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Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. David Wojick: How Government Funding Bias Corrupts Science

June 06, 2016, 4:12 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Dr. David Wojick, formerly with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the government funding bias.

Dr. Wojick has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh.He discusses his work showing how government funding biases or corrupts science and how some prominent science organization’s following the government money are trying to write nature’s role in climate change out of the picture entirely.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Government Tech Waste Illustrates Disrespect for Taxpayers

June 06, 2016, 4:00 AM

When you’re cleaning out your closet, don’t toss out that pile of outdated computer parts and accessories; the federal government might need it!

A recent report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) — a nonpartisan government agency providing auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for Congress — found federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury, are spending increasingly large amounts of taxpayer money maintaining information technology (IT) computer systems from the 1950s and 1960s.

For example, instead of updating file systems and keeping up with advances in efficiency by improving hardware and software, the Treasury Department maintains the nerve center of the U.S. tax system, the Individual Master File, using hardware and software first developed when Dwight Eisenhower was president.

The Master File, described by the report as “the authoritative data source for individual taxpayer accounts where accounts are updated, taxes are assessed, and refunds are generated during the tax filing period,” runs on hand-crafted code.

The GAO also found the Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy disks, storage technology invented in 1967 and made obsolete in the 1980s by the 3.5-inch floppy, to maintain the American nuclear missile arsenal. In the report, GAO helpfully provides an illustration of these precursor technologies, because none have been likely to have been seen by the public for decades. According to GAO, over 75 percent of the federal government’s total information technology spending budget went to maintaining obsolete systems. This amount is increasing, the audit finds, crowding out programs to purchase new and more efficient systems.

As time goes on, the problem only gets worse. GAO writes federal government computer systems are getting older and more obsolete, meaning the few people who know how to do bare-metal coding for the government are very expensive to hire, which means taxpayers have to cough up more money.

”OMB staff in the Office of E-Government and Information Technology have recognized the upward trend of IT O&M spending and identified several contributing factors, including the support of O&M activities requires maintaining legacy hardware, which costs more over time, and costs are increased in maintaining applications and systems that use older programming languages, since programmers knowledgeable in these older languages are becoming increasingly rare and thus more expensive,” GAO wrote.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, government waste like this will always be a problem, and lawmakers are unlikely to do anything about it.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says everyone loves talking about government waste, but no one seems willing to do anything about it.”Waste, fraud, and abuse squander public resources,” de Rugy wrote in a Mercatus Center study about federal spending. ”Policymakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that the American people have little tolerance for waste, fraud, and abuse. In fact, it is hard, if not impossible, to find a policymaker who don’t tell their constituents that they’ll work to eliminate government waste.”

Instead of just talking about it, lawmakers should begin demanding federal agencies ensure taxpayer money is spent on getting the best bang for their buck. Instead of pumping ever-increasing amounts of money into outdated systems that require software archeologists to navigate, federal agencies should be required to get tough on waste. If they don’t, lawmakers need to get tough on agencies when it’s time to renew agency appropriations.

[Originally published on The Hill] 

Categories: On the Blog

Health Insurers Find Back Door to Limit Choice

June 05, 2016, 12:00 AM

Lost in the noise of political posturing over health care, there’s one widely accepted principle: the importance of the doctor-patient relationship in medical decision-making.

Yet we’ve all heard stories where insurance companies won’t fully cover a drug that both the doctor and patient believe is the right medical choice. Why not? It’s pretty simple: the insurance companies don’t want to pay.

As cutting edge drugs come to market, insurance companies are scrambling to find ways to justify not paying for them.

Insurers will tell you (if you can get them on the phone) the drug isn’t covered because it’s not on their formulary, their own list of preferred medicines. Kids have a term for this: “Sorrynotsorry.” Don’t let the circular reasoning fool you.

Almost as bad, doctors often have to get pre-authorization before prescribing something that is on the formulary. (Because we all need more paperwork.)

The flawed justification was normalized by President Obama in 2009, when he oversimplified pharmacoeconomics, saying, “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?”

Insurance companies are using this concept to cut costs by excluding the red pills. To do so,  they’ve cooked up a clever way to justify exclusions from formularies by founding and funding a group called the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER.

ICER does a version of something called “comparative effectiveness” to determine whether, across the population, the drugs are worth the cost compared to other treatments. It releases the findings around the same time drugs come to market, just in time for insurance companies, who, not coincidentally, serve on ICER’s governing board, to justify excluding FDA approved drugs from the formulary based, in part, on ICER’s “independent” math.

And so far, it’s working, at least for health insurance companies. According to longtime pharmaceuticals reporter Ed Silverman,”ICER is becoming a de facto arbiter for the nation’s medicine chest.”

Take a closer look at ICER’s modus operandi, and you’ll see why this is a horrifying proposition.

ICER, which holds itself out as a kind of Consumer Reports for drugs, is basically an industry-backed comparative effectiveness calculator. That ICER is industry backed isn’t the problem, it’s that it uses comparative effectiveness to lend an air of legitimacy to the formulary shenanigans.

Different people respond differently to medications. The blue pills don’t always work the same as the red pills. Individuals, it turns out, are different.

Consider the common blood thinner, Plavix, an important drug for the prevention of strokes and heart attacks. Yet we’ve learned from the emerging field of biomarkers that up to nearly a third of the tens of millions of patients who take it have an inferior genetic variant of an enzyme that is needed to convert the drug to the active form, so their bodies can’t fully activate the drug.

We’re also learning more about the role genetics plays in opiate side effects. While morphine and oxycodone are critically important pain killers, we’re getting a better understanding about which people are more susceptible to not only nausea and slowed breathing, but potential for addiction. Similarly, advances in personalized medicine are likely to play important roles in fighting mental illness. Arguing that the less expensive drugs we already have are good enough would be a deadly mistake.

Prior authorization requirements are so burdensome that they’ve prevented patients from access to drugs they need. In the case of two PCSK9 inhibitor drugs, used to treat patients with very high cholesterol who don’t respond to statins, the country’slargest pharmacy benefits manager, Express Scripts allowed them on the formulary, but made the prior authorization requirements so complex, that, as vice president Everett Neville told Reuters, PCSK9 inhibitors aren’t budget busters because, in part, a lot of “physicians are not providing (needed) information.” Conveniently, an ICER report recommended extensive prior authorization.

ICER’s approach appears to be modeled on the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) model, which tries to judge the cost-effectiveness of therapies, in order to help determine which health services the government should provide. ICER and NICE share more than just three letters; ICER’s president, Steven Pearson, was awarded an Atlantic Fellowship by the British Government and acted as Senior Fellow at NICE.

If insurers get to play the role the British government does, determining which pills are cost-effective, we’ll have taken a huge step not only toward rationing, but toward stifling innovation.

What investor would fund research on better cholesterol-lowering drugs, when we’ve already got generic statins? In a NICE-ICER world, we might never have gotten statins because older treatments were cheaper.

What’s more, the approach ignores the futility of such one-size-fits-all prescribing of medicines. For many classes of drugs — not only statins, but antihypertensives, pain relievers and antipsychotic medicines — the selection of the appropriate drug or combination of drugs among many possibilities requires a delicate balancing of effectiveness and acceptable side effects in each patient.

So far, ICER hasn’t received the scrutiny it deserves. ICER’s controversial methods are being used to weigh which drugs we’ll have access to, and insurance companies have their thumbs on the scale.

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

The Culture’s Full Embrace of Radical Environmentalism is Not Inevitable

June 03, 2016, 4:23 PM

I guess I’m past the point of taking essays like Steven Cohen’s “The Culture of Environmentalism and Sustainability” at the Huffington Post at face value. Yes, we are all environmentalists now. We cringe when someone throws trash out of a car window. I’m old enough to remember my dad tossing cigarette butts out the car window without a second thought and us kids yelling at him not to do it. He probably felt like the schools were brainwashing his kids.

But Cohen’s article makes some dishonest, or at least disingenuous, claims:

1. The conflict between Gallup and other surveys he mentions plainly reveals Millennials have learned to repeat the platitudes of political correctness in order to fit in or avoid being penalized by people in positions of authority, but in their own lives they make choices that show they don’t believe them.

Simple observation confirms this. For example, they say they “believe” in global warming and other environmental crises, but they won’t hesitate to jump on a plane and fly half-way around the world for summer break. I read the polls as saying Millennials are more cynical, more materialistic (do you see how much clothes they have, the debt they accumulate?), and less honest with themselves and with others than any prior generation. Other polls show they are much more willing to lie than previous generations were at the same age… doesn’t that tell you something about the reliability of Gallup polls?

2. Saying modern environmentalism is “a key part of the cultural shift” away from “racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia” is name-calling. People who oppose the radical views of Earth First and Greenpeace are, by this logic, racists, sexists, xenophobic, and homophobic. Al Gore said basically the same thing at the end of a recent TED lecture on climate change.

Cohen says “these social changes create a nearly irresistible force for political change,” trying to portray the embrace of radical environmentalism as inevitable. Consultants and liberal advocates repeatedly tell Republican elected officials and candidates that in order to win future elections, they have to embrace global warming alarmism, just as they need to embrace affirmative action, unisex bathrooms and showers, Muslim immigration, and abortion. This is nonsense, first because the majority of Americans don’t buy Obama’s vision of America, and second because the case for action to reduce our use of fossil fuels should rise or fall based on climate science and resource economics, not on how it “fits” into someone’s notion of modernity.

I find this guilt-by-association language terribly offensive, demeaning to young people, and feel like demanding an apology. I am not a racist, sexist, xenophobic, or homophobic. How dare he imply otherwise? How dare he say “the science doesn’t matter… because environmentalism is inevitable.” Does he think we are stupid?

3. Folks who don’t watch much TV – and many of us have stopped or cut back in recent years — might not “get” Cohen’s reference to how “our TV images of family have changed from Ozzie and Harriet to the Cosbys to Modern Family.” I’m pretty sure 90% or more of Americans don’t watch “Modern Family,” and many of them/us avoid it primarily because it aggressively promotes a gay lifestyle. The author may wish this TV show reflects the wider public’s changing views of family, but the fact that it airs on TV only provides evidence of how complete the left’s control over Hollywood has become.

4. Finally, this statement is just outrageous and wrong:

“The notion of progress and improvement is being replaced by the more conservative sentiment to retain or sustain what we have.”

No doubt Steven Cohen — who is in his 40th year now as an academic (having been a “Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Environmental Policy” in 1976) and probably makes over $1 million a year with multiple university and nonprofit appointments and pensions — is satisfied with what he’s got and mostly concerned with keeping it. It’s difficult for him to imagine, while driving a Beamer and dining in the best cafes of Paris, why others still strive to improve their place in the world. But how offensive, once again, to pretend to speak for me and others!

Oh well.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep41): Independent Women’s Forum, Ranking States, Unemployment Rates, and Tax Competition

June 03, 2016, 4:11 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #41 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 Independent Women’s Forum, the Mercatus Center, The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, and Reason.

Better Know a Think Tank

In today’s edition of Better Know a Think Tank, John and Donny welcome Sabrina Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). Sabrina joins the podcast to talk about the IWF and what they are currently working on. They discuss a newly released report titled “Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives.” The report offers many free-market-based solutions that aim to increase the economic well-being of women.

Featured Work of the Week

Featured this week is another study by the Mercatus Center titled “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition: 2016 edition.” The study, using 5 factors, ranks all 50 states plus Puerto Rico by their fiscal condition. Factors include: case solvency, budget solvency, long-run solvency, service-level solvency, and the trust fund solvency. John and Donny discuss the report and talk about the states that rank last.

In the World of Think Tankery

With the recently released May Jobs numbers showing no growth yet a declining unemployment rate, Donny and John seek different ways to measure how the economy is doing. One policy brief that offers a better measuring tool comes from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Their policy brief titled “The Jobs & Opportunity Index: Tracing Rhode Island’s Economic Progress” explains why the unemployment rate is a flawed metric and why JOI is a better reflection of the economy.

The last piece Donny and John discuss comes from Reason. The article titled “Why Governments Hate It When Other Countries Have Low Taxes,” explains how competing tax codes help to drive down tax rates. For advocates of big government, this is not good. The article outlines a few examples of how international bureaucrats are attempting to limit the effects of tax competition.

Events 

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

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

heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, itt, in the tank, ep41, mercatus, reason, rhode island, center for freedom, joi, unemployment, ranking states, sabrina schaeffer, independent women’s forum, iwf, fiscal, taxes, competition,

Categories: On the Blog

Does the #SendAScepticToSpace Crowd Realize Astronauts are Skeptics Too?

June 03, 2016, 1:43 PM

Friends of the Earth (Australia) has started a crowd-source and social media campaign called #SendASkepticToSpace. The idea, you see, is that if an skeptic of anthroprogenic global warming (AGW) was put in orbit around the Earth, he’d finally see how fragile our planet is, forget what the data says, and join the alarmist camp.

Do these folks realize that at least two heroes from the Apollo program are among the most prominent and learned skeptics of the discredited hypothesis that human activity is causing an unavoidable climate crisis? I’m guessing the answer is no. Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (Apollo 17) have each been to space, and have spoken about the problems with the AGW hypothesis at Heartland’s International Conferences on Climate Change. [See Cunningham’s presentations here, and Schmitt’s presentations here.]

Someone was kind enough to nominate The Heartland Institute for the trip. I’d be happy to represent the organization (as would Walt Cunningham), but considering the campaign has raised a whopping $170 as of this post, maybe I shouldn’t start taking stress tests just yet. The leading candidates for the trip, by the way, are:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Tony Abbott
  3. George Christensen
  4. Greg Hunt
  5. Jim Inhofe

Watch the video below for the pitch.

Categories: On the Blog

Comments to the FCC Regarding Privacy and Broadband

June 03, 2016, 4:00 AM

Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary
Federal Communications Commission

Dear Ms. Dortch:

The Commission has proposed, in its words, “to apply the traditional privacy requirements of the Communications Act to the most significant communications technologies of today: broadband Internet access service.”  Further the Commission claims that “both consumers and Internet Service Providers would benefit from additional” rules. The introduction of the NPRM goes on to claim that such rules will be the silver bullet for consumers to protect themselves, that ISPs are the one part of the Internet ecosystem with consumer information and power, and that the FTC is not competent to use its long standing authority in the area of consumer privacy to protect users of modern communications systems.  The entirety of this justification and explanation is nothing short of abusive and breathtakingly wrong.

Let the Consumer Beware

The proposed rule in no way will lead to the stated goal of protecting consumers.  In fact, the logical and obvious result of the proposal is to create a confusing thicket of government privacy rules emanating from both the FCC and FTC which will lead consumer confusion and likely real harm.  Flying in the face of fact based decision making the Commission has proposed to pursue a course founded on illusory correlations and selective perception. As is well known, organizations fail or succeed based on their decision making quality.

Fact based decision making relies on hard facts and verified observations.  While other factors may be part of decision-making, such as a “hunch” or “hope,” those factors are inferior to facts.  Time must be taken to gather facts and data even before determining and framing the issue.  The facts must be weighed and options provided before a legitimate final decision, or a “proposed rule,” can move forward.  In this case, the proposed rules seem to have been created with the intention of completely ignoring reality, and the facts.  Not even a simple cost-benefit analysis has been provided.

The rules single out one part of a complicated and interdependent ecosystem, for intrusive discriminatory regulation.  Consumers need clear and consistent rules, not being left to suffer at the hands of faulty decision making, or to suffer from rules transparently designed to intentionally hamper an arbitrary part of a whole.  An action the will predictably  lead to higher costs and less competition.  Consumers should not be the pawns of a regulatory authority that repeatedly places the protection of consumer data beneath institutional desires.

The FCC has been here before – being arbitrary in trying to layer heavy handed privacy rules on the Internet ecosystem.  In U.S. West, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission the court noted that the FCC failed to justify that their scheme was the least intrusive to free speech, and failed to prove that the government’s interests trumped the constitutional concerns of consumers.  In short, the FCC failed to demonstrate any facts or urgency as compared to the consumer’s best interests.  The proposed scheme at issue today could easily be met with similar concerns and once again be frowned upon by the courts.  Truly putting the consumer first is one way to avoid many problems.  Yet, the FCC does not point to real or even perceived consumer harms to justify an ISP-specific regime.

There is an Internet Eco-system

A change to any part of the ecosystem has an impact on all parts of the ecosystem.  The well-being of the Internet, at least as it exists in the U.S., is dependent on all parts of the ecosystem being healthy, and free from interference.

Platforms such as social networks, search engines, operating systems, webmail, browsers, mobile apps, and e-commerce, all too with access to data, are proliferating.  The relationship between these various layers in the stack of the ecosystem, including service providers is tightly woven in part because of vertical integration but also because of contracts and interdependencies.  Upsetting or isolating one part of the stack does not necessarily lead to linear and predictable results.  In fact, observation informs us that the opposite is typically true.  Innovation in the Internet and communications space moves rapidly but unevenly.  That is a fact.  Perhaps nowhere else is “supply creating its own demand” more observable than in this technology space, yet even understanding that only allows innovation experts the most slender of chances to understand where innovation is headed next.  Regulatory hubris regularly leads to any number of unintended consequences and is damaging pollution to this ecosystem. Desperate attempts to try to bring order to what, to continue to be effective, is not orderly are doomed to failure or will only succeed in suffocating innovation.

These sorts of antics distract from the very real issue at hand – that the Internet ecosystem is often under attack and as such the entire ecosystem needs to respond, not be divided. True success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires cooperation with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. The distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity can be an island. Stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all – and that includes a FCC that truly understands this ecosystem and does not attempt to use it for its own ends.

The Power in the Ecosystem

Recent news about Facebook and its means of selecting trending topics, as well as Google’s decision to no longer allow ads by certain industries, both demonstrate that there is “power” in various parts of the Internet ecosystem.  In neither case were service providers involved and yet end results were altered. That “power” – market power – is not a bad thing and consumers wield it as well. Contrary to the FCC’s bias as expressed in this rulemaking, it is not the service providers alone that might have some ability to affect a user’s experience, but neither are the consumers powerless. This proven reality exposes that the FCC’s proposed rules will do nothing to increase consumer protection, but instead will burden only one part of the ecosystem with intrusive regulation even while backing away from the so called consumer protections in other areas. In short, the proposal is reckless.

None of this is to say that there is not a real threat posed by hackers whether with malicious intent or simply on a lark.  Instead of taking action to try to alleviate that problem, the FCC is proposing rules that would only be applied to ISPs with respect to consumer data, apparently ignoring how the ecosystem operates.  But access to consumer data is far from unique to ISPs.  As stated by FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen, “The FCC proposal applies to just one segment of the Internet ecosystem, broadband ISPs, even though there is good evidence that ISPs are not uniquely privy to your data.”

And this data, known as Consumer Proprietary Network Information, is not a means for collecting the most intrusive information that some companies in other parts of the ecosystem do collect online.   An analysis earlier this year was stunning clear in its title and the conclusions, “Online Privacy and ISPs: ISP Access to Consumer Data is Limited and Often Less than Access by Others,” Feb. 29, 2016 by Peter Swire, Justin Hemmings, and Alana Kirkland. (http://www.iisp.gatech.edu/working-paper-online-privacy-and-isps).

The challenge of protecting customer’s online privacy only incidentally involves ISPs.  Rather, the challenge is ecosystem wide as was indicated in a Pew report cited by the FCC.  The report demonstrates the concern about consumers’ expectations of privacy on the Internet at large.  The report does not cite anything specific about ISPs as the FCC tries to make it seem in paragraph 129 of the NPRM, when it writes, “More recently, studies from the Pew Research Center show that the vast majority of adults deem it important to control who can get information about them.”  Further, the FCC refers back to a 2002 FCC order, before any suggestion of mobile apps or an iPhone or even Gmail and writes “Research demonstrates that customers view the use of their personal information by their broadband  provider differently than disclosure to or use by a third party for a variety of reasons.”  In Internet time that “research” is ten generations old – useless.  Taken together, these weak and misleading arguments make a case that even the FCC itself does not believe what it is doing is justifiable.

In fact, the opposite of the FCCs baseless assertion is true. As research published in the Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2015/05/customer-data-designing-for-transparency-and-trust) and by the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/05/Privacy-and-Security-Attitudes-5.19.15_FINAL.pdf) have shown, consumers do not seem to think that ISPs are problematic and actually trust their ISPs typically more than they do other operators in the ecosystem.

The FCC again ignores this reality and rushes forward to hinder one part of the ecosystem, inserting greater costs with a proposal that will solve nothing given that the FCC has no authority over the vast majority of the companies in the ecosystem including those best known for manipulative and abusive data strategies.  Under the FCC proposal, these entities will continue to collect and use data for their own ends.

Solutions Should Be Pro-Consumer, Based in reality and Not Simply Pro-Regulatory or Anti-ISP

The thought is not original, but it is accurate and should carry more than fair share of weight in this rulemaking. Chairman Wheeler: “The pace of innovation on the Internet is much, much faster than the pace of a notice-and-comment rulemaking…We cannot hope to keep up if we adopt a prescriptive regulatory approach.”

There was a time when Washington would react negatively to new technologies, being concerned, if not afraid, of the impact that those technologies might cause to privacy – never recognizing that tools are just tools, often equally available to be used for good or for evil.  But the FCC is blazing new trails, fearing technology that is already well known. Instead solving the problem the Commission has dreamt up instead it moves to create a prescriptive regulatory system ensured to create consumer confusion, harming the very protections consumers already enjoy.

The proposed rules will fail, not just ultimately but immediately, primarily because the rules are designed to only burden one part of the Internet ecosystem, ISPs, rather than targeting the presumed problem.  In turn consumers will be left with a confusing message about how online data is collected and shared.

Placing ISPs in a category bound by rigid rules around data, and then arbitrarily limiting what businesses they can pursue, is wrong for consumers and certainly does not comport with any tenant of competition, a level playing field, fairness or a free market.  Just picking one example, Google would have to juggle two different and conflicting sets of privacy regulations even while trying to explain such nonsensical government interference to its customers.  In the end, industry is left holding the bag of liability, and hence costs, when it has no unique access to consumer data.  A lesson should have been learned by the FCC in the case of Netflix in March of this year.  As was noted in the Washington Post, slower Netflix mobile video speeds for Verizon and AT&T customers was not due to actions of the ISPs, but rather occurred because of bad behavior by Netflix – throttling speeds for its customers and blaming the resulting problems of “interconnection congestion” on others.

Yet the FCC declined to investigate claiming that such bad conduct was “outside” the FCC’s purview and rules.  Apparently the Commission has yet to realize that this incident highlights the real problem and is precisely what leads to consumer’s confusion – different rules for different pieces of a consumer’s whole.  Varying rules for various parts of one eco-system is a less than well thought out idea, and will harm the ecosystem itself.

If regulations are needed then the correct regulatory approach is obvious, a consistent treatment with consistent rules of all those who compete in the Internet ecosystem with access to data, much like what the FTC has accomplished.  If the FCC feels it needs to be involved in the policy issue to somehow demonstrate its relevance then again a better approach is obvious – a coordinated multistakeholder process of regulators and the actors in the Internet ecosystem.  Such a process should focus on what regulators can do to enable all parts of the ecosystem to thrive, how artificial barriers to innovation can be removed for an increasingly robust marketplace that drives real benefits to consumers.  Such a process should also be designed to address the Chairman’s correct observation that modern regulatory approaches are a hindrance to innovation, and therefore a drag on consumer benefits.  But to reiterate, the better decision is to forebear from pushing into the privacy space at all.

The goal should not be to engineer excuses to try to discriminate against particular part of the ecosystem, thereby limiting the disruption in online advertising.  ISPs are not even listed among the top ten competitors (and those ten own 70 percent of the market) in the online advertising space. This underscores the lack of a factual foundation for the NPRM.

Why arbitrarily remove service providers from the competitive landscape?  Why hinder competition that would drive more benefits to consumers through greater competition? These are good questions and have to be answered by the FCC. These should be necessary precursors to any discussion, much less a proposed rulemaking.  The real issue should be whether a set of meaningful and consistent protections for consumer online data can be created.

A New Additional Regulatory Agency is Not the Answer

There is a fundamental difference between private and public sector when it comes to the collection and use of consumer information.  Government hardly has a record in protecting data privacy that would lead one to believe that it has the answers to adequately handing such concerns.  The FCC has  recently struggled to handle even simple routine and expected comments with its systems (human and otherwise), much less handling issues that are much more sensitive and that by the day can get worse if not addressed.

This alone argues against more, if any, government intervention but certainly places a cloud on any FCC desire to enter into an area where it lacks expertise and authority. And it is not like there is no government already.

Essentially since the beginning of the World Wide Web the FTC has had oversight of the entirety of the Internet ecosystem, including ISPs.  Specifically the FTC has helmed a regime that has been focused on deceptive and unfair practices and constantly focused on how data has been collected and used.  In that time, an entity’s business model or where they have been in the technology stack has not been a point of concern.  Why this is the case is obvious – consumers are not concerned with those details but rather with how data is used and appreciate that such a system empowers them with more control.  Under this comprehensive FTC approach there have been very few ISP-related privacy or data security issues.  Over the same time the FTC has had to take action on data issues many times against others in the Internet ecosystem.

As MANA National President Amy Hinojosa’s recently wrote in The Huffington Post, “The FTC is the lead federal consumer protection agency and has been a strong cop on the beat for our privacy. But in a classic case of the ‘law of unintended consequences,’ the FTC had the jurisdictional rug pulled from under its feet for a small portion of the internet — broadband providers — due to legal changes contained in the Open Internet rules passed last year.” Hinojosa writes, “As a result, the FCC — which regulates telecommunications — is now eager to put their footprint in this space by knitting a patchwork set of rules that would apply narrowly to broadband companies while exempting everyone else. In fact, the rules under consideration at the FCC would be a huge step backwards for consumers — confusing consumers and increasing the risk of abusive or discriminatory use of our data online.” Hinojosa argues, “Instead of an inconsistent patchwork based on false assumptions and a misreading of the privacy threat, the FCC can and should step back and put consumers ahead of this jurisdictional land grab and learn from the success of the FTC approach that puts consumers in the driver’s seat rather than in a maze.”

Part of the problem is that the FCC dos not have relevant experience in the consumer privacy realm.  While the Communications Act does convey a limited amount of power to cover consumer privacy of satellite and cable subscribers, the actions that the FCC has taken have been almost completely about billing information. The authority conveyed with relation to telephone subscribers is somewhat broader but is silent regarding the broad range of information that can now be gathered.

Further, the FCC lacks the tools to pursue the best enforcement.  The FTC is limited in bringing to bear any forward looking rules but rather conducts enforcement proceedings after a determination that it has the authority to do so under the relevant law.  Such actions send signals to the marketplace as to what is within and outside the bounds of acceptable and legal behavior.  This allows for flexible solutions and for innovation to flourish.  On the other hand, the FCC makes new rules which quickly constrain the marketplace with enforcement actions being brought if the rules are violated.

The FCC lacks the reach to address the issue regardless.  Section 222 of the Communications Act does not provide a basis for the expansion of power that the FCC is seeking.  Specifically, section 222(h)(1) contemplates records of phone calls and billing information, not authority over the sorts of data the FCC is trying to claim.  To say otherwise is not just a stretch, but a story woven of whole cloth.

Regardless the entire focus of the proposal is wrong.  Positive public policy is encouraging, increases competition and cheers on innovation.

Moreover, the private sector should lead. For the information economy and online culture to flourish, the private sector must continue to lead through self-regulation. Innovation, expanded services, broader participation, and lower prices will arise in a market-driven arena, not in an environment burdened by over-regulation.

Government should avoid undue restrictions on the information economy. All parties, consumers, industry and others should be able to buy or use online services with minimal government interference. Unnecessary regulation of online activities will distort development of the information marketplace by decreasing supply and raising the costs of products and services for the consumer.  Governments already possess tools to address the proposed problem presented in the proposed rulemaking.   In fact, the 1996 Telecom Act encouraged intra-modal competition by creating a level playing field.   Companies were overtly encouraged to enter markets they were not currently in.  But now the FCC is charging off in the opposite direction, limiting competition and driving up costs.

Ultimately, too many government entities looking after our privacy means that we do not have any.  Consumers will not have a solid understanding of what signals to watch for that indicate a data breach or a scam.   The result is a less vigilant populous increasingly prone to their data being collected and used inappropriately without the understanding that certain actions are wrong.  The FCC should bear the burden of proving that it is needed in this area or can add something of value, before even considering moving forward.  At the very least, a factual, data-driven analysis of whether consumers will gain or be harmed should be undertaken. Even if the Commission were to imagine the authority to institute of a new and untested regulatory regime does mean that it should do so.

If the FCC insists in playing in the privacy field despite these clear deficiencies and understanding that the area is appropriately covered by the FTC, then rather than creating fantastical windmills of unproven marketplace power for a quixotic FCC to tilt, it should be seeking to create clear rules that consistently protect consumer data end to end while promoting competition and innovation in the online marketplace.

Surprise!  The Marketplace is Working

The market has responded favorably and swiftly to consumer concerns regarding the collection and use of personal information.  Innovators have crafted tools that let users block cookies, advertising, the tracking of Internet browsing behavior, and third party sharing of information. The market is responding to consumer concerns, without burdensome government regulation.

In addition, the market is providing greater service to consumers.  Access to data, whether by ISPs or non-ISPs, leads to more relevant products and services, as well as greater protection for consumers through quicker fraud detection, better cyber-attack prevention.  Prophylactic measures restraining particular business models are not only wrong-headed but also restrict consumer’s freedom of choice.  The proposal to provide lower broadband prices in return for greater use of consumer information is an example where the only entity that loses is the consumer.

Consumers, in fact, are well ahead of the FCC in finding their level of comfort in matters of privacy.  For example, as consumers have increased their use of encryption and secure online services, the ability of ISPs to track or view a consumer’s web history has been reduced.  In fact, by the end of 2016, more than two-thirds of online bits delivered to individuals will be encrypted.  According to Google, 77 percent of the data from its services is already encrypted.

As the market has rapidly moved to mobile, new challenges arose to protecting privacy and were quickly addressed by the market.  Now a typical Internet user moves across a variety of connections and various ISPs.  No one ISP is an Internet gatekeeper.  As consumers increasingly opted for mobility,  consumer protections changed as well.  Today, the mobile operating systems with huge swaths of the market, Apple and Android, actually prevent ISPs from collecting information at all.

And it should be consumers who are directing their own privacy choices. Individuals should be free to select the policy that best fits their needs and take responsibility for their online activities. The Commission can never be as nimble and tailored as the market.  An FCC “one size fits all” so called solution will fit no one.

Conclusion

The egregious lop-sided nature of the proposed rules, arbitrarily singling out one piece of an ecosystem for differentiated treatment runs counter to any sense of fairness.  Bereft of any consumer harm the Commission seems to strike out to regulate simply for regulation sake seeking to envelope anything it can attempt to justify that may come within its purview.

The FCC has tried similar schemes in the past only to ultimately be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional but not before a tremendous waste of time and resources by the private sector, not to mention the squandered tax dollars of Americans.  If these rules are adopted the same fate awaits.

The Commission should be deservedly criticized for designing regulations that will disrupt a vibrant eco-system.  This scheme will throttle the development of new business models, limit consumer choice and opportunity, increase costs, and importantly, dramatically increase consumer confusion.

Sincerely,

Bartlett D. Cleland

[Originally published on Madery Bridge Associates, LLC]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: The Sessions-Cassidy Proposal to Replace Obamacare

June 02, 2016, 2:31 PM

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. This plan includes numerous elements The Heartland Institute has been promoting for years, and it has been introduced at time when other GOP plans, covered in the June issue of Health Care News and live here, are being considered.

Peter Ferrara, senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, joined Michael Hamilton on the Health Care News Podcast to explain why and how the Sessions-Cassidy proposal would result in better, more affordable health care for 100 percent of Americans than the Affordable Care Act has been able to provide for only about 67 percent of Americans.

[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

The Keys to Human Prosperity: Individual Liberty and the Rule of Law

June 02, 2016, 1:37 AM

We live at time when, increasingly, the U.S. government operates in arbitrary and discretionary ways. Government regulatory agencies seemingly have unrestrained powers over land-use, business manufacturing and enterprise, the workplace and the environment under broad legislative mandates. And proposals are now frequently being made for ad hoc restrictions and prohibitions on freedoms of speech, press, religion and association.  The principle and practice of individual liberty, therefore, is under serious attack.

The history of liberty and prosperity is inseparable from the practice of free enterprise and respect for the rule of law. Both are products of the spirit of classical liberalism. But a correct understanding of free enterprise, the rule of law, and liberalism (rightly understood) is greatly lacking in the world today.

Historically, liberalism is the political philosophy of individual liberty. It proclaims and insists that the individual is to be free to think, speak, and write as he wishes; to believe and worship as he wishes; and to peacefully live his life as he wishes. Another way of saying this is to quote from Lord Acton’s definition: “By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and custom, and opinion.” For this reason, he declared that the securing of liberty “is the highest political end.”

Lord Acton did not say, you will notice, that liberty is the highest end, but rather the highest political end. In the wider context of a man’s life, political and economic liberty are means to other ends. What ends? Those that give meaning and purpose to man’s sojourn on earth. Classical liberalism does not deny that there may be or is one ultimate Truth, or one moral “right,” or one correct conception of “the good” and “the beautiful.”

Personal Liberty and Human Humility

What classical liberalism has argued is that even the wisest and best men are mere mortals. They lack God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Mortal men look at and understand the world within the confines of their own imperfect knowledge, from the perspective of their own narrow corner of existence, and with extremely limited mental and physical powers compared to those possessed by the Almighty.

As a result, since no man may claim access to an understanding of man and his world equal to God’s, no man can claim a right to deny any other person the freedom to follow his conscience in finding answers to these profound and ultimate questions. They are so crucial to man’s very being as a spiritual and moral person that they must be removed from the arena of politics and political control. They must be left to the private and personal confines of each man and his conscience.

The reason for this should be evident. Political control is fundamentally the power of physical force. It is the right to demand obedience from the citizenry either to do or not do something under the threat of the use of coercion. Political power can be used to command people regarding how they may live, how or what they may read or write, and how they may act. It is one man bending the will of another to his wishes under the threat of physical harm.

Some men have faced such threats or uses of force and not given up their faith or beliefs or ideas. But classical liberalism argues that no man should be confronted with torture or death because of where his conscience leads him. Furthermore, once political power is used to dictate what men may believe and how they may peacefully act, society is faced with an endless struggle as those with conflicting faiths, beliefs, and ideas battle for control of the reins of political authority. It becomes a life-and-death confrontation to determine whose conception of the good, the beautiful, the right, and the just shall be imposed on all. In such a battle over truth and virtue man’s world becomes an earthly hell of human and material destruction.

But how was the political authority—the government—to be prevented from overstepping its boundaries and encroaching on such individual rights as freedom of conscience and other elements of personal liberty? How were men with political power to be restrained from abridging other men’s rights? All law is man-made, regardless of the source of the inspiration for the law. It is men who articulate and agree on the law, who codify it, and who establish and enforce the procedures and mechanisms for its respect and enforcement. Man, therefore, can never be separated from law and the legal process.

The Rule of Law and Public Accountability

A way to assure that society lives under a rule of law and not a rule of men is to insist that even those who implement and enforce the law be held accountable under certain clearly defined procedures in their dealings with the citizenry. Or as the English legal philosopher Albert Venn Dicey expressed it in the late nineteenth century: “With us every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen.”

An essential element of the rule of law is that it specifies what government may not do to the citizenry. For example, neither the government nor its various legal agents may hold an individual without bringing charges against him before a judge within a specified period of time. The writ of habeas corpus assures that no man is physically seized and held for an indefinite duration without charges being brought against him in a court of law. If it is not demonstrated to the court that a breach of the law has occurred and that there is sufficient evidence for holding the accused, he must be let go. Or as Dicey explained it, “Liberty is not secure unless the law, in addition to punishing every kind of interference with a man’s lawful freedom, provides adequate security that everyone who, without legal justification, is placed in confinement shall be able to get free.”

A distinctive quality and merit of the rule of law is that it attempts, if not completely eliminate, to reduce as much as possible all arbitrary power in the hands of those who administer the political regime and the legal order. Friedrich Hayek, for example, has emphasized that the rule of law refers to laws of an abstract and general nature equally applied to all men independently of any particular circumstance.

Freedom and End-Independent Rules 

Since this may seem rather nebulous, it can be better understood through the expression end-independent rules. We can think of this, for example, in terms of the rules of road. These rules specify whether cars are to be driven on the right or left side of the road; that all cars must stop and wait while the traffic light is red, and may go when the light turns green; that posted speed limits must be followed; and that if a police car or an ambulance is coming down the road, all other drivers are to pull over and stop until it has passed.

These rules of the road are general and uniform, in that they apply equally to all drivers and do not privilege or burden anyone. Furthermore, as long as every driver follows these rules, he is free to travel on the roads whenever he desires, for whatever purpose he may have in mind. Nor can any driver be pulled over by police patrolling the roads and highways for a traffic violation unless there is an infraction of these general and uniform rules of the road.

The general and abstract rules are “end-independent” because they do not imply or require any particular outcome or result from the actions and interactions of the citizenry, as long as they follow the rules. Thus, whether people follow the rules of the road to get to work, or to visit the family dentist, or simply to get out of the house for a while and just drive around is immaterial. The very nature of a free society under the rule of law is that the society, itself, has no purpose, or “manifest destiny” or “historical role” that it is called upon to play. A free society has no plans or purposes separate from the particular plans and purposes of its individual citizens.

Private Property and Individual Freedom

Classical liberalism has always emphasized the inseparable connection between individual liberty and the right to private property. Partly it has been based on the idea of justice: that which a man produces honestly and peacefully through his own efforts, or which he acquires through voluntary acts of exchange with others, should be considered rightfully his. The case for private property has also been made on the basis of utilitarian efficiency: when men know that the rewards from their work belong to them, they have the motives and the incentives to apply their industry in productive and creative ways.

But in addition, the classical liberal has defended the institution of private property because it provides the individual with a degree of autonomy from potentially abusive political power. Private property gives the individual an arena, or domain, in which he has the ability to shape and design his own life, free from the control of political force.

As a private owner of some of the means of production—even if it were only his own labor—he can search out the employment for himself that he considers most attractive and profitable, given his own personal purposes and plans. A community of individuals, each of whom owns varieties of property that he is at liberty to apply and utilize in various ways, provides a network of potential relationships of production, trade, and association among men outside and independent of the orbit and control of government. Private property gives reality to the ideal of individual freedom.

The networks of voluntary, peaceful, and private association form the elements of what has been called “civil society.” They are the “intermediary institutions” that stand between the power of the state and the single, isolated individual; they supply support and give assistance to the individual in the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual needs of life. But they also offer protection and strength to the lone individual who otherwise would face the power of government on his own.

It is not surprising, therefore, that historically the more the power and intrusive reach of the government extends into the affairs of the citizenry, the more the state attempts in various ways to undermine and replace these voluntary associative institutions of civil society with its own bureaucratic structures. The weakening or elimination of the intermediary institutions of civil society leaves the individual increasingly dependent on the political caprice and largess of those who manage the agencies of government.

The Rule of Law and Free Market Economy

Where the rule of law is practiced and respected, the creative energies of man are set free. Each man is at liberty to utilize his own knowledge for his own purposes, but the very nature of the free-market economy is that he must apply that knowledge and his abilities in ways that serve the ends of others in society as well.

Since no man can attain all his goals, beyond some of the more primitive ones, through his own labor and the particular resources that may be in his ownership and control, he enters into exchange relationships with others in society. Men begin to specialize in producing things for which they have a comparative advantage over their neighbors to extend their trading opportunities with others in the growing community of men. The interdependency that a division of labor creates makes each member of society increasingly conscious that he must serve his fellow men in order to accomplish his own ends.

The individuals form connections, relationships, and associations with those around them as they discover opportunities for mutual improvement. Societal patterns take form; configurations of human interconnection take shape. But these patterns are not planned or designed; they emerge from the relationships that men choose to establish among themselves, with no conscious intention of generating much of the institutional order and structure that result from their market and social interactions.

The Benefits of the “Unplanned” Society

As Hayek pointed out, drawing on the insights of some of the political economists of the eighteenth century, the social order that develops in a free society is to a great extent “the results of human action, but not of human design.” And, as Hayek emphasized, it is all to the better that this is the case. Why? Because the emergent social patterns, order, and institutional arrangements incorporate the knowledge, ability, and creativity of the multitudes of human participants.

No single mind or group of minds—no matter how wise and well-intentioned—could ever know, understand, and appreciate all the fragmented knowledge, insight, and ability that exist as divided knowledge and creative potential in the minds of all the members of humanity as a whole. If all that man knows, that he can do or might imagine, is to be taken advantage of and brought into play for the general good of all mankind as well as primarily for himself, then every individual must be left free to use what he knows, and do what he wants to do, according to his own design.

What irks the social engineer when he looks around at the free society is that it appears to be a world without a “plan,” a jumble of social chaos. What the classical liberal sees is a world of multitudes of plans, each one being the plan given by an individual to his own life. There is order, pattern, and structure to this world, but an order, pattern, and structure generated out of the interconnections that individuals have formed among themselves through their voluntary market and social relationships.

The rule of law provides the societal rules of the road within which those individuals may freely move about as they see fit. The rules for the free society are fairly simple and straightforward: thou shall not kill; thou shall not steal; thou shall not bear false witness—no fraud or deception in relationships with others. Beyond these types of simple rules, each individual is free to follow his own conscience and interests in practically all other matters.

An Increasingly Lawless World 

The world in which we live today is to a growing extent a lawless world, if by lawless we mean circumstances in which the rule of law is increasingly not respected or even understood. The law, in practice, is more and more end-dependent in its purpose and application. Some in society do not like the pattern of relative income shares that results from the interactions between employers and employees, so they use the power of the state to redistribute income and wealth according to their conception of material justice and fairness.

Others do not approve that some in society still like—indeed enjoy—smoking, especially while they are having a drink and after a meal, so they restrict or ban private establishments from setting their own rules on the basis of what they consider the preferences and desires of their customers, by totally prohibiting smoking in what they declare to be “public” places.

Still others believe that the citizenry cannot be trusted to make sufficiently wise choices concerning their own retirement planning or their medical-insurance coverage, so they enact laws and regulations that impose rules that will guarantee the creation of the social engineer’s preferred patterns for such social behavior on the part of those whose choices and decisions he considers less enlightened than his own.

Unfounded Fears of Global Trade

Another trend in this direction is the growing fear that the new global economy threatens the livelihood and material standards of living of the American people. A chorus of special-interest groups and politicians are warning that investment opportunities and many relatively well-paying jobs are being lost to other countries around the world. They conjure up nightmare visions in which America buys everything from the rest of the world, where labor is cheaper and production costs are much lower, and that America is left with nothing to manufacture at home. International trade and investment will leave the United States an economic wasteland of poverty and dependency on cheap products made in China and outsourced labor services supplied by India.

What we are hearing is the twenty-first century’s version of the early nineteenth-century Luddites, who at that time raised the alarm that the Industrial Revolution would soon result in unemployment for the vast majority as the emerging machine age made human labor redundant. The industrial machine age did indeed result in the replacement of a wide variety of human labor. But this freed tens of millions of hands to then do new and different work with the assistance of more and better tools, so that the quality, variety, and quantities of goods and services available to all were expanded beyond anything that could be imagined at the time. Our modern standard of living began with the Industrial Revolution and the machine age that it introduced.

After thousands of years of appalling poverty, more and more parts of the world are beginning to join and catch up to the West in terms of standards and quality of living. We should be hailing this as one of man’s greatest hours in his long existence on this earth. This great transformation will, of course, bring changes, even dramatic changes, in the structure and patterns of the global system of division of labor, as billions of people on other continents find new and more productive and profitable niches in the world’s network of trade, commerce, and industry.

America’s Role in the World

Inevitably, this will change, as well, America’s role and place in the global community of nations. Some industries and service sectors will diminish or be entirely replaced by producers and suppliers in other parts of the world. But trade is a two-way street. Imports are paid for with exports. In fact, the only reason a nation exports anything is to use those foreign sales as the means of paying for goods and services that can be purchased from abroad less expensively than if they were to be made at home.

Other industries and service sectors will emerge or expand in America, instead, as the citizens of the United States discover in the arena of international commerce and competition their better and more efficient niches to serve their neighbors at home and their fellow human beings around the world. When the next generation looks back at our present time, say, 25 years from now, they will be able to see the market processes by which these new patterns and trading relationships emerged and took shape. And they will see the improvements and gains that resulted from these processes in a way that we cannot yet imagine, any more than those who feared the machine age in the early decades of the nineteenth century could imagine the wondrous improvements in the human condition that were visible when one looked back at the beginning of the twentieth century.

We can never possess tomorrow’s knowledge today. We can never know what innovations, creative ideas, and useful improvements will be generated in the minds of free men in the years to come. That is why we must leave men and their minds free. The man of system, the social engineer, who sees only the apparent problems from these global changes, wants to plan America’s place in the new, emerging global economy. But to do so, he must confine and straitjacket all of us to what his mind sees as the possible, profitable, and desirable from his own narrow perspective with the knowledge he possesses in the present.

Soviet-style central planning may seem to have been cast into the dustbin of history (to use a Marxian phrase), but in fact the underlying idea is alive and well around the world, including the United States. Ideological elites and voting majorities not only do not recognize the individual rights of others to live their lives in ways of their own choosing, but they increasingly do not even show tolerance for any range of difference of opinion and action. They are determined to plan our lives and our futures—and indeed even our thoughts in this increasingly anti-liberal age.

If we are to regain the liberty that we have lost, and the fully and consistently applied rule of law that once was the guardian of our liberty and freedom of enterprise, we must reawaken in our fellow citizens an understanding of what liberty, the rule of law, and individual self-responsibility mean. But this cannot come about unless each of us is willing to participate in a process of self-education in which we become knowledgeable about liberty and its opposite. And we must be willing and courageous enough to consistently defend freedom, self-responsibility, and all of their implications.

None of us who care about liberty can avoid in good conscience our responsibility in this matter. I will close with the words of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, who was one of the greatest voices for liberty in the twentieth century: “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction . . . What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.”

[Originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation] 

Categories: On the Blog

Government Subsidizes, Government Warps and Distorts – Government Bails Out

June 02, 2016, 1:00 AM

My favorite joke about government and its inanity goes something like this:

A guy is running late for a meeting. He’s in his car – stuck on a single lane blacktop behind a county government truck. He can’t pass – it’s a double yellow line.

Every fifty yards the county truck stops and two guys jump out of the back. Right beside the road, one guy digs a hole – and the other fills it back up. Then back into the truck they go. Fifty yards later, same thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.  

After about the sixth time, the guy stuck behind the truck is steaming. He checks to see if it’s clear to pass the truck – and it is. So he whips around and up to beside the truck’s driver.

doing?” he asks, infuriated.“What the heck are you guys

“The guy who plants the trees called in sick.”  

This is what government does when it sticks its enormous proboscis into the private sector. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t pick winners and losers – it picks losers at the expense of winners. (See: subsidizing non-green, non-energy like solar and wind – by taxing the likes of actual energy companies like oil and coal).

This government money warps and distorts the marketplace – as otherwise productively-directed time and effort is instead spent chasing the government coin. Producers produce not what the marketplace needs – but for what the government pays.

And because the government doesn’t have a clue what its doing – its coin creates unneeded surpluses of the things it subsidizes. So the government then spends more money – bailing out the producers it stupidly subsidized to create the surpluses.

The one government guy who actually has a clue – is on permanent sick leave.

We just saw this in India:

“The nose-dive in global commodity prices has had an unexpected repercussion in India: a giant new subsidy bill as New Delhi spends billions to mop up wheat, rice, sugar and cotton at government-fixed prices.’…

“‘This is a crisis of plenty,’ said Harish Galipelli, a trader at Inditrade Derivatives and Commodities.”…The (government coin) market support…encourages farmers to produce much more of the subsidized commodities than they would have otherwise, exacerbating the global glut.”

Government digs the hole – government fills the hole back in.

And now it looks like we’re just about there in Spain. From Politico Europe:

“Spanish farmers Thursday bewailed their historical – 20 percent above average – crop harvest at a time where prices have already fallen below €160 per ton….(Read it in full [in Spanish]: http://bit.ly/1qL35oJ.)”

Why have prices fallen so low? Because government subsidies created a glut – and the market is flooded. And bizarrely, the European Union (EU) is proud of of its contribution to this mess. So proud, the EU provides a level of transparency for which we can only wish here in the United States. Behold FarmSubsidy.org:

“The European Union spends around €59 billion a year on farm subsidies. This site tells you who receives the money.”

And the boasting doesn’t stop there. The EU has created a Spain-specific fact sheet:

“During the next 7 years, the new CAP is going to invest almost EUR 45 billion in Spain’s farming sector and rural areas.”

Government digging more holes with money. And it’s likely only a matter of time before more government money is thrown into the holes to fill them back in. Just like in India.

(#Brexit, anyone?)

Just about every country that grows just about anything has been stuck in this government money rut for decades. Domestically, it largely explains our age-old Farm Bill ridiculousness.

So here’s a thought – let’s negotiate our way out. Of our mess – and theirs. We go to the EU, India and anyone else growing anything – and trade away our subsidies in exchange for their trading away theirs.

Less subsidies mean less gluts – which mean less bailouts.

Food prices will then be lower – not because of government stupidity, but because of free market rational determinism. And we’ll all be saving per annum hundreds of billions of wasted government dollars.

It’s high time we all learn from each others’ mega-mistakes.

[Originally published at RedState] 

Categories: On the Blog

Greenpeace Under Fire — Again!

June 01, 2016, 3:40 PM

It hasn’t been a great 1 1/2 years for Greenpeace, the world’s largest, most well-funded, and arguably its least honest, environmental activist organization.

Greenpeace has been controversial for years, engaging in direct action, legal actions, and consumer boycott campaigns under the false guise of protecting the environment when time after time, its activities are shown to be little more than venal fundraising tools. Many of Greenpeace’s questionable actions are detailed at the Environmental Policy Alliance’s Big Green Radicals website, which provides a litany of misdeeds I advocate readers peruse at their leisure.

In an interview I conducted with Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, he shared about the disreputable turn Greenpeace had taken since its founding.

In late 2014 and 2015, Greenpeace ran afoul of both the governments of Peru and India for their activities which violated the law. In the Peruvian case, a Greenpeace stunt damaged a world heritage site.

Now, it seems Greenpeace will find itself in court once again. On May 31, Resolute Forest Products Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace Fund, Inc., STAND (formerly ForestEthics) and a number of their associates alleging a campaign embarked upon by Greenpeace,  “Resolute: Forest Destroyer,” violates federal racketeering, trademark, defamation and tortious interference laws claims under Georgia and federal law.

Resolute’s complaint, worth reading in its entirety, claims Greenpeace has falsely accusing the company of, among other things: (a) “destroying endangered forests,” and “operating and sourcing wood . . . in violation of law”; (b) causing the “destruction of endangered species” and “critical caribou habitat” and risking a “Caribou Herd Death Spiral,” “extirpation” and “extinction;” (c) “abandoning” and “impoverishing” the Boreal’s indigenous communities; and (d) impairing the Boreal’s ability to mitigate climate change. The creation, promotion and spread of these falsehoods, including through email and boycott  campaigns has harmed Resolute’s reputation and cost it income.

In truth, Resolute’s federal case is just one step in an ongoing legal and PR battle the company has been waging against Greenpeace since 2010. As detailed by the Media Research Center, in late 2012, after Greenpeace had spread the false information that Resolute had breached the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement by illegally logging in “suspended harvest” areas, it was forced to issue a “Notice of Correction,” owning up to the lies they’d spread. Indeed, Greenpeace has been fighting not to be brought before the bar and too account in Canada since Resolute sued it in Canadian courts in 2013.

Not too prejudge the outcome or pick sides of course, but I look forward to the bully Greenpeace getting its legal comeuppance. May it be forced to pay millions of dollars in fines and punitive damages. Perhaps that would force donors who still have an open mind and really care about the environment — as opposed to the blind Greenpeace acolytes who have drunk its radical Kool-Aid —  to consider whether they want their scarce conservation dollars going to an organization that spends more than 60 percent of its income on salaries and an increasing portion of its remaining funds paying off legal claims for its malicious, unwarranted actions.

Categories: On the Blog

Naomi Oreskes Warps History

June 01, 2016, 2:14 PM

Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes is best known to climate realists by her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt and its scurrilous demonization of climate skeptics as paid hacks parroting the fossil-fuel industry’s self-serving opposition to the “consensus view” of man-made climate catastrophe, but that screed doesn’t reveal the flaws in her work.

A short, obscure, error-riddled essay titled, “My Science is Better than Your Science,” that she wrote in 2011 is more significant. It was a chapter in a book titled, How Well Do Facts Travel? The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge, and examined the 1991 origin of the “skeptics are paid industry shills” narrative supposedly found in a legendary set of “leaked Western Fuels memos.”

That short chapter is important because Oreskes totally misinterprets the “memos” as Big Coal’s plan for a vast national campaign with paid climate scientists that created the lasting public doubt about global warming. That’s the very same interpretation repeated endlessly by climate alarmists including Al Gore, Ross Gelbspan (1997’s The Heat Is On), Canadian public relations flak James Hoggan ’s attack website DeSmogBlog, and many others.

Appallingly, nobody in this parade of critics did any fact checking of the memos, not even historian Naomi Oreskes, which is a serious lapse for a historian. In fact, Oreskes and the others were using a garbled conglomeration of nearly a dozen different memos from different sources that were collected by Greenpeace and posted unsorted and in no rational order on one of its websites – because they never checked who they really came from.

Critics had no idea what they were looking at in the hundred-or-so pages of “Western Fuels memos.” They simply took the pieces that made skeptics look the worst and patched them together into an assumption-laden fairy-tale, historian Oreskes most unseemly of all.

Had Oreskes, the renowned Harvard Professor of the History of Science, bothered to interview any of the clearly identified sources of the “Western Fuels memos,” she would have discovered that less than one-third of the jumbled “memos” involved Western Fuels Association at all.

It’s ironic that the “Western Fuels memos” became known as “Orders from Big Coal” because Western Fuels Association is actually just the opposite of what the alarmist critics thought: It’s a small, not-for-profit, member-owned co-op serving 24 consumer-owned rural and small municipal electric cooperatives and other public power systems from Wyoming to Kansas. Oreskes never mentions that, probably because she never researched her sources well enough to know it.

The Western Fuels Association co-op members were small and besieged by national news stories that gave only the crisis side of the climate change issue and desperately needed a national campaign with professional support from reputable academics with long track records as outspoken skeptics. WFA created some of the “memos” while trying to assemble a coalition to operate that hoped-for nationwide opposition campaign. That campaign never happened; its ten-day trial run flopped miserably. It was closer to Comedy of Errors than Merchants of Doubt fronting for Big Coal.

Oreskes had no idea what Western Fuels actually did. What WFA really did with coal was to manage contract mining and transportation of coal from member-owned mines and buy additional coal in the open market – facts printed on the inside cover of WFA’s annual reports, available to all. Historian Oreskes either did not examine WFA’s annual reports, which would have shown her it was a not-for-profit electrical co-op, or she knew and did not tell her audience, leaving a false impression.

If WFA was the source of only about one-third of the “memos,” then who were the sources of the remainder? The “memos” were, in fact, the everyday work products of two electric power associations (Western Fuels Association being one) and three of their public relations companies.

The other power association was the giant Edison Electric Institute, the representative and lobbying center of all investor-owned electrical utilities in the United States. These power companies are highly regulated by public utility commissions that are very sensitive to public opinion and would not and did not participate in any climate-skeptic actions at all. In fact, EEI had its own Climate Task Force which publicly denounced Western Fuels Association’s attempt to form a skeptic coalition.

EEI coordinated the most misinterpreted single document of all the “memos,” which was originally contained in a bulky 100-plus page package sent to EEI from opinion survey firm Cambridge Reports of Massachusetts. The fateful page was in a routine public opinion poll and proposal for a related campaign of the type that EEI regularly commissioned, this year on public attitudes about global warming.

That single most misinterpreted Cambridge Reports page was titled “Strategy,” listing nine goals, topped by “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” That was seen by critics as “orders from Big Coal headquarters” to reposition the public into believing global warming is not a fact. Al Gore even featured it in ominous red letters spread across a frame of his movie An Inconvenient Truth. In fact, it was one of several suggestions for an ad layout offered by Cambridge Reports for an EEI campaign that never happened – a fate suffered by many of Cambridge Reports proposals from year to year, according to the owner at the time.

The other “memos” included letters, meeting notices, reports to Western Fuels from a hired Washington public relations firm and sample ad layouts from Simmons Advertising in Grand Forks, North Dakota, a direct mail firm, for a proposed test run – a ten-day radio and newspaper campaign, and that’s all.

The Western Fuels climate skeptics picked the semi-humorous acronym “ICE” to use in creating a name for themselves, and asked EEI’s communications executive to include that and numerous other requests to Cambridge Reports for inclusion in the report. He agreed. EEI gave a copy of the resulting 100-page report to WFA’s Washington public relations firm, but the WFA CEO never even saw it, and when interviewed and told me about it, he said WFA would never use “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” because it was too abstract and egg-headed for its rural audience. WFA’s communications director says that, unlike his CEO, he saw the page and had no idea how to “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact),” so he left it in the pile and selected useful pages to send to Simmons in North Dakota.

Cambridge Reports suggested several names to fit the “ICE” acronym, including “Informed Citizens for the Environment,” and “Information Council for the Environment.” Western Fuels selected the latter, so “Information Council for the Environment” was the only name the public ever saw for the “Big Coal Front Group.”

Thus, the businesses that created the “memos” had no grandiose plan or the power to impose one. EEI rejected a publicity campaign and relied upon their expertise, which was lobbying, to raise public concern about a proposed “carbon tax,” or cap-and-trade law. Western Fuels selected climate skeptic approaches with well-established skeptic scientist spokesmen as a balance to the deluge of alarmist publicity of the day.

However, even the national campaign planned by Western Fuels never happened: Its test run failed from the start, and their informal coalition dissolved in public disagreements between the skeptic faction and the lobbying faction. In July, 1991, the aborted coalition was an obvious impossibility. The factions went their separate ways, smaller ones with the skeptic message, big investor-owned ones with lobbying, fearing upset among their urban environmentalist consumers.

Everyone actually connected to the “Western Fuels memos” said that Oreskes did not contact them for comment, and none had ever heard of her.

The package of “Western Fuels memos” is publicly available today only in 50 poorly scanned and frustratingly incomplete images on a Greenpeace Investigations site. The originals were destroyed in a North Dakota flood that washed away the facilities of Simmons, so where did Oreskes get the entire set? She claims that she found them “in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) headquarters in Washington, D.C.” and advises that “scholars wishing to consult these materials should contact the AMS.”

Contact with AMS revealed that the Society is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, not Washington, D.C. It maintains a small Washington office that deals with government affairs but keeps no archives. The AMS archivist in Boston verified that no such documents ever existed in Society archives. Oreskes’ claim is disputed.

Oreskes said in her chapter in “How Well Do Facts Travel?” that an “Anthony Socci” brought the documents to her attention. The AMS archivist said that Socci – a Senate Commerce Committee staffer from 1991 to 1993 who managed hearings for Senator Al Gore – had been an AMS employee for a short time, and likely had a personal copy in his office that he made available to Oreskes. Perhaps that does not sound as scholarly as “an acquaintance gave the documents to me,” so she may have just made it sound respectable by calling Socci’s file cabinet an “archive.”

Going back one step, how did Socci get the “secret Big Coal documents”? The answer is almost laughable. Among the “memos” is a letter on EEI letterhead dated May 6, 1991 showing that the Institute’s global warming task force strongly disparaged the Western Fuels skeptic campaign and said their entire file would be sent to every Edison Electric Institute member – all the regulated electrical utilities in the United States. So, any one of thousands of utility workers could have given them to anybody they wanted to. The documents were never secret. Probably the only one who didn’t know about them were real members of Big Coal – Peabody, Arch, all the big names – which were busily lobbying Congress and had no faith in PR campaigns.

Within a month of the EEI’s letter, the documents were circulating in the streets, especially among environmentalists in Washington, D.C.. The Sierra Club forwarded a copy to the New York Times, mentioned in a July 8, 1991 article headlined, “Pro Coal Ad Campaign Disputes Warming Idea.” More people saw that article in one day than everything Western Fuels did in months of struggle, puzzling, engaging climate skeptic scientists for a ten-day, three-city trial run, and coming up with nothing.

But activists needed to create outrage in order to attract attention and satisfy their need to dominate. So science historian Naomi Oreskes took what amounts to climate skeptic vanilla pudding and labeled it as deadly poison peddled by Merchants of Doubt without any investigation into the original source documents and no requests for comment from the clearly named involved parties. That breaks every rule of journalistic ethics, not to mention scholarly historiography.

A noted historian, asked for the ideal definition of history, once said, “Ideally, history is what really happened.”

Oreskes didn’t ask.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Dr. Jay Lehr on Obama’s Climate Action Plan: New Methane Rule Targets American Industry

June 01, 2016, 11:15 AM

On Tuesday, May 31, Heartland Science Director Dr. Jay Lehr, PhD, was a guest on the radio show “Energy Matters” with host Scott Hennen on The Legendary Voice of the Northern Plains. Lehr was invited on to discuss the EPA’s Methane Rule as a part of President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan.”

Lehr explains that the “Climate Action Plan” is intended to eliminate fossil fuels and reduce emissions from shale gas, a naturally abundant source off fuel within the United States. As a result of these regulations, American fuel costs rise and force Americans to rely on foreign sources of energy. Lehr touches on Donald Trump’s address to the oil industry in North Dakota last week, in which he expressed support for independent entrepreneurs in the industry. During the talk, Trump encouraged private landowners who have utilized new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, allowing Americans to make use of vast quantities of fossil fuel. It was these innovations, Lehr explains, that have allowed Americans to begin the securitization of energy independence.

Lehr goes on to state that Congress’ current policies of subsidizing alternate sources of energy like wind and solar are ultimately ineffective. Because the United States and many other nations have naturally plentiful sources of fossil fuel, less efficient energy sources cannot feasibly compete with oil. Lehr comments that the United States is the only nation in which land ownership grants the rights to all minerals contained within the ground, giving the US an inherent economic advantage. However, as a result of President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” oil prices have already risen.

Further, Lehr explains that the left’s sensationalization and demonization of methane is not actually founded in science. Methane, although a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2, actually dissipates into the atmosphere shortly after release. This means that its emission and presence in our atmosphere is of little consequence to our climate. Lehr states that our climate is affected by more variables than that of which can be scientifically handled and thus cannot be captured accurately by a mathematical model. Lehr points out that modern scientists do not have the ability to accurately predict the temperature two weeks from now, let alone one hundred years.

Lehr states that the EPA’s new restrictions on methane emissions cannot and will not affect the environment, meaning that the “Climate Action Plan” can only be targeted at the oil industry itself. President Obama and his administration have continually used global warming as a vehicle to constrain the energy sector and as Lehr explains, infringe upon commercial rights.

Listen to the interview in full using the player above.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jackie Stewart: The Harmful and Unrealistic Goals of “Keep It In The Ground”

June 01, 2016, 10:52 AM

After the success of the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline, environmental activists set their sights on persuading Universities and other investors to divest from fossil fuels. Ultimately, these efforts were unsuccessful, leading these professional activists to found the Keep It In the Ground movement, who’s mission is to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.

In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Jackie Stewart, from Energy in Depth, and Research Fellow Isaac Orr discuss the origins and influence of the Keep It In The Ground movement, and how they affect public policy. This affect on public policy comes despite receiving rebuke from Sally Jewel, the Secretary of the Interior, who dismissed the movement as unrealistic.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Apparently, Failing Civics Class is a Media Job Requirement

June 01, 2016, 1:23 AM

Our public schools have for decades served not as education facilities – but as social services and indoctrination centers. From which the average graduate can’t read the diploma they’re handed – but they can roll a condom on a banana. Where people are brainwashed into preferring failed-everywhere socialism over wealth-producing capitalism – but are blithering, blinkered boobs when asked why.

The late, great comedian George Carlin understood why government does this: “Governments don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. That is against their interests. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept it.”

Most government schools don’t teach – or don’t teach properly – one of the greatest documents in human history: our Constitution. Which produced the most prosperous, egalitarian nation ever. But which government schools by and large impugn as racist and fatally flawed – and thus not worthy of proper consideration.

So concepts like the separation and balance of government powers – are foreign to most government school victims. Concepts like:

The Legislative Branch (Congress) – and only the Legislative Branch – legislates. And the Executive Branch then – and only then – executes the laws written by Congress. And enforces – only what Congress expressly wrote in the laws. If the Executive Branch goes beyond the powers granted it by the laws of the Legislative Branch – it is exceeding its authority, and usurping Congress’. Separation – and balance – of powers.

Government school victims mostly don’t know this. And many of these victims – matriculated and landed gigs in the media. But one example:

The Barack Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 unilaterally granted themselves huge new taxing and regulatory authorities over the Internet. They “reclassified” the way the Web is regulated – so that they are now imposing 1934 landline telephone law on the Net. Because despite the Internet not even existing until a half-century later, I’m quite sure our 1934 Congress had it in mind when writing their phone laws.

Our more modern Congresses never wrote a law authorizing reclassification – a necessary precedent to any such move by the Executive Branch. Thus what the FCC did is an egregious overreach. A huge violation of the separation and balance of powers. Now the House of Representatives is doing exactly for what the Constitution calls when the Executive Branch overreaches – use the Legislative Branch’s power of the purse to rein it in.

Do our government school victims in the media understand any of this?  Of course not. Get a load of this raft of totally ignorant headlines.

House Republican Unveils Bill to Limit FCC’s Net Neutrality Plans

The FCC can’t have plans – unless and until Congress gives them plans.

House Republicans Slam FCC Net Neutrality Proposal, Tout Own Bill

The media misses utterly that the FCC never had a “bill” – they issued a unilateral fiat. And bizarrely, incorrectly places the FCC and Congress on equal Constitutional footing when it comes to deciding what the FCC does.

House Republicans Vote to Kill FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

Since only Congress can create rules – their looking to kill the FCC’s unilateral rules is exactly for what the Constitution calls.

House Republicans Again Target Net Neutrality With Budget Attack

That would actually be the Congress using its Constitutional power of the purse to address a rogue Executive Branch agency.

Republicans Move to Gut FCC and Crush its Net Neutrality Crusade with Paralyzing Budget Rules

Executive Branch agencies aren’t supposed to run off on unilateral “crusades” – they are to enforce as written the Legislative Branch’s laws. When an agency tilts at idealogical windmills – it is Congress’ Constitutional duty to dock its allowance.

FCC…Gets Bitten in the Ass by Net Neutrality

I have zero sympathy for self-inflicted, authoritarian wounds. Neither should you. The media has oodles of it – if they are suffered in the pursuit of ever larger government.

House Republicans Move To Eliminate Net Neutrality

No, they don’t. Net Neutrality has always existed on the Web. What House Republicans are doing is limiting the FCC’s illegal, unilateral Net Neutrality regulations (which demonstrates that in addition to being illegal, the FCC’s moves were also totally unnecessary).

Republican Budget Proposal Would Gut Net Neutrality

No it wouldn’t. It would gut the FCC’s unilateral power grab – executed under the guise of Net Neutrality.

Zombie Bills: The Ongoing Congressional Attacks on Net Neutrality

Again, not on Net Neutrality – on the FCC’s power grab. Note the media’s utter backwardness here. The Congress “attacks” Net Neutrality regulations – that can not actually exist until Congress writes law giving the FCC the authority to make them.

House Budget Bill Guts Net Neutrality, Kills FCC Authority

The media says Congress wants to “kill” – what only Congress can actually create. The FCC declaring itself Internet Overlord – doesn’t make it legally so. Congress looking to restore Constitutional order – isn’t “killing” anything.

Republicans Defy Net Neutrality

Yet again – no, they don’t.

GOP Moves to Gut Net Neutrality, FCC Budget

GOP Pushing Bill That Guts FCC Authority, Kills Net Neutrality

GOP Budget Bill Would Kill Net Neutrality

Republicans Hope to Kill the FCC’s…Net Neutrality

Blah, blah, blah.

How’s that for a cavalcade of media Constitutional ignorance – and thus mis-reporting?

Government schools…are winning.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Another Climate Alarmist’s Predictions Don’t Match Real-World Data

May 31, 2016, 2:21 PM

Whenever there is a new record set, whether rain, hurricane, drought, etc., those in the climate change alarmist camp seem to be quick to point to global warming as the cause and make more dire predictions regarding the future—even when there are other documented reasons and even when hard data (not models) disputes the claim. Such is the case with Lake Mead. On May 20, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced that the nation’s largest reservoir, located near Las Vegas, NV, reached an all-time low. The current level slipped below the previous record set in June 2015.

Despite reports of the mismanagement of the important water resource, USA Today responded to the news by proclaiming: “Due to a long drought and climate change, Lake Mead’s water levels continue to fall.”

Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, and brother to former Colorado Senator Mark Udall and cousin to New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, declared: “This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds.” According to the Desert Sun, he added: “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline.”

Udall previously stated: “Climate change is water change. The two go hand in hand. Heat drives the water cycle. …You have to invoke temperatures to explain the current drought.”

Back in 2010, the Smithsonian magazine, cites Udall when it says: “Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years. … Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation. Udall said: ‘You’re going to see earlier runoff and lower flows later in the year,’ so water will be more scarce during the growing season.”

While Udall’s statements are dramatic and coincide with the climate crisis narrative his better-known family members espouse, they do not, according New Mexico hydrologist Mike Wallace, reflect actual temperature and stream flow records in the Colorado River Basin. (Ihighlighted Wallace’s work on ocean acidification in December 2014.)

Both Wallace and Udall claim to be experts in the hydrology and climatology of the western U.S. Wallace has more than 30 years of experience in the field. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in nanosciences at the University of New Mexico. Under his advisor solar physicist Harjit Ahluwalia, Wallace researches solar connections to the earth’s climate with an emphasis on hydrology—the topic of his dissertation. Udall’s undergraduate degree is in engineering and he holds an MBA from Colorado State University.

However, Wallace told me: “I’m the only hydrologist who is publishing moisture and temperature forecasts in reaches of the Upper Colorado River, years in advance, with consistently high accuracy.”

Regarding Udall’s comments in the Smithsonian, Wallace, who looks at streamflow records going back to the early twentieth century, finds that streamflows have actually been going up in recent years—correlating to ocean and solar drivers.

Wallace, who counts the city of Santa Fe as one of his forecasting business clients, pioneered the discovery that moisture patterns in his area of study—which overlaps Udall’s—are deeply anchored to ocean indexes and sunspot numbers. He boldly asserts: “There is no correlation of CO2 emissions history to the moisture time series that I have evaluated. Also, for the same stations that I review there is little or no correlation of temperature to streamflow. Rather, ocean drivers can account for changes in temperature and moisture in this region, and those drivers appear to be driven themselves by solar cycles.”

While Udall believes temperatures are rising and causing reduced streamflow into Lake Mead, Wallace disputes the premise. Wallace says he has three years of successful forecast exercises to back up his claim that, in his study areas, “temperatures are hardly trending in any direction and, in any case, those temperatures are not correlating to streamflow.”

Wallace’s work focuses on streams charged by high mountains—above 9000 feet. His study regions include many of the tributaries of the Colorado River such as the San Juan River and the Green River—both of which are sourced in the Rocky Mountains. He says: “There haven’t been any unusually low streamflow rates or unusually high temperatures in my area of focus. In fact, flows are going up, not down, compared to two and three years ago and some temperatures are actually trending down over the same recent time frame.”

Using his proprietary method (patent pending) with more than 200 accurate forecasts, and applying to areas near the nexus of the Upper Rio Grande and the Upper Colorado Rivers, Wallace is projecting 3-4 years of generally increased water flows, followed by 3-4 years of generally decreasing moisture (drought). He posits that his innovations help municipalities, flood control authorities, irrigation districts, and resource management agencies better plan for future moisture and temperature conditions.

An example of real science at work without political interference, Wallace explains: “Research suggests that as the Sun’s radiant energy increases and decreases in sync with its sunspot cycles, the planet’s hydrosphere (all of the water) responds accordingly.  Others have suggested this, but I’ve taken that several steps further. First, I’ve discovered reproducible, high correlations between sun spot numbers and a few key features of Earth’s climate.  Second, I’ve developed a series of unique calculations, which additionally consider global hydroclimatological patterns, the site location and elevation, and latency effects, to produce my forecasts. A majority of those forecast exercises have turned out to be far more accurate than any competing method, including any or all of the global circulation models (GCMs) endorsed by the UN IPCC—which I believe is what Mr. Udall must be using for his assertions.”

Wallace has written and presented several papers on his discoveries. But he continues to experience resistance from major peer-reviewed journals to publish any of his findings. The troubles likely lie in his demonstrations that emissions are uncorrelated to climate in his study regions. In any case, scientific paper
s are often considered as precursors to actual applications, and Wallace already has a working, proven application. Even without peer journal-publication panache, Wallace is receiving steady and growing recognition from the hydroclimate community. In April, he was an invited presenter to the 30th Annual Rio Grande Basin Snowmelt Runoff Forecast Meeting, sponsored by the USDA SNOTEL network and attended by top regional hydroclimate scientists from agencies including the National Weather Service (NWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If Wallace is correct, and he has a successful climate forecast record to back up his projections, Udall can’t also be right. Wallace believes most of Udall’s climate assertions, such as the claim that regional temperatures explain everything about the drought, are too simplistic.  He also expresses concern regarding Udall’s use of the term “drought.”   “To accept those Lake Mead statements as factual,” Wallace said, “anything short of an epic flooding event, must be an epic drought event.”

After all is said and done, the natural processes that Wallace has distilled down to a working forecast system, don’t, in any way, appear to fit the crisis narrative that the Udall and many climate “authorities” perpetuate. You should ask if we really need more funding, bigger departments, and greater public anxiety to fix something that, at least, in the western U.S., appears to wholly be explained by natural cycles.

(Wallace’s forecasts, profiled at www.abeqas.com, provide a sobering perspective—perhaps an antidote to the ongoing “drought” hysteria.)

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Daniel Dew: Criminal Justice Reform

May 31, 2016, 2:14 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions criminal justice fellow Daniel Dew about criminal justice reform, debunking some of the myths around this new idea.

As state lawmakers deal with competing budget trade-offs and increasingly expensive entitlement programs, such as Medicaid and pensions, economic realities are requiring the reassessment of past “tough on crime” policies. Refusals to address the problems with these policies are now haunting lawmakers, as their failure to monitor policies for cost-effectiveness and necessity have led to out-of-control spending, burdening taxpayers and threatening their liberty.

Daniel explains how criminal justice reform is more about being “smart on crime” than “tough on crime,” and how taxpayers benefit from policies that make sense and are backed by evidence, instead of policies that may make people feel good, but are prohibitively expensive or unnecessarily punitive.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Free-Market Alternative To Education Socialism

May 31, 2016, 1:43 PM

More than a few parents active in the fight to end Common Core’s suffocating grip on elementary and secondary education are targeting privatization as their enemy. They object to corporate groups seeking to redefine education as workforce preparation and to vendors hawking instructional materials for a curriculum most parents and many teachers do not favor.

Actually, Common Core is not at all about privatization. Instead, it is the opposite: a collaboration of powerful economic interests and big government to push a single-minded agenda on the public schools. Schools remain statist entities, more centrally controlled than ever.

In reality, true privatization could be the way for citizens to regain control of their local schools from the scourge of socialism that has been dragging down American education for decades.

Imagine, if you can, denationalization of education (no more standards imposed by distant bureaucrats) coupled with complete privatization of schools and universities, from kindergarten through graduate school. Yes, that would mean total separation of school and state.

Libertarian intellectual Richard Ebeling, distinguished professor of ethics and free enterprise leadership at The Citadel, recently envisioned several ways to achieve true privatization of education.

At the primary, middle, and high school levels, control of schools might be transferred to teachers and staff members who would become shareholders with a vested interest in offering the substantive education most parents want for their children. Or the schools might be auctioned to entrepreneurs with an incentive to run them with efficiency and pizazz so families would want to become customers.

Families could afford to pay directly for private schools because, with government out of the picture, all the taxes earmarked for education would be repealed. That would amount to a huge savings in family budgets because it is not uncommon for schooling to be the largest single expenditure in a local government budget.

In a competitive education marketplace, supply-side incentives would encourage upgrades in the types and quality of schools available for families, something that does not happen under socialized education. Moreover, an end to the education degree and certification racket would mean school principals would be free to hire and supervise knowledgeable teachers without teachers unions and bureaucracies imposing seniority-based rules that lock in mediocrity and make it difficult or even impossible to remove demonstrably bad teachers.

A similar process would occur in higher education, with the state-controlled colleges and universities being sold and the numerous grants and subsidies lavished on nominally private institutions being terminated. Subsequently, all taxes propping up this system would be repealed, with massive tax relief again boosting family budgets so parents could afford to purchase educational services they deem worthwhile for their children.

In a thought-provoking article for the Future of Freedom Foundation (“Educational Socialism Versus the Free Market”), Ebeling argues if schools and colleges were privatized in this manner and had to provide the kind of education parents and students considered to be worth the price of tuition, much of today’s political correctness and ideologically driven courses would yield to classes and subjects far more in line with traditional education.

Ebeling notes academe has gone from being an open marketplace of competing ideas, freely discussed, to an arena of collectivist indoctrination where trashing of “traditional American ideals of individualism, free enterprise, and constitutionally limited government” is commonplace. With lifetime tenure and tax-supported salaries, faculty members answer to no one but themselves as they instill in young people jaundiced views of foundational values such as “freedom, self-responsibility, and the character and values of a free society.”

This corrosive outlook filters down to K–12 schooling via collegiate-level teacher preparation and other avenues, and it is all the more troubling because these are the most impressionable years when bad ideas may become permanent core beliefs.

No doubt, mere mention of privatization will provoke conniption fits within the education establishment. As if on cue, the Huffington Post ran a teacher/blogger’s article on May 16 asserting free enterprise will never, ever work in K–12 education. The basis of Peter Greene’s piece was that some charter schools had closed their doors, supposedly proving they are heartless businesses that do not care about special-needs children. Never mind that charters are public schools operating squarely within the governmental system and are supposed to close when they fail to deliver promised results.

A wholesale transfer of public schools and colleges to private hands will not happen overnight. However, the accumulating success of private choice made available through such mechanisms as vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and Education Savings Accounts is beginning to show what is possible. Moreover, a current model already demonstrates a parent-centered free-market approach works well in addressing the needs of all kinds of children. That model is homeschooling, which has doubled its numbers of children over the past decade and booms all the more with each new federal usurpation of control over education policy.

Robert Holland (holland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute. 

 

[Originally published on The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Ad Feedback Breaking Free from Obama’s Fantasy of a Sexless Society with Parental Choice

May 31, 2016, 11:44 AM

By having his minions in the Education and Justice Departments threaten public school districts with loss of federal funding unless they satisfy the far left’s fondest fantasies of a sexless society, President Barack Obama may have awakened many Americans to the need to disconnect education from the federal government. A clean break would be best; states could simply stop accepting handouts from the U.S. Education Department (USED).

No one suggests that would be easy. USED spending has ballooned in inflation-adjusted dollars from $4.5 billion in 1965—the year President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed—to more than $40 billion in 2016. However, states and localities would have huge savings in federal compliance costs to help offset the loss of grants. A Heritage Foundation study in 2007 found bureaucratic costs whittled a $1,500 per-child federal Title I grant to effectively just $554 in Florida. Federal programs do more to create armies of bureaucratic paper-pushers than they do to help students or teachers.

As for parental choice, it is now more essential than ever. Its exercise must be free of any federal entanglements. What about the proposal floated by some conservatives to make federal education aid portable—so that it would follow students to schools of their choice? Forget about it. That would only enable Obama successors to rewrite applicable law and apply it to voucher schools, as the Obama administration did on May 13 when it decreed Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex applies to one’s “gender identity,” a term that does not appear anywhere in the law in question. Obama’s Friday letter constitutes a full presidential takeover of the nation’s schools.

That bizarre turn in executive lawmaking, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers, comes just as many scholars were celebrating the triumph of choice over centralization in U.S. education.

Paul E. Peterson, a noteworthy thinker and the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, will have an article in the summer issue of Education Next that concludes, “the Bush-Obama era of reform via federal regulation has come to an end.” Peterson prefaced that conclusion by asserting, “If school reform is to move forward, it will occur via new forms of competition—whether they be vouchers, charters, home schooling, digital learning, or the transformation of district schools into decentralized, autonomous units.”

That is a nice thought, but nothing is guaranteed.

Peterson cited tons of data showing federal regulation implemented under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top program, as well as executive branch lawmaking established through NCLB waivers, failed to close the minority achievement gap or raise U.S. students’ near-cellar-dwelling ranking on knowledge of math among youth in industrialized nations. But the Harvard scholar buys too easily into Washington, DC officials’ conventional wisdom about NCLB’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). They believe ESSA now lifts the onerous burden of federal regulation and frees localities and states to innovate. Actually, ESSA continues to mandate uniform assessments of students, empowers the U.S. secretary of education to pass judgment on states’ standards and action plans, and opens multiple pathways to new forms of federal meddling, such as through Baby Common Core—federalized preschool.

Now comes Obama’s reckless foray into lawmaking using his dictatorial letter, which could embolden future presidents to follow suit. Peterson’s conclusion that charter schools are the type of choice most likely to bring about a needed post-regulatory reconstruction of the educational system has become shakier than ever. Yes, charter schools have opened some cracks in the public-education monopoly, particularly in big cities that have given families lucky enough to win admissions lotteries an opening to better schools within the system. But charter schools remain in the governmental orbit, and some even receive federal start-up aid. They are not immune from decrees such as Obama’s.

The best bet to advance choice free of federal interference is the creation of education savings account (ESA) programs, which allow parents to elect to have their portion of state (not federal) subsidies deposited into an account from which they may draw to pay for an array of educational services—such as tutoring, online instruction, private tuition, homeschooling, or advanced classes at a university. Thereby, ESA programs transcend school choice; it is about customizing education for each child.

Since its start in Arizona in 2011, ESAs have spread to four more states and are pending in the legislatures of 16 more. If ESA programs survive challenges from the left, they could help bring about a vibrant marketplace that truly would secure the blessings of liberty in a post-regulatory era.

[Originally published at CNS News]

Categories: On the Blog

What if Environmental Laws Make Things Worse?

May 31, 2016, 10:40 AM

Time and again, humans have put into motion well-intentioned schemes to restore the environment to the condition people have come to believe is natural and pre-ordained by some higher authority, but they only made things worse. So:

  • What if what we think we know about ecology and environmental policy is just wrong?
  • What if environmental laws make things worse?
  • What if the very idea of nature has been hijacked by politics?
  • And what if “the wilderness” is something we create in our minds, as opposed to being an actual description of nature?

These are the questions Jim Lakely, Communications Director at The Heartland Institute, posed to those in attendance before introducing author Ryan M. Yonk as guest speaker at a Heartland event on Wednesday, May 11.

Yonk, along with Randy T. Simmons and Kenneth J. Sim, wrote Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment, a book published by the Independent Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy research and educational organization that shapes idea into profound and lasting impact. [How to purchase Nature Unbound.]

About the authors: 

Ryan M. Yonk is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Assistant Research Professor of Economics and Finance at Utah State University, and Executive Director of Strata Policy.

Randy T. Simmons is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Co-founder, President, and Director of Research of Strata.

Kenneth J. Sim is Director of the Reliable Energy Education Network and a former Analyst with Strata Policy.

The book, Nature Unbound

In Nature Unbound, Yonk and his co-authors offer a devastating critique of federal environmental policy by scrutinizing it through the lenses of biological ecology and political ecology. The book makes us rethink environmental objectives. It aligns incentives with goals and affirms the notion that human beings are an integral part of the natural order and merit no less consideration than Earth’s other treasures. It isn’t enough to try to put an area into a time-capsule and preserve it for future generations. After all the natural world changes and even degrades. Nature is constantly in flux and will not maintain its beauty or current state without human intervention.

Nature Unbound likewise makes a good case for abandoning the balance of nature myth and rethinking the environmental laws aimed at maintaining the mythical balance. This thinking was present in passing the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, and, more recently, a slew of renewable energy legislation – even though laws often fail to meet their stated environmental goals and may lead instead to worse environmental and economic outcomes. For instance, did stopping logging operations in the Pacific Northwest return forests to their natural state? Ecosystems do not exist in a steady-state equilibrium where, if left alone, they return to an idealized conditions.

Guest Speaker and Author, Ryan Yonk

Yonk initially tackled two central problems about environmental thinking which are deeply flawed:

1. Balance of Nature: The outdated notion that nature actually has a steady equilibrium it rests at, that the environment would return to some Eden-like state if only humans wouldn’t have touched it. But does a well-tended garden just happen on its own?

2. Assumed Perfect Political Process: The unfounded notion that the political process represents the best science and the popular will. 

The Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Clean Air Act (Air Pollution Control Act of 1955) were passed to take back what was never meant to be. Even the American Indians changed the land to make it more hospitable. In actuality, things were getting better even before strict regulations were enacted – and not because of the new regulations. Rather, growing prosperity gave man more leisure time with which to engage the environment in positive ways.

Two early environmental crusaders cited by Yonk were John Muir and Aldo Leopold

John Muir, a friend of President Teddy Roosevelt, founded the Sierra Club and helped guide an evolving wilderness movement that considered wilderness sacred space. Wanting to preserve the “cathedral of the mountains,” the Scottish environmentalist failed to draw support for his dream until he got involved in politics. He convinced Roosevelt of the beauty of his “wilderness as sacred space” vision, turning what had been a local discussion into a political one. In 1890, with the urging of Muir, Roosevelt created Yosemite National Park. 

Aldo Leopold, called by some the father of wildlife conservation in America, helped organize the Wilderness Society. Early on, however, Leopold realized that restrictive laws had largely failed in their mission to conserve America’s forests, rivers, and other natural resources.

Conservation laws explode in late 60s and 70s

Following a decades-long lull in the passage of environmental laws, the late 60s and early 70s saw a surge we still feel today. Congress Greatly assisted through the infusion of government cash, the following laws and regulations were passed: the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act , the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and created the Environmental Protection Agency. Although largely a failure in the ecological sense, they succeeded in the political realm.

Yonk presented this slogan of how restrictive environmental laws come into being: “Good Intentions, Bad Results.” Government is often motivated by disasters to do something, especially when the public demands action, but the results many times fail as an effective means to tackle the issue hand. For example: The 1969 Santa Barbara, CA oil spill, a relatively minor one as oil spills go, provided the impetus for the 1973 Clean Air Act (CAA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972, which was grew out of the amended Federal Water Pollution control Act of 1948.

But what happens if nothing is done when a situation merits human intervention, such as the Bark and Beetle crisis Yonk cited? The outcome from failing to initially address the beetles was to create a fire risk because of damaged trees in the Logan, Oregon area. By 1989 the area had become a tinderbox – and with a no intervention policy, the Forest Service didn’t attempt to put out the fires; instead they put out people.

Biological and Political Principles in Managing the Environment

What about biological principles in regards to the environment? A slide presented by Yonk listed them as two-fold:

  • Managing nature protects biological integrity better that does natural regulation.
  • Natural, wilderness, preservation, and ecosystems are only human constructs, not scientific ones.

In regard to political principles interfering with good environmental policy, these three principles were noted:

  • Powerful political forces are invested in existing legislation and regulation.
  • Making political changes will require extensive and intensive political entrepreneurship.
  • Marginal changes are more possible than wholesale changes, as nature is always in flux.

A short quote from Nature Unbound describes how this nation has dealt with environmental issues:  

“This nation’s conservation history might be compressed into two sentences: We tried to get conservation by buying land, by subsidizing desirable changes in land use, and by passing restrictive laws. The last method largely failed; the other two have produce some small samples of success.”

Concluding Thoughts

A number of questions were addressed to Yonk by those in attendance and by others watching the live-stream of the event on Heartland’s YouTube page. 

One question was about the EPA and how people are selected to serve in the agency and how it fits in the structure of the executive branch. Yonk noted that EPA directly reports to the administration. President Obama is the agency’s boss, even though the EPA administrator is not a cabinet member. EPA has become completely radical in nature and is self-selecting in its members. They go from lobbying organizations into government and then into the regulating world to create policy. The same is also happening in other government agencies, where bureaucratic self-interests are easily realized and agents are constantly pushing for increases in budget and size.

Before introducing speaker and author, Ryan M. Yonk, Jim Lakely spoke with pride about Heartland’s new Michael Parry Mazur Memorial Library with its wealth of liberty and free market books. As Freedom and Liberty are under assault in this country, the support of both principles are important to to the survival of this nation. Read here my write-up about the grand opening on Wednesday, May 4th, 2016.

Lakely also solicited the donation of books for The Heartland Institute and suggested checking attics and basements. As Lakely said: “You can sure that they will be read and used.” To donate your books, call Heartland at 312/377-4000.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog