already shown: Concerns about groundwater contamination are baseless. As Townsend-Small stated, “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.”

This might be “disappointing” to certain environmentalists, as Townsend-Small suggests. And it may interfere with the university’s fundraising efforts. But for the rest of us, the study demonstrates that fracking is a safe source of jobs, prosperity and low-cost energy.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

The Mechanics of a Free Society

Somewhat Reasonable - April 26, 2016, 4:35 PM

The presidential primaries, in particular the Bernie Sanders campaign, have recharged the conversation about wealth and income inequality, replete with the usual emotive (if nebulous) talk of social justice and fairness. When the subject of wealth inequality arises, the paladins of the free market are forced to assume a defensive posture. The enemies of the free market system condemn it because it is an ideological defense of economic injustice, inequality, and exploitation, a system of ideas and institutions through which the rich get richer and the poor poorer.

The problem, though, is that free markets are not at all a defense of those things, neither in theory nor practice. Libertarians are called on to answer for results and realities that, in fact, have very little to do with the operations of a free economy, the result being abortive exchanges in which libertarians and our detractors talk past one another and fail to isolate points of actual disagreement.

Burdened with clichés and unchallenged conventional wisdom, the language we’ve grown accustomed to using in our discussions of these issues can be obfuscatory. We tend to forget that all of the factors and players we’re discussing are human institutions, comprising real individuals with their own interests, preferences, and motives. It is not enough to simply repeat the platitude that government must protect the common man from the wild oscillations of an untamed free market, a myth learned by rote in American educational institutions. That just begs the question, asserting the very proposition that wants proving. If capitalists are supposed to be driven by selfishness and avarice, ready to trample on working people, then why doesn’t that assumption hold for politicians and government bureaucrats? We would do well to think more about the mechanics of our institutions and less about the names we give to them.

Given that all of society’s institutions are made up acting human beings, we have many reasons to prefer decentralized forms of organization (like the free market) to centralized government ones; in the latter, power is concentrated and decision makers are insulated from the consequences of their actions. While progressives take it for granted that government regulators will act beneficently, aimed at the public good, government actors are neither omniscient nor unsusceptible to the temptation to use their authority in the service of private ends. Where free market competition disincentivizes waste, fraud, and abuse, our bureaucratic leviathan makes them the standard.

Political scientist and economist Michael C. Munger associates the progressive way of thinking with “Unicorn Governance”: the idea is that if we take the progressive’s assumptions about government and how it works to be true, then government becomes a unicorn, supernatural, superhuman, and thus impossible not to support. As Munger explains, “people who favor expansion of government imagine a State different from the one possible in the physical world,” ascribing to it “properties, motivations, knowledge, and abilities” that accord with their values. But it ought to matter that actual governments don’t act like the unicorn governments of progressive imaginings.

Of course, the only program that has ever actually helped the worst off is to treat them like people, which means allowing them their natural and rightful freedom — freedom to practice the occupation of their choosing, to associate with (and dissociate from) whomever they please, to defend themselves, their families and their property, to innovate and trade. History teaches us that even the slightest move in this direction, the direction of liberty, will have enormous positive consequences for productivity and wealth creation, lifting millions out of abject poverty.

And still another difference distinguishes the mechanics of the marketplace from those of government, that between voluntary exchange and coercive imposition. Market relationships are, by definition, consensual and mutually beneficial; we enter and exit them freely, based on our judgment and preferences. Government is different, commanding from on high, issuing mandates that everyone must follow, choice be damned. At bottom, government is force and, as such, should be limited to protecting individuals and their rights, not, as is so often the case, violating those rights. If we must have mandatory rules in society — and it is granted that we must — they should be few in number, unambiguous in their terms, and uniform in their application across society, taking no notice of race or ethnicity, sex or gender, or any other category. Such are the “right wing” economic notions proposed by libertarians, conservatives, and classical liberals.

Justice cannot mean an arbitrary d
istribution of wealth decided upon by a handful of elites in government; rather, it means respecting the inalienable rights of every individual, maximizing the freedom of each to act within his own “sphere of discretion” (borrowing a phrase from the philosopher William Godwin). Defenders of a free market economy shouldn’t cede the moral high ground to Bernie Sanders-style “democratic socialism.”

Given any quantifiable standard, freedom and private property have proven themselves superior to planning, bureaucracy, and the welfare state. As the great laissez-faire economist Jean-Baptiste Say wrote in 1803, “Nothing can be more idle than the opposition of theory to practice!” Say’s message is as clear now as it was then: the mechanics of liberty work precisely because they respect our individual rights.

Categories: On the Blog

Article V Convention Opponents Run into Stiff Headwinds Amid Increasing Support

Somewhat Reasonable - April 26, 2016, 3:37 PM

A national debt of $20 trillion, along with the national government’s annual budget deficit of $500 billion, has led to increasing support for an Article V convention across the country. Many opponents of an Article V convention are now running into stiff headwinds. Organizations in support of a convention are becoming better at responding to their falsehoods. Together, these developments have led to numerous legislative successes in statehouses across the nation in 2016 for the Article V movement.

Eagle Forum (EF) based in Alton, Illinois, has long been opposed to an Article V convention. Multiple news outlets, including The Daily Caller, reported on April 11th that long-time EF leader and founder Phyllis Schlafly was close to being fired by her own board of directors, in part due to her opposition to the Article V movement. Eagle Forum’s board eventually fired Schlafly’s hand-picked successor Ed Martin, although it chose to spare the 91-year-old Schlafly.

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Phoenix) is a well-known and outspoken opponent of an Article V convention. Biggs took his opposition to another level in 2015 when he authored an anti-Article V convention book, Con of a Con-Con. Some campaigns in support of a convention have not been as successful in Arizona due to Biggs’ steadfast opposition. Biggs announced on February 25th that he would run for an open seat in Arizona’s 5th congressional district to replace the retiring Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Arizona). Members of the Arizona Senate run on two-year terms and face a limit of four consecutive terms in office. Biggs would have been term-limited after the 2018 election if he remained in the state’s Senate. Article V convention backers have found new hope for passing legislation in the Grand Canyon State in 2017 because of Biggs’ decision to run for Congress.

Twenty-nine states have fully enacted applications for a single-subject Article V convention for the purpose of a balanced budget amendment. Six states have passed a multiple-amendment proposal for a convention calling for a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and reductions in federal regulations. The proposal is sponsored by the Convention of States project.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Mark Zoback: Fracking and Oklahoma Earthquakes

Somewhat Reasonable - April 26, 2016, 2:15 PM

Earthquakes in Oklahoma have increased dramatically in the last five years. News outlets from around the nation tend to associate these earthquakes with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Although the process of fracking itself does not cause quakes, many people think disposing of fracking wastewater is causing the uptick in tremors, but according to Stanford University Geoscientist Mark Zoback, they’re wrong.

In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Dr. Zoback and research fellow Isaac Orr discuss why the earthquakes are happening in Oklahoma, and the best ways state regulators can reduce, or eliminate them. Make sure to tune into this very special edition!

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

Categories: On the Blog

On Climate, We’re Manipulated by Sleight of Hand

Somewhat Reasonable - April 26, 2016, 1:07 PM

Perhaps you watched the Earth Day news coverage of the “historic” ceremonial signing of the Paris Climate Agreement during which representatives from 175 countries walked up to the stage in the General Assembly hall at the United Nations headquarters in New York, sat down behind a desk on the podium, and added their signatures to the book. “In the name of the United States of America,” Secretary of State John Kerry signed his name with his young granddaughter on his lap.

The event, according to the Wall Street Journal, set “in motion a process to curb the impact of global warming.”  The International Business Times said it was “the latest in a series of steps to transform the global accord into an actual tool for combating greenhouse gas emissions and boosting the use of cleaner energy.” Newsweek reported: “the leaders accepted the science of climate change and agreed to work together to do something about it.”

Perhaps the “leaders,” in signing their names, have “accepted the science,” but read what individuals have to say in the comment portion of any of the aforementioned news stories and you’ll see that there is still a great deal of debate regarding global warming—or was it global cooling, or maybe we should just call it climate change. Whatever it is, the alarmists say is urgent.

At the Earth Day gathering, U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: “We are in a race against time.”

However, as the new movie Climate Hustle makes perfectly clear, climate alarmists have been making such proclamations for decades.

The film, which is being shown in theaters nationwide on May 2, starts out with clips of many such claims made by the news media and, of course, former Vice President Al Gore.

Marc Morano, the documentary’s host, opens by stating: “We repeatedly hear that the time for debate is past” and then addresses the oft-quoted “97 out 100 scientists agree that climate change is real” narrative. Climate Hustle then crushes both claims—and many more (including whether or not CO2 is “the villain”).

Using a touch of humor and a three-card monte theme, Morano likens the crisis marketing to a sleight of hand; a Climate Hustle. He says: “when the people pushing you to get into the game, the ones predicting a calamitous future due to global warming, don’t show their cards, it is a hustle.” The film shows the cards so the viewers can decide if “they are playing it straight or if you are being hustled.”

Climate Hustle features a history of climate alarmism. Morano asks: “How has the alleged climate consensus changed over time?” While many of us may recall seeing some of the “wild claims,” Climate Hustle puts them all together—and seeing them back-to-back should cause all thinking people to question what we are being told today. For example, in 1978, Leonard Nimoy, known for his role as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, announced: “the next ice age is on its way.” He predicted: “unprecedented” hunger and death.  In 1972, trusted newscaster Walter Cronkite warned: “A new ice age is creeping over the northern hemisphere.”

The film even quotes one of America’s founding fathers as being worried about climate change. In the late 1700s, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “A change in our climate is taking place.” Then, in 1817, The President of the UK Royal Society, Joseph Banks, addressed the melting polar ice. It’s doubtful that either Jefferson’s or Bank’s concerns were the result of fossil fuel use.

In 1988, the global cooling of the 70s flipped to global warming. Using “stagecraft,” a hearing was scheduled on Capitol Hill on the “hottest day of the year” where James Hanson, wiping his brow, testified about the urgency of global warming.

Repeatedly throughout the past couple of decades, we’ve been pummeled with dire predictions and told “time is short.” In 1989, the UN predicted “Global warming would destroy entire nations by 2000.” In 2007, we were told: “Scientists believe we have less than ten years to bring emissions under control to prevent a catastrophe.” In 2008, Britain’s Prince Charles said we only had 100 months left to solve the problem. Gore, in 2009, said: “We have to do it this year.”

Yet, as the film demonstrates, scientists don’t want to talk about their failed predictions.

Meanwhile, scientists who don’t agree with the “leaders” are accused, by the likes of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of “treason.” He wants them “in jail.”

Yes, as Climate Hustle makes clear, there are dissenting scientists—but they are marginalized, even called “kooks.” If they speak out, they are insulted, ignored, ridiculed, ostracized, called heretics, hurt professionally, and even terminated for divergent views. This is not the scientific method.

Despite being treated like 17th century “witches,” many scientists are reexamining the evidence and reversing their positions—even calling their previous views: “quite a big mistake.”

Climate Hustle addresses many of the talking points we hear to defend the views held by the signers of the Paris Climate Agreement including polar bears and arctic ice, hurricanes and tornadoes. It explains the flawed models and “the pause.” The lowly armadillo has been heralded as evidence of both global cooling and global warming.

Jumping back and forth from dramatic claims to scientific fact, Climate Hustle helps thinking people see past the fear mongering of the current climate change narrative and examine the global warming evidence for themselves.

In Climate Hustle renowned Swedish sea level expert and climatologist Nils-Axel Mörner concludes: “Geological facts are on one side, lobbying and models are on the other.”

Check to see if Climate Hustle is being shown in your area and watch it on May 2 so you aren’t taken in by the sleight of hand.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Having Destroyed US Coal Industry, Democrats and Eco Allies are Now Attacking all Fossil Fuels

Somewhat Reasonable - April 26, 2016, 9:16 AM

The great white environmentalist sharks smell blood in the water. It’s gushing from mortally wounded US coal companies that the Obama EPA has gutted as sacrifices on the altar of “dangerous manmade climate change” prevention and other spurious health, ecological and planetary scares.

Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and other once vibrant coal producers have filed for Chapter 11 protection, shedding some $30 billion in shareholder value and tens of thousands of jobs in their companies and dependent industries. The bloodletting has left communities and states reeling, union pension funds and 401k plans empty, and the health, welfare, hopes and dreams of countless families dashed on the rocks.

President Obama promised to bankrupt coal companies with punitive regulations, and he kept his word.

Hydraulic fracturing did play a role. It made natural gas abundant and inexpensive, and gas-fueled power plants increasingly attractive for utilities that were forced to shutter modern coal-fired units that provided reliable, affordable power, emitted little harmful pollution, and had years of useful life remaining.

However, as economist Stephen Moore noted, coal’s demise wasn’t “a result of free market creative destruction. This was a policy strategy by the White House and green groups. They wanted this to happen.”

“This was what EPA’s Clean Power Plan rules were all about,” Moore adds. “The EPA set standards that by design were impossible to meet, and even flouted the law that says the regs should be ‘commercially achievable.’ This was a key component of the climate change fanaticism that pervades this White House.”

To this president, the EPA and the Left in general, he concludes, “the families whose lives are ruined are collateral damage to achieve their utopian dream of saving the planet.” It’s a Climate Hustle.

It is today’s equivalent of New York Times Moscow Bureau Chief and Stalin apologist Walter Duranty’s favorite line: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” But after tens of millions of broken human “eggs,” where are the communist and green utopia omelets?

40,000 elderly Europeans died this past winter, because they could no longer afford adequate wintertime heat, after EU climate policies sent electricity rates “necessarily skyrocketing” more than 40% since 1997. Millions die every year in Africa from lung, intestinal and other readily preventable diseases, while President Obama tells Africans they should forego fossil fuels and rely on wind, solar and biofuel power, because “if every one of you has got a car and … a big house, well, the planet will boil over.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama joined Chinese, Indian and other world leaders in signing the Paris climate treaty on Earth Day, ignoring the requirement for Senate ratification. The hypocrisy and insanity are boundless.

The treaty will obligate the United States and other developed nations to slash their fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions and economic growth. China, India and other developing economies are under no such requirement, unless and until it is in their interest to do so. For them, compliance is voluntary – and it should be. They simply cannot afford to eliminate fuels that supply 85% of all global energy and are their ticket out of poverty and into the world of modern health and prosperity that we enjoy, thus far.

In fact, while unaccountable EPA bureaucrats are shutting down US coal-fired generators, these countries have built over 1,000 coal-fired power plants and plan to build 2,300 more – 1,400 gigawatts of new electricity. China and India account for 1,077 GW of this total. They are also lining up for free energy technology and billions of dollars a year from developed nations for climate change “reparations.”

That is why poor countries signed the Paris treaty. It has nothing to do with preventing climate change.

But none of this has stopped the environmentalist sharks from starting a fossil fuels feeding frenzy. The bloodied American coal companies have them churning the water, chomping for more. They’ve launched a “keep it in the ground” movement, to make hydrocarbons off limits forever.

In fact, environmentalism is morphing into an anti-hydrocarbons climate movement that claims every weather event and climate blip is unprecedented, a harbinger of Armageddon – and caused by our using oil, gas and coal to power modern civilization and improve human health and living standards.

Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle tallies 350.org and 20 other climate coalitions, comprised of 467 separate organizations, just in the USA. Funded and directed by Rockefeller and other wealthy liberal foundations, they increasingly rail against “dangerous manmade climate change” as an “existential threat” to humanity and planet.

President Obama is totally onboard. His policy and regulatory agenda confirms that. So are Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and most of an increasingly far-Left Democrat Party.

Sanders flatly opposes all “fracking” and has introduced legislation to keep America’s abundant fossil fuels locked up in perpetuity. Clinton opposes all fossil fuel energy extraction from federal lands, wants to block fracking by imposing countless regulatory obstacles, and intends to make the United States 50% dependent on renewable energy by 2030. As president, they would achieve this by executive decree.

The consequences would be disastrous: enormous acreage, water, fertilizer, pesticides and fuel devoted to producing biofuel, millions of birds and bats butchered by wind turbines to generate electricity, millions of jobs lost, millions of families sent into fuel poverty as energy costs rocket upward. For what benefits?

The rest of the world will continue using hydrocarbons. That means, even assuming CO2 now drives Earth’s climate, ]implementing EPA’s draconian Clean Power Plan would keep average planetary temperatures from rising an undetectable 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit, and seas from rising an imperceptible 0.01 inches, by the end of the century. (Oceans have already risen 400 feet since the last nature-driven ice age ended and all those mile-high glaciers melted.)  See CFACT’s Climate Hustle movie on Monday!

The “keep it in the ground” crowd doesn’t care about this or the mounting death tolls resulting from their anti-fossil fuel policies. The typical voter or street protester probably hasn’t thought it through. But the leaders have. They’re just callously indifferent. It’s one more depressing example of “the well-intentioned but ill-informed being led around by the ill-intentioned but well-informed.”

Politicians, environmentalists, alarmist scientists and renewable energy industrialists have built a $1.5-trillion-per-year Climate Crisis industry that gives them research grants, campaign cash, mandates, huge subsidies – and vast regulatory power to eliminate conventional energy; make electricity rates skyrocket; fundamentally transform economic systems; control lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties; and redistribute the world’s wealth. Poor, minority and working class families will suffer most.

The ruling elites don’t care. They will do well, travel often, keep their pensions and get still wealthier. Climate rules, deprivation and “sustainability” are for the Little People.

This entire system is based on the unproven bald assertion that fossil fuels are causing dangerous and unprecedented weather and climate disruption … carbon dioxide has replaced the complex natural forces that drove drive climate change in previous centuries … there is no longer any room for debate over these “facts” … and the only issue still open to discussion is what to do to avert “imminent catastrophe.”

We “skeptics” challenge these claims. We point out that Earth’s temperature, climate and weather have always changed in response to powerful natural forces, and differ little today from what they have been for the past 50-150 years. We say the problem is not climate change, but policies imposed in the name of preventing climate change. We threaten the Climate Crisis Establishment, and its money and power.

That’s why they want to shut us up and shut us down – by prosecuting us for “racketeering,” and denying us our constitutional rights to speak out about policies that affect our lives. It is a disgraceful, un-American return to Inquisition tactics and fascist book burnings.

We must all take a stand, fight back and assert our rights. Otherwise, our children face a grim future.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Tobacco Control Experts Tell FDA Study Suggest E-Cigarettes Offer More Benefit than Harm

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 3:45 PM

The journal Addiction published a study on April 25, with seven international tobacco control experts compelling the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to have an open mind regulating vaporized nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

Researchers include lead author David T. Levy, PhD, Georgetown University; K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, Medical University of South Carolina; Andrea C. Villanti, PhD, MPH; Ray Niaura, PhD; David B. Abrams, PhD, Truth Initiative; Geoffrey T. Fond, PhD, University of Waterloo, Canada; and Ron Borland, PhD, Cancer Control Victoria, Australia.

Lead author Levy is “concerned the FDA, which has asserted its right to regulate e-cigarettes, will focus solely on the possibility that e-cigarettes and other vapor nicotine products might act as a gateway to cigarettes.”

“We believe that the discussion to date has been slanted against e-cigarettes, which is unfortunate, because the big picture tells us that these products appear to be used mostly by people who aready are or who are likely to become cigarette smokers,” adds Levy.

Regulating e-cigarettes and vaping products as traditional tobacco is incorrect as studies have shown that e-cigarette’s levels of intoxicants are 9-450 times lower than levels that are present in tobacco cigarette smoke. A study published by Public Health England, the U.K.’s version of the CDC, concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes and vaping products are increasingly being utilized as cessation devices. Studies have shown that this industry is very beneficial to helping tobacco cigarette smokers quit.

The authors of the study also caution that substantial regulation and taxation of e-cigarettes and vaping products will diminish the potential benefits that the industry can provide.

Levy stated that “increasing e-cigarette prices by taxing them the same way as cigarettes will discourage youth VNP use, but also discourage use by smokers, especially those of lower socioeconomic status, who are trying to quit.”

As of May 2015, seven states have included e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine dispensers in at least one definition of “tobacco product in state law”, meaning that seven states are regulating e-cigarettes, and taxing them, as tobacco products, when in fact, e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco.

The FDA should take these studies into account when regulating e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products. Moving many away from tobacco cigarettes, this industry is necessary to lower health costs and outcomes associated with traditional cigarettes. As I have explained in a previous Research & Commentary, “States should take sound science into consideration when deliberating the creation of regulations or taxes on e-cigarette products. States imposing bans, excessive regulations, or high taxes on e-cigarettes could be creating an environment in which consumers choose to use more-harmful traditional cigarettes, rather than less-harmful alternatives.”

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Elizabeth Yore: Looking Back, Heartland Brings Climate Truth to the Vatican

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 2:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Elizabeth Yore, International Child Advocate Attorney joins Host Donald Kendal to talk about the impact The Heartland Institute made last year when they sent a delegation of climate experts to stir debate on the topic of global warming.

Yore, while not a climate expert, was part of the delegation sent to the Vatican. One of the justifications of the Pope issuing an encyclical about global warming was the claim that it related to child and human trafficking. Yore, an expert in this topic, explains how no connection of these two topics existed. She discusses the media coverage The Heartland Institute stirred and the impact the conference had on the overall narrative.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Study Finds Electronic Payments Boost Economy, Jobs

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 12:18 PM

The electronic payments industry has revolutionized worldwide markets, making services like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and touch and pay systems possible.  As the industry grows and innovates, consider the effects of this technology on the US economy.

According to a new study, the economic efficiencies produced from using payment cards create over 23 million permanent jobs and add 12 percent to the gross domestic product.

The history of market exchange has seen an evolution from barter, to primitive forms of currency, to minted coins, to bank notes, to nationally backed currencies, to personal checks, to what is now an international system of electronic exchange that moves money safely and accurately at the speed of light.

Two factors lead to electronic payments increasing the size of the economy. First, the easier and cheaper it becomes to complete transactions, the more willing people are to engage in those transactions. In more technical terms, when transaction costs go down, GDP goes up. Secondly, when economists calculate the size of the money supply, and then how rapid the turnover rate of that money (its velocity), the greater the amount of economic activity that money can support.

This is how the electronic payment system has increased the size of the U.S. economy – increasing personal-consumption expenditures by 17 percent, and increasing employment by 20 percent.

A new study by The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm headquartered in Waco, Texas, found that electronic payments systems generated business activity in the United States (compared to the results if no such system existed) of an estimated $1.7 trillion in annual gross domestic product and 23,166,000 permanent jobs in 2014. The cumulative impact from 1970 to 2014 indicates an increase in gross domestic product of $34 trillion and 387 million person-years of employment. It also found that increased electronic payments since 2004 resulted in an estimated gain of $432.927 billion in annual gross product and 5,652,464 permanent jobs as of 2014.

 

If you were to consider how inefficient it would be to mail a check to a retailer across the country, wait for the mail to deliver it, for the mailroom to process it, and for the bank to clear it before mailing you your purchase, you can begin to see just how remarkable our present system of instantaneous transactions really is.

What’s more, the ease of these electronic transactions give rise to even relatively small businesses marketing themselves worldwide, since they can be assured of rapid and accurate payment in their home currency.

And because consumers have so many options with payment cards, our decisions to purchase have been expanded considerably. We can use prepaid cards, which are electronic cash, debit cards, which are electronic checks, or credit cards which amount to instant electronic loans. The increased ease of transactions has increased consumer spending, an important factor in economic growth.

And with those choices, consumers’ use of electronic payments is exploding. In its latest analysis, Juniper Research predicts a 20 percent increase in the value of mobile, contactless and online payments this year, rising from $3 trillion in 2015 to $3.6 trillion in 2016.

For those of us who remember the introduction of Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), they were an alternative to standing in line at a bank for cash. The payment card networks are a giant leap past that technology, whereby we don’t have to travel or wait to make almost any payments anymore.

While we may have begun to take our worldwide electronic payment networks for granted, consider just how convenient and efficient they have made our lives, and how much our economy has come to depend on them.

Peter J. Ferrara is a member of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a Senior Fellow for Entitlement Reform and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, and a Senior Policy Advisor to the National Tax Limitation Foundation.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Cato Scholar Presents Insight About New Direction for Supreme Court

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 11:20 AM

America’s Future Foundation held an intimate briefing with a leading Supreme Court expert, Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute and Editor, Cato Supreme Court Review, on Monday, April 18, 2016, at the University Club of Chicago. 

The AFF chapter in Chicago, and those in more than 20 cities around the country, are a safe haven for free-market young professionals to network, discuss ideas, and learn the skills they need to become effective lifelong advocated for free markets, limited government, and personal responsibility. 

Roger Custer, executive director of America’s Future Foundation, spoke of the common purpose AFF has with the Illinois Policy Institute in its defense of those who made our nation great.  An on-going effort is being made to establish 50 chapters in cities across the nation by 2018 to promote personal responsibility, free market, and limited government, with a goal is to bring down to a personal level those principles embraced by AFT as a way to inspire millenniums. 

Mr. Ilya Shapiro, upon being introduced by Roger Custer, discussed the future of the court after the passing of Justice Scalia, in remarks based upon his topic of the night:  A New Direction for the Supreme Court?

Shapiro’s thoughts about Antonin Scalia

Scalia joined the Supreme Court in 1986 and proceeded to revolutionize what it meant to be a legal theorist, thus changing the way the justices approached their craft. As an originalist, Scalia based his decisions on what the words meant in the Constitution when ratified.  Before Scalia Constitutional texts were often used when the history wasn’t clear.

District of Columbia v. Heller was cited by Shapiro as an example of Scalia’s interpretation of the law according to the dictates of the Constitution.  Judge Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court in considering whether a District of Columbia prohibition on the possession of usable handguns in the home violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  

What does the passing of Scalia portend for the Supreme Court?

Now that the Court is split ideologically, so many important issues will be decided by the judge who replaces Scalia.  Mr. Shapiro is of the opinion that it wouldn’t matter if a so-called moderate like Garfield were confirmed, or a more liberal judge candidate. Shapiro applauds the Republican decision of “NO HEARING; NO VOTE”, and for keeping a stiff spine so far, not only because the seat to be filled is a pivotal one and the replacement would not be sitting to hear arguments until fall, but also because it is only fair for the public to have one more cycle to figure out the direction of this country in light of the partisan political atmosphere that prevails in the Supreme Court.

Regarding the recently argued immigration bill (4/18/2016), a 4 – 4 split decision would be seen as a victory for the challenger.  Stressed was that most law happens in the lower courts.  Only a fraction of cases advance to the Supreme Court. 

Shapiro reflected that if Hillary wins in November she’ll probably stick with Merritt Garland and that he will be confirmed in early January.  A word of caution:  These three judges are up in years and the next president might have the opportunity to appoint three new judges:  Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83); Stephen G. Breyer (78); and Anthony M. Kennedy (78).  

Mr Shapiro described Judicial Activism as used on both the right and the left, as an “empty term.”  It is used today, because so often in he 60’s and 70’s Constitutional restraint was practiced and thought acceptable.  Instead of striking down a law it was deemed preferable “to sit on ones hands.”

Thoughts about Chief Justice John Roberts

Ilya Shapiro denied that Justice Roberts was confused when voicing his opinions. Other than the two Obamacre cases, Shapiro stated that “Republicans don’t have much beef against him.”  Shaprio was then asked why he though Roberts ruled as he did? 

In the Obamacare ruling of 2012, Obamacare was upheld when Justice Roberts was able to label the individual Obamacare mandate as a tax, even though it wasn’t called a tax by President Obama. The law’s challengers had rejected the characterization of the law as a tax, noting the mandate as a penalty.

Scalia lashed out at Chief Justice John Roberts for his key vote to save a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allowed the federal government to provide healthcare subsidies to Americans in 34 states that did not set up their own healthcare exchanges. 

The law should have been considered unconstitutional since tax bills must originate in the House.  The House did file a brief, but nothing came of it, and the decision was left standing.  This article suggests it was Robert’s concern over his legacy as Chief Justice as reason why he literally created the tax issue out of thin air so he could side with the Obama administration.

Closing thought:  Those present agreed that the system of checks and balances has been shattered by the regulatory state; however, progressives aren’t concerned about government control; they relish it.

Some in the room did take exception to a few derogatory comments Ilya Shapiro made about Republican candidate Donald Trump. 

Before Shapiro’s comments, John Tillman, one of sponsors of the event and CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, spoke positively about Illinois’ future. The Illinois Policy Institute, which he heads, is striving to turn a blue state into red; it is now purple. Two reasons why optimism should prevail: 1)  Speaker Mike Madigan doesn’t run the show, there is competition at the state level reflected by a .2 difference in the number of Democrats casting ballots as compared to Republican voters.  2)  The Democrat agenda reflects a dangerous game with their group identity pitch to black, single women, and millenniums.  In order to attract all groups catered to by Democrats, most importantly millenniums, the pro-freedom argument must be made.

Also present as a member of the Host Committee was Robert E. Russell, Jr, who was a member of the Senior Management of The Heritage Foundation, serving as Counselor when Edwin Feulner, Ph.D served as President of The Heritage Foundation.

A post-reception followed Shapiro’s presentation, as a continuation of the reception that preceded the event.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Get Ready To Ditch The SAT And ACT

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 10:41 AM

Decades from now, education historians may observe Common Core (CC) provoked a wave of activism that resulted in decentralizing U.S. education.

That was not what the power elites intended when they concocted standards and assessments intended to apply to all students, teachers, and schools. Their objective was centralization. But their arrogance has activated a hornets’ nest of angry parents intent on reclaiming control over their children’s schooling.

The revolt is going beyond the widespread opt-outs from federally mandated Common Core-linked testing.  Behind the scenes, hard work is proceeding on long-dreamed-of alternatives to the College Board’s century-old dominance of college-entrance testing. Impetus for that came when a key member of the Common Core cabal, testing consultant David Coleman, went straightway from writing the CC English standards to heading up the College Board on an explicit vow to align its SAT with Common Core.

Testing a New Test

Now, with the start of 2016 SAT testing, that has happened. However, the Vector Assessment of Readiness for College (ARC)—a budding SAT alternative—is happening, too. For four years, remarked company spokesman Julie West, “We spent a great deal of time researching entrance exams dating back generations, speaking with professors, retired educators, and professionals. Questions were developed, submitted, and reviewed. Sample questions were also sent to outside evaluators.”

ARC beta testing is underway, most recently at the Great Homeschooling Convention in Cincinnati during the first weekend of April. Homeschool families are a natural constituency because linking the SAT and other standardized tests to a de facto national curriculum places homeschoolers’ hard-won freedom from statist overreach and offensive standards in grave peril, but the ARC alternative also may prove to be useful for private and parochial schools, as well as public schools in states not plugged in to Common Core.

“Because the homeschool community is the only sector that has not experienced dramatic shifts in standards or curriculum over the past several years, we have focused on them during beta,” said West. “However, any student with an SAT/ACT or PSAT score may participate in beta testing.

“Because our assessment evaluates math skills through calculus, contains science through chemistry and physics, and contains questions regarding grammar and classic literature, we believe high-achieving students from private and public schools will also benefit from ARC,” said West. “Because we will not permit super scoring, much of the socioeconomic bias has been addressed. Finally, because we are not a timed test, those with special-needs students have been excited to learn about ARC.”

A Drive to Feed Students Substance

Super scoring is a dubious practice whereby students can take their highest scores from multiple SAT tests and piece them into one inflated outcome. Eliminating that kind of gaming would be a solid initial accomplishment for Vector ARC.

The Vector team states its assessment will “assess both proficiency of subject matter as well as overall cognitive abilities,” thus maximizing students’ opportunities “to present their strengths.”

At least one other alternative to the entrance-exam monolith is already available, offered through the Annapolis-based Classic Learning Initiatives, which started in 2015. Administered online at testing centers, the two-hour Classic Learning Test (CLT) draws on the works of some of the greatest minds in Western tradition, thinkers of the caliber of C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Luther King Jr., Plato, and Socrates. Several renowned liberal arts colleges, including St. John’s and Thomas Aquinas, accept CLT scores as an alternative to the SAT or ACT.

Alternatives to the powerhouse College Board, founded in 1900, have been a long time coming. The ACT became one such alternative in November 1959, and in 2011, it actually edged out the SAT in total test-takers. Richard Innes, an education analyst at the Bluegrass Institute, says some officials at ACT still believe its “traditional mission is to provide a quality college readiness test that is useful to college admissions offices.” However, Innes also said ACT’s recent joint venture with Pearson Publishing to create a Common Core-type test called Aspire appears to have introduced “mission confusion” at the company.

Then there is the freshly revised federal education law that lets school boards use the SAT and ACT as their federally mandated annual tests, even for students who don’t plan to go to college, saving money for local school districts and ensuring these education-testing giants have continuous access to a $700-million-per-year market. With big education and big testing continuing to feed off each other, the yearning for individualized alternatives is likely to grow.

[Originally published at the Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Despite Gloomy News, Life is Actually Getting Better

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 10:33 AM

It seems the news these days is nothing but bad. Through the media, we are told crime and violence rates are rising, rich cronies are getting richer and low-income earners are getting poorer, and war or rumors of war between countries across the globe run rampant.

But are things on Earth really getting worse than they were in the past, or do technologies such as the Internet just make it easier to learn about goings-on in far-flung parts of the world that would have occurred in the past without the common man knowing anything about them?

The answer, according to data collected by international organizations such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) may surprise some (if they get their news from politicians and the media.)

Objectively speaking, the human condition is getting better over time, not worse, thanks to the spread of free-market ideas across the world.

For example, data collected by HumanProgress.org, a project of the Cato Institute, suggests people on Earth have, on average, become more financially secure in just the past 10 years. According to figures from the OECD, the average amount of money any person could be expected to have saved after taxation rose by 40 percent from 2005 to 2015, jumping from $21,950 to $30,745.

Not only do people have more disposable income to save and spend as they please, they have more years in which they can use that money to enjoy life. Data from the World Bank show a baby boy born in 2014 has an average life expectancy of 69.1 years, while a boy born in 1960 had a life expectancy of only 51.9 years. Human medicine and technology have advanced so much in just the past 50 years that babies born today are expected to live almost 33 percent longer than their grandfathers.

Happiness and enjoyment of life’s blessings can’t be fully measured by economic or medical statistics. For example, what use would a long and prosperous life be if we didn’t have music in our lives? It’s a good thing, then, that there is more music to enjoy today than there was just 30 years ago.

According to MusicBrainz, an open-data online music encyclopedia, there have been more new albums and singles released in just 2015 than there were during the 14-year period spanning from 1980 to 1994.

If things are objectively getting better for people, then why do so many think things are getting worse?

Unfortunately, it’s not in the interests of our media to talk about all of the ways in which life is improving. To quote a fictional news reporter from popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, “Officials say there are still no reported casualties, which is truly unfortunate, as it makes for incredibly boring news.”

Lawmakers also have little use for reporting good news, because people may otherwise realize these improvements in human life occurred as a result of people freely conducting business with one another, without the help of government regulations and agencies. Instead, lawmakers and politicians focus on life’s negatives and propose more policies and politics as the solutions to the world’s problems, which are often caused by policies and politics.

Instead of believing the media and political spin that things are getting worse and government is the only answer, people need to research the facts and realize freedom has directly improved human happiness on Earth. It is quantifiable that wherever people are free, they have the means to be happy.

[Originally published at Washington Times]

Categories: On the Blog
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