On the Blog

Forcing Unrealistic Hikes Endangers Drivers, Zaps the Economy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 12:41 PM

In pursuit of his misguided climate obsession, President Barack Obama has opened yet another front in his continuing war against America’s 260 million car owners.

Starting in the 2025 model year, less than a decade away, new vehicles will have to achieve a whopping average 54.5 mpg.

This phase of his climate crusade will force motorists into smaller vehicles that are less safe and more expensive. It constitutes a deadly assault that will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year.

Congress established the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards in 1975 in an effort to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

The law required car manufacturers to meet mandated fuel economy targets or pay a hefty tax on gas-guzzling sedans.

The results? Many people switched to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Others, however, started driving trucks, and a new category of vehicles was born: SUVs and minivans.

Ironically, the popularity of trucks, SUVs and minivans came as a direct result of environmentalists’ efforts to force people out of the large, comfortable, powerful cars they liked.

Trucks, SUVs and minivans didn’t have to meet the most stringent fuel economy standards, so to keep features they liked, millions of people replaced the family sedan with an SUV or truck.

As fuel efficiency increased, driving became cheaper, so people drove more miles, negating the marginal gains of using more fuel-efficient vehicles. Higher CAFE standards now apply to this class of vehicles, further reducing consumer choice and safety.

Although CAFE standards did not reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, they did cost thousands of lives.

The fastest way to increase fuel economy is to shed vehicle weight, which compromises safety. Research has shown the size and weight reductions of passenger vehicles undertaken to meet CAFE standards resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

For instance, researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution found for every 100 pounds shaved off new cars to meet CAFE standards, between 440-780 additional people were killed in auto accidents in the United States, or a total of 2,200-3,900 lives lost per model year.

As a result, since it began in 1975, CAFE has resulted in more deaths than all the lives of U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War.

The laws of physics don’t change. In a crash, larger and heavier is better than lighter and smaller. Naturally, the Obama administration doesn’t like to talk about this.

Now environmental radicals and the Obama administration have shifted their argument, saying people should drive small vehicles not to defund Middle East tyrants but to prevent global warming.

But this view is problematic. The National Academy of Sciences has found shifting to more fuel-efficient cars does not prevent or even slow purported global warming.

The academy found higher CAFE standards shifts greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipe to the factory, because vehicles using lighter-weight materials require more energy consumption for the production of substitute materials, offsetting any decreases of greenhouse gas emissions achieved through fuel efficiency.

If environmental activism uninfluenced by facts is the driving force behind your purchasing decisions, you are free to buy electric, hybrid or clean diesel vehicles.

If comfort, power and the ability to haul a boat or ferry a soccer team are your goals, you should be free to buy the type of large, powerful vehicle that fits your needs.

Choose the car you want. The life you save may be your own, and the planet won’t care.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Constitutional Sound Bites: Quick and Easy American History

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 12:35 PM

Quick, pay attention – think you know all you should about America’s founding? Well, here’s some “Constitutional Sound Bites” from a powerful new book authored by David Shestokas:

 “Declaration of Independence – Did you know?

  • Thomas Jefferson became a lawyer at 24 years old and wrote the “Declaration” at age 33.
  • The impact of the “Declaration of Independence” upon the world was dramatic.  When written in 1776 it was the first such document in history to declare a people free and self-governing.
  • Before the “Declaration of Independence”, a government was typically an empire controlled by a royal family.
  • The Declaration of Independence issued a list of grievances against King.
  • Jefferson patterned the Declaration like a complaint in a court case.  There is a statement of law, a list of violations of law and the proper remedy for those violations

Preamble to Constitution –  Words and phrases as understood by our Founding Fathers –  Did you know?

  • What was meant by “more perfect union?” –  Still related at the time to the Latin origin, perficere, to finish or complete.  It meant a more complete union than had existed before the “Constitution.
  • What was meant by to “establish justice?”  The implication is that justice did not exist under the “Articles of Confederation.”
  • What was meant by “general welfare?”  “General” meant applicable to the whole rather than to the local, individual, or special interests, while welfare” referred to a Constitution goal to promote the happiness of the nation as a whole.

“U.S. Constitution” – Did you know? 

  • The “Constitution” represented the most important event in human history.  Before the ratification process took place in 1787 and 1788, self-government hadn’t existed before.
  • Gouverneur Morris, a lawyer at 19 years old, wrote the Constitution at age 35, yet he is one of the most unknown Founding Fathers.
  • Although Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were on the 5-member committee to write the Constitution, James Madison gave Gouverneur Morris credit for the final Constitution, which he wrote in four days!
  • Colonists knew what a “Power of Attorney” was.  This form was used by lawyers of the time for many different occasions. 
  • Power of Attorney was explained in terms of what many Americans have in the 21centruy, a Health Care Power of Attorney.  
  • Constitution followed the form of the commonly understood Power of Attorney. 
  • Constitution laid side by side with the Power of Attorney follows the same outline.

Bill of Rights – Did you know?

  • The first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
  • James Madison originally proposed 19 amendments to the First Congress.
  • These amendments were changes to the originally ratified Constitution.
  • Supporters of the Constitution had promised to add a Bill of Rights during debate about whether or not the Constitution should be adopted, in response to Anti-Federalists who argued against the Constitution because it lacked protections for basic human liberty.

The First Amendment – Did you know?

  • How many rights are named in the First Amendment and what are they?  
  • Remembering them all will place you among one in one thousand who are able to state the number of rights and then name them.
  • These questions were posed to Heartland attendees by David Shestokas.  Two got all five right.  Many forgot “Freedom to Petition for Redress of Grievances” There is a reason for this:  The people no longer have the right to have their representatives entertain their petitions.  
  • The other four rights are: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, and Assembly.

In a continuing series of free events sponsored by The Heartland Institute, David J. Shestokas, author and lawyer, was featured in keeping with Heartland’s recently established Center for Constitutional Reform, a project of The Heartland Institute.  Kyle Maichle as Project Manager of Constitution Reform, introduced Mr. Shestokas who provided insight into his book, Constitutional Sound Bites, which provides an accurate and accessible resource regarding the “Declaration of Independence”, “Constitution”, and “Bill of Rights.”  The book is available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions.  

David Shestokas earned his B.A. in political science from Bradley University in 1975 and his J.D., cum laude in 1987 from The John Marshall Law School where he swerved on the institution’s law review.  Mr. Shestokas founded the Law Office of David Shestokas in November on 1987.  After practicing in areas such as criminal defense, corporate law, real estate, and business financing, he later served as Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County in Chicago from 1994 to 1998.  During that time he also worked on the Felony Review Unit, participating in police investigations and making charging decisions in more than 400 felony cases.  

David Shestokas reveals

As Mr. Shestokas notes: The leaders of Revolutionary American were used to reading long documents like the Federalist Papers to gain understanding of the important documents of that time, but it’s not the way the American people receive their information in the twenty-first century.  Americans have become used to getting information in small dose through sound-bites.  

Keeping this in mind, Shestokas’ unique book assumes a question and answer format which allows readers to quickly and effectively grasp bursts of material, both children and adults, at a time when our Nation’s Founding receives little attention in American classrooms.  For as Mr. Shestokas related, it is difficult to be a good American without understanding how America was made and what America stands for. 

Below are the first three question posed to readers under Chapter 1, Constitutional Consideration, of Shestokas’ book.  Answers are located in the book below each question:

  • What events during the Christmas of 1776 saved United States independence and set the stage for the Constitution? 
  • How long after the Declaration of Independence did the Constitution go into effect?
  • Why does the United States have three branches of government?

Answers are set forth in a concise, easy to understand, and meaningful way.  This is definitely a must-read book with historical anecdotes that add depth and content which make 18th Century history come to life in 21th Century style. 

Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed a South Carolina House bill into law on June 1, 2016 that implements the study of U.S. founding documents into the social studies programs of the state’s public high schools.  All public education students, both in high school and in college, are required to pass a test after a year-long class.  Every state should have such a requirement.     

Power is always trying to restrict liberty.   Education is so important to understand when abuse of power is taking place, which our Founding Fathers, in declaring independence from England, wanted to leave behind.  Documents were fashioned to make this new nation unique and different from any other nation in the world.  

Beyond Constitutional Sound Bites, in collaboration with Dr. Berta Arias, Spanish professor and past president of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education Shestokas has produced the first explanation of America’s Founding Documents in Spanish, Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales, for the 36,000,000 Americans more comfortable with Spanish than English. Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales is also available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

The collaboration of Shestokas and Arias has also lead to the first Spanish language website devoted to America’s Founding Principles: De Los Estados Unidos  http://www.delosestadosunidos.com/ (About the United States).

Future plans include a children’s book, and a book devoted to the amendments following the Bill of Rights.

The You Tube of the Heartland event featuring David Shestokas and his book,Constitutional Sound Bites, can be viewed hereConstitutional Sound Bites is not Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal.  It’s American! 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Self-Determination and Individual Choice Post Brexit

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 6:43 AM

The recent vote within the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union has once again implicitly raised the issue of the right of self-determination through secession. In other words, do individuals have a right to determine under which political authority they shall live and be represented?

This is, of course, an almost taboo subject in the United States because of its linkage with the Southern Confederacy and the attempted preservation of slavery in the 1860s. While defenders of Southern secession often argue that there were other issues besides slavery that motivated the Southern states to leave the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860, including tariffs and government spending, the fact is slavery was the most important catalyst for Southern secession.

1860s Southern Secession Vs. Self-Determination Today

Anyone who reads the proclamations of secession issued, for example, by South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, or Texas, soon finds that at the core of their decisions to withdraw from the Union was the desire to preserve slavery as the fundamental institution of their societies from perceived anti-slavery threats from the North.

The proponents of Southern secession declared theirs to be a “democratic” choice reflecting the will of the people in these Southern states. But as the nineteenth century British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, pointed out in 1863, “Secession, may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection, but it may also be an enormous crime” when its purpose is the preservation of holding a portion of the population in perpetual bondage. If secession was meant to be an expression of the will of the people, Mill asked, “Have the slaves been consulted? Has their will been counted as any part in the estimate of collective volition? They are a part of the population . . . Remember, we consider them to be human beings, entitled to human rights.”

However, in the context of Europe or the United States today, for instance, this type of challenge to self-determination and secession no longer applies. Personal freedom and a general equality for all citizens under the rule of law are taken for granted on both sides of the Atlantic, even if rarely perfectly practiced. There is no longer a call for secession for the purpose of maintaining a slave system in place. It has far more to do with the distinct principle of the right of people to decide on the political regime under which they wish to live, especially if they consider the existing one to be harmful to the preservation or restoration of a greater degree of liberty in society.

Government Control Versus Individual Freedom To Choose

The most guarded prerogative of every government is its legitimized monopoly over the use of force within its territorial jurisdiction. The second most important prerogative is its exclusive control over all its territory. By implication, governments therefore claim an exclusive right over the political, economic, and cultural destinies of the people under their control. If people may not voluntarily and peacefully separate from the state in which they live, then it is tacitly claiming ownership
 over them.

Of course, the most fundamental right of self-determination is the individual’s right to live his life as he chooses, as long as he does not violate any other person’s right to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. In other words, the core principle underlying any free society is the right of self-ownership. The individual is not the property of the state, any collective group, or any other individual. Without this principle, freedom is unsustainable in the long run.

The classical liberals of the nineteenth century believed that individuals should be free to determine their own lives. It is why they advocated private property, voluntary exchange, and constitutionally limited government. They also believed that people should be free to reside and work in any country they wish. In general, therefore, they advocated freedom of movement. Governments should not compel people to stay within their political boundaries, nor should any government prohibit them from entering its territory for peaceful purposes.

Individual Self-Determination And Secession

An extension of this principle was
 that individuals should be free to 
determine through plebiscite what 
political authority would exist where they lived. It should be kept in mind that this is distinctly different from the collectivists’ notion of “national self-determination,” the alleged necessity for 
all members of an ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural group to be incorporated within a single political entity, regardless of their wishes. Thus, for instance, the Nazis demanded that all members of the “Aryan race” be forcefully united within a Greater Germany under National Socialist leadership.

Classical liberalism implies “individual self-determination.” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises argued in his book on Liberalism (1927) that the liberal ideal would allow individuals within towns, districts, and regions to vote on which state they would live under; they could remain part of the existing state, join another state, or form a new one.

Mises stated that in principle this choice should be left to each individual, not majorities, since a minority (including a minority of one) might find itself within the jurisdiction of a government not of its own choosing. But because it was difficult to imagine how competing police and judicial systems could function on the same street corner, Mises viewed the majoritarian solution to be a workable second best.
Or as Mises expressed it:

“The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with . . .

“However, the right of self-determination of which we speak is not the right of self-determination of nations, but rather the right of self-determination of the inhabitants of every territory large enough to form an independent administrative unit. If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done. This is impracticable only because of compelling technical considerations, which make it necessary that a region be governed as a single administrative unit and the right of self-determination be restricted tot the will of the majority of the inhabitants or areas large enough to count as territorial units in the administration of the country.”

Precisely because it could turn out that an individual found himself still living under a political regime not of his choosing even with this territorial conception of individual self-determination through plebiscite, the classical liberals argued that the best way to assure that the state did not abuse him through the use of state power on behalf of some others should be that every government be limited to only protecting the life, liberty, and honestly acquired property of its citizens in a social order based on voluntary association and free-market exchange.

In such a world the use of political power to benefit some at the coerced expense of others would be eliminated or at least reduced to the smallest amount humanly possible. Government, then, would be only a “night-watchman” responsible for guarding each individual from force and fraud under the equal protection of law within its monopoly jurisdiction.

Self-Determination And The Crimean Conflict

Even if governments were not successfully limited to the protection of individuals and their rights rather than a plunderer of what rightfully belonged to them, such a system of localized individual self-determination would minimize the number of any, say, racial, ethic, religious, linguistic or social groups that might be fearful of discriminatory or deleterious government regulations and controls or prohibitions targeting them as a minority within the jurisdiction of such abusive political power.

Let’s take the case of the Crimea. The peninsula has a mixed population of a Russian majority and Ukrainian and Tatar minorities. It was designated as within the political jurisdiction of Ukraine at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the Russian government undertook a not very clandestine military invasion of the Crimea in the spring of 2014 that culminated in an annexation of the territory within the Russian Federation.

The Ukrainian government, not surprisingly, declared the annexation and the Russian-manipulated plebiscite that preceded it as illegal and unrecognized by them. The authorities in Kiev said that the peninsula was part of the Ukrainian state and even a plebiscite under international supervision and monitoring would not be allowed.

The Ukrainian and Tatar minorities in Crimea were clearly opposed to the Russian annexation, and, indeed, some within the Russian-speaking majority might very well not have been supportive of being forcefully joined to the Russian state, if there had been a truly fair and open plebiscite. Since then, Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea have reported experiencing various forms of political and economic discrimination under their new masters in Moscow.

If the type of self-determining plebiscite that was proposed by Ludwig von Mises had been implemented, instead, it might have very well resulted in a political map of Crimea under which portions of the peninsula were the same color as Russia, other parts may have been the same color as Ukraine, and still others parts, possibly where ethnic Tatars were in a majority, might have been a totally different color marking those areas as a new Tatar state separate from both Russia and Ukraine.

Many of the individuals in each group would, no doubt, have then felt that their choice and desire concerning under which political jurisdiction they were to live had been more successfully fulfilled. Various ethic and linguistic and political tensions and animosities in the Crimea would have been, at least, minimized.

As long as a reasonable degree of freedom of trade and travel prevailed among these new political entities in the Crimea and between them and the rest of the world, centuries-old group conflicts would have been reduced, while living the individuals within these neighboring political jurisdictions still benefiting from the advantages that come from division of labor, and commerce and trade.

Self-Determination For People In Scotland And Northern Ireland

Taking the argument up to the present, the referendum within the United Kingdom over leaving the European Union was hardly unanimous. The total vote for withdrawing from EU membership was barely 52 percent. In England and Wales the leave vote was 53 percent, respectively, but in Scotland the vote to remain in the EU was 62 percent and in Northern Ireland it was 53 percent to remain. The vote in the city of London and surrounding areas was 60 percent for staying in the European Union.

Some in Scotland have called for a new plebiscite on Scottish independence so that part of the United Kingdom could attempt to remain within the EU. Voices have also been raised in Northern Ireland for a plebiscite on unification with the Republic of Ireland as a gateway to remaining with the European Union.
Again, the classical liberal ideal would call for a vote within Scotland by towns and regions to determine whether the individuals in various parts of Scotland desired to remain within the United Kingdom or have national independence with or without joining the European Union.

It may turn out that all of Scotland would show majority votes for independence, or it might be only areas, regions and districts within which clear majorities had opted for such a political choice. In the latter case, any areas of Scotland in which majorities chose to remain part of the United Kingdom would be allowed to do so, with new boundaries marking off where England ended and a new independent Scotland began, even if this meant enclaves of UK administered regions or areas within the boundaries of an independent Scotland.

To the extent that the voices for Scottish independence have spoken up partly because of a desire for remaining within the European Union, that hope might be squashed by other national governments within the EU. A Spanish representative to the European Union said that a separate Scottish membership within the EU would be voted “no” by Spain. Why? Because the Spanish government in Madrid is fearful that such a precedent would only embolden those in the Spanish region of Catalina who have been calling for independence from the rest of Spain. And acceptance of new members within the EU requires unanimous consent by all existing members.

In the case of Northern Ireland, this part of the island remained a part of Great Britain following the independence of the Irish Republic in 1922 due to the desire of many Protestants in the north not wanting to be a minority within a Catholic majority state. But within Northern Ireland, the territory is divided into more heavily populated Protestant areas surrounding Belfast and more heavily Catholic areas along the border with the Republic of Ireland.

A plebiscite would possibly result in a large part of the border districts choosing to unite with the Irish Republic to the south, while a smaller area closer to Belfast might vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. And, again, there will likely be towns and districts on both sides of such a new drawing of a border that would, respectively, be part of the Irish Republic or continuing to be part of the UK as enclaves within the territory of the other country.

What can very likely be said, I would suggest, is that if such a plebiscite procedure had been followed in 1922 or any time after that, many of the more than 100,000 people either killed, wounded or in some other way physically impacted by the violent sectarian fighting from 1969 to the 1990s in Northern Ireland might not have suffered that fate.

Self-Determination And The Ideal Of Individual Freedom

For the classical liberal, the underlying principle is the right of an individual to live his life as he chooses, wherever he chooses, for peaceful purposes with others in the global society. In a classical liberal world, the forming or transforming of governments would have only one purpose: to eliminate the use of political force for plundering purposes through regulations and compulsory redistributions, and, make government the securer of liberty rather than its violator.

But in the world in which we live, governments rarely limit their activities to such useful but far more limited activities. Instead, special interest groups of various and sundry types use governments to gain benefits at the expense of others. And often in many parts of the world the dividing line between groups wishing to use the state for these purposes is delineated by religion, language, ethnicity, or ideology.

The idea of individual self-determination through local and regional plebiscite can serve as political method to reduce or prevent some of the types of conflicts that have tragically torn communities and countries apart in oceans of human blood and indiscriminate destruction of otherwise productive property.

It could be a powerful, more “individualist” method for reducing some forms of human conflict in what remains a far too collectivist world in which political power is used for predatory purposes, great and small.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

#WebOfDenial Push by Senate Dems Exposes Their Hatred of Free Speech

Somewhat Reasonable - July 12, 2016, 3:47 PM

By this evening, a total of 19 Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, will have taken to the floor of the United States Senate to attack the free speech rights of individual and organizations that disagree with the government dogma on the causes and consequences of global warming. Make no mistake: This is an abuse of power and an attempt to intimidate American citizens to keep quiet, and to send those who support them running scared.

It will not work.

The Heartland Institute today released a statement on this campaign, which goes by the hashtag #WebOfDenial. We’ve also been duking it out on Twitter here, here, here, here, and with many more tweets. Click here to read the release, but here’s my contribution:

“Sen. Whitehouse is, once again, abusing the power of his office to lead a coordinated attack on free speech. By singling out Heartland and other groups, Whitehouse and his allies are trying to intimidate us and our supporters into silence, but he will fail.

“Every American has the right to support the causes they believe in, even if a cabal of senators disagree. The words uttered by Sen. Whitehouse and others participating in this stunt are as un-American as they are unscientific.”

I was apparently too kind to Sheldon, even with that sharp rebuke. In a Facebook Live video — in which fewer than 30 watched live (I know, I was among them) — Whitehouse said “The Heartland Institute is about as reprehensible as you can get.” It’s a little flattering to live rent-free in a senator’s brain, but is that appropriate coming from sitting US Senator about a group of his fellow Americans? Regardless, it’s typical of Whitehouse.

All this yapping is in service to a resolution put forth by Senate Democrats — which has no chance of being voted on, let alone passed — which officially “disapproves of activities by certain corporations, trade associations, foundations, and organizations funded by those corporations” to “deliberately mislead” the public “about the dangers of their products.” As my friend Rick Henderson at the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal notes, the resoultion gets worse:

Using language once associated with Red-baiting U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., the Democratic resolution also demands information from these organizations about “what they knew about climate change and when they knew that information.”

Have you now or have you ever been associated with someone who questions unscientific state dogma on the climate? Why, yes. Yes, I have. So come get me … as well as members and leaders of 22 other groups that signed a public letter today pushing back on this affront to free speech. Read the letter, and see who signed it, here. It’s also pasted below.

July 12, 2016

Dear Senators:

We, the undersigned, have long since known that you have a list—an enemies list of intellectual foes you wish to isolate. But our policy differences are not why we write. We write today with grave concern over political leadership in a time of deep national division. We write at a time when free speech and association are more important than ever in our national experiment. How will we, together, solve problems if we cannot speak? How can you lead when you refuse to listen?

You were elected by the people to build consensus and find compromise—to fiercely debate the most pressing issues of our day. Often, these debates are meant to be contentious and without a clear solution because innovation comes from great challenge. Sadly, our democracy and our freedom hangs in the balance as you use your office to bully and single out groups to blame rather than ideas to debate.

Just as you do, our civil society organizations represent many, many millions of Americans and a wide array of perspectives and interests. They deserve and increasingly demand healthy and respectful political dialogue, and well-informed, well-debated public policies. To support the debate our founders intended, all Americans have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of threats from overzealous government officials—threats paraded and perpetrated by you on the Senate floor.

The delicate balance of our democracy is preserved when all groups are free to speak in the public square, and ALL Americans should be concerned when agents of the government use their official offices to marginalize political foes.

Your enemies list groups together organizations that themselves maintain differing perspectives. While you have singled us out, labeling us as the enemy, we don’t even always agree with one another. And that’s the point: disagreement breeds solutions.

We hear you. Your threat is clear: There is a heavy and inconvenient cost to disagreeing with you. Calls for debate will be met with political retribution. That’s called tyranny. And, we reject it.

At the birth of our nation, patriots asserted their right to speech and broke British law in doing so. King George used the full force of the British crown to suppress the rebellion—to suppress speech. In spite of the tyrant’s commands and because they had put their lives on the line to defend their rights, the patriots enshrined free speech in our founding documents; the same documents that gave you your job.

In a country where you should be the patriots leading us into a great future, sadly today you are the tyrants, and we are the patriots.

It was fun sparring with the well-funded climate alarmists on social media today — especially when I leaned on the research at Heartland’s Left Exposed website, which I encourage you to browse and use as a resource of your own to push back at the eco-left. Here’s some prominent profiles to whet your appetite:

Tom Steyer
James Hansen
Bill McKibben
Naomi Klein
Seth Borenstein (AP propagandist reporter)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Tides Foundation
MacArthur Foundation
Packard Foundation
Pew Charitable Trusts
The Hewlett Foundation
Center for American Progress
Climate Action Network
Environmental Working Group
Institute of Global Environment and Society
Union of Concerned Scientists

UPDATE 7/18: Here’s a rundown of the number of times a think tank was mentioned by the #WebOfDenial cabal … and Heartland came out on top.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Brandon Arnold: The Emerging Issues of Budget & Tax Policy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 12, 2016, 2:16 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to an Emerging Issues Forum conference call hosted by MaryAnn McCabe, State Government Relations Manager for The Heartland Institute. The conference call features Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union.

Arnold joins the conference call to discuss several important budget and tax related issues. He covers everything from sin taxes to states switching to 401(k) style pension plans.

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

Categories: On the Blog

British Study Points to ‘Consensus’ : E-cigarettes Help Smokers Quit

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2016, 4:15 PM

Thirteen public health organizations, including Public Health England, Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians issued a brief in July titled “E-cigarettes: a developing public health consensus.”

The statement addresses the drops in England’s adult-smoking rates, evidence that indicates teen and youth use of e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) “is almost exclusively confined to those young people who have already smoked,” and that evidence related to e-cigarettes “suggest that the health risks posed by e-cigarettes are relatively small by comparison but [the organizations] must continue to study the long-term effects.”

The statement comes after a wave of evidence that shows that e-cigarettes and VNPs are continuously aiding tobacco cigarette smokers in quitting and providing a form of harm reduction.

Earlier in May, a survey  asked 300 e-cigarette users “to identify the reason they use electronic cigarettes.” 62 percent of respondents used e-cigarettes “to quit or abstain from smoking cigarettes.” The statement issued by the English health organizations acknowledged impact of such devises as “more than 10 times as many people” use e-cigarettes and VNPs over “local stop smoking services.”

Public Health England found in 2015 that e-cigarettes and VNPs are “95 percent less harmful than cigarettes and should be promoted as a tobacco-cessation method.” A June British Medical Journal study found “strong evidence in favor of the view e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) can be effective tobacco-harm-reduction products.”

Unlike the United States, these English groups are sharing “a commitment to provide up-to-date information on the emerging evidence of e-cigarettes.” Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration chose earlier this year to regulate e-cigarettes and VNPs as tobacco products, despite the fact that neither product contains any tobacco. That move is expected to cost millions of dollars in order to be compliant.

The statement issued by these public health groups is just the latest evidence the supports the health benefits associated with e-cigarettes and VNPs and the United States should take note. A 2015 study estimated that e-cigarettes used for smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction could save Medicaid $48 billion in a single year. The FDA and policy makers need to be paying attention to such studies and emerging evidence as it rolls out new regulations for potentially life-saving products.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Reed Hopper: 8-0 Victory Over the Obama Admin and the Clean Water Act

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2016, 2:03 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Reed Hopper, Attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the 8-0 Victory Over the Obama Administration and the Clean Water Act.

Hopper discusses the victory over the Obama administration in the Supreme Court, vindicating peoples’ right to challenge clean water act/wetlands determinations made by the EPA/Army Corp, in court rather than going through the administrative process of applying for permits and waiting for agency determinations.

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

Categories: On the Blog

El Niño, La Niña and Natural Gas

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2016, 10:51 AM

Death Valley, California, is known as “the hottest place on earth.” But, if you hear the news that the “Hottest Place on Earth Has Record-Breaking Hot June”—when “temperatures exceeded average June temperatures by about 6 °F”—it might be easy to ascribe the heat to alarmist claims of climate change. While Southern California was experiencing power outages due to a heat wave, Death Valley hit 126 °F—though the previous June high was 129 °F on June 30, 2013, and Death Valley holds the highest officially recorded temperature on the planet: 134 °F on July 10, 1913.

Yes, it is a hot summer for most of the U.S.—but that was predicted by WeatherBELL’s Joe Bastardi who, on Ground Hog Day, referenced El Niño and said: “we may have the hottest summer since 2012.” Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, explains: “it is usually the second calendar year of an El Niño event that is the warmest.” The current El Niño event made 2015 “the 3rd warmest year in the satellite record”—records, which have been kept for 38 years (all three of the hottest years were during an El Niño event). The 2015-16 El Niño is one of the strongest on record.

El Niño is a natural weather pattern first discovered centuries ago by Peruvian fisherman who noticed that the ocean would often warm late in the year. They called the phenomenon El Niño, after the Christ Child. “Modern researchers,” according to Bloomberg, “came to realize its importance to global weather in the 1960s, when they recognized the link between warm surface water and corresponding atmospheric changes.”

El Niño usually means warmer or milder winters and cooler summers in the U.S.—which has been bad for producers of America’s natural gas, as less has been needed for heating and air conditioning. Describing the winter of 2015-16, one account said: “warm, wet or even ‘what winter?’” This past winter’s milder temperatures coincided with abundant output from shale formations, that continued to grow through last winter, and, as reported by Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI): “collapsed natural gas prices to the lowest levels since 1999.” As a result, wholesale electricity prices also tumbled.

The trend away from coal for power generation has previously helped natural gas producers, as the increased production easily met strengthening demand. However, that demand has slowed as, according to NGI: “most U.S. regions that could switch out of coal on economic terms have already done so.”

While the warmer winter and oversupply condition coincided to drive natural gas prices to their lowest levels in almost 17 years, weather and supply are now driving them back up.

El Niño patterns are usually followed by what is called La Niña—which happens as the ocean temperatures cool. La Niña generally takes place three months, or as much as twelve months, after an El Niño cycle. A report from CNBC, back in January, projected that this year’s El Niño would “fade by May-July”—which is what we are seeing and that is causing the hotter, drier summer. The Browning World Climate Bulletin says: “The factors that cooled so much of North America in April and May are retreating and the hot marine air masses will surge inland.” Likewise, NGI States: “The El Niño event that led to record North American winter temperatures has made way for the transition to La Niña, which usually results in hotter-than-normal summer temperatures.”

Addressing these weather patterns, Bloomberg cites Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, as saying: “The cycles occur every two or three years on average and help regulate the temperature of the Earth, as the equatorial Pacific absorbs the heat of the sun during the El Niño and then releases it into the atmosphere. That can create a La Niña: a ‘recharge state’ when ‘the whole Earth is cooler than it was before this started.’”

While experts differ on the exact timing, most expect La Niña to form as early as July or as late as December—or even January. Trenberth explains: “La Niña is more like a strong case of ‘normal.’ If a region is typically dry, it could become arid in a La Niña. If it’s usually wet, there may be floods.” Which translates to a colder, and more volatile, than average winter—though predictions are for drier and warmer in the southwest U.S. Reports indicate that a strong La Niña could push more polar vortexes down into the U.S. and typically a strong El Niño, as we’ve just experienced, is followed by a strong La Niña.

On June 29, the Financial Times announced: “US natural gas prices have leapt 30 per cent this month as hot weather boost demand for air-conditioning and slowing supplies point to a gradually tightening market.” It adds: “After years with prices in the doldrums, US gas output has also begun to level off.”

The hot summer, according to Bastardi, will continue with widespread warmth through the fall—with the Northeast and Midwest possibly hitting 90 °F into October. Then, going from one extreme to the other, when winter hits, it is expected to be, as previously addressed, colder-than-normal across the Northwest, Upper Midwest, and Northeast.

These conditions create higher cooling and heating demand for natural gas. And that, coinciding with reduced supply, will give a boost to U.S. natural gas prices—rebalancing the market and bringing price recovery.

For investors, Bloomberg states: “Seeing as North American Winters are expecting to be stronger with La Niña, SocGen [Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking] recommends investing in natural gas.” The Price Group’s Phil Flynn, seen daily on the Fox Business Network, concurs. He told me that in the rush to convert electricity generation to natural gas, we are now in a place, unlike the winter of 2014, where there are not enough coal-fueled power plants to fill the demand gap. The idea was that with global warming, winters would remain mild, but with the naturally occurring La Niña cycle, and the projected cold winter, we are facing high demand at a time when natural gas production is “getting ready to fall off a cliff.” With reduced supply and pipeline constraints, natural gas may not be able to meet all of the demand. He is encouraging his clients into natural gas.

For consumers this may mean that, because wholesale electricity prices strongly correlate to natural gas prices, power supply costs could be impacted—resulting in higher utility bills. Because of low natural gas prices, homeowners have not felt the full hit of higher cost renewables—but that could be changing as we head into a La Niña winter.

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

How Is the Federal Government Affecting Your Child’s Education?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2016, 10:09 AM

From standards to tests to bathroom usage, the federal government has placed mandate after mandate on the education of your children. This has been happening for decades, and there’s no end in sight.

The organization United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) wants your help to highlight what is happening to your children in your community. Have you or your child been affected by government intrusion into education? What about a neighbor or friend? USPIE wants to hear your stories! USPIE is asking you to create a three-minute video telling your story about the harm government has caused to your child’s education. The best videos will used on the USPIE website and may be published on online in other national media outlets.. The rules for the contest are here. The deadline is Friday, July 22, so get your camera rolling and share your story.

USPIE is made up of leaders from the Stop Fed Ed movement. Its mission is to restore “local control of education by eradicating federal intrusion.” If you are interested in learning more about the Stop Fed Ed movement, then visit uspie.org. You can find your state representative at http://www.uspie.org/state-chapters.html.

The Heartland Institute will host a USPIE event at our offices in Arlington Heights, Illinois on Wednesday, October 12. Details for the event will be coming soon.

Categories: On the Blog

Eternal Vigilance, The Price of Liberty

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2016, 9:33 AM

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil – 

Yesterday the 4th of July was celebrated nationwide with picnics, parades, and firework displays.  Of great concern is that too many within America’s younger generation have no idea what is actually being celebrated on Independence Day.  Somewhat redeeming is the result of a 2016 American Enterprise Institute (AEI) opinion study.  Fifty-six percent of those polled said they were very proud to be American citizens, which actually put our country more than midway down in the “highest response” category.  Even so, over half of American citizens love our country and are not reluctant to say so. 

Most Americans understand the importance of liberty, but not all can explain what it actually means. 

Abraham Lincoln explained liberty in the following way:

“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name – liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names – liberty and tyranny.”

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland” (April 18, 1864), p. 301-302.

The Ten Cannots

An outspoken political conservative, Rev. Boetcker, is perhaps best remembered for his authorship of a pamphlet entitled The Ten Cannots, which was originally published in 1916 and sometimes falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  The pamphlet emphasizes freedom and responsibility of the individual himself.  Sadly, some of these “cannots” have become standard progressive thinking which is being promoted by the liberal Democratic Party, which are listed below for your consideration:

1.  You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.  

2.  You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.  

3.  You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.  

4.  You cannot encourage the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.  

5. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.  

6.  You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.  

7. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.  

8.  You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

“Socialism” no longer a dirty word

Fast forward to the current 2016 presidential campaign where throngs of young people cheered loudly for avowed 74-year old Bernie Sanders, a self-described Socialist, running for president of the United States as a Democrat.  This man once proudly defended Communist dictatorships across the world.  

In America, for the first time in nearly a century, socialism is not a dirty word or a shunned label, but instead is treated as a benign economic system that is more equitable and fair than capitalism.  This is particularly the thinking of voters under 30.   A Pew poll from June 2015 shows a staggering 69 percent of voters under 30 who express a willingness to vote for a Socialist for president of the United States, well before Sanders’ electoral successes in the early Democratic primaries. 

It is interesting that America’s senior citizens understand Socialism to be associated with Communism, such as that which they experienced with the Soviet Union and the Cold War.   What created this gap in thinking?  For seniors their opinion is based on having lived through the threat of the Cold War and its final end, which was the result of the Soviet Union collapsing for a myriad of reasons, largely associated with its failed form of government.  

What has caused the Millennials in our country to have a different opinion of Socialism?  The cause is largely due to the failure of our nation’s education system.  School books, professors, teachers, etc. no longer accurately define the superiority of America’s governing system nor provide the horror that results from once great countries who fell into Socialist and/or Communist style governments.

How close is this nation to discarding the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and instead embracing the lure of Socialism?  The massive crowds promoting Bernie Sanders should be a warning signal. That both Sanders and Clinton lean so far to the Left should send chills rather than thrills even up Chris Mathews’ leg. 

Communism Contrasted by the Virtues and Strengths of a Free Society 

In order to stop the creeping socialism in America, one must first understand the evils and deficiencies of communism and contrast them with the virtues and strengths of a free society provide by our forefathers and propelled America into greatness.  Four comparisons are noted:

SHOULD EDUCATION BE CENTRALLY CONTROLLED?

What Americans believe: 

Education is best controlled when it is in the hands of local boards, responsive to the wishes of the parents and the community.  The goal of education is to produce an intelligent, moral, and self-reliant citizenship.   Education must be free from propaganda and must prepare the student to exercise his proper share of control over his government.

What Communists believe:

Education must be controlled by the Central government.  Individual will be indoctrinated to follow, without question, the dictates of the Socialist state.  The thought content of all studies must be filtered through specific basic requirements. Individualism is the enemy of the people, therefore the student must be regimented and taught to accept all decisions of government regarding his place in the State and economy.

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT — NATIONAL SAFEGUARD OR DANGER?

What Americans believe:

To be strong and enduring, a nation must be composed of citizens who are free to think for themselves.   In no other way can people fully utilize their imagination, resourcefulness and capacity for progress.   The freedom to explore new ideas is one of the most basic of freedoms.  When filtered through a sound code of morality the good ideas are separated from the bad, not immediately perhaps, but in time to prevent serious damage.  

What Communists believe:

To be strong and enduring a nation must be controlled by intellectuals who instruct the people in thinking in accordance with government policies.  Free thought leads to dangerous conclusions not in keeping with Communist doctrine, while controlled thought builds national unity.

IS LOVE OF FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND GOD “OLD FASHIONED”?

What Americans Believe: 

That in our way of life there are many things, many blessings that have no base in materialism — love of home, love of family, patriotism, loyalty to friends, and devotion to God.  These are all integral parts of American heritage and give satisfaction and happiness.

What Communists Believe:

That everything is material — if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  The government must teach the people that love of home, and family, and loyalty to friends are secondary to anything which furthers the progress of Communism.  The people must discard God.  Materialism is the “be all” and “end all” of Communist endeavor.

JUSTICE — THE LAWS OF MANY OR OF A FEW? 

What Americans Believe:

That the accepted standards of justice are the laws which have been formulated through hundreds of years of man’s struggle to find a reliable code.  They find expression in the law of the land and in our great heritage of common law.   These laws are clearly promulgated.  Justices in our system are sworn to live up to this law and not to impose their own arbitrary standards of judgment. Thus, we are a government ruled by established laws and not a government of men.  

Communists believe: 

That the proper and final test of right and wrong is “does it serve the ultimate Communist purpose?  If it does, it is good; if it does not, it is bad.  With this cornerstone of justice, if any law exists that interferes with the goal, it is conveniently by-passed. Arbitrary decisions by superiors overrule the law.  Rule of man satisfies the Communist need, not rule of law. 

Are Americans in the process of losing their nation little by little?   You be the judge.  Sadly, many Americans make their decision based on whatever media source they use, which often is far from fair or balanced.  Many vote for a candidate based solely on their ethnicity, color, or campaign promises they rarely keep.  

It is far safer to evaluate candidates on facts, such as what they have already accomplished verses their failures.  Also, the specific Party to which they are affiliated holds a big key as to how they will govern, who they will pick for their administration, and which justices they will nominate for the Superior Court.  

America’s form of government allows the people to pick their leaders;  the question is will they use this precious gift to discern the best person, one who will absolutely honor our Constitution and system of laws

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

NOTE: This article is dedicated by the authors to the memory of Elizabeth Clark of Lake Forest, IL, who died Saturday, July 2.  Elizabeth was 98 years old and most of those 98 years were dedicated to encouraging patriotism. She loved America, its rich heritage and amazing opportunities which allowed prosperity and a good life for its citizens. She saw and experienced much in her long lifetime, both good and bad, which provided her with the unique advantage of knowing which changes are probably advantageous and which ones will most likely end badly. She did her best to share this information and her thoughts with all who would listen. 

Categories: On the Blog

America’s FCC-FTC Privacy Divide

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2016, 1:00 AM

[Note: This was submitted to the FCC for Reply Comments on the Title II Privacy NPRM]

The FCC’s Open Internet order and proposed Title II privacy rules divided what was unified.

For privacy, it broke what was working. Confused what was clear. Complicated what was simple. Unprotected what they sought to protect. Created more costs than benefits.

Since the Internet’s beginning the FTC has had privacy authority over information services.

For the decade since the FCC classified cable, wireless, and DSL broadband as an information service, and for the entire smartphone era where consumers became familiar with online privacy issues and regulation, the FTC was the sole unified regulator for protecting American consumers’ privacy.

In a 2014 filing to the FCC, the FTC explained why the FTC was better positioned to protect consumer privacy and data security than the FCC, because the FTC had national direct statutory authority to protect all consumers under: Section 5 — that proscribes “deceptive” or “unfair” business practices; the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, (COPPA).

In November 2014, the FTC and FCC entered a Memorandum of Understanding MOUto avoid duplicative, redundant, or inconsistent oversight” of common carriers.

In the FTC’s May 2016 comments to the FCC on the proposed CPNI privacy rules, the FTC criticized the FCC’s approach as “not optimal” to the extent it “would impose a number of specific requirements on the provision of BIAS services that would not generally apply to other services that collect and use significant amounts of consumer data.”

FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen’s comments to the FCC went further in spotlighting: “The FTC has built its privacy program on the long-established legal principles of unfairness and deception. This framework focuses on the sensitivity of consumer data and particular promises made about data collection and use, rather than on what type of entity collects or uses that data. By contrast, the FCC’s three-tiered “implied consent / opt-out / opt-in” framework focuses on whether the holder of the data is a BIAS provider, an affiliate, or a third party. It does not account for the sensitivity of the consumer data involved. … The FTC approach reflects the fact that consumer privacy preferences differ greatly depending on the type of data and its use.  … If a [FCC] regulation imposes defaults that do not match consumer preferences, it imposes costs on consumers without improving consumer outcomes.”

In a nutshell, the FTC’s public analysis displays a substantial FTC-FCC privacy divide for American consumers. The FTC approach focuses on what consumers care about concerning privacy while the FCC’s approach ignores what consumers care about privacy.

The FCC-FTC privacy divide is much worse than just that.

Before the FCC reclassified broadband as a telephone utility, and before it did not forbear from asserting telephone privacy jurisdiction temporarily until the FCC could devise operative privacy rules, American broadband consumers for the last 16 months have not had any operative federal privacy protection regulation.

That purposeful indefensible lapse in consumer privacy protection suggests that the FCC cares much more about increasing their regulatory authority than protecting American consumers’ privacy and data security.

Before there was no clamor that the FCC had more comprehensive or better privacy authority than the FTC because the FCC’s authority is demonstrably narrower and less effective than the FTC’s in that it can’t protect consumers’ private network information from commercial exploitation on the Internet, it can only decide that a broadband ISP cannot use it for advertising without a consumer’s explicit permission.

Before a consumer did not have to know the practically unknowable, which is what the FCC now expects a consumer to understand – i.e. which of their Internet bits from which type of device, offered by which type of entity, in which direction, are protected or not protected by the FCC now, and in which manner?

Simply, there is no clear way for the FCC to explain to the average consumer how they are better off with the FCC doing selectively, narrowly, and complexly what the FTC did comprehensively and simply before.

In sum, the FCC did not think this through.

The FCC also did not do a cost-benefit analysis as the President’s 2011 Executive Order 13563 required. The FCC was supposed to use “the least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends,” and to “adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify its costs.”

If the FCC simply followed the President’s 2011 Executive Order as required, the FCC and the American consumer would not be in the lose-lose position of creating lots more costs, confusion and complexity than before, without material and effective offsetting benefits for American consumers’ privacy.

Sadly, the American consumer looks to be worse off now, than if the FCC did not assert partial jurisdiction over consumer privacy at all.

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Thanks, FBI: We Real Worlders Find Elite World Inordinately Annoying. Again

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 2:48 PM

How about that FBI no-indictment announcement yesterday? Makes perfect sense to you, I bet.

Ok – I don’t bet that. At all.

What does make sense to us Real Worlders – is seeing yet another Elite get yet another Get-Out-of-Reality-Free card. It is all growing quite tiresome.

We Real Worlders are tired of the Elites’ limitless condescension – combined with incessant wrong-ness.

We’re tired of Elites who are clearly in possession of far less common sense (but many, many more degrees) – mandating ever more portions of our lives.

We’re tired of Elites committing multiple felonies and skating away un-indicted – while we get a ticket nigh every single time we park five minutes longer than the meter for which we paid allows.

A majority of the British people just told the European Union (EU) Elites to get out.

A majority of Americans who participated in the presidential primary totally rejected the Elites – voting for outsiders Donald Trump (in runaway record numbers) and Bernie Sanders.

Don’t think there is Trump-Sanders Elite disgust overlap?

Bernie Sanders Supporters Are Outraged over the FBI’s Decision on Hillary Clinton’s Emails

Sanders Supporters Melt Down over FBI’s Clinton Decision

A large part of the problem is the Elites’ self-created cocoons. In which all sorts of things happen (and don’t happen, eh Hillary Clinton?) that bear no resemblance to anything that goes on in the Real World.

In which academic discussions occur in a Reality-free-vacuum – with no concept of how terribly their ideas will damage the Real World. Which would only be annoying – if these babble-fests were cordoned off to the fevered swamps of college campus faculty lounges. The problem is – the Elites are increasingly trying to turn this nonsense into government policy.

To wit: The protection of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc). In Elite World, intellectual property is bizarrely considered less than physical property – and deserving of far less protection. And by many – none whatsoever.

As often happens in Elite World, the Constitution is completely ignored. Behold the Copyright Clause:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Meanwhile, the Elites write books like “Against Intellectual Property” and “Against Intellectual Monopoly.” They write essays like “Intellectual Property Rights Gone Wild” and “Intellectual Property Is Theft.” In which they say incredibly silly, anti-Constitutional things like:

Property is the exclusive right to use this boat, this paper, this trap, these speakers, this computer, this plastic, or this aluminum.

Monopoly is the exclusive right to use any boat to trade with India, to use any paper to make playing cards in 17th century England, to use any trap to catch beavers in North America, to use any speakers to play “Happy Birthday,” to use any computer to deliver a podcast or download “Happy Birthday,” to use any plastic and aluminum to build a certain kind of washing machine….

Since it is an exclusive right to use any means in a certain way, intellectual “property” is not property at all, but monopoly. Intellectual “property” is therefore a misnomer, euphemistically used by state-privileged monopolists to drape their monopolies in the mantle of property.

But Real Worlders aren’t warping the word “property” – the Elites are warping the word “monopoly.”

The Constitution mandates the “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” It is not exclusive use of ANY patent, trademark or copyright – it is exclusive use of the patent, trademark or copyright that they themselves create.

According to the above author’s weird IP analogy, my buying a car would allow me to drive any car I see. When in fact it only allows me to drive the car I purchased – and to retain monopolistic control over who else is allowed to drive it. For instance, I can lease my car to someone in exchange for payment.

Just as I can lease my patent to someone in exchange for payment. My (patented/trademarked/copyrighted) idea is like my car – it’s mine. The Constitution and common sense dictate that what’s mine is mine – and not wide open to theft by everyone else on the planet.

You know who agrees with me? The Real World. Even some Real Worlders who exist inside Elite World bubbles – but manage to remain un-addled thereby.

Protect Your Intellectual Rights, Budding Entrepreneurs Told

Americans Must Channel the Founders and Protect Artists’ Property Rights

5 Ways Intellectual Property Will Be Critical To Your Career: “(I)intellectual property (IP) – patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets – …is now the key engine of opportunity for almost any successful career in the future.”

If IP is important to your job(s) – and it is – it is important to jobs, period. Which means it is important to any hope for a growing economy.

There is great and growing evidence that most Elites care only about government growth – which is antithetical to economic growth. So they don’t mind stomping out IP – and thus the economy.

We Real Worlders understand this. Which is why we’re in the process of rejecting the Elites.

Here’s hoping we do so as rapidly as possible.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Heartland’s Jay Lehr on Making America Healthy Again with Exercise and … Global Warming!

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 2:47 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.

Help Heartland Celebrate #OurAmerica Throughout July The Heartland Institute has joined other nonprofit groups this July to bring our country together to emphasize what makes America fundamentally good and what distinguishes it from other nations. The goal of this new #OurAmerica coalition is to reenergize and provide hope for mainstream Americans who are demoralized by the erosion of American liberty and the constant assault on our core principles. Visit Heartland’s web page dedicated to this project, where you’ll find memes, videos, resources, and more! To celebrate American exceptionalism, use the hashtag #OurAmerica on your social media accounts to help express your pride and hope for the country’s future. LEARN MORE

The States’ Duty to Defend Against Federal Excess Rob Natelson, Heartland Policy Brief As more states approve applications for an Article V convention, opponents of constitutional reform continue to object to any potential changes to the all-important document. But as constitutional scholar Rob Natelson writes in this new Heartland Policy Brief, James Madison and other Founders “emphasized state officials’ obligation to interpose in a constitutional manner when the people are threatened by federal overreaching.”   READ MORE

Early Bird Rates Now Available for Heartland’s 32nd Anniversary Benefit Dinner  On Thursday, September 15, The Heartland Institute will celebrate its 32nd anniversary with a reception and dinner at The Cotillion, a fine banquet hall in Palatine, Illinois. Our keynote speaker will be political satirist and author P.J. O’Rourke, who will deliver an incisive and funny address about the 2016 election and the state of politics and culture in America today. Early bird rates end July 31 and seats will fill up fast, so don’t hesitate to buy your tickets today! READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Jay Lehr: Make America Healthy Again with Exercise and … Global Warming! For the past three decades, the media and culture has fed Americans the narrative the use of fossil fuels will lead to global warming and wreak havoc on future generations. But, in reality, we should be more concerned about potential global cooling. Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss the health benefits of moderate warming, as well as highlighting the fundamental problems with our “sick” care system.  LISTEN TO MORE

Visit Heartland’s #OurAmerica page to find other memes to share and
ideas on how to promote our shared values

Coming Next Week: Property Rights in 21st-Century America On Wednesday, July 20, authors Timothy and Christina Sandefur will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to talk about their book Property Rights in 21st-Century America. On Wednesday, July 27, Eric O’Keefe – who successfully fought back against the infamous “John Doe” investigations in Wisconsin – will be here to talk about how the power of the state can be used to silence patriotic Americans. You won’t want to miss either of these important presentations! We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

What Happens If the Social Costs of Carbon Goes Negative? H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly Two new climate studies have delivered a critical blow to global warming alarmism. Estimates driven by old computer models projected an increase of 1.2°C in global temperature if carbon-dioxide levels double. However, new research relying on available empirical data shows the climate’s sensitivity to higher amounts of carbon dioxide is much lower than previously thought – as low as 0.02°C if carbon-dioxide levels double. With these modest temperature projections, perhaps the Chicken Little tendencies of climate alarmists will subside. READ MORE

ACT: Common Core Does Not Prepare Students for College Jenni White, The Heartlander According to findings published by the American College Testing (ACT) National Curriculum Survey, Common Core State Standards fail to prepare students for college. According to the ACT survey, released in June, only 16 percent of college educators say incoming students are prepared for post-secondary coursework. “The college instructors are having to grapple with students who are not fully prepared for college writing,” said Mary Byrne, a former college professor and a member of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core. READ MORE

Video: Heartland Event Featuring Cedric Keith – A Discussion About Libertarian Ecology On July 7, environmental activist Cedric C. Keith came to The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to discuss his new book The Dying Fish: A Sojourn to the Source. At this interesting event, Keith spoke about his incredible 4,000-mile walk through the wilds of the Appalachian Trail to help preserve a supposedly endangered species: the brook trout. If you were unable to attend or watch the live-stream, you can see the whole presentation on our YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep45): Texas Public Policy Foundation, Article V, Privatization, and the Fourth of July John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in Episode #45 of the In The Tank Podcast. Jess Fields, Article V project coordinator at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, joins the show to discuss the importance of independence and give updates on the Article V movement. Also featured in the podcast is a study by the Cato Institute about privatization and a discussion about the most patriotic states.  LISTEN TO MORE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our 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

In The Tank Podcast (ep46): #OurAmerica, Monopolies and Antitrust, and Sin Taxes

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 10:30 AM

John and Donny are joined by Heartland Director of Communications Jim Lakely in episode #46 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 the Heartland Institute, the Center for American Progress, and the Commonwealth Foundation.

Better Know a Think Tank

In today’s edition of Better Know a Think Tank, John and Donny speak with Jim Lakely about the Heartland Institute’s announcement that we are joining a coalition in a month-long campaign in July to celebrate American exceptionalism. Jim discusses why the #OurAmerica campaign is important, which other organizations are involved, and why patriotism is downtrending.

Featured Work of the Week

In this Featured Work of the Week segment, Donny, John and Jim respond to a report from the Center for American Progress. The report, titled “Reviving Antitrust: Why Our Economy Needs a Progressive Competition Policy,” makes a case for expanding the use of antitrust to limit mergers and increase competition. Donny, John and Jim comment on what they liked about the report, and more importantly, what the report got wrong.

In the World of Think Tankery

In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny, John and Jim talk about an article from the Commonwealth Foundation titled “Sin-sylvania?” The article talks about how Pennsylvania takes in more tax revenue from “sin taxes.” A supplementary article titled “Three Reasons to Avoid Tobacco Taxes” explains why “sin taxes” should be avoided.

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.]

heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, in the tank, itt, donald kendal, donny kendal, john nothdurft, public policy, center for american progress, respond, cap, commonwealth foundation, sin taxes, monopolies, pa, antitrust,

Categories: On the Blog

Parents, Declare Your Education Independence

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 9:41 AM

On July 4, 1776, American colonists declared their independence from a distant monarchy in Great Britain that had passed mandate after mandate without input from the people over which it ruled. Today, lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington, DC and state capitals across the country pass mandates local schools hundreds or even thousands of miles away must obey or else face severe budget cuts.

These mandates are often detrimental for those looking to attain a quality education, such as assigning students to schools by their ZIP code, demanding students take feckless tests, and counting the number of hours students sit in their seats as a gauge of academic performance. Others are downright absurd, such as dictating what bathrooms and locker rooms students must use and restricting the width of doors. These mandates are a one-size-fits-all approach, bereft of any meaningful input from parents.

Now is the time for parents to declare education independence for their children.

The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions parents have the right to direct the education of their children, including in Meyer v. State of Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925). The court ruled in Meyer a state could not prohibit the teaching of children in a language other than English — based on 14th Amendment protections — and the Court determined such requirements violate the rights of teachers and parents “to control the education of their own.”

In Pierce, which arose after Oregon mandated students attend the local public school where they reside, the Supreme Court ruled, “Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska … [W]e think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. … The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

It is clear from these rulings and the history of our great nation parents have more power than they realize or exercise over how their children are educated. Parents have allowed state and federal bureaucrats to wield far too much control over their children.

Of course, the education bureaucrats will claim only they know what a child should learn and how he or she should learn it. They will also claim mandates are necessary and even good. They hope parents will just believe their talking points and willingly give up their rights. Many parents have trusted these false narratives and handed their children over to a system that is failing to provide many children with a quality education.

The 240th anniversary of a disaffected populace that broke free from an unaccountable bureaucracy is a time to remember the tenets of that original declaration: self-evident truths, equality, and unalienable rights. Governments are implemented by the people and for the people, and when they no longer obey the people, they are to be altered or replaced.

It is self-evident our federal and state elected officials and education departments have usurped unalienable parental rights, especially parents’ right to control the education of their children.

Parents, it is time to declare your education independence and to reassert your right to direct fully the education of your children, who have an unalienable right to seek the education that best fits their needs — regardless of income or ZIP code. Education freedom is the key to unlocking your children’s future, granting them access to a better life, liberty, and enabling them to succeed in their pursuit of happiness.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Kyle Maichle: A Debate About the Need for an Article V Convention

Somewhat Reasonable - July 07, 2016, 2:45 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Heartland Project Manager for Constitutional Reform, Kyle Maichle, joins the Steel on Steel radio show to talk about a potential Article V Convention.

Maichle is joined by Richard Fry, general counsel for the Patriot Coalition. Maichle and Fry debate on whether we need an Article V Convention.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Giving Every American $10,000 Could Solve the Minimum Wage Debate

Somewhat Reasonable - July 07, 2016, 2:22 PM

Whether raising the minimum wage would alleviate poverty or not has caused the public to argue intensely on either side of the issue, but what if the minimum wage debate isn’t the right one to have when addressing poverty?

According to a study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would bring 900,000 people out of poverty. As with everything in economics, there is a cost. The same study also finds it would cause a net loss of 500,000 jobs.

Some argue these job losses are a trade-off that must be made for the greater good, but how much “good” would be accomplished? How much would a minimum wage increase to $10.10 help families below the poverty line? The answer is not much. The Congressional Budget Office reports that “families whose income will be below the poverty threshold in 2016 under current law will have an average income of $10,700, CBO projects. The agency estimates that the $10.10 option would raise their average real income by about $300, or 2.8 percent,” up to $11,000.

In addition to the loss of jobs, the price of many goods would increase to allow employers to compensate for the minimum wage increase.

Fred Donnelly, the President of California Composites, which makes commercial plane parts, moved his company’s headquarters to Texas this year. When asked about the move he said, “This is the last thing I want to do, but I don’t see that I have a choice,” referring to the $15 minimum wage hike California passed. Is the solution to increase the minimum wage or something completely different?

One way to make the minimum wage debate obsolete would be to provide an unconditional basic income to every American in lieu of raising the minimum wage. Before conservatives dismiss the idea as some sort of back door to socialism, it would be wise to consider it was advanced by Milton Friedman, one of the modern conservative movement’s highly respected thinkers. He stated in his book, Capitalism and Freedom, “A negative income tax provides comprehensive reform which would do more efficiently and humanely what our present welfare system does so inefficiently and inhumanely.” Experts tend to equate the negative income tax to an unconditional basic income, UBI.

A UBI is not just a decades-old idea; it’s one that has been gaining significant attention in recent years. Libertarian political scientist Charles Murray published “In Our Hands” in 2006, which details what he believes to be an effective way to carry out a basic income plan. In June, Switzerland became the first country to vote on a basic income referendum. Although voters opposed the measure, it did bring widespread attention to the idea.

Under Murray’s plan, every American citizen 21 years of age and older would receive $10,000 of disposable income per year. There are, however, two main stipulations to his plan: The first one is that an unconditional basic income (UBI), would be funded by terminating “all other transfer payments and the bureaucracies that oversee them” as Murray put it in a recent Wall Street Journal article explaining his philosophy. This would eliminate the more than 80 welfare programs such as social security, food stamps, Medicaid, etc. Corporate welfare and farming subsidies would also need to be eliminated. Under Murray’s plan, those programs must be completely repealed before the first dollar on an UBI is spent – so they cannot be resurrected and “added” to an UBI at a later date.

According to Murray, with these measures in place, “as of 2014, the annual cost of a UBI would have been about $200 billion cheaper than the current system. By 2020, it would be nearly a trillion dollars cheaper.”

One of the points of opposition against a UBI is that it would diminish incentives to work. Ultimately, how an individual responds to this plan is up to them, but the way this specific UBI is set up would make work too valuable for most to stop. Earned income up to $30,000 would not result in any loss on the $10,000 due to taxes. Between $30,000 and $60,000 of income, the grant is taxable. At an income of $60,000, recipients would still keep $6,500 of the grant, and so would everyone in every other income level above that.

Since the grant is nontaxable up to a certain point and nontaxable after a certain point, every dollar a person earns outside of the grant is more money in their pocket. Stated another way, since there is a limit to how much a person can be taxed on the grant, the more a person works does not necessarily mean that they get to keep less of the grant. Of course, this will not incentivize everyone, but most will continue working once the grant is implemented.

Where does this leave the minimum wage debate? It becomes irrelevant. If a UBI of $10,000 were put into place, businesses could pay their employees the current minimum wage of their state, yet these employees would see their quality of life increase instantly. At the same time, there would be no adverse effects on these businesses, because the weight of being arbitrarily forced to increase their employee’s incomes disappears.

The United States might not be ready right now to start having a debate over an unconditional basic income. And no, it’s not going to solve all poverty problems, even if it’s adopted in its purest form. With that said, the UBI would allow businesses to operate freely and pay their employees a real market rate rather than an arbitrary amount set by government. While not perfect, this is an “out of the box” idea that could help alleviate poverty and make the minimum wage debate moot.

Victoria Hart (think@heartland.org) is an intern for the government relations department at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

New EPA Emissions Report Threatens Alabama Industries

Somewhat Reasonable - July 07, 2016, 10:46 AM

The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report on greenhouse gas emissions demonstrates shrewd political strategy — and a wanton disregard for objective science.

Using a new methodology that seems to have been designed to produce exactly the conclusion it did, the EPA has now found that the nation’s methane emissions have been dramatically higher in recent years than previously thought. And for the EPA, this is a story with a villain: In a major departure from earlier studies, this year’s report claims the oil and gas industry is the nation’s chief methane culprit.

Green activists were quick to trumpet the new findings as proof that the oil and gas industry is behind all of our environmental ills.

Never mind the undisputed evidence that oil and gas companies — including those right here in Alabama — have actually been helping drive the nation’s recent historic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than supporting an American energy model that continues to drive down emissions, regulators prefer the political convenience of pointing the finger at Big Oil.

There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of the EPA’s new data. First, years of government research show that methane emissions from the oil and gas industries have actually been falling. According to last year’s report from the EPA, methane pollution from natural gas dropped by nearly 11 percent from 2005 to 2013. The new study, by contrast, shows a decline of less than 1 percent during that period.

That statistic is mysterious considering that the energy sector has taken many steps to reduce emissions. Aaron Oil in Mobile, for example, filters fuels and oils that have been contaminated so they can be reused at maximum performance with fewer emissions. Meanwhile, Birmingham’s Alabama Power has embraced technology that produces electricity more efficiently, reducing overall emissions. Nationwide, since 2000, oil and gas companies have invested roughly $90 billion in technologies designed to slash harmful pollutants.

It’s also impossible to ignore the political ammunition these updated estimates provide for the Obama administration. The EPA recently issued new methane regulations to significantly cut methane pollution in the oil and gas sector. The revised findings will help justify these standards.

Regulations of this type are certain to raise the cost of everything from heating oil to gasoline, which makes them politically tricky. By crowning the oil and gas industry as the top emitters of methane, the EPA has manufactured precisely the scapegoat it needs.

At the same time, the report deflects attention from last year’s leader in methane emissions: animals like cattle, sheep, and swine. The 2015 EPA report found that the American livestock population has produced more methane pollution than the natural gas industry every year since at least 2009. For the Obama administration, it’s always about finding a villain, rather than a solution.

A regulatory crackdown aimed at the agricultural industry — or steak-lovers, for that matter — is a political non-starter. From the EPA’s perspective, better to focus the blame on the oil and gas industry.

But by putting politics before science, the EPA is attacking a vital component of Alabama’s economy. The state’s oil and gas sector supports over 100,000 jobs that pay an average $64,000 per year — over $20,000 more than the average salary statewide. And, the industry generates more than six percent of Alabama’s economic activity, bringing in $11.3 billion annually.

What’s more, the EPA is missing an opportunity to substantially reduce emissions. The shale energy boom has led to an abundance of low-cost natural gas — an energy source that emits roughly half the CO2 of coal. As domestic power-generation has moved towards this cleaner fuel in recent years, America’s emissions have fallen to nearly 20-year lows.

If environmental regulators are genuinely interested in cutting global emissions, then they should abandon their attempts to undermine one of the few industries making progress on this front. The EPA should work instead to spread this pollution-cutting energy model to other nations.

Consider exports of liquefied natural gas. At a time when America has become the global leader in natural gas production, Western Europe remains dependent on Russia for their gas. Expanding our natural gas exports would provide our allies with a more reliable supply of a fuel.

That environmentalists are unlikely to support such a policy is telling. As the new EPA report makes clear, the green movement is more interested in smearing the oil and gas industry than in acknowledging the facts — and protecting Alabama’s thriving energy sector.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

May Free Speech Reign and Scientific Inquiry Prevail

Somewhat Reasonable - July 06, 2016, 3:18 PM

Throughout the past four years, climate change activists have been secretly coordinating with one another regarding ways to prosecute individuals, organizations, and companies that are their ideological foes. They met to develop a strategy to use RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), which was intended to provide stronger weapons for prosecuting organized crime, against those who speak out against the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels.

More recently, the activists, including Naomi Oreskes and Bill McKibben, have coordinated with Attorneys General (AG) culminating with a March 29 press conference, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman and joined by former Vice President Al Gore. There the “unprecedented coalition”—as Schneiderman’s press release called it—was announced: the newly formed AGs for Clean Power. Though “vague” on their specific plans, 17 AGs (16 Democrats and 1 Independent) have, as the Huffington Post reported: “committed to pursuing an all-levers approach” to, as Gore said: “hold to account those commercial interests that have been, according to the best available evidence, deceiving the American people, communicating in a fraudulent way.”

ExxonMobil has been the first and most obvious target. While the RICO Act is federal legislation passed in 1970, more than two dozen states have “Baby RICO” laws—which are, according to InsideClimateNews.org, “broader than the federal version.”

Four different investigations claiming that Exxon conspired to cover up its understanding of climate science have been launched. Schneiderman was the first. Last November, he issued a subpoena demanding: “that ExxonMobil Corporation give investigators documents spanning four decades of research findings and communications about climate change.” In January, the Los Angeles Times announced: “California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change—and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.” On April 19, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey opened an investigation to seek “information regarding whether Exxon may have misled consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and climate change-driven risks to Exxon’s business.” Just days after the March 29 press conference, Virgin Islands’ AG Claude Walker, in his demand for records, became the first to cite the racketeering law to “probe Exxon over its longtime denial of climate change and its products’ role in it.” Additionally, he listed roughly 100 academic institutions and free market think tanks in his subpoena. The National Review reports that Walker promised a “transformational” use of his prosecutorial powers in the global-warming crusade. Separately, Walker also subpoenaed records from the respected Washington DC think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Schneiderman and Healey have also requested records from research and advocacy groups. Harris, who is running for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), “isn’t expected to do much in terms of investigating Exxon,” according to the Daily Caller.

The Free Beacon references “internal documents” stating that the goals of the larger campaign are:

  • “delegitimize [ExxonMobil] as a political actor,”
  • “force officials to disassociate themselves from Exxon,”
  • “drive divestment from Exxon,” and
  • “to drive Exxon & climate into center of 2016 election.”

`The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) adds:

  • “to establish in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm.”

Despite the attacks on Exxon, WSJ quotes Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund—one of the foundations behind the crusade—as saying: “It’s not really about Exxon.” Instead: “It’s about helping the larger public understand the urgencies of finding climate solutions.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has long advocated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate whether Exxon and other fossil fuel companies violated the RICO statute by disputing the role of fossil fuel burning in global warming, at a recent hearing, asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch if she’d considered using RICO against fossil fuel companies. She replied: “This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on.”

WSJ reports: “The new legal theory has yet to gain momentum within the Justice Department, according to officials familiar with internal discussions. But after prodding by lawmakers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a preliminary review.”

Even legal scholars, such as Columbia Law School professor Merritt B. Fox, who, according to Reuters, agrees with the importance of climate change, expressed skepticism about the legal strategy of the prosecutors: “The market was well supplied with information about climate change from a variety of sources.” Reuters adds: “investors get information on climate change from many sources and Exxon would probably not be able to alter the ‘total mix’ of publically available information.” Similarly, Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the Vermont Law School, is quoted by InsideClimateNews.org: “Hopefully there is something more than unsubstantiated suspicion to support this.” Parenteau explains: “The most serious question is whether the attorney general [Walker] has any basis to suspect that Exxon has engaged in activities that violate the statutes about obtaining money by false pretense and fraud.” In WSJ, David Uhlmann, a university of Michigan law professor and former federal crimes prosecutor, expressed concern regarding the ability to establish “clear culpability for global warming.” The reporting says: “Millions of individuals contribute with their use of fossil fuels, while national governments have done little despite knowing the risks.” Uhlmann states: “Exxon should have been far more forthright about the risks associated with climate change, but all of us are culpable for our collective failure to change.”

Then there are the opponents. WSJ points out: “Both sides see this as a pivotal moment in a growing campaign by environmentalists to deploy a legal strategy used against tobacco companies in the 1990s by arguing that oil companies have long hidden what they know about climate change.”

Late last month, five Republican Senators sent a letter to Lynch demanding that: “the DOJ immediately cease its ongoing use of law enforcement to stifle private debate on one of the most controversial issues of our time—climate change.”

William Perry Pendley, whose group, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, is named in Walker’s subpoena, told me the effort by environmental groups is: “an abuse of power that we haven’t seen in this country since Woodrow Wilson.” His foundation, according to the Washington Times, has “long acknowledged that Exxon is one of its many funders.” Pendley says: “accepting funding from Exxon and disagreeing with Greenpeace on the causes and extent of climate change are not crimes. What we are accused of saying is: ‘Maybe there isn’t global warming, maybe it’s not caused by man, and maybe your solution won’t work. It will be too expensive and drive us into poverty.’”

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for the Reason Foundation—also named in Walker’s subpoena—said, according to the Washington Times: “These subpoenas are a huge step in using courts to silence people who hold views that differ from those of powerful government officials.”

CEI, the organization singled out for Walker’s separate subpoena, issued the following statement from president Ken Lassman: “All Americans have the right to support causes they believe in and the CEI subpoena is an abuse of the legal system and an effort to intimidate and silence individuals who disagree with certain attorneys general on the climate debate. Disagreeing with a government official is not a crime; abusing government power to take away Americans’ rights is.”

I know this to be true as my organization, though not featured on Walker’s list, is still a victim. We had some essential funding in place that would have allowed us to continue for months without extreme financial stress. However the DC policy shop that was to provide the support for our efforts, pulled it as a result of the AG’s campaign. I was told that the funding was approved, but that when I wrote my April 25 column on the film Climate Hustle—which questions the science behind the politically correct narrative of manmade catastrophic climate change—the board got cold feet because they, too, are one of the organizations on the list. At first, I wanted to quit, as without the funding I couldn’t continue. But then, I got mad. I realized that if I stopped doing what I do, these AGs would win—which is their goal. Indirectly, they attempted to silence me. I am grateful for individuals and companies who believe in my work and who have stepped up to fill the funding gap—at least for a few months.

Those of us who’ve been attacked are not the only ones who saw the flaw of the AG’s crusade. Exxon and CEI have filed lawsuits against the accusers. Exxon claimed that the subpoenas “violated constitutional amendments on free speech, unreasonable search and seizure and equal protection.” As a result, last week, Walker withdrew his subpoenas and Healey, reports the Daily Caller, has “agreed to an abeyance of the subpoena, meaning her office won’t enforce the subpoena until all legal appeals are exhausted, which may take a couple of years.”

In a big victory for free speech, The Hill states: “The withdrawal closes a major chapter in the drive by liberals and environmentalists to punish Exxon over allegations that it knew decades ago that fossil fuels were causing climate change but denied it publically.”

In response to the “retreat,” Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology said: it “confirms what my committee has known all along—these legal actions were conceived and driven by environmental groups with an extreme political agenda and no actual regard for the law.” His statement added: “Companies, nonprofit organizations and scientists deserve the ability to pursue research free from intimidation and threat of prosecution.”

The Heartland Institute, for which I serve as an “expert” on energy issues, is also on the “list.” Its president, Joe Bast, told me: “because there is a lively debate over the causes and consequences of climate change, this litigation has First Amendment implications.” He added: “It is not the possibility of harm to the public that led the AGs and DOJ to decide to enter into a wickedly complicated scientific debate, but the possibility of harm to the current administration in the White House. Their objective is to silence opposition by ExxonMobil and CEI (and other nonprofit organizations similar to CEI) to this administration’s draconian energy policies.”

Where these attacks on free speech go next remains to be seen. But as Texas AG Ken Paxton said in response to Walker’s withdrawal: “In America, we have the freedom to disagree, and we do not legally prosecute people just because their opinion is different from ours.”

May free speech reign and scientific inquiry prevail. True science welcomes a challenge because it can stand up to it—while political correctness must silence challenge.

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

Our Air Is Getting Cleaner, And Natural Gas Deserves Some Fracking Credit

Somewhat Reasonable - July 06, 2016, 3:06 PM

A new study released by the World Health Organization (WHO) says although outdoor air pollution worldwide has increased by 8% in the past five years, air quality in the United States has become cleaner. A key reason that air quality has improved is because more Americans than ever are now relying on natural gas, and burning natural gas emits fewer pollutants into the atmosphere than burning coal.

The air in this country is getting cleaner, and natural gas deserves some fracking credit.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has turned the U.S. into the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Fracking has unleashed so much natural gas that prices have plummeted in the past several years, which has made it cheaper to generate electricity from burning natural gas than from coal. This is an important part of explaining why WHO recorded lower levels of air pollutants in the U.S.

Burning natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal, and it also emits lower levels of other pollutants as well. For example, natural gas emits one-third the nitrogen oxides and only 1% of the sulfur oxides that are produced by burning coal.

These two compounds can combine with water vapor in the atmosphere to create very small particles — particles measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are commonly referred to as PM2.5. When these particles are present in very high concentrations, they have been linked to negative health impacts such as increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.

Get instant access to exclusive stock lists and powerful tools on Investors.com. Try us free for 4 weeks.

Not only did WHO find that air quality has improved in the United States in recent years, the study found that cities in North America generally have cleaner air than in Europe, where several countries — including France, Germany and Ireland — have placed moratoriums or bans on hydraulic fracturing.

According to WHO data, only 20% of North American cities exceeded their recommended levels of PM2.5 — which are more restrictive than levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — compared to Europe, where 60% of urban areas experienced air quality that was above the recommended concentrations.

Air quality was even worse in low- and middle-income countries, where an astonishing 98% of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants exceeded WHO recommendations, largely because they do not have the same technology that reduces pollution from coal-fired power plants.

As unrealistic as it may seem, there are 2.6 billion people (approximately 38% of the total population) in the developing world still using wood and animal dung to cook their food and heat their homes. Burning wood and animal dung in their houses causes indoor air pollution that kills 4 million people every year, more than double the amount of people who are killed by malaria or HIV/AIDS.

Fracking for natural gas represents an opportunity to reduce the amount of particle pollution in the air without increasing the cost of electricity. This is important because low-income families pay a much larger percentage of their income on energy costs, meaning that they have to work more hours and spend less time with their kids when energy prices rise.

The EPA conducted a thorough assessment of fracking and found no evidence that fracking led to widespread or systemic impacts on groundwater quality, and it found that although surface spills and well-casing leaks have occurred, they are rare compared to the number of wells drilled.

Not only does fracking help reduce air pollution and keep energy prices stable, it does so without harming water quality. It’s time for anti-fracking activists to give credit where credit is due.

[Originally published at Investor’s Business Daily]

Categories: On the Blog
Syndicate content