On the Blog

Get Ready To Ditch The SAT And ACT

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 9:41 AM

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

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

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

Testing a New Test

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

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

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

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

A Drive to Feed Students Substance

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at the Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Despite Gloomy News, Life is Actually Getting Better

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 9:33 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Washington Times]

Categories: On the Blog

7 Top Takeaways from EU’s Google-Android-Tying Charges

Somewhat Reasonable - April 25, 2016, 9:25 AM

The European Commission has charged Alphabet-Google with abusing its dominance in the market for “general Internet search services,” by implementing an Android “strategy of mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general Internet search.” The EU objects to a variety of secret Google contract conditions to manufacturer licenses to leverage the dominant (>90% share) Android OS to secretly restrict and foreclose competition in ways that ultimately harm consumer choice and innovation. The EU effectively charged that Google has already anticompetitively extended its >90% dominance in search to dominance in the >90% share of the “licensable smart mobile operating system,” and to dominance in the >90% share of the “app stores for the Android” market.

Summary of 7 Top Takeaways from EU-Google-Android Antitrust Charges

  1. Google- Android’s “open” defense is not the whole truth and nothing, but the truth.
  2. EU is now world’s de facto antitrust top cop, not the DOJ-FTC.
  3. Begs a big question: Why did the FTC silently bury the 2012 FTC staff report on Android-tying?
  4. Android-tying is a relatively straightforward legal case.
  5. Android-tying is very different from the search case.
  6. Apple iOS is NOT an Android competitor for ANTITRUST purposes.
  7. Android competition is on life support.

The 7 Top Takeaways Explained

(1) Google-Android’s “open” defense is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There is a reason that when one has to swear to tell the truth in court, one has to promise to not only tell the truth, but also the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That’s because the truth is not a simple assertion, but what emerges from assertions being tested via investigation, cross examination and common sense. Google’s public defense against the EU’s Android-tying Statement of Objections, comes in simple blog post entitled: “Android’s Model of Open Innovation.” Google states very general and defensible honorific platitudes about its Android business model that are true as far as they go, because they focus superficially on what the public can see and what the Google branding touts.

The big problem with Google’s superficial defense is that the EU Statement of Objections does not challenge what Google says in its blog defense. The EU is charging that behind-the-scenes, out of public view, Google confidentially, secretly and anticompetitively behaves in ways that are not pro-openness, pro-competition, or pro-open-innovation like they claim in public.

The EU is charging that the facts that Google does not want the public to ever learn, actually dis-empower hundreds of manufacturers with secret contractual restrictions that effectively limit manufacturers choices, all to empower Google to profitably extend its dominance into other markets and foreclose potential competitive threats to Google. Simply, this case is about exposing and prosecuting heretofore secret anti-competitive Android-tying behavior that Google wants to keep out of public view.

If Google is truly innocent here and really wants the public to know that Google genuinely operates an “open” model and ecosystem, then why doesn’t Google effectively open-source the language in all of their OEM and network operator contracts on a Wiki so the public can see transparently, if Google is, or is not, using its Android gatekeeper power to discriminate in favor of Google at the expense of competition and competitive innovation? Isn’t the whole purpose and strength of a true open model the trust that true transparency and openness generate?

(2) EU is now the world’s de facto antitrust top cop, not the DOJ-FTC. Google is the obvious #1 global antitrust problem of interest to countries other than the U.S. Only the EU antitrust authority has charged Google with both search-bias and Android-tying abuses of dominance. In addition, the EU is now the only jurisdiction with: a holistic view of the Google-Android antitrust problem; the most facts and understanding of the markets; and the commitment and courage to lead the rest of world’s antitrust review of Google, sans DOJ-FTC.

(3) Begs a big question: Why did the FTC silently bury the 2012 FTC staff report on Android-tying? Now that we know that both the EU and Russian antitrust authorities separately concluded that Google’s tying of Android with Google Apps is an abuse of dominance, why did the FTC preemptively shut down its 2011-2012 Android investigation and then cover it upwithout any public communication or explanation?

We now know from the 2012 Google-FTC staff report that just before the FTC closed all its Google antitrust investigations, the FTC staff report stated: “Staff continues to investigate Google’s conduct in the mobile [Android] arena and will address these issues in a supplemental memorandum;” (fn. 51, p120) and noted that “Since Google’s release of the first commercially available mobile device running Android OS in October 2008, Android’s market share has grown exponentially.” (fn. 51, p120)

The inexplicable nature of the FTC’s closure of its Android-tying investigation in 2013, adds to the many other facts that suggest that the FTC abruptly closed all FTC antitrust probes into Google for political reasons after the 2012 election. The FTC Chairman’s statement at the time made it clear “all of its competition-related investigations of Google were settled,” which would obviously include the Android-tying probe that the FTC staff in October 2012 said they were continuing to investigate and would prepare an Android “supplemental memorandum” for the Commissioners.

However, in all the statements explaining the settlement of supposedly all of the Google antitrust issues the FTC staff were investigating, there inexplicably is zero mention of the existence of the FTC staff’s official Android-tying investigation; what the staff discovered/concluded; or how the FTC finally decided to officially resolve the probe for the public record.

Even worse, there was no official vote of the FTC commissioners on closing the Android tying matter when they voted on four other issues in four different ways, 4-1; 3-0-2; 4-0-1; and 5-0. Were the other commissioners even told in the frenzied political rush to shut down all FTC Google antitrust probes, that they did not have a say in closing the FTC’s separate Android-tying investigation? Tellingly FTC Commissioner Rosch warned in his concurring and dissenting statement that: “… our “settlement” with Google creates very bad precedent and may lead to the impression that well-heeled firms such as Google will receive special treatment at the Commission.”

The FTC’s closure of its Android probe, is even more inexplicable and deceptive because in the FTC press statement the FTC Chairman claimed the FTC conducted an “incredibly thorough and careful investigation” in publicly explaining the three parts of the investigation that were settled with Google (i.e. abuse of: SEP patents, advertising APIs, and website opt-outs) and the two matters that resulted in no action or settlement despite commissioner concerns (i.e. search bias and unauthorized content scraping).

Why was there no explicit mention of the FTC’s Android-tying investigation or why the FTC decided to close it like they did with search bias and content scraping? Did Google politically insist in its settlement negotiations that the FTC’s Android investigation be closed with no public disclosure of why? Did the premature, inexplicable, and un-voted-on, closure of the FTC’s Android-tying investigation result from the “special treatment” that Commissioner Rosch warned against at the time?

(4) Android-tying is a relatively straightforward legal case. This Android case is a classic “bread and butter” straightforward antitrust case. For the layman it can be considered a repeat of, or the 2016 sequel to, the EU’s successful case against Microsoft for de facto tying its media player and Internet browser to its monopoly operating system. The hardest legal elements of this antitrust case are largely settled law as a result of the EU v. Microsoft legal precedent, e.g. relevant market definition of the licensable operating system market, which excludes Apple iOS, and that tying apps to a dominant operating system is an abuse of dominance and harms consumers and innovation. Moreover, the copious definitive evidence in this case is literally eight years of executed contracts with manufacturers; so the main evidence in this case is highly discoverable, finite, tangible, and straightforward.

(5) Android-Tying is very different from the search case. This case is about abuse of dominance in the wholesale OEM/network-operator smartphone market, not the consumerretail smartphone market. The EU has charged Google with abusing its dominance by effectively requiring contracts with ~400 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to accept a de facto exclusive ecosystem arrangement of Android and a pre-loaded set of prominently placed Google apps like search, Play store, Chrome, etc., if the OEM wants to offer Google’s free and best-marketed mobile operating system in the marketplace to sell its phones.

(6) Apple iOS is NOT an Android competitor for ANTITRUST purposes. The EU asserts in the lone footnote in its Fact Sheet that it has concluded that Apple iOS is not a competitor to Android in stating: “[1]Android is a licensable operating system meaning that third party handset manufacturers can use it for their devices; as opposed to operating systems exclusively used by vertically integrated developers.” As the EU’s antitrust precedent, Microsoft v. Commission determines, Apple’s iOS is not a direct competitor to Android in the “licensable smart mobile operating system” market monopoly because Apple iOS is exclusive to Apple products and is not licensed to OEMs. Moreover, Google-Android and Apple-iOS have different customers, products, and business models. In addition their models differ in customization, monetization, economics, costs, intellectual property, and data protection. If Apple iOS is not a direct competitor in antitrust analysis, Google-Android commands >95% market share in the EU’s licensed mobile OS market.

It will be interesting to see if Google’s legendary PR operation can herd the media to not report the >90% Google Android’s market share that the EU investigation concluded, but continue to report the Google supplied ~80% Android smartphone shipment market share number, that is now not the relevant defined market for antitrust purposes.

(7) Android competition is on life support. The only other material “licensable smart mobile operating systems” right now are Microsoft, Nokia, and Blackberry, and together they have<2.5% global share of shipped smartphones in 2015 per Statista. That share is headed for further decline because Facebook-WhatsApp is signaling market reality in deciding to no longer support any OS other than Android and iOS, because only Google Play and Apple’s Appstore have the critical mass of apps and app developers to support a mobile innovation ecosystem.

Given that iOS is not licensable, and that the barriers to create another mobile OS/app development/monetization are de facto insurmountable, Google-Android has enormous incentives to preference its search, Play app-store, browser, products and services over everyone else’s.

If Microsoft — the third most valuable company in the world that was willing to absorb >$15b in cumulative financial losses over several years trying to offer a competitive alternative: search engine, mobile search offering, mobile operating system, and app store to Google — can’t compete with Google-Android and had to concede the mobile market to Google-Android in 2015 to cut its financial losses, the outlook for Android competition is effectively very bleak for the foreseeable future.

Android rules mobile.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Thank Your Local Fracker This Earth Day!

Somewhat Reasonable - April 22, 2016, 3:38 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.

If You Love the Earth or Your Pocketbook, Thank Your Local Fracker This Earth Day!
H. Sterling Burnett, Townhall
Unfairly left out of celebrations of Earth Day (today) is the success of hydraulic fracturing. It may come as a shock to environmentalists, many of whom oppose the process, but the rise of fracking has resulted in a healthier environment. The nation’s growing use of natural gas, which emits half the amount of carbon dioxide compared to burning coal, has resulted in a spectacular reduction of CO2 that renewable industries can only dream about.  READ MORE

Gore’s RICO-style Prosecution of Global Warming Skeptics
Russell Cook, American Thinker
A group of 18 attorneys general are shamelessly abusing their authority by invoking RICO statutes, which are typically used to prosecute gangsters, in an effort to silence “climate skeptics” for the “crime” of disagreeing with the hypothesis of man-caused global warming. The hook: Big oil paid these skeptics to foster false doubt about the scientific “consensus,” even though there is not one shred of evidence to prove skeptical scientists were paid to lie. In fact, it’s those who pushed climate alarmism for malice and profit, such as Al Gore, who deserve closer scrutiny.  READ MORE

Featured Podcast: H. Sterling Burnett: Global Warming Thoughtcrimes
H. Sterling Burnett, research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor ofEnvironment & Climate News, joins Research Fellow Isaac Orr in this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast to talk about the legal efforts being made to prosecute companies, researchers, and think tanks under RICO statutes. As Burnett and Orr explain, climate skeptics aren’t breaking any laws, but they are breaking an unwritten rule of the modern left by disagreeing with established climate science and policy. Burnett says these attempts to prosecute Americans with legitimate scientific views undeniably violate free-speech rights. LISTEN TO MORE

The Vaping Wars: Brian Fojtik and Victoria Vasconcellos
As the U.S. population’s appetite for cigarettes decline, pressure has mounted on the market to supply an alternative. Taking the place of the traditional tobacco cigarette is the e-cigarette – an electronic product that vaporizes a liquid, giving users a familiar smoking experience without the same harms posed by tobacco. But, as we know all too well, when a new product or service becomes popular, the government gets involved. Speakers Brain Fojtik and Victoria Vasconcellos visited The Heartland Institute to discuss how regulators are trying to wage war on vaping. If you missed any or all of this informative event, you can watch the entire program on our YouTube page. WATCH IT NOW

Come to the Grand Opening of the Michael Parry Mazur Library!
Join us for the Grand Opening of the largest freedom library in Chicagoland. The Michael Parry Mazur Library at The Heartland Institute is a rapidly growing research library containing an excellent collection of works on economics, history, political science, public policy, and related topics. With nearly 10,000 books already donated and on shelves, the library serves as a unique resource for scholars, Heartland staff, and the interested public. The library will offer free wi-fi and computer time, and library patrons will have opportunities to schedule time with Heartland research staff and policy advisors.  SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

More Than Half of ACA Health Insurance CO-OPs Fold, Senate Reports
Michael McGrady, The Heartlander
More bad news for supporters of Obamacare: Twelve of 23 nonprofit health insurers, which received a total of $1.2 billion in federal loans under the Consumer Oriented and Operated Plan program, are either out of business or slated to collapse at the end of 2016. Nathan Nascimento, senior policy advisor and director of state initiatives at Freedom Partners, says, “The only option for people is for Obamacare to be fully repealed.” READ MORE

Despite Rhetoric, Life on Earth Is Objectively Getting Better
Jesse Hathaway, Washington Times
Many in the media would have you believe life is getting worse. We often hear the income gap is growing and the number of Americans earning middle-income salaries is shrinking. Many politicians blame capitalism, claiming the wealthy are exploiting the working man for their own monetary gain. Data from HumanProgress.org, a project of the Cato Institute, show otherwise. On average, people on Earth have become more financially secure over the past decade. Wealth, lifespans, and happiness all appear to be trending upward.  READ MORE

Alternatives Soon May Blossom in College-Entrance Testing
Robert Holland, The Federalist
Decades from now, education historians may observe Common Core provoked a wave of activism that resulted in decentralizing U.S. education. That was not what the power elites intended when they concocted standards and assessments intended to apply to all students, teachers, and schools. Their objective was centralization. But their arrogance has activated a hornets’ nest of angry parents intent on reclaiming control over their children’s schooling. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Kyle Maichle: The Article V Convention Road Map
Everyone interested in the Article V convention movement knows the number of states needed to initiate this process is 34. But this threshold is only the beginning. Kyle Maichle, Heartland’s project manager for constitutional reform, joins the Heartland Daily Podcast to help lay out the road map we can expect to see moving forward. Maichle discusses what a convention would look like, how delegates are chosen, and how long it may take to fully enact a new constitutional amendment.  LISTEN TO MORE

Alabama’s Welfare Program is a Decade Behind Most of the Country
Logan Pike, AL.com
One of the major goals of welfare reform is to help people out of government dependency and into self-sufficiency. However, this goal is not without its opposition. There is no shortage of rumors and falsehoods surrounding the proposed welfare reform bill now being considered in Alabama – a state that was awarded an “F” grade in The Heartland Institute’s 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card. Logan Pike, co-author of the report card, dispels some of these myths. READ MORE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies!
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
Many people rely on The Heartland Institute’s profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE
Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Isaac Orr: This Earth Day, Thank A Fracker

Somewhat Reasonable - April 22, 2016, 1:20 PM

On today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Isaac Orr joins H. Sterling Burnett to talk about Earth Day and the environmental benefits hydraulic fracturing is producing.

Orr explains why the public should be thankful for the fracking revolution, the producers, and transporters of natural gas this Earth Day. He talks about how the increased use of natural gas in not only driving economic growth but also resulting in a cleaner environment with lower carbon emissions.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Chilling Scientific Inquiry

Somewhat Reasonable - April 22, 2016, 9:00 AM

In 2009, there was a massive email leak from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. Supporters of global warming claimed the disclosures were out of context while opponents claimed they showed efforts to manipulate data. One of the quoted emails, Professor Phil Jones, while discussing paleo-data used to reconstruct past temperatures, says, “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” (Emphasis added.) The House of Commons investigated and concluded, “insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty—for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to ‘hide the decline’—we consider that there is no case to answer.”

In the 1970s, scientists told us to fear global cooling and warned about the coming ice age. In 1970 alone, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the LA Times all published stories with headlines like “Scientists See Ice Age in the Future.” Time Magazine’s cover story on Jan. 31, 1973, (still posted on the Magazine’s website) was all about “The Big Freeze.” Two years later, Newsweek reported, “There are ominous signs that the earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production—with serious political implications.” The problem—warming? No, cooling! The story concluded, “Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend,” but “they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.”

For whatever reasons, polls consistently indicate that many Americans are skeptical that global warming is a serious problem. If it is a problem, many question whether it is a man-made problem. Change is, after all, what the climate does. Americans share their skepticism with most of the rest of the world. One recent poll found only 9.2 percent of Americans rate global warming as their top concern.

What should the government do about this general disbelief about global warming? Normally, one should think that if the government should do anything, it would be to encourage further scientific research and publish the results of that research. If others embrace an incorrect view of the facts, the remedy is more speech (not less) so that all the speech can be tested in the market place of ideas.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. told us nearly a century ago that the “ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.” [Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616,630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting).] Even if the other fellow says something you think is impossible (he claims to have squared the circle), just allow more speech, and others will eventually understand that he is wrong if we protect the free marketplace of ideas.

Or, maybe this free marketplace will allow us to discover that the other fellow is right. It was not until 1985 that scientists discovered physical evidence of the Big Bang. Georges Lemaître, a physicist at the Catholic University of Leuven and a Belgian priest, first proposed the Big Bang in 1927. Einstein rejected Lemaître’s theory, saying, “Your calculations are correct, but your physics is atrocious.”

Although Einstein knew Lemaître was wrong, Einstein did not seek to silence him. In modern times, Lemaître’s theory might bring in some major grant money. Still, in the prior century, no government would sue Lemaître for fraud in propounding his theory—even though the government’s expert witness would be none other than Albert Einstein himself, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

For most of human history, scientists and philosophes going back to Aristotle believed the universe just is—it was always here. After Lemaître, scientists, and those who funded them, tried to find proof, and the answer they got surprised them: Lemaître was right. Now, most scientists believe that our universe had a beginning, and they debate whether it will have an end.

So, what should we do about those people who are trying to show that global warming is not man-made, that it is not coming as soon as others claim, or that the benefits of warming outweigh the burdens? We could emulate the open debate between Lemaître and Einstein.

Ah, that’s so twentieth century. If the people do not believe something, the government should sue. Litigation is the American way. The Attorney General of California, Kamala D. Harris, is using her power to investigate those who sell fossil fuels. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are also calling for criminal investigations.

Attorney General Harris—who is supposed to use her office to protect constitutional rights—is investigating whether companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. lied to the public about global warming, whether that amounts to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.

Not to be outdone, the New York Attorney General is also investigating. Eighteen other state attorneys general are also exploring alleged crimes. That will teach those who question global warming that the government is not fooling around. Investigations will cost the companies and the scientists a lot of money to answer subpoenas and interrogatories. That is the point of chilling scientific inquiry.

Things could go well beyond that. Search warrants executed at night may be the next step for Harris’s investigation. That’s what she did when whistleblowers released video evidence of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of body parts. The Attorney General’s investigators burst into the home of David Daleiden, the man behind the video release, as if he were a Mexican drug lord kingpin. They seized his laptop and other material and tried to seize his phone while he was using it to talk to his lawyers. However, they “ignored” evidence “in his homethat showed an illegal agreement between StemExpress, a tissue procurement company, and Planned Parenthood.”

Meanwhile, Exxon has “unequivocally” rejected the allegations that it “suppressed climate change research,” given “Exxon Mobil’s nearly 40-year history of climate research that was conducted publicly in conjunction with the Department of Energy, academics and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.“

Let us put to one side an inconvenient truth—Exxon could hardly “suppress” any research given the fact that research warning about global warming has been published continually for many decades.

Another inconvenient truth is that there are still many open questions about global warming that need answers—why has the rate of global warming not followed what most scientific models predicted; are the oceans absorbing substantially more carbon dioxide that anyone expects; should there have been more global warming during WWI and WWII, when the massive bombings unleashed a deluge of carbon dioxide?

We are allowed to dispute other scientific theories. Scientists argue whether man will ever be able to travel faster than light, although Einstein said that is the universal speed limit. Scientists argue whether our universe is the only one or merely one of an infinite number. Some scientists believe that the universe is in a steady state, with the spontaneous creation of matter and energy out of a vacuum.

We develop human knowledge by testing competing theories, not outlawing them. The thought that government authority would investigate those who advocate one position instead of the other is baffling. This is, after all, not the Middle Ages, when people were punished if they did not believe that the earth was the center of the solar system.

Kamala Harris does not use her prosecutorial powers to chill expression about global warming in any principled way. Consider marijuana. For many decades, the government told us that marijuana is a drug, with no legitimate use. During that time, it was not unusual for the federal government to fund research on why marijuana is detrimental. Should the State Attorney General investigate those who received these federal grants and prosecute them for lying about marijuana because they engaged in advocacy research?

The federal government will soon reschedule marijuana. That change will allow researchers to study whether marijuana can be beneficial. Once the federal government reschedules marijuana, will Harris now be investigating those who engage in advocacy research to show the beneficial effects of marijuana?

In 1970 and for years after that, the government urged us to avoid red meat, egg yolks, and whole milk (too much fat). We complied with the food pyramid. From 1970 to 2005, the Department of Agriculture reported, proudly, that consumption of eggs and red meat fell by 17 percent, and whole milk by 73 percent.

We should be glad that there was no ambitious Attorney General Kamala D. Harris around, because she would have tried to prosecute food industry companies if they funded research into the benefits of eggs, meat, and milk. You see, during the same period (1970-2005) where the public followed the Federal Food Pyramid, the incidence of diabetes doubled! Studies now show that people eating dairy products like whole milk have less of a problem with heart disease than those who do not.

In United States v. Alvarez (2012) (6 to 3), the Supreme Court told us that we have a constitutional right to lie about receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Court was not recommending lying, but it recognized that if the government can punish that, we go down a steep slippery slope. Justice Kennedy said that the government cannot “compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable.” Justice Breyer defended lying, “even in technical, philosophical, and scientific contexts, where (as Socrates’ methods suggest) examination of a false statement (even if made deliberately to mislead) can promote a form of thought that ultimately helps realize the truth.”

Even the three dissenters in Alvarez would protect lying in matters of science: “Laws restricting false statements about philosophy, religion, history, the social sciences, the arts, and other matters of public concern” would “present a grave and unacceptable danger of suppressing truthful speech.” Harris and the other Attorneys General should read Alvarez.

The marketplace of ideas, not the subpoena power of government, should decide what is true or false.

[Originally published at Verdict]

Categories: On the Blog

The Cold, Hard Truth About Global Warming Health Myths

Somewhat Reasonable - April 22, 2016, 8:13 AM

Multiple attorneys general in the United States celebrated the country’s 47th annual recognition of Earth Day on April 22 by issuing subpoenas to so-called global warming “deniers” in the preceding weeks.

The Obama administration supplied the pretext for investigating and potentially prosecuting scientists for such thoughtcrime when President Barack Obama told Congress in his 2015 State of the Union Address “no challenge”—not ISIS, North Korea, or the incorrigible Vladimir Putin—“poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

The alarmists’ health scare focuses on fears of increasing sickness and death from heat waves, air pollution, and disease. These health fears are not only baseless but in fact defy common sense. An abundance of scientific research shows global warming threatens no one’s health and in fact is probably salubrious. First, scientific studies contradict the notion a warming planet will cause heat waves and therefore more sickness and death. The temperature increases tend to be at night and in cooler climes, not a uniform warming.

Dangerously Cold

We typically suffer from more illness during cold winters than in warm summers. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control peg the U.S. influenza season as being between November and April, the winter months. The World Health Organization defines the Southern Hemisphere flu season as May to October, the winter months for that portion of the planet. Countless other diseases follow this pattern.

It has always been true more people get sick during periods of cold weather, and more people die as a result. The late Dr. William Keating, professor of physiology at Queen Mary and Westfield College, led a team in 2000 that studied temperature-related deaths for people between the ages of 65 and 74 in England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. The team found deaths related to cold temperatures were more than nine times greater than those related to hot temperatures. Heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory illness were responsible for most of the cold weather deaths.

A similar study by Dr. Matthew Falagas at the Alfa Institute of Medical Science in Athens, Greece studied seasonal mortality for Australia, Canada, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Spain, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States. Falagas’ team found the average number of deaths per month was lowest in summer and fall and peaked in the cold months for all nations.

Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, points out any global warming that occurs in the foreseeable future will likely reduce human mortality. In Great Britain alone, 25,000 to 50,000 people die each year from excess cold, Lomborg calculates.

So, it seems strange on all counts the White House released a report in April 2016 predicting a heat wave in summer 2030—yes, you read that right—that is projected to cause 11,000 premature deaths.

The 2009 U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), led by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, predicted hotter summers due to global warming would take more lives than a warmer planet’s milder winters would save.

Were such a prediction accurate, one would expect Alaska, North Dakota, and Canada to share renown for weather conducive to better health, and one would assume older people would want to move there to improve their life expectancy. Obviously, that’s not the case. How could our older relatives retiring in droves to Arizona, Florida, and Texas be so daft? Don’t they know they’re suffering?

Hot (Clean) Air

The USGCRP report tried to make the case warmer temperatures will cause more air pollution, specifically an increase in ozone caused by “higher temperatures and associated stagnant air masses.” But in earlier chapters, the report warns warmer temperatures will cause more frequent, heavier rainfall and intense turbulent weather events, which surely does not sound like stagnant air masses. As for ozone increases, over recent decades—when Earth’s temperature did increase nearly a degree Fahrenheit—airborne ozone consistently declined. The notion warmer temperatures will increase air pollution is feeble.

Temperatures Tangential 

The same report makes a weak case for a global warming-induced increase of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria, West Nile Virus, and other parasites, but most scientific studies show temperature is a minor factor in the spread of disease.

Dr. Paul Reiter, medical entomologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, pointed out malaria was endemic to England during the colder climate of the Little Ice Age in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reiter also reported the Soviet Union experienced an estimated 16 million cases of malaria during the years 1923–25, with 30,000 cases in Archangel, a city located very close to the Arctic Circle.

Despite the rise in temperature experienced as the Little Ice Age came to a close in the twentieth century, infectious diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, tuberculosis, and malaria have all been eliminated in developed countries. The reasons were improved sanitation, water purification, vaccines, mosquito control, and other public health programs, whereas temperature was an insignificant factor and remains so.

Ignoring the evidence regarding the real health effects of warmer temperatures is central to global warming alarmists’ efforts to make the public fearful. Recent surveys list global warming at the bottom of topics that concern the public, but do not expect the fear-mongering to end any time soon.

Jay Lehr (jlehr@heartland.org) is science director at The Heartland Institute. Steve Goreham (gorehamsa@comcast.net) is executive director of the Climate Science Coalition of America.

Image via Thinkstock

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep35): Empower Mississippi, Weirdest Taxes by State, Privatize Space Travel, and Recruiting Free Agents

Somewhat Reasonable - April 21, 2016, 2:47 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #35 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from Empower Mississippi, Freedom Partners, Freedom Works, and the Washington Policy Center.

Better Know a Think Tank

In this edition of Better Know a Think Tank, John and Donny speak with Grant Callen, President of Empower Mississippi. Empower Mississippi is a state-based organization dedicated to expanding school choice. Their mission is to “to ensure that every child in Mississippi has the opportunity to flourish through access to a high quality education.” Callen discusses the progress that has been made in the state so far and what the ideal education system would look like.

Featured Work of the Week

This week’s featured work of the week is from Freedom Partners – a nonprofit organization based out of Virginia. The piece highlighted is titled “Here are the Most Absurd Taxes by State.” Donny and John pick out and discuss some of the most outrageous taxes highlighted in this report. For Example, In Tennessee there is an Illegal Drug Tax where citizens are expected to purchase a stamp to attach to their illegal products. Bizarre.

In the World of Think Tankery

Today Donny and John discuss space travel. FreedomWorks, a conservative/libertarian advocacy group based in D.C., published an article titled “Privatize Planetary Pursuits.” The article does a great job of explaining why the commonly-heard justification for a publicly funded space exploration program is weak at best.

The last topic discussed by Donny and John is how professional sports teams lure free agents by promoting the tax friendliness of their state. The Washington Policy Center produced an article titled “Will Olympia take away Seahawks’ advantage recruiting free agents.” The article does a great job explaining how big a difference a state income tax of 13.3 percent will make compared to a state with no income tax.

Events 

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – H. Sterling Burnett: Global Warming Thought Crimes

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 3:03 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, Research Fellow and Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News, joins Host Isaac Orr to talk about the legal efforts by the Obama administration via Attorney General Loretta Lynch and several democratic state AG’s to prosecute companies, researchers and think tanks under RICO for disagreeing with them on climate science and policy.

Burnett points out how such prosecutions violate the first amendment to the Constitution. He explains why these moves should fail since there still exists a lively debate concerning the causes and consequences of global warming. These lawsuits are a vile attempt to end debate over climate science and climate policy; a threat to scientific progress and democracy, which depends upon the free exchange of ideas and open debate.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Keep an Eye on this Key Takings Case at SCOTUS, Murr v. Wisconsin

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 10:28 AM

A government taking occurs when the regulatory strictures placed on a piece of property so limit its use that it is stripped of economic viability. Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City is the leading case in the Supreme Court’s regulatory takings jurisprudence.

At issue in that case was the effect of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Law on Penn Central’s use of its property, Grand Central Terminal, which the new law made a historical landmark to be immured from change. The Penn Central Court stated that, confronted with a takings case, it “focuses . . . both on the character of the action and on the nature and extent of the interference with rights in the parcel as a whole” (emphasis added).

Careful to avoid unduly constraining itself in future cases, the Court did not decide how the “parcel as a whole” question must be answered. It embraced a flexible, fact-sensitive approach upon which lower courts have since developed their own tests.

When adjoining parcels of land have a common owner, does such common ownership mean that they are really one piece of land, an undivided whole for the purposes of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause? That the answer to the question should matter at all perhaps throws into relief just how tortuous Supreme Court reasoning has become, unmoored from both the Constitution’s text and common sense. Later this year, the Court will hear arguments in Murr v. Wisconsin, which case implicates just the legal question above.

The petitioners in the case are four siblings, owners of waterfront property on the Wisconsin side of Lake St. Croix, their land comprising two indisputably separate and distinct lots. The petitioners’ parents purchased the second of the two parcels years after the first as an investment property, foreseeing further growth in the area and hoping to develop or sell the second lot. Subsequently passed ordinances redefined the criteria for development on the lake and now prevent the Murrs from developing their land. The ordinances thus effectively stripped the Murrs’ second plot of all value.

The respondents, the state of Wisconsin and St. Croix County, argue that, for the purposes of the takings inquiry, the “relevant parcel” is not the Murrs’ second lot alone but the two tracts combined. If the two abutting pieces of property are taken to be one, then, the theory goes, the Murrs still have something.

This kind of reasoning ought to be deeply troubling to defenders of liberty and private property; it is tantamount to punishing the Murrs for their wise investment, for it is conceded that, because of a grandfather provision in the ordinance at issue, the land could be developed perfectly legally were it owned by anyone else. This is just the kind of nonsensical result that materializes when government and law go beyond their proper roles, when they become arbitrary and peremptory tools for injustice rather than protecting the individual and his rights. In a free society, government must be limited and rules few, always mindful of the fact that every deviation will yield unintended and unforeseen consequences. The creeping bias in favor of “doing something,” adding a new rule or regulation, must always be resisted by a free people.

Given the prevailing excess of needless rules and regulations – everywhere and all the time limiting what individuals are allowed to do with their own property – we might say that, in a sense, government has already taken almost everything. After all, the bundle of rights that we call private property, at least in theory, bestows on its holder many prerogatives that we now find restricted by an ever-expanding library of rules. As writes the redoubtable English jurist William Blackstone, the “absolute right” of private property entails “the free use, enjoyment, and disposal” of the owned land. But if so many of the decisions about our property are made in advance, so many of the options foreclosed by local, state, and federal government rules, with what are we left?

Subtly robbed of the traditional incidents of ownership, we move (sometimes almost imperceptibly) from of free society that respects property and choice to a moribund maze of bureaucracy and permissions. If government bodies at various levels are holding the strings and calling the shots, then our property isn’t really ours at all, at least not entirely. Ownership – as a matter of fact, at least – resides in the incidents of ownership. It is not enough that the mere pro forma indicia of property ownership remain with the individual; these can offer small consolation to the many hapless casualties of arbitrary rules, people like the Murrs – whose parents worked hard to invest and leave them a legacy.

One hopes that the Supreme Court gets it right, that their hard work will not have been in vain. Liberty lovers everywhere should root on the Murrs and their lawyers at the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Categories: On the Blog

The Progressive War on Free Speech – Part Three

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 10:15 AM

“The Revolution devours its children,” wrote French royalist Jacques Mallet du Pan in 1793, but in the case of the American left, the children are now devouring their masters, both literally and figuratively.  For the progressive war on free speech is nowhere more evident than on campus, where it has taken on sinister aspects completely apart from Title IX, about which we wrote in Part Two of this series.

Having been coddled as “special” and “unconditionally loved’ (read “undisciplined”) by the village that now raises them, the children of yesterday are the woefully-unprepared college students of today, too many of whom need “safe spaces” and can’t actually handle the education that they supposedly attend college to receive.

Perhaps the first major example to hit the public eye was at the University of Missouri, which actually fired its football coach (see “A University the Football Team Can Be Proud Of”) in response to unsubstantiated accusations of alleged racist remarks made by people who didn’t even go to school there.  But following closely behind were some of America’s allegedly elite institutions, where cowardly administrators cravenly capitulated to some of the most ridiculous demands imaginable.

Following the example of England’s Oxford and Cambridge, for example, certain Ivy League institutions, namely Harvard and Yale, have had for decades a system that Harvard calls “houses” and that Yale prefers to call “Residential Colleges.”

Modelled after the actual colleges that exist within Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard Houses and Yale’s Residential Colleges pretend to be communities of scholars within their larger undergraduate colleges and universities themselves, each with resident libraries and faculties.  One such faculty member, called “Dean,” is purportedly responsible for each student’s academic progress.  A second faculty member, known as the “Master” – as in “Master of the House” – is more broadly responsible for setting the “moral and intellectual tone of the college.”

In recent years, after decades of “affirmative action” aimed at boosting the enrollment of non-white “minority” students, it seems that the title of “Master” has become too much for some students – and indeed some faculty to bear.

Never mind that, led by many graduates of both Harvard and Yale, this nation fought a bloody war to end slavery over 150 years ago, well before Harvard started its houses or Yale began its Residential Colleges in the 1930s.  Never mind also that no student or faculty member alive today was ever a slave or a slave master.  And never mind that the title of “Master” itself has nothing to do with slavery; it’s simply an accolade, British in origin, that refers to the head of the college within the college.

Never mind, too, that “Master” has manifold innocuous meanings.  Schoolmasters are presiding officers of a school, and the U. S. has a Postmaster General.  After receiving their baccalaureate degrees, some college students go on to pursue a Master’s degree, often on the way to a Ph.D.  “Master” is a (typically British also) form of address used for boys and young men in formal correspondence, and the captain of a ship is more formally its “Master.”

Courts often appoint “Special Masters” to assist judges in fields requiring particular expertise; the martial arts have Masters; and certain peace-loving Buddhist monks and nuns are “Dharma masters.”  Chess has its masters, guilds had master craftsmen, and let’s not forget the “Old Masters” of Western Renaissance painting.   Then of course are the ubiquitous hosts of events from wedding receptions to the Academy Awards, typically called the “Master of Ceremonies.”  Even the American Inns of Court, dedicated to legal excellence, civility, professionalism, and ethics, have “Masters of the Bench,” again derived from British nomenclature.

In short, the false furor over “master” is as silly as the uproar over the use of the word “niggardly” (which means parsimonious or tight-fisted) that forced the resignation of a white mayoral staff member in Washington, D. C. back in 2007.

Students at Ivy League institutions really ought to know better.  And if they don’t, then they should learn.

[Find Part One Here]

[Find Part Two Here]

Categories: On the Blog

Smart Meter Dangers, Who Knew and Did Not Sound The Alarm?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 8:03 AM

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) is pushing for the deployment of 4,000,000 smart meters despite the fact that government agencies and the military have known for decades that Radio Frequency/microwaves can cause serious health effects.

This information is not new; it is just being brought to the forefront as a health crisis is emerging in Illinois. ComEd is using the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, also known as the “smart grid modernization bill” (written by ComEd lobbyists), and the Illinois Commerce Commission’s interpretation of that bill, as justification for installing millions of wireless smart meters.

The RF/microwave emissions from smart meters are listed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer ‘IARC’ as a Class 2B Carcinogen. That makes this the first time in history a known carcinogen has been mandated on ALL homes, schools, and government buildings.

Barrier Trower, a retired British Secret Service Microwave Weapons specialist, states:

“The paradox is how Radio Frequency/microwave radiation can be used as a weapon to cause impairment, illness and death; and at the same time be used as a communications instrument [such as in smart meters].”

Trower continues, “By 1971 we knew everything that needed to be known.”

“A 1976 document summarizing U.S. Defense Intelligence research lists all of the health hazards caused by wireless devices and concludes: This should be kept secret to preserve industrial profit.

Jerry Flynn, is a retired Canadian Armed Forces captain with specialized training and 22 years of experience in Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence. Flynn has worked with U.S. and NATO armies in this specialized capacity. He writes:

The U.S. military has known for decades that the RF/microwave frequencies most harmful to man are those within the band 900 MHz to 5 GHz. These frequencies penetrate all organs of the body, thus putting all human organ systems at risk. Smart meters emit these precise frequencies which, when combined with certain pulsed modulation characteristics and power densities, are most harmful to the brain, central nervous system, immune system, and can cause cancers. This is precisely why these frequencies are used in Microwave weapons of war.”

ComEd smart meters contain two transmitters emitting high-intensity pulsed signals every few seconds in two frequencies within the “most harmful” range mentioned by Flynn. One frequency is 900 MHz used for the wireless network that relays data from the smart meter on one house to the smart meter on another house and then on to a collector which sends the data to ComEd. The second frequency, 2.45 GHz, is used for appliances inside the house to transmit data to the smart meter.

Although ComEd claims that data is only transmitted six times a day, what they neglect to mention is that smart meters also emit high-intensity RF/microwave pulses each time they perform network management functions. According to California court documents, a single smart meter can emit these pulses on average 10,000 to 190,000 a day. The number of pulses depends on where in the mesh network the smart meter is located and how often it is relaying data from other neighbors’ meters.

It is these around-the-clock, high-intensity pulses within the frequency range “most harmful” to humans that make smart meters so damaging. Consider 4,000,000 ComEd smart meters blanketing Illinois with billions of pulses in these frequencies being emitted every day, forever.

Basis for FCC guidelines: Health or Profits?

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) knew decades ago, for according to Gittleman, “back in the 1950’s there were growing concerns as to the dangers of these low-level microwaves, so the U.S. military had sought safety limits.”

The current FCC safety limits are based on thermal exposure alone.   The FCC guidelines are ten times more lenient than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have permitted to protect the general population from the health hazards of RF/microwave radiation.

In the late 1980’s, the EPA radiation division, staffed with practicing biologists and epidemiologists, decided on a safe limit for human exposure. Before the announcement was made, industry intervened, federal funding for that division of the EPA was cut, and the FCC was given the task of setting the RF/microwave guidelines for the public. The FCC, made up of bureaucrats and engineers, had no experience or training in setting “health related” guidelines. Therefore, from the beginning, FCC guidelines were set at a limit that was too lenient to protect the general population.

Government agencies respond to the FCC guidelines

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1990: “FCC exposure standards are seriously flawed.”  In fact, 40 EPA scientists released a 393-page report titled, “An Evaluation of the Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF’s)”, which proposed classifying EMF’s as a “probable” carcinogen and Radio Frequency and microwave radiation as a “possible” carcinogen.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)—a division of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1994: “FCC’s standard is inadequate because it is only based on adverse health effects caused by body tissue heating (which means thermal).”

Medical and legal groups respond to the FCC guidelines

Today there are more than 900 health and environmentally conscious groupssending comments to the FCC as part of the agency’s reassessment of the guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics, with headquarters in Illinois, is one of these concerned medical organizations. The Academy of Environmental Medicine, along with the American Academy of Justice(formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), are two more such groups. All of these organizations are concerned with saving the environment and preserving public health from the government approved harmful levels of microwave radiation. 

ComEd touts compliance with FCC standards to assure the public that smart meters are safe. However, FCC exposure guidelines are irrelevant since the limit set is for thermal exposure. ComEd smart meters subject the public to chronic non-thermal exposure.

Which authorities knew or should have known of RF/microwave harm?

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies: As early as the 1950’s, the military and intelligence agencies were aware of the health effects from RF/microwaves. From 1,000 classified studies, it was apparent that even low-level RF/microwaves could create bio-effects that could be used to disrupt the enemy in covert, or battlefield operations. RF/microwaves could be utilized to create confusion, slow reaction time, create nausea, and shock adversaries in the field.

NASA: This space agency has been studying the health effects for years to facilitate protection from electromagnetic radiation for astronauts traveling in space.

Government Health Departments: These departments are charged with protecting public health and have a responsibility to keep up on studies. At this time, there are thousands of peer-reviewed studies showing adverse biological and health effects.

The Department of Energy: It is the duty of this agency to investigate negative health effects before launching such an expansive national project. No health data was considered before deployment of billions of smart meters in wireless networks.

The World Health Organization: In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer ‘IARC’ categorized Radio Frequency emissions from all wireless devices as a Class 2B Carcinogen. ComEd’s wireless smart meters fall into this category. Although the IARC classification has been known for five years, the deployment of 4,000,000 ComEd smart meters is still being mandated.

The Telecom executives: Two decades ago Dr. George Carlo, who was in charge of the Wireless Technology Research (WTR) project in 1993 informed the Telecom executives. He reported the results of the research which revealed analarming increase in tumors and many other health related problems.

Lloyd’s of London:   This well-known insurance underwriter now specifically “excludes liability coverage for claims directly or indirectly resulting from electromagnetic radiation and illnesses caused by continuous, long-term, (non-thermal) radiation exposure.”  ComEd’s wireless smart meters will inflict continuous, long-term, (non-thermal) radiation exposure on all life forms.                                                                 

Utilities, such as ComEd: Utilities have been charged with providing safe delivery of electricity. Clearly, there has been no investigation into the safety of incorporating into the electric grid a product utilizing this dangerous technology.

What scientists recognize about “the emerging public health crisis”

The International EMF Scientist Appeal has been signed by 190 scientists from 39 nations. These scientists have collectively published over 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on the biological or health effects of non-thermal radiation and are calling upon the United Nations, World Health Organization, and UN member states to:

  1. Address the emerging public health crisis related to wireless devices, wireless utility meters [smart meters] and wireless infrastructure.
  2. Urge that UN Environmental Program initiate an assessment of current exposure standards [in order] to substantially lower human exposures to non-thermal radiation.
  3. Take a planetary view of potential for harm that EMF pollution presents to biology—the evolution, health, well-being and very survival of all living organisms worldwide.

Illinois politicians and members of the General Assembly: What do they know?

Members of the General Assembly, who voted to pass the smart grid modernization bill, (after “ComEd’s lobbyists were able to muscle the bill through”, according to the Illinois Attorney General), and/or voted to override Governor Quinn’s veto, might want to take another look at the health threat being inflicted on ComEd customers. Why would any political leader knowingly permit their constituents to be forced to live with a meter on their homes that emits a known Class 2B Carcinogen?

With a mandate in place and no permanent opt-out option available, residents are powerless to protect their families. In order for justice to prevail, consumer choice has to be restored, and a permanent opt-out option granted to ComEd customers. 

They knew, they did not tell us, where do we go from here?

Flynn’s summary on smart meter dangers:

“Pulsed non-thermal radiation, which is emitted by smart meters, is far more damaging at the body’s cellular level to all life forms than any other technology ever devised by man. Militaries of the world have known for more than 50 years that RF/microwaves are the perfect weapon. Today, democratic governments are knowingly and callously authorizing untested (for safety) smart meters to operate (emitting pulsed non-thermal radiation) at the most lethal frequencies known to man.”

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

A Few Facts For Climate Alarmists Waging War Against Astrophysicist Willie Soon

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 7:53 AM

Dr. Willie Soon is an astrophysicist in the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He began as a post-doctoral fellow in 1991 and took his scientist position in 1997. His subsequent career is a textbook example of speaking truth to power and bravery facing the consequences.

Dr. Soon produced an important series of astrophysics papers on the sun-climate connection beginning in 1994 and received positive discussion in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s second and third assessment reports (1996 and 2001). In that era, the IPCC still admitted uncertainties about human influence, despite green NGO pressure and U.S. State Department insistence on finding a “smoking gun” in weak data. Even Bert Bolin, co-creator and first chairman of the IPCC (1988-1997), deplored the denial of uncertainty he saw rising. In his 2007 History of the Science and Politics of Climate Change (page 112), Bolin wrote, “It was non-governmental groups of environmentalists, supported by the mass media who were the ones exaggerating the conclusions that had been carefully formulated by the IPCC.” In 1997 Bolin went so far as to tell the Associated Press, “Global warming is not something you can ‘prove.’ You try to collect evidence and thereby a picture emerges.”

Dr. Soon’s study of solar influence on climate behavior made him a target for alarmists, but he had defenders. In 2013, the Boston Globe acknowledged his guts and sound science with a quote from iconic science leader, Freeman Dyson: “The whole point of science is to question accepted dogmas. For that reason, I respect Willie Soon as a good scientist and a courageous citizen.”

In February of 2015, Greenpeace agent Kert Davies, a vocal critic since 1997, falsely accused Dr. Soon of wrongfully taking fossil-fuel company grants by failing to disclose “conflicts of interest” to an academic journal. The journal’s editors and the Smithsonian Institution found no violation of their disclosure or conflict of interest rules. However, the Greenpeace accusation caused a clamor around the world as lazy liberal reporters repeated it for major media with no fact-checking for accuracy.

The Greenpeace ruckus brought high-level Obama administration pressure on the Harvard-Smithsonian Center to silence climate skeptics – Vice President Joe Biden is a member of Smithsonian’s Board of Regents. The Institution responded with an elaborate new Directive on Standards of Conduct that forced its employees to wade through bureaucratic rules replete with an Ethics Counselor and a “Loyalty to the Smithsonian” clause of a sort not seen since the McCarthy Red Scare.

The Institution announced an Inspector General investigation of Soon, combing his emails and announcing that he had broken no rules. That seriously stung the NGO-Media-Politician coalition, which launched more attacks.

Ten days apart in the Spring of 2016, two outlets published stories scurrilously demonizing Dr. Soon. Both articles were long on bias and bogus claims but short on facts. The two activist/writers, David Hasemyer of the controversial Rockefeller-funded InsideClimateNews and Paul Basken of the for-profit Delaware corporation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, seem to have forgotten journalistic ethics and the facts.

Basken’s March 25 item, “A Year After a Climate-Change Controversy, Smithsonian and Journals Still Seek Balance on Disclosure Rules,” bemoans the fact that last year’s load of Greenpeace false accusations hadn’t caused the Institution to impose harsh enough rules to get rid of all scientists with climate skeptic views. Any fact checking didn’t show.

Hasemyer’s April 5, 2016 piece, “Smithsonian Gives Nod to More ‘Dark Money’ Funding for Willie Soon,” bewails the fact that Soon’s employer didn’t follow their playbook but approved a $65,000 grant from the non-profit Donors Trust, which is despised by greens because it uses anonymous “donor-advised-funds.” Such “dark money” grants are an IRS-approved shield pioneered decades ago by the far-left Tides Foundation for its $1.1 billion worth of grants to radicals, much of it “dark,” which Hasemyer didn’t seem to recall.

Hasemyer also neglected to note that even if Donors Trust’s “dark” grant came from ExxonMobil Foundation, the fossil-fuel philanthropy also gave universities $64,674,989; museums $2,771,150; the Red Cross $2,549,434; the Conservation Fund, Nature Conservancy and similar groups $1,210,000; Habitat for Humanity $798,000, Ducks Unlimited, $402,000 and many more from 1998 to 2014 according to IRS records. Will they be demonized as shills too?

Neither Hasemyer nor Basken displayed any familiarity with what scientists have to go through in order to do science in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics or how it works, which is the bedrock of sound, ethical journalism on the topic.

The Center combines the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of the universe. It is comprised of six divisions, and Dr. Soon is listed in the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences (SSP) Division.

About one-third of the Center’s scientists, including Willie Soon, are employed in what are called “Smithsonian Trust positions.” These positions are held mostly by PhD specialists, unlike Federal civil service. According to the Smithsonian Employee Handbook, Federal position paychecks are paid from the Smithsonian’s annual Federal appropriation and Trust position paychecks are paid from the Smithsonian’s Trust Fund. Scientists in Trust positions are paid by the hour with a Smithsonian paycheck.

Scientists in Trust positions must find donors who will give the Smithsonian grants that pay for the science. An employee information document states, “Obtaining competitive funding is an important part of the scientists’ jobs and a measure of their career success.” The grants always go directly to the Smithsonian for the science project with a 30 to 40 percent cut off the top for the Institution’s management and overhead, but never go directly to the scientist. Media attacks on Dr. Soon misrepresenting his success at this duty as nefarious are either ignorant or disingenuous.

Scientists in Trust positions must follow exacting procedures in order to obtain grants for their science according to the rules in the elaborate Contract and Grant Administration document.

The prescribed steps most relevant to Dr. Soon’s position are: First, the scientists must prepare a draft of their proposed scientific project or work. The draft then goes for pre-approval to the Director’s Office, held since 2004 by distinguished astronomer Charles Alcock. The scientists must give the Director suggestions for potential funders, but all decisions are the Director’s.

If the Director approves the draft proposal, he signs it and gives it to the Grant Office, which prepares the presentation package, including a budget, the approved proposal, and a cover letter formally requesting a grant. The Director signs the cover letter and the grant officer sends it to the potential donor.

The donor replies to the Director saying yes or no. If yes, the reply may contain a pledge to be paid when invoiced by the Center or direct payment to Smithsonian, which handles all of the Center’s money. The scientist who performs the project may not know and has no need to know who gave the grant.

When scientists perform an “off the clock” (unpaid) study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal and pays for it out of personal funds, as Willie Soon has on numerous occasions over the years, all Smithsonian approvals and checkpoints must still be passed. Claims that Dr. Soon has pocketed any off-the-clock grant money have all been shown false.

Writers who accuse Dr. Soon of wrongdoing despite firm evidence to the contrary are violating the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, which states, among many other points: “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting. Journalists should support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”

The hostile coverage attacking Dr. Soon could hardly be considered ethical journalism by these professional standards. The writers and publishers of such unethical journalism should be brought to account.

Categories: On the Blog

The FCC is Just Another Dishonest, Authoritarian Arm of the Obama Administration

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 7:01 AM

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) describes itself thus: “An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress.” Under the Barack Obama Administration, it has been none of these things.

Independent?

Regulating the Internet: How the White House Bowled Over FCC Independence

FCC Chairman (Tom Wheeler) Denies Receiving ‘Secret Instructions from the White House’ About Internet Rules

Sure – the instructions were actually quite overt.

White House Calls On FCC To Reclassify Broadband Under Title II, Protect Net Neutrality

White House Calls on the FCC to Shake Up the Cable Box Business

White House Calls For More Municipal (Government) Broadband Networks, Urges FCC To Override State Laws Blocking Them

And Chairman Wheeler has been a dutiful waiter – taking orders like a pro, and delivering them exactly as asked.

Net Neutrality: FCC Reclassifies Broadband Internet

FCC Approves Rules Process for Set-Top-Boxes

FCC Overturns State Laws Limiting Municipal Broadband

Authoritarian? Again, the FCC page describes itself as: “an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress.” The FCC is in fact a creation and a creature of Congress – and thus can not do anything unless and until Congress first writes a law that says “Yo, FCC – do this.”

Congress never passed anything telling the FCC to do any of this. (And the President calling for it carries zero legislative weight – as we know from so many other of hisunilateral, illegal executive branch actions.)

So as the power grabs pile up, the private sector is forced to grab whips and chairs to fend off the government – i.e., they call the lawyers.

(Add A)nother Lawsuit to the Net Neutrality Pile-On

Cue the Lawsuits: FCC Moving to Block State Broadband Laws

And you know there will have to be even more lawsuits filed when the FCC finishes cramming through its set-top-box power grab.

Dishonest? FCC Chairman Wheeler said many of these power grabs would never happen. Then he made them happen.

FCC ‘Net Neutrality’ Plan Calls for More Power Over Broadband: “The main advantage of (Chairman Wheeler’s) hybrid proposal, as opposed to full reclassification, is that it wouldn’t require the FCC to reverse earlier decisions to deregulate broadband providers, which were made in the hopes of encouraging the adoption and deployment of high-speed broadband.”

But that plan wasn’t good enough for the White House: “In response to news of Mr. Wheeler’s plan, a senior White House official said Thursday that ‘the president has made it abundantly clear that any outcome must protect net neutrality and ban paid prioritization—and has called for all necessary steps to safeguard an open Internet.’”

So Chairman Wheeler began the bow to his master’s call for full-on power grab reclassification.

FCC Chairman Wheeler: Broadband Reclassification ‘Very Much on the Table’

FCC Boss Now Making The Case For Reclassification, Rather Than Against It

Care for some more dishonesty? There’s plenty, you know.

FCC Kept ‘Obamaphone’ Fraud Under Wraps Until After It Expanded Program

FCC Chairman Wheeler Flip-Flops on Rate Regulation

FCC Chairman Wheeler: There’s the Internet, Then There’s Interconnection: “Wheeler added, ‘I think one of the things that I have said along the way is that peering (interconnection) is not a net neutrality issue. We haven’t seen peering as a net neutrality issue. There is a matter of the ‘open Internet,’ and then there is a matter of interconnection among the various, disparate pathways that become the Internet.’”

Except…

Wheeler Steps in on Verizon/Netflix Dispute over Internet Interconnection

AT&T-DirecTV Deal Gets Nod from Wheeler, with Conditions to Expand…Interconnection

Wheeler: No Going Back on FCC Internet Interconnection Oversight

The FCC is supposed to be an independent, expert agency – delivering decisions devoid of politics, based solely on the facts.

THIS FCC is none of this. It is just another partisan, hack member of this partisan, hack administration.

Congress should stop pretending its the former – and start seriously reining in the latter.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Alabama’s Welfare Program is a Decade Behind Most of the Country

Somewhat Reasonable - April 20, 2016, 7:00 AM

There have been numerous stories, rumors, and outright falsehoods reported in the media and by detractors regarding state Sen. Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) recently proposed welfare reform bill.

The fact is Alabama’s current welfare program is a decade behind most of the country; it earned an “F” grade in The Heartland Institute’s 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card, and since 1996, Alabama has been one of the worst states at reducing caseloads for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), also known as “welfare.” Additionally, a 2013 Cato Institute study found in the current welfare system, a family collecting welfare benefits in Alabama could receive benefits worth more than $23,310 in just one year, while a single person with two children working a full-time minimum wage job and utilizing the Earned Income Tax Credit earns $22,628 per year.

Instead of shedding light on the significant flaws of Alabama’s welfare program, proponents of the current program are misleading Alabamans. For instance, in a story written by Amanda Marcotte for Salon, the author incorrectly claims Orr’s bill “would change the way food stamp eligibility is calculated, counting your car as a financial asset—like a savings account—and requiring you to sell it before you’re allowed to get assistance.” The truth is the assets examined for the Supplemental Nutrition Food Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” would not include home equity or a primary vehicle, but bank account balances, recreational vehicles—such as snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, jet skis, and ATVs—and other valuable assets would be considered.

Welfare and SNAP should only be available to those who truly need assistance, and asset tests would play an important role in ensuring enough resources are available for Alabama’s most impoverished citizens.

Currently, 14 states already require an asset test to receive food stamps. According to the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), if every state matched its asset testing for food stamp eligibility to the federal baseline, 749,000 fewer Americans would be trapped in food stamp dependence. Nationally, taxpayers would save more than $1.1 billion per year.

Orr’s bill would also decrease lifetime limits on eligibility for TANF, preclude the department from applying for a waiver of work requirements for SNAP, and implement stricter sanctions for noncompliance, along with other common-sense reforms that would help to reduce welfare fraud.

The “t” in TANF stands for “temporary.” Polling has shown 50 percent of the public believes welfare should only be available for 12 months, and 82 percent of the public support requiring able-bodied, working-age adults with no children at home to work or train for work for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive taxpayer-funded food stamp benefits. One of the most important ways governments can work with people to escape poverty is by helping them obtain work. Only 2.6 percent of full-time workers are poor, as defined by the federal poverty level standards, compared with 23.9 percent of adults who do not work. Even part-time work makes a significant difference; only 15 percent of part-time workers are poor.

In 2011, only 40 percent of TANF recipients in Alabama were working, which means three out of five TANF aid recipients were not working in return for their benefits. Strengthening the sanctions regime for failure to participate in work activities will help to increase work participation in Alabama. That participation would make it more likely recipients would gain the necessary skills to earn an income sufficient for them to leave welfare rolls permanently.

A study by FGA found after three months of reinstated work requirements in Kansas, nearly 13,000 Kansans left the welfare rolls. Within a year, nearly 60 percent of these former enrollees found employment and increased their incomes by an average of 127 percent.

Instead of trapping welfare recipients in a sustained cycle of poverty, these proposed policies can help by giving poor people a hand up. Enforcing fraud prevention measures and adopting reforms, such as an asset test, strict-but-fair time limits and sanctions, and work requirements, will improve opportunities for recipients to reach self-sufficiency, give help to those people who truly need assistance, and protect taxpayers.

These reforms would also free up block grant money, which could be reinvested in transportation, workforce development, childcare, and alcohol and substance abuse programs for the truly needy.

[Originally published at AL.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Kyle Maichle: The Article V Convention Road Map

Somewhat Reasonable - April 19, 2016, 3:10 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Kyle Maichle, project manager for constitutional reform joins the show to talk about the rules that govern a potential Article V Convention.

So far, the most popular Article V Convention application is the single-subject, balanced budget amendment. 28 states have passed an application; 34 are needed to really start the process. As Maichle explains, when the 34-state threshold is passed, there is still a long and complicated process ahead. Maichle discusses what a convention would look like, how delegates are chosen, and how long it may take to fully enact a balanced budget amendment.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Earth Day’s Anti-Fossil Fuel Focus Could Plunge Millions Into Green Energy Poverty

Somewhat Reasonable - April 19, 2016, 1:38 PM

Friday, April 22, will mark the 47th Earth Day. You may think it is all about planting trees and cleaning up neighborhoods. But this year’s anniversary will be closer to its radical roots than, perhaps, any other since its founding in 1970. Considered the birth of the environmental movement, the first Earth Day took place during the height of America’s counterculture era. According to EarthDay.org, it gave voice to an “emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.”

We did need to clean up our act. At that time “littering” wasn’t part of our vocabulary, The air in the Southern California valley where I grew up was often so thick with smog we couldn’t see the surrounding mountains.

Thankfully, that has changed.

Look around your community. You’ll likely see green trees, blue skies, and bodies of water sparkling in the sunshine. With the success of the environmental movement, its supporters, and the nonprofit groups it spawned, had to become ever more radical to stay relevant.

Environmentalism has changed.

The morphing of the movement may be most evident in Earth Day 2016—which some are calling “the most important Earth Day in history.”

This year, on April 22, in a high-level celebration at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Paris Climate Agreement will officially be signed. Thirty days after its signing by at least 55 countries that represent 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the agreement will take effect—committing countries to establishing individual targets for emission reductions with the expectation that they will be reviewed and updated every five years.

While news reports of Earth Day 2016 will likely depict dancing in the streets, those who can look past the headlines will see a dire picture—one in which more than 10 percent of a household’s income is spent on energy costs; one of “green energy poverty.”

To meet the non-binding commitments President Obama made last December in Paris, he is counting on, among many domestic regulations, the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Last week, on the Senate floor, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered remarks in advance of Earth Day on the unattainability of the U.S. climate commitments. He said: “The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of the president’s promise to the international community that the U.S. will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent.” It would “cause double digit electricity price increases in 40 states” and “would prevent struggling communities from accessing reliable and affordable fuel sources, which could eventually lead to poor families choosing between putting healthy food on the table or turning their heater on in the winter.”

The Heritage Foundation has just released a report on the devastating economic costs of the Paris Climate Agreement, which it calls “a push for un-development for the industrialized world and a major obstacle for growth for the developing world.” Because global warming regulations “stifle the use of the most efficient and inexpensive forms of electricity, businesses as well as households will incur higher electricity costs.” The report concludes: “restricting energy production to meet targets like those of the Paris agreement will significantly harm the U.S. economy. Bureaucratically administered mandates, taxes, and special interest subsidies will drive family incomes down by thousands of dollars per year, drive up energy costs, and eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. All of these costs would be incurred to achieve only trivial and theoretical impacts on global warming.”

Real world experience bears out the both Inhofe’s observations and the Heritage Foundation’s conclusions.

Germany is one of the best examples of green energy poverty as the country has some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction programs that offer generous subsidies for any company producing green energy. Based on an extensive study done by green energy believers in 2014, I addressed the program’s overall result: raised costs and raised emissions. I stated: “After reading the entire 80-page white paper, I was struck with three distinct observations. The German experiment has raised energy costs to households and business, the subsidies are unsustainable, and, as a result, without intervention, the energy supply is unstable.” At that time, I concluded: “The high prices disproportionately hurt the poor, giving birth to the new phrase: ‘energy poverty.’”

More recently, others have come to the same conclusion (read here and here). On April 13, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opined: “Germany’s 16-year-old Energiewende, or energy transformation, already has wrecked the country’s energy market in its quest to wean the economy off fossil fuels and nuclear power. Traditional power plants, including those that burn cleaner gas, have been closing left and right while soaring electricity prices push industries overseas and bankrupt households. Job losses run to the tens of thousands.” Meanwhile, emissions over the past seven years have increased. Last month, Mike Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress and Time magazine “Hero of the Environment,” tweeted: “people really want to believe good things about Germany’s energy shift, but … its emissions rose.” WSJ concludes: “The market distortions caused by overreliance on expensive but undependable power already have pushed German utilities to rely more on cheap and dirty coal-fired power plants to make up the shortfall when renewable sources can’t meet demand.”

Germany is not alone.

The U.K., according to Reuters, is facing “fuel poverty.” The report states: “The government is also under pressure to curb rising energy bills with 2.3 million of Britain’s 27 million households deemed fuel poor, meaning the cost of heating their homes leaves them with income below the poverty line.” Another account covers the U.K.’s cuts to solar subsidies, saying: “The government says the changes were necessary to protect bill payers, as the solar incentives are levied on household energy bills.”

The Netherlands, which is already behind in meeting its green energy targets, has, according to the Washington Post, had to build three new coal-fueled power plants—in part, at least, to power the high percentage of electric cars. Additionally, the country has hundreds of wind turbines that are operating at a loss and are in danger of being demolished. A report states: “Subsidies for generating wind energy are in many cases no longer cost-effective. Smaller, older windmills in particular are running at a loss, but even newer mills are struggling to be profitable with insufficient subsidies.”

Bringing it closer to home, there is über-green California—where billionaire activist Tom Steyer aggressively pushes green energy policies. Headlines tout California has the most expensive market for retail gasoline nationwide. But, according to the Institute for Energy Research, it also has some of the highest electricity prices in the country—“about 40 percent higher than the national average.” A 2012 report from the Manhattan Institute, states that about one million California households were living in “energy poverty”—with Latinos and African Americans being the hardest hit. With the Golden State’s headlong rush toward lower carbon-dioxide emissions and greater use of renewables, the energy poverty figure is surely much higher today.

This week, as you hear commentators celebrate “the most important Earth Day in history” and the global significance of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, remember the result of policies similar to CPP: green energy poverty. Use these stories (there are many more) to talk to your friends. Make this “Green Energy Poverty Week” and share it: #GEPW.

We, however, do not need to be doomed to green energy poverty. There is some good news.

First, the Paris Climate Agreement is non-binding. Even Todd Stern, U.S. climate envoy, acknowledged in the Huffington Post: “What Paris does is put in place a structure that will encourage countries to increase their targets every five years.” While the requisite number of countries will likely sign it before the election of the next president, the only enforcement mechanism is political shaming. Even if it was legally binding, as was the Koyto Protocol, Reason Magazine points out what happened to countries, like Canada and Japan, which “violated their solemn treaty obligations”—NOTHING. The Heritage report adds: “History, however, gives little confidence that such compliance will even occur. For instance, China is building 350 coal-fired power plants, and has plans for another 800.”

Then there is the legal delay to the implementation of the CPP—which, thanks to a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, will be tied up in courts for at least the next two years. Inhofe stated: “Without the central component of (Obama’s) international climate agenda, achieving the promises made in Paris are mere pipe dreams.”

“President Obama’s climate pledge is unobtainable and it stands no chance of succeeding in the United States,” Inhofe said. “For the sake of the economic well-being of America, that’s a good thing.”

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

Categories: On the Blog

Certificate of Need Law in Need of Reform

Somewhat Reasonable - April 19, 2016, 1:27 PM

In an April 5 editorial titled “Bill would ruin certificate of need program,” the News Sentinel argued legislation Tennessee lawmakers are considering could make it harder for the poor and Tennesseans living in rural communities to obtain access to high-quality, affordable health care.

The fact is rural residents, the poor, and those most in need of Tennessee’s best health care stand to gain if the General Assembly passes House Bill 1730 and Senate Bill 1842, sponsored by state Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, respectively.

These bills would open new pathways for Tennesseans to access innovative, cost-effective health care services, facilities and equipment. At present, pathways to improving facilities are being blocked by Tennessee’s certificate of need law. The law requires hospitals and other medical facilities to apply for and obtain special approval from the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency before health care providers may expand patient services and make needed upgrades.

The state’s current law impedes small and large health care improvements. A Tennessee hospital wishing to add even a single bed to one of its units must first chase down HSDA’s approval, which charges them for the pleasure. The nonrefundable minimum application fee is $3,000. The maximum fee — also nonrefundable — is $45,000, according to HSDA’s 23-page certificate of need application.

Tennessee’s state-certified need-based system implies current providers ought not to make improvements to facilities and services until after they have fallen into disrepair. As Sexton told Health Care News, “The [current] system doesn’t force people to improve what they have, because they know the CON prevents other people from entering their market.”

Sexton and Gardenhire’s proposed reforms would indeed guide Tennessee toward a better health care system — one based not on money or state-certified need, but on quality.

The current system discourages new providers from entering the health care marketplace and encourages current providers to grow complacent toward patients. The reform bill, by contrast, would help ensure hospitals and other medical facilities get and stay motivated to offer patients the best health care money can buy.

Scaling back certificate of need requirements would save Tennessee’s most innovative health care providers time, money and litigation — savings business-savvy providers will pass on to patients in the form of frequent facilities and equipment upgrades, lower costs and increased access to better health care services.

Reform could even save lives in rural Tennessee communities. States with certificate of need programs have on average 30 percent fewer hospitals and 13 percent fewer ambulatory surgical centers per 100,000 rural residents than states without such programs, according to a 2016 study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The state’s certificate of need law places rural communities at a medical disadvantage by effectively making it easier for providers in counties with more than 200,000 people to acquire magnetic resonance imaging machines than providers in less populous counties. Reform is more likely to help rural Tennessee patients gain access to potentially life-saving radiology services.

Cost-prohibitive application fees, lack of motivation for current providers to upgrade facilities and government-created obstacles to rural health care certify Tennessee’s need for certificate of need reform.

[Originally published at the Knoxville News Sentinel]

Categories: On the Blog

Zika: Crisis or Sentinel Event?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 19, 2016, 9:00 AM

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Zika is, like Ebola, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that it is “clear” that the Zika virus causes a serious birth defect, microcephaly (small head).

CDC publishes a scary interactive map of cases diagnosed in the U.S. The highest number as of this writing is in Florida, colored an ominous brown.

CDC is in high gear, with politically correct advice on Zika. Meanwhile, cases of dengue in Mexico have topped 10,000. Dengue is caused by a related but far more serious virus, carried by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito. And 78,000 people in Africa die every year of another relative, yellow fever. The vector was coming under good control decades ago, but is re-emerging now. Asking “why” should be the main response to Zika.

Instead the advice seems to be: “Don’t travel, don’t have a baby, don’t let a mosquito bite you, stop climate change” – and give the authorities billions of dollars for a crash vaccine development program.

What should people do about Zika?

First, don’t panic. It’s not Ebola. Ebola and Zika are alike in that they were first recognized in Africa decades ago. Also, there is no cure or vaccine for either. But while Ebola has killed thousands, Zika has likely not killed anyone. Symptoms, if any, are mild: a few days of fever, rash, joint pains and red eyes. Ebola is extremely contagious through personal contact. Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquito, although it may be carried in semen.

The main problem with Zika is that, like rubella (German measles), it can apparently cause birth defects. (Rubella can cause microcephaly.)

Zika virus has been found in the brain of a few babies born with microcephaly. But two things are very clear: MOST microcephaly is NOT caused by Zika. About 7 of 10,000 babies born in the U.S. have microcephaly – no thanks to Zika. Most (more than 90 percent) of the Brazilian babies recently confirmed to have microcephaly tested negative for Zika.

Additionally, MOST mothers who have Zika during pregnancy give birth to a normal, healthy baby. Mothers in northeastern Brazil also had a lot of other problems, including malnutrition, heavy exposure to toxic agricultural chemicals and an aggressive vaccination campaign.

Panic can cause people to do things that might make the problem worse. For example, New York State’s Zika prevention kits contain the mosquito repellent DEET, which is absorbed through the skin. It is not known to be safe in pregnancy. Some animal studies have shown nerve toxicity.

And what about vaccines? A March 22/29 JAMA article is entitled: “Pregnancy in the Time of Zika: Addressing Barriers for Developing Vaccines and Other Measures for Pregnant Women.” One barrier is “lack of a broadly accepted ethical framework” for clinical research during pregnancy. Basically, to test whether something harms a developing baby, you have to try it out on developing babies and see whether they are hurt.

A registered clinical trial that sought 50 pregnant volunteers to test Tdap (adult tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine, in Vietnam, was scheduled for completion in 2015. But Tdap had already been given to thousands of Brazilian expectant mothers some months before reports of microcephaly started to surface. There was no control group of unvaccinated women. It was not, after all, research, but a public health response to an increase in pertussis (whooping cough) cases.

A Zika vaccine would likely be a live virus, and all live virus vaccines are contraindicated in pregnancy – and possibly while nursing. That includes measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, shingles and rotavirus. There is a case report of a nursing infant who got meningoencephalitis, probably from yellow fever vaccine virus. Nursing Labrador puppies got canine distemper, a relative of measles, after their mother got a booster shot.

WHO and CDC are quick to indict Zika virus, which might eventually turn out to be an innocent bystander. But the chief culprit is known: a breakdown in vector control.

In 1970, the safest and most effective public health weapon in history – DDT – was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the 1990s, Mexico agreed to abandon its DDT program as a condition of NAFTA. Mosquitoes travel.

Alarm about Zika will be a public-relations exercise, covering the waste of countless human lives and billions of dollars on ineffective or harmful campaigns, if it does not open a discussion of why diseases on their way out in the 1970s are coming back now.

Here’s the help you’ll need to prepare your household for the realities of living under a centralized health-care system — order “Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare”

Categories: On the Blog

Pioneering Hurricane Expert, Heroic Skeptic of Man-Caused Climate Change – Dr. William Gray, R.I.P.

Somewhat Reasonable - April 18, 2016, 10:32 PM

Dr. William Gray, R.I.P.

Sad news tonight.Dr. William H. Gray, Ph.D. — a friend of The Heartland Institute, who was also the world’s most learned expert on hurricanes — has died.

Gray was a frequent speaker at Heartland’s 11 International Conferences on Climate Change. We were honored to host him, and you can see all his presentations below, or at this link.

Bill went where the data led him, especially when it came to the frequency of hurricane activity due to man-caused, CO2-driven global warming. Point of fact: Bill said Al Gore’s filmed prediction of AGW causing more hurricanes was nonsense. Bill, not Al, was proven right.

One would not expect a glowing eulogy of Bill from the folks at the “Capital Weather Gang” at The Washington Post. They haven’t been very warm to Heartland’s climate conferences, or Bill’s views, in the past. But Jason Samenow posted a fantastic tribute on the site to Bill by Capital Weather Gang contributor Phil Klotzbach.

Some excerpts:

How to describe 16 years spent with one of the greatest minds in hurricane research of the past 60 years? I’m still having trouble coming to grips with the fact that he’s gone. There are so many things about our relationship that I’m going to miss. The daily hour-long phone calls, the tag-team conference presentations, the forecast day donuts, the chats about topics ranging from hurricanes, to climate change, to politics, to baseball, to the Civil War.

I first was introduced to the Colorado State University (CSU) seasonal hurricane forecasts and Dr. Gray when I did an undergraduate project on his research for my climatology class. I ended up doing my undergraduate Honors thesis on his research, and I was beyond excited when he called me to offer me a graduate research assistantship at CSU. One of my first interactions with him was the American Meteorological Society Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology Conference in 2000 in Fort Lauderdale. After a brief introduction, his first question was “Who had the most RBIs in a single season, which team did he play for, and how many RBIs did he get in the season”? I knew that the answer was Hack Wilson for the 1930 Pittsburgh Pirates with 191 RBIs. At that point, Dr. Gray said he knew I would make a good project member …

has produced in an extraordinarily distinguished research career that spanned 60 years. The humility that he has demonstrated throughout his career is something that we would all do well to emulate.

Dr. Gray had an incredible knowledge of the way that the climate works. His development of his genesis parameters – six key ingredients necessary for tropical cyclogenesis – was a groundbreaking piece of research when it was first published in the late 1960s. He also spent many years with his graduate students studying and publishing papers in a variety of fields from tropical cyclone structure to tropical radiation.

He is best known worldwide for his seasonal hurricane predictions. He instituted these predictions when he discovered that El Nino impacted Caribbean and tropical Atlantic vertical wind shear. This was the first time that any group had issued seasonal forecasts for the Atlantic. Now, nearly two-dozen groups have followed his lead issuing these predictions. He has consistently issued these forecasts for over 30 years – a track record unparalleled for university predictions. …

Dr. Gray’s generosity with his resources was incredible. He contributed a considerable amount of his own resources to keep our project alive when research grants went dry a few years ago. He also let me stay at his house when I came back for in-person visits after relocating to California. …

Even at the end, Dr. Gray was focused on his research. He gave me very clear instructions on various projects I should be conducting over the next few years. He was still sketching clouds using his legal pad and #2 pencils and discussing the intricacies of cumulus convection when I came to see him a few days before his death. He told me several times throughout my time at CSU: “The only immortality that you have as a professor is through your graduate students.”

His graduate students, their students, and now even their students, are leaders in meteorological research around the globe. The incredible legacy left by Dr. Gray will last for generations to come. He will be sorely missed.

Anthony Watts, an other colleague of Bill, has his own tribute at Watts Up With That. An excerpt:

I knew this was coming, as I had a heads-up from Joe D’Aleo last week that the end was nearing. I knew Dr. Bill Gray through my work in climate, and from attending conferences. He always had a good word for me, and when I encountered him in person, he was fond of parodying the “Wayne’s World” skit where they meet Alice Cooper backstage and get on their knees and chant “I’m not worthy…I’m not worthy”. He’d actually do that with me. It was endearing, yet at the same time a little bit embarrassing, because I was the one who really should be doing that in his presence. I always found myself saying “please Bill, stop that!”, to which he’d get back on his feet and give me a chuckle with that toothy grin of his.

I knew Bill Gray only through Heartland — and knew him to be a brilliant and generous man who was always kind to me an appreciative of our efforts to showcase his research. The honor was ours.

R.I.P.

View Dr. William Gray’s six presentations at Heartland’s International Conferences on Climate Change below.

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