On the Blog

The Zika Virus Disease Outbreak: What Should We Do?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 2:33 PM

The latest public health panic is over a disease most Americans (even doctors) have never heard of. Zika virus disease (ZVD) is carried by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti, as other Third World diseases, including dengue and chikungunya.

ZVD is asymptomatic in about 80 percent of infected individuals. In about 20 percent, it causes a mild, self-limited disease with fever, rash, joint pains, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Some 4,000 babies in Brazil have reportedly been born with severe birth defects, including microcephaly (small head), and officials suspect ZVD is the cause.

Mild disease, rash, birth defects: reminds one of rubella (German measles). Viruses can cause birth defects.

On Feb 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the same category as Ebola. American health authorities issued a travel advisory for pregnant women planning to visit Brazil or many other countries in Latin America or the Caribbean

A case of apparent sexual transmission in Dallas led to a warning that men who had been exposed to Zika should abstain from sex with a partner who might be pregnant.

Zika is by no means new. It was first identified in humans in 1947 in Uganda’s Zika Forest. What is new, and “scary,” according to CDC director Thomas Frieden, is the association with microcephaly and other fetal harm.

There is, however, still no definitive proof that microcephaly and associated defects are caused by ZVD. Some interesting facts:

  • So far the microcephaly cases are all in Brazil, not in the 35 other countries with ZVD, though an earlier cluster was observed in 2014 in French Polynesia.
  • As of Feb 3, only 17 of 404 cases of confirmed microcephaly tested positive for Zika.
  • Brazil had seen an increase in pertussis in fully vaccinated children, so early in 2015 officials mandated immunizing all pregnant women with DTaP (diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis) vaccine, without awaiting proof of efficacy or safety in the developing baby. Only 32 pregnant women were enrolled in a trial of this vaccine, and no results are posted yet.
  • A variable number of months after the vaccinations, the number of microcephaly cases increased from essentially zero in October 2015 to 1,200 in November, and continued to climb.
  • Because of a measles outbreak, there was a major vaccination campaign with MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) in Pernambuco, Brazil, in late 2014. This is a live virus vaccine, and many women likely received it in early pregnancy or shortly before becoming pregnant. Congenital rubella syndrome can cause microcephaly among many other problems, but this was not found in surveillance of American women who inadvertently received MMR around the time of conception.

The complex symphony of human development can be thrown off by many things—even a little alcohol. Some birth defects might be related to ZVD. But all environmental exposures need to be scrutinized, including drugs, agricultural chemicals, contaminated water, and vaccines. Remember thalidomide?

The unfortunate babies are being used to promote political causes: legalization of abortion in Latin America, or the fight against “climate change.”

With warmer temperatures, mosquitoes might be able to move further north, it is claimed. But Aedes aegypti arrived in North America around 1980 in a shipment of used tires, not waiting for a temperature increase. And mosquito-transmitted malaria was prevalent in Minnesota during the Little Ice Age. Climate change or not, mosquitoes will not be inconvenienced if we bankrupt our coal industry or ban SUVs.

Travel restrictions would greatly harm the economy of Latin American countries, especially as Brazil is preparing to host the Olympics. Of course there is no screening at all of illegal entrants to the U.S. The key public health measure is mosquito control. Mosquito-borne diseases, after a time when it was thought that even malaria might be wiped out, began increasing worldwide when the U.S. banned the most effective public health weapon of all time: DDT. If Zika causes rethinking of this disastrous decision, even though other deadly threats like malaria have not, it will save millions of lives—and even help us win the war on bed bugs.

The damaged babies are a terrible tragedy. How can we prevent more? Instead of waiting for some future vaccine against a virus that may prove innocent, we could stop transmission now with effective mosquito control in affected areas. We could also immediately stop deliberately exposing women who might be pregnant to medicines or vaccines without thorough safety testing.

[Originally published at Sunshine State News]

Categories: On the Blog

The Meaning of Conservatism

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 2:27 PM

At Saturday’s Republican debate, several candidates were asked to define “conservatism.” Marco Rubio gave a politically-astute answer. He said conservatism embodies three principles: (1) limited government under the framework of the Constitution, (2) free-market economics and (3) peace through strength. Donald Trump gave an answer in keeping with the root word “conserve,” he conserve that which one has.

Russell Kirk, in his book The Conservative Mind, inferred the meaning of conservatism from his study of great “conservative minds” of the past. As summarized by the Kirk Center, conservatism involves six principles. As he wrote more than sixty years ago, I thought I would take the liberty of considering certain great conservative minds of more recent history. I’ll work from the Kirk Center’s template, except for a wholesale substitute for #5.

  1. Belief in a transcendent order or body of natural law that rules society as well as conscience. There is objective truth in the universe, and we can know it. All sources of knowledge testify to this truth, and therefore faith and reason must be reconciled. Furthermore, our knowledge of “self-evident truths” grows over time as we become more aware of our nature and that of the universe.
  1. Affection for the variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrow uniformity and egalitarianism of “radical” systems. We love people, not merely “the people,” and we enjoy our culture as well as other cultures. We love the planet on which we find ourselves and the entire universe in its vastness and in its tiniest details. It is all utterly amazing and beyond full comprehension. And, we are suspicious of those who would seek to impose their designs on society, as they only reveal they have no idea of the limits of their knowledge.
  1. Civilization needs the rule of law and something Adam Smith described as “useful inequality.” This is in contrast to the notion of a “classless society.” Conservatives believe there are natural distinctions among men, leading to inequalities of condition. Conservatives affirm equality before God and the law; anything more leads not only to servitude but also to boredom.
  1. The argument for property is more than economic efficiency. As Pope John Paul II taught, it is that by having something a person can call his own, and by earning his living as opposed to depending on the apparatus of the state, a person is enabled to see himself as a unique and wonderful creature, and to love himself; and, loving himself thusly, and relating to others on the basis of mutual advantage and affection, he is enabled to love others as he loves himself.
  1. That social institutions such as the family, churches, fraternal organizations, for-profit business organizations, charities and even governments, are animated and justified by the choices made by those entering into them. Edmund Burke recognized the “little platoons” of society, John Marshall, “eleemosynary institutions,” and they were the reason Alexis de Tocqueville said “America is great because America is good.” James Buchanan generalized the concept of self-forming social institutions with his theory of clubs. It is the nexus of libertarian and conservative thought, libertarians being concerned with freedom, and conservatives with social institutions.
  1. Conservatives recognize risk and reward involved in change. While we believe in progress, we accept that mistakes are and will be made by those engaged in the process of discovery. Hayek dedicated his book The Constitution of Liberty to “The unknown civilization taking shape in America.” Hopefully, after the election this fall we will again be excited about the great adventure we embarked upon with the founding of this country.
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Audrey Boerner: Is Frac Sand Mining Safe?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 1:01 PM

In today’s episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Audrey Boerner from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health Inc. joins research fellow Isaac Orr to talk about the safety of frac sand mining.

Is frac sand mining safe? Audrey Boerner recently authored an extensive, 94-page report identifying potential impacts of frac sand mining and public health in Western Wisconsin. This extensive report examines air quality, water quality and quantity, as well as potential impacts from restoring mined land to non-mining uses (such as agriculture or prairie environments) and quality of life issues.

This scientific, data-driven report found that human health is unlikely to be affected by impacts from air or water quality, and that stress associated from changing land use –similar to Not In My Backyard– sentiments can cause some health-related issues.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Michael Hamilton on What’s UP Radio: Obamacare Squeezes Small Businesses

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 10:32 AM

Michael Hamilton joined The What’s UP Radio Program with Terry Lowry this week to discuss how the Affordable Care Act is squeezing small businesses, and by extension, individuals. Here’s the synopsis from TerryLowry.com:

Obamacare is failing – miserably. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010, millions of Americans have been forced to obtain a new – often inferior – health insurance plan. Health insurance premiums have risen dramatically, especially for young adults, and many health insurance companies operating in the Obamacare exchanges have lost millions of dollars. The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, recently announced it is expecting losses totaling more than $500 million on its 2016 Obamacare plans.

New guest, Michael Hamilton, is the managing editor of Heath Care News  with the Heartland Institute. Michael says there are two categories of people who are feeling the real brunt of Obamacare: The average taxpaying citizen and small business owners. Michael discusses a recent survey conducted by Level Funded Health. Of the more than 2,500 small business questioned, over 85% had an increase of over 25% in their premium rates! The statistics just get worse from there. Listen in!

Now, it is one thing to have an insurance card and health coverage. But what good does it do if you can’t use it? If your doctor doesn’t accept your insurance, you have to find one who does! Many doctors are even opting out of accepting insurance all-together, especially Medicaid of Medicare. Michael Hamilton says, “The government can do three things well: protect life and liberty and property. But what we’ve seen with Obamacare…it’s done the opposite with all three of those things.” People are less free to do what they want with their money in regards to healthcare.

There is hope on the horizon, however. Michael believes it is imperative for everyone to get as many people to vote this March 1 and November 8. “Americans must continue to call out the truth about policies that are being enacted,” he warns.

For more information, see Justin Haskins’ Consumer Power Report #491: “Small Businesses Suffering Under Obamacare.” 

Image via Thinkstock

 

Categories: On the Blog

When Government Makes Your Choices for You – You End Up with No Choices

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 10:30 AM

The old politician saw is: “The most dangerous place for you in Washington – is between (fill in name of pol) and a camera.” We’ll coin a government saw: “The most dangerous place for you anywhere on the planet – is government between you and the free market.”

Any and every tax, law and regulation – is government placing itself between you and the free market. And, conversely, between the free market and you. And, of course, it makes the market less free. It’s inherent. The bigger the tax – the less money you have for the market, and the less money marketeers have to operate. The bigger the laws and regulations – the less freedom we and the marketeers have to maneuver.

Think of government as a straight jacket. The bigger government is – the tighter are the arms constricting the marketplace.

We have spent years now warning you of the unbelievably narrowing nature of the ridiculous regulation known as Network Neutrality. Which is an all-encompassing government straight jacket locked onto the Internet. So huge is this regulatory power grab – it makes the government the preemptive decider on all things Internet marketplace.

We Net Neutrality realists warned of a Mother-May-I regulatory regime. Where every once-free marketeer would be reduced to having to ask government for permission before trying anything new – otherwise known as innovating, a crucial component of a free market.

Net Neutrality proponents repeatedly denied that this obvious reality – was an obvious reality. Now that the Barack Obama Administration has slammed Net Neutrality down upon us – this obvious reality is playing out. The once-free market – is now totally un-free.

Rather than testing new ideas in the marketplace to see if We the Consumers will like them – the marketeers must first go to our government overlords and see if they will approve them.

To wit: Zero-rating. A fancy phrase for a routine free market feature. Zero-rating toll-free phone numbers – are the companies you’re calling paying for the calls so you don’t. Zero-rating free shipping – is the companies from whom you’re purchasing paying for delivery so you don’t. Under Net Neutrality, bandwidth hog companies paying for their bandwidth so you don’t – may be outlawed.

We don’t yet know – our government overlords haven’t yet decided. So the $1 trillion Internet marketplace twists in the wind – while we await permission to try zero-rating online. Uncertainty is a huge bane of the market – Net Neutrality is uber-uncertainty on steroids.

On the Web – the biggest bandwidth hog is video. So we’re talking companies like Netflix and Google’s YouTube (who together, all by themselves, consume half of all U.S. bandwidth). To address this, different cellular phone companies want to try different variations of zero-rating.

T-Mobile’s Binge On would allow you unlimited access to twenty-four different video-intensive sites (with more likely to come) – without them counting against your data cap. (Their list includes Netflix – not Google’s YouTube.) Verizon’s FreeBee would allow any company that wishes to pay for their bandwidth (or per-click, another routine marketplace wrinkle) and join Verizon’s unlimited list plan (that list too would likely grow).

All of which are new and innovative ways to try new pricing models – and address the bandwidth shortage issues the market faces (largely because of government failure). All of which means We the Consumers would be able to afford to do a whole lot more Web surfing – which is good for us, and for every Web company on the planet.

This would be a free marketplace – where We the Consumers choose which plans we prefer. If we watch a lot of YouTube, we’d probably stay away from T-Mobile and choose another provider that includes YouTube in their package. If we don’t care about YouTube, but like Netflix – T-Mobile may be the one for us. Different providers would provide different packages – and constantly update them to make them as attractive to us as possible (for instance, T-Mobile might rush to add YouTube should it prove to be a popular offering).

We the Consumers would have the power. To determine which plans succeed – and which do not. We would have maximum choices – at the lowest price.

Government and its absurd Net Neutrality take this vibrant, choice-rich prospective marketplace – and preemptively strangle it in the crib. Rather than trying out Binge On and FreeBee on us – T-Mobile and Verizon have to beg our government overlords for approval.

Which makes it far less likely we will see either program – or any others from any other providers. Why subject yourself to the time-and-money-waste and egregious annoyance of genuflecting before government – all for permission to offer We the Consumers more for less? These companies don’t need the headache – and can’t afford it.

And how likely is it that an uber-regulatory government that slammed us with Net Neutrality – will be in an un-regulatory mood when it comes to these zero-rating plans? I am not particularly optimistic.

The result of this Net Neutrality inanity? Far fewer choices for us – at much higher prices. (See: ObamaCare.)

And ultimately, just one choice – government: “(T)he ultimate goal (of Net Neutrality) is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” (See: ObamaCare.)

It is and always will be the case: When government makes your choices for you – you end up with no choices.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Tim Bishop: EPA Taking Authority Over Land Using Clean Water Act

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 3:03 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Tim Bishop, a partner in the Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at MayerBrown LLP, who is serving as counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation, joins Host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss new EPA regulations that give it authority over land that is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes land in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Delaware and the District of Columbia. These regulations amount to federal zoning imposed on states and localities in the Chesapeake bay watershed under the guise of the clean water act. Bishop shows why this is contrary to the intention and language of the clean water act and of a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers and designed federalism.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Will the American People Be Suckered or Given Succor?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 1:20 PM

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), receiving a large bi-partisan approval in the House of Representatives earlier this year, is supposedly going to be taken up in the Senate this week. The provision has been added into the conference report (the final version of a bill to be considered by both chambers of congress) of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.

PITFA would continue the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) which was extended multiple times over the last seventeen years. ITFA was first signed into law in 1998. Originally intended to be permanent but negotiated to be temporary, the Act bans federal, state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on online sales and Internet access, and protects consumers by limiting taxes on transactions to one state.

If ITFA expires then Internet using consumers will be burdened with at least $16.4 billion a year in new taxes. Given a still sluggish economy one may be tempted to think that passage the Senate would be eager to avoid this tax. After all, what politician wants to go on the campaign trail this fall bragging that they have imposed a massive new tax specifically targeting Internet users? What politician wants to explain why that while the federal government spends millions on making broadband available to citizens that they voted to fleece those very same citizens, driving up costs and hence reducing the amount of broadband usage in the U.S.?

To date, only one thing has prevented passage of a permanent moratorium and the elimination of disparate, discriminatory tax treatment of the Internet–politics. That threat remains for the upcoming vote but the tactics have gotten even more desperate.

For years, big-government pro-taxers, particularly in the Senate have put off a permanent fix in an effort to force Congress, and the nation, to accept a massive tax increase and the radical expansion of government authority with a legislative vehicle once oxymoronically named the Mainstreet Fairness Act. They have often deployed the parliamentary tricks that voters increasingly reject to thwart the vote. This time, however, there may be nowhere to hide.

Rumor has it that Senators Enzi of Wyoming, Alexander of Tennessee, and Durbin of Illinois will attempt to strip the PITFA language from the proposal and support the tax using a parliamentary trick. To be successful the three Senators need 57 other Senators to side with them.

Simply put, Senators who side with Senators Enzi and Alexander are supporting a massive tax increase. Those who oppose this trick are voting against a tax increase, standing to protect the Internet and its users from a discriminatory tax.

Opposing the Internet crushing tax, a broad coalition of 45 organizations from across the country, including Madery Bridge, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging its leadership to finally, permanently ban taxes on Internet access and end the game-playing with national policy.

The vote is an easy one to make for those who oppose massive government and huge tax increases. Finally called out of the shadows to vote in the light of day, the people will see where their Senators line up on the issue allowing citizens to decide for themselves whether their Senators should be ordered out of the U.S. Senate.

Categories: On the Blog

“Keep it in the Ground” at Work in the Real World

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 11:35 AM

Going forward, we know what the new year of environmental activism looks like. They have told us. They have made it perfectly clear. They call it: “Keep it in the ground.”

The campaign is about all fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. Instead of an “all of the above” energy policy, when it comes to fossil fuels, they want “none of the above.” A big part of the effort is focused on preventing the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands—which is supported by presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton. The recent moratorium of leasing federal lands for coal mining, announced by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, is considered a great victory for “keep it in the ground.”

I wrote about the movement in December. Last month, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion editorial for one of its leaders, Bill McKibben: “How to drive a stake through the heart of zombie fossil fuel.” In it, McKibben states: “In May, a coalition across six continents is being organized to engage in mass civil disobedience to ‘keep it in the ground.’”

While big news items fuel the fight, smaller, symbolic wins are part of the strategy. Introducing the plan late last year, The Hill states: “It stretches into local fights, over small drilling wells, coal mines and infrastructure.”

Here’s what keep it in the ground looks like in the real world—in “local fights” and “over small drilling wells.”

In a suburb of Albuquerque known more for computer chip-making than crude oil extraction, the anti-fossil fuel crowd is doing everything they can to prevent a “small drilling well” from being developed.

In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the major employer is Intel. It is also home to several call centers—though the Sprint call center just announced it is closing and cutting 394 jobs. New Mexico has the nation’s highest jobless rate: 6.8%.

Rio Rancho is in Sandoval County—which currently, in the northern part of the county, has 600 oil-and-gas wells on tribal or federal lands. According to the NM Tax Research Institute, in 2013, when oil prices were higher, Sandoval County producers shipped 1.08 million barrels of oil worth $86 million and 394.1 million MCF (one MCF = one thousand cubic feet) of natural gas worth $1.6 billion.

After leasing the mineral rights last year, an Oklahoma company, SandRidge Energy Inc., is hoping to drill an exploratory well. The well, which has already received approval from the state Oil and Conversation Division (OCD), is “about four miles outside of the Rio Rancho city limits,” reports the Albuquerque Journal. It will be a vertical well, drilled to a depth of 10,500 feet—which is expected to take about 25 days. Until the well is drilled and logged, engineers will not know whether the resource will warrant development or, if it does, if it will require hydraulic fracturing. The OCD permit is to drill, complete, and produce the well. Jami Grindatto, president and CEO of the Sandoval Economic Alliance says the environmental footprint would be “small.”

Several previous exploratory wells have been drilled in the Albuquerque Basin that were determined not to be economically viable—though oil was found.

To begin drilling, SandRidge needs a zoning variance from the county. On December 10, the Planning and Zoning Committee held a contentious meeting to hear public comment on the SandRidge application. So many wanted to speak, there wasn’t time, nor space, to accommodate them. Another meeting, in a larger venue, was scheduled for January 28. There, dozens of people spewed generic talking points against fracking; speaking vaguely about pollution, earthquakes, and/or water contamination. The Committee, to no avail, asked presenters to stay on topic and address just this one well—this application.

A few folks braved the hostile crowd and spoke in support of the project—only to be booed.

It was in this atmosphere that the Committee recommended that the County Commissioners deny the request. Essentially, they threw up their hands and acknowledged that they weren’t equipped to deal with the intricacies of the application—which is why such decisions are better made at the state levels, where there are engineers and geologists who understand the process.

The Sandoval County Commissioners may still approve the special use permit at the February 18 meeting—as they are the final decision makers.

In December, Sandoval County Commissioner James Dominguez, District 1, said he “has some major concerns that the drilling could compromise the water supply and air quality in Rio Rancho.” KOAT News cites Dominguez as saying: “I know that eventually, in time, it will pollute our water sources”—this despite the definitive August 2015 EPA study released that confirmed hydraulic fracturing does not pollute the water supply.

In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm. Perhaps the upcoming meeting will be an opportunity to provide more factual information to the political decision makers. (Readers are encouraged to send supportive comments to the commissioners and/or attend the February 18 meeting.)

One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”

One day later, another small band from the anti-fossil-fuel movement also celebrated an almost insignificant victory that adds to the momentum. This one in California.

On January 29, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit environmental groups filed two years against two federal agencies that they claim permitted offshore fracking and other forms of high-pressure well stimulation techniques: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The settlement requires public notice for any future offshore applications for fracking and acidification. Additionally, the agencies have agreed to provide what’s termed “a programmatic” environmental assessment of the potential impacts of such techniques on the coastal environment.

To read the press releases from the environmental groups, one would think that these government agencies were in cahoots with ExxonMobil and that they were sneaking around, letting the oil companies run amok. In fact, the companies who’ve applied for drilling permits, have followed a very stringent application process—under which they were approved. However, once exploratory wells were drilled, they were found not to be good candidates for hydraulic fracturing.

A consulting petroleum geologist, with more than 30 years’ experience—almost exclusively in California—explained it to me this way: “There’s not a lot of hydraulic fracturing going on offshore, because, similar to most of California, it simply isn’t effective. Most of the rocks are adequately fractured by Mother Nature. Generally speaking fracking is effective in a few places where it has been used without incident since the 1940s. It is not an issue.”

The settlement requires “a programmatic” environmental assessment be completed by May 28—during which time “the agencies will withhold approval of drilling permits.” Sources I spoke with, told me that this, too, was not a big deal—which would explain why ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute agreed not to oppose the settlement. In the current low-priced oil environment companies are not clamoring for new drilling targets. It is believed that once the assessment is complete, the existing requirements will be found to be appropriate and permitting can move forward.

Additionally, offshore rigs are currently shutdown in the region—an overreaction to a pipeline break last spring.

So, if this “settlement” is much ado about nothing, why even bring it up? Because, it is an example of those “local fights;” the little “wins” that motive the “keep it in the ground” movement and encourage them for the bigger fights—like hydraulic fracturing in the deep water Gulf of Mexico.

These two stories are likely just a sampling of the battles being played out in county commissions and government agencies throughout America. As in these cases, a small handful of activists are shaping policy that affects all of us and impacts the economics of our communities by, potentially, cutting funding for education and public services.

“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.

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

Obama, Democrats and Bureaucrats Bury America’s Future Under More Federal Regulations

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 10:10 AM

America’s abysmal 0.7% economic growth during the fourth quarter of 2015 meant the annual growth rate was an anemic 2.4% … and average annual growth for the six-year Obama era a pathetic 2.2 percent.

This is “dead last compared to six other recession recoveries since 1960,” Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore points out. The six averaged a robust 4.0% while the Reagan era recovery averaged a “sizzling” 4.8% over six years. That means the Obama recovery lost $1.8 trillion (in constant 2009 money) that would have been pumped into the economy under an average recovery, and $2.8 trillion under a Reagan-style rebound, Moore says, citing a congressional Joint Economic Committee analysis.

But job growth is “strong,” the White House insists, averaging 280,000 each of the last three months of 2015 (and a mere 151,000 last month). This deceptive claim hides the fact that 94 million Americans over age 16 are not working. The horrid 62.7% labor force participation rate remains the worst in decades.

Under an average post-1960 recovery, 5 million more Americans would be working today than actually are; a Reagan recovery would have 12 million more working now. Even an average recovery would have given every American an after-tax annual income $3,339 higher than he or she is actually getting today, the JEC calculates. That’s why tens of millions are on unemployment, disability and food stamps.

Many jobs created during the Obama era are part-time, held by people who want full-time work but cannot find it – and those part-time slots offer lower salaries, benefits and job security. That means family bread winners must work several jobs to make ends meet, often suffering the adverse health effects of increased stress and sleep deprivation: ulcers, weight gain, strokes, heart attacks, alcohol, drugs, suicide.

While the official jobless rate is 5.0% the real one is 10% or higher, since the official rate ignores those who have given up looking and dropped out of the analysis – or have entered the cash only, barter, pay-little-income-tax economy. Moreover, jobless rates for black and Hispanic Americans are much higher. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger notes that black unemployment is 9% in Texas, 12% in South Carolina, and 13% in Arkansas, again not counting those too demoralized to look for work.

What has gone wrong with the American economy and job-creating machine?

First of all, the Obama Administration has deliberately destroyed tens of thousands of jobs in the name of preventing “dangerous manmade climate change” and “fundamentally transforming” our energy, economic, social and legal systems – via its war on coal, oil, natural gas, manufacturing, and the vast majority of economic activities on government controlled lands in the western states and Alaska.

Entire communities, states and regions are being hammered. If these policies continue, millions more Americans will lose their jobs in the next few years.

Second, government has simply gotten much too big, powerful and unaccountable – at the local and state level, and especially at the federal level. It is not coincidental that five of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States are in the Washington, DC area. Members of Congress and 20% of federal bureaucrats earn well into six-figure incomes, while many lawyers and lobbyists working the legislative and regulatory hallways and back rooms earn millions annually.

According to carefully nurtured mythology, our “public servants” are more knowledgeable and altruistic than almost anyone in the private sector; and they are dedicated to finding and punishing miscreants who would routinely rob, cheat and pollute if it weren’t for the lawmakers and regulators. It does happen. But IRS, VA, EPA, Benghazi, Gold King, Flint, Michigan and countless other examples dramatize how false this narrative is – as do multiple studies by Congress, Ron Arnold, E&E Legal, myself and many others.

In far too many cases, the president and his regulators are arrogant, incompetent, negligent, abusive and vindictive. While they still employ the formal regulatory process (draft rules, comment periods, reviews and final rulemaking), they increasingly avoid it via executive orders, guidance memos, informal bulletins and other tactics that have equally effective regulatory impact. They also use investigations, tax exemption denials, tax audits, warning letters, land and property seizures, and selective arrests, fines and prosecutions, to compel businesses, nonprofits, political groups and individuals to kowtow to them.

Government agencies and officials routinely coordinate or collude with activist groups to develop and promote policies and regulations, often employing secret personal email accounts, off-site meetings that avoid transparency, and million-dollar payments to activists who rubberstamp and promote the rules. They exaggerate and manipulate data and studies to justify policies and regulations, while demanding larger budgets, more personnel, more power to control our lives, livelihoods and business operations.

And yet even shady, incompetent or blatantly illegal actions are shielded by colleagues, judges, laws, politicians and the media from any accountability, liability or penalty. And policies and rules arising from these questionable to illegal means are rarely overturned by the courts.

Large corporations and wealthy individuals can often survive, even thrive, under these conditions – especially if they secure mandates, subsidies and government-guaranteed loans for their products. They also use laws, regulations and bureaucracies to stifle competition. Small businesses cannot even read the mountains of laws and regulations, much less comprehend them or know they are in compliance.

* The Tax Code is 74,000 pages and 33 million words long, counting important cases and interpretations. America’s 35% corporate tax rate is the highest among all developed countries.

* The Code of Federal Regulations is 175,000 pages long and coupled with more than 1.4 million pages of ten-point-type Federal Register proposed and final rules published just since 1993.

* The 2015 Federal Register contained a record 81,611 pages. The 2016 FR will likely be even longer, as some 60 federal departments, agencies and commissions have more than 3,000 regulations in the pipeline, to implement and impose every remaining item on the Obama agenda.

* Over 4,450 federal crimes are embedded in those laws and regulations – and neither an inability to understand the complex edicts nor an absence of intent to violate them is a defense.

* Complying with all these regulations costs American businesses and families $1.9 trillion per year. That’s one-tenth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product – $5,900 a year for every American citizen.

* EPA’s new 70 ppb ozone standard will likely put half of all U.S. counties out of compliance and close down transportation, housing and factory projects, for minuscule to imaginary health benefits.

* EPA’s Clean Power Plan will cost up to $73 billion annually in higher electricity prices, force states to shutter their coal-fired power plants, and destroy numerous mining, utility and factory jobs – to prevent a hypothetical and undetectable 0.018 degrees C (0.032 degrees F) of warming 85 years from now.

* The 2015 Paris climate treaty will cost some $484 billion per year for the next 25 years, just to replace carbon-based energy with wind, solar and biofuel energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculates.

Now climate activists want EPA to use the Clean Air Act and Paris treaty to regulate and eliminate all vehicle, drilling, pipeline, landfill, gas-fired generator and other CO2 and methane sources, crippling our economy – and then still send hundreds of billions to developing countries for “climate reparations.”

But as climate scientist John Christy recently told Congress, the entire Obama climate agenda is based on computer models that do not work. “The real word is not going along with rapid warming” assertions, he emphasized. “The models need to go back to the drawing board.” And EPA’s rules need to be scrapped.

You may despise politics. But the politicians and bureaucrats are hot on your trail – and Democrats running for president would put Obama’s policies on steroids. (So would Michael Bloomberg). So get motivated, informed and involved – before our vibrant free enterprise republic is only a dim memory.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Google Can’t Criticize EU Much for Ruling it Dominant & Anticompetitive

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 10:02 AM

In the next several weeks, expect the EC’s Competition Directorate to decide that Google is in fact dominant with >90% share of Internet search in Europe and that Google has abused its search dominance by biasing its own Shopping service over competitors. It also could formally charge Google for abuse of its search dominance in contractually tying Google Search and other search-driven apps like Maps, YouTube, etc. to Android to extend its search dominance to mobile search and to the operating system market where Android now owns >80% share.

In taking a most extreme and ultimately indefensible legal and PR position, that the EU antitrust case is “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics,” Google has painted itself into a corner, PR-wise and politically, much more than many appreciate. Why?

First, the U.S. DOJ has already officially found Google dominant in search/search-advertising — twice.

It will be very hard for Google to credibly argue that its >90% share of Internet search is not dominance when the EU legal threshold for dominance is just ~40%.

It will also be hard for Google to get the USG to publicly pound the table on their behalf, because it is public knowledge that both the Bush DOJ and the Obama DOJ both officially found Google dominant after in-depth investigations.

The Bush DOJ determined in 2008: “The Department’s investigation revealed that Internet search advertising and Internet search syndication are each relevant antitrust markets and that Google is by far the largest provider of such services, with shares of more than 70 percent in both markets.” The Obama DOJ determined in 2010: “…Google, the firm that now dominates these markets … [“Internet search and paid search advertising”].”

Second, on a factual level, the FTC’s staff report on Google antitrust showed that both the FTC staff investigators, and even Google, viewed Google as dominant.

We learned from the inadvertent release of the FTC staff report that recommended an antitrust case against Google, that FTC investigators concluded that: “Google is clearly the dominant provider of ‘general’ search services in the U.S.” (p. 68).

The FTC also discovered an admission by Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, who stated: “We’re the dominant incumbent in the industry” (footnote 547). In addition, the FTC uncovered email evidence Larry Page personally supported the search bias self-dealing that Google now denies: “Larry [Page] thought product [Google’s shopping service] should get more exposure” (footnote 120).

Third, Google can’t claim to be innocent victim of EU antitrust charges when it is obviously a rare serial antitrust recidivist.   

In 2008, Google dropped its proposed Google-Yahoo Ad Agreement because the DOJ threatened a Section 1 & 2 monopolization case for trying to extend its >70% dominance of Internet search advertising and search syndication to a >90% share via the collusive proposal with Yahoo.

In 2009, the DOJ opposed the proposed Google Book Settlement as anticompetitive, and in 2011, a U.S. Court agreed and rejected the settlement as anti-competitive — a legal position by the way, that was officially supported by Germany and France in their opposition filings.

In 2010, the DOJ and Court prohibited Google and six other companies from continuing to engage is anticompetitive employee solicitation agreements.

In 2013, both the FTC and the EU settled with Google to prohibit it from continuing to anti-competitively abuse its Standard Essential Patent (SEP) portfolio, after the DOJ warnedGoogle to not do so when it approved Google’s acquisition of Motorola.

Fourth, U.S. State AGs are asking the FTC for a new look at the Google antitrust case.

A recent bipartisan letter from the Attorney Generals of Utah and the District of Columbia said: “We encourage the commission to consider new information and developments that have become available both domestically and internationally since closing its Google investigationper Bloomberg.

This is timely and significant because of the pending EU decisions on Google Search-bias and the Android-tying/app-bias investigation, and also because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in the coming weeks against Google’s Section 230 lawsuit claiming that state Attorney Generals have no law enforcement jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute Google for violation of state laws. 41 State AGs, including Utah and DC’s, oppose Google’s audacious claim of special legal immunity from state law enforcement.

Fifth, new Android mobile search financials spotlight Google’s market power of tying search to Android.

We recently learned fromthe Oracle v. Google-Android copyright infringement case that Android enjoyed monopoly-size >70% gross profit margins in 2014. We just learned from Google’s earnings, that Google’s mobile search dominance also made Google most valuable company in the world.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said: “Above all, our Q4 results show the great momentum and opportunity we have in mobile search…” Given what we now know from the Oracle 2014 Google-Android financials and Google’s 2015 financials that exceeded revenue and profit expectations, Google Android probably now generates over a third of Google’s revenues and over 40% of Google’s profits. This is not normal competitive growth; this is anticompetitive Google-Android contractual tying in requiring Google Search to be the default and prominent search engine on Android devices – to drive dominance in mobile search.

Finally, neither Google nor the USG want to beg media or EU questions into why the USG is aggressively defending Google in public when the DOJ has previously found Google dominant and anticompetitive.

To the extent that Boss Google uses its influence machine to get the USG, FTC or the DOJ to publicly defend Google against the EU as not dominant, or as an innocent victim of the EU’s antitrust charges, they will put the put the USG, FTC, and DOJ in the embarrassing position of answering logical public accountability questions it does not want asked.

Like why is Google allowed to create at least the perception of a conflict of interest by enthroning so many of its former employees or consultants in so many Federal Government positions of commercial importance to Google?

Why did the DOJ not require Google to fully comply with the requirements in its $500m criminal forfeiture, Non-Prosecution Agreement, when Google broke five laws during the probation period?

Why did the FTC shut down the Google antitrust investigation abruptly over the advice of the FTC’s professional investigators, and why did the FTC put out a press release defending Google at Google’s behest?

 

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

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.

Categories: On the Blog

Demand Lawmakers Enact a Permanent Smart Meter Opt Out for Illinoisans

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 9:54 AM

Although the installation of Smart Meters by ComEd has already been completed in some areas of Illinois – despite protests from concerned citizens – a recent news account alerted Lake County residents that they have been targeted next for Smart Meter installation.

An article published in the Daily Herald on January 29, 2016, stated how Libertyville, IL, is in the next round of communities in Lake County to have standard analog meters replaced by “smart” devices. Quoted in the article was David Doherty, director of the Smart Meter transformation for ComEd, who explained how “Smart Meters collect energy usage information that can be read remotely, allowing the company to determine and react to power outages more quickly.  The meters also will send a signal when a customer loses power.”

According to company literature that is distributed by ComEd to community leaders in advance of Smart Meter installation: “Smart Meters will provide consumers benefits from the new technology, allowing consumers to access their power usage online so habits can be altered, as needed, to better manage their energy consumption. Smart Meters will likewise provide access to optional pricing programs, such as switching use to times when it costs less to produce.”

Spin vs Truth 

The above benefits most likely sound entirely logical to Illinoisans, especially when coupled with this canned statement frequently made by Smart Meter installers when questioned by home owners about the need for a Smart Meter: Smart Meters will eliminate the need for meter readers.  

But Beware, Illinoisans!  What you are receiving from ComEd is spin instead of facts. It was in July of last year when I took the CUBFacts Smart Meter information (Citizen Utility Board) propaganda sheet with its ComEd supplied facts to the woodshed for its inaccurate information.  In my article, “Beware of Propaganda to Quell Inconvenient Truths About Smart Meters”, the CUBFacts Smart Meter Information sheet was evaluated for misleading statements and edited accordingly.  What is in bold was taken directly from CUBFacts, followed each time by my explanation of what really is true!

It is important to your family’s health security and privacy to say NO to a Smart Meter installation when you are accordingly notified.  Take the op-out delay that is being offered. Realize that the opt-out choice is not a permanent one and that Smart Meter installation is just being delayed until 2018 with no opportunity to oppose installation after that. Other states offer a permanent opt-out to their utility customers. ComEd customers in Illinois do not have that option.

ComEd Lobbyist Contrived No-opt out Law

As to the history of the law that makes Wireless Smart Meters mandatory in Illinois: ComEd lobbyists wrote the law; it was passed by the General Assembly against vehement and persistent opposition from the Attorney General, AARP, and informed citizens aware of the risks. ComEd spent 16 million dollars convincing the General Assembly to over-ride Governor Quinn’s Veto. When elected, Governor Rauner then signed another bill favoring ComEd over the rights of citizens to have a choice. 

It is tragic for consumers that Chicago’s powerful and politically-connected ComEd was able to convince the General Assembly to pass a law that could potentially threaten homes, harm lives, adversely impact nature, invade privacy, and, in a broader scope, undermine the state’s security by making the electric grid more vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Doesn’t every ComEd customer deserve the right to have a choice to opt-out permanently in the face of the real and present dangers that having a Smart Meter on the side of their house or business could engender? It is unjust and un-American to force Wireless Smart Meters on every home without alerting residents to the many risks and offering them a choice.

Reasons to Reject Smart Meters

1. Health and Environment – Smart Meters are installed in a Mesh Network which relays data from one house to another and eventually on to a collector unit, which is an additional wireless network that sends the data back to the utility. ComEd says that Radio Frequency (RF) emissions only take place 4 times a day every 6 hours.

That may be true for one household’s data measurements. However, Smart Meters also send and receive network management messages every few seconds around the clock. In a California Court the utility admitted that a Smart Meter emits from 10 to 190,000 bursts a day. Each burst is sending RF/microwave radiation into the home and throughout the neighborhood. The power level of each burst is about 1,000 milliwatts, making Smart Meters one of the most powerful RF radiators in a community

What this means to ComEd Customers?:  that a Class 2B Carcinogen (the category for wireless RF emissions, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer ‘IARC” of the World Health Organization) is being mandated on ALL homes in the ComEd service territory. Even worse, there is NO PERMANENT OPT-OUT OPTION AVAILABLE.

People who have already had their Smart Meter installed are complaining of headaches, ringing in the ears, rashes, nausea, insomnia, chest pressure, heart palpitations, nose bleeds, and weakness, etc. There is a potential threat to those with medical implants and weakened immune systems. The well-being of pets is also of concern. Studies that have been done on wildlife, trees, plants, and bees show that they will also suffer from the RF/microwave emissions blanketing the state.  

Breaking news on January, 29, 2016:  the Pennsylvania Utility Commission is allowing a hearing to go forward of a nurse who says Smart Meter made her sick.  What makes this so interesting is that PECO is an Exelon Company, like ComEd.  

2. Privacy Invasion — Without your consent, the computer inside the Smart Meter collects private energy behavior patterns that will be available to government agencies and could be at some point be for sale to marketers. A hacker or thief could use this data to know whether or not the home is occupied and if high-end electronics are in the home. 

3. Hacking and Cyber-Security – Vulnerabilities in wireless data transmission can pose national security risks to the electric grid. A former CIA Director calls the Smart Grid “really, really STUPID”. ComEd will be installing 4,000,000 access points to the Internet; every private home and business in their service territory.

4. Higher Bills – Smart Meters monitor usage 24/7 as a means of instituting Time-of-Use pricing. Due to escalating charges for peak time usage, bills can double, or worse. Time-of-Use pricing boosts ComEd profits while penalizing those who need lower electric rates the most—stay-at-home moms, the elderly, the unemployed, and those with disabilities. Anyone who is unable to change their behavior, such as washing dishes and doing laundry at off-peak hours, will not benefit from having a Smart Meter.

5. Appliances: RF Radiation and Privacy Invasion – New appliances come with mandated wireless RF transmitters that emit RF signals to the wireless Smart Meter around-the-clock. Manufacturers can also keep track of information about their appliances for future marketing through the wireless transmissions.  Because the Smart Appliance Services are provided through wireless networks and the Internet, communications could be intercepted by others.  

6. Lack of Control – The utility owns and maintains 100% control over computer hardware and software upgrades inside Smart Meters. With Demand Response, a utility company can selectively turn on/off appliances or an entire household.

7. Loss of Property and Safety – There has been hundreds of reports of electrical fires caused by arching and sparking within the Smart Meter. Homes with older wiring may be more susceptible to the risk of fire.  

Corix, the company ComEd is using for installation gives their employees, who have no prior electrical experience, two weeks of classroom instruction and one week of field work. In California, more than a 100 GE Smart Meters (manufacturer ComEd selected) have exploded right on homes due to a power surge. And, Smart Meters have been known to “fry” electronics. 

Should you still have doubts about the dangers posed by Smart Meters, this website deserves careful study. Under the name of SkyVision Solutions, this site  (www.smartgridawareness.org) is dedicated to raising public awareness about the costs and risks associated with smart grid systems as well as the potential hazards related to Radio Frequency Radiation emissions from Smart Meters.

Here is the link to my https://youtu.be/aoodNMI3nzc appearance on a local Comcast TV cable show talking about the dangers posed by Smart Meters, with a warning about cell phones. Both wireless devices produce electromagnetic radiation. There is mounting evidence that that RF-EMF radiation is carcinogenic. The fact that exposure to our population is increasing at an exponential rate, the potential consequences are catastrophic.

Action Required 

1)  Call the ComEd Smart Meter installation line (866) 368-8326 and request a DELAY if a Smart Meter has not already been installed. If one has been installed, call and have it be replaced with a non-transmitting meter.

2)  Contact Governor Bruce Rauner and your elected Illinois General Assembly legislators. Insist the Utility Modernization law be amended and the ICC ruling requiring mandatory compliance be changed. Demand a PERMANENT TRUE OPT-OUT, NOT JUST A DELAY! 

ALL WIRELESS DEVICES, INCLUDING CELL PHONES, ARE VOLUNTARY AND CAN BE TURNED OFF WHEN NOT IN USE. SMART METERS ARE MANDATORY AND ARE ON 24/7, FOREVER.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

True Climate Criminals Facing Trial

Somewhat Reasonable - February 07, 2016, 1:05 PM

Another prominent climate scientist has been accused of breaking the law. Following on the heels of the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under a cloud of sexual abuse charges, Dr. Daniel Michael Alongi, senior principal research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, was arrested, accused of fraudulently diverting more than half-a-million dollars in government funds intended for climate research into his own pockets during the past seven years. If convicted of all charges, Alongi faces up to 30 years in prison.

The Townsville Bulletin reports Alongi has already admitted to police he made false invoices and credit card statements and created fake email trails to claim expenses over seven years. During the period of Alongi’s alleged fraud, his research focusing on the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, coastal mangroves, and coastal ecosystems was published in national and international journals.

Meanwhile back in the U.S., a trial has begun for five climate activists with Rising Tide Seattle arrested in 2014 for criminal trespass and blocking the passage of a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken Formation in Montana and North Dakota to oil terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

A spokesperson for Rising Tide said the activists “will be the first ever to argue that [otherwise criminal] actions were justified because of the threat of climate change, using the ‘necessity defense.’ The outcome of [the] trial could set a national precedent for climate related civil disobedience. …” Washington state agencies are considering adding six new oil-by-rail facilities in the state; a report commissioned by the Sightline Institute said those facilities could allow as much as 114,000 barrels per day to be produced beyond what would be produced without the terminals.

Responding to the supposed threat, Patrick Mazza, one of the activists arrested for blocking the train, said, “There came a point where I could no longer sit back and wait for the politicians to act. I had to put my body on the line to demand not talk, but action on a massive scale to rapidly replace fossil fuels.”

Climate skeptics exercise their free speech rights and the mainstream media trumpets legislators and climate radicals calls try them for racketeering. Meanwhile, climate alarmists commit real crimes and the mainstream media is virtually silent on the matter.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep24): The Heartland Institute, Economic Freedom Ranking, and Super Bowl I Tape

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2016, 3:20 PM

The format has been tweaked for episode #24 of the In The Tank Podcast. Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft explore the world of think tanks. 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.

Moving forward, the In The Tank Podcast will feature several segments that give you a view into what the think tanks around the world are working on. These segments include:

Better Know a Think Tank

This segment will feature a representative from a think tank who will discuss the mission, objectives, and work of their organization.

Since this is the first episode of this new format, we get to know The Heartland Institute better.

Featured Work of the Week

In this segment, we will highlight a study or report produced by a think tank that we feel deserves extra recognition.

We discuss the World Economic Freedom Ranking produced by The Heritage Foundation where America has slipped down to #11.

In the World of Think Tankery

Here is where we discuss other timely, newsworthy stories that think tanks focus on.

Today we discussed The Freedom Foundation‘s report on Washington State’s Failed Minimum Wage Experiment. We also touched on an article by Reason about a person’s struggle over a tape of Super Bowl I with the NFL.

Events

In this last segment, we cover a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.

Heritage Foundation – The Great Flat Tax Debate (Feb 8) D.C.

Heartland Institute – Forum on Article V Convention (Feb 24) Suburbs of Chicago

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – Civil Asset Forfeiture: Time for Reform in Oklahoma? (Feb 10) Oklahoma City

Foundation for Economic Freedom – Debunking the Progressive Myth (Feb 8) Suburbs of Denver

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Heartland Celebrates National School Choice Week With Packed Event

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2016, 1:56 PM

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

Obamacare Paperwork: A Multi-Billion-Dollar Cost Americans Can’t Afford
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature law, has caused significant premium price increases and has forced millions of Americans out of insurance plans they enjoyed prior to the law’s passage. One of the biggest burdens that is rarely mentioned is the millions of hours of paperwork required for businesses and individuals to keep up with federal regulators’ demands. These added regulatory expenses reduce efficiency and increase costs, hurting businesses and families. READ MORE

Oregon Legislators Move to Make Energy More Expensive
Tim Benson, Heartland Research & Commentary
In the name of combating “man-caused global warming,” legislators in Oregon are taking steps that will guarantee poor and middle-income families pay more for energy. Two pieces of legislation have been proposed that would shutter all of the state’s coal-producing power plants and require utilities to meet 50 percent of customer demand with renewable energy. This is the opposite of moves being made by other states to roll back their renewable energy mandates to enjoy the benefits of cheap and reliable energy.  READ MORE

Heartland National School Choice Event a Great Success
To promote National School Choice Week, The Heartland Institute held a packed event in its new home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, featuring former congressman Joe Walsh, Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison, and Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Chicago Archdiocese. The message: “Fund children, not districts.” Children need an education system flexible enough to meet individual needs instead of the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. If you missed it, the whole event was live-streamed and is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Marian Tupy – Tracking Human Quality of Life Over the Centuries
Life on Planet Earth has gotten easier and more enjoyable over time, and modern technology has benefitted billions of people. Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, joinsBudget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Cato project that allows people to create, compare, and share statistical indices of how human quality of life has changed over the centuries.  LISTEN TO MORE

Never Lose a Debate with a Global Warming Alarmist!

The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Read about Heartland President Joseph Bast’s discussion of the book on the Lynn Woolley Show HERE. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! READ MORE

What Will Socialized Health Care Do to YOUR Medical Care?
Jane M. Orient, M.D., AAPS
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist Democratic candidate for president, is running a populist campaign with universal health care as one of his central platforms. What would a socialized health care system mean for your medical care? Would it deliver low-quality care, like Medicare, or even lower-quality care like the scandal-prone Veterans Administration? Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and a Heartland Institute policy advisor, asks these questions and more. READ MORE

A Constitutional Convention Can Be Limited in Scope
Kyle Maichle, San Antonio Express-News
The spending problem of the federal government and the skyrocketing national debt have driven many to push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some of these supporters include Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. While this movement is picking up steam, others are reluctant to support such a change out of concern that any effort to amend the Constitution might open the door to undesirable changes. Kyle Maichle, Heartland’s project manager for constitutional reform, dispels this myth. READ MORE

Obama’s EPA to Anti-Frackers: You’re Wrong
Tim Benson, Toledo Blade
The hydraulic fracking revolution has done more to reduce energy prices and increase American energy independence than any other innovation in recent history. However, opponents of fracking routinely repeat the same two allegations. They say the disposal of wastewater causes earthquakes and proper regulations are not in place to protect citizens. Two reports released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discredit those claims and show the processes are being done in a safe and proper manner. READ MORE

‘Big Data’ Tries to Zero Out Parents in Common Core Review
Robert Holland, Townhall
When parents began to shine a light on the deception at the root of the Common Core State Standards initiative, some states responded by using an online tool developed with Academic Benchmarks, Inc. that government officials claimed gave parents input into the development of standards. But Academic Benchmarks is not the disinterested party so many have been claiming it is. In fact, there are good reasons for parents and pro-school-choice education activists to be very concerned about the Cincinnati-headquartered firm. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Jessica Sena: Let’s Not ‘Keep it in the Ground’
One of the latest environmental campaigns to capture attention is the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, which advocates leaving 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground forever. Jessica Sena joins research fellow Isaac Orr to explain why this is a disastrous proposition that would lead to higher energy prices and premature death in developing nations. LISTEN TO MORE

Los Angeles Teen One of 12 in the World to Achieve a Perfect AP Calculus Score
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
Seventeen-year-old Cedrick Argueta is only the twelfth student in the world to receive a perfect score on the notoriously difficult Advanced Placement calculus AB exam. He attributes his success to plain-old hard work. “While I think talent is a big part of doing well, hard work definitely trumps that,” he told a local news station, echoing what many researchers have said despite the widespread belief that stupendous academic skills are a fixed trait. Also in this issue of School Choice Weekly: Virginia lawmakers have introduced a bill that would create education savings accounts for any child enrolled in public school or about to enter kindergarten, and Arizona Gov. Mary Fallin has called for education savings account legislation. READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

‘Big Data’ Tries to Zero Out Parents in Common Core Review

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2016, 2:52 PM

When grassroots parents discovered big-education elitists had kept them in the dark about the Common Core (CC) experiment being conducted on their children, they helped to shine a bright light on the gross deception perpetrated by some educators and government officials who desire to radically transform the way the nation’s children are educated.

These parents skillfully used social media and traditional town hall meetings to expose the ugly foundation underpinning Common Core, thereby turning the tide of public opinion to the extent that two-dozen states now claim to be reviewing Common Core with an eye toward revision or replacing the standards altogether.

Unfortunately, parents now find themselves on the outside peering into this process, as big-education advocates wrap their many tentacles tightly around Common Core in the hopes of preserving this detrimental set of standards. One of those tentacles is called “big data.”

When Kentucky, the first state to adopt Common Core, became the first to initiate a defensive public review in 2014, its Department of Education reported having developed with Academic Benchmarks, Inc. (AB) an online tool to let parents, educators, and others sound off on each and every standard.

With the data collected, Kentucky’s educrats boasted in 2015 88 percent of their respondents gave a big “thumbs up” to Common Core standards and suggested no changes, contrary to public opinion polls showing support for CC below 50 percent.

Several other states, most recently Louisiana, have been using this supposedly unbiased online tool as well, but Academic Benchmarks is not the disinterested party so many have been claiming it is. In fact, there are good reasons for parents and pro-choice education activists to be very concerned about the Cincinnati-headquartered company.

According to an online review by Edmentum, Inc., Academic Benchmarks has “the market’s most comprehensive standards collection maintaining over 3 million domestic and international academic standards including K–12, Career and Technical Education, and early learning.”

Edmentum also says AB is a “premier provider of standards data services, tools, and alignment services for the K-12 education industry. … [It helps the] businesses of education … to meaningfully describe and connect learning objectives, education frameworks, and learning resources to meet district and state compliance requirements.”

Parents, who have the constitutionally protected right to oversee their children’s education, are on their own to connect the dots.

The company’s Twitter handle is @CommonCorner, the place for pithy tracking of Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the two CC assessment consortia.

A look at instructions for Louisiana’s online review of hundreds of standards shows how parent-unfriendly big data can be. The options given for reviewers are:

1. I agree with the Standard as written. (Comments are optional.)

2. The Standard should be in a different grade level. (Grade selection is required.)

3. The Standard should be broken up into several, more specific Standards.(Suggested rewrite is required.)

4. The Standard should be rewritten. (Suggested rewrite is required.)

5. Delete this Standard. (Comments are required.)

This methodology clearly favors those in AB’s Common Core community who wish to preserve the status quo; it takes only one click to agree, and no comment is required. That lends itself to organized amen choirs. Conversely, those who think the educrats should amend or delete standards must offer extensive rewrites or commentary.

Few parents speak that most arcane of languages, educationese, which makes it difficult for them to lay out an academic standard. In addition, few have the time or subject-matter expertise to rewrite the standards themselves. Much of what parents loathe about Common Core, such as the downgrading of classical literature and the mystification of math, is buried in the appendices, footnotes, and teacher training manuals, not in the standalone standards.

“I am an experienced educator and it took me two hours to comment on just one of the subject areas,” former Louisiana teacher Tiffany Guidry told The Hechinger Report for its January 18 story on the Pelican State’s review process. “They made the process so difficult that it was like you were getting penalized if you wanted to make a change to the standards.”

Big data is only one Common Core tentacle. Among others are “big publishing,” notably Pearson Education, “big foundations,” especially those funded by Bills Gates, “big business,” and of course the supporters of “big government” in both political parties.

These players all have huge investments in Common Core, and they are not going to let it go easily. They will try to rig polls and surveys, change the name, rebrand, stack review committees, set up and fund front groups, and do whatever else it takes to ensure these top-down national standards become mandatory in virtually every corner of the United States.

But Common Core advocates should know grassroots parents are going to sneer at their antics and fight back, good and hard. Only a fool would bet against them eventually winning.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

National School Choice Week Forum: Fund Children, Not Districts

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2016, 2:49 PM

On Saturday, January 30, 2016, The Heartland Institute hosted a National School Choice Week forum. Speakers for the event included Joe Walsh, a former congressman and current radio personality on AM 560 The Answer; Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine); Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend; Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who has served as an elementary school teacher, high school teacher, secondary principal, and superintendent; and Michael McHugh, who for 35 years has worked as a homeschool program administrator, lecturer, and textbook author/editor for the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Over 50 people attended in person and another 200 watched a livestream of the event.

Behrend discussed the current state of school choice and where he thinks the movement is headed in the future. A major point Behrend reiterated is that someone will eventually create an app to disrupt the education cartel in a way that’s similar to how Uber has disrupted the Taxi cartel in cities across the country.

The Chicago Tribune reported on the event, highlighting Behrend’s four-word definition of education choice, “[f]und children, not districts.”

Morrison hosted the event. He also discussed school choice in Illinois and the difficulties reformers in the state have had trying to expand choice. Morrison says much of the problems are related to Republicans in Southern Illinois being too heavily influenced by teachers unions.

Sister Mary Paul McCaughey discussed the number of open seats currently available in Illinois’ Catholic Schools. She said there are 4,200 in Lake County alone and thousands more in Cook County and in surrounding counties. She talked about how school choice is not just about education; it’s about opening our hearts to others and meeting their needs as people. For McCaughey, it all comes down to the child: “We do believe that the money should follow that child to whatever is the best education for that young person.”

McHugh discussed the myriad educational options available in curriculum, online schools, individualizing education, and homeschooling. McHugh also discussed how Christian Liberty Academy has successfully built a network of homeschoolers, developed curriculum, and aided parents in individualizing their child’s education.

Walsh discussed how school choice needs to be a major theme in this year’s presidential race. He also stated Republicans should own the issue and go to the Southside of Chicago and other urban areas to talk about how choice would benefit their children. Walsh said, “If I were king of America, I would allow every parent in this country to decide where their child goes to school: public, private, religious or home.”

The effectiveness of school choice is straightforward. Behrend said it best, “We think that it’s a much more efficient system and more in tune with how people think, work, and benefit rather than one size fits all [education] that does not work as effectively as the money following the child.”

Categories: On the Blog

Soros-Funded Progressive Coalition Misleads Media, Public on an Article V Convention

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

George Soros

A coalition of progressive special-interest groups funded by George Soros issued a press statement on Wednesday announcing their opposition to an Article V convention. The Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and
Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21, and People for the American Way announced they were joining forces to prevent the first ever Article V convention in the history of the United States.

The coalition’s statement contained inaccurate and misleading information about an Article V convention. The coalition claimed that an Article V convention is a constitutional convention. This is not the case. Article V is one of two permissible methods under the Constitution of the United States for the creation of amendments. A convention is called by Congress when two-thirds (34) of state legislatures submit applications calling for a constitutional amendment on the same subject.

The coalition argued, “Any existing constitutional right and protection could be up for consideration and revision by a convention. This includes constitutional protections for civil rights, civil liberties, voting rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and privacy, among others.”

Constitutional law scholar Rob Natelson said that a convention is strictly limited to the subject matter stated in the applications submitted by state legislatures and in the official call issued by Congress. It would be impossible for delegates to push for constitutional amendments outside of the scope of the official convention call. Seven states have already passed delegate limitation and selection laws that impose criminal penalties for delegates that violate convention rules.

Dave Guldenschuh, a Heartland Policy Adviser for constitutional reform issues, told Somewhat Reasonable that an additional seven states are considering delegate selection and limitation laws in 2016.

Another charge brought up by the coalition is that the rules for a possible Article V convention remain up in the air.

“Furthermore, there are no rules on what would happen if and when a convention is called: no rules on how delegates are chosen, how voting occurs at the convention, how money can be spent to choose and influence delegates, or how the convention would operate,” said the left-wing coalition.

Multiple organizations in the Article V movement have already addressed the issue of convention rules. Compact for America’s model legislation establishes their own convention rules, while Convention of States has proposed rules of their own written by Natelson. The Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL) made considerable progress on their own rules during a meeting in November in Utah. The ASL is expected to vote on full ratification during this summer’s meeting, which will occur in Albany, New York or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Soros-backed Foundation to Promote an Open Society has provided significant funding to the coalition opposing Article V. The Brennan Center received $7.4 million from 2000 to 2010; Center for Media and Democracy received a total of $200,000 in 2010 and 2011; Common Cause received $175,000 in 2011; CREW received $740,000 since 2010; Democracy 21 received $365,000 in 2010 and 2011; and People for the American Way received  $700,000 in 2012 alone.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s EPA to Ohio’s Anti-Frackers: You’re Wrong

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2016, 1:07 PM

Two recent reports on Ohio’s wastewater injection well program discredit chronic allegations by opponents of hydraulic fracturing. These include claims that the creation of such wells leads directly to earthquakes, and that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has neglected to establish proper regulations to keep Ohioans safe.

The first report, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, responded to a letter signed by 23 anti-fracking groups in Ohio. They demanded a federal audit of ODNR’s well program and asked the agency to override the department’s regulatory authority. They charged ODNR with violating the Safe Drinking Water Act and providing “inadequate public notice and public participation” in the well permitting process.

Contrary to activists’ claims, the EPA concludes that ODNR runs “a good quality program.” It notes that Ohio has “taken concrete steps to address emerging issues, and in particular has adopted regulations to reduce risk from seismic-related activities.”

The report cites ODNR’s “areas of strong performance”: its handling of inspections, its ability to resolve violations, its permitting processes, and its ability to keep pace with changes in the well program. The EPA says ODNR’s communications decisions are “within the bounds of the EPA-approved program.”

The second report, issued by StatesFirst, a partnership of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, buttresses the EPA’s findings in Ohio. It praises ODNR’s management and communications operations.

The StatesFirst report refutes the claim that fracking often causes earthquakes — one of the knee-jerk, frequently parroted arguments of fracking opponents. It concludes that most injection wells “do not pose a hazard for induced seismicity” and that “only a few dozen … wells are believed to have induced felt earthquakes.”

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in at least one million wells since 1947. It has proved to be safe and effective.

Isaac Orr, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, notes that in “nearly 200 instances of man-made earthquakes studied [since 1929], hydraulic fracturing was found to have been responsible for three earthquakes large enough to be felt on the surface.” A Durham University study cited by Mr. Orr concludes that hydraulic fracturing “is not a significant mechanism for inducing felt earthquakes,” and that it is “extremely unlikely any of us will be able to feel [a fracking-caused] earthquake.”

Earthquakes produced by wastewater injection wells are more common, but they are rare and not very powerful. The EPA concluded last year that most injection wells do not cause earthquakes, and that “very few” earthquakes produced by those that do can be felt by humans.

Another study, published in the journal Science in 2014, found that only four of the roughly 4,500 injection wells in Oklahoma were likely to have induced seismic activity.

Using the term “earthquake” to refer to the minor seismic activity produced by the overwhelming number of injection wells is technically correct, but highly misleading. When most people think of an earthquake, they think of something similar to the quakes that occurred in San Francisco in 1906 and Los Angeles in 1994.

Those tragic events included deaths, collapsed buildings, chewed-up roadways, fires, and pandemonium. The seismic activity produced by injection wells comes nowhere close to such disasters.

The biggest “earthquake” produced in Ohio because of an injection well registered only a magnitude of 3 (M3.0) on the moment magnitude scale (MMS). The U.S. Geological Survey notes that such a tremor creates only “vibrations similar to the passing of a truck.”

The MMS is a logarithmic scale; an M4.0 is 10 times as powerful as an M3.0, and an M5.0 is 100 times as powerful. To cause structural damage, an earthquake must usually be above M5.5.

By comparison, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake registered M7.8 — more than 10,000 times as powerful as an M3.0. These measurements indicate why it is more accurate to describe the rarely experienced seismic activity produced by injection wells as tremors, rather than earthquakes.

Despite what fact-challenged anti-frackers claim, sensible precautions and regulations — such as those undertaken by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources — can mitigate the risks of damage from seismic activity created by wastewater disposal injection wells.

The EPA has confirmed this. Other states with a significant fracking presence should follow ODNR’s lead.

[Originally published in the Toledo Blade]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jessica Sena: Let’s Not “Keep it in the Ground”

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2016, 12:46 PM

Environmental activists, emboldened after their victory over the Keystone XL pipeline are setting their sites on the next political football to tackle. The latest, and not-so-greatest environmental mantra is the “Keep it in the Ground” movement which advocates that 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels remain in the ground, forever.

Independent Communications Consultant Jessica Sena and research fellow Isaac Orr give the The Heartland Daily Podcast listeners the information they need to debunk advocates of this policy, which is impossible to accomplish from a practical standpoint, and incredibly expensive. “Keeping it in the Ground” will lead to higher prices for low income families in the developed world, and premature death in developing nations.

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

Categories: On the Blog

A Constitutional Convention Can Be Limited in Scope

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2016, 11:36 AM

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently announced that he fully endorses an Article V convention. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made a similar call.

Article V is one of two methods provided by the Constitution to initiate amendments. This approach is implemented when two-thirds of state legislatures, or 34 states, submit applications to Congress calling for a convention.

While winning praise from conservatives, Rubio’s announcement has set off a firestorm of criticism from the Republican Party establishment.

Noah Rothman issued a lengthy column in Commentary magazine on Dec. 31 accusing Rubio of supporting a convention to appease conservative talk radio hosts who have advocated for an Article V convention, such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

Many conservative pundits have been tough on Rubio because of his role in pushing a controversial immigration reform bill in 2013. Rothman calls Rubio’s endorsement of Article V “a dangerous pander to one of the right’s worst ideas.” Rothman’s column is largely a collection of old arguments against the convention process and is peppered with speculative claims about Rubio’s motives.

Far from the superficial treatment characteristic of politicians pandering to audiences’ prejudices, Rubio’s support for a convention shows a grasp of constitutional procedures and an awareness of potential obstacles. In October, he warned special interests would try to hijack the convention process. “But just be aware that the same groups that are trying to pass legislation that violates the Constitution are the same groups of people that are going to try to change that Constitution, and we are going to fight them at that convention,” he said.

Rubio never wavered on that commitment, saying two months later, “I think you’d have to limit the convention, and that’s what they’re proposing: a very limited convention on specific, delineated issues like term limits and like a balanced budget amendment.”

Rothman tries to shoot down Rubio’s assertion that the scope of a convention can be controlled, writing, “Contrary to popular belief, there are no rules for such a convention. Congress has tried on over 20 occasions to craft a uniform set of rules governing a convention process, but it has failed every time.”

But Congress isn’t where the Article V action is at this point. The Assembly of State Legislatures, or ASL, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, has been meeting since 2013 to work on a set of rules for a convention and is expected to finalize rules this summer. The board of directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, has approved a model policy on Article V convention rules.

Both ALEC and ASL are acting on the principle that the states, not Congress, are in charge of running an Article V convention. The role of Congress in the runup to a convention is very limited, as defined in the Constitution. Its duties are to count and receive applications, make the call for a convention, and determine the method of ratification.

Rothman also falsely claims the movement for a balanced budget amendment has limited support, writing, “To induce more states to call for a convention, the scope of such a gathering would have to broaden substantially.”

Rothman is evidently unaware that 27 states have already enacted single-subject resolutions for a convention for the purpose of a balanced budget amendment. Another eight state legislatures will be considering balanced budget amendment applications in 2016. A poll conducted by Fox News in 2013 found 85 percent of Americans want a balanced budget amendment.

As those numbers indicate, there is huge public and legislative support for a convention. The Article V movement is serious about its aims and working hard to meet the challenge of calling a convention to offer a balanced budget amendment.

Rothman does Rubio and the entire Article V movement a disservice by mischaracterizing Rubio’s motives and failing to do basic research on the constitutional reform movement.

[Originally published at the San Antonio Express-News]

Categories: On the Blog
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