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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Rooftop Solar companies will only play if the game is stacked in their favor

April 04, 2016, 10:26 AM

The past couple of weeks have highlighted the folly of the energy policies favored by left-leaning advocacy agencies that, rather than allowing consumers and markets to choose, require government mandates and subsidies. Three major, but very different, solar entities—that would not exist without such political preference—are now facing demise.  Even with the benefit of tax credits, low-interest loans, and cash grants that state and federal governments have bestowed on them, the solar industry is struggling.

We’ve seen Abengoa—which I’ve followed for years—file for bankruptcy.

Ivanpah, the world’s biggest solar power tower project in the California desert, is threatened with closure due to underperformance.

Then there is SunEdison, the biggest renewable energy developer in the world. It’s on the verge of bankruptcy as its stock price plunged from more than $30 to below $.50—a more than 90 percent drop in the past year.

All of these recent failures magnify the solar industry’s black eye that first swelled up nearly five years ago with the Solyndra bankruptcy.

Worried about self-preservation, and acting in its own best interest—rather than that of consumers specifically, and America in general—industry groups have sprung up to defend the favored-status energy policies and attack anyone who disagrees with the incentive-payment business model. Two such groups are TASC and TUSK—both of which are founded and funded by solar panel powerhouses SolarCity and SunRun with involvement from smaller solar companies (SolarCity recently parted ways with TASC).

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) is run by the lead lobbyists for the two big companies—both have obvious Democrat Party connections.

Bryan Miller is Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Power Markets at Sunrun (a position he took in January 2013) and is President and co-chair of TASC (May 2013). His LinkedIn page shows that he’s worked for the National Finance Committee for Obama for America and was Finance Coordinator/Field Organizer for Clinton Gore ’96. He’s also served as s senior political appointee in the Obama Administration and ran an unsuccessful 2008 bid for election to Florida’s House of Representatives, District 83.

Co-chair John Stanton is Executive Vice President, Policy & Markets at SolarCity. In that role, he, according to the company website, “oversees SolarCity’s work with international, federal, state and local government organizations on a wide range of policy issues.” Previously, Stanton was Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)—the national trade association for industries that support the development of solar power—with which he oversaw legal and government affairs for the association. There he played a pivotal role in the 8-year extension of the solar investment tax credit. He was also legislative counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration.

A news report about the founding of TASC states: “First and foremost, the group will work to protect net-energy metering (NEM) rules in the 43 states that have them.”

On March 25, the Wall Street Journal reported: “two dozen states are weighing changes to their incentives for rooftop solar…incentive payments have been the backbone of home solar firms’ business model.” In the past several months, Nevada and Hawaii have ended their NEM programs. TASC has responded with lawsuits. In Hawaii, TASC’s case has already been dismissed with a report stating: the judge’s “ruling in favor of the Defendants has eviscerated TASC’s claims.” Last year, Louisiana capped its “among the most generous in the country” solar tax credit. Arizona Public Service was the trailblazer in modifying generous solar policies when, in 2013, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a fixed charge for solar customers.

As one of the first states to challenge the generous NEM policies, Arizona is still a battleground. That’s where TASC formed another group: TUSK—which stands for Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. Lobbyist and former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. was brought in to give a Republican face to the industry’s advocacy. TUSK even has an elephant, the Republican mascot, as part of its logo. The TUSK home page states: “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice and the competition to drive down rates”—true, but a core value of the Republican Party is allowing the free markets to work rather than governments picking winners and losers.

While registered in Arizona, TUSK has recently been active in other states—including Nevada, Oklahoma, and Michigan.

The reoccurring theme in the TASC/TUSK campaign is to connect the word “kill” with “solar”—though the NEM modification efforts don’t intend to kill solar. Instead, they aim to adjust the “incentive payments” to make them more equitable. However, without the favors, as was seen in Nevada, rooftop solar isn’t economical on its own. Companies refuse to play when the game is not stacked in their favor.

TASC and TUSK are just two of the ways the rooftop solar industry—also known as a “coalition of rent seekers and welfare queens,” as Louisiana’s largest conservative blog, The Hayride, called them in the midst of that state’s solar wars—is trying to protect its preferential policies. It has other tricks in its playbook.

In addition to the specific industry groups like TASC, TUSK and SEIA, third party organizations like the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) are engaged to intimidate public officials and academics. EPI, run by Gabe Elsner, is considered a dark money group with no legal existence. It can be assumed to be an extension of what is known as the Checks & Balances Project (CB&P)—which was founded to investigate organizations and policymakers that do not support government programs and subsidies for renewable energy. CB&P has received funding from SolarCity. Elsner joined CB&P in 2011—where he served as Director—and then, two years later, left to found EPI—which C&BP calls: “a pro-clean energy website.” EPI produces material to attack established energy interests and discredit anyone who doesn’t support rooftop solar subsidies. I have been a target of Elsner’s efforts.

Then there is the Solar Foundation—closely allied with SEIA and government solar advocacy programs—which publishes a yearly report on solar employment trends across the country. Solar employers self-report the jobs numbers via phone/email surveys and the numbers are, then, extrapolated to estimate industry jobs nationwide. Though the reports achieve questionable results, threats of job loss have proven to be an effective way to pressure state and federal lawmakers to continue the industry’s favorable policies—such as NEM.

Together, these groups have a coordinated campaign to produce public opinion polling that is used to convince politicians of NEM’s public support. Such cases can be found in Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Kansas. They gather signatures from solar advocates and use them to influence legislators and commissioners. They engage in regulatory and rate proceedings—often creating, as I’ve experienced, an overwhelming presence with mob-like support from tee-shirt-wearing, sign-waving advocates. They run ads calling attempts to modify solar’s generous NEM policies a “tax” on solar and, as previously mentioned, attack utilities for trying to “kill solar.” If this combined campaign isn’t fruitful, and NEM policies are changed, lawsuits, such as those in Hawaii and Nevada, are filed.

This policy protection process may seem no different from those engaged by any industry—as most have trade associations and advocacy groups that promote their cause. Remember “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” and “Pork, the other white meat”? Few are truly independent and self-preservation is a natural instinct.

Yes, even the fossil fuel industry has, for example, the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the National Mining Association, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. And there are advocacy groups who support various limited-government, free-market positions, as Miller recently accused.

The difference is that fossil fuels provide, and has been providing, America with efficient, effective, and economical energy. Its abundance has lowered costs for consumers and increased America’s energy security. Advocates are not fighting for special favors that allow this natural resource to survive, but are rather attempting to push back on new rules and regulations aimed at driving it out of business.

By comparison, the solar advocacy efforts are, as acknowledged by TASC: “First and foremost, the group will work to protect net-energy metering (NEM) rules,” as without them—and the other politically correct policies—rooftop solar energy doesn’t make economic sense. Because rooftop solar power isn’t efficient or effective, its major selling point is supposed savings that are achieved for a few, while costing all tax- and rate-payers.

With the potential of a change in political winds—remember the solar supporters all seem to be left-leaning, big government believers who want higher energy prices—the campaign for America’s energy future is embedded in the presidential election.

Will big government pick the winners and losers, or will free markets allow the survival of the best energy sources for individual circumstances.

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

Prosecuting climate chaos skeptics with RICO

April 04, 2016, 9:58 AM

Global warning/drought scares have led to the rise of water informants in California.

It’s been a rough stretch for Climate Armageddon religionists and totalitarians.

Real World science, climate and weather events just don’t support their manmade cataclysm narrative. The horrid consequences of anti-fossil fuel energy policies are increasingly in the news. And despite campaigns by the $1.5-trillion-per-year government-industry-activist-scientific Climate Crisis Consortium, Americans consistently rank global warming at the very bottom of their serious concerns.

But instead of debating their critics, or marshaling a more persuasive, evidence-based case that we really do face a manmade climate catastrophe, alarmists have ramped up their shrill rhetoric, imposed more anti-hydrocarbon edicts by executive fiat and unratified treaty – and launched RICO attacks on their critics.

Spurred on by Senator Sheldon “Torquemada” Whitehouse (D-RI), Jagadish Shukla and his RICO-20 agitators, and their comrades, 16 of the nation’s 18 Democratic attorneys general (the other 32 are Republican) announced on March 29 that they are going after those who commit the unpardonable offense of questioning “consensus” climate science.

If companies are “committing fraud,” by “knowingly deceiving” the public about the threat of man-made carbon dioxide emissions and climate change, New York AG Eric Schneiderman intoned, “we want to expose it and pursue them to the fullest extent of the law,” under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. “The First Amendment does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

Their initial target is ExxonMobil, but other companies, think tanks like CFACT and the Heartland Institute (with which I am affiliated), and even independent researchers and analysts (like myself) will be in their crosshairs – using a law intended for the Mafia. Incredibly, even United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch says her office has “discussed” similar actions and has “referred [the matter] to the FBI.”

These RICO investigations and prosecutions are chilling, unprecedented and blatantly un-American. They abuse our legal and judicial processes and obliterate the First Amendment freedom of speech rights of anyone who questions the catechism of climate cataclysm. The AGs’ actions are intended to browbeat skeptics into silence, and bankrupt them with monumental legal fees, fines and treble damages.

It is the campus “crime” of “unwelcome ideas” and “micro-aggression” on steroids. It is the inevitable result of President Obama’s determination to “fundamentally transform” the United States, ensure that electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket,” and carve his energy and climate policy legacy in granite.

Mr. O and his allies are on a mission: to rid the world of fossil fuels, replace them with “clean” biofuels (that are also carbon-based and also emit carbon dioxide when burned, but would require billions of acres of crop and habitat land) and “eco-friendly” bird-killing wind turbines and solar installations (that will require millions more acres) – and implement the goals of a dictatorial United Nations.

Former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres put it in the bluntest terms: “We are setting ourselves the task of intentionally to change [sic] the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years” – the free enterprise capitalist system. “The next world climate summit is actually an economic summit, during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated,” her UN climate crisis cohort Otmar Edendorfer added. “We will redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”

Thus, under the 2015 Paris climate treaty, developing nations will be under no obligation to reduce their fossil fuel use or greenhouse gas emissions. They will simply take voluntary steps, when doing so will not impair their efforts to drive economic growth and improve their people’s living standards. Meanwhile, they will be entitled to share $3 billion to $300 billion per year in “climate change adaptation, mitigation and reparation” money. In fact, Mr. Obama has already transferred $500 million in taxpayer money (illegally) from a State Department emergency fund to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

No wonder developing nations were thrilled to sign the 2015 Paris not-a-treaty treaty.

Recent headlines portend what’s in store. EU electricity prices rise 63% over past decade. Rising energy costs, green policies threaten to kill steel industry and 4,000 to 40,000 jobs, as Tata Steel quits Britain. Thousands of Europeans lose jobs, as manufacturing moves to countries with lower energy prices. Unable to afford proper heat, 40,000 Europeans die of hypothermia during 2014 winter.

In Africa and other energy-deprived regions: Millions die in 2015 from lung and intestinal diseases – due to open cooking and heating fires, spoiled food and unsafe water, and absence of electricity.

Meanwhile, despite mandates, loan guarantees, feed-in tariffs, endangered species exemptions and other subsidies, renewable industries are barely surviving: SunEnergy, world’s largest green energy company, faces bankruptcy, as share prices fall 95% in one year. Solar company Abengoa US files for Chapter 15 bankruptcy. China stops building wind turbines, as grid is damaged and most electricity is wasted.

But Climate Crisis ruling elites pay little attention to this. They will be insulated, enriched, and protected from their decisions and deceptions – as they decide what energy, jobs, living standards and freedoms the poor, minority, blue-collar and middle classes will be permitted to have.

Equally disturbing, their drive for total control is based on a chaotic world that is totally at odds with what the rest of us see outside our windows. Even after “homogenizing” and massaging the raw data, climate alarmists can only show that global temperatures may have risen a few tenths of a degree (barely the margin of error) during the 2015 El Niño year, after 19 years of no temperature increase, following two decades of slight warming, following three decades of slight cooling and warming.

On the “extreme weather” front, tornadoes, snows, floods and droughts are no more frequent or intense than over the past century. No Category 3-5 hurricane has made US landfall in a record 125 months. Polar ice remains well within historic fluctuations, and sea levels are rising at barely seven inches per century.

Alarmists thus rely on computer models that predict even “worse catastrophes,” if global temperatures rise even 0.5 degrees C (0.8 F) more than they already have since the Little Ice Age ended and Industrial Era began. However, the models are hopelessly deficient, and totally unable to predict the climate.

They overstate the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide and methane, atmospheric gases chosen because they result from fossil fuel use (and from many natural sources). They assume these two gases have become the primary forces in climate change – and ignore or downplay changing solar energy, cosmic ray and geomagnetic output; major periodic fluctuations in Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean circulation; volcanic activity; regional and planetary temperature cycles that recur over multiple decades, centuries or millennia; and other natural forces that have always driven planetary warming, cooling and weather.

The models and modelers do this because these factors and their roles in climate change are not well understood, are difficult to measure, and do not fit the “humans are at fault” meme. They compound these errors by assuming that any warming will be dangerous, rather than beneficial for people and agriculture.

These oversights can be characterized as careless, recklessly negligent, or even “knowingly deceitful” and fraudulent. So can “nine inconvenient untruths” that a United Kingdom judge highlighted in Al Gore’s infamous fake-documentary movie – and Mr. Gore’s recent claim that atmospheric CO2 is fueling Zika outbreaks. Likewise for James Hansen’s repeated assertion that sea levels could rise “several meters” (117 inches) over the next century, and the bogus studies behind the phony “97% consensus” claims.

Can you picture the cabal of AGs filing RICO actions in these cases? If you want the facts, and a few chuckles about climate alarmism, see the Climate Hustle movie, coming May 2 to a theater near you.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Austrian Economics Center’s International Road Show Comes to Heartland

April 04, 2016, 9:54 AM

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.

Wikipedia: What the Liberals Want You to Think
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
In recent years, left-wing activists have rewritten hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia entries, adding their anti-technology, anti-corporation, and anti-free enterprise dogma and propaganda to the profiles of many individuals and organizations. The Heartland Institute’s profile has been the target of a major misinformation effort, with objective descriptions of our work removed and lies and unfounded leftist accusations put in their place. Can you help us fix Wikipedia? READ MORE

Update: ‘Article V 2.0′: The Compact for a Balanced Budget
Nick Dranias, Heartland Policy Study
As the national debt approaches a staggering $20 trillion, it is getting harder to continue kicking the can down the road. Something has to be done. Nick Dranias, a constitutional law expert, asks the question, “What if the states could advance and ratify a powerful federal balanced budget amendment in just 12 months?” The Compact for a Balanced Budget could do just that. This is an update of aHeartland Policy Study Dranias wrote in July 2014. READ MORE

Learning Lessons on the Road to Serfdom
The Austrian Economics Center’s 2016 international “Free Market Road Show” added The Heartland Institute to its list of stops. Four speakers from Argentina, Austria, Germany, and Iceland came to Arlington Heights to provide an international perspective on the state of the American dream and freedom and prosperity. If you missed the presentation, the entire event is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page.  WATCH IT HERE

Featured Podcast: Reason’s Shikha Dalmia: The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis
The Flint, Michigan water crisis is deeply unsettling to everyone affected. To help shed light on the situation and its causes, Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst with the Reason Foundation, joins Heartland Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett on this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast. She explains how the crisis was caused by the failure of government, not the market.  LISTEN TO MORE

The Stars Come Out in Arlington Heights!
If you love discussions about liberty, you will not want to miss the great series of events Heartland has lined up through the spring. Upcoming events include several book talks, including Drilling Through the Core with the National Association of Scholars’ Peter Wood and The Way Back with George Mason University’s Frank Buckley. 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

Climate Regulations for Show, Not Positive Impact
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
A stunning admission occurred recently before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Under questioning, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the Obama administration’s climate efforts will do nothing to protect public or environmental health. These regulations are nothing more than a symbolic attempt to get other countries’ leaders to join the Paris climate agreement. READ MORE

Book Review: A Fresh Look at the Great Depression
Jay Lehr, Ph.D., The Heartlander
Heartland Senior Fellow Jay Lehr, Ph.D. reviews The Midas Paradox, a book that delves deep into the causes of the Great Depression and its effects on the economy. Author Scott Sumner, director of the Mercatus Center, has spent more than two decades researching this period of American history. He explains how prior post-mortems have failed to fully examine the root causes of the economic collapse. READ MORE

The Rise of Socialized Medicine
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
It is becoming more clear than ever that the United States is moving toward a European-style health care system. In August 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama explained how a “transition step” would be needed to usher in single-payer health care. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is that transitional step. According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half the nation will likely rely on government for health care within the next decade.  READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Dr. Hal Scherz: The Best-Kept Secret in the Health Care Industry
The continuing and growing intrusion into the health care market should concern everyone. But there are some bright spots worth noting. Dr. Hal Scherz, founder of Docs 4 Patient Care, joins Research Fellow Michael Hamilton to talk about one of the best-kept secrets in the health care industry: direct primary care. LISTEN TO MORE

Striking Back at Teacher Strikes
Timothy Benson, Crain’s Chicago Business
Yet another teachers strike took place in Chicago on April Fool’s Day. 22,000 union members walked off the job en masse, denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning. Because of the frequency of these events, The Heartland Institute is designing a plan that will make such strikes less likely. A “strike voucher” would allow any student to temporarily attend any charter, secular, private, or parochial school using a $50 per day stipend. READ MORE

Upstart College Exam Challenges ACT, SAT
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
A new organization, Vector ARC, is beta-testing a college entrance exam that will compete with ACT and SAT. Vector ARC says its exam will stand independent of the Common Core standards. Richard Innes, education policy analyst for the Bluegrass Institute, said, “because both the ACT and SAT now claim Common Core alignment, the creation of an alternative test should be of special interest to parents of students in many school choice programs.” 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 or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at  
Categories: On the Blog

Mad about the teacher strike? Let’s strike back

April 04, 2016, 9:45 AM

The Chicago Teachers Union’s “Day of Action”—planned for April Fool’s Day, naturally—will see the union’s 22,000 members walk off the job en masse. Not content with only denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning, they will congregate downtown during rush hour, thus denying people the ability to get home and businesses the ability to conduct commerce.

Already of dubious legality, the union insists its Day of Action is necessary because CPS announced its plans to end experience- and education-based “step and lane” raises, which the union deems an unfair labor practice. This also comes after the union rejected a contract offer from CPS that would have seen a pay increase for teachers, a cap on privately run charter schools and the barring of any layoffs.

Lost in this turmoil are the students of Chicago.

While union representatives say all the right things, including how much they care for their students, any time the best interests of those students conflict with an opportunity for the union to make more money, it is always the children who the union tosses aside.

Chicago’s teachers are some of the most handsomely compensated of any group of public school teachers in the nation. The union teacher’s median salary of $73,000 is 64 percent higher than the median household income for the city as a whole. Union members’ average lifetime earnings are the highest in the country among major metropolitan school districts, and pension benefits have increased over 400 percent since 1987.

Meanwhile, standardized tests show roughly only one-fourth of Chicago‘s students are being educated to a level that allows them to transition comfortably to the next grade level and then, if they’re lucky, on to college.

The union continually paints its members as victims, but the real victims are the children the union members seem to have no qualms casually and flippantly walking out on. Parents should not have to fret over how they will keep their children cared for while the union forces them from their classrooms.

That is why the Heartland Institute will fully unveil its proposed “strike voucher” program in a Policy Brief in April.

Here’s the idea: The strike voucher would allow any student from a CPS school to leave temporarily for any school not run by the district. Any charter, secular, private, or parochial school in the district with the room to take in additional students would be given a stipend of $50 per day for each student it welcomes through its doors. Funding for the daily stipend would come out of strike makeup-day pay fund, which is compensation received by union teachers for any strike days made up later in the year.

Since seating at brick-and-mortar non-district schools will not be available for every child during a strike, parents would also be allowed to take their strike voucher stipend to tutoring facilities, online virtual schools, and, for very young students, daycare facilities. Strike voucher funds could also be used to reimburse organizations for extra costs incurred while accommodating CPS students. For example, the Chicago Children’s Museum, or any other city museum, could be reimbursed per head and per day for each admitted student. Any costs for extending hours and personnel organizations such as the YMCA would incur would also be covered in full, as long as they provide at least a half-day’s worth of educational activity.

The goal of the strike voucher is to ensure Chicago children have the opportunity to attend a safe and effective school and to free children from being caught in the middle of the continual tug-of-war between school districts and teachers unions. The tug-of-war begins again on April 1.

[Originally published at Crain’s Chicago Business]

Categories: On the Blog

Feds Want States To Quell Anti-Testing Uprising

April 04, 2016, 9:27 AM

Big government tamps down all optimism associated with springtime. As if the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service wasn’t stressful enough, now comes the season of federally mandated K–12 standardized testing.

Not many citizens are bold enough to opt out of paying taxes, but many families once again are considering opting out of the worrisome student assessments linked to Common Core national standards. The parental blogosphere is buzzing with talk of how to submit refusal letters to school officials and whether it’s best to keep students at home on test days or to trust they won’t be forced to just “sit and stare” while their classmates take untimed examinations.

In 2015, 640,000 students in 14 states that reported their numbers sat out the standardized tests, according to FairTest, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that long has opposed abuses in testing. Most remarkably, the opt-out rate reached 20 percent in New York State.

Some things have changed this year. John King, the adamantly pro-Common Core state education commissioner who greatly riled New York parents and teachers, is now the U.S. Secretary of Education, having been nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate, by a 49–40 vote.

Additional changes are related to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was advertised by its sponsors as restoring local control over many education-related matters, such as testing, that No Child Left Behind had stripped away. ESSA became the federal education law of the land in December.

Parents are already discovering the advertising was false and the pressures to conform to the federal design are more intense and personal than ever. That reality could increase resentment and lead to even more refusals.

ESSA not only continues the federal mandate for testing of students in grades 3–8 and once in high school, but also the required 95 percent participation rate. What’s new is the U.S. Department of Education will hold state departments of education responsible for squelching local test refusals. Thus, wrote standards expert Sandra Stotsky in the March 16 edition of NewBostonPost, an online newspaper, “ESSA turns state departments of education into school bullies.”

U.S. parents across the blogosphere have reported countless state and local educrats are warning that if parents refuse the assessments, they will face dire consequences, such as low-income children losing their ESSA funding; their own children being unable to graduate because they haven’t passed a “college readiness” test; and falling qualitative rankings of their children’s schools, which the educrats say would result from a low participation rate.

Most threats are nothing more than hot air. Stotsky says no state legislature has mandated such a so-called readiness test, and it is unlikely any will, and while former Education Secretary Arne Duncan did imply a year ago that states could be docked federal funding when participation rates fall below 95 percent, nothing ever came of that bluster. Does King aspire to be even more of an enemy of parental rights than Duncan?

As they consider taking a stand against experimental and time-consuming assessments, nothing worries parents more than the thought of their children being harshly and unfairly punished. The concern is not limited to public school patrons. On the Stop Common Core in New York Catholic Schools website, a participant quoted a principal saying a kid refusing the testing would be given a book and made to stay on the testing site for the duration without leaving.

Not all principals and superintendents are that belligerent. In fact, some are cooperating in setting up alternative learning opportunities for dissenters. Another site, Save Our Schools New Jersey, compiled “naughty or nice” lists of school districts. “Nice” are those that “treat parents who refuse and their children with respect,” while the “naughty” ones “bully parents and students to accommodate the [New Jersey Department of Education].”

If states really wanted to take charge, they could enact laws expressly recognizing the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing to which they have not consented. Eight belong on the honor roll for already having done so: California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]


Categories: On the Blog

Yaron Brook Says America’s Fight Against Income Inequality is Misguided

April 04, 2016, 8:57 AM

It was fitting for The Heartland Institute‘s President and CEO Joe Bast to feature Yaron Brook  President of the Ayn Rand Institute, in a discussion of his new book, “Equal Is Unfair:  America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality.” Both organizations are fighting for the principles of freedom and liberty as set forth by our Founding Fathers.

The event was the third held in Heartland’s newly-named Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center at its Arlington Heights, Illinois, headquarters on Wednesday, March 23.  The words “Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center” are emblazoned on the awning leading into the venue itself and is likewise printed predominately on the front wall of the gathering place.   

[Watch the whole event here]

During the afternoon discussion, Brook explored the question as to whether the American Dream is failing as the rich become richer and leave the rest to struggle just to keep their heads above water.  

Born and raised in Israel, Brooks admitted he was a Socialist until age 16. In 1987, Dr. Brook moved to the United States where he received his MBA and PhD in finance from the University of Texas in Austin. He became an American citizen in 2003.  Brook has been a columnist at, and his articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications. 

Yaron Brook was introduced by Jim Lakely, Director of Communication at Heartland.

Preferring not to stand behind a podium, Dr. Brooks used the entire platform space from which to advance his thoughts and ideas.  With microphone in hand, Brook’s initial comment was to reference inequality as the issue of our time, at least according to President Obama and the Pope.  Accordingly, the claim is that inequality is responsible for almost all the ills of the day, specifically when it comes to the big gap between rich and poor.  It was none other than Karl Marx who made the allegation that owners of capital just become more and more wealthy. A fallacy, because capital doesn’t grow automatically on its own, it must be invested in order for it to grow.

Yet there are those who say we must tax the wealthy at an income tax rate of 80%, with no loopholes.  And what about the idea of a 10% Global Wealth Tax which would surely generate lots of money.  The catch:  the money realized would not be given to the poor.  Instead, its stated purpose is to shrink income inequality — to penalize those who have in order to knock them down.

Tactics used by the Left

The American people generally don’t envy those who have more than they do.  The Left, however, is trying to use inequality to stir up resentment by promoting inequality as a bad thing.  To Bernie Sanders this nation has a millionaire and billionaire problem, and we must deal with it. 

What about the assumption that wealth is a social issue.  When referred to as a collective pie, the pie must be divided equally.  But the pie is not a collective pie.  You make the pie, and if you make it you expect fairness.  Therefore the idea of an individual pie must be defended, in contrast to those who say you didn’t build it or make it so sharing must occur.

In order for society to grow and prosper there must first be an entrepreneur who initiates an idea.  Next must come the money from a capitalist who is willing to invest in an idea that might not succeed. Workers must be hired, but they are not willing to work for ten years without pay, the time is might take for the business to succeed and become profitable.

To be remembered is that we don’t live in a zero sum world.  Why then is the Left winning the battle?  It is because the Right doesn’t fight back to refute what the Left is spewing forth as truth.

Existing Problems

Cronyism is often cited as the way individuals become rich.  In the economic context it’s through privilege reserved for those who fill their pocket by taking advantage of special favors from the government.  But as widespread as cronyism is Mr. Brooks sees no evidence that it is the dominant cause of economic equality.

Often noted is that poor people don’t have many opportunities to advance economically as they work at low paying jobs, but raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and more would only limit the number of jobs available to them, thus many poor people would be denied even the first upward step on the ladder toward a better life.

Consider also how licensing laws and regulation loom as impediments for people to open small businesses.  The process can take much time and money.  Regulations therefore function as job killers. 

Education is definitely an important criteria for advancement.  Without an education job opportunities are definitely limited.  Being handed a welfare check only destroys pride in self and the ability to engage in economic opportunity. 

Given all the technological advances, the quality of life for the middle class is better today than it was in the 70’s, but slow economic growth is limiting the number of poor individuals who should be joining the middle class. 

Philosophy Drives the Left

What spurs the Left to believe that inequity must be fought through tax hikes, wealth redistribution schemes, and a far higher minimum wage?  It’s based on the Left’s philosophy where equality becomes the standard by which justice is determined. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge was cited as a glaring example of how the philosophy of equality was taken to an extreme.  In the end pure evil resulted when brutality and violence were used to stamp out any hint of individualism.  Over three years one and a half million people, out of a population of seven million, were sacrificed by Pol Pot as he attempted to create a Utopia where complete equality existed.

Today this nation faces a choice between two moral values.  One view speaks of justice occurring when each individual has an equal right to pursue his own happiness and success and then is able to keep whatever wealth income and opportunities he earns because of his pursuit. This is in direct contrast to the social justice view of the Left, where government must restrict freedom to make individuals economically equal, and if a person produces too much, his hopes and dreams should be sacrificed for the sake of those who haven’t produced. 

If the American Dream is to be saved so a more just and prosperous society can be created, the collectivist-egalitarian doctrine advanced by the Left must be rejected.  Championed instead must be the individualist idea of moral justice that celebrates human achievement and frees human ability. 

In Conclusion

The threat facing the American dream is not one of economic quality.  Instead, it’s a war that centers on political inequality in which two moral views of justice are competing for control. May the individualist idea that celebrates human achievement and frees human ability be victorious. This is a must if the American Dream is to be kept alive for future generations.

Following Dr. Brook’s presentation, questions were directed to him from the audience and also submitted by those listening to Heartland’s live-stream pod broadcast.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Intellectual Property Protection is a Fundamental Free Market Tenet – Not a Tax

April 04, 2016, 8:37 AM

There was on Monday a quintessential example of the horrendously bad thinking of those opposed to all things intellectual property. An op-ed totally disconnected from Reality – and chock full of thought-free, pathetic anti-property platitudes.

It is sad that so many remain steadfastly impervious to facts. But they do, so we will address this latest bit of inanity – so that the many who remain receptive to Reality may be properly informed.

We speak now of Truthout’s Dean Baker extrusion Think Trump’s 45 Percent Tariffs Are Bad? Try Obama’s 10,000 Percent Tariffs. Which mangles much of the English language – in service of much muddled thinking. Baker begins:

“Lately the media have been going wild mocking Donald Trump’s plans to put 45 percent tariffs on imports from China. They are partly right. It’s not clever to indiscriminately impose large tariffs on major trading partners in violation of existing trade agreements….

“But what is even more striking is the selective concern over tariffs. While Trump wants to put large tariffs on imports from some of our major trading partners, President Obama is actively pushing to have far larger tariffs imposed on a wide range of goods in his trade deals, most importantly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Measures in the TPP pushed by US negotiators will raise the price of many items by several thousand percent above the free market price.”

Tariffs are, of course, taxes. We conservatives don’t like taxes – so this may be an attempted appeal to our sensibilities. A 10,000% tariff? That would be awful. Except to what Baker refers – isn’t any sort of tax at all.

“If you missed this discussion, it’s because these trade barriers are referred to as ‘intellectual property,’ which takes the form of patent and copyright protection.”

If we missed the discussion – it’s because this guy is misusing the terminology. Intellectual property protection is not a tax. It is a fundamental component of a free market economy. It is specifically afforded protections in our Constitution. President Abraham Lincoln “called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments ‘in the world’s history,’ along with the discovery of America and the perfection of printing.”

Intellectual property protection is government protecting productive people – and their productions. A tax is unproductive government taking money from productive people to do unproductive things. See the difference?

“But markets don’t care what term politicians use to describe a government imposed barrier.”

Actually, markets care a great deal. If you kill tariffs and taxes – markets flourish. If you kill intellectual property protection – there will soon be no markets at all. Because for markets to have things to trade – there must first be the ideas for those things. If those ideas aren’t protected – those things will never come to market.

“If a price increase of 10,000 percent sounds high, you haven’t been paying attention to what the drug industry charges for its new drugs. For example, the list price for the Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is $84,000 for a three-month course of treatment. A recent analysis found that Indian manufacturers can profitably produce the drug for just $200 per three-month course of treatment, suggesting a tariff equivalent of more than 40,000 percent.”

Spoken like a man who has obviously never actually produced anything. Yes, the second pill costs pennies. But the first one costs billions of dollars.

Because you don’t just magically, instantaneously arrive at an effective medication. You have lots of very smart, very expensive people doing lots and lots of development – and conducting lots and lots of very expensive tests. Much of which results in absolutely nothing – except failed attempts and ineffective products.

Finally, the magic concoction of effort, trial, error and perseverance – marinated by LOTS of money – eventually delivers a successful concoction. A success – on which the producers must recoup the billions they spent failing.

Lost on Baker is the Genesis of all of this effort and expenditure – the intellectual property protection that makes it all possible. If at the end these people can’t protect what they’ve produced – they will never begin.

Why go to all the time, trouble and inordinate expense – if you don’t get to keep what you create?

Mr. Baker goes on, and ON (and ON…) – but you by now get the idea that he has no idea of what he is speaking.

Taxes…are taxes. And are impediments to markets optimally functioning.

Intellectual property protection (patents, copyrights, trademarks)…is NOT taxes. And is crucial to markets even existing – let alone optimally functioning.

I’m sure you see the difference. Here’s hoping Mr. Baker now does.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep32): Commonwealth Foundation, Regulation Impacts, and Chicago Teachers Strike

April 01, 2016, 2:23 PM

John Nothdurft and Donny Kendal bring you episode #32 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 Commonwealth Institute, the Mercatus Center, the Pelican Institute, and the Illinois Policy Institute.

Better Know a Think Tank

In this weeks segment, Donny and John welcome Elizabeth Stelle, Director of Policy Analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation. Elizabeth joins the show to talk about the Commonwealth Foundation as well as what’s going on in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has just ended a long budget battle that lasted over 250 days.

Featured Work of the Week

This week’s featured work is a report from the Mercatus Center titled “The Impact of Federal Regulation on the 50 States.” The report gives all-encompassing look into federal regulations. The report quantifies the cost of all the federal regulations have on the individual states. The report shows which states are impacted the most and least. Find out where your states ranks.

In the World of Think Tankery

Today Donny and John talk about an article published by the Pelican Institute titled “Governor Edwards, Please Don’t Make Me Regret Moving to Louisiana.” The article highlights the factors that should be considered when deciding to live in a state. The article also contains a map from the Tax Foundation that shows which states gained and lost wealth due to interstate migration.

They also discuss the Chicago Teachers Union strike. John and Donny use articles produced by the Illinois Policy Institute to help explain why the CTU is striking and what the consequences may be.


Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.

Cato Institute (Monday, April 4) Screening of Poverty, Inc. @ the Cato Institute in Washington D.C.

Heartland Institue (Wednesday, April 6) Drilling Through the Core: w/ National Association of Scholars’ Peter Wood @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Property and Environment Research Center (Thursday, April 7) Community, Culture, and Conservation @ Colby College in Waterville, Maine

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 or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

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

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Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – James Taylor: Debate on Global Warming

March 31, 2016, 2:28 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Senior Fellow James Taylor takes part in a debate about global warming. The debate was hosted by WMNF radio’s Fairness Doctrine Show. Topics discussed during the debate include the 97% consensus, nuclear power, fossil fuels, fracking, and many other subjects.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Shikha Dalmia: The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

March 30, 2016, 3:04 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Shikha Dalmia, a Senior Analyst with the Reason Foundation, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Dalmia, a resident of Michigan, joins Burnett to discuss the Flint water crisis.

As you would expect, Dalmia has followed closely the political shenanigan’s in the state including the ongoing political sideshow the water crisis has become. She explains how the situation was caused by the failure of government, not markets. Furthermore, she explains how markets serve to prevent such crises.


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

Categories: On the Blog

Netflix’s Contribution to the Net Neutrality Big Lie

March 30, 2016, 8:11 AM

Net Neutrality is a really stupid, anti-capitalism policy – that the Barack Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally (and likely illegally) jammed down our throats in February 2015.

Uber-huge-bandwidth-hog online-video-streaming-company Netflix has long been a very vocal proponent of Network Neutrality. About which Netflix said: “The net neutrality debate is about who picks winners and losers online: Internet service providers or consumers. Today, the FCC settled it: Consumers win.”

Except consumers don’t win. They rarely do when government gets (exponentially) bigger. Of course uber-huge-bandwidth-hog-company Netflix likes Net Neutrality – because it outlaws their being charged for being an uber-huge-bandwidth-hog-company.

No matter how much data Netflix uses – and they use a ton – Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can not charge them a dime. Which leaves We the Consumers picking up Netflix’s tab – in the form of much higher monthly ISP charges. That’s consumers-augmenting-Netflix-profits – which is certainly a win for Netflix. For We the Consumers? Not so much.

And lest we forget: “Netflix…was one of the lead proponents of…a bright-line prohibition on throttling online traffic by broadband providers.”

With all of this Netflix Net Neutrality inanity in mind – this late last week was a bit of news.

Netflix Has Been Secretly Slowing Down Your Videos for the Past Five Years: “Netflix and its allies last year won the fight over Net Neutrality, arguing that without federal protections Internet service providers could throttle traffic to individuals and companies that didn’t pay for access to Internet fast lanes.”

Get that? Internet throttling by ISPs? Cataclysmic. But when non-ISP Netflix does it? No problem.

Not Neutrality: The Netflix Scandal That Isn’t: “(W)hatever it is, it’s not a Net Neutrality violation. Plain and simple. Anyone who tells you that it is — or that this practice undermines the case for Net Neutrality rules — is either in the business of misleading you, woefully ignorant of the law, or both.”

Sadly, that is correct. Because the FCC’s huge power grab – doesn’t apply to “edge providers” like Netflix. Only ISPs are subject to this heinous onerousness: “ISPs could receive a hefty fine under the net neutrality rules for similar practices, but Netflix faces no such danger, at least not for the throttling itself. The net neutrality rules only apply to ISPs…, not to companies…like Netflix or Google Inc.”

How’s that for un-equal protection before the law? Except this isn’t law – it’s agency regulatory fiat. We’re already WAY off the Constitutional map – here there be monsters.

Pro-Net Neutrality zealots have been pushing their terrible idea for more than a decade. Knowing what we now know about Netflix – much of those shoves along the way may require reexamination.

Verizon, Netflix Continue Net Neutrality War of Words (July 2014): “In a memo to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, said ‘Our focus on strong net neutrality, including interconnection, is about preventing large ISPs from holding our joint customers hostage with poor performance.…’”

Get that? Netflix’s accusation that Verizon was slowing down their videos – was likely a key component in the FCC’s Net Neutrality imposition decision seven months later. And it was all a lie. Verizon wasn’t “holding…joint customers hostage” – Netflix was.

But of course Netflix lied. Because Net Neutrality is a giant lie. So getting it rammed down upon us required a lot of additional lies all along the way.

These lies are slowly coming unraveled. Here’s hoping the FCC’s Net Neutrality power grab disintegrates along with it.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

The Developing World Wants Natural Gas and Electricity, Hillary Clinton Sends Cookstoves

March 30, 2016, 7:58 AM

Hillary Clinton’s “trustworthiness” problem is fed by a long history of “varying credibility,” as a recent Politico story delineated, including cattle-futures trading, law firm billing records, muddled sniper fire recollections and e-mail use.

While providing pertinent points, the Politico list is just a sampling.

One missing item on the “mistrust” litany is a project she reportedly cooked up as Secretary of State, but that was shaped by her family foundation. State Department staff sent official emails to solicit funds from foreign governments.

The project sounds innocent enough: “to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change.” What miracle product can do all that? A cookstove. Yes, that is correct—a cookstove. This is not the product of “as seen on TV” wizardry, nor is it the latest in high-efficiency appliances.

There’s something fishy when governments throughout the world (including the U.S), corporations (including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson), and Ted Turner’s UN Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative are involved as they are with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance).

No one would begrudge corporations giving to a philanthropic effort, but we would probably feel differently about our own tax dollars going to the project Clinton is hawking—especially when the project is, by most accounts, an epic fail.

The Alliance claims to provide a solution to the “fourth worst overall health risk factor in developing countries.” Its website’s “Frequently Asked Questions” download states: “Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires—the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people in the developing world—causes 1.9 million premature deaths annually with women and young children most affected.” Not only that, but “Reliance on biomass for cooking and heating increases pressure on local resources” as women and children “forage for fuel.” Additionally, “inefficient cookstoves contribute to climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases.”

To remedy this problem, it would make sense for the well-funded public-private partnership to use its money and influence to help build natural-gas-fueled power plants and infrastructure to bring electricity to the developing world. But that was not Clinton’s idea.

On September 21, 2010, the world first became aware of Clinton’s brainchild—though she may have stolen the idea from India’s National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative that made headlines around the world in the summer of 2010. The Secretary of State announced the Alliance at the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (GCI)—with the Clinton Foundation being one of the “Strategic Partnerships and Alliances.” By November 2014, at the “Inaugural Cookstoves Futures Summit” it was announced that more than $400 million had been raised for the project. As co-host of the meeting, Clinton exclaimed: “We have to redouble our efforts to get more clean and efficient products in the hands and homes of families everywhere. … We can rededicate ourselves to doing everything we can to help more people in more places to breathe more easily, work more safely and live healthier lives.” In her memoir, Hard Choices, she brags about her role in the Alliance: “I was delighted by the scope and speed of the progress [the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves] made around the world.”

“Progress” in the Alliance can be attributed to her influence as Secretary of State. Before the announcement of the Alliance, Kris Balderston, who served as her special representative for global partnerships, on his account pressured Norway to join. They obliged with a commitment for a $600,000 “down payment.” Apparently, as emails revealed, the country wanted to be part of the launch: “They wanted to move quickly for the CGI announcement.” (Note: Norway is a major donor to the Clinton Foundation.) Once Norway signed on, France and Finland were expected to follow suit. While traveling the globe, on the taxpayers’ dime, Clinton recruited more partners.

All big charity programs have celebrity spokespersons—the Alliance has actress Julia Roberts and chef Jose Andres—but Clinton was much more. She is credited with the program’s birth. While Secretary of State, it was “on the top of her agenda.” Once retiring from her official duties, Clinton became the Chair of the Alliance’s Leadership Council—where she still serves.

If you don’t know the rules, this may seem like petty politics. However, as Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on ethics in government, in the Washington Times cites the Code of Federal Regulations on the use of public office for private gain: “an employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member.”

While at best, Clinton’s clean cookstove campaign seems slimy, and may be illegal, one might cast a blind eye if the program achieved its aggrandizing goals.

These so-called “clean cookstoves,” even by the Alliance’s own literature, “may last for several years”—yet only 20 percent, according to a survey cited in the Washington Post (WP), are still in use after two years. While the Alliance has reportedly “helped drive more that 28 million stoves into the field,” most do not meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines for indoor emissions. The WP states: “The vast majority of the stoves burn wood, charcoal, animal dung or agricultural waste—and aren’t, therefore, nearly as healthy as promised.” While “some perform well in the lab,” others “crack or break under constant heat.”

In her book, A River Runs Again, journalist Meera Subramanian chronicled cookstove use in India. The WP reports: “She found that women had stopped using the stoves because they didn’t like the design or because the stoves broke, burned more wood (not less, as intended) or didn’t get foods hot enough.”

Defending the Alliance’s effort, Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Alliance, says: “There may not be the greatest health benefit, but there’s certainly a good environmental benefit, and it will save them more time” and create “livelihood and empowerment opportunities.”

Distributing stoves that “we know will kill people” has been called “unethical.” Rema Hanna, the Harvard economist who led “Up in Smoke”—which WP calls “the most extensive field study to date on this subject”—says: “it makes no sense to ‘push more stoves into the world that people are not going to use.’” According to a recent publication in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, David Kreutzer, Senior Research Fellow, Energy Economics and Climate Change at The Heritage Foundation, reports: “there were no long-term (after four years) health benefits from clean cook stoves. After two years, smoke inhalation was not at all different, and by the fourth year, nearly one-third of the households had so little use for the new stoves that they actually destroyed them.”

Rather than burning biomass, experts believe that gas, electricity, or both would be better at protecting health. Kreutzer agrees: “These cookstoves seem to be substitutes for efforts to provide affordable modern power to those in need”—which he says condemn so many of the poor to continuing energy poverty. Sadly, Alliance members oppose projects that would provide low-cost power to these poor households.

You have to wonder, if these cookstoves—which are more like a hibachi grill than a stove and cost about $25—don’t achieve the stated goals, why is Clinton such a proponent? As Christine Lakatos, whom I have worked with on dozens of green-energy, crony-corruption reports, and who alerted me to this dirty story, found in her Green Corruption File report, Alliance work was a high priority during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. The project spanned eleven federal agencies and, so far, totals more than $114 million.

Her involvement complicates her “trustworthiness” concerns and risks, as the Washington Times points out: “Raising questions about where she drew the line between official business and aiding the family charity run by her husband and daughter.”

The answer to Clinton’s involvement, and the conflict of interest with her role at the State Department and “aiding the family charity,” deserves further investigation by someone with better access, and a bigger budget, than Lakatos or I have. But a hint can be found on the Alliances’ own website: carbon credits. It states: “In addition to being one of the fastest growing offset types in the voluntary market, cookstoves credits are selling for some of the highest prices observed in the voluntary carbon market.”

If Clinton becomes president, her energy policies will likely enact a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax—which would suddenly make her cookstove project profitable.  Rather than helping bring modern power to the world’s poor, she’s, as Kreutzer calls it, “prolonging energy poverty for millions upon millions in the developing world.” And that is the dirty story behind Clinton’s clean cookstove campaign.

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

“Lip Service but Little Else”, Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access holds hearing on the “Failure of the Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit”

March 30, 2016, 6:34 AM

The U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access held a hearing, appropriately titled, “Lip Service but Little Else: Failure of the Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit, to discuss the failures of the tax credit that Obamacare offered to small businesses.

Chairman Tim Heulskamp remarked that “the credit scheme is so cumbersome and poorly designed that it is largely ineffective.”

Testimony included remarks from persons representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

Harold Jackson, Executive Chairman of Buffalo Supply, Inc., a small business in Colorado with 20 employees who provided “a concrete real life example as to the shortfalls of this premium tax credit which is unfortunately illusive to most small businesses.”

Holly Wade, Director of Research and Policy Analysis, on behalf of NFIB, testified that “the tax credit was largely ineffective on both fronts as its design is exceedingly restrictive, complicated, and only offers limited and temporary relief to a larger small business cost problem.”

Michael Ricco, Quality Manager for AEEC, on behalf of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, attested that “it is the small businesses in middle – particularly those between 50-100 employees – that could benefit the most from this health care tax credit.”

Four main points were central to the testimonies the subcommittee heard. The first was that the eligibility requirements were not effective enough to impact all small businesses. Second, the complicated language deterred most small businesses from even determining if they were eligible for the credit. Third, the tax credit is temporary, and can only be claimed for two years, providing little relief for small business owners. The fourth concern was that, as of July 1, 2014, the tax credit is only available to small business owners through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP ) marketplaces, limiting the options for employers.

This subcommittee hearing only offers some insight into the future negative impact of Obamacare on small businesses, and is very telling. It is indicative that there is a major problem to be addressed, as Wade ended her testimony that the health insurance tax credit was a poor tool for cost effectiveness and that “more importantly, health insurance costs continue to increase, and small business owners continue to struggle with their ability to afford offering the benefit.”

You can find the more information on this hearing at


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Hal Scherz: The Best Kept Secret in the Health Care Industry

March 29, 2016, 3:35 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Dr. Hal Scherz, founder of Docs 4 Patient Care, joins Managing Editor for Health Care News Michael Hamilton. If you make a habit of reading the articles found at, you’ll find a number of stories about one of the best kept secrets in the health care industry, a secret Dr. Scherz helps expose in today’s podcast: direct primary care.

Docs 4 Patient Care is a think tank run exclusively by practicing physicians, all of whom are committed not only to providing excellent patient care, but to promoting free-market health care solutions for ordinary patients like you and me.

[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

This Year’s Presidential Politics Equals Continuing Big Government

March 29, 2016, 2:55 PM

The daily and unending bombardment of political campaign reporting and news, with its “drama” about who will be the Republican and Democratic Party candidates for the U.S. presidency, hides from view the continuing and real choice facing the American public: freedom or statism, individual liberty or government control.

This real underlying question is hidden from view because the media coverage emphasizes in what ways the competing candidates differ from each other in personality and policy prescriptions for America’s future. What is missed, however, are all the common premises that bind these candidates together.

Listen to either Republicans or Democrats, “liberals” or “conservatives,” and what one discovers with a little bit of reflection is the degree to which most of them accept and believe in the same type of “activist” role for government in human affairs. They merely differ on the type and degree of such government intervention, regulation, control and redistribution.

With the Democratic Party candidates for president, this is fairly clear and obvious. Watching or reading the campaign stump speeches of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, it is easy to wonder if they have ever met a government interventionist program they did not like.

On the Republican side, the intensity of the support for or dislike of Donald Trump has made this a little less clear. The debate and disagreement has primarily focused on Trump’s abrasive personality, his evasion of detail about either domestic or foreign policy, his use of colorful “off-color” language, and his less than subtle support for “roughing up” and “punching out” anti-Trump demonstrators, and his threats of possible “riots” by his followers if he does not win the Republican nomination for the presidency, even if he has not won a majority of the convention delegates in the primaries.

The “Sacred Cow” of Social Security vs. Personal Liberty

But over a significant number of public policy issues, the differences in views among the candidates are often more a matter of degree than of kind. For instance, on Social Security, and not surprisingly, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are insistent on the preservation and perpetuation of the government mandated retirement program. Sanders has blindly presumed that nothing is fundamentally wrong with the funding and coverage of the Social Security system, other than guaranteeing that it stays and is reinforced and increased, while Clinton has admitted that demographics may require some tweaking of the system while basically leaving it intact.

On the Republican side, it is not that much different. Trump assures the voters that he will change nothing in terms of Social Security eligibility, coverage or payments. He will make sure that America “wins,” is “strong” and has the wealth to maintain the system. End of story. Just trust him. He knows how to “make deals.”

John Kasich also wants the U.S. government to keep its promises to the American people, with few changes to the Social Security system. He reminds us – unendingly over and over again – that as governor of Ohio he has grown jobs, increased production, balanced the budget and taken care of the needy, and known how to bring people together. Put him in the White House and he’ll do the same in Washington to save Social Security for the current and future generations. You can trust him, he’s the “fix-it man.”

Ted Cruz has emphasized that Social Security is in financial trouble because of the demographics of an aging population. But, he too, has insisted that a government Social Security system is an essential part of American society. He wants to partly privatize the funding of the system, while continuing to presume a guiding hand of the government in the retirement planning of the American people.

The friend of freedom would ask, what is government doing in the retirement business in the first place? There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the federal government the responsibility or authority to mandate compulsory participation or funding of such a Social Security scheme. And it is worth recalling that before eighty years ago, it was not Uncle Sam’s job to oversee the financing of people’s “golden” post-work years.

Before 1935, this was considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families and private charities, along with some local community funding. It was argued that part of the meaning of freedom was the right of the individual to plan the affairs of his own life and that of his family. Just as the individual was expected, under liberty, to make his own choices on the allocation of his income among alternative uses in the present, the same applied on deciding on spending his income in the present versus setting aside a portion of it as savings for his and his family’s needs and desires in the future.

The fact is, any candidate who fully believed in and advocated individual liberty and constitutionally limited government would be attempting to explain and persuade the voting public that a government-funded pension plan through intergenerational redistribution is not only unconstitutional and inconsistent with the type of personal freedom promulgated by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, but is, pragmatically, rapidly reaching its financial end due to an aging population and a shrinking workforce to fund Social Security.

Such a candidate would be making the case for the end of Social Security and in some manner that would do justice to the older segment of the American population who have been compelled to pay into a system that made it, as a result, more difficult or impossible to plan for their own retirement years. But which closed the chapter on government and the pension business. (See my article, “There is No Social Security Santa Claus.”)

Freedom Means Ending Government-Funded Healthcare

The same applies to government involvement and responsibility for the health care and medical insurance of the American people. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sander merely argue over an immediate government single-payer system of socialized medicine versus an easing into it as budgetary revenues and costs permit an end to any predominantly privately provided health insurance and medical care.

Among the Republicans, there is a general insistence that ObamaCare should be repealed, but there is no call for the removal of government from the health care and insurance business, as a whole. Medicare and Medicaid are generally considered essential among Uncle Sam’s grab bag of duties and responsibilities.

The fact is virtually all the problems associated with people’s frustration with health care premiums and coverage has its origin with the extent to which government has intervened in and interfered with the health care industry in America. The problem has not been too little government in medical care, but far too much over the decades, which has stymied competition, fixed and manipulated prices for medical services, and narrowed the choices and options available to people compared to what a truly free market healthcare industry could have provided to the population.

A candidate interested in fostering a free market system in healthcare and insurance would be educating the voters on how and why eliminating government control and involvement is essential to moving America forward towards a vibrant, innovative and affordable totally private sector medical industry for the current generation and looking ahead for the rest of this century.  Alas, none of the candidates for the presidency in the current election cycle have even come close to doing so. (See my article, “For Healthcare the Best Government Plan is No Plan.”)

Besides the Social Security system and government-funded health care and insurance being taken for granted to one degree of anther by all presidential candidates this year, there is also the acceptance that some form of the welfare state is compatible with and complementary to a free society.

The Welfare State Undermines Incentives and Balanced Production

But, in fact, the welfare state is an arrow in the heart of a truly free society that is respectful of individual choice and is based on the rights of individuals to manage their own lives as they freely decide in peaceful and mutually beneficial association with others.

The presumption is often made that a free society can successfully function with a market economy that “delivers the goods” while having the government siphon off large portions of the income and wealth generated through the production and productivity of that economy for purposes of redistributive largess guiding by some notion of “social justice.”

This reasoning presumes that the resulting production is independent of the incentives that make the members of society have a motive for work, saving and investment. All of us know that the higher (lower) the price of something the less (more) people are willing to buy of it, and the lower (higher) the price of something the less (more) people are willing to supply it. Why should we presume this is any different concerning goods and services that government supplies to people for “free” or below market price, or concerning people’s willingness to work to earn income the more they are taxed.

Make something relatively free or inexpensive compared to a market price that covers the actual costs of supplying it, and the demand will swell and overwhelm the available supply. Tax people more and more at higher and higher rates to pay for below market price “free” goods, and the incentive to keep producing and earning is increasingly undermined. Demand outruns supply and supply fails to grow to keep up with the demand.

But even beyond these important and crucial distortions and imbalances between supply and demand the more the government offers desired “goodies” for “free” and undermines the incentives and abilities for production to provide the required supplies, there is a wider moral dimension to a growing and encompassing welfare state.

The Paternalistic State Creates Childlike Citizens

The welfare state denies individuals the right to have the liberty to make such decisions for themselves. Every step further in this direction reduces people’s self-determination over their own lives, chips away at one more aspect and corner of the person’s life over which they have diminished responsibility and autonomy to be self-governing. They become, one step at a time, a bit more of the ward of the state.

This threatens another central element that is part of being a truly free person: the cultivation and exercise of moral choice. A child is one who is considered not sufficiently developed psychologically and morally to fully make its own choices and decisions. Parents serve as guardians to care for their young and educate them as they grow up in learning the meaning of responsible decision-making, to think before your leap, to consider tomorrow before you make a choice today, and to ask what is the ethical things to do concerning my own life and in my interactions with others?

The more government takes responsibility over these aspect of human life, and the more the political authority asserts the obligation to handle “social problems” that concern the mutual affairs of individuals in society, then the less people develop the experience, maturity or appreciation for what it means to think about and act upon such corners of life and human association. (See my article, “A World Without the Welfare State.”)

Political paternalism through the redistributive welfare state brings about a permanently infantilized population. Government protected or supported employments, government subsidized levels of income and revenues, and government guaranteed social “safety nets,” result in the creation of an increasingly childlike population.

More and more people want more and more things for “free,” and they want it “now.” They want to be sheltered from “hurtful” or “uncomfortable” situations or choices. They come to expect politically provided security and protection over all the everyday affairs of ordinary life. They lose the capacity to think and act as free men and women. They take for granted and long for the political shepherd who oversees and takes care of the human sheep.

“Fair Trade” is Politically Managed and Manipulated Trade

Also look at the policy positions taken by both Democrats and Republicans running for the presidency on America’s place and role in the world.  Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders rant about how international trade can be and has been detrimental to American jobs and industry, promising to redress the unfair trade practices of other nations.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump wails about how America is being robbed, beaten up and abused by the trade policies of other nations. And while the other Republicans who have been running in the primaries over the last half year have given lip service to free trade, they, too, to varying degrees have assured the voters that “free trade” must be tempered by “fair trade.”

The friend of freedom, since the time of Adam Smith, has emphasized that the benefits from trade do not come from what we export but from what the sale of our exports enable us to import. We trade with our immediate neighbors or with others half way around the world because it enables each of us to obtain from our exchange partners goods and services that we would not be able to produce for ourselves, or which we could not produce with as a high quality or at a similar low cost.

It is the division of labor and specialization of production that domestic and foreign trade facilitates and encourages that has given us and continues to provide the existing and continually rising standards and qualities of life that we take for granted.

Yet, listening to the rhetoric and policy proposals from both the Democratic and Republican competitors in the presidential primaries, we are being abused and misused by our trading partners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even when other governments subsidize the exports of their own nations goods to the U.S., they, in fact, give the American consumer more goods at lower prices than would be otherwise the case.

It should be the citizens of those foreign governments who should be complaining because it is their higher taxes that are making it possible for American consumers to buy desired goods at below cost prices. And it frees up American producers to manufacture and supply others goods that Americans could not, otherwise, afford to demand and buy if not for the lower-cost foreign imports. (See my article, ”Global Free Trade Makes for Mutual Prosperity and World Peace.”)

In addition, to the extent that government takes on the role of arbiter over the buying and selling of goods between the citizens of its own country and the rest of the world, the promised “fair trade” becomes the politically corrupted trade. Rather than global competitive forces of supply and demand determining the types and direction of production to satisfy the world’s consumers, it becomes influential special interest groups close to those in political authority who have it in their power to raise import taxes or impose regulations that hamper the market-determined patterns of production and sales to improve the lives of people in their own lands and in other corners of the world.

An Interventionist Mindset in Foreign Affairs

The interventionist mindset applies across the party lines in foreign affairs, in general. The friend of freedom has always argued that if government has any rationale it is to protect the life, liberty and honestly acquired property of the citizenry. For that reason the essential task of constitutionally limited government is to secure a country’s citizens from domestic threats through the use of the constabulary and the courts; and to protect the population from foreign threats of invasion and destruction from abroad through national defense.

But Hillary Clinton has been ready to intervention in foreign countries involving little or no threat to the United States both when she was a Senator from New York or Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. And while Bernie Sanders has been highly critical of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he has demonstrated a love affair with Marxist and other socialist regimes around the world; a President Sanders most likely would be very willing to provide American diplomatic and economic support to radical regimes devoted to the demise of capitalism.

Among the Republicans, Donald Trump has criticized the invasion of Iraq, but has assured a rapid and devastating military attack on Islamic fundamentalists in Syria and Iraq, including thousands of American ground forces to do the job, as well as unleashing torture techniques on suspected terrorists and their families.

The other Republican hopefuls pursuing their party’s nomination for the presidency have also, to varying degrees, all called for a continuation and intensifying of such military intervention to set right parts of the Middle East.

Thus, across party lines, there is a common presumption that America must play an “active” and military hands-on presence in many parts of the world that can be very inconsistent with practicing a policy of liberty at home and abroad. (See my article, “Practicing the Principles of Non-Intervention – at Home and Abroad.”)

The task of the informed citizen and the friend of freedom is to cut through the political confusion and rhetorical combat in the current election cycle, and to realize that no matter what the outcome of this year’s election, there is little cause for confidence that liberty will be victorious or advancing, due to the all too common interventionist and statist premises that underlie the policy positions offered by all the candidates.

[Originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Smart Meter Dangers: What They Knew and When They Knew It

March 29, 2016, 1:56 PM

ComEd’s smart meter deployment is being propelled by a public relations campaign which minimizes and/or dismisses the health and safety impacts that the wireless meters are creating for their customers. What has been known for decades about the health effects of Radio Frequency/microwave radiation is now being passed off by ComEd as a small amount of Radio Frequency being emitted from a smart meter six times a day.

A call to customer service posing the question, “Are smart meters safe?” will elicit a response, “You don’t have anything to worry about, it is safer than a baby monitor”. And, with that simple explanation, the deployment of four million smart meters is underway in Illinois. Community leaders and residents deserve a real answer and hard facts.

Throughout this article Radio Frequency/microwave radiation will also be referred to as non-ionizing or non-thermal. For clarification: A definition of thermal or ionizing radiation means it can cause heat shock or burn body tissue. Non-ionizing or non-thermal radiation is a lower intensity that can cause other negative effects on living tissue (human, animal, or plant).

Let the truth be known:

What is being hidden from the consumer and decision-maker is what has been known by the military for decades: Radio Frequency/microwave radiation even at low levels is a health threat. U.S. military reports nearly 60 years ago confirmed the biological effects of exposure to low level Electromagnetic Radiation.

Jerry Flynn is a retired Canadian Armed Forces captain with 22 years of experience in Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence. In that capacity, he worked with U.S. and NATO armies. Flynn writes

“In 1956 the U.S. Department of Defense directed the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force to investigate the biological effects of exposure to Radio Frequency/microwave radiation (RF/MW) and Electromagnetic Fields (EMF). In 1957 they reported many implications: evidence it can cause cancer, damage major organs, and disrupt important biological processes. It can harm the immune and nervous systems, cause behavioral effects, interfere with the ability to learn, and damage the chemical barrier that prevents blood toxins from entering the brain. It could possibly cause genetic defects, birth defects, and general effects on growth and the aging processes.”

Flynn emphasizes, “The military noted that pulsed radiation appeared to be more harmful than non-pulsed radiation.” (ComEd smart meters emit pulsedradiation.)

Air Force Report, 1994   

A June 1994 U.S. Air Force document, entitled, “Radio Frequency/microwave Radiation Biological Effects and Safety Standards”,acknowledged non-thermal health effects.  Stated in its abstract, “It is known that Electromagnetic Radiation has a biological effect on human tissue. Researchers have discovered a number of biological dysfunctions that can occur in living organisms. Exposure of the human body to Radio Frequency/microwave [RF/MW] radiation has many biological implications that range from innocuous sensation of warmth to serious physiological damage to the eye”, and added that “there is also evidence that RF/MW radiation can cause cancer.  

Other adverse health issues include: “mutagenic effects, cardiovascular effects, negative effects on chromosomes and notes that Soviet investigators claim thatexposure to low-level radiation can induce serious CNS [central nervous system] dysfunctions”.  

NASA Report, 1981

A NASA report published in April 1981, entitled “Electromagnetic Field Interactions with the Human Body: Observed Effects and Theories”,discussed what EMF and RF/microwave radiation inflicts on humans. Health effects of RF/microwave radiation that were reported are headaches, sleep problems, neurological symptoms, cardiac symptoms, memory problems, increased cholesterol, gastritis, ulcers, increased fasting blood glucose, irritability, inability to concentrate, apprehension, and cataracts (clouding of posterior part of lens in those caused by microwave radiation instead of anterior clouding as seen with regular types)Information for the NASA report was collected from over 1,000 written sources that included journals, conference proceedings, technical reports, books, abstracts, and news items.

Navy Report, 1971

In October 1971, the Naval Medical Research Institute published a research report, “Bibliography of Reported Biological Phenomena (‘Effects’) and Clinical Manifestations Attributed to Microwave and Radio-Frequency Radiation”,  which was a compilation of over 2000 references on the biological responses to RF/microwave radiation.  It lists well over 100 negative biological effects caused by RF/ microwave radiation. Here is a partial list from the report: corneal damage, brain heating, alteration of the diameter of blood vessels, liver enlargement, decreased fertility, sterility, altered fetal development, decreased lactation in nursing mothers, cranial nerve disorders, seizures, convulsions, depression, insomnia, hand tremors, chest pain, thrombosis, alteration in the rate of cellular division, anorexia, altered adrenal cortex activity, chromosome aberrations, tumors, loss of hair, and sparking between dental fillings.

Also mentioned in the Navy Report is, “altered orientation of animals, birds and fish”.

Barrie Trower, a British Secret Service Microwave Weapons Specialist, states:

“The paradox is how Radio Frequency/microwave radiation can be used as a weapon to cause impairment, illness and death; and at the same time be used as a communications instrument [such as in a smart meter]. By 1971 we knew everything that needed to be known. A 1976 document summarizing U.S. Defense Intelligence research is the saddest and most despicable document ever published in history. The document lists all of the health hazards caused by wireless devices and concludes: This should be kept secret to preserve industrial profit.

Since the health threats have been known for decades, where do we stand now?

At this time, the installation of smart meters is mandated by law on every home, school, and building in ComEd’s customer service territory. NO permanent opt-out option is available. Parents, who know the truth about the health risks, have nowhere to turn. There is no avenue available for parents, who are aware of the dangers, to protect their children. Does this sound like Flint, Michigan all over again?

Illinois is in the midst of an avoidable, man-made health crisis. What happens when the state faces Flint’s horrible position concerning water, but with electricity? ComEd’s smart meter deployment is creating just such a tragic situation. It is up to the residents to take action, push legislators and theIllinois Commerce Commission for a permanent opt-out, and protect the children in Illinois as well as all living beings in the state.

Part 2 –Follow this article to find out what other agencies, corporations, and organizations knew about the health effects related to Radio Frequency/microwave radiation and when they knew it. Also covered is who is sounding the alarm in an effort to protect public health and welfare.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rep. Dane Eagle (FL) – Challenging the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan

March 28, 2016, 3:43 PM

In Today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Florida State Rep. Dane Eagle, Chairman of the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Rep. Eagle joins Burnett to talk about why Florida was right to join the 27 states challenging the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan in court.

Rep. Eagle also discusses why the House passed a ban on local fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, bans and why the state constitution is not an appropriate place to deal with solar power issues.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Google, the Barack Obama Administration – and Even More Questionable Policy

March 28, 2016, 8:17 AM

Almost inarguably, no private entity is more enmeshed with the Barack Obama Administration – than is Google. This has been – in way too many ways for an allegedly free market economy – the Google Administration.

Google has met with the White House just about once a week – every week since President Obama took the oath. Think tanks usually staff administrations – Google and this administration have been swapping (often very high-level) employees throughout.

And as we know, personnel is policy. So time and again this administration has (often illegally) jammed through awful, anti-capitalism policy – because Google asked for it.

Sometimes the cronyism is so overt – it’s darkly comical. Like when the administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally imposed Google’s preferred (and really idiotic) Network Neutrality.

The Commission’s two Republicans weren’t given an advance draft of the order – but Google was. And then the Commission’s Obama-appointee chairman – altered the order at Google’s request.

And now we have Google’s foray into driverless cars. Cars that can drive themselves – and thus must detect all manner of things stationary and mobile around them. There are many components incorporated in making that a possibility. And each sliver of every component – requires a patent.

Now, a brief aside – to delve a little bit into the United States patent process. I myself have recently applied for a patent. My idea works for multiple products – but I have to apply for a separate patent for each. (Then I have to trademark the name, and…. It ain’t easy or cheap to have an idea.)

I tell this story as a parallel to what Google is doing. Trying to get a driverless car to market – takes a LOT of patents. One of which is what Google calls a “Bus Detection for an Autonomous Vehicle.”

More Obama Administration-delivered good news for Google: its U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just approved said patent. Bad news for Google? The Obama Administration approved said patent “not a week after its self-driving car failed to detect a bus and ultimately collided with it….

“According to the patent, the car’s self-driving software should recognize a large vehicle, check it against known school bus sizes and look for other visual cues such as yellow paint or the word “School” painted on it. Upon confirmation, the car will take special care around the bus.”

Alanis Morissette would call that ironic – don’t you think?

Now to be fair “Google’s car didn’t hit a school bus — just a traditional one. Google’s software (and the human driver serving as backup) assumed the bus would yield for the self-driving car, but it didn’t, and so the two collided.” And Google has “tweaked its software significantly, implementing 3,500 new tests to avoid this happening again.”

But one has to wonder if anyone not-Google – under these same exact circumstances – would have received patent approval.

In an era of poorly crafted, badly aimed “patent troll” legislation – when the chief complaint is actually bad patents being approved – one absolutely has to ask.

Oh – guess who heads up the Obama Administration’s Patent and Trademark Office? A woman named Michelle Lee. Guess what her immediately preceding gig was? “Deputy General Counsel and Head of Patents and Patent Strategy for Google from 2003 to 2012.”

Man it feels good to be a crony.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Neither Rising Sea Levels Nor Extreme Weather Getting Worse

March 28, 2016, 12:33 AM

Stormy weather

Contra the near constant stream of alarmist predictions that sea human caused global warming is/will cause sea levels to rise at increasing rates and weather extremes to get worse, neither claim is proving true, bringing to mind a certain vertically challenged chicken and his repeated false claims of disaster.

The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL), the global data bank for long-term sea-level-change information, shows there has been little or no change in either the direction or rate of global sea level changes. The PSMSL is the best, longest-running consistent system for measuring sea level. It provides good coverage for Europe, Eurasia, North America, and the Pacific Islands; coverage is lacking in South America and Africa.

Albert Parker, a guest blogger at Watts Up With That, studied the data and found no substantial change in the rate or direction of sea level change from 1900 to 1975 when compared to rates of change from 1975 to 2016, the period of purported human-caused warming. In Scandinavia and much of coastal Eastern Europe sea levels have fallen or remained the same since 1900 with no change in direction or rate of decrease since 1975. In Australia, Central and Southern Europe, and North America, where sea levels were rising or neutral from 1900 to 1975, they have remained rising or stable post-1975.

Though Parker doesn’t address this, I would argue the lack of coverage for South America and Africa should not undermine the value of PSMSL’s measurements. Because purported human-caused warming is a “global” phenomena, if something substantially different is happening along the coasts of Africa or South America than is happening around the rest of the globe, it would have to be due to unique geologic events occurring on those continents, not attributable to a global change in the rate of sea level rise.

More good news for the world (though not climate alarmists pushing weather disaster fears in order to implement their twisted version of global government), a new paper in the Journal of Geography and Natural Disasters demonstrates reality proves wrong the oft-repeated claims global warming will result in an increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather events. Extreme weather during the most recent period of warming is on the decline. The author defines extreme weather events as storms, droughts, floods, etc. that are multiple standard deviations away from the average distribution by which such events are measured.

A survey of official weather sites and the scientific literature provides strong evidence the first half of the twentieth century had more extreme weather than the second half, when anthropogenic global warming is claimed to have been mainly responsible for observed climate change. For instance, the author found periods of maximum warming or cooling rates are all in the nineteenth century or at the start of the twentieth century, with the great majority occurring prior to 1950. The data show there has been no long-term trend in monthly rainfall since 1895. There has been a substantial decline in the number and intensity of hurricanes making landfall in the United States over the twentieth century. The number of tornadoes of strength 3 and higher is down 30 percent since 1975, the year many climate alarmist identify as global cooling turning to warming. Importantly, the number of annual deaths from climate-related severe weather events has declined steadily since 1900.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Hot Testimony on NOAA’s Temperature Manipulation

March 25, 2016, 10:00 AM

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.

Wikipedia: What the Liberals Want You to Think
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
In recent years, left-wing activists have rewritten hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia entries, adding their anti-technology, anti-corporation, and anti-free enterprise dogma and propaganda to the profiles of many individuals and organizations. The Heartland Institute’s profile has been the target of a major misinformation effort, with objective descriptions of our work removed and lies and unfounded leftist accusations put in their place. Can you help us fix Wikipedia? READ MORE

Yaron Brook Explains Why Equal Is Unfair
We’ve been told the American Dream in vanishing. We’re told the rich are getting richer, leaving the rest of us to struggle just to keep our heads above water. To save the American Dream, we’re told we need to fight income inequality through tax hikes and wealth redistribution. What we are being told is wrong. The Ayn Rand Institute’s Yaron Brook spoke to an attentive crowd at the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center at The Heartland Institute this week to explain why we must fight to make America a freer, more prosperous nation. If you missed the presentation, the entire event is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page.  WATCH IT HERE

Testimony: John R. Christy Addresses NOAA’s Temperature Manipulation
This testimony by Dr. John R. Christy, delivered on February 2, 2016, before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is a fascinating overview of the latest real science regarding climate change. Dr. Christy demolishes claims that scientists know enough about how the climate works to understand the human impact or predict future climate conditions. The testimony also includes an “extract” of his previous testimony showing man-made climate change is not causing a rise in extreme weather.  READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Kyle Maichle: The Article V Convention Movement
More states are passing resolutions demanding a solution to our country’s runaway debt, making it clear the movement for an Article V Convention is more robust than ever. Kyle Maichle, project manager in the Center for Constitutional Reform at The Heartland Institute, spoke to an Illinois-based tea party group about the Article V approach to reining in the national debt and the federal government. Maichle explains what this would mean for our country and how it can be achieved soon. LISTEN TO MORE

The Stars Come Out in Arlington Heights!
If you love discussions about liberty, you will not want to miss the great series of events Heartland has lined up through the spring. Upcoming events include a presentation by the Austrian Economics Center, Learning Lessons on the Road to Serfdom, as well as several book talks, including Drilling Through the Corewith the National Association of Scholars’ Peter Wood and The Way Back with George Mason University’s Frank Buckley. 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

Lynch May Ignore First Amendment to Prosecute Climate Skeptics
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
As the global warming narrative continues to fall apart, alarmists are becoming more desperate in their attempts to stop the debate. The latest attack comes from the United States Department of Justice. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Loretta Lynch discussed pursuing civil action against companies, organizations, and individual scientists who continue to debate the question of whether humans are causing catastrophic climate change. READ MORE

Video: Oklahoma’s Earthquakes Are ‘Unrelated’ to Fracking
Isaac Orr, Somewhat Reasonable
Anti-fracking activists blame hydraulic fracturing for the rise in earthquakes in Oklahoma over the past several years. But a new video featuring Dr. Mark Zoback, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University, explains fracking is not to blame for the quakes. In fact, as you’ll see in the video, the earthquakes in Oklahoma have nothing to do with fracking at all.  READ MORE

A Not-So-Happy Obamacare Anniversary
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, has reached its sixth year anniversary. Not many Americans are celebrating, because Obamacare has caused far more problems than it attempted to solve. Skyrocketing premiums, failing insurance companies, and vanishing high-quality insurance plans are just a few of the problems. Even after six years, it appears our health care system is going to get worse before it gets better.  READ MORE

Replacing Common Core: Choices and Tradeoffs
Joseph Bast, Lennie Jarratt, and Joy Pullmann, Heartland Policy Brief
Supporters of school choice view Common Core as an unnecessary and unconstitutional federal intrusion into the educational system. The way states were coerced into adopting these national standards is particularly troubling. But if Common Core standards were ended, what should replace them? This Policy Brief discusses several options, examining the benefits and drawbacks of each.  READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep30): Cascade Policy Institute, Corporate Welfare, Union Leave, and Beer Taxes
In episode #30 of the In The Tank podcast, Donny and John speak with John Charles Jr., president and CEO of the Cascade Policy Institute, about his organization and Oregon’s move to increase its renewable energy mandate to 50 percent by 2040. In the second half, Donny and John talk about the failures of corporate welfare, the cost of union leave time, and the taxes each state charge for beer. This weekly podcast gives you a look into the work free-market think tanks are doing to promote freedom and individual liberty across the country.  LISTEN TO MORE

Direct Primary Care Saving States Millions
Nathan Makla and Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary
Increased government involvement in the health care industry continues to make it harder for doctors and facilities to provide inexpensive and timely services. For this reason, direct primary care, also known as retainer medicine, is becoming increasingly popular for doctors and patients alike and could serve to revitalize the U.S. primary care system. Union County, North Carolina was able to optimize this consumer-driven health care model, a move that may save the county $1 million in 2016 alone.  READ MORE

Reporters Insult Parents Who Choose Schools
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
In response to school choice advocates’ support for greater parental control over education, a reporter from The New York Times wrote “that parents are susceptible to being duped because they are poor and unsophisticated.” This is the crux of the issue. Who can choose a better education for a child, the parents or a bureaucracy? It may come as a shock to the reporter of a liberal newspaper, but it is not surprising to us that families secure a better education for their kids when they are free to choose.  READ MORE

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Categories: On the Blog