On the Blog

Constitutionally Limited Gov’t: A Pragmatic Response to Gov’t Picking Winners and Losers

Somewhat Reasonable - May 03, 2016, 3:27 PM

In a recent article published by Bloomberg View, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein discusses “an important but widely overlooked speech” made by Elizabeth Warren (D), in which the Massachusetts senator bemoans the influence of powerful industry groups on the regulatory process. To Warren, the problem is not overzealous administrative bodies, eager to impose unwanted, unnecessary new rules, but regulatory capture—the notion regulation is, in the words of economists Michael E. Levine and Jennifer L. Forrence, “simply an arena in which special interests contend for the right to use government power for narrow advantage.”

Libertarians have been touting the insights of regulatory capture theory for a long time, and its ideas are simple enough: Special-interest groups have a concrete incentive and the resources to engage in the convoluted minutiae of the regulatory process, whereas the citizenry at large has neither. The general population doesn’t have the time, money, or the inclination to engage in byzantine federal rulemaking affairs, which means well-organized pressure groups have a significant advantage and an opportunity to tailor rules not for the public good but in accordance with their own interests.

It is refreshing to see a prominent progressive acknowledge this conundrum, particularly because the modern administrative state, often called the fourth branch of government, is a distinctly progressive invention. At the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Progressive Era, reformers began to see the Enlightenment principles of traditional or classical liberalism as outdated and obsolete, at odds with new scientific and political thinking. Guided by the objectivity of science, and therefore allegedly free of bias, federal experts in new executive branch agencies would work with academia, think tanks, and the private sector to chart the correct course to rescue society from the perceived precariousness and chaos of a laissez-faire system.

The problem is the one Warren highlights: Even if we assume sclerotic bureaucracies are able to identify the ever-elusive “public good,” what incentive do they have to serve it and not their own ends? Progressivism and its crusaders simply never bothered to answer this fundamental question; their solution is always to further concentrate power in the executive branch of the federal government by giving increasing amounts of authority to unaccountable, unelected “public servants.”

As is so often the case, there is a grain of truth in Warren’s speech, but it’s one that is quickly lost to basic misunderstandings about the interactions between the government and the economy. In all of her worries about the dangerous power of special interests, Warren seems not to realize that as the power of the administrative state has grown, so too has the list of perquisites available to it and the opportunities for corruption and collusion.

Today’s libertarians and conservatives believe limited government, individual rights, and robust private property never stopped being good ideas, that the progressive administrative state gives far too much power and discretion to supposed experts—power that ought to be vested in the free and voluntary spheres of civil society. Moreover, we challenge the legal bases of the administrative state as a constitutionally-suspect revival of, as legal scholar Philip Hamburger describes it, “the era of the prerogative,” a time of arbitrary class rule.

The administrative state and its “law” represent a return to a government of men rather than law. It’s based on the idea we need not worry about pesky notions of the separation of powers. Constitutionally limited government isn’t some aesthetic fetish of libertarians and conservatives; it is a pragmatic response to the problems associated with concentrated political power and an attempt to divide that power and prevent the kind of political economy that sadly rules today: government picking winners and losers.

Real regulatory reform—reform that actually addresses the fundamental problem—means retrenchment, diminishing the authority of the administrative state and dispensing with millions of its pernicious rules.

[Originally published at CNSnews]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Hans von Spakovsky: Nonprofit Organizations and Donor Privacy

Somewhat Reasonable - May 03, 2016, 3:16 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with The Heritage Foundation’s senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky about the fallout from California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ (D) attempt to force Americans for Prosperity, a national nonprofit organization advocating for fiscal responsibility in government, to make the private information of contributors public information.

Von Spakovsky explains why registries detailing the private contributions of individuals to private organizations are not necessary for good governance. Instead, he explains, lawmakers often propose donor disclosure laws to reduce the ability of groups of people to criticize them. Liberal groups, he says, often advocate for donor disclosure laws because they seek to enable their members to harass and ostracize individuals contributing to causes with which those liberal groups disagree.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Schnare: State AGs Colluding with Radical Environmental Groups

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2016, 1:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, David Schnare, general counsel of the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, joins H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the collusion between state attorney’s general and radical environmental groups.

Schnare talks about some of the work being done at the Energy & Environment Legal Institute finding state AGs investigating climate skeptics in an attempt to silence them have been trying to cover up the fact they have been collaborating with radical environmental groups.

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

Categories: On the Blog

What’s Up With Prices at the Pump and Why it Could Be a Good Sign

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2016, 11:19 AM

All of us loved paying less than $2 a gallon at the pump. AAA reports: “Americans paid cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years”—which resulted in savings of nearly $10 billion compared to the same period last year. However, oil (and, therefore gasoline) has been creeping upward since the February low—topping $45 a barrel, a high for the year. And that could be a good thing.

While low prices at the pump have been a boon to consumers, the plunge in oil prices has been a bust for American producers.

Throughout the past 20 months, crude oil prices have dropped almost 80 percent, nearly 300,000 people are out of work, and corporate valuations for oil and gas companies have plummeted—even Exxon Mobil’s credit rating has been downgraded. In this environment, bankruptcies are frequent, and stock portfolios and retirement funds are feeling the pinch.

You may not care about “big oil,” but there’s still reason to be positive about the rising prices.

There are several causes for uptick. First is the weaker U.S. dollar. As oil is traded in dollars, a weaker dollar means that it takes more of them to buy the same amount of oil.

Additionally, we are heading into a busy summer driving season and refineries are switching to the more expensive “summer blend.” The switch typically means a brief shut down for maintenance—which reduces the gasoline supply. Summer driving increases demand.

Globally, oil production is down due to a workers’ strike in Kuwait that took about 1.3 million barrels a day of production offline, and disruptions in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the North Sea. Former investment advisor and financial writer Tony Daltorio writes: “That brought the total to roughly 3 million barrels a day that were offline.” In the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “oil production has fallen below 9 million barrels a day in recent weeks, down from a peak of 9.7 million barrels a day last April.”

In addition to supply contractions, there is a “risk” factor in the calculations. Risk can mean disruptions from a geo-political situation, such as those threatening to erupt in the Middle East, or weather. Because of the now-constant volatility in the Gulf States, that risk is already factored into the global price of crude oil.

But risk can also come from weather disruptions. Energy economist Tim Snyder explains: “Last week’s hurricane prediction report from renowned Colorado State University Professor, Dr. Phil Klotzbach predicted that due to more of a La Niña pattern we should see a slightly more active hurricane season in 2016 than the last couple of years. He predicted 12 named storms with 6 hurricanes and 3 of them category 3 or higher. The fact that the first storm of the season was Alex, in January, has prognosticators worried and has added to the risk premium in the price of crude oil. The risk of a hurricane can—and most of the time does—cause supply disruptions and damage to a port and/or a refinery.”

These are all supply issues that can easily be eradicated with increased production—such as recently threatened by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, in the U.S., reports Bloomberg: “Drilled, uncompleted wells could return 500,000 barrels a day back to the market.” The potential for increased production has many, including Daltorio, predicting a fall in price from current levels.

Consumers like lower prices, but they signal economic concerns as the price of oil is directly connected to the global economy.

In February, a Citibank strategist warned that due to the extended oil price collapse, the global economy “appears to be trapped in a death spiral.” Eric Sharpe, Publisher atEnergy Ink Magazine, states: “Citi’s assessment is clear, and easy to understand: weak global growth results in continued depressed oil prices as demand weakens under over-supply.” Conversely, strong growth increases demand—which raises prices.

This is why I posit higher prices are a good thing for everyone, not just the oil industry.

Simple economics are based on a supply vs. demand formula. So far, I’ve mostly addressed the supply side. But a careful read of the forecasts indicates an increase in the demand side. Sharpe points out: “The single most important factor for the stabilization of oil prices is for demand to outpace growth which it has not done for over two years. Though demand growth is slow, it is still climbing.”

On April 23, the Financial Times reported that commodities, led by oil, rallied “on signs of stronger growth” that bolstered demand. It also referenced: “better housing and infrastructure demand after China’s economy rebounded in March.”

On April 27, in a story about the price of oil hitting “another 2016 high,” WSJ addressed the fact that the Federal Reserve officials “left interest rates unchanged.” The last time the same decision was made, the statement included language that indicated the global economic and financial conditions posed risks to their outlook. This time, that was removed—“signaling less concern about risks posed to the U.S. Economy by global financial conditions.” In WSJ, Robert Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA, is quoted as saying: “The elimination of international elements in the language may mean that the market feels that the international situation is improving, and we’ll get a bit of demand from emerging markets which wasn’t there.”

Additionally, Phil Flynn, Sr. Market Analyst at the PRICE Futures Group and a Fox Business Channel contributor, in his daily energy report, on April 22, wrote: “Demand is busting out all over.” He explains: “Low gas prices are causing a buying frenzy at the pump as gasoline demand in the month of March hit an all-time record high.” He continues: “But it’s not just gasoline demand, it is oil demand all over. Not just here in the United States but also in China. China reported that crude-oil imports in March were up a whopping 21.6% from last year coming in close to 7.7 million barrels a day. …China’s demand for imported oil is stronger than it has ever been.” He also addressed; “the strongest ever volume increase in Indian demand.”

So there is growing demand.

There is also decreased production and dramatic cuts in the spending on new exploration and development (Flynn reports: “In February, ExxonMobil cut capex [capital expenditures] by a quarter to 23.2 million”). Many are seeing the loss of billions and billions of barrels of oil in the future. In his daily Corn & Ethanol report, Phil’s brother, Daniel Flynn (also with the Price Futures Group), on April 29 wrote: “On the crude oil front the market is trading higher on fundamentals and the expected weaker earnings from the Big Three today that should fundamentally show that they cannot keep up capital spending to meet demand with the huge losses suffered—which should catapult oil futures even higher.”

Snyder analyzed the oil supplies on hand, how much we are going to need to meet refinery demand, and how much crude oil we are producing in the U.S.—Supply vs. demand vs. production. He concluded that we have about 33 days of demand in storage. He says: “All of a sudden, 33 days of oversupply doesn’t look like such a big number.”

“The market is coming in better balance,” Jason Gammel, an analyst at Jefferies, stated, according to the WSJ. “We maintain the view that the current oversupply will flip into an undersupply in the second half of the year.”

Sharpe concludes: “Cautious optimism has finally begun to permeate the industry.”

While this is good news for the oil industry, it is also good for everyone—even though it means higher prices at the pump. If this optimistic view is correct, it means the global economy—despite the bad economic news on the American front—may be heading toward a net positive; that it is not “trapped in a death spiral.”

A growing economy needs energy. And strong growth means job security and higher wages. That is why higher demand—that equals higher prices—is good for everyone.

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

Heartland Institute Panel: Vaping as a Public Policy ‘War’

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2016, 10:48 AM

Public Health England in August of 2015 became the first national government agency to endorse e-cigarettes as safer options for current smokers. Its report also dispelled several bogus anti-tobacco claims. Why is it that e-cigarettes are seen as life-savers by the UK Government, but condemned by the US?  Find out why by checking this April 13 article.

Brian Fojtik, guest speaker at The Heartland Institute’s event about “The Vaping War” on April 20 (watch above and see Part 1 of this post), linked the “war” on vaping to 52 years ago when the Surgeon General recognized tobacco as a health hazard — and the avalanche of anti-smoking programs ever since. Even though many e-cig users begin vaping to wean themselves off tobacco products, why do e-cigarette smokers reap the same hatred from the non-smoking public as those who smoke tobacco cigarettes? Might it be because people are taught not only to hate cigarettes, but also to hate those who once smoked them? Does it not matter that tobacco smokers are transitioning to products that are safer for them and everyone around them? Apparently not.

Vaping as a Consumer-Driven Business

More and more individuals desire a safe and effective smoking cessation aid — so it is no wonder that the number of consumer driven vapor shops are growing to (currently) 15,000 vapor shops in the US.  These are all relatively new businesses; people are employed and property taxes are paid. When there are people who want something, products are offered as a solution to the problem. This is the free market at work. Regulations and taxes only inhibit innovation in a free market system — but regulations and taxes are coming fast.

Pharmaceutical companies continually come up with new products to help people stop smoking, but each new product must receive FDA approval, which requires an expensive and lengthy process to market a new product. This is no huge hurdle for Big Pharma. But the vaping industry is just getting started, and cannot afford to jump through FDA hoops and have each vaping product approved by the FDA — which is why it is important to limit the FDA’s authority in vaping. As the law kinda stands now, every different vaping flavor would require new FDA approval at a great cost and with considerable approval time.

Fortunately, the vaping industry enjoyed a bit of a victory on April 14 when the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve an amendment to the FY 2017 Agricultural Appropriations bill that would change the predicate date for “newly deemed” tobacco products. Under previous FDA regulations, vaping products on the market since 2007 would be essentially “newly deemed” — essentially making the entire vaping industry illegal. Thankfully, that is not the case — as long as President Obama signs the current Agriculture Appropriations Bill. 

Victoria Vasconcello, former long-time smoker and owner of Cignot Inc.

As already noted in Part 1, Ms. Vasconcello — who spoke at the Heartland vaping event — is a former long-time smoker who has been in the vaping business since 2009.  She considers vaping a consumer-driven solution to a problem, i.e. people who want to stop smoking cigarettes.

In response to a question from the audience about what what the vaping community can do to help, Vasconcello suggested vapers should join the 135,000 member CASAA, and contact local legislators to inform them about the issue. The science is out there to support the use of e-cigarettes, she said (paraphrasing). Help legislators know what the science is. Genuine fear develops from not knowing the truth. Finally, at long last, smokers have found something that helps them quit cigarettes, and they are standing up and fighting with truth on their side. Consumers do have power!

Concluding Thoughts

Support for the vaping community can be broadened by minimizing the arguments of center-left groups.  Unfortunately, PR hasn’t been on the side of e-cigarettes to enable them to become mainstream — unlike in England where the government backs e-cigarettes for smokers. There is limited money in the vaping community to get out the truth. This results in most of the studies being done by those who hold positions against e-cigarettes. The minds of the American people must be changed. A new poll finds that Americans’ Risk Perception of Vaping is All Wrong. There is work to do.

Working against the case of vaping is the fact that government is addicted to the money it receives from tobacco products. This money is decreasing as smoking decreases, so governments want to tax e-cigarettes to keep the “tobacco coffers” filled. The good news: 500 pieces of legislation have tried to tax or restrict vaping in recent years, but only a few  have passed. Writing letters to the editor of your local paper are an old-school way to go, but is a good way to educate the public about e-cigarettes.  

E-Cigs in Chicago

Below are three articles that show how Chicago is dealing with e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette tax referred to in the first article went into effect on January 1, 2016. 

Chicago’s Deadly E-Cigarette Tax Takes Effect Tomorrow

Chicago Vaping Tax is About Cigarette Tax Dollars, Not Health

Rahm Emanuel’s E-Cig Tax Will Kill Smokers & Small Businesses

The following are additional note-worthy e-cigarette articles:

Articles by Brad Radu, Heartland’s Senior Fellow who holds the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville.

This Wall Street Journal article published on April 11, 2016

The article “Are E-Cigarettes a Healthy Way to Quit Smoking?” presents both sides of the vaping debate. Even though use e-cigarette sales have been growing, they remain dwarfed by the $100 billion tobacco market. 

See the full video of The Heartland Institute’s Vaping Event in the player above. And see Part 1 of my recap of the issues talked about at that event here.

Categories: On the Blog

States Should Not Increase Tobacco Use Age to 21

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2016, 10:41 AM

Some states, including California and Illinois, are now considering proposals that would increase the legal age limit required to consume tobacco and tobacco-like products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 years old to 21. Hawaii was the first state to enact such laws, which became effective January 1, 2016.

Health policy advocates argue an increase in age is necessary to protect the health of our youth, but does this type of policy actually help the general welfare of the population?

The National Institute on Drug abuse reports in its study Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs 58 percent of 12th graders reported consuming alcohol in the past year in 2015. Additionally, 35 percent of respondents reported having used marijuana in the past year, and over 21 percent had said they used the drug within a month of taking the survey. Alcohol and marijuana are both illegal substances for 18 year olds in every state, even in states where marijuana is legal, but that didn’t stop these teens from finding a way to obtain them. It is clear criminalizing the use of these substances has not been an efficient deterrent.

The age of first-time smokers does seem to be connected to adult tobacco consumption. The Surgeon General reports almost 90 percent of smokers began smoking before 18. According to some data, 99 percent of all cigarette smokers begin smoking by the age of 26. If the current age for legal consumption of cigarette products is not impacting the rates of smoking, how would increasing the age make a difference? Why not just increase the limit to 26 years old?

Another key point these age limits miss is the positive impact electronic cigarettes are having on smoking rates. Including e-cigarettes under legislation as “tobacco products” would likely have a negative effect in the fight against youth smoking. Recent evidence suggests e-cigarettes may actually deter teenagers from traditional cigarettes, and numerous studies show they are a much safer alternative to tobacco. If a state decides to ban a 19-year-old consumer from purchasing either traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the advantages linked to vaping and other tobacco alternatives will be significantly reduced.

Perhaps the strongest argument against these proposals is that they limit individual freedom and make the government the arbiter of what is moral. Bureaucrats have become the nation’s nannies, babying each one of us from our first moments on Earth until our very last breath. At the age of 18, a person enters new parameters of life. They are able to go to war, to vote, to be held legally responsible for contracts that can amass significant debt, such as credit cards and student loans, and at 18 years old, a person can and will be defined as an adult in a court of law. But despite all of the responsibilities the government heaps on young adults, many officials believe they simply can’t handle making tobacco-related—or even electronic cigarette-related—decisions.

The argument many use when advocating for such measures is that it’s comparable to the national alcohol consumption age limit of 21 years old, but such a comparison is completely unwarranted. When former President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, it collided against his own philosophical view of a limited role of government, but drunken driving, which Reagan referred to as “a national tragedy involving transit across state borders,” was a significant public health concern at the time and the key rationale behind the legislation. Cigarettes do not have the same dangers associated with them, so similar action is nothing less than a spectacular example of government overreach.

It’s time to let our adults be just that: adults. The evidence shows increasing the age limit required to consume tobacco and e-cigarettes will be a wasted effort that could actually lead to negative externalities, such as a loss of tax revenues, wasting police resources, and higher smoking rates. Even worse, it would send a false and dangerous message to an entire generation of Americans that it is proper for the government to tell adults how to live their lives.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

Elizabeth Warren Despises ‘Special Interests,’ But Supports Their Master: The Administrative State

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2016, 8:48 AM

In a recent article at Bloomberg View, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein discusses “an important but widely overlooked speech” by Elizabeth Warren, in which the Massachusetts senator bemoans the influence of powerful industry groups on the regulatory process. To Warren, the problem is not overzealous administrative bodies, eager to impose unwanted, unnecessary new rules, but regulatory capture — the notion that regulation is, in the words of economists Michael E. Levine and Jennifer L. Forrence, “simply an arena in which special interests contend for the right to use government power for narrow advantage.”

Libertarians have been touting the insights of regulatory capture theory for a long time, and its ideas are simple enough: Special interest groups have both a concrete incentive and the resources to engage in the convoluted minutiae of the regulatory process, whereas the citizenry at large has neither. The general population doesn’t have the time, money, or the inclination to engage in byzantine federal rulemaking affairs, which means that well-organized pressure groups have a significant advantage and, importantly, an opportunity to tailor rules not for the public good but in accordance with their own interests.

It is refreshing to see a prominent progressive acknowledge this conundrum, particularly because the modern administrative state, often called the fourth branch of government, is a distinctly progressive invention. At the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Progressive Era, reformers began to see the Enlightenment principles of traditional or classical liberalism as outdated and obsolete, at odds with new scientific and political thinking. Guided by the objectivity of science and therefore free of bias, federal experts in new executive branch agencies would work with academia, think tanks, and the private sector to chart the correct course, to rescue society from the perceived precariousness and chaos of laissez-faire.

The problem, of course, is the one that Warren highlights: Even if we assume that sclerotic bureaucracies are able to identify the ever-elusive “public good,” what incentive do they have to serve it and not their own ends? Progressivism and its crusaders simply never bothered to answer this fundamental question; their solution is always to further concentrate power in the executive branch of the federal government, in unaccountable, unelected “public servants.” As is so often the case, there is a grain of truth of Warren’s speech, but one that is quickly lost to basic misunderstandings about the interactions between the government and the economy. In all of her worries about the dangerous power of special interests, Warren seems not to realize that as the power of the administrative state has grown, so too has the list of perquisites available to it and the opportunities for corruption and collusion.

Today’s libertarians and conservatives believe that limited government, individual rights, and robust private property never stopped being good ideas, that the progressive administrative state gives far too much power and discretion to supposed experts — power that is rightly vested in the free and voluntary spheres of civil society. Moreover, we challenge the legal bases of the administrative state as a constitutionally-suspect revival of, as legal scholar Philip Hamburger describes it, “the era of the prerogative,” a time of arbitrary class rule.

The administrative state and its “law” represent a return to a government of men rather than law, based on the idea that we need not worry about pesky notions of the separation of powers. Constitutionally limited government isn’t some aesthetic fetish of libertarians and conservatives; it is a pragmatic response to the problems associated with concentrated political power, an attempt to divide that power and prevent the kind of political economy that sadly obtains today, government picking winners and losers.

Real regulatory reform — that is, reform that actually addresses the fundamental problem — means retrenchment, diminishing the authority of the administrative state and dispensing with millions of its pernicious rules.

Categories: On the Blog

InsideClimate News = Inside Climate Propaganda

Somewhat Reasonable - May 01, 2016, 5:06 PM

Have you ever wondered how the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel and your local media always seem to present similar one-sided stories on climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy and other environmental issues? How their assertions become “common knowledge,” like the following?

Global temperatures are the hottest ever recorded. Melting ice caps are raising seas to dangerous levels. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts have never been more frequent or destructive. Planet Earth is at a tipping point because of carbon dioxide emissions. Fracking is poisoning our air, water and climate. 97% of scientists agree. A clean renewable energy future is just around the corner.

It’s as if a chain of command, carefully coordinated process or alliance of ideological compatriots was operating behind the scenes to propagate these fables. This time, conspiracy theorists have gotten it right.

A major player in this process and alliance is one that most citizens and even businessmen and politicians have never heard of. InsideClimate News (ICN) has been called “highly influential,” a “pioneer of nonprofit advocacy journalism,” the recipient of “prestigious awards” for “high-impact investigative stories” on important environmental issues.

The Washington Free Beacon, National Review and Energy in Depth offer detailed and far less charitable assessments. Less friendly observers, they note, call ICN a “mouthpiece” for extreme environmentalist groups, because it is run by and out of a deep-green public relations consultancy (Science First) and is funded almost exclusively by wealthy foundations that share its and the PR firm’s anti-fossil fuel, pro-renewable energy, Bigger Government agenda. ICN was founded by David Sasoon, a true believer in catastrophic manmade climate change who wants to do all he can “to usher in the clean energy economy.”

Even praise from its supporters underscores the dark side of this “influential” force in eco-journalism. Its approach is “advocacy,” not fairness, accuracy or balance. Its goal is to drive a monolithic, hard-line, environmentalist narrative and political agenda, with little suggestion that other perspectives even exist.

Some of its awards come from an organization that has itself become politicized and too closely allied with Big Green views and organizations: the Society of Environmental Journalists. They increasingly operate too much as mutual admiration societies and support groups, say outside observers.

ICN and its Science First alter ego received their 2007 startup grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where Sasoon once served as a consultant. They now derive the bulk of their funding from the RBF, NEO Philanthropy (aka, Public Interest Projects), Marlisa Foundation and Park Foundation. These and other sugar daddies are covered in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff report, which describes a “Billionaire’s Club” of “left-wing millionaires and billionaires [which] directs and controls the far-left [US] environmental movement.”

The same foundations also give major tax-exempt donations to the Sierra Club, Earthworks, NRDC, EarthJustice, the climate crisis coalition 350.org, and many other anti-coal, anti-drilling, anti-fracking, anti-Keystone pressure groups that together form the $10-billion-a-year US environmentalist industry.

ICN has active partnerships with the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Bloomberg News and other media organizations that help coordinate and disperse stories. The Times promotes the “dangerous manmade climate change” meme and refuses to print letters that reflect skeptical views.

The Associated Press has likewise become a reliable purveyor of manmade climate chaos stories. The Weather Channel and ICN teamed up in 2014 on a series of “investigative reports” that claimed hydraulic fracturing was causing serious environmental and human health problems in Texas.

The partners team up and coordinate to “have one group write on an issue, another quote them or link to them, and so on,” Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor explains. “It keeps going until they create this perception that there’s real concern over an issue, and it bubbles up to top liberal sites like Huffington Post, and from there into the traditional media,” which itself is too predisposed to the green narrative.

The foundations “have incorporated ostensibly dispassionate news outlets into their grant-making portfolios,” says the Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay, “creating what some describe as self-sustaining environmentalist echo chambers.”

They make it look like widespread public concern and spontaneous grassroots action – when in reality it is loud but small Astroturf activism, orchestrated by the ICN brigade and the foundations behind it.

InsideClimate News now brags about its involvement in the extensive collusion among the leftist foundations, environmental pressure groups and state attorneys general that are devising, coordinating and advancing AG prosecutions of ExxonMobil, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other groups for alleged “racketeering” and “fraud,” to hold them “legally accountable for climate change denial.”

The efforts “stretch back at least to 2012,” ICN notes, when a meeting was held in California to develop legal strategies. In late 2015, letters from several Democrat members of Congress called for investigating and prosecuting climate skeptics; the letters cited independent journalism “investigations by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News” to back up their request.

However, the intrepid Times and ICN investigators had conducted no investigation. They simply parroted and amplified “research” from a group of activist professors and students at the Columbia School of Journalism – without disclosing who had funded the CSJ studies. Transparency for thee, but not for me.

It was George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Foundation, Energy Foundation, Lorana Sullivan Foundation and Tellus Mater Foundation – all of which virulently oppose hydrocarbon production and actively promote climate change alarmism.

Emails subpoenaed by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute later revealed that many of the same environmentalist groups and lawyers met again in January 2016 at a secret meeting in the Rockefeller Family Fund’s Manhattan offices. Yet another secret meeting was held in March 2016, between climate activists and state attorneys general – hours before the AGs announced that they were launching RICO and other prosecutions of “climate skeptic” companies and think tanks.

The success of this campaign thus far, says ICN, has persuaded the activists to “step up efforts to pressure more attorneys general to investigate [more climate crisis skeptics] and sway public opinion, using op-eds, social media and rope-line questioning of [Republican] presidential candidates at campaign stops.”

This collusion among activists, foundations and attorneys general seeks to silence, bankrupt and defund organizations that challenge their catechism of climate cataclysm. These conspirators want to deprive us of our constitutional rights to speak out on the exaggerated and fabricated science, the coordinated echo- chamber news stories, and the pressure group-driven policies that impair our livelihoods, living standards, health, welfare and environmental quality. We will not be intimidated or silenced.

As CFACT’s new Climate Hustle film notes, manmade plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide has not replaced the powerful natural forces that have always driven Earth’s temperature, climate and weather.

The problem is not climate change. It is policies imposed in the name of preventing climate change.

That’s why Climate Crisis, Inc. wants to silence and jail us. Just imagine how much more they’ll be foaming at the mouth after throngs go to ClimateHustle.com and buy tickets for its May 2 one-night-only showing in hundreds of theaters across the United States.

Categories: On the Blog

The Marketplace Delivers More Data

Somewhat Reasonable - May 01, 2016, 8:55 AM

The Oxford Dictionary defines capitalism as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”  A new poll on the topic from Harvard received some attention yesterday, garnering headlines about millennial’s view of capitalism. The poll is challenging to interpret given that most people likely have a connotative sense of capitalism, but helpfully Harvard dug a little deeper by interviewing a group of people regarding their view of capitalism.  As it turns out  those who were wary of capitalism were not so much rejecting it but rather were concerned that today it seems unfair and leaves some people out.

One blog immediately opined in part, “It’s no surprise that a generation of people who grew up in the era of ‘everyone gets a trophy’ reject the idea of unequal rewards based on hard work. Millennials were educated largely by public schools obsessed with the idea of fairness and afraid in some cases to let children play the game of tag.”  In fact, the benefits of the marketplace are being returned in various ways, some of which were likely not considered by those polled.

Take just one example.  As announced yesterday Comcast will begin providing all of their customers in internet data trials a terabyte of data, more than triple what is offered now.  For extremely heavy users who want even more data, they will have options to increase the amount of data either in an unlimited way or in more discreet chunks.

Why the change?  The market reacted and Comcast responded.  Comcast listened to its customers and are exceeding their needs, given that most customers do not come close to using a terabyte of data in a month.  How much data is it in real terms?  Enough to watch more than 29 days straight, with no sleep, of HD video.  Enough for more 16 people to play online games for the entire month.

This follows a string of other announcements from Comcast including that subscribers will now be freed from having a “cable box,” but rather will be able to stream video to connected TV devices, such as a Roku box.  And last month Comcast announced the expansion of the Internet Essentials to include ConnectHome, a partnership with HUD to provide broadband for access for those with the greatest financial challenges.

The public is taking notice.  During earnings calls this week Comcast reported an increase of 53,000 new subscribers, a nine year record new subscribers during the first quarter of the year.

When examined individual by individual capitalism can be challenging if one thinks that regardless of one’s industry and talent that all should be monetarily equal.  However, if viewed appropriately,one can see that the marketplace works in delivering benefits to many when the marketplace has a demand.  Comcast has responded in offering data that is increasingly inexpensive and abundant, freeing consumers from the cost of a “cable box,” and still investing in our communities by providing the most needy with broadband.  This is the free market at work.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep36): Peer-to-Peer Economy, Corporate Welfare, and Splitting Up States

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 3:43 PM

#36 of the In The Tank Podcast is a “Best-of” edition. It is all hands on deck to finish organizing the new Michael Parry Mazur Library before the grand opening on May 4th. This episode features clips from past podcasts, including work from R Street, the Commonwealth Foundation, and the James Madison Institute. John and Donny will be back with new content next week!

Better Know a Think Tank

In this weeks segment, Donny and John welcome Andrew Moylan, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute. Andrew joins the show to talk about his organization and what they are currently working on. Andrew also talks about a new study that examines how different cities regulate and tax sharing-economy companies like HomeAway and AirBnB.

Featured Work of the Week

This week’s featured work is a policy study from the Commonwealth Foundation titled “The Costs of Corporate Welfare.” The report talks about the danger of government favoritism, or corporate welfare. The Commonwealth Foundation is based out of Pennsylvania – a state that spends the largest amount on these corporate welfare spending programs. This paper is fantastic look into how wasteful these programs are and how they harm the state instead of helping.

In the World of Think Tankery

Donny and John talk about an article by the James Madison Institute titled “Would Florida be Better Off as Two States Rather than One?” Recently the South Miami City Commission proposed a plan to secede the bottom 24 counties into a new state. Donny and John give their opinions on the matter and examine other similar propositions in other states.

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Come to the Grand Opening of the Michael Parry Mazur Library!

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 1:40 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.

How Overregulation Is Killing the Economy Peter Ferrara, Investor’s Business Daily The proposed REINS (Regulations of the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) Act would be a good way to address out-of-control federal regulation. The act would curb executive overreach by ensuring no federal regulation imposing on the private sector costs of $100 million or more would go into effect unless Congress approved the measure. READ MORE Occupational Licensing Benefits Insiders, Shortchanges Millennials Jesse Hathaway, The Daily Caller Advocates of occupational licensing claim removing these government restrictions would endanger the health of consumers. In some cases this may seem intuitive, although it is a harder sell when referring to hairbraiders or florists, but that is beside the point. There is little economic evidence to suggest there is a connection between occupational licensing and public health or safety. There is plenty of evidence, however, showing these barriers to entry negatively affect new job-seekers, especially younger Americans.  READ MORE Come to the Grand Opening of the Michael Parry Mazur Library! Join us for the Grand Opening of the largest freedom library in Chicagoland. The Michael Parry Mazur Library at The Heartland Institute is a rapidly growing research library containing an excellent collection of works on economics, history, political science, public policy, and related topics. With nearly 10,000 books already donated and on shelves, the library serves as a unique resource for scholars, Heartland staff, and the interested public. The library will offer free wi-fi and computer time, and library patrons will have opportunities to schedule time with Heartland research staff and policy advisors.  SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE Featured Podcast: Teresa Mull Is Heartland’s New Research Fellow for Education In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, host Jesse Hathaway introduces Heartland’s new managing editor of School Reform News, Teresa Mull. Mull talks about her background and the goals she hopes to achieve in her new role. Hathaway and Mull discuss the similarity between economic freedom and educational freedom. Hathaway also asks the hard-hitting question: Does she align herself with #TeamIronman or #TeamCaptainAmerica? LISTEN TO MORE

Without this Option, School Choice Would Shrivel Robert Holland, Townhall The school choice movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. However, a new hurdle has presented itself in the state of Colorado and is working its way through the courts. At issue: whether or not a public school board has the authority to offer grants and scholarships to families wishing to choose private schooling, including religiously affiliated schools. READ MORE U.S. Senator: We Can’t Trust the Feds Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly This may come as a shock to some: An administrative agency is assuming it’s above the law! Perhaps this is something Sen. Lamar Alexander should have thought about before granting vast power to the U.S. Dept. of Education via the Every Student Succeeds Act. Recently, during an oversight hearing of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), chairman Alexander told Education Secretary John King that in a negotiated rulemaking session, “your department proposed a rule that would do exactly what the law says it shall not do.” READ MORE Free Market at Work: Vermont Patient-Monitoring App Has Massive Potential Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report As government control continues to creep into the health care industry, we are left with rising medical costs and a reduction in the quality of care. Fortunately, the free market strives to fix problems and increase people’s access to goods and services. PatientPing, a Boston-based developer, has created a new application that helps doctors monitor their patients’ activities at other health care facilities, an innovation some are saying could lower costs and improve patient care.  READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Elizabeth Yore: Looking Back, Heartland Brings Climate Truth to the Vatican Elizabeth Yore, international child advocate attorney and friend of The Heartland Institute, joins host Donald Kendal to talk about the impact Heartland made last year when it sent a delegation of climate experts to Rome to stir debate on the topic of global warming. Yore explains how Heartland, a relatively small organization, was able to create large waves halfway across the globe.  LISTEN TO MORE States Should Not Increase Tobacco Use Age to 21 Lindsey Stroud, Inside Sources Multiple states, including California and Illinois, are considering proposals that would increase the legal age limit required to consume tobacco products. While we can agree protecting the health of our youth is important, increasing the age limit would likely have no impact other than reinforcing the idea of nanny-state government. The most preposterous part of these proposals is that they include electronic cigarettes in the ban. READ MORE Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on The Heartland Institute’s profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

Bill Gray: Honest Scientists, RIP

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 11:00 AM

Pioneering hurricane researcher William Gray, Ph.D., died on April 16, 2016 at the age of 86. Gray was a good friend of The Heartland Institute, speaking at five of our International Conferences on Climate Change and attending most others. He was emeritus professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University (CSU) and head of the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

Gray helped develop satellite-based studies of tropical weather systems, with his research examining tropical cyclone structure, movement, and intensity change resulting in pioneering seasonal hurricane predictions for the Atlantic basin for the past 23 years of his life. As The New York Times noted, Gray’s pioneering hurricane predictions allowed “the East Coast and the Caribbean to gird for their [hurricanes’] fury.”

Gray rejected the idea human fossil fuel use was having an impact on hurricane frequency or intensity. His research indicated the frequency of hurricanes was cyclical, with their intensity and likelihood of reaching the East Coast of the United States depending on a number of natural factors including the amount of rainfall in the African Sahel and the impact of El Niño.

The Times noted, “In an interview with Westword, a Denver online newsletter, in 2006, Dr. Gray said, ‘When I am pushing up daisies, I am very sure that we will find that humans have warmed the globe slightly, but that it’s nothing like what they’re saying.’”

Bill Gray displayed courage and kindness in the face of harsh criticism for his climate realism. We at Heartland will miss him.

Categories: On the Blog

Earth Day Irony

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 10:50 AM

Happy Earth Day vector ilustration

I spent Earth Day in Philadelphia the birthplace of the American constitutional republic, created after after much blood, sweat and tears was shed in the quest for political and personal liberty.

As I note in the linked radio interview I conducted from my hotel room, being in Philadelphia on Earth Day seemed perverse in a way since Earth Day falls on Vladimir Lenin’s birthday and the environmental radicals who push the celebration of the earth as sacred the are, not coincidentally, at the forefront of efforts to undermine the very freedoms meant to be ensured at America’s founding. They would have American’s forfeit their freedom (or in lieu of voluntarily giving it up, have it forcibly taken from them) in service to some ideal they’ve dreamed up of the pristine earth. They would replace freedom of religion with the enforced worship at the green shrine of mother nature.

I’ll choose freedom, thank you!

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Hustle Demolishes Climate Alarmism

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 8:35 AM
Be sure to see this movie Monday, May 2 – during its one-night nationwide engagement

Without presenting it to the US Senate, as required by the Constitution, President Obama has signed the Paris climate treaty. He is already using it to further obligate the United States to slash its fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions and economic growth … control our lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties … and redistribute our wealth. Poor, minority and working class families will suffer most.

China, India and other developing economies are under no such obligation, unless and until it is in their interest to do so. For them, compliance is voluntary – and they cannot afford to eliminate the fossil fuels that supply 85% of all global energy, generate some 90% of developing nations’ electricity, and will lift billions of people out of abject poverty. That’s why these countries have built over 1,000 coal-fired power plants and are planning to build 2,300 more – while unaccountable EPA bureaucrats are shutting down US coal-fired generators, and getting ready to block natural gas production and use.

What if the entire foundation for this energy and economic insanity were erroneous, groundless, fabricated … a climate con job – a Climate Hustle?

That is exactly what CFACT’s new movie demonstrates is actually going on.

Climate Hustle is the perfect antidote to the destructive, demoralizing climate alarmism that dominates political decisions and obsesses the Obama White House and EPA. You owe it to yourself to see it.

It’s coming to a theater near you on Monday, May 2, for a special one-night engagement.

I saw Climate Hustle April 14, at its U.S. premiere on Capitol Hill in Washington. The film is informative and entertaining, pointed and humorous. As meteorologist Anthony Watts says, it is wickedly effective in its using slapstick humor and the words and deeds of climate alarmists to make you laugh at them.

It examines the science on both sides of the issue … presents often hilarious planetary Armageddon prophecies of Al Gore, Leonard Nimoy and other doomsayers … and lets 30 scientists and other experts expose the climate scares and scams, explain Real World climate science, and delve deeply into the politics and media hype that have surrounded this issue since it was first concocted several decades ago

Sizzling temperatures. Melting ice caps. Destructive hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts. Disappearing polar bears. The end of civilization as we know it! The end of Planet Earth!

Emissions from our power plants, cars, factories and farms are causing catastrophic climate change!

Or are they? Is there really a “97% scientific consensus” on this? Or is “dangerous manmade climate change” merely the greatest overheated environmentalist con-job and shell game ever devised to advance the Big Green anti-energy agenda?

See this amazing film on May 2, and find out for yourself. To learn where it’s showing near you, and to buy tickets, visit www.ClimateHustle.com

You’ll be glad you did.

Climate Hustle is hosted by award-winning investigative journalist Marc Morano.  A former communications director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Morano is publisher of CFACT’s ClimateDepot.com. The film is a production of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and CDR Communications. See the movie. Bring your friends. Make it a party. www.ClimateHustle.com

Categories: On the Blog

Let’s Not Emulate How Much of the World Treats Intellectual Property

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 8:27 AM

Innovative Company Concept

April 26 is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day: “We celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity.”

It’s sad that so many of us still need to learn “the role that intellectual property rights…play in encouraging innovation and creativity.” It’s sad that the inherently obvious isn’t inherently obvious: that IP and its protection is a fundamental building block to any successful economy.

What we have is so many countries the world over abusing IP. Sometimes because they fail to grasp the concept (the learning curve is indeed steep):

India Must Build Intellectual Property: “For most Indians, intellectual property is a combination of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Robin Hood. The French anarchist famously declared property to be theft. Indians, few of whom put in the hard slog required to create intellectual property, readily agree, and are eager to do to the owners of intellectual property what Robin Hood did to the rich. Karl Marx, no fan of property himself, pronounced Proudhon to be confused: you can steal something only if it already belongs to someone, meaning property must precede theft and so cannot be theft. Indians are equally wrong to disrespect intellectual property.”

Let’s first correct this mis-characterization of Robin Hood. He didn’t steal from the rich – he stole government’s onerous taxes from the collectors, to return the coin to the people. Robin Hood, if anything, was a pro-capitalism, pro-private property figure.

Proudhon and Marx (duh) were decidedly not. And it does appear that their anti-property perspectives rule the roost in India.

“Indian companies glibly disregard the need to license technologies, leading to legal disputes with patent holders. The larger problem is consistent failure by Indian firms to carry our research and development (R&D) that would create intellectual property.”

No R & D, no IP. Not only must you protect the end products, you must respect the process necessary to deliver them. India seems to grasp none of this.

Other nations understand IP – and thus know its immense value. They just don’t want to pay for it. Or do the heavy lifting of developing it. Behold China:

IP Theft Costs US $300 Billion Per Year: “A private advisory panel says growing intellectual property theft, mainly by China, is costing the United States more than $300 billion each year.”

US Report Warns on China’s Massive Intellectual Property Theft

China: Theft of Intellectual Property – What Should Be Done?

One thing that should be done is to have the United States stop borrowing trillions of dollars to fund massive, massively stupid government spending – from the world’s biggest IP thief. Any governmental attempt to rein in China’s IP heist – is met with a threat to cut us off. Our deadbeat government then immediately returns to the corner to recommence cowering – and our IP remains open to unfettered Chinese raiding.

One thing that shouldn’t be done – is to make our domestic IP landscape less safe. I.e. more like China and much of the rest of the world.

Thankfully, we have our Constitution – which makes IP protection an expressed responsibility of our federal government. Behold Article I, Section 8, Clause 8: “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…”

Sadly, Republicans and Democrats both are working to undermine our rights and their responsibilities. And make us look like much of the rest of the IP world. Via yet another woefully misnamed DC un-“solution” – like the Affordable Care Act, Network Neutrality, the Fairness Doctrine or immigration “reform.”

H.R. 9, The Innovation Act: “The bipartisan Innovation Act…address(es) the ever increasing problem of abusive patent litigation.”

Translation: The government is seeking to undermine the ability of patent holders to protect their property. Because suing to protect valid patents isn’t “abusive” – it’s vitally necessary to protect intellectual property and preserve a free market economy.

HR 9 sort of contradicts that whole Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 thing.   And would make us just another nation eminently more susceptible to IP thieves.

China would be thrilled with this legislation. No one here should be.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

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

Somewhat Reasonable - April 29, 2016, 8:00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health risks associated with E-cigarettes are discounted

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

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

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 2:46 PM

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Without This Option, School Choice Would Shrivel

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 7:40 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Occupational Licensing Benefits Insiders, Shortchanges Millennials

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 7:30 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Flexible Greenhouse Accounting

Somewhat Reasonable - April 28, 2016, 7:15 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

That should clarify the flexible principles of greenhouse accounting.

Categories: On the Blog
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