On the Blog

To Your Benefit—or at Your Loss?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 19, 2016, 2:06 PM

The purpose of any economic exchange is to better one’s position, whether a person buys or sells something for money or barters for something else.  This is the essence of free market capitalism, where all economic transactions are voluntary because they are of mutual benefit.  They are all “win-win” situations in the minds of the participants.

By contrast, when a government compels an economic transaction,  it is always “win-lose” because one side gains when a loss is inflicted on the other, as evidenced by the fact it wouldn’t voluntarily agree to it.  This is the essence of a planned economy, where an elite in government is believed better able to decide what is best for everybody than allowing people to determine that for themselves.  It is assumed that some losses are inevitable—and are usually blamed on capitalism—and that government must ameliorate this by managing (distributing) the losses, and benefits, for the greater overall benefit of society.  This may include benefiting the environment.

The idea that an aggregation of win-lose transactions can somehow produce an economy superior to one of win-win transactions is ludicrous. It is all the more so when one realizes that initial losses produce secondary ones in the same way that benefits of free markets produce secondary benefits for society.  And this includes benefiting the environment.

Take ethanol, for example.  Initially it was supported because it was widely claimed the world was running out of oil—now shown to be untrue because technology has proven there will be no shortage for thousands of years, if ever.  So now it is being argued that ethanol is important because it reduces air pollution and global warming and promotes jobs in the ethanol industry.  It is even said to be competitive with gasoline.

Farmers raising corn and manufacturers producing ethanol benefit from federal and state subsidies.  The losers are the taxpayers, who pay not only through direct taxes for the subsidies but through higher costs for fuel and electricity (due not only to ethanol but to the government’s effort to eliminate coal in the production of electricity.)  As a result, people have correspondingly less money to spend on other things. Those would-be benefits are foregone, lost without being seen.  The beneficiaries of ethanol (and wind and solar) subsidies spend their subsidy money, but much of it goes for farm machinery and labor to raise more corn for ethanol and build more solar panels and wind farms, rather than things that are more useful in society. Thus losses of mandated energy inefficiency beget secondary losses in inefficient industries, just as the efficiencies of free markets beget secondary benefits in more useful and efficient industries that would come about if the money for them were not preempted by the requirement for inefficient fuels.

Another class of losers from ethanol is the consumers of corn as food, primarily poor people in Latin American countries.  The use of corn in ethanol tripled in three years, and the World  Bank report noted that biofuels forced global food prices up by 75% — far more than previously estimated.  More U.S. corn now goes for ethanol than is consumed as food.  The World Food Program, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have formally called for all G20 nations to drop their biofuels subsidies and mandates because of the adverse impact on food prices around the world.

How inefficient is ethanol?  First we must recognize two unbreakable laws of the universe.  The first law of thermodynamics (conservation) states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but only changes form.  The second law (entropy) distinguishes between useful energy that can perform work and useless energy that cannot, and “some fraction of useful energy irreversibly becomes useless every time energy is converted from one form to another,” explains T.A. Kiefer. “Together, these two laws declare that the amount of useful energy that can be recovered from a system is always less than the energy that was put into the system. Every transaction, process, or conversion pays an energy tax, which is why it is impossible to construct a perpetual motion machine. The ratio of energy-out to energy-in is a critical parameter in evaluating energy sources.”

A key measure, then, is the energy return on investment (EROI), a ratio of energy from a new fuel to the energy consumed in producing it.  An EROI of 1:1 would mean that the useful energy produced by the new fuel would exactly equal the energy needed to produce it. Kiefer writes:

“A civilization is itself a high-order physical and biological organism that has tremendous overhead costs and can spare only a fraction of its energy to assimilate new energy. A study of historical US economic performance over the last century has found that economic recessions are linked to primary energy EROIs dipping below a critical threshold of 6:1. This value represents the minimum energy quality an industrial civilization must have to sustain a modern, energy-intensive quality of life. Another macroanalysis found that an EROI of 3:1 is the bare minimum quality a raw energy feedstock must have to overcome all the production costs and conversion losses and still deliver positive net energy to modern civilization. A 3:1 EROI thus also represents a critical tipping point. To put these values in biological terms, a modern industrial civilization is very energy-hungry, and if undernourished on a diet of foods with lean EROIs below 6:1, it becomes catabolic, eating into the fat of its savings and the muscle tissue of its infrastructure to replace the missing calories. As long as EROI remains below 6:1, industrial civilization is locked into a death spiral where an ever increasing fraction of its economic output (GDP) is spent on energy at the cost of eroding standard of living. At EROIs below 3:1, the food is so poor that digesting it into fuel takes more energy than it returns, and full starvation sets in. The only way out of this hunger trap is either to find higher-EROI energy or to decay into a preindustrial civilization with lower energy needs. The bottom line is that a healthy modern economy must be fed by hearty primary energy sources with a collective EROI above 6:1.  [Incidentally, the EROI for coal is 30:1]

“After decades of study and experimentation and continuously refined commercial production, the scientific literature consensus for corn ethanol EROI is a lowly value of 1.25:1. Even worse, there is no net gain in liquid fuel energy—the ethanol produced contains energy barely equal to the input fossil fuel energy. The small energy profit is contained in byproducts, principally high-protein biorefinery leftovers called distillers’ dry grains and solubles (DDGS) that can be used as cattle feed. More than $6 billion a year in direct federal assistance to corn growers and ethanol refiners since 2005 has served only to reduce a nonexistent foreign dependence on animal feed protein supplements. It should be pointed out that the corn ethanol EROIs published in the literature and discussed above are not for a pure corn ethanol life-cycle, but for a hybrid lifecycle involving both fossil fuel and corn ethanol where fossil fuel provides much of the input energy. A proper corn ethanol EROI would be calculated using corn ethanol as the exclusive energy source to make more corn ethanol, but no example is available today. This is telling. It will be shown…by lifecycle analysis that making corn ethanol is a negative energy-balance process that consumes more than five-sixths of the energy invested. Civilization would get six times more output energy from the fossil fuel diverted to make corn ethanol if it were instead used directly as fuel.”

Ammonia, which is made from natural gas, is second only to plastic in consumption of industrial energy in the U.S., and 80 percent of ammonia is used in making fertilizer.  Use of fertilizer is the main  reason for the six-fold increase in corn production in recent decades, without which ethanol would be more easily recognized as uneconomic. Kiefer writes, “Modern intensively farmed corn, with its huge appetite for fossil fuel-based ammonia and agrichemicals, is making a large, net negative contribution to the nation’s energy budget ….Biofuels can never be cheaper than nor replace fossil fuels while fossil fuels comprise the bulk of the energy invested to make them….Applying ammonia fertilizer to any crop intended for biofuel is an indefensible waste of energy.”

Hosein Shapouri, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has produced a study of ethanol showing a small net benefit from ethanol.  But Howard Hayden, a Professor Emeritus of Physics from the University of Connecticut and Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Colorado, notes that Shapouri et al “use the most optimistic figures: the best corn yield, the least energy used for fertilizer, the least energy required for farming, the most efficient distillation techniques, the most residual energy (in the form of mash); and in general the most favorable (but still credible) values for any and all aspects of [ethanol] production.” Even so, Hayden says that, using Shapouri’s numbers, the net average power available from the ethanol of one acre of corn would be enough only to keep one 60-watt light bulb burning continuously for one month.  To keep that bulb burning for a year would require 12 acres of corn—an area larger than nine football fields.

Puny though that energy gain from ethanol would be, even that is controversial.  A thorough study done  by Cornell University Professor David Pimmentel, who also chaired a U.S. Department of Energy panel to investigate the energetics of ethanol production, found Shapouri had left out many energy inputs.  These include farm labor, farm machinery, repair of farm machinery, energy to produce the hybrid corn, and irrigation. Pimmentel also says Shapouri gives an extravagant credit for distillers dry grains (DDGS), which are used for animal feed as a substitute for soybean meal.  Pimmentel says, “We went back to the soybean meal, and examined how it’s produced, and the energy that is required to produce it. Instead of giving [distillers grains] a 40 to 60 percent credit as the pro-ethanol people do, we found that the credit should be more like 9 percent. They [pro-ethanol researchers] are manipulating the data again.” Incidentally, soybean meal has 49 percent protein content compared to 27 percent for DDGS.

Cellulosic ethanol, produced from wood, switch grass, and harvest wastes is even more uneconomic than corn ethanol.  Cellulose can be broken into fermentable sugars using concentrated acid and explosive steam, but this one step consumes as much energy as exists in the final ethanol.  Thermodynamic analysis shows cellulosic ethanol is at least three times more difficult to produce than corn ethanol and has an EROI far below 1:1.

Biodiesel and other liquid biofuels have shortcomings that require “hydrotreating” to change the hydrogen-carbon ratio, remove all oxygen, and change the molecular structure to make them compatible with high performance engines and existing fuel infrastructure.  Hydrotreatment greatly increases the cost and releases 11 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of hydrogen added.

Algae is even worse.  According to the Argonne National Laboratory, it takes 12 times as much energy and 2.6 times as much fossil fuel energy to put a gallon of algae diesel in a gas station pump as a gallon of petroleum diesel—and that’s without counting hydrotreatment.

Kiefer’s research is based on “an extensive literature survey of recent and reputable sources emphasizing U.S. government agency data published in official reports and university studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Since 2008, a new generation of more rigorous studies has dra-

matically undermined the naïve assumption that biofuels are inherently clean and green.”

He writes: “Compared to the petroleum fuel lifecycle, the corn ethanol fuel lifecycle consumes 3.5 times more fossil fuel, more than triples Greenhouse Gas emissions, increases water use by three orders of magnitude, adds environmental costs from agrichemical runoff while still suffering those associated with crude oil, and competes with food cultivation for cropland acreage and associated agricultural production capital and resources.”

Finally, Kiefer provides here an extensive list of studies for his assertion, “New, more thorough studies that consider the full fuel creation and combustion lifecycles are now showing cultivated

liquid biofuels to be more damaging to the environment and causing the release of more CO2

and other greenhouse gases and pollutants per unit of energy delivered than fossil fuels.”

[Originally published at the American Liberty Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record

Somewhat Reasonable - January 19, 2016, 12:03 PM

Forget what global warming activists would lead you to believe – 2015 was not even close to the hottest year on record.

Satellite temperature readings going back to 1979 show 1998 was by far the warmest year in the satellite era, followed by 2010. 2015 comes in third. And these results are only for the period since 1979.

2015 should have been warmer. This past year saw what is likely the most powerful El Nino during the satellite temperature record. With a record El Nino, we should have experienced record high temperatures. Yet we didn’t.

A record El Nino resulting in less-than-record temperatures is another sign that global warming is not all that activists crack it up to be. Indeed, if a record strong El Nino cannot bring global temperatures back to the warmth of 1998, what can – and when will that be? 18 years after 1998, global warming still has not created the runaway warming we were told to expect.

Satellite temperature measurements show 1998 and 2010 were warmer than 2015. Image courtesy of drroyspencer.com.

Of course, it is not too difficult for activists to paint a picture of an exceptionally warm world – record El Nino or not – when they conveniently define “the record” as merely extending back to the late 1800s. Global warming activists do not extend “the record” back any further, they say, because it has only been since the late 1800s that we have had a global network of mercury thermometers. But we do have other reliable indicators of temperatures before the late 1800s, and the evidence shows temperatures have been warmer than today for most of the past several thousand years, including warmer-than-present temperatures for most of the human civilization time period.

Scientists measuring oxygen isotopes from ice cores drilled in Greenland and Antarctica (among other methods) report that temperatures were significantly warmer than today for most of the past 10,000 years. With the exception of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from approximately 1300-1850 and which almost ushered in a full-blown new ice age epoch, current temperatures remain cooler than almost all other time periods in human history.

So how do global warming activists get away with raising constant alarm and making such outrageous claims as 2015 being the hottest ever? The answer is misleading head-fakes, doctored temperature records, and a compliant media that is more than willing to push the agenda of global warming activists.

No, Virginia, 2015 was not the hottest year on record. In fact, it wasn’t even close.

[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

Bitcoin, Other Alt-Currencies Offer More Choices for Consumers

Somewhat Reasonable - January 19, 2016, 11:50 AM

In just eight years, Bitcoin and the idea of “virtual currency” have gained acceptance and use both online and in the physical world. Spread by word of mouth and other “viral” means, decentralized virtual currencies have gone from a mere thought experiment to a tangible economic reality.

Today, one can use Bitcoin or other currencies not backed by the U.S. government to buy physical goods and services and online services. Established companies, such as Dell, DISH Network, Microsoft, and Papa John’s Pizza, all accept Bitcoin payments.

As with conventional currencies, participants in Bitcoin trade work for credits. A special program uses computational cycles on a participant’s computer processor to verify and record a vast public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions, called the “blockchain.” In return for their “e-labor,” participants receive a small reward for each successful completion of the blockchain verification process.

The introduction of Bitcoin, by a still-unknown individual using the name “Satoshi Nakamoto,” may have solved the theoretical challenges faced by virtual currency, but too few people know that alternative currencies are a real alternative or trust them enough to use them.

U.S. government policies over the years, starting with the National Banking Act of 1863, a law intended to help finance the Civil War, have established a near-monopoly for the U.S. government over how people may pay for things they want.

By compelling everyone to use the one-size-fits-all government-backed currency, consumers’ options are reduced, neglecting their actual needs. The rise of alt-currencies is an attempt to fill that vacuum.

A recent paper by Kenyon College economics professor William Luther explains Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are already serving consumers better than government-backed money.

“The most likely place for a cryptocurrency to accomplish widespread acceptance would seem to be where the incumbent money is managed poorly since, in these cases, the benefits could be sufficiently high to warrant the costs of switching and coordination,” Luther wrote. “In Kenya, where many are unbanked but have cell phones, Vodafone’s m-pesa system has taken off. If the incumbent money were especially unstable, such users might opt to use their phones to transfer cryptocurrencies instead.”

Allowing alternative currencies to arise and evolve in the United States could have huge economic benefits. In a study on how the Federal Reserve’s money monopoly affects the U.S economy, Thomas Hogan, an assistant professor of economics at West Texas A&M University, writes, “Considering that banks issuing private notes in Hong Kong, Scotland, and Northern Ireland earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, it appears that U.S. banks may be missing an opportunity to earn billions of dollars in annual profits.”

Regardless of whether the currencies are digital or physical, allowing consumers to experiment and try out new currencies offered by private entities ultimately results in a better “product” and a better experience for consumers seeking something different than the traditional government-backed dollar. In time, currencies possessing more qualities desired by consumers, such as reliability, will gain greater consumer adoption, and those currencies will win out over less desirable alternatives.

Ending the U.S. government’s virtual monopoly over the money business and allowing free-market principles to do their thing, both online and in the real world, is an idea that’s sure money.

[Originally published at The Hill]

Categories: On the Blog

Thanks to Teacher’s Union, Chicago Public Schools are a Perpetual-Motion Machine of Mediocrity

Somewhat Reasonable - January 19, 2016, 11:46 AM

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has voted overwhelmingly to go on strike during the 2016 spring semester, with a walk-out tentatively scheduled for late March. This would be the second teachers strike in the Windy City over the past four years and would serve as a glaring reminder shame has been fully expunged from civil society.

According to The Washington Post, Chicago’s 27,000 public school teachers have a median salary of $71,017 and contribute—on the high end—only 2 percent of their salaries toward their very lavish pensions. They are the most highly compensated teachers in any major city in the country, and the average CTU salary is 51 percent higher than Chicago’s median household income, which is estimated at $46,877. Unfortunately, this will not stop CTU from crying poverty when they walk out of their classrooms in 2016.

The union claims Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is trying to cut teacher compensation by 12 percent over the next three years and take away $653 million in benefits. While CPS has already talked about laying off roughly 5,000 teachers early in 2016 due to a $1.1 billion (yes, that’s “billion” with a “b”) structural deficit, it argues meeting CTU’s demands would cost the city an additional $1.3 billion.

CTU’s demands include a 3 percent salary increase, pay for snow days, and smaller class sizes. Keep in mind the average class size in the district is only 26 students, but smaller class sizes would necessitate more teachers, which would conveniently mean more dues-paying members for CTU.

While CTU fights to stop necessary reforms, the 400,000 children CTU members are ostensibly supposed to be preparing for college and the workforce—not to mention to live lives as fully-functioning, educated citizens—are languishing in terrible schools where they are not being taught much of anything.

Although Chicago’s 2015 scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, released in October, show some gains, they are still embarrassing. Only 30 percent of 4th graders and 25 percent of 8th graders tested as “proficient” in mathematics, and only 27 and 24 percent, respectively, were found to be proficient in reading. Going back to 2003, CPS has not produced an above-average NAEP score, relative to other large city school districts, in any subject. 2003’s kindergartners are 2015’s high school seniors. That is one whole generation of students that CPS and CTU have failed.

The results from the first set of the Common Core-aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, released in early December, confirm CTU’s failures. Of the 525 CPS schools where scores are available, only 45 of them (8.5 percent) saw at least 50 percent of their students meeting or exceeding proficiency for their grade level. Yes, you read that right: A full 91.5 percent of all Chicago Public Schools have less than half of their students proficient in reading and math. Almost a quarter of all CPS schools (24.7 percent) had fewer than 10 percent of their students reaching proficiency.

While PARCC tests leave a lot to be desired, and even assuming some implementation difficulties hurt scores, the results are absolutely abysmal.

One would think CTU teachers would be too ashamed to threaten to turn their backs on students and walk out of their classrooms over some snow-day pay, but it must be remembered this is a public-sector union; shame is not a part of CTU’s vocabulary.

Not only is CPS right to refuse to give in to CTU’s demands, CPS should go ahead with the planned layoffs. In a city where only a quarter of kids are reaching proficiency, there are a quite a few teachers in need of their walking papers. CPS should follow the example set by New York City, which closed over two dozen serially underperforming schools and saw a 15 percent increase in graduation rates from the students who were originally assigned to them.

Fewer than 5 percent of 52 CPS schools saw their students score as proficient on PARCC tests in 2014-15. The layoffs and closings should start there. Otherwise, another generation of children will likely be saddled with a dreadful education.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Dr. Robert M. Carter, R.I.P.

Somewhat Reasonable - January 19, 2016, 11:14 AM

Dr. Robert M. Carter (1942-2016)

It is with deep regret that I report the passing of a friend, colleague, and great scholar, Dr. Robert M. Carter. Bob died peacefully in a hospital surrounded by family and friends following a heart attack a few days ago. He was 74 years old.

Funeral arrangements are being made and it will most likely take place on Monday next week in Townsville, Australia.

This is almost unspeakably sad. Bob was the very embodiment of the “happy warrior” in the global warming debate. He was a scholar’s scholar, with impeccable credentials (including a Ph.D. from Cambridge), careful attention to detail, and a deep understanding of and commitment to the scientific method. He endured the slings and arrows of the anti-science Left with seeming ease and good humor and often warned against resorting to similar tactics to answer them.

Bob never failed to answer the call to defend climate science, getting on planes to make the long flight from Australia to the U.S., to Paris, and to other lands without complaints or excuses. He was a wonderful public speaker and a charming traveling mate. He was not an easy man to edit, though – he kept wanting to put unnecessary commas, “that’s,” and boldfacing back into his manuscripts – but the great ones never are.

Bob helped immeasurably with three volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series, a series of hefty compilations of scientific research he coauthored and coedited with Craig D. Idso and S. Fred Singer. Just a few weeks ago, he flew to Paris to speak at Heartland’s “Day of Examining the Data” and contributed to the completion and review of another book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: The NIPCC Report on Scientific Consensus.

We honored Bob with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 10th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-10) in Washington DC last June. I regret that I missed that event due to the sudden onset of shingles, and so missed the opportunity to see my friend as well as publicly recognize his great achievements in science.

We’ve updated Bob’s online bio, which you can read below. A “guestbook” is being compiled below. If you have a comment or memory you’d like to share, please send it to Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org

Please remember Bob and his wonderful wife, Anne, in your thoughts and prayers.

 

TRIBUTES TO BOB CARTER

S. Fred Singer, NIPCC; Science and Environment Policy Project

I feel so privileged to have known and worked with Bob (since our 2006 voyage in the Baltic) and to have shared the panel talks last month in Paris.

He died with his boots on.

 

James Delingpole, Breitbart London:

From left: James Delingpole, Christopher Monckton, Christopher Essex, Bob Carter, Tom Harris, and Patrick Moore at the premiere of “Climate Hustle” in Paris, December 7, 2015.

We all loved Bob; we’re all going to miss him. He smiled as he fought and as Fred says he died with his boots on. What those of you who missed hanging with him in Paris last December should know is that he was on splendid form – hail, happy, looking like he was going to go on forever. Good old Bob with his dark Satanic beard and his impish smile. What a hero! What a friend! Just the kind of guy you want in the foxhole next to you!

[More here.]

 

E. Calvin Beisner, The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation:

I met Robert Carter first through correspondence, finding him always ready and patient to educate me, a non-scientist, on the ins and outs of climate science. Over the past few years, largely through Heartland’s International Conferences on Climate Change, we got better acquainted, indeed became friends, and I benefited even more from his wisdom. I was particularly grateful for his generous gift of time when I interviewed him for our video documentary Where the Grass Is Greener: Biblical Stewardship vs. Climate Alarmism, for which his comments were clear, focused, and eminently helpful to the intended lay audience. He will be sorely missed as a scholar, a gentleman, a responsible citizen, and a keen scientist. His passing is a great loss.

 

Craig Idso, NIPCC; the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change:

It is with a sad heart that I note the passing of my dear friend and colleague Bob Carter. Bob suffered a heart attack over a week ago and today (Jan 19), surrounded by family, he passed on from this mortal life. He was 74 years old.

I had the privilege of knowing and working with Bob for the better part of the past decade. Along with Fred Singer, I served with Bob as a Lead Author on several volumes of work produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Putting together those volumes was always a Herculean task and Bob was an integral part of their success. He was a master of scientific knowledge and had an incredible talent of sharing that knowledge with others.

Bob had a long and storied career. A wonderful biography of his accomplishments can be found here. But for those who knew him best, it was not his career that kept his heart, but his dear, sweet companion Anne, who was always at his side and accompanied him to nearly every work-related conference and meeting he attended.

I will miss Bob and the friendship we shared. To Anne and their family, may God bless and be with you during this difficult hour of your lives. You have our heartfelt condolences and are in our prayers.

 

Willie Soon, Astrophysicist:

Bob was a true gentleman scientist, and a friend and colleague who will be sorely missed. Bob gave everything he had in trying to educate the world on the danger of the CO2 scare, and was a true champion of science. Personally, he has taught me many, many things on Earth sciences. Knowing and working with him has to be among the most-special and happy times I have experienced in science.

 

Ken Haapala, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Bob was a splendid man with an inquiring mind. Last year, when we conversed on hypothesis testing, he stated that many scientists consider one hypothesis at a time, where he, as a geologist, may entertain several. There was no limited thinking with this singular man.

 

Bill Gray, professor emeritus, Colorado State University:

What a great professional and personal loss for so many of us AGW critics. Bob gave so much of himself in recent years to holding the line against the false arguments and propaganda that has been so extensively advanced by global warming advocates.

We should all admire Bob’s courage and his insightful climate understanding which he so skillfully brought to bear to up-hold the integrity of science. He leaves behind a most admirable legacy which will continue to inspire me and I’m sure many others to keep up our efforts to bring truth to the warming question.

 

Lord Christopher Monckton, Science and Public Policy Institute

We will remember him. He was our clearest voice of truth.

 

Viv Forbes, Carbon Sense Coalition:

Bob Carter was a shining light to those of us in Australia who benefitted from his leadership in the Earth Sciences. A great geologist, a sound scientist, a good friend, a superb speaker and illustrator, the sort of pedantic editor I appreciate, and good company. His leadership and advice in the great climate debate will be sadly missed, especially here in the Sunshine State [Queensland, Australia].

 

Tom Harris, International Climate Science Coalition:

Professor Carter was a very fine man — compassionate, intelligent and still hard working long after most people have retired. He will be sorely missed by many people.

Bob was a great supporter of me and the International Climate Science Coalition in general, helping providing the solid, rational science foundation to our work to bring climate realism to the general public.

I feel privileged to have known Bob in the last few years of his life. I also feel privileged to have spent some time with him in Paris, DC, Chicago, NY and here in Ottawa when he was on a speaking tour of Canada.

 

Anthony Watts, WattsUpWithThat.com:

Bob Carter’s sudden death reminded me that life is tenuous, and that what we view as firmament can be taken from us in an instant.

I traveled with Bob in Australia during my tour in 2010. To say that he was a man of good cheer and resilience would be an understatement. He not only bore the slings and arrows thrown his way by some of the ugliest people in the climate debate, he reciprocated with professionalism and honor, refusing to let them drag him into the quagmire of climate ugliness we have seen from so many climate activists.

His duty, first and foremost was to truth. I’m reminded of this quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Isaac Asimov

Bob worked hard to dispel scientific ignorance, and to do it with respect and good cheer. We’ve all lost a great friend and a champion of truth.

 

Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot:

Bob was a man of great courage, intellect and wit. I am deeply saddened by his passing. He easily seemed a decade younger than his 74 years with his youthful looks and energy level. the world of science has lost a true champion. I first met Bob when I invited him to speak at the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on climate in December 2006. Bob’s full 2006 testimony here.

I was in contact with Bob over the years, seeking analysis, quotes and of course he is featured prominently in the upcoming film Climate Hustle. Bob was in Paris decked out in his tux for the Paris premier of the film during the UN climate summit. See: Protesters, police, chaos! Climate Hustle ‘staged its triumphant world premiere’ – ‘Police cordoned off the road’ – Exclusive Video/Photos

Bob was amazing in Paris, good humored and adeptly handling the media and protesters. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Anne and his family and friends. He will be sorely missed.

[More here.]

 

Joanne Nova, author of “The Skeptic’s Handbook”:

He was a man who followed the scientific path, no matter where it took him, and even if it cost him, career-wise, every last bell and whistle that the industry of science bestowed, right down to his very email address. After decades of excellent work,  he continued on as an emeritus professor, speaking out in a calm and good natured way against poor reasoning and bad science. But the high road is the hard road and the university management tired of dealing with the awkward questions and the flack that comes with speaking truths that upset the gravy train. First  James Cook University (JCU) took away his office, then they took his title. In protest at that, another professor hired Bob immediately for an hour a week so Bob could continue supervising students and keep his library access. But that was blocked as well, even the library pass and his email account were taken away, though they cost the University almost nothing.

It says a lot about the man that, despite the obstacles, he didn’t seem bitter and rarely complained. He dealt with it all with calm equanimity. Somehow he didn’t carry the treatment as excess baggage.

[Read more here.]

 

John Spooner, award-winning cartoonist, co-author with Bob Carter:

Bob Carter was a great man. His greatness was located in something that we all recognized; his intelligent courage , perceptive kindness and an exuberant love of life.

Here was a man who showed everyone how to stand up to bullying and cowardly malice with elegant dignity.

I think he understood human weakness without cynicism but he was baffled by the evasiveness of his opponents in the climate debate.How could they not see the truth, and why wouldn’t they face him openly? He felt that tribal allegiance or group think anxiety were at the heart of what passes for thought in our society.

Ingrida and I are grateful to have called Bob and Anne our friends. A conversation with Bob could range from politics to science and fine art. He always had sympathetic care for family life. In fact he seemed to have a loving embrace for us all. He will be missed dreadfully by all who knew him. Our sincere commiserations to Anne and family, from John and Ingrida Spooner.

 

John Nicol, Australian Climate Science Coalition:

Bob Carter was a gentleman and a scholar. With his wife Anne and his family, together they were one of New Zealand’s and Australia’s (Townsville’s) great treasures. A scientist to his very core and a scholar, who shone his light on his students and those with whom he worked, Bob was no ordinary Professor. A world renowned geologist who worked on many of the big issues in geological measurement and analysis, as well as the small local problems, he gave of himself in every way possible.

Bob arrived at James Cook in 1981 when, as then Dean of Science, I had the privilege of welcoming him to our Science Faculty. Inheriting a well established and vibrant Geology Department, Bob very rapidly made further significant developments which enhanced his department, the image of Geology in Australia and James Cook University. Continuing with enthusiasm throughout his career, Bob moved into a new forum in retirement in which his goal was to restore integrity to science in general, where imposters had torn down its very fabric through promotion of the popular fallacy regarding the influence of carbon dioxide in causing increased Global Warming. The ideals of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Schrodinger and thousands of others, were in shreds because of greed, stimulated by the prizes of research funding to be awarded to those whose science was weak and whose integrity was weaker, all in the name of a political fantasy, but upon which fed an incresingly hungry industry – “Climate Change”.

Bob Carter stood out and will continue to stand out for many decades, as one whose retirement was given over to hard work in speaking the truth and encouraging thousands of others to do so.

For his unswerving courage in the face of denigration by those whose understanding of science is wanting, for his good humour, for his encouragement to others, his clear and accurate presentations of the facts, we owe him a debt of gratitude May he rest in peace and may his family be comforted by the knowledge that their husband and father has touched so many in a world wide community of genuine friends. May God Bless them and keep them.

 

Donna Laframboise, journalist, No Frakking Consensus:

The first climate skeptic gathering this journalist attended was a 1-day event in 2009. There were numerous speakers, but Bob Carter’s calm, sensible, persuasive presentation was the one I most talked and thought about afterward. (In 2012, I recalled that event here).

Having shared a stage with Bob twice in the past six months, I can say with perfect sincerity that he was kind, charming, and a gentleman.

[Read more here.]

 

Steve McIntyre, ClimateAudit.com:

In 2003, when I was unknown to anyone other than my friends and family, I had been posting comments on climate reconstructions at a chatline. Bob emailed me out of the blue with encouragement, saying that I was looking at the data differently than anyone else and that I should definitely follow it through. Without his specific encouragement, it is not for sure that I ever would have bothered trying to write up what became McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) or anything else.

He was always full of good cheer, despite continuing provocations, and unfailingly encouraging.

[Read more here.]

 

Cui Weihong, Secretary-General of the China Science Center of International Eurasian Academy of Sciences:

I was profoundly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Dr. Robert M. Carter. He attended the climate conference in Beijing and gave us a splendid talk last year. We will miss and remember him.
May he rest in peace.

 

Gary Johns, Australian Institute for Progress:

I was saddened to hear the news of the sudden death of my colleague and friend Bob Carter. Bob was a straight shooter, wholly intent on seeking the truth and sharing his understanding with others. He will be sorely missed. It is up to those who remain to keep up the struggle for rationale policy and politics.

 

Terry Dunleavy, New Zealand Climate Science Coalition:

Members of our Coalition have been shocked and saddened by news of the death last evening of one of our founding members, Professor Robert M. (Bob) Carter, in his home city, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Bob suffered a massive heart attack four days ago, which left him in a coma from which he never recovered. HIs wife Anne sent us this message: “We are very sad to inform you that Bob passed away peacefully this evening in the company of his family…One thing for sure, Bob made the most of every minute he had, and was a fighter to the very end.”

 

John Happs:

Bob Carter was a scientist of integrity and scholarship. He epitomized everything that was good in science, following the evidence wherever it might lead. Through his many presentations and publications, he exposed the fraud behind the mantra of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. I have no doubt that his name will be writ large in the future record of what is proving to be the biggest fraud in the history of science.

Bob will be missed and I offer my condolences to his family, colleagues and friends.

 

Mark Steyn, co-author, Climate Change: The Facts:

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Professor Robert M Carter, one of my co-authors on Climate Change: The Facts. Bob had a heart attack at his home in Queensland and never recovered consciousness. He was an indispensable voice in the battle for climate sanity, and his chapter in our book exemplified his ability to make an important point easily graspable:

The reality is that no scientist on the planet can tell you with credible probability whether the climate in 2030 will be cooler or warmer than today. In such circumstances the only rational conclusion to draw is that we need to be prepared to react to either warming or cooling over the next several decades.

Given that no-one can say what the climate in 2030 will be, erecting a vast global bureaucracy with an inflexible monolithic commitment to reverse what may never happen is worse than nuts, it potentially diminishes our ability to react to what may actually occur. It was characteristic Carter: He was no caricature of a wild-eyed denier, but in almost any discussion invariably the most sane and sensible man on the panel. …

He was pleased by the success of our book, and I was hoping to see him somewhere en route during my Aussie tour next month. A great scientist and a courageous and honorable man, he was full of joy and steel-spined, exactly the chap, as James Delingpole said, “you want in the foxhole standing next to you”.

[Read more here.]

 

Andrew Bolt, Melbourne Herald Sun:

Professor Bob Carter had guts. He followed the evidence and not the crowd. He identified the pause in the warming and was abused for it by many on the media, and only years later did the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concede there had indeed been a hiatus.

Carter was a seeker of truth, so it is a great blow that this fine man has died of a heart attack. … There are many people who call themselves scientists who follow the grants, the political drum and the media plaudits. Then there are those with the right stuff.

Click here for video of one of Bob’s appearances on The Bolt Report.

 

Jennifer Marohasy, Institute of Public Affairs:

Professor Carter did not like the term sceptic, he considered himself a rationalist, and popular usage of the term ‘climate change’ a tautology. As he wrote frequently: the geological record tells us that climate always changes. In Professor Carter’s passing we have lost a person who believed in value-free science.

[Read more here.]

 

H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartland Institute:

Truly sorry to hear of his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. In my limited personal experience with him, he was a pleasure to work with and was a brave man who followed the science where it led even at the risk of character assassination by his critics.

 

Ron Arnold, The Heartland Institute:

When Dr. Carter received his “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Heartland Institute’s 10th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-10) in Washington, DC last June, it was my privilege to be present to see and hear and applaud this remarkable man. He left us a treasure of great thoughts, honest science and remarkable courage in a troubled world. Thank you, Bob Carter. May you rest in peace.

 

Susan Crockford, University of Victoria, British Columbia:

I’m still in shock – the news was in the first email I saw this morning and left me reeling.

I shall raise a glass of red wine (Bob’s favorite) this evening to a wonderfully rational, sensible scientist and dear friend.

All who care to do the same, around the world (whatever your time zone), are welcome to join me in saying goodbye to Bob. He will be sorely missed.

 

Steve Welcenbach, Reality News:

Besides being possibly the warmest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Dr. Robert Carter was truly the greatest scientist of my lifetime. And that is saying a whole lot.

May God Bless his family in their time of sorrow and may we always put to use the gifts he gave to us in his incomparable lectures and presentations which dripped logic and reason with every spoken word. This ferocious warrior of truth and logic will continue to impale the charlatan opportunists that have overrun our government institutions and universities across the globe.

 

Russell Cook, GelbspanFiles.com:

Dr. Carter, like many other of the “celebrity figures” on the skeptic side of the CAGW issue, was a person who not only shared his time to his famous fellow skeptics, he also gave time to ordinary citizens.

In my case as recent as just two weeks ago, we exchanged emails over a situation in Australia where I was already in the process of alerting a prominent public individual there to the existence of skeptic climate scientists and the depth of their climate assessment reports, of which that person seemed totally unaware of. Dr Carter ultimately took my suggestion to contact that person as well, lending science credibility firepower to my effort. I am indebted to him for extending that favor to me, and for the prior correspondences I had with him. He will be truly missed.

 

Darren Nelson:

My biggest memory of Professor Carter was he was the person who first turned me into a passionate and unapologetic AGW skeptic. This was the result of a talk he delivered one day in the late 1990s at the CSIRO in northwest Sydney. In this convincing talk, he had that rare combination of being at the same time rigorous yet engaging as well as critical yet positive.

 

James Rust, The Heartland Institute:

I was stunned at the announcing of the death of Bob Carter. I met him at the First International Conference on Climate Change in New York in 2008. Since I had spent 13 weeks in Australia enjoying their summers from 1982-85, I wanted to meet him and tell him how much I like the very hospitable “Aussies.” He was like all the ones from the past and we “shouted.”

 

Harley Moody:

This news brings tears to my eyes because Bob was the epitome of a real scientist. His logic was beautiful and his experience and contributions unique. His defense of Willie Soon was remarkable. Best of all, Bob was a warm and generous human being who refused to capitulate to political pressures, insults, and assaults on his livelihood without showing bitterness.

I once heard Bob say that a remarkable thing about our country was that an ordinary man could still afford to buy 40 acres and live free. I once presented Bob an underwater photograph of a threatened species from his part of the world, the sweetlips snapper, so he would not feel alone. I watched videos of Bob presenting the geological and paleontological evidence that there is nothing unusual or dangerous about our ideal interglacial climate today. I listened to many of his presentations at international conferences on climate change, and was humbled to share the dinner table on more than one occasion. Bob was fearless, while at the same time courteous and respectful.

 

Dr. Gerrit van der Lingen, Nelson, New Zealand:

Bob has been a powerhouse in the man-made climate change debate. He had an unbridled energy and sharp intellect. His contributions to New Zealand and Australian geology were impressive. He has made huge contributions through research and teaching. These have been recognized by many awards. To mention just one: the Outstanding Research Career Award of the Geological Society of New Zealand (2005). Notwithstanding this record he has been vilified for his activities as a man-made-climate-change realist (sometimes called sceptic). But he has fearlessly defended the scientific method, against the subversion of that method by the man-made global warming activists.

[Read more here.]

 

Philip Foster, author “While the Earth Endures”:

When I think of Bob, I think of his passion for truth in science, his patience and commitment to educating and encouraging independent thinking in the sciences. He was helpful and patient with those of us who were less erudite. I have his comment in his book he gave me, “Do keep up your healthy agnosticism.”

Much in demand as a speaker in sceptical circles, he made the remark to me, with a twinkle in his eye, “If I’m given ten minutes, my fee is £1000; if I’m given half an hour, it’s £100; if an hour, it’s free. (His presentation for us in Paris can be found at www.pcc15.org and, yes, it’s an hour!)

His death is a huge loss to his family and to science. But such was his generosity of time and knowledge, we have the tools he passed on to carry on the fight.

 

BIO and VIDEO

Robert M. Carter, Ph.D., a long-time policy advisor to The Heartland Institute and a world renowned authority on climate change, passed away on January 19, 2016. He was 74.

Dr. Carter was a palaeontologist, stratigrapher, marine geologist and environmental scientist with more than 30 years professional experience. He earned degrees from the University of Otago (New Zealand) and the University of Cambridge (England). He held tenured academic staff positions at the University of Otago (Dunedin) and James Cook University (Townsville), where he was Professor and Head of School of Earth Sciences between 1981 and 1999.

Dr. Carter served as Chair of the Earth Sciences Discipline Panel of the Australian Research Council, Chair of the national Marine Science and Technologies Committee, Director of the Australian Office of the Ocean Drilling Program, and Co-Chief Scientist on ODP Leg 181(Southwest Pacific Gateways).

Dr. Carter was one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of climate change. He was the author of two books on the subject, Climate: The Counter Consensus (2010) and Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies about Climate Change (2013) and coauthor of several more, including three volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and published by The Heartland Institute. Shortly before his death he coauthored Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming (2015).

Dr. Carter’s public commentaries drew on his knowledge of the scientific literature and a personal publication list of more than 100 papers in international science journals. His research on climate change, sea-level change and stratigraphy was based on field studies of Cenozoic sediments (last 65 million years) from the Southwest Pacific region, especially the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand.

Dr. Carter has acted as an expert witness on climate change before the U.S. Senate Committee of Environment & Public Works, the Australian and N.Z. parliamentary Select Committees into emissions trading and in a meeting in parliament house, Stockholm. He was also a primary science witness in the Hayes Windfarm Environment Court case in New Zealand, and in the U.K. High Court case of Dimmock v. H.M.’s Secretary of State for Education, the 2007 judgment which identified nine major scientific errors in Mr. Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Dr. Carter’s research was supported by grants from competitive public research agencies, especially the Australian Research Council (ARC). He received no research funding from special interest organizations such as environmental groups, energy companies or government departments.

On March 3, 2015, Dr. Carter authored a lengthy correction of the scurrilous attacks by the environmental left against his friend and honorable colleague Dr. Willie Soon. Read it here.

In December 2015, Dr. Carter joined Heartland’s contingent to Paris for COP-21 and presented at the “Day of Examining the Data.” Watch his presentation, and comments about an anti-CO2 demonstration below.

Dr. Carter received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, DC on July 12, 2015. Watch his acceptance speech below.

Dr. Carter has presented at several of The Heartland Institute’s International Conferences on Climate Change. View them below.



On September 24, 2013, Dr. Carter was part of a panel at The Heritage Foundation to talk about Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science. Watch that presentation below.

On October 8, 2013, Dr. Carter was part of a panel at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California presenting Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science. Watch that presentation below.

On October 10, 2013, Dr. Carter was a guest on The Roger Hedgecock Show in San Diego, California. He, Dr. S. Fred Singer, and Heartland Institute President Joe Bast talked about Climate Change Reconsidered. Watch that video below.

In June 2011, Dr. Carter delivered a public lecture titled “Climate Context as a basis for Better Policy” at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba. Watch the presentation below.

In May 2011, Dr. Carter delivered a lecture at the Australian Environment Foundation. Watch the presentation below.

In April 2010, Dr. Carter was interviewed by Terry Dunleavy of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. Watch that two-part interview below.

Categories: On the Blog

The Frowning Face of Egalitarianism

Somewhat Reasonable - January 19, 2016, 9:52 AM

Today’s protesters calling for free higher education are just the latest in a long line of people engaging in destructive behavior in the name of egalitarianism, the concept of equal treatment for all. The 1960s brought a wave of destruction in opposition to the Vietnam War. In a rather silly echo of that impulse, Trenton Oldfield, a fanatical egalitarian from Australia, ruined the famous Oxford-Cambridge rowing race on the Thames River a few years ago by jumping in the river and blocking the competitors in the name of resisting the elitism. He was dubbed in the United Kingdom the “anarchist swimmer” and has mounted other guerrilla strikes to promote his agenda. He is urging, for example, cabbies to take well-to-do passengers on long detours and cleaners not to place toilet paper where they are expected to serve rich folks.

It is easy to dismiss this sort of thing as mere childish pranks by a nutcase, but this individual is a graduate of the London School of Economics (LSE). He seems to be taking the goal of social leveling very seriously, although his project is incoherent and mostly destructive.

Still, if you are exhorted by the likes of President Barack Obama or LSE grads and their professors — such as John N. Gray, a former classical liberal who has turned into a postmodernist leftist—to rip off the rich, who can tell what limits, if any, there are to this agenda? After all, there are innumerable activities wealthy people undertake that may, along egalitarian lines, be sabotaged. Polo games, fencing, and bridge tournaments will have to be attacked. Fine restaurants likewise belong on the list, as well as upscale stores, clubs, and car dealerships.

In fact, any form of entertainment is fair game for such equalizers, because whenever one is enjoying such recreation, one could instead be serving humanity by attending to the poor or the sick. Nothing is safe from a person determined to wrest enjoyment from others’ grasp.

A host of emotions well up in me when these people write this material, take to the streets, or make insane demands of society from university podiums. It’s true most rivers are seen as public goods anyone may use to his or her heart’s content, so Oldfield may well have a technical right to ruin everybody’s fun by blocking a boat race on the Thames. A private lake would be easier to protect from such terrorists. Fortunately, common sense and a longing for mutual civility lead most people to refrain from expressing their political dreams by ruining events like the Oxbridge rowing regatta.

But what can one expect when the head of the most powerful government in the world advocates the egalitarian project, suggests tax policy based on its aspirations, and bashes the rich at every turn? Not that there is anything revolutionary about this. After all, throughout human history, firebrands of all sorts have promoted aggression and violence as the proper course for those who cannot bear to accept some people being better-off than others.

One can be somewhat grateful for the complaints of college protesters, Oldfield, Obama, and others who come right out and state their willingness to destroy things for everyone else if they don’t get their way. What society needs today is for these fanatics to come out of hiding, remind us of exactly what their warped thinking actually leads to, and, one hopes, inspire sensible people to reject their leaders at the ballot box.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Life Under an Iron Fist

Somewhat Reasonable - January 17, 2016, 12:34 PM

Activists protesting federal land mismanagement and the imprisonment of Dwight and Steven Hammond recently occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters building in Oregon. Some facts, context and perspective may help people understand what’s really going on here.

At its core, this is about the often callous, iron-fisted hand of the federal government being slammed down on American citizens. Examples abound – from the IRS targeting 200 conservative groups, to the seizure of cars and bank accounts of innocent business owners, to heavily armed Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) agents bursting into Gibson Guitar facilities over phony exotic wood violations, to EPA destroying tens of thousands of coal industry jobs to “prevent climate chaos.” Making these outrages even more intolerable, those responsible are almost never held accountable, much less liable for damages.

Problems like these can become exponentially worse for people in one of the twelve western states where the federal government controls 30% (Montana), 49% (Oregon) or even 85% (Nevada and Alaska) of all the land. These government lands total 640 million acres: 28% of the entire 2.27-billion-acre United States.

Though they are often, incorrectly called “public” lands, the “public” has no fundamental right to enter them or utilize their water and other resources. They are federal government reservations, administered and controlled by agencies that increasingly want economic, motorized and many other activities prohibited and eliminated – under laws interpreted, implemented and imposed by officials in the FWS, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Park Service and other federal agencies.

The feds also exercise effective, often punitive control over millions of acres of state and private lands located next to or in the midst of these government fiefdoms. People living in those areas rely on the federal reserves for forage, water, timber, energy, mineral and other resources that are increasingly made off limits, on the ground that “beneficial uses” might impact wildlife, scenic or environmental values.

However, millions of people do have valid, existing, longstanding, protected rights to these lands and their resources, in the form of “appurtenances” conveyed to them by deed or will from the first settler or miner. The forage, water rights, range improvements, easements, rights of ways, mineral rights and other property interests that the first settlers created or were granted to these western lands are constitutionally protected and have been preserved in every federal land law ever enacted by Congress. Those rights cannot be summarily taken away – though federal agencies increasingly try to do so.

As an 1888 congressional report explained, the original idea for these lands involved use and protection: settlements, harvesting of commercial quality trees, watershed protection, and no land monopolies. Various laws allowed mining, oil drilling, ranching, farming and other activities, to supply food, energy and raw material needs, while early environmentalists wanted certain areas preserved as national parks and wilderness. Of course, modern resource use and extraction methods are far more responsible and environmentally sound than their predecessors, so impacts can be much better limited and repaired.

Nevertheless, “wise use” or “multiple use” is under attack, and such uses are now rare or nonexistent across many western and Alaskan government lands. Landowners who remain are barely holding on.

Imagine the feds owning half of Ohio or Pennsylvania – and gradually, systematically closing off access, taking away water and forage rights, banning economic uses, charging higher fees for remaining rights, forcing landowners into years-long courtroom battles, and refusing to pay up when courts order them to compensate owners for attorney fees and lost income. That’s the situation facing rural westerners.

The Hammonds got in trouble because they started a “backfire,” to burn combustible material, create a “fire break” and protect their home and ranch from a raging fire. They accidentally burned 139 acres of federal land before they put the fire out. Now they are serving five years in prison, even though Senior Federal Judge Michael Hogan felt a year or less was fair and just under the circumstances.

They could have been charged under a 1948 law that provides for fines or jail terms up to five years for setting a fire on government lands without permission. But they were not. Instead, the Obama Justice Department charged them under the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act – as though what they did, in an honest attempt to protect their property, was an act of deliberate terrorism. That law requires a minimum five-year sentence. Judge Hogan’s lighter sentence was thus overruled.

Why would the DOJ do that? Probably because the feds never forget or forgive. Some years earlier, the Hammonds had removed a barrier the BLM had installed to block access to water they thought was legally theirs. Turns out it was. But they had failed to fully adjudicate their rights to the water – an oversight that they then fixed, thus safeguarding their rights. The Hammonds were also the only ranchers who refused to go along with a BLM “cow-free wilderness” plan. The feds were determined to get even.

Why would the Hammonds just give up and go back to prison? Because the DOJ wouldn’t budge, and they could not afford the huge expense of continuing to battle a vindictive federal behemoth. So now a middle-aged mom and elderly grandmother must run their 6,000-acre ranch, pay $200,000 more in fines, and hope they can avoid bankruptcy, which would result in BLM getting the Hammond ranch.

It is absurd, outrageous and infuriating. The Obama DOJ refuses to call Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino and other massacres terrorism – but it labels a backfire “terrorism.” But it gets worse.

Harney County, Oregon, where the Hammonds live, is over 6.4 million acres (over 10,000 square miles, ten times the size of Rhode Island), and 72% of it is controlled by the federal government. A 2012 wildfire in the county burned 160,000 acres! A 2015 fire in the county next door burned 800,000 acres!

Still worse, the BLM has often lit fires in Harney County and elsewhere (often on private land) that got out of control, burned extensive private property and even killed cattle. No one can recall the feds ever compensating ranchers for their lost livestock, fences or forage. In 2013, the Forest Service started two “prescribed burns” in South Dakota that blew out of control and torched thousands of acres of federal and private land. No federal employee has ever been prosecuted for any of those destructive fires.

To top it off, many of these fires are ultimately due to lousy management practices that restrict or prohibit tree cutting, tree thinning and insect control. That leaves vast tinderboxes of dry, rail-thin trees and brush ready to explode in superheated conflagrations that immolate wildlife and incinerate soil nutrients and organisms, ensuring that what’s left gets washed away in storms and spring snow melts. So the feds “protect” our treasured national forests from ranchers and miners by letting them go up in smoke.

But despite all these outrages, and not content with its already vast landholdings, the feds are trying to gain absolute control over all private lands still left in Harney County, and elsewhere. As Congressman Greg Walden noted in a January 5 speech, they are trying to drive ranchers and even joggers out of the Malheur Refuge. Failing that, President Obama might turn 2.5 million acres into a national monument.

The twisted saga is reminiscent of travesties under Stalin, Mao, Castro and other dictators. And it is just one of hundreds, some of which I will profile in future articles. It’s no wonder people are frustrated and angry – and some support Ammon Bundy and other activists who took over the Malheur headquarters. History will judge whether that peaceful occupation of federal property was wise, helpful or justified.

But many in the Obama Administration, news media, academia and general public certainly support or justify the seizure of college administrative offices, Occupy Wall Street encampments, and even Black Lives Matter kill-the-cops rants, Ferguson, Missouri riots, Palestinian attacks on Israelis, and Obama BFF Bill Ayers’ criminal activities. John Kerry went so far as to say, with Charlie Hebdo there was “perhaps … a rationale … [and] you could say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.”

So twelve Hebdo staffers murdered by Islamist terrorists is “rational” or excusable, but occupying a federal building is intolerable. We are dealing with a festering, growing, open wound. Congress, the courts and our next president need to heal it, and address the root causes, before things get out of hand.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep21): Powerball, GOP Debate, and $10 Oil?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 15, 2016, 3:21 PM

In episode #21 of the In The Tank Podcast, Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft bring in Director of Communications Jim Lakely to talk about the GOP debate. 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.

In today’s episode of In The Tank, Donny, John, and Jim talk the record-breaking $1.6 billion Powerball. The trio give their opinion on the government run lottery system as well as Thursday’s GOP debate. Lastly, they talk about the drop in oil prices. The competition between American fracking and OPEC has driven the price of oil down to below $30. John debates Donny as to where the price of oil is heading next.

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 – Science Supports Public’s Rejection of Climate Change Hype

Somewhat Reasonable - January 15, 2016, 2:15 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.

Podcast: Kyle Maichle on Compact for America The movement to amend the U.S. Constitution is gaining momentum across the country. Kyle Maichle, The Heartland Institute’s project manager for constitutional reform, joins host Donald Kendal to talk about Marco Rubio’s recent endorsement of an Article V convention, which is causing quite a stir in the mainstream media, as well as Compact for America (CfA), an organization seeking an Article V convention to implement a balanced budget amendment. Maichle discusses CfA’s strategies, influences, and successes so far. LISTEN TO MORE COP-21 and the Paris Climate Agreement Tim Benson, Heartland Research & Commentary The agreement that came out of COP-21 was called a “turning point for the world” by President Barack Obama. But critics on both the right and left say the agreement is merely an aspirational document, lacking language that would make any of its provisions on emission reduction and redistribution to developing countries legally binding. After all the hype and rhetoric, the world got a toothless, hollow, and non-binding agreement. That’s a victory, not a setback, for sound science and economics. READ MORE Science Supports Public’s Rejection of Climate Change Hype H. Sterling Burnett, Inside Sources Heartland’s H. Sterling Burnett writes a devastating reply to sociologist Robert Brulle, who turned to the Washington Post on January 6 to continue his campaign to attribute the American public’s rejection of global warming alarmism to “the coordinated efforts of conservative foundations and fossil fuel corporations to promote this uncertainty.”  According to Burnett, “The main reason I don’t accept the so-called ‘consensus view’ on climate change is it violates the scientific method. Virtually every testable prediction made concerning the harmful impacts of climate change has been proven to be incorrect.” READ MORE Reply to Mann and Oreskes Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Why would Michael Mann and Naomi Oreskes, two prominent (and almost ridiculously alarmist) academics in the global warming debate, devote hours to writing letters to the editor to a small (circ. 10,000) newspaper in northern Wisconsin? Maybe to avoid peer-review and editors who recognize libel when they see it. Mann and Oreskes recently repeated every lie and half-truth about The Heartland Institute spread on the Internet (often with their help) in a letter to theLakewood Times, and Heartland President Joseph Bast set the record straight in his reply, posted online at the newspaper as well as on Heartland’s blog, SomewhatReasonable. READ MORE

New Book! Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming The Heartland Institute released at COP-21 in Paris its newest book on global warming: Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. The authors demolish the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Scientists Craig Idso, Fred Singer, and Robert Carter critique the sources of this myth and present a summary of the physical science that makes it plain beyond any doubt that there is no global warming crisis. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! READ MORE Every Student Succeeds Act: Another Republican Defeat Robert G. Holland, Washington Times Two days after the text was released, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was rushed through a House vote. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee praised ESSA for short-circuiting a national school board and returning control to local hands. But why was former secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Education Arne Duncan so happy about this supposed devolution from federal control? “We were intentionally quiet on the bill – they asked us specifically not to praise it – and to let it get through,” said Duncan. Under ESSA, every state must adopt “college- and career-ready standards,” which means Common Core, or whatever rebranded versions the national education ministry deems acceptable. READ MORE Big Business Still Has No Idea Why Americans Don’t Like It or Common Core Joy Pullmann, The Federalist Fortune magazine, which styles itself as being the voice of modern-day capitalism, started the new year with a lengthy cover story heaping praise on corporate sponsors of Common Core and disdain on the stupid, right-wing, and misinformed opposition it encountered. Heartland Research Fellow Joy Pullmann has written a passionate and even angry reply at The Federalist that exposes the real sources of grassroots opposition to Common Core. You gotta read this one! READ MORE

Common Core Damage Will Last for Years to Come Peter Wood, The Heartlander Parents all over the country are becoming increasingly upset with the impacts of Common Core. With the mess that has been made of math and reading instruction, there has risen a growing movement to repeal Common Core entirely. Unfortunately, it may not be that easy. The large investment already made in textbooks, computers, tests, and training makes repealing this massive federal and state program a large feat. Undoing some forms of bad policy can take years. READ MORE Rolling Back CON Laws Underway in Virginia Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report Few government policies produce worse effects on state health care quality than certificate of need (CON) laws. These laws require medical facilities to get permission in order to purchase new equipment, offer new medical services, or expand or build a new medical facility. Several state delegates in the Virginia General Assembly have had enough of these destructive and frankly dangerous regulations. As of now, eight legislative reforms designed to scale back these CON laws are being considered to return sanity and free-market regulation to Virginia’s health care system. READ MORE Rolling Back CON Laws Underway in Virginia Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report Few government policies produce worse effects on state health care quality than certificate of need (CON) laws. These laws require medical facilities to get permission in order to purchase new equipment, offer new medical services, or expand or build a new medical facility. Several state delegates in the Virginia General Assembly have had enough of these destructive and frankly dangerous regulations. As of now, eight legislative reforms designed to scale back these CON laws are being considered to return sanity and free-market regulation to Virginia’s health care system. READ MORE Could Bitcoin Break the Government’s Monopoly on Money? Jesse Hathaway, The Hill As Bitcoin continues to climb in value, many are looking at the virtual money as a legitimate alternative to government-backed currencies. As its popularity increases, more established companies, such as Dell, DISH Network, Microsoft, and even Papa John’s Pizza, are beginning to accept payment in Bitcoin. Jesse Hathaway, managing editor of Budget & Tax News, argues Bitcoin could bring an end to the U.S. government’s near-monopoly over the money business, unleashing free-market principles into the worlds of commerce and finance. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Berin Szoka: Governments Wage War on “Zero-Rating” Video Plans Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom – a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the progress of technology that improves the human condition – joins Budget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss how regulators in the U.S. and abroad are using the power of the state to combat zero-rating, a kind of data plan that allows consumers to use streaming services at no cost. Szoka explains how foreign governments are cracking down on political dissent under the guise of protecting consumers with similar regulations. LISTEN TO 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

Are America’s Greatest Days Yet to Come?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 15, 2016, 12:39 PM

While the vast majority of Americans say that their nation’s not headed in a good direction, there’s a minority that are optimistic about the future. Indeed, author Michael Lotus believes America’s greatest days are yet to come.

Mr. Lotus draws his optimistic attitude by reaching back into this nation’s history. Although a young nation, America has survived other dark periods and has emerged stronger for them. Examples stem from the Civil War and this nation’s confrontation with the 3rd Reich (Nazi regime in Germany). After these two momentous events in the life of this nation, the economy buzzed, Americans thrived as a people, and great advances were made. 

Paramount in sustaining Lotus’ hope is a cultural formula that has remained consistent over many centuries.  This cultural foundation is technically termed the “Absolute Nuclear Family.” Lotus explained that this nation has an individualistic society, with the weakest extended family of any country in the world, making her unlike any other nation in the world. For example: In Arab-Muslim countries, traditionally the young don’t pick their own spouses. Theirs is an extremely clan-like family network. 


That important concept was just one introduced Saturday morning, January 9, to the Women’s Republican Club of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff — now it its 75th year since its founding. Club member Hillary Till introduced Lotus, her former classmate at the University of Chicago. 


Lotus is the co-author with James C. Bennett of America 3.0, Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century–Why American’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come.  The book has been endorsed or favorably reviewed by many, including National Review Editors-at-Large Jonah Goldberg and John O’Sullivan; Michael Barone, Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner; “InstapunditGlenn Reynolds; and hailed as an “intellectually ambitious and accessible work” by The Washington Times.

America 3.0: has two sub-title: “Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century and “Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come.” Mr. Lotus prefers the latter sub-title, believing that America’s greatest days are yet to come despite this nation’s high unemployment level, the existing low trust by the American people for established institutions, and how senior citizens have been impacted negatively because of low interest rates, etc.

Reasons to be Positive

The Absolute Nuclear Family foundation gave rise over the centuries to a political culture in England then in the USA. That political culture is expressed in three important American documents:

  • U.S. Constitution (described by Lotus as “a perfect code that doesn’t need to be edited”).
  • Declaration of Independence.
  • Northwest Ordinance – an achievement of Thomas Jefferson in 1787.  It established clear property rights, which were very important.  Without them nations remain poor.

English-speaking people have created wealth and innovation based on their practice of finding the most talented people they can find to build something, such as when starting a business, rather than relying on relatives.  At the same time it is not a utopia, and complaints that America can be a cold or lonesome society have some basis in fact. 

This nation has the ability to assimilate people unlike anywhere else in the world.  As such we shouldn’t panic at allowing a certain number of immigrants to come to America.

(The author took exception with Mr. Lotus on immigration. Lotus never clarified specifically whether he was speaking about illegal immigrants, those of refugee status, or those who wait for years to enter this nation legally.) 

Defining 1.0 and 2.0 America 

America 1.0 was described by Mr. Lotus as the society of our Founding Fathers, one of small scale, local government and based on agriculture.  People were free but poor.  It was based on muscle power, since machine power had not been invented.

The transition to an America 2.0 first began to be visible in the Northeast before the Civil War. The introduction of steam power began to change the entire economy and society. It was the Civil War, particularly the mobilization of men, war material, and money required that created the initial outline of America 2.0.  It was those of the Civil War generation (those who weren’t killed) who are credited as the true founders of 2.0.  The change was not without pain, as big cities grew and politics became corrupted.  Just as now, it was perceived by the American people that our nation’s Constitution had been undermined, and that America’s best days were behind her.  But America got through that transition successfully.

The railroads enabled people and goods to move more freely.  Factories sprung up and required lots of people doing things in a systematic way in order to achieve huge returns.  The automobile replaced the horse and carriage. With the development of transportation suburbs were built, offering the American people a quality of life which only the wealthy had enjoyed before.

From its onset America 2.0 required some centralization.  More rules and regulations were needed for the huge influx of people from farms into cities.  Change led to the development of a progressive political movement which took several generations to affect change.  The political framework for America 2.0 happened with the election of FDR and his “Great Society.”  Social Security came into being which led the American people to believe that government would take care of their retirement years.

In retrospect, mid-20th century America looks like a Golden Age.  Big Business thrived. WWII was won and prosperity returned to this nation.  The building of suburbs exploded where families could have their own homes and yards.  Our grandparents, and the World War II generation, built the America we grew up in, which was a very great country in its day.

Another important achievement of 2.0 were technological advances such as the Internet, which allows instant communication, and can be considered the beginning of America 3.0.  

Transitioning from 2.0 to 3.0

The transition from 2.0 to 3.0 is already underway.   The big government of today will eventually have to fail, for unable to keep its obligations, default is inevitable.  The American people will experience pain as the government sector shrinks, but hopefully the cuts demanded will be made as as painlessly as possible.  Mr. Lotus called for an open and transparent reduction of government, which he called “The Big Haircut.” 

We can only speculate what America 3.0 will bring. Lotus suggested the following things as likely:

  • Already self-employment is the growing sector. This trend will continue.
  • The factory floor will no longer require thousands of people showing up for work every day, but will exist everywhere.
  • The Internet will allow individual to work at gigs rather than at set jobs.
  • 3-D printers will create no waste. Everything manufactured will be made to exact dimensions.  
  • Driverless cars will especially help those who are no longer able to drive:  10 years when a typical woman can’t drive a car; for men it’s 6 years.  Commute time will become productive time.
  • Robotic technology will become common place.
  • Technology like BitCoin may replace money.
  • Education and healthcare, now dominated by the government, will crumble, and be replaced by competitive industries offering many choices.
  • Genetic engineering for body parts, etc.
  • DNA manipulation

As changes come and are integrated into society, the cost of living will go down.  

As with electronic devices whose technology is increasing at a rapid pace, to be fully accepted requires a generation who grew up with it and take it for granted before it become universal.

Mutineers needed with personal, moral courage

Although bad things will continue to happen during the transitional period, Mr. Lotus fervently believes that only when the situation becomes bad or oppressive enough will enough people rise up to demand change.  This seems to be happening now, as millions of Americans are saving NO to establishment presidential candidates from either party in favor of candidates who are considered outsiders. The change from 2.0 to 3.0 must allow the creative powers of the American people to be realized and developed, despite a government machine that doesn’t want this to happen.  It doesn’t help that we live in a “creepy state” where government has the capacity to spy on us.  It will require political will to rein in this threat and subject it to lawful control.

Lotus enjoined all present to act as mutineers, keeping in mind that the spirit of freedom still exists within the American people to resist and reject submission, and that the nuclear family is still the norm when the American people are given that choice.

The conservative inclination is to go back to something considered more pleasing, perhaps to the 1950’s?  Some conservative even try to romanticize America 1.0, but you can never go “back” to anything. Both political parties have become corrupted. It will take personal moral courage to fix something as bad as it is now.

George Washington and the Founding Father were willing to roll the dice and make change happen.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence risked their lives knowing they could be hung as traitors. 

Like those who risked death in Colonial America, as America 3.0 struggles to be born, activists and concerned citizens must take the lead, even if the personal risk is not so great. If they don’t others will do so in their absence, and the America of the future will not be as good as it should be and can be.  The conditions are in place for change, given the excesses and the flaunting of our Constitution by our government and by cronies who benefit from it.  We must be ready to seize the day.

[Originally published at Illinois Review

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Wolfgang Muller: Debunking German Renewable Myths

Somewhat Reasonable - January 14, 2016, 4:44 PM

Is Germany a renewable energy paradise, or a rate payer’s Hell? Germany is often cited as a leader in renewable energy and Facebook memes make the rounds boasting about wind and solar energy production in Germany, but how true are these memes and at what cost does increasing renewable energy exact upon the German people? The answer is: a lot.

Wolfgang Muller, director of the European Institute on Klimate and Energy (EIKE), a German-based think tank, and Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr explore German energy policy and debunk popular environmentalist myths about renewables in Germany.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Science Supports Majority of Public’s Rejection of Climate Change Hype

Somewhat Reasonable - January 14, 2016, 2:15 PM

Sociologist Robert Brulle’s recent Washington Post op-ed “America Has Been Duped on Climate Change” (1/6/15) is reminiscent of President Barack Obama’s petulant response to anyone who disagrees with him concerning the legality and effectiveness of new gun control regulations. Obama can’t imagine any person legitimately questioning whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to restrict an American’s right to keep and bear arms, despite the plain language presented in the Second Amendment.

If you disagree with Obama’s new executive actions that limit gun rights and violate Americans’ privacy rights by providing unjustifiable access to health and financial data, Obama condemns you as being either in the pocket of the gun lobby or a paranoid conspiracy theorist. In the president’s view, there can be no honest differences of opinion concerning the need to enact more gun control.

Brulle’s argument is similar. If you disagree which his claim the science is settled that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming, or his assertion the impacts of a warmer world are so bad the government is justified in imposing severe limits on freedom and economic development, you are either in the pocket of the fossil-fuel industry or you are ignorant of the truth because industry-backed shills have misinformed or confused you.

The main reason I don’t accept the so-called “consensus view” on climate change is it violates the scientific method. Virtually every testable prediction made concerning the harmful impacts of climate change has been proven to be incorrect.

Alarmists posit human greenhouse gas emissions are driving rising temperatures, yet the climate models they use to support this assertion consistently misrepresent past temperature and climate trends and overstate the amount of warming Earth has experienced. While carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise over the past 18 years, global satellites tell us temperatures have plateaued, defying the most basic premise of the theory human greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming.

Based on computer models, government-backed scientists predicted the world should be experiencing more intense hurricanes, but December 24, 2015, marked a record 122 months since the last major hurricane, classified as Category 3 or higher, struck the continental United States, according to records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hurricane Research Division. Hurricane Wilma, which hit Florida on October 24, 2005, was the last major hurricane to hit the United States, making Obama the first president in 122 years, since Benjamin Harrison, to hold office without seeing a major hurricane strike the United States.

Sea-level rise is well below predictions and has in fact measurably slowed. Although in some areas polar bear numbers suffered a modest decline late in the 20th century, they have since bounced back. Just before Christmas, Norwegian scientists found the polar bear population in the Barents Sea has increased by more than 40 percent, to approximately 975 bears, compared to 685 11 years ago. Polar bear numbers are in fact at record highs, having increased from around 5,000 worldwide in the 1950s to more than 25,000 today.

Some land based ice sheets have declined in Antarctica, yet on the whole the continent is adding ice. New research shows the Antarctic ice sheet had an average net gain of 112 billion tons of ice per year from 1992–2001 and 82 billion tons of ice per year from 2003–08. Antarctica’s sea ice extent set multiple records during both the summer and winter months in 2014 and in 2015. Arctic ice levels have increased since the low recorded in 2007, with every year since then exceeding that measurement.

Crop production continues to set records year over year, and despite a recent alarmist article in The New York Times claiming increasing carbon dioxide levels are causing ocean acidification, which the writer says is harming sea life, internal e-mails from NOAA report, “[C]urrently there are no areas of the world that are severely degraded because of [ocean acidification] or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now.”

Each of these scientific truths contradicts predictions and claims made by the so-called “consensus.”

It seems what really upsets Brulle is the fact Americans haven’t been duped by climate alarmists and stampeded into calling for drastic action to fight climate change. Instead, polls consistently show climate change ranks dead-last as a concern, far behind other public policy issues, such as budget deficits, crime, the economy, education, energy, immigration, taxes, and terrorism. Is the public’s skepticism due to effective communication by climate realists, or is it attributable to the fact Americans don’t believe a government that can’t control its borders, balance its checkbook, or consistently predict the weather less than one week out can control the global climate 100 years from now?

I don’t know, but I’m glad the public displays more common sense and is more judicious in its assessment of the relative dangers of climate change than the vast army of self-appointed, deceptive public scolds, such as Brulle.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

Flagging Duncan’s Excessive Celebration Over ESSA

Somewhat Reasonable - January 14, 2016, 8:28 AM

Because Arne Duncan, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, often engages his mouth before his brain, the case for abolishing the department may have just become stronger than ever.

By failing to restrain his end-zone celebration of the Republican-led Congress’ recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Mr. Duncan has exposed the deceit and dishonesty of a bipartisan Washington establishment that has imposed top-down controls on education a majority of Americans don’t want.

But wait: After working hard to nationalize education through the first seven years of the Obama presidency, why should the departing secretary of education be so pumped about ESSA, the successor to No Child Left Behind? After all, one of the act’s main sponsors, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has crowed about the new law short-circuiting a national school board, repealing Common Core and returning considerable control to local hands. Republican talking points about the glory of devolution dominated early news stories about the Every Student Succeeds Act, even in The New York Times.

No doubt Mr. Duncan and his lawyers studied the 1,061-page bill line by line, and they most assuredly knew more than most members of Congress about how it actually seals in federal control, rather than empowering local stewards of education. More cause for Mr. Duncan’s juvenile joy was pulling a fast one via a hushed collaboration between a powerful Obama Cabinet member and the Republican congressional leadership.

“We were intentionally quiet on the bill — they asked us specifically not to praise it — and to let it get through,” Mr. Duncan said in a December interview with Politico Pro, a journal popular with Washington insiders. “And so we went into radio silence and then talked about it after the fact. Our goal was to get this bill passed — intentionally silent on the many, many good aspects of the bill. We were strategically quiet on the good stuff.”

Mr. Duncan’s revelation may help explain why House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed the massive bill to a House vote only two days after releasing the text, ignoring the pleas made by hundreds of citizen groups for time to study and debate the complex measure.

Mr. Duncan gloated about causes the administration “promoted and proposed forever the core of our agenda from Day One” now being embedded for the first time in federal statutory law. No longer will it be necessary to dangle monetary or regulatory bribes in front of states to persuade them to adhere to Common Core curricular standards. Under ESSA, every state must adopt “college- and career-ready standards,” which means Common Core or whatever rebranded versions the national education ministry deems acceptable.

Mr. Duncan’s former communications chief, Peter Cunningham, writing in the Dec. 13 Education Post, chose to chide Mr. Alexander for expressing such pride in a law that “now mandates the very thing he rails against”: Common Core. But that raises another question: Did Mr. Alexander, who served as education secretary under Republican President George H.W. Bush, realize full well the great ESSA deception and participate in it? As a one-time presidential aspirant, Mr. Alexander avidly supported national education standards and tests (albeit supposedly “voluntary”) as part of Bush’s America 2000 program, and at other stages of his political career.

So what are parents and educators who believe in local control to make of supposed congressional allies who prove to be either dupes or fools and wind up perpetuating nationalization of K12 education?

Instead of despairing and just accepting everything handed down from the Every Student Succeeds Act for many years to come, they may want to redirect their energy and commitment in 2016 to electing a president and new members of Congress dedicated to abolishing the U.S. Education Department.

Started by President Jimmy Carter as a political payoff to the National Education Association teachers union, the department has done nothing to advance the level of intellectual achievement in America. Quite to the contrary, as Patchogue, N.Y. school Superintendent Michael Hynes pointed out in a New Year’s Eve letter to Newsday, the Education Department policymaking “has left a wake of children who have been tested to death and also degraded educators by reducing them to numbers.”

It is time to stop letting political hacks and blowhards in Washington control our kids’ futures and to restore authority and choice to parents, teachers and local communities.

[Originally published at the Washington Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Gun Control: Much to Ado About Nothing?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 13, 2016, 12:15 PM

Co-authored by: Nancy Thorner & Ed Ingold

As we digested events from last week in the light of President Obama’s Executive Order about gun control, it became clear that gun control was secondary to his attempt to marginalize the NRA. There was lots of sizzle, but no steak in the end. Even diverting attention from Gitmo, ISIS, North Korea, China, and the Middle East played a minor, but useful role.

The NRA refused to bite, so Obama was left to debate an empty chair. According to polls, undecided voters weren’t fooled either. They overwhelmingly agree with the NRA and the Republican candidates in opposition to the President. 

Obama’s references to “Smart Guns” were vague and not picked up by the press nor the NRA, but they are available for purchase.  Not popular at the moment, nevertheless, we took the liberty to explain later in our article what Smart Guns are all about and whether it would be advantageous for you to consider one.

Perhaps the most memorable event during this past week was Obama’s confrontation with Tara Kyle at his town hall meeting at George Mason University in Virginia where Obama sat stunned.  When he couldn’t answer her question, he fell back on the old “something is better than doing nothing” trick.

Background:

The day after the December 2 assault on a Christmas party in San Bernardino, President Obama appeared on television to denounce “yet another tragic example of gun violence,” and renewed his vows to bypass Congress on gun control if they wouldn’t do as he asked. To Obama’s embarrassment, his FBI director announced that San Bernardino would be a terror investigation, not one of workplace violence as depicted by the President.

By at least one account, supposedly leaked from Obama’s inner circle, the President was outraged to be made a fool by director Comey. Accordingly, Obama, Valerie Jarrett and Loretta Lynch made plans to mitigate the situation. The next day Director Comey conducted a press conference, describing the nature of the investigation, accompanied by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

While Comey outlined the facts of the case, Lynch restricted her comments to a threat to prosecute anyone depicting Muslims as terrorists. When Comey opened the podium to questions, the video feed was suddenly cut off. Actual video of the remaining conference appeared briefly on the internet the next day, but was deleted within hours.

Scare Tactics:

In order to gain support for his forthcoming announcements, the President mentioned things like using the no-fly list to disqualify gun buyers, which has serious constitutional issues. Re-classifying who needs a license to sell firearms. Streamlining reporting of mental issues (HIPAA issues), banning high (actually standard) capacity magazines and assault weapons based on cosmetic features, and mandating weapons to have electronic safety features tying them to one user.

Actual Announcement:

When the President announced his decisions on Tuesday, January 5, they were basically as follows:

  • Directed the ATF to establish rules for licensing requirements to sell firearms. It was not an order to change the rules, rather a directive to start the rule-process, including public comment and Congressional review, which will last well into 2017.
  • Simplify the rules under which mental health professionals can report issues to NICS without violating HIPAA rules. Technically only involuntary examinations are affected, including court-ordered procedures.
  • Increase the budget for mental health research in violence by $500M (subject to Congressional approval).
  • Ask Congress to allow the CDC to study violence as a public health issue (banned by Congress in 2003, following highly questionable and biased reports).
  • Asked for more funding to study “smart gun” technology, comparing it to seat belts in cars and safety standards for toys. This escaped the notice of the press, and apparently the NRA too.

Significance:

In an interview with Fox News, former Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, described the President’s actions as “rearranging furniture.”  Generalities were used by Mukasey: 

  • Less than 1% of guns used in crimes were purchased at gun shows (0.7% by FBI statistics). Most guns used in crime come from illegal street sales (40%) and close relatives (30-40%), not subject to background checks.
  • Potentially criminalizes private individuals selling guns without a license, after the fact, depending on the prosecutor, not clear rules.
  • $500M for mental health research was immediately tabled by the administration, without consulting Congress.
  • No mention was made of using the no-fly list.
  • No mention was made of “assault weapon” bans
  • Mental health issues already impose a limit on who can purchase a firearm, but are not reported reliably by many states. Criminal convictions are not consistently reported to NICS either.
  • Over 2/3rds of Obama’s “gun deaths” are suicides, which occur at the same rate in countries like Great Britain and Japan where no guns are allowed at all.
  • More deaths occur on the streets of Chicago in a month than in all  “active shootings” since Obama was elected.
  • The 24/7 news cycle emphasizes incidents like San Bernardino for weeks on end, while ignoring the daily carnage in cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and New Orleans, all run by  unrepentant liberal Democrats. NYC is still somewhat below the national average (4/100K), but climbing rapidly under DeBlasio’s liberal policies.
  • “Smart guns” restrict their use to a single person, using biometrics or an electron finger ring. The technology already exists, in case someone wants it. The acceptance has been very low, almost zero. While it keeps children from firing the weapon, failure would keep the owner from firing it too in an emergency, like an air bag which won’t deploy or a flashlight gone dead when the lights go out. The political implications are serious. At least one state, New Jersey, requires all guns to have this technology once it becomes available. The Democrats would be quick to spread this across the country, and Bloomberg would sponsor initiatives in states where they are allowed (e.g., Washington and Oregon). It would not have protected the cop in Philadelphia, who was shot with a gun stolen from the police. Any mechanism of the sort is easily disabled in a few minutes. The law would come down heavily on any citizen disabling this feature, but what does a criminal have to lose?

Town Hall Meeting:

Obama held a town hall meeting on Thursday, January 7, at George Mason University in Virginia, moderated by CNN. While packed with anti-gun activists and gun violence victims, a few surprises occurred.

Following a lecture by the President, containing familiar talking points, the meeting was opened to questions from the audience. Tara Kyle, widow of the “American Sniper,” Chris Kyle, who was murdered in 2013, pointed out that homicides are at an historic low, gun ownership at an historic high, criminals don’t do background checks, and federal prosecutions for gun crimes are down by 40% since Obama took office. Why?

Making NRA the Strawman:

The NRA was invited to attend, but declined. In an interview with Fox News, NRA Director Chris Cox explained that they were allowed one pre-screened question, and would be held hostage while Obama leveled one accusation after another. In fact, that is precisely what Obama did anyway – accused the NRA of blocking this or that and of raising panic among gun owners, the classic Strawman approach. While there was a marked increase in gun purchases, the NRA had nothing to do with it. Gun owners tend to keep one ear to the ground, and the President made a lot of noise leading up to Tuesday. The NRA was surprisingly low key throughout the two weeks, waiting to discuss facts not assumptions.

It is clear that the President wants to demonize the NRA as the enemy of public safety. With a budget of about $37M, the NRA isn’t even in the top 100 list of lobbying organizations, but their members (and even more followers) are passionate about their right to keep and bear arms for personal safety. Michael Bloomberg alone spends about $20M a year in anti-gun activities, including $2M alone in the Chicago primary race to replace disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr in the House of Representatives, for a race which normally costs less than $500K. The issue – gun control.

Distracting from domestic and international stumbles: 

Throughout the last two weeks, the President has made nearly daily announcements regarding his gun control agenda. This has captivate the attention of nearly everybody, most important the network and cable news industry. This seems to be a Machiavellian attempt to control the news cycle and divert attention from the political situation in the Middle East. It also kept attention from Obama’s continued effort to close the Gitmo prison. Seventeen dangerous Al Qaeda members are scheduled for release in January, almost unnoticed by the press. By law, the Secretary of Defense must affirm (in writing) that these pose no security problem to the US or its allies. Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel all resigned in protest. Ashton Carter, who majored in Physics and Medieval History, with a career as a technical advisor, seems more … compliant in this regard.

What would work?

Criminals are going to get firearms as long as it is necessary to do what they do. They will go to the streets, suburbs, other states or other countries if necessary, and they won’t get background checks. If you can’t keep guns from the hands of criminals, why not do as much as possible to keep their hands away from guns. Prosecute them under existing gun laws!

As noted, prosecutions for federal gun crimes are down 40% since Obama took office. In Chicago, there are nearly 3500 illegal guns seized each year, but the average sentence served is less than one year. Under federal law, the minimum is 5 years and can be much longer, yet there were no prosecutions under federal law since Obama took office. It’s a lot harder for criminals to get guns in prison (unfortunately not impossible), and the public would get 5 years of relief from that individual’s depredations.

Mr. President, where is your Department of Justice? Is your reticence due to the demographics of violent crime in your home city?

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Berin Szoka: Government’s Fight Against Zero-Rating and Consumer Choice

Somewhat Reasonable - January 13, 2016, 11:15 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor Jesse Hathaway talks with Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the progress of technology that improves the human condition, about how regulators both at home and abroad are using the power of the state to combat zero-rating, a kind of sponsored-data plan where access to popular web applications like Facebook or streaming video services is made available to consumer at no cost.

Szoka explains how the Egyptian government is shutting down Facebook’s “Free Basics” service, with the stated goal of protecting consumers and the real goal of cracking down on political dissent. In India, regulators are fighting to keep zero-rating away from consumers, effectively saying that no Internet access at all is better than limited free access.

Here in the U.S. Szoka says, regulators are using tactics one would expect to find used by China’s politically oppressive regime to limit consumer choice, advancing what he calls the “religious zealotry” backing the Federal Communications Commission’s 2014 network neutrality power grab.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association Oral Arguments

Somewhat Reasonable - January 13, 2016, 11:01 AM

Oral arguments in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case were heard at the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Monday, January 11. Most experts agree the questions and responses directed toward the attorneys for the California Teachers Association (CTA) from SCOTUS justices were hostile, which doesn’t bode well for CTA’s case.

For a quick refresher, Rebecca Friedrichs, a teacher, is suing her union to end forced agency shop fees, also known as “fair share.” The contention is these fees are political in nature and teachers should be free to choose whether to support this activity or not.

You can read the transcript in its entirety here. Some of the questions asked by the justices are as follows:

JUSTICE GINSBURG:

Mr. Carvin, is it permissible, in your view, to allow the union to be the exclusive representative so that nobody else is at the bargaining table?

JUSTICE SCALIA:

Mr. Carvin, is it okay to force somebody to contribute to a cause that he does believe in?

JUSTICE KENNEDY:

If you were to prevail, what would happen with private employers in a state which said that there should be a union shop?

JUSTICE GINSBURG:

What about the Railway Labor Act?

JUSTICE KAGAN:

Well, one of the points of your public employee cases generally, Mr. Carvin, is essentially to ensure that when the government acts as an employer that the government be put in the same position as a private employer. In other words, that the various constraints that would constrain the government when it’s acting as sovereign fall away and a different and lesser set of constraints apply that are meant essentially to ensure that the government doesn’t use its position as leverage over things it oughtn’t to be able to control, but that the government can do the same things that a private employer can.

And so why doesn’t this fall within that category of things? In other words, you’ve just said private employer can decide to do this. That’s not a constitutional problem. So too with the government employer.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR:

Well, why are we treating the government differently than a private employer?

You just earlier said, and I think our cases are replete with the point that as employer, the government can already restrict speech, which is, I think, a higher problem than subsidization.

We’ve already permitted subsidization of bar associations, of government programs. We’ve permitted assessments on a lot of different levels, so why can’t the government, as employer, create a state entity? Because this union under California law is a state entity.

JUSTICE KENNEDY:

So collective bargaining in this instance subsumes, includes this wide-ranging effort on the part of the union to have a public relations campaign in favor of principles that some of its members, that some teachers strongly object to?

JUSTICE BREYER:

And you think all the Fourth Amendment cases, in your opinion, are correct? I mean, you know, the police can go search a car, the good faith rule in respect to admission of evidence that was seized unlawfully under the Fourth Amendment? I read a lot of criticism of those things in the paper. And it seems to me you could get people who are judges, who are up here, who thought that the Fourth Amendment should be really extended and, in fact, there should be no rule that gives police any special authority to search a car.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR:

Ah, but that’s the question, isn’t it? Would it be illegal for the government, as employer or government, to fund the union?

JUSTICE ALITO:

Is there any history in American labor management relations, at least going back, I don’t know what, 75, 80 years of employers, paying for unions? I thought the union movement was against this long ago.

JUSTICE SCALIA:

Is it a bargainable subject? I mean, it’s a political subject. I suppose you can enact a statute that says the government will fund you, but is it bargainable? Is it one of those items that the union can bargain for?

JUSTICE BREYER:

And you, you start overruling things, what happens to the country thinking of us as a kind of stability in a world that is tough because it changes a lot?

JUSTICE ALITO:

Before you get into that, could I just ask you a preliminary question that came up earlier in the argument?

Do you think that the California Teachers Association is an agency of the State of California?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS:

It’s hard to visualize this in a pure employer-employee relationship, when the collective bargaining agreement itself has to be submitted for public review and public comment.

That suggests that you’re doing more than simply regulating the employment relationship?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS:

If your employees have shown overwhelmingly that they want collective bargaining, then it seems to me the free-rider concern that’s been raised is really insignificant.

JUSTICE SCALIA:

The problem is that everything that is collectively bargained with the government is within the political sphere, almost by definition. Should the government pay higher wages or lesser wages? Should it promote teachers on the basis of seniority? … the basis of all of those questions are necessarily political questions. That’s the major argument made by the other side.

Categories: On the Blog

Who Can Screw Up a Water Auction in the Desert? Government Can

Somewhat Reasonable - January 13, 2016, 10:00 AM

The age-old analogy describing a good salesman is “He can sell ice to Eskimos.” Let us now contemplate the opposite. What if someone has repeatedly screwed up so terribly – they could damage the sale of the hottest of commodities to a full panoply of desperate buyers? How could anyone hamstring a water auction – in the desert?

We face that possibility in March. And that incompetent, over-meddling salesman – is government. The auction in question is the latest wireless spectrum auction – and the auctioneer the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Spectrum is the airwaves we use for all things wireless. From your intercontinental cell phone – all the way down to your car key fob. The spectrum supply is finite – and not all spectrum is equally useful. Think of it as a Monopoly board. Some spectrum is Boardwalk and Park Place – some is Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues. And varying degrees in between.

Let us begin with the fact that government owns the lion’s share of spectrum – roughly 60%. Much of it is of high value – and very high value. And shocker – government isn’t using it efficiently.

To paraphrase former Republican FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell: The government has long stretches of beach front property – and it’s built nothing on much of it, and tiny buildings on more of it. When it should be consolidating – and building high-rise condominiums on what’s left. To make better use – and to make more available to the private sector.

The government doesn’t even have a map of what spectrum it possesses – which would make managing public and private spectrum policy a whole lot easier. The FCC has for years been charged with drafting said map – but hasn’t done so. Congress has also tried to get the government to consolidate, and sell some of its spectrum to the private sector – and been rebuffed by the bureaucrats.

Some of those bureaucrats – are Defense Department folks citing national security. Which is understandable – but doesn’t explain away all of the government’s 60% possession. There is undoubtedly much of the government’s wireless territory that can be safely cleared and sold. (They likely are hesitant to map it – because it would demonstrate just how poorly they are using it.)

Back to the looming auction. Which is not of any government spectrum – but of private spectrum, largely utilized by broadcasters. Pre-cable, over-the-air spectrum broadcast were the only television and radio games going. As a result, companies like NBC, ABC and CBS became behemoths. And the government gave them use of the spectrum – for free.

Then came the cellular phone revolution – and now available spectrum is getting terribly scarce. The cell phone companies are most of the aforementioned desert auction attendees – desperately ready to bid on water.

The government – rather than making some of its majority share available – has asked broadcasters to make available theirs. Not the optimal response – but ok. And March’s is not the first such auction – there have already been other private-to-private sales.

Except they aren’t private-to-private sales. The government (of course) had to way-over-involve itself. The FCC mandates it buy spectrum from broadcasters – and then auction it to the highest bidders.

But wait – the highest bidders don’t always win. Because the government rigs some of the auction: “Federal regulators…set aside a portion of choice spectrum for smaller wireless carriers at an auction of TV airwaves scheduled for next year.”

But as we know, the road to Hell is paved with regulations. Shocker – government meddling doesn’t work out the way government intended. In the last auction, Huge Company Dish Network (total assets: $22.1 billion) set up small front companies – to rig the set-aside. Which netted them $3 billion in savings on their purchases – while totally messing up the bidding for much of the auction.

A rarity then occurred – government acknowledged it messed up. And made Dish pay the full freight. Which was something – but didn’t come close to rectifying the entirety of the damage done to the auction process.

But did government learn from its admitted mistake? Of course not. They are having the exact same type of set-asides in March’s auction. Which will almost certainly dampen this sale – just as it dampened the last.

Then you have to factor in the oppressive, all-encompassing government ridiculousness that is Network Neutrality – which makes any prospective Internet investment exponentially more risky. And there are (of course) even more anti-free-market impositions on the sector. Because it’s government – and that’s what government does.

All of which starts making the government’s water – look a whole lot less appealing to the desert bidders.

The private sector badly needs spectrum. The government should do more to make more of theirs available. And do much less micromanaging of the current private efforts to address the shortage.

The less government involvement in spectrum – in any and every way, shape, matter and/or form – the better things will be for all of us.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog
Syndicate content