If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.Help Us Fix Wikipedia Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable According to The Heartland Institute’s profile at Wikipedia, we are an unreliable front group for major corporations… except that they all stopped contributing to us four years ago… and we are “best known” for our work on tobacco control, though we devote practically no resources to that subject. Left-wing activists have taken over the site recently, removing objective descriptions of our programs and publications and replacing them with lies, errors, and outright libelous claims. Can you help? READ MORE Heartland Event: Judge Brennan and Neal Schuerer Debate Article V The idea of invoking Article V of the Constitution to rein in an out-of-control federal government is gaining steam. Supporters of the idea get passionate about what approach to take, convinced their path is best. Watch a recording of Wednesday night’s live-stream as former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Brennan, now with Convention USA, and former Iowa state legislator Neal Schuerer of Campaign Constitution debate the merits of their proposals before a live audience at The Heartland Institute. READ MORE Heartland Institute Joins Coalition Telling Congress to Reject a Carbon Tax Earlier this month, President Barack Obama released a budget that included imposing a $10.25 carbon tax on every barrel of oil. “Though advocated as a way to fight global warming, it would have little effect on carbon dioxide emissions (which are already falling in the United States) and no detectable impact on climate,” said Heartland President Joseph Bast. Read why Heartland joined the American Energy Alliance and 21 other free-market and conservative groups as signatories to an open letter opposing the carbon tax. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Isaac Orr: Heartland’s Newest Frac Sand Study Research Fellow Isaac Orr, co-author of a series of Heartland Policy Studies addressing frac sand mining, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the most recently released installment in the series, addressing the impacts of mining on land use and property values. Orr addresses the fear-mongering by opponents of mining with reason and facts. LISTEN TO MORE March 9 Event: There Is No “Scientific Consensus” on Global Warming The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the myth that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Heartland President Joseph Bast, who edited the book, will discuss his findings and bid a fond farewell to one of the coauthors, Robert Carter who passed away on January 19, at a free event at Heartland’s headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois, onMarch 9. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! The Passing of Antonin Scalia: Climate Policy and the Power of a Single Vote H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly The passing of Antonin Scalia reminds us about the importance and influence of the late Supreme Court justice. Scalia played a major role in protecting individual liberty up until his last days. Had he died just a few days earlier, a 4–4 split decision likely would have left in place the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan – a set of regulations that would have had disastrous effects on the national economy. READ MORE Small Business CFOs Call Obamacare ‘Fastest-Growing Threat’ Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report A majority of chief financial officers (CFOs) said in a recent survey that dealing with Obamacare’s higher premiums is now “the fastest-growing threat to their company’s bottom line.” An even larger majority say the complexity of Obamacare regulations is taking their focus away from their primary objective – running their businesses. This was a reality long-delayed but finally here because the 2015 tax year marks the first year many of the Affordable Care Act’s costly and labor-intensive small business tax rules go into effect. READ MORE
House Oversight Committee Investigates Collapses of Obamacare Exchange Leo Pusateri, The Heartlander Since their establishment in 2014, eight of the 14 Obamacare state exchange programs have imploded due to critical financial problems. Alexander Hendrie, a federal affairs manager with Americans for Tax Reform, says taxpayers are being taken advantage of by a structure that was never going to work, combined with enormous waste in spending. “Oregon spent $20 million on an advertising campaign that told people nothing about health insurance or the exchange,” Hendrie said. “At the time, people in the state knew their exchange was not going to work, but [it] went ahead anyway.” READ MORE Durham County, NC Commissioners Add E-Cigs to Smoking Ban Andrea Dillon, The Heartlander Lawmakers on the Durham County, North Carolina Board of Commissioners rang in the New Year by adding e-cigarettes to the city’s list of “tobacco” products banned from use or possession on city or county government property – including sidewalks, parks, trails, athletic fields, and public transportation stops. “The [purported] justification for Durham’s e-cigarette ban shows just how far the action strays from a true public-health purpose,” said Mitch Kokai, communications director for the John Locke Foundation, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Tom Harris: America’s Response to Global Warming Is Economic Suicide The fear driven by global warming alarmism is starting to take a destructive toll on the country. Tom Harris, executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about how the government’s attempts to combat climate change are economic suicide. Harris also explains why Obama’s war on coal is unjustified and how climate science doesn’t support the need to suppress fossil fuel use. LISTEN TO MORE More Common Core Promises Evaporate Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly Despite Common Core’s promise of providing equal, nationwide benchmarks for student learning in math and reading, a new study finds proficiency levels on Common Core tests vary widely, and almost all are below what the National Assessment of Educational Progress considers “basic.” School Choice Weekly friend and researcher Richard Inness also shows how new Common Core-aligned tests appear to be inflating student proficiency, even though Common Core was supposed to help solve this problem, too. Had enough central education planning yet? READ MORE The New SAT: Common Core Sealant Robert Holland, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel The College Board, with assistance from the Republican-led Congress, is seeing to it that its radically revised college-entrance exam, the SAT, can step right in as a replacement to the unpopular PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests to measure high school students’ Common Core-defined “college and career readiness.” If the SAT becomes established as a graduation requirement, the standardization and centralized decision-making sought by Common Core’s elitist architects will become easier to achieve than it was under consortia testing. READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at email@example.com.
“We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,” President Obama told an audience four years ago at the University of Miami. Like this year, it was an election year and Obama was running for re-election. Later in his speech, he added: “anybody who tells you that we can drill our way out of this problem doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or just isn’t telling you the truth.” He scoffed at the Republicans for believing that drilling would result in $2 gasoline—remember this was when prices at the pump, in many places, spiked to more than $4 a gallon: “You can bet that since it is an election year, they’re already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas. I’ll save you the suspense: Step one is drill, step two is drill, step three is drill.”
Well, Mr. President, you owe America, and the Republicans, an apology. Your snarky comments were wrong. The Republican’s supposed three-point plan, which you mocked, was correct.
I don’t expect our presidents to be energy experts, but they should be advised by the brightest minds in the business. Obviously, Obama surrounds himself with ideologues.
Today, on the four-year anniversary of another of Obama’s inaccurate predictions, we have drilled our way to $2 gas—despite the fact that he has supported the anti-fossil-fuel movement’s efforts to impede and block oil production. In fact, due to American ingenuity and initiative that successfully combined horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, we are producing so much it has resulted in a global glut of oil and a national average gasoline price of $1.70. According to AAA, the cost per gallon has been below $2 for 25 days.
In his message in Miami, he bragged: “under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years.” Yes, that is true. But it is not because of Obama’s support. A Congressional Research Service report released last year found that since fiscal year 2010 oil production on federal lands is down by 10 percent, while it up 89 percent on state and private lands. Obama aligns himself with those who want to “keep it in the ground”—who count his “no” decision on the Keystone pipeline as their biggest victory to date.
Funny, in the 2012 speech he said: “Over the last three years, my administration has approved dozens of new pipelines, including from Canada.” That was then.
He then launched into his requisite rhetoric on renewables: “The United States consumes more than a fifth of the world’s oil. But we only have 2% of the world’s oil reserves. That means we can’t just rely on fossil fuels from the last century. … Because of investments we’ve made, the use of clean renewable energy in this country has nearly doubled. … As long as I’m President, I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China.”
Wait! Wind and solar do not reduce our need for foreign oil. Wind turbines and solar panels do produce electricity—albeit ineffectively, inefficiently and uneconomically. But we do not have an electricity shortage. We do not import electricity. We do not make electricity from oil. Automobiles run on gasoline made from oil—for which the president’s new budget includes a $10 a barrel tax that translates to about 24 cents per gallon.
Four years ago, in Miami, he said: “…high gas prices are like a tax” straight out everyone’s paycheck. Yet today, he wants to increase the nearly $.45 a gallon we currently pay in taxes to $.69.
Obama’s false “We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices” prediction was made during an election year. During this election year, is a good time to be reminded that, without government “investment,” we did drill our way to lower gas prices. At the same time, taxpayer-supported renewable projects continue to go bankrupt and be shuttered—taking with them our money and the jobs they promised to create.
Yes, Mr. President, you owe America an apology.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
By Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold –
The passing of Justice Scalia on Saturday, February 13, while a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch luxury resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa, is a tragedy for the entire nation.
This commentary, “What Scalia Taught Us”, by Paul J. Larkin Jr., director of The Heritage Foundation’s project to counter abuse of the criminal law was published on the day Scalia’s death was announced and expresses the esteem and high regard held by many upon hearing of his death:
For some, it is the painful loss of a husband or father. For those who knew him, it is the loss of a good friend. For law students, it is the loss of a justice who wrote opinions with rigorous analysis, clarity of expression, and at times an acerbic wit.
For conservatives, it is the loss of a standard-bearer and icon. For liberals, it is the loss of an opponent who always fought hard but fair.
For those who never had the opportunity to know him, it is the loss of one of our greatest legal minds, of a judge and justice who had made, and will continue to make, legal history. And to those who were privileged to know him, it is the loss of a wonderful human being.
Larkin goes on to note that 100 men and women have been justices of the Supreme Court. While Joseph Story, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hugo Black, Earl Warren, William Brennan, and William Rehnquist will be remembered for moving the Supreme Court in one direction, thereby establishing the Supreme Court as one of the most powerful institutions in our nation, fewer justices have changed the course of the law. Antonin Scalia, along with John Marshall, were cited in the latter category of judges.
Scalia voiced disapproval of a Constitutional Convention
In a speech to the Federalist Society in Morristown, N.J., Scalia presented the following reason why America’s basic freedom has endured for more than 200 years: “It is the Constitution, not bill of rights, makes us free.” Why? Because it is the Constitution that imposes structure upon our government. Scalia considered the 7th Amendment — passed on April 8th, 1913, when Woodrow Wilson was President of the U.S., and which provided for the direct popular election of U.S. senators — the most profound and significant departure from our nation’s constitutional structure, contending that it removed a key plank of the constitutional structure the framers put in place to protect federalism and state interests. Furthermore, at a time when conservative leaders and groups are calling for a constitutional convention (Con-Con), during the question-and-answer session Scalia had this to say about whether such a convention would be in the nation’s interests: “A constitutional convention is a horrible idea. This is not a good century to write a constitution.”
If you look at issues which have divided the Supreme Court on a 5/4 basis, it is clear that all parties are not reading from the same page, to wit, the United States Constitution. This is why the death of Antonin Scalia constitutes a grave threat to our liberty. Scalia was the bastion of “originalism,” which interprets the Constitution according to the founding father’s original intent.
Cases presently on the docket could alter American life on many issues, especially in closely divided cases where Justice Scalia was expected to serve as a lynch pin of a conservative majority. With 8 justices a majority decisionwould be 5-3 rather than 5-4, and if and when there’s a 4-4 split, the lower court’s decision is upheld. But there’s an important caveat to that latter point: that decision isn’t automatically considered legal precedent.
The potential replacement of Justice Scalia by a liberal judge would shift the balance of power away from individual rights to collective rights in general, but the right to keep and bear arms in particular. Loss of these freedoms would be very difficult to recover, if ever. A liberal court would serve to keep liberals in power throughout the government by denying rights to those who oppose them. Among them, the right to support candidates by word and deed under the First Amendment.
Cases remaining on Supreme Court docket with questionable outcomes without Scalia’s voice
Following are eight important cases that remain on the Supreme Court docket and their possible outcomes without the voice of Justice Scalia.
In what is considered the most significant abortion case since 1992, this term’s abortion case centers on restrictions placed on providers and clinics by Texas and will again test how far states can go to limit abortion. The Court was expected to be divided along party lines, with Kennedy as the possible swing vote.
Religious nonprofits, including charities, schools, colleges and hospitals, may have to live with the decisions of seven appeals courts, which ruled against their challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in Zubik v. Burwell. How will religious freedom stack up when pitted against a woman’s right to choose?
Public sector-unions may get a reprieve. What appeared to be an all but certain 5-4 ruling against unions in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in regard to “fair share” fees that unions charge nonmembers to cover costs associated with collective bargaining, could end up with a 4-4 decision without Scalia. Labor unions want to hold elections by acclamation in open meetings. They are supported in this by President Obama and the Board of Labor Relations packed with his sycophants. Currently, elections are conducted with private ballots where everybody in the company has a right to participate. Election “meeting,” on the other hand, are limited by the size of the hall and subject dissenters to public humiliation or worse.
The use of affirmative action in college admissions could now survive a challenge. If so, a lower court decision will remain in place that favors the University of Texas in using race as a factor in admissions.
Separation of church and state
Religious schools could continue to be denied publicly funded grants. Scalia, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy had indicated a willingness to accept the argument that banning state lawmakers from funding religious schools, if a democratic majority wants to, would impede the free exercise of religion.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan could return back to the hands of the D.C. Circuit Court. One of Scalia’s last official acts as a justice was to deliver a large dent in Obama’s climate legacy by providing one of five votes to stay the Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon emissions from power plants. A 4-4 ideological split on the Supreme Court raises the stakes for the more liberal D.C. Circuit’s eventual decision on the Clean Power Plan.
Scalia’s death may not have a big impact on one of the most significant cases the court has agreed to take up: a challenge to Obama’s latest round of executive actions on immigration to be argued in April, unless the administration can win the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy or Chief Justice John Roberts.
The Second Amendment
Last but not least, Justice Scalia was the foremost supporter of our rights to keep and bear arms. The Heller decision established that the Second Amendment gave individuals these rights, rather than a collective right. The MacDonald decision applied these rights to supercede state and local law, subjecting these laws to strict scrutiny in most cases. The New York Times expresses this threat in a near joyful manner. “Instead of overruling precedents outright, he said, a liberal majority might hollow some of them out, notably in the area of gun rights. “The five would narrow Heller to the point of irrelevancy,” he said, speaking of the law that said Americans had a constitutional right to keep handguns at home – Eric Segall, Georgia State”
American people must decide Scalia’s replacement, via our next president
The Founders faced nearly medieval tyranny in the form of George III, who taxed the colonists heavily in order to pay for his foreign wars, and collected these taxes under force of arms. To make matters worse, colonists were required to feed and house those troops at their own expense. The King and Parliament forbade colonists to do for themselves, rather purchase basic materials like cloth, paper and other items from England, because it suited the King to favor monopolies which he created. In order to silence opposition, it became a crime to publicly disagree with his orders (restrictions which still exist in England and most of Europe). In order to forestall resistance to these draconian orders, he ordered arms and gunpowder seized. Fortunately he wasn’t entirely successful.
We face a different tyranny today, not from a king but from self-serving “liberals,” whose title inappropriately stems from “liberty.” As such liberals (Liberalism) look to government for basic needs, largely as enumerated in Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights. These items include housing, jobs, medical care and wages. If this sounds somewhat familiar, look at the UN’s version of human rights, and before that august body, the Marx/Engles “Communist Manifesto.”
President Obama was entitled to two terms of office, won in free elections. He is not entitled to encumber the nation with 30 years of an unbalanced Supreme Court which disregards the Constitution and rights under God in favor of a worldly fabrication of “rights” which in fact stand in direct opposition to the rights our fathers fought and died for. We are better off living with a dead tie in the Supreme Court until Obama is out of office than subject ourselves to judicial tyranny from the Left.
It would be a tragedy for our Constitution if the Senate simply confirmed an anti-Constitution judge to replace Justice Scalia’s seat. Confirming a new judge the year of a Presidential election is unheard of, especially with rampant judicial activism. Democrats would never go along with nominating a Conservative judge if the roles were reversed. It’s likewise folly to expect that Obama would nominate a judge other than a liberal one to fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death.
The Constitution does grant a president the right to recommend a Supreme Court appointee; however, the Constitution likewise gives the Senate power through the confirmation process to stop the process, and there is nothing the President and Senate Democrats can do about it to get the president’s nomination confirmed.
It must be left up to the American people to decide who the next Judge will be, via our next President. If Republicans in the Senate don’t hold the line against an Obama nominee as a betrayal of Conservatism, the Republican spirit and the Constitution, it will likely signal the end of the Republican Party as a viable political party. If there is anger now over the way Republican legislators repeatedly cave in to Democrats, the anger will turn to pure rage and disassociation with the Party if the majority Republican Senate confirms what is sure to be a liberal Obama Supreme Court nominee.
In The Tank Podcast (ep27): James Madison Institute, Regressive Regulations, and the Apple Decryption Debate
Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft continue to explore the world of think tanks in episode #27 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, stories, and light-hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the James Madison Institute, the Mercatus Center, the John Locke Foundation, the American Energy Alliance, and Reason.
Better Know a Think Tank
In this “Better Know a Think Tank” segment, Donny and John talk to Dr. Bob McClure, President and CEO of the James Madison Institute – a Florida-based think tank. McClure talks about the background of the think tank, what they cover, and what they are currently working on.
Featured Work of the Week
Featured this week is a report by the Mercatus Center titled “How Do Federal Regulations Affect Consumer Prices? An Analysis of the Regressive Effects of Regulation.” The report explains how government regulations impact lower-income families and communities far more than higher-income families.
In the World of Think Tankery
Today Donny and John talk about a report from the John Locke Foundation titled “Certified ‘Green’ Schools: Savings & Benefits Fail To Materialize in North Carolina” The report explains the failure of “green” schools to live up to the promises of energy conservation. They explain what “green” schools are and what the impacts have been so far.
They also talk about coalition of free-market and conservative groups who have joined the American Energy Alliance in signing a letter in support of Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s resolution opposing a carbon tax. Donny and John discuss the the American Energy Alliance’s “10 Reasons to Oppose a Carbon Tax.”
In the last portion of this segment, Donny and John talk about the ongoing situation between Apple and the federal government on the potential decryption of the Iphone belonging to the San Bernardino terrorist.
Linked here is the interview with Edward Snowden that John refers to in the podcast.
Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.
Civitas Institute – 2016 Conservative Leadership Conference (Fri/Sat, March 4-5) @ the Civitas Institute in Cary, North Carolina
Heartland Institute – Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: Featuring Heartland President Joseph Bast (Wednesday, March 9) @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
CPAC – Conservative Political Action Conference (March 2-5) @ the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
Last Monday was Presidents Day. But that holiday is relatively new – an amalgamation of the birthdays of George Washington (President #1, February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (President #16, February 12). It is now a day set aside to celebrate all American Commanders-in-Chief.
Since yesterday was Washington’s actual day of birth (and he is thus far my favorite president) I think we should look at another, lesser known contribution he and several of his successors made to our nation. They were inventors.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Washington replied “As a farmer.” And it was in all things farming that he was constantly tinkering – and inventing. And he understood the vital import of people with the capital to invest – to invest in inventing. “Washington recognized that experimentation was anathema to all but the most forward looking farmers. Instead, Washington believed that it was the responsibility of wealthy farmers to undertake experimentation, as failures would be inevitable and losses would have to be absorbed while new techniques were perfected.”
As my friend John Berlau exquisitely put it, “Washington was less a ‘gentleman farmer’ than an agricultural entrepreneur.” Washington was constantly looking to invent better ways to do things: “He tinkered ceaselessly but never aimlessly. A firm believer in experimentation, he tested tools with a view to their capacity to save labor and boost productivity. Among other cutting-edge technologies, he installed at Mount Vernon an advanced gristmill that allowed him to produce high-quality ‘G. Washington’ brand flour and even market it overseas.” Washington received a trademark for his flour – the better to protect his intellectual property with, both here and abroad.
Washington had absolute admiration for his fellow inventors, viewing them as “visionaries desperately needed for America’s economy to thrive.” And he himself certainly did way more than his fair share of contributing to said thriving.
Washington was not alone amongst our Chief Executives. His first Secretary of State – and our soon-to-be third President – Thomas Jefferson was a prolific inventor. “Among Thomas Jefferson’s inventions were such devices as a macaroni machine that he invented in 1787, the swivel chair, the spherical sundial, the moldboard plow and the cipher wheel, which was an ingenious way to allow people to code and decode messages. Jefferson’s cipher wheel was used until 1802, and then it was ‘reinvented’ just prior to World War I and used by the US army and other military services to send messages back and forth…. Several of Thomas Jefferson’s inventions are still in use today; they deal mainly with agricultural and mechanical products.”
Washington birthday-mate Lincoln too was an inventor. “In two separate boating incidents, one as a teenager on the Mississippi River and one on the Great Lakes, President Lincoln got his boats stuck in shallow waters, known as ‘shoals.’ These two experiences inspired Lincoln to invent a solution to help him navigate his boat through shallow waters. A wooden model of this invention, which Lincoln made himself, is in the Smithsonian Institution.”
And Lincoln thoroughly understood – and brilliantly summed up – the import of protecting intellectual property: “Lincoln called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments ‘in the world’s history,’ along with the discovery of America and the perfection of printing.”
The discovery of America was important – but only because of what she became. She became what she is in large part because of the indemnity of patents and all other forms of intellectual property. America is an idea – built upon many, many other ideas.
Lincoln knew these ideas must be protected. Because the inventors need the protection – and, as Washington noted, investors need to know their investments in inventors are protected.
Unfortunately, there is in our current Congress – House and Senate – an effort underway to dramatically undermine our patent law protections. The bills are – like the Congress that extruded them – an abysmal mess.
Rather than revisiting these messes, Congress should adhere to this 1966 movie title: “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There.”
And we have to decide with whom we stand: Birthday Boy Giants George Washington and Abe Lincoln, and their fellow inventors who helped build this nation – or a tiny cadre of the members of the shambles that is our current Congress.
It isn’t a tough call.
In January 2016, a fierce blizzard in Texas left snow drifts up to 4m deep and killed 35,000 dairy cows and 12,000 beef cattle. Cold kills and there is no food in snow.
There is abundant food in steamy equatorial regions but only a few hardy species survive precariously in the dry, icy climate of the frigid zones.
The great animal migrations seek to escape the hungry winters by following the warmth or chasing the new pasture from spring storms.
Reindeer follow the sun – they spend the summer grazing on the rich pastures of the treeless tundra, but when the snow starts they head south for the protection of the forests. Moose also migrate to lower land in winter – staying ahead of the descending snowline.
Snow geese are not silly – they follow the sun towards the equator as winter approaches and then fly back when the summer sun melts the snow and energises the dormant pastures.
Bears have a climate-smart winter strategy – they find a cozy cave and hibernate, conserving their body warmth and reducing their energy needs to what can be sustained by their carbon-rich fat reserves.
Most humans are also sun-worshippers (apart from the jet set who travel in air-conditioned comfort to over-heated lodges so they can cavort briefly in the snow confident that someone else has produced the food, coffee and warmth they will soon return to).
Holidaying humans tend to follow the sun towards the equator. They do not head for Archangel or Antarctica in winter – they head for the Bahamas, Bali, Cairns, sunny Spain or the Black Sea. Being “Sent to Siberia” was a punishment not a reward.
Farmers fear early frosts but welcome early spring rain.
The geological record is also very clear on the matter of global temperatures – cold is the killer. The mammoths were not killed by a heat wave – they were snap frozen in ice. About 100 species of mega-fauna also disappeared in the end-Pleistocene ice age. The great ice sheets sterilised more fertile land and forests than rising sea levels will ever do.
It is a testament to the power of propaganda and vested interests that a whole generation is having hysterics about a natural beneficial climate cycle – the modern warm, wet era.
A return to the cold, dry and carbon-starved climate of the Little Ice Age would cause world-wide famines; humans may not survive a return to Pleistocene Ice Age conditions.
Our warm globe supports life; cold kills.
National Common Core-aligned standardized tests for elementary and secondary schools are in the midst of a death spiral, despite the $360 million the Obama administration spent on the creation of the two consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced, five years ago.
Only six states report they will administer PARCC testing in 2016; five years ago, PARCC proudly counted 23 states in its fold. Smarter Balanced also has been losing members — most recently Delaware and Montana — while receiving reviews similar to the following one made by a tech expert who was quoted in a Feb. 8 article in EdSurge, an online education-technology journal: “(Smarter Balanced is) a quagmire of poor technological design, poor interaction design, and poor mathematics that hopelessly clouds the insights the tests might give us into students’ thinking.”
Despite these significant setbacks, Common Core collaborationists in big government, business and foundations shouldn’t fret, because the College Board is now riding to the rescue.
College Board, with assistance from the Republican-led U.S. Congress, is seeing to it that its radically revised college-entrance exam, the SAT, can step right in as a replacement to the unpopular PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests to measure high school students’ Common Core-defined “college and career readiness.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in December 2015 as No Child Left Behind’s successor, lets states seek U.S. Department of Education permission to use the new SAT to evaluate all high school students’ Common Core competence, thereby also measuring the level of compliance schools have with the nationalized standards.
To understand how a test originally designed to help selective universities gauge applicants’ aptitude for intellectually challenging study can now be a yardstick of generic readiness, it is important to know the role former testing consultant David Coleman has in shaping the nation’s educational standards.
In 2008, Coleman and Gene Wilhoit, director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), visited philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates at his Seattle office to persuade him to bankroll the development of national education standards. The visit paid off; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent more than $200 million on the standards. The money was not used merely to develop Common Core under the aegis of the National Governors Association and CCSSO; it also was spent to increase public acceptance of the standards after their hasty, stealthy adoption by state boards of education, many of which were too busy lusting after federal Race to the Top grants tied to the standards to evaluate quality.
After their rollout in 2010 and the gradual rise in parents’ discontent over the standards, which occurred as parents began to discover drastic changes to their kids’ math and English classes, Coleman magically became president and CEO of the College Board.
From the get-go, Coleman said he intended to align the SAT fully with Common Core. When SAT testing begins in March, we’ll know for sure if Coleman is a man of his word, but SAT previews suggest the new SAT is likely to be another Common Core-aligned failure.
If the SAT becomes established as a graduation requirement under ESSA-mandated federal accountability, the standardization and centralized decision-making sought by Common Core’s elitist architects will become easier to achieve than it was under consortia testing.
States not fully on board with Common Core could find that their college-going students would be at a competitive disadvantage with students from states that strictly follow the Common Core curricular standards, and there’s no doubt that is the quandary the keepers of the Core want to present to dissenters in the hopes they too will fall into the common mold.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Neal Schuerer, Executive Director of Campaign Constitution joins Hosts Donny Kendal and Kyle Maichle to talk about the importance and potential impact of holding a mock Article V convention of states.
Schuerer came to the Heartland Institute to participate in Heartland’s Forum on Article V Convention event. Click here to watch the event in full.
He also answers some of the most frequently heard questions. These include: Is momentum for an Article V Convention growing? and, How do you respond to the concerns about a runaway convention.
The roundtable discussion is moderated by Christopher Casey, Managing Director at WindRock Wealth Management. Participates also include Bud Conrad, Author of Profiting from the World’s Economic Crisis; Tres Knippa, Hedge Fund Manager; Brett Rentmeester, President of WindRock Wealth Management; and Gerald Celente, Publisher of the Trends Journal.
Today we have assembled a panel of independent experts with unique perspectives. We are recording this in late January, and it has already been a dramatic year. After rebounding from a brutal start, the U.S. stock market is still down 5%, while Europe, Japan and China have all declined approximately 8%.
Bud, you went on record in a recent podcast with WindRock as well as in the Casey Report stating 2016 will witness a significant recession. Do you believe recent stock market activity indicates a worldwide recession is upon us and investors should expect future declines, or is this simply a momentary correction?
Oh, of course I’m in the camp that we are already in a recession. That’s based on the way they actually define what a recession is as done by the National Association of Business Economics. One of the guys that does that is Bob Hall, a professor I know over here at Stanford. They look at things like employment and so forth, but pretty much after the fact. Sometimes they don’t declare the beginning of a recession until after it’s actually finished, and then they declare that it is finished later than that. So official recession dating is not much use to investors. The main reasons that I point to are that the world economies are slowing and the stock markets are falling, like our own. The Baltic Dry Index is at a record low indicating that nobody is demanding ships for trading. There are declines in all the important measures of our economy, starting with industrial production, retail sales, etc. Inventories have been rising, especially as compared to sales, back to a level that’s definitely a recessionary warning, which is why GDP hasn’t completely gone negative. GDP came in at 0.7% for the last quarter of 2015. This was with an inflation level that is extremely low and I don’t think reflective of reality. If the inflation that I pay at the grocery store and California housing were properly calculated, I would say we are already at a negative GDP. When things like unwinding the inventories is added to what I suspect for the projections, we are going to have negative GDP quarters coming along.
In my book I spent some time on the fact that feedback loops are very important. When you have a falling stock market, people feel less wealthy. When they feel less wealthy, they spend less. When they spend less, the economy slows. When the economy slows, guess what? Earnings of companies decline so stocks decline. It’s a feedback through the system that feeds on itself. Once you have the start of a rollover, as we now have for the stock market, it feeds back through the economy and the economy feeds back through the stock market in a vicious circle. The vicious circle we have been on with Fed printing, adding money to financial markets to drive up financial assists, namely stocks and bonds, stopped a year ago. It should be no surprise at all that stocks have not gone anywhere for a year either. In fact, earnings are down and even sales are down – only a modest 3% in the last year – but that is the sign of an economy already in recession.
Do you know why Bud’s right and we are in a recession? Because Janet Yellen just raised rates. Her record is untarnished. She is zero for however many times you want to go through this exercise. Her record at predicting a recession is zero. It is perfect. She hasn’t done it not one time. One time, she said that we were in a recession, but by then, we had already starting coming out of it. When Ben Bernanke took over, Janet Yellen gave a speech saying that no person had ever taken over as Fed chairman with the economy being in such good shape; it was like a tennis racket with a massive sweet spot. That was in 2007. We were right on the front door of the single most important financial event of our lifetimes and she completely missed it. So if Janet Yellen says red I say blue, if she says up I say down. You want an indicator that we’re going into recession: she raised rates. That is all you need.
You should take her to Vegas!
Regarding the stock markets, I wanted to really highlight this: what have American companies done, besides stock buybacks? They finance these stock buybacks. They’re doing it with debt, and if you are sitting there forced to service debt as a public company and your top line growth starts to go down, i.e. we see a recession, we see sales slow, etc. Their balance sheets look worse now than they did then and that really troubles me when we start talking about what we think stock markets can do. On the other hand, as we start talking about recession, we naturally have to say that it is possible QE comes back, so is it possible that asset prices rise? The Japanese stock market’s been rising and their economy has been dead flat now for 20 some odd years, so it is hard to believe but possible. Stock prices very well could go up.
Recessions are notoriously difficult to call, but this period has all the writing on the wall of a global recession – so the odds are quite high in our opinion. The wildcard is whether central bank actions can continue to delay the onset. We think it’s unlikely they can for much longer. The world economy is built on an increasingly unstable and interconnected tower of debt – much like the game Jenga. In Jenga, blocks supporting the tower are pulled out one by one until the whole tower tumbles. We are seeing key blocks being pulled from the global economy as we speak. We’ve had high valuations and weak global growth for several years already, but two additional blocks got pulled in 2015. It was the first year where company fundamentals turned down decisively with essentially flat sales and a contraction in earnings for S&P 500 companies. In addition, we also saw interest rates on junk bonds almost double from 4% to 8%. We believe soaring junk bond yields have often been a leading indicator that investors are becoming more fearful. This change in sentiment could be the final block that knocks the tower over. In the aftermath, central bankers will likely panic, and similar to 2008, re-inflate the system with money printing, but will investors have lost faith in the power of their actions this next time around? The Fed will come back to QE and other easing measures, but likely not before we first see some serious losses in the stock market.
Gerald, you have been spot on in predicting the last two recessions. In December 2007, you had an article entitled “The Panic of ‘08” in which you predicted failing banks, busted brokerages, etc. Where do you see the worldwide economy headed?
The stock market is disconnected from reality, and it has been since they started negative interest rate policy and quantitative easing. All that has done, and the facts prove it, is allowed companies to do massive buybacks of stock and mergers and acquisition activity and last year of course M&A activity was record breaking. So the only thing it did was to boost the stock markets and to also take that hot money and to push it into emerging markets and boost those markets as well. So, it has no reflection to reality because when you look at the real numbers, for example here in the States, what are we at? Basically a 2% GDP rate increase each year since the panic of 2008 and now you just saw the numbers come for the last quarter of 2015 and what was it: 0.7%? You call that an economy? And it stinks. So the realities are hitting home, and the reality is that there’s no recovery and we are in the beginning stages of a massive global recession and you can also see it in declining commodity prices. You look at the Bloomberg Commodity Index back at its 1991 levels and why? It’s because this is a global slowdown and there’s too much product. Whether its raw materials or finished product and not enough money to buy the stuff whether it’s by a company or individuals. So, this is real and the commodity prices don’t collapse like this for no reason at all.
I completely agree with your comment about commodity prices. Of course, we can cite a number of statistics pointing to economic weakness, but I think the dramatic fall in commodity prices may be perhaps the most significant statistic since growing economies require natural resources. From their highs over the last few years, we have iron ore down 80%, copper down 55%, and oil down 75%. These are simply some examples as virtually every commodity is down significantly. Are there any commodities that look attractive at today’s levels despite the economic deterioration?
Crude oil for one, I’m a big advocate of starting to accumulate but I want to accumulate production. The way I would look at that is through some of these royalty trusts, and that way I am not buying one well or two wells. I happen to be in Texas, so you know I’d rather own a piece of a portfolio of wells. I like it. The Saudi Arabians right now are seeing capital outflows. There’s been talk, mainly by Jim Rickards, of a potential trade where he sees Saudi Arabia unpegging the riyal to the U.S. dollar because they are having problems with their foreign currency reserves. So, the best way to do that would be to unpeg, and thus weaken the riyal. Now, there’s clearly a bigger part to the story but the point that I am trying to make is that the Saudis are suffering here, with oil at these levels and they have been doing our foreign policy bidding for us. All along as crude oil was dropping, the United States asked them to not cut production. Well that’s changing now. The Saudis are going to cut production. They are going to back off and I expect prices to start rising back up again. Let’s remember that global demand is the highest it’s ever been. So, global demand has not dropped. This has only been a supply story. So you will see the Saudis start changing policy. Now, do I expect crude to rally to $60 next week? No. I think this is going to take time, but if you’ve got a reasonable time frame of 2-to-5 years, accumulating oil right now is absolutely a commodity I want to own.
We’ve been avoiding all economically-sensitive commodities the last several years and have focused more attention on hard assets that serve as a store of value for purchasing power during difficult times – things like farmland, rental real estate and precious metals. A global recession could further contract overall industrial metal mining activity. Since nearly 70% of silver’s supply is as a byproduct of mining industrial metals such as copper and zinc, a slowdown in overall mining could create a supply shock in silver at the same time the demand spikes due to investors buying silver as an alternative currency that isn’t being printed out of thin air. We also think oil is intriguing at these levels. At $30 a barrel today, oil is priced near the generational lows seen in the 1980s, when adjusted for inflation. There could be more weakness ahead, but we’d plan to be aggressive buyers if oil approached the $20 a barrel level.
The fall in commodity prices has had a significant impact on emerging markets with their stock markets down around 15% so far in 2016 and some currencies off significantly such as the Canadian dollar, the South African rand, and the Brazilian real. These are all resource-based economies. Given how far emerging markets have fallen, is now the time to start making emerging market investments? If so, where and what type of investment?
You are looking at all of this hot money that flew into these emerging markets when they had quantitative easing and of course zero interest policy and now their commodities are declining. They’re exporting less and now they have all this debt that is in dollars. Now, if there’s the expectation of the dollar getting stronger, meaning interest rates are rising as emerging market currencies are collapsing, emerging market currencies then have to pay back this dough with more expensive dollars as they’re making less money with their commodities and the currencies are crashing.
Emerging markets have been battered and the good news is they look very cheap on paper and are already pricing in recession risks, unlike the U.S. markets; the bad news is that if a global crisis emerges, we are likely to see credit conditions get difficult for the emerging economies and we could see a default cycle around industries in the commodity space. Thus, we think it pays to wait to see what transpires before making a big bet in emerging markets. However, these are the markets that will likely be the best performers for the decade ahead once they bottom.
Emerging markets are down due to the lack of demand by China for commodities. The Chinese stock markets are down as much as 35% since last year’s highs. They have instituted draconian measures to prop up their stock market, their economic growth has slowed considerably to multi-year lows, and they have devalued their currency. Do you think they will devalue the yuan in the near term future?
From our perspective, the yuan and dollar are somewhat of a mirror image – the Chinese yuan could fall further while in the near-term we see dollar strength; but in the longer-term, it seems likely that yuan gains will come at the expense of the dollar. In the near-term, it’s conceivable that the Chinese could devalue the yuan further, if global recessionary conditions accelerate, in a move to support their export machine and competitiveness on the world stage. If this happened, it would likely trigger further devaluations in Asia to match China’s increased competitive position. The beneficiary would likely be the dollar. However, we see the dollar as having the most to lose in the longer-term and the yuan as having the most to gain for one simple reason – trade flows. China is already the second largest economy in the world and is increasingly building the plumbing to settle global trade in yuan. For the last 70 years, the dollar has been the beneficiary of being the only kid on the block, essentially serving as the sole trading currency of the world. If China bought oil from Kuwait in the past, they transacted in dollars. This is starting to change as more trades are occurring in yuan, putting the future of the petrodollar (oil traded in U.S. dollars) at risk. This doesn’t mean the dollar will be completely supplanted by the yuan, but it loses on the margin, much like the British pound sterling did when the U.S. economy was on the rise.
They’re afraid to because they’re looking at the capital outflows. The capital outflows of the emerging markets now apply well over a trillion dollars in the last year. The money’s pouring out of China. That thing is one big Ponzi scheme when you look at the real numbers. And the real numbers don’t lie. China counts as 17% of the world’s $80 trillion of GDP. In two decades, the Bank of Japan expanded its balance sheet from $40 billion to how much now? Four trillion. Go back 20 years ago. China has had about $500 billion in public in private debt outstanding. You know what it is now? It’s over $30 trillion. The money is flowing out of that country. It’s a lie that they want to devalue the currency so they can export more product. For guys like Cramer on CNBC, this is Toyota against Ford. It’s bigger than that. They are afraid to devalue.
I don’t think so. The Chinese have capital outflows right now, and how do you battle capital outflows? You devalue your currency. The citizens of China are trying to get out so they are trying to sell yuan and buy anything and everything else to convert. So how are the Chinese policy makers going to battle that? They’re going to devalue and they’re going to talk about how they were trying to spur exports and all that nonsense. They’re doing it to try to protect their foreign currency reserves. I see seven and a half to eight yuan to the dollar by the end of 2016 and eventually as high as double digits: maybe 12 or 13. They have to recapitalize their banking system. How are they going to recapitalize banks? They’re going to do it with freshly printed yuan from the People’s Bank of China. So, expect a lot more yuan coming into the market just like what happened with Japan – as Japan goes to negative rates, the yen drops. The yuan has a peg to the dollar so yuan because now Chinese products cost more to Japanese consumers. Who is Japan’s largest trading partner? China. So with one fell swoop, the Japanese have just made Chinese products cost more in Japan.
I would back you up with one other piece of data on that. We think our central bank is crazy, printing up all this money. The People’s Bank of China is crazier or was crazier, especially since they papered over the last recession with money printing of their own that exceeded ours by a significant amount. I would add a little piece of local color from here in California: a lot of houses have been brought, sight unseen for the full cash price, by people who aren’t actually living in them. What is going on here? It’s another way of money laundering and getting money out of China to buy real estate whose ownership isn’t tracked anywhere near as closely as things like stocks and bonds. So that has been happening, although it looks it is slowing right now. The point of this is I think a lot of Chinese are scared about their currency as well and are adding to this flight. It looks like another reason to add to the fact that they will have to let the yuan decline.
Around the world, policy makers face the same economic circumstances: deteriorating economies, currency wars, and high debt levels. What course of action do you believe they will take, and what does it mean for interest rates?
Remember, Janet Yellen is a believer in the wealth effect. I actually think that she will be data dependent on one single piece of data: the stock market. That is what will bring back QE. Because we already know what her record of predicting a recession is, it’s horrible. So she’ll actually start QE after the recession is over. Oddly, if QE 1 worked then why did you need QE 2? If QE 2 worked, why did we need 3 and then now 4? I find that puzzling. QE lowers the borrowing costs for the government. When you enable policy makers to keep borrowing, the politicians are going to keep borrowing.
So while U.S. treasuries may be a grossly overvalued asset, it’s going higher. It’s not going down. Because we can’t afford for rates to be higher and the Fed will make sure of it. Interest rates won’t move until currencies do. When Bud talked about feedback loops, this is how it happens in bond markets. You don’t come to a crossroads and choose a bond crisis or a currency crisis. In actuality, one causes the other and typically it happens in the currency first.
So if the currency starts sliding, a bond holder who is holding a 10-year bond says, wait a second, I’m going to get paid back in a currency that’s now dropping just as precipitously? Why in the world would I hold onto this asset? So then the bond holder starts selling because they’ve seen the currency risk of holding that bond, and then the central bank has to step in and print more money, which thus accelerates the drop in the currency and that’s when you’re off to the races. Let me give you examples from last two years: what did Brazilian rates do when the Brazilian real dropped? Rates went up. What did the rates do in Russia when the ruble cratered? Rates went up.
I agree with you that a stock market decline could be the trigger for the Fed to start a new QE. The problem though is that we started the 2008-2009 recession in relatively good shape. That is, they could drop interest rates a significant amount. The federal government stepped in with huge deficits at a time when it could be absorbed. This time around, we’ve got a problem in that the Fed is already at a zero rate. Sure, they might try to go to a negative interest rate. Sure, they could go back and expand QE, which I do expect, but if the federal government starts to ask for more borrowing to support new spending programs, you’re going to find a problem with borrowing that amount of money unless the Fed buys that amount of debt. I think it’s guaranteed that the Fed comes back dramatically to destroy the currency and it’s only when the currency looks extremely weak that the Fed is forced to stop that program and I would say that’s another, let’s pick $2 trillion more QE.
Japan and their now negative interest rate policy. I mean you can’t make the stuff up. This never happened in the history of the world part one or part two. And they’re getting away with this stuff. So the Europeans are doing the same thing with Mario Goldman Sachs Draghi. Zero or negative interest rate policies. This is a screw the people, shaft them, we don’t care about them. We’re going to pump up the equity market, we’re going to make inflation higher, make it cost more for everything that they make and by the way, they have no place to put their money in, other than the equity markets because if they put in the bank, we’re going to charge them to put it in there. There is a criminal operation. Its “bankism”. The central banks have taken over the world and people better grow up. Let’s stop calling this capitalism. This is not capitalism. In capitalism, you rise and fall on your own merits. You don’t have a bunch of shysters from the central banks rigging the game. People should be outraged at this because I am and any person with a brain between their ears could see what they’re doing to screw the people.
In short, if a global recession becomes acknowledged, U.S. interest rates can move down before they move up. We’ve been one of the few advisors suggesting this the last several years. Even though the 10-year U.S. treasury bond only pays 2%, that is still a tremendous premium to Switzerland (-.3%), Japan (.1%), France (.9%) and almost any other large developed nation. If investors get fearful, where will they park capital? We think in the U.S. dollar and the treasury bond, perhaps the 10-year bond yield could dip below 1.5%, maybe even approaching 1% if a recession ensues. If this happened, we may even see negative rates in the U.S. for short-term bonds, as hard as that is for many to believe today. The Fed has already discussed it as a potential tool and we just saw Japan take this action. However, bond investors, don’t get too comfortable! Falling yields would push bond values higher and make them look like a good investment in the short-term, but there is a day of reckoning on the other side of this. How attractive is a 10-year treasury bond at 1.5% after paying taxes and factoring in inflation? We are likely to see a reflexive rebound in rates to much higher levels eventually as the world resorts to expanding the money supply and devaluing currencies, setting the stage for perhaps a bond bear market for the next 30 years. Investors saw this during 1950-1980 when investors lost money in bonds (after inflation) for three decades. This will require investors to be very nimble ahead and realize that we may be nearing a generational turning point in interest rates, but we’re probably not there quite yet.
For 2016, what one investment category do you believe every investor should consider?
I don’t give financial advice. Only speaking for myself, I am bullish on gold. You look at what we just went through in January. Virtually everything went down, virtually all the commodities and all the equity markets trended down. The only thing that went up is gold. About 3.8%, so to me gold is the safe-haven commodity not only in a time of socio-economic unrest and volatility, but also in geopolitical. And when you look around the world, what happy days over there in the Middle East now that the United States is announcing they’re going back into Libya, they are in Syria, they are in Iraq and now you are hearing the rest of the countries get involved. Belgium is now sending jet fighters into Syria, I mean that’s how bad it’s gotten, and then you have Saudi Arabia destroying Yemen, there were four million Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia, so then you get more geopolitical unrest. The amount of refugees flooding into Europe is a crisis. And on top of the refugee problem and geopolitical unrest, you have declining economies. I like gold as a safe-haven asset.
We like secured private lending. Shortly after the 2008 crash, forward thinkers like John Mauldin forecast the growth of private pools of capital lending money and stepping in where banks were failing to lend. With the Too-Big-to-Fail Banks facing increased regulation, they’ve left many profitable lending niches behind. In many cases, the regulations are keeping them out, but in other cases, the opportunities are just too small given their massive size. We know one trade finance group in Asia that was offered a $100 million loan by a large global bank, but the bank wouldn’t lend anything less as it was insignificant for this bank. Investors with access to these opportunities can often find lending arrangements with low double-digit return projections. More importantly, their lending is often secured by real tangible assets or known income streams as further security beyond simply a borrower’s willingness to repay. They also tend to be “spread” lending and not sensitive to the overall level of interest rates. If we see a global recession, expect banks to pull back lending even more and these opportunities to increase. However, the devil is in the details, so investors need to understand the risks and do their homework. These are niche plays that take an entrepreneurial mindset to identify.
Short the yuan. The Chinese are going to devalue, there is no way around it.
My prediction is that the weak economy will bring a weak stock market. This six-year stock bubble could burst. So an opportunity is to find overvalued stocks, like some of the tech “unicorns” to short. The falling stock market will bring the Fed back to print rather extensively to try and reboot this weak economy that I think will get a lot worse. But I don’t think new Fed actions will be as effective this time because people will lose confidence in the dollar and treasuries. If interest rates then rise, the value of the treasury bond purchase price decreases, so then you have an implosion in bonds and stocks together, but you would have a rise in other assets: physical assets like gold, like oil, like real estate, particularly productive agriculture.
Thank you all, we look forward to seeing how 2016 plays out.
In his 1889 essay “The Decay of Lying”, Oscar Wilde wrote “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” In the 21st century Western energy and “climate” policy theater of the absurd, Wilde’s famous statement has been reincarnated as “Politics imitates science far more than science imitates politics.”
The latest case in point comes in the form of a new political video sponsored in part by global consumer products company Unilever. It was an attempt to drum up support for the UN climate COP-21 meeting in Paris in December 2015. It is an implicit condemnation of the scientific method and an endorsement of UN climate policies, both of which are antithetical to Unilever’s own goals as outlined in its “Sustainable Living Plan.”
The video is a professionally produced and witty hidden camera prank taking place in a first-world office setting. With young actors portraying themselves as office workers, actual new hires are brought in for what they believe is their first day. Each time, the temperature is increased and the “office workers” begin to dramatically complain about the temperature. When the temperature reaches 91 degrees, one poor “worker” pulls off his undershirt and button-down and, while standing shirtless in front of his “co-workers,” rings out the undershirt, sweat dripping on to the office floor to the “ooohs” of the other workers.
The actors talk the unsuspecting new employee into speaking to the boss. When the boss finally enters the room, the new hire politely complains about the temperature and asks for some relief. The boss – obviously representing biased, embedded fossil fuel energy interests (only the Koch brothers t-shirt is missing) – questions whether the thermometer is accurate. One of the actor “workers” then dramatically quits, but not before delivering a political missive that would make UN climate delegates cry tears of joy: “there is a problem that’s happening that effects every one of us. We have the information that it is getting hotter every day, all of us feel it getting hotter every day, and no one is doing anything about it, and that’s cuckoo.”
Unilever Seeks to Silence Climate Debate
The intent of the Unilever video is to silence debate on the complex, unsettled scientific issue of whether humanity’s CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels are dangerous as respects earth’s climate. “You can’t deny the scientific evidence before your very eyes” or you are crazy. You get the picture.
This statement is a thinly veiled poke at skeptics of the supposed “97% consensus” mainstream climate science, an explicit endorsement of same, and yet another installment in smear-rather-than-answer-your-opponent climate politics. The politics goes like this: if you “deny” (read: so much as question) the “97% consensus”, you are either crazy or evil, and, since only fools allow crazy or evil people into the debate, the debate is over. How convenient.
This political strategy is much easier than rigorously adhering to the scientific methods, which welcomes skepticism as a central tenet, and hasn’t been particularly successful lately. On important policy decisions involving complex scientific concepts dealing with the environment, rigorous adherence to the scientific method is both critical and time consuming and potentially fatal to “progress” for the Left. Fearmongering and declaring science “settled” is more convenient, and sometimes more expeditious and effective. This is nothing new. Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” comes to mind as “settling” the discussion over the need to end the use of DDT despite its astounding benefits in reducing malaria where it was used. Josh Fox’s attempt to “settle” the case against fracking to produce natural gas in “Gasland” does, too.
Ayn Rand said, “We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Doing exactly this, the Soviet government “scientist” Trofim Lysenko helped kill about a million people a century ago, bringing me to the point.
Propaganda Recalls Lysenkoism
The number of degrees of separation from Lysenkoism to science-by-consensus and the “ignore the crazy/evil people” message in the Unilever-sponsored video is less than six. Unilever is a global consumer products corporation whose entire product line depends on various degrees of advanced chemistry, biology, and other sciences. Absent rigorous science, Unilever could not reliably deliver product efficacy, much less consumer safety. Without faith in unbiased, rigorous science, global society cannot hope to make smart policy decisions about climate, energy, the environment, or anything else. Calling those who demand rigor in any field of science and have legitimate scientific questions “cuckoo” is a conscious call for the intentional abrogation of one of the most basic tenets of the scientific method – skepticism. Condemning skepticism in science is known to be dangerous to humanity in every area of policy – from energy and environmental policy to consumer product safety and everywhere in between. There. Did it in 5 degrees, with one to spare.
And therein lies the irony in Unilever’s sponsorship of this propaganda video, although one cannot be certain they are smart enough to realize it. Or, maybe they are simply counting on your continued inability to recognize it. Unilever’s corporate sustainability reporting and messaging may be helpful here.
Stipulation: There is nothing inherently wrong with corporations advocating for policies benefitting them and their shareholders, per se. However, there is definitely something wrong with any corporation advocating stifling scientific debate on complex, important issues in an advanced society which depends on scientific integrity.
Doing so in a flippant, oblique fashion in a hidden-camera prank does not lessen or distract from the offense. This also comes at a time in history when “consensus” scientists and their politician friends are demanding RICO investigations of opposing scientists and corporations with whom they scientifically and politically disagree, the Salem witch hunt-like silencing of opposing scientific and political views, and the NY State Attorney General launching an investigation into Exxon’s activities with regard to misrepresenting “climate science.”
It would be fair to ask, “From where does such a corporate mindset emanate? Why would a corporation like Unilever advocate for shutting down scientific debate on a matter of such importance”?
Unilever is a company with UK roots and EU-centric leadership. The Euros understand the climate, energy and environmental politics game better than anyone. They have effectively bet their economic and energy futures on UN-favored climate policies and are the ones who fell in behind (and as result have been most impacted by) the UN FCCC’s Kyoto Protocol.
Unilever CEO Paul Polman is also Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). WBCSD’s website states “Through our work to change the rules of the game and drive measurable impact, WBCSD is emerging as the leading and most compelling sustainable development business voice with multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank, UNFCCC, as well as with global platforms like the UN Climate Summit and COP negotiations.” Polman’s bio on Unilever’s website touts involvement in numerous UN economic, climate, and sustainability areas and projects. Louise Fresco, non-executive Chair of Unilever’s Corporate Responsibility Committee, is a former UN Food and Agricultural Network official.
Here is a quote from Unilever’s beautifully produced “Sustainable Living Plan” video (emphasis mine). It follows an intro reading like a list of the Left’s environmental talking points – temperatures rising fast, water shortages more frequent, food supplies increasingly scarce, populations’ growing fast: “And the changes will pose new challenges for us too, as commodity costs fluctuate, markets become unstable and raw materials harder to source.”
“There is no ‘business as usual’ anymore. The old economic systems are no longer fit for purpose.”
To be fair, there are some admirable, material environmental improvements in Unilever’s “Sustainable Living Plan”. But, is it appropriate for a global Fortune 100 consumer-products company to parrot anti-capitalist darling Naomi Klein saying “The old economic systems are no longer fit for purpose.” Should its stockholder’s be concerned? Is Unilever channeling the UN, Bernie Sanders, or both? It begs the question: exactly what kind of economic system is Unilever advocating?
Set aside for the moment the question of whether a corporation should advocate for silencing scientific debate. When one digs just a bit deeper into the broader issue of Unilever’s support for UN climate policies, there is so much hypocrisy and paradox – with respect to both Unilever’s own products, supply chain, and sustainability reporting and the UN climate policies it is advocating – you could cut the irony with a recycled knife.
For instance, Unilever’s sustainable living plan boasts the company is “among the largest purchasers of tea, palm oil, and vegetables.” And from the slide show video version of the same Plan: “With products used by millions of people, we have an enormous opportunity to create change and are developing a new sustainable business model. A model in which……people’s health and well-being are a priority, all agricultural raw materials come from sustainable sources, the environment is safeguarded for future generations.” One of Unilever’s 3 main goals by 2020 under the Plan is to “improve the health and well-being of more than a billion people.”
Fighting the deforestation of environmentally important tropical forests in Malaysia and Indonesia – among those environmentalists refer to as the “lungs of the earth,” acting as a substantial CO2 sink – is a rallying cry for the Eco-Left. Ironically, the very UN climate and energy policy Unilever is advocating in their video causes precisely that.
Palm oil is part of the EU’s version of the US “alternative fuels” energy policy, a policy which destroys vast amounts of important habitat for wildlife, only worse. There are numerous reports villagers have – literally – been burned out of their villages by some corporation’s or government’s mercenaries for palm oil plantations in the developing world. Last we checked, no Grandma has ever been chased off her Iowa farm at gun point with flaming torches to plant corn for ethanol.
People who understood this would never be brazen enough to comment “we are among the largest purchasers of palm oil” in a Sustainability report, where they also brag about “improving the health and well-being of more than a billion people,” would they? Put another way, if you find it difficult to reconcile being part of a supply chain responsible for large-scale sensitive habitat destruction and running indigenous people off of their land with “a model in which……people’s health and well-being are a priority, all agricultural raw materials come from sustainable sources, the environment is safeguarded for future generations” and improving “the health and well-being of more than a billion people,” you can be forgiven for being confused.
Presidential election years, more than many others, focuses our attention on politics, those running for political office, and the promises the competing candidates make to sway our allegiance and votes toward one or some of them in comparison to others. They want us to give them political power by promising to use that power to benefit some of us in ways that can only come at the expense of others in society.
This fundamental truth about the reality of modern-day politics gets blurred in the hoopla of whose ahead in the public opinion polls, which candidate has the most charm or cunning, and what forms do their attacks on each other take.
We need to step back and look at things in terms of “first principles” if the entire process and its consequences are to be put into focus and perspective. Otherwise, we get lost in all the minutia of daily media news spins, and forget what it is really all about.
Political Means vs. Economic Means to Betterment
A little over a hundred years ago, the German sociologist, Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943), in his book, The State (1914), explained that there are fundamentally two ways to obtain the things you desire in society. What Oppenheimer called, “the political means” or the “economic means.” By the political means, he meant the use of political power and force to acquire from others what you want. By the economics means, Oppenheimer meant the use of peaceful methods of production, either through producing directly things you want and desire, or to obtain them through voluntarily and mutually agreed-upon trade and exchange.
Through history, Oppenheimer said, people had often used the political means. He suggested this has been the origin of governments. Roving bands of thieves and plunders would invade and conquer lands to seize the wealth of others. If they settled down to more permanently rule over and live off the productive efforts of those now under their coercive control, there would be born what today we call a “State.”
Oppenheimer’s analysis of the origin and nature of the State has been more recently developed by the noted economist, Mancur Olson (1932-1998). He, too, argued that the origin of the State could be seen in the replacement of roving bands of plundering thieves by stationary bandits who settle down to rule over a territory over a prolonged period.
The roving band cares nothing for what happens in the area it has looted and then moved on. But the stationary bandits who want to live off the conquered area permanently have to take into consideration the conditions and the incentives of their “subjects” if they are to keep producing and therefore creating something for the stationary bandits to plunder through taxation year-after-year.
Plundering Bandits and the Birth of the State
Thus, out of the taxes imposed, the stationary bandits must also, in their own self-interest, to some extent secure their subject’s property rights, enforce contracts, establish a judicial system to adjudicate their disputes, and even supply some “public goods,” such as roads and harbors to facilitate commerce.
Their goal is to extract the greatest amount of tax revenue for themselves at the least cost of respecting and enforcing the property rights of their subjects, but they must offer some degree of such security for their subjects. Otherwise, the incentives of their subjects to produce the wealth out of which their tax revenues come might be minimized or in the extreme fall to zero.
As Olson described in his book, Power and Prosperity (2000):
“A bandit leader with sufficient strength to control and hold a territory has an incentive to settle down, to wear a crown, and to become a public goods-providing autocrat.
“The bandit leader, if he is strong enough to hold a territory securely and monopolize theft there, has an encompassing interest in his domain. This encompassing interest leads him to limit and regularize the rate of theft and to spend some of the resources he controls on public goods that benefit his victims no less than himself.
“Since the settled bandit’s victims are for him a source of tax payments, he prohibits the murder and maiming of his subjects. Because stealing by his subjects, and the theft-averting behavior that it generates, reduces total income, the bandit does not allow theft by anyone but himself. He serves his interests by spending some of the resources he controls to deter crime among his subjects and to provide other public goods.”
The bandit leader, obviously, cannot control and rule completely on his own. Both the original conquest and the retaining of power to plunder his conquered subjects requires lieutenants and other loyal followers with whom he must share the booty to maintain his permanent position of, now, political ruler.
Lands and the conquered peoples living on them are distributed and given by the conquering chief as deserved spoils to those under his military command. These lands and the people living on them then provide sources of income for these followers to permanently live off along with their chieftain, who crowns himself “king,” often under asserted divine mandate to rule.
The Qualities of the Chieftain Ruler
The famous nineteenth century sociologist, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), explained in his Principles of Sociology (1885) the behavioral qualities and characteristics most likely to be found in such chieftains who first ruled over roving tribes and then over political States with monopoly jurisdiction over the use of force within its territorial confines.
Spencer said that such qualities included physical strength to defeat challengers to their rule; mental and intellectual cunning to manipulate and have mastery over the other members of the tribe or group; and conquered and accumulated wealth through which loyalty and obedience may be bought and assured through the “benevolent largess” of the ruler to his supporters and selected subjects.
Often, Spencer went on, this was combined with the claim that the king and his descendants had been assigned to rule by higher supernatural authority, to which all must obey under the threat of both earthly and heavenly punishment.
With the rise of political democracy and the (classical) liberal ideal of individual liberty, the questions of who rules and how political positions of authority are filled, and for what purposes government power exists radically changed in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Democracy’s Turn from Protecting Liberty to Plunder
At first, representative democracy was viewed as a means to limit the arbitrary power of absolute kings and princes. It was insisted that they are, in fact, accountable to those over whom they ruled, and that “the people” – through their elected representatives – had the power to limit and even repeal edicts, decrees and demands of those kings and princes to seize their wealth and lands, unjustly imprison them, or in many other ways deny each individual’s right to his life, liberty and property.
The idea that kings ruled with absolute and unchallengeable power and authority was, however, slowly but surely replaced with the new notion that “the people” as a whole were the legitimate “sovereign” with absolute power and increasingly believed unlimited authority over their own affairs.
And surely since “the people” could never tyrannize themselves, the premise has become implicitly accepted that the government may do virtually anything it deems necessary and appropriate if it can be successfully portrayed as in the “interests” of the nation or the people as a whole. Or, increasingly, as a means and method to redress grievances and injustices committed against some in the past for which others in the present must do penance through a redistribution of their wealth or restraints on their own liberties and choices to provide some form of rebalance and restitution through regulation and redistribution for the unethical actions of earlier generations.
In this new setting the idea and ideal that government is a means to secure the rights and liberty of individuals against all abusive and tyrannical power, whether from one man or a majority of others in society, has been increasingly lost. Majorities and influential interest groups in coalitions to form working majorities are now the determiners of what government does and for whose benefit at others’ cost.
The Power-Lusting Qualities of Democratic Rulers
In the modern democratic milieu, political power and control is no longer acquired through brute conquest and violent usurpation, but through the method of running for political office.
It requires the successful candidate to persuade a sufficient number of voters so a majority may be formed of those casting their ballots on Election Day. The potential democratically elected political leader must combine a variety of behavioral qualities and characteristics.
He must possess communication skills to sway large numbers of individuals and groups to support him. He must be able to assure those whose support is he is trying to win that he “feels their pain,” understands their “grievance,” opposes the “social injustices” to which they have been a victim, and promises to assure them a “happy” and carefree life.
Or more simply, he must guarantee to those who can provide the needed campaign contributions that he will see to it that governmental rules, regulations, and redistributions are used in a way that they can more easily gain the market share, or desired profits, or positions in society that they cannot as easily obtain on a more open, free and competitive market.
In all this, he must be a master of “coalition building” to successfully bring together a sufficient number of diverse and sometimes divergent groups within a set of overlapping goals and interests that assure “a win” on polling day. He must rely upon many of the same behavioral characteristics that Spencer said the tribal chieftain had to possess, only they must take on different forms in the modern democratic setting.
Like the ancient chieftains distributing booty among his victorious followers, the modern democratic politician gains support and allegiance by plundering some in society for the benefit of others: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, ObamaCare, food stamps, “public” (i.e., government owned and/or subsidized) housing, government-funded schooling and scholarships or loans; regulations limiting competition, subsidizing companies or industries; imposing trade and tariff barriers, government jobs programs, government licensing of professions, occupations and trades, or “public works” projects . . . The list in modern democratic society is endless.
To undertake all of these tasks in the modern plunder State, the list of government bureaus, agencies and departments at the federal, state and local levels counts in the hundreds, each one manned with employees who incomes and positions are dependent on the rationales and reasons for the existence of the branch of government in which they work.
Over 22 million (!) people are employed by government at the federal, state or local level. And government expenditures at all levels combined – federal, state and local – absorb nearly 35 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product. That is, over one-third all the goods and services produced in the United States end up passing through the hands of those who control and direct government.
Liberty and the Economic Means to Betterment
Let us, now, briefly contrast what Franz Oppenheimer had called these “political means” to acquiring what you desire with the alternative “economic means.” As he expressed it, “I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs.”
The economic means and methods of obtaining the goods and services one desires starts with the fundamental principle that individuals have a moral right not to be plundered, that they have a right to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property. Neither private nor politically organized bandits and chieftains have the moral right to deny the individual the fruits of his labor.
The farmer who settles on a previously unclaimed and unowned piece of land meets his needs and desires for survival by clearing the field, planting the seeds, and tending the crop until he brings it to harvest. He harms no one and serves his own consumption desires through his own production with the resources at his disposal.
If he finds that he has grown more of some crops than he needs or wants for his own use, he may approach a neighbor who finds himself in a similar situation after growing and harvesting other types of foods. They may find that each of them can be better off by trading some of what they have, respectively, produced on their own farm for some of the output of the other.
Each will, now, be better off; neither will have harmed or violated the rights of the other; and their mutual well-being will have been increased through peaceful production and trade instead of force and plunder.
This simple and elementary example, seemingly so far from how many of us personally go about earning a living, in fact, captures the essence and reality of the “economic means” of human improvement.
In our modern complex system of division of labor, in which we participate in a now global network of trade and mutual interdependency may make this elementary truth sometimes difficult to see and remember, but that remains its essence to the extent that production, trade and competition in the marketplace is left at least fairly free of the plundering hands of governments.
The political debates and disputes among the candidates offering themselves this year for the presidency of the United States are mostly, and in some cases seemingly exclusively, offers of grab bags of political plunder to those whose support they need so they can make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as their “public housing” residence for the next four years in Washington, D.C.
What Liberty Means and Requires of Each of Us
Virtually no candidate is consistently and persistently offering the vision of a free America in which the political-plunder means of wealth acquisition is to be repealed and the individual liberty-based economic means to betterment is offered as an achievable and desirable ideal.
Of course, this requires, most of all, reminding people what a system and society of liberty means and requires:
Liberty means the right of the individual to live his life as he chooses, guided by his own values and beliefs about what will give him happiness and meaning to his life.
Liberty means respect for the equal rights of others to live their lives as they choose and desire.
Liberty means that human relationships should be based on peaceful and voluntary consent.
Liberty means that each individual’s honestly acquired property and income is respected as rightfully his, and may not be plundered and taxed away by others, even when majorities think some minority has not paid some supposed “fair share.”
Liberty means the free, competitive interaction of people in the marketplace of goods and ideas, out of which comes the creative and innovative energies of mind and effort that bring about rising standards of living for all.
Liberty means a limited government, a government whose purpose is to protect each individual in his freedom and peaceful market and social affairs, and is not to be an agency for political oppression or economic favoritism through special privileges and benefits that are given to some at the expense of others in society.
These are not easy rules and ideals to live by, but they are what America was founded on, and which made America great – a land with both freedom and prosperity.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition, joins H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his fear that America is committing economic suicide in response to the threat of global warming.
Harris also talks about President Obama’s war on coal, how climate science doesn’t support the need to suppress fossil fuel use and how now is the time to change course through the courts or in the next election by getting red of the Clean Power Plan and other policies like it.
Last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (i.e. the government) received a court order (i.e. from the government) that would force private computer giant Apple to write a program (a “backdoor”) to break the privacy-protecting encryption of their iPhone.
The court order stems from the FBI’s investigation into the awful murder by two Islamists of fourteen people in San Bernardino, California. Investigators recovered the locked iPhone of one of the gunmen – and they want in.
No one more than me wants to figure out as much as possible about and from these horrible people. But that doesn’t mean I want the government to have a perma-backdoor to every iPhone ever.
Unfortunately, the Feds are using this heinousness as an emotional ploy to get that skeleton key – manufactured for them by Apple at metaphorical gunpoint. Yet again reviving the Big Government maxim – never let a crisis go to waste.
FBI Director James Comey asserts this is about “the victims and justice.” But is demanding Apple do an injustice to and make victims of millions of iPhone owners. Who bought the product in part because of the protections it provides.
18th Century British jurist and politician William Blackstone said “It is better that ten guilty escape than one innocent suffer.” Subjecting millions to surreptitious government snooping – to learn more about two heinous people who are already dead and thus beyond prosecution – turns Blackstone’s maxim on its head. And then blows it up.
Never mind that government its own self (the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, who owned the shooter’s phone) screwed up the possibility of recovering the data. Apple should not be forced to screw their customers – and their good name – to bail out government.
Government’s anger with the authoritarian-prevention encryption provides WAY predates this one phone.
Apple and Others Encrypt Phones, Fueling Government Standoff: “The new encryption will make it much harder for the police, even with a court order, to look into a phone for messages, photos, appointments or contact lists, they say. Even Apple itself, if served with a court order, won’t have the key to decipher information encrypted on its iPhones.”
And here we are. But encryption is a tool – like guns and shovels are tools. It can be used for good or ill. And can be used to protect the good from the ill. And as with guns and shovels, encryption is used for good WAY more often than it is used for ill.
We should not allow the government access to millions of phones – encrypted to protect millions of good people – to get at one bad person’s data. The damage would be omni-directional – and cataclysmic.
Issue Brief: A “Backdoor” to Encryption for Government Surveillance: “Encrypting smartphones and other tech products will help protect against malicious hacking, identity theft, phone theft, and other crimes. However, a government mandate requiring companies to build a “backdoor” through encryption to facilitate surveillance would put consumers at grave risk and impose heavy costs on US businesses.”
So we have the government continuing its endless campaign to gain backdoor access to every smart phone on the planet. And you have private sector Apple standing up – against the Leviathan, and for We the Consumers.
Who do you trust more going forward? Private companies looking out for us – or government looking in on us?
It isn’t a tough call.
Military triumphs and catastrophes have often hinged on how well (or luckily) armies and navies employed, avoided or benefited from weather and other natural events.
Severe storms helped the British navy defeat Spain’s Armada in 1588. George Washington knew horrid weather meant the Hessians would not expect an attack across the Delaware River on Christmas 1776.
Napoleon captured Moscow before leading his Grande Armée’s exhausted, starving, freezing remnants back to France through a bitter 1812 Russian winter. Hitler’s army never even reached Moscow; it was decimated by disease, starvation, bullets and frigid cold at Stalingrad 140 years later.
Eisenhower’s Normandy invasion plans anticipated a full moon that would illuminate bomber targets and bring low tides to expose German mines and obstacles along the beaches. Instead, overcast skies limited Allied air support – but persuaded the Nazi high command that no invasion would occur for several days. So senior officers stayed in Germany, leaving their army unprepared for D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Throughout history, commanders discovered that trying to predict the weather – or their enemies’ resolve – was fraught with peril. Even today, accurate weather forecasting is a highly uncertain science, even a few days in advance, especially for hurricanes or winter blizzards in Mid-Atlantic states where winds, storm tracks, temperatures and moisture are affected by the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic.
But now President Obama wants to compound his social experimentation with the military, by ordering the Pentagon brass to focus not on imminent weather events surrounding battle plans – not on threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, ISIL, Hamas and other real hot spots – but on climate change years or decades in the future. He wants to replace Remember the Alamo with Remember the Climate!
Mr. Obama has issued an executive order directing the Department of Defense (and all other federal government agencies) to make preparing for global warming impacts a top priority, and treat climate change as our most serious national security threat. He even warned 2015 Coast Guard Academy graduates that “denying” climate change is a “dereliction of duty.” You can’t make this stuff up.
The EO directs the Pentagon to order all military commanders, down to battle planning levels, to include climate change analyses in combat planning, training exercises, intelligence gathering, weapons testing and procurement, fuel types and use, and practically every other aspect of military operations. This could include restrictions on the type and duration of training flights, amphibious landings and tank maneuvers.
It is sheer lunacy. It means bureaucrats and new layers of armed forces bureaucracies will waste time and money, and ignore real weapons and training issues. It means soldiers and sailors must now focus less on real natural and humanitarian disasters, and more on “climate refugee crises” that exist only in computer models, ivory tower studies and White House press releases. It could affect combat readiness and morale, make our warriors less prepared for warfare, and put them at greater risk of injury and death.
Other Obama orders forced the Air Force to spend $59 a gallon for “renewable” jet fuel and $67 per gallon for camelina-based F-22 Raptor fuel – and the Navy to spend $27 per gallon for biofuels from algae, waste grease and animal fat, and $424 a gallon for 20,000 gallons of “sustainable” diesel fuel. All that when conventional gasoline, diesel and jet fuel sell for $2.00-$3.50 per gallon (thanks to fracking)!
Like the other social experiments, this is being imposed by political operatives with little or no military service, few kids in the military, and minimal concern about how these policies, multiple deployments and stretched-to-the-breaking-point budgets might affect military readiness, morale, safety and families.
Even more absurd, the orders are based on pseudo-science and indefensible assumptions that carbon dioxide now drives climate change, and we have the knowledge and ability to predict climate shifts, extreme weather and related disasters years or decades in advance. Basing defense policies on these notions is ridiculous and dangerous. It’s like Eisenhower using tarot cards to predict Normandy weather.
The IPCC, EPA and White House continue to rely on still “murky” science, climatologist John Christy recently told the Senate Space and Science Subcommittee, “with large uncertainties on many crucial components, such as cloud distributions and surface heat exchanges.” This and other deficiencies cause predictions to be notoriously disconnected from Real World temperatures and weather events.
Contrary to those predictions, instead of rising a degree or more, average global temperatures have flat-lined for 19 years. Instead of more hurricanes, not a single category 3-5 hurricane has struck the U.S. mainland since November 2005 (a record ten-plus years). “Moisture conditions have not shown a tendency to have decreased (more drought) or increased (more large-scale wetness),” Dr. Christy noted.
Climate models still focus on manmade carbon dioxide and ignore most of the powerful, interconnected natural forces that have always driven climate and weather. In fact, “the theory of how climate changes, and the associated impact of extra greenhouse gases, is not understood well enough [for models] to even reproduce the past climate,” Dr. Christy explained to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. There is no way they can forecast future climates, and they have failed to do so.
Climate models pay minimal attention to significant effects of land use changes and major high-impact fluctuations like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (El Niño and La Niña) and North Atlantic Oscillation, University of Delaware climatology professor David Legates observes.
Adds Weatherbell forecaster Joe D’Aleo: they also disregard variations in the sun’s energy output; the important effects of the sun’s ultraviolet output, geomagnetic activity and cloud-enhancing cosmic rays; and the cyclical interplay of cold and warm water pools in our oceans, which significantly influence the severity of winters in Eurasia and North America (as just one example). All these factors affect weather and climate. They assume any warming is dangerous, rather than beneficial for people and agriculture.
Additional reasons for grossly deficient climate models are their “overly simplified and inadequate numerical techniques,” and the fact that decadal and century-scale circulation changes in the deep oceans “are very difficult to measure and are not yet well enough understood to be realistically included in the climate models,” says Colorado State University weather and hurricane analyst Bill Gray.
Reliable predictive capabilities require that we end our obsession with carbon dioxide as the primary driver of climate change – and devote far more attention to studying all the powerful forces that have always driven climate change, the roles they play, and the complex interactions among them.
And yet, Christy noted ruefully, “demonstrably deficient models are being used to make policy.” That has been disastrous for domestic sectors, like coal and manufacturing. It could be lethal for military forces.
One can easily imagine how Gilbert and Sullivan would treat this insanity in an updated HMS Pinafore:
Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to be admirals at the DOD,
If your soul isn’t fettered to the White House fools,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule:
Heed the climate models and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of Obama’s Navee!
The revised D’Oyly Carte lyrics notwithstanding, Mr. Obama continues to use climate change to justify his drive to fundamentally transform our economy, society, military, and energy, legal and constitutional systems. Equally ominous, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders share his obsession and objectives.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon brass and line officers must battle these climate directives as forcefully as they would any of the real dangers that face our nation and world. So must we all.
On February 10, 2016, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293). Its purpose: to ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is open and accountable to the taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are spent.
The bill was introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and requires that each NSF grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of how the project serves the national interest. This written justification is intended to affirm NSF’s determination that a project is worthy of taxpayer support. The bill passed the House by a vote of 236 – 178. It now goes to the Senate. As the NSF is a poster child for the sometimes frivolous nature of government-funded science in the U.S., shining a light on NSF’s grant-making is a valuable and necessary thing to do.
Following are the original cosponsors of the bipartian members of the Science Committee: Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.); Frank Lucas (R-Okla.); Alan Grayson (D-Fla.); Barbara Comstock (R-Va.); John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) Randy Weber (R-Texas); Stephen Knight (R-Calif.); Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla); Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.); Brian Babin (R-Texas); Mo Brooks (R-Ala.); Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.); Bill Johnson (R-Utah); Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.); Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas); Bill Posey (R-Fla.); Gary Palmer (R-Ala.); and Ralph Abraham (R-La.)
“Rethinking Science Funding” in 2013
Three plus years ago, September 30, 2013, Lamar Smith and Eric Cantor began to rethink science funding through their collaborative op-ed article published inUSA Today titled “Rethinking Science Funding.” At the time Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas was chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, a position he holds today, while Rep. Eric Cantor, before his re-election defeat in June of 2004 to newcomer David Brat, was the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Although the U.S. government was spending more on research and development than any other country, the Chinese were nevertheless perceived to have the fastest supercomputer, high-energy physicists were looking to research conducted in Europe more than in America, and NASA astronauts were hitching rides to the Space Station on board Russian spacecraft. As such Smith and Cantor had cause to wonder whether China and India would soon surpass the U.S.
Smith and Cantor rightly concluded that for this nation to remain globally competitive, we needed to make sure that priorities are funded and money is being used wisely. In 2013 the National Science Foundation (NSF) was spending $7 billion of taxpayers’ money every year. While Smith and Cantor did find that the NSF spent most of its funds well, they were seeing far too many questionable grants, especially in the social, behavioral and economic sciences. One questionable grant involved $220,000 to the National Geographic for the research of animal photos in the magazine. Other questionable grants cited in Smith and Cantor’s USA Today op-ed are listed below:
- Rangeland management in Mongolia $1,499,718;
- History of Chiapas, Mexico (350 BC-1350 AD) $280,558;
- Mayan architecture and the salt industry $233,141;
- Bronze Age in Cyprus $197,127.
Additional Smith and Cantor op-ed reflections: 1) government employees and their agency heads must remember it’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money, and 2) asking questions about grants to obtain more information is reasonable to provide meaningful justification for why some grants are chosen over thousands of others. Likewise expressed was a desire to work with the NSF to address concerns so a better process could be established for evaluating research proposals.
Question about science funding elicits strong criticism
As might be expected, the September 30 op-ed of Smith and Cantor was subject to criticism. One target of questionable funding was “Bronze Age in Cyprus”, which elicited a marked response from Sturt Manning because of his research interest on the topic as Classics Department Chair at Cornell University. Manning’s anger was expressed in this article written in response to the Smith and Cantor opinion piece. Manning further cites other article that express similar reactions and argument from his colleagues. One such reaction and argument came from Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology at Berkley, with her article entitled, “Why fund studies of Maya architecture instead of saving lives?”
What ensued was tension between the NSF and the House of Representatives Science Committee over congressional oversight of its grant award process. This on-going feud was settled when in December of 2014, NSF director France Cordova formally adopted new rules for increased transparency and accountability that required non-technical explanations and justifications for new grants. At the time Chairman Lamar Smith remarked: “It appears the new NSF policy parallels a significant provision of the FIRST Act approved by this Committee last fall, with its requirement that NSF publish a justification for each funded grant that sets forth the project’s scientific merit and national interest.”
With France Córdova’s commitment to work for the same legislative effort, Rep. Lamar Smith succeeded in sponsoring and then introducing H.R. 3293 to the U.S. House on July 29, 2015. Recognition of how the federal government awards many grants that few Americans would consider to be in the national interest, led up to the formulation and introduction of H.R. 3293 on the floor of House.
The bill requires that each NSF public announcement of a grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of the project’s scientific merits and how it serves the national interest. This written justification affirms NSF’s determination that a project is worthy of taxpayer support, based on scientific merit and national interest.
National interests a qualifier for science grants
How is national interests to be defined in the legislation as having the potential to achieve? Increased economic competitiveness in the United States;
- Increased economic competitiveness in the United States;
- Advancement of the health and welfare of the American public;
- Development of an American STEM workforce that is globally competitive;
- Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology in the United States
- Increased partnerships between academia and industry in the United States;
- Support for the national defense of the United States; or
- Promotion of the progress of science in the United States.
before H.R. 3293 was passed in the House on February 10, 2016, Rep. Lamar Smith was a featured writer in the Winter, 2016 ISSUES in Science and Technology. Click HERE to read Smith’s piece, “Fact Check: Scientific Research in the National Interest Act.” In his article Lamar speaks of a number of falsehoods that have been spread to scare scientific community into opposing the legislation by opponents of bringing accountability and transparency to taxpayer-funded scientific research that have been spread by opponents
Lamar sets the record straight by negating charges leveled against H.B. 3293.
- Bill does not change or interfere with the merit review process for approving
- Bill does not mean that research projects will be judged by the title as to whether or not they are worthy federal funding
- Bill does not mean that research projects will be judged by the title as to whether or not they are worthy of federal funding
- As to the bill attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, why then did NSF director France Córdova testify before the Science Committee earlier this year (Feb.16) saying that the Research in the National Interest Act is compatible and consistent with the NSF policy set forth in December of 2014?
Rep. Lamar Smith also questions the spending of $700,000 on a climate change musical encouraging transformative research? Aditionally, “What is high-risk, high-reward about spending $340,000 to study early human-set fires in New Zealand? What is groundbreaking about spending $487,000 to study the Icelandic textile industry during the Viking era? ” Lamar does concede that there may be good answers to the questions, but his committee was not able to come up with one. When NSF funds projects that don’t meet such standards, there is less money to support scientific research that keeps our country at the forefront of innovation.
As Rep. Smith lamented, NSF is able to fund only one out of every five proposals submitted by scientists and research institutions. When NSF funds projects are funded don’t meet set standards, there is less money to support scientific research that keeps our country at the forefront of innovation.
Taxpayers deserve science projects of merit, not frivolous ones
With a national debt that exceeds $18 trillion and continues to climb by hundreds of billions of dollars each year, taxpayers cannot afford to fund every research proposal, much less frivolous ones.
We owe it to American taxpayers and the scientific community to ensure that every grant funded is worthy and in the national interest.
HR 3293 has been sent to the U.S. Senate, in particular to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Contact your senators and insist they pass H.R. 3293. and that Senator Republican leader Mitch McConnell permit the bill to come to the floor for a vote.
Many energy-producing states are currently struggling in the wake of falling oil and natural gas prices. Thousands of people are losing their livelihoods in the energy sector, and lower severance tax payments are projected to produce numerous state budget shortfalls, which could end up reducing state spending on social programs.
But as bad as the situation in many states now looks, it would be far worse if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gets his way and ends up successfully banning fracking, a plan he recently proposed as a way to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions Sanders says is causing global warming.
A ban on fracking would be disastrous for everyone. It would drive up energy prices (don’t forget gasoline cost more than $4.00 per gallon a few years ago), and it would cripple the economies of numerous states, including New Mexico and Ohio.
New Mexico has the fifth largest proven oil reserves and the seventh largest reserves of natural gas in the nation, and many of these sources are accessible only through fracking. Oil and gas production are vital to the economy in New Mexico. The average annual wage paid in the energy industry is about $63,000, more than 57 percent higher than the average wage in the state. Nearly 22 percent of New Mexico’s population is living beneath the poverty line, a figure that’s sure to decline should fracking be banned.
It’s not just about jobs; fracking policy also affects children. Educational institutions—from K–12 schools to junior colleges and research universities—are the biggest benefactors of New Mexico’s energy revenues. Severance taxes collected from oil and natural gas developers supplied more than 30 percent of the state’s general fund in 2013, and it would be much more difficult to pay for educational programs if a major source of income for schools is banned.
Ohio is less reliant on energy production for its overall economic activity than New Mexico, but fracking has breathed new life into Eastern Ohio, an area of the state that has struggled for decades and has endured high rates of unemployment and poverty.
Youngstown, Ohio, for example, has the highest poverty rate of any city in the state. More than 40 percent of the city’s population and nearly 59 percent of the city’s children live in poverty, but fracking is starting to move the economy in the right direction. An increase in oil and natural gas production from the Utica shale in Eastern Ohio is providing employment opportunities for people living in Youngstown. Thanks to low natural gas prices caused by fracking, steel plants, once a staple of Ohio’s economy, are beginning to return to the state.
Vallourec, a French manufacturer of steel pipes, recently opened a plant in the state, creating 350 jobs. A new multibillion-dollar steel plant is also now in the works, scheduled to be built in downtown Youngstown. Local pipefitter unions reported full employment in 2014, up from 40 percent unemployment just a few years before. The increase is largely the result of the growing energy industry, but that trend would suddenly stall if Sanders’ plan to stop fracking becomes a reality.
The boom-and-bust nature of the energy sector creates challenges for people during down cycles, such as the one we are currently experiencing, but it also creates tremendous employment opportunities for people when production is high. Critics of fracking have often dismissed fracking-related jobs because they say they are not high-status occupations, but these jobs provide real wages to real people and better education for children.
The best social programs aren’t welfare policies; they are high-paying jobs, and that is exactly what fracking provides to thousands of blue-collar Americans. Oil and natural gas development funds schools and helps lift children out of poverty. That’s a future worth fracking for.
In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Isaac Orr, Heartland Research Fellow for energy policy, joins H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his newly released study on the impact of frac sand mining – Social Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining: Land Use and Value.
The study focuses on property rights, property values and other amenities. Orr’s research shows there is limited evidence frac sand mining harms adjacent or surrounding property values in general and property rights are not affected in a way that has been measured.
A new study in the journal Scientific Reports shows enhanced levels of carbon dioxide are driving global dryland greening in recent decades. Drylands – zones where mean annual precipitation is less than two-thirds of potential evaporation – make up the largest part of the global terrestrial ecosystem. After analyzing data from 45 studies covering eight countries, researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis concluded the most likely source of the greening of dryland areas around the world is rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Regional scale analyses using global satellites show extensive areas of drylands greening in northern China, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Mongolia, the Sahel and South America.
The authors ruled out other potential drivers for the greening, concluding only increased carbon dioxide levels provided a global explanation for changes to dryland vegetation. Under increased carbon dioxide levels, plants use water more efficiently, reducing the amount of moisture lost during respiration and storing more water in the soil. The study found elevated carbon dioxide enhanced soil water levels in drylands by 17 percent.
A new report by British Petroleum (BP) shows, despite continuing gains in energy efficiency and forced expansions of renewable power sources, economic growth in China, India, and other developing countries is swamping carbon dioxide reductions in Western countries and is expected to do so for decades into the future. According to BP’s report, “Despite the slowdown in emissions growth, the level of carbon emissions continues to grow, increasing by 20% between 2014 and 2035.” BP projects increasing emissions from fast-growing nations will overwhelm any emissions cuts made by the United States and other developed countries.
The rate of global carbon dioxide emissions growth could be reduced substantially, if only more countries would embrace fracking.
A new study by Oren Cass, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, finds despite massive subsidies and state mandates, renewable energy sources remain a small part of America’s energy supply. Investment in the industry has been flat for almost five years domestically and globally. Even as GDP grew 7.3 percent since 2007, Cass notes, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions fell 9.7 percent from their 2007 peak of 6,001 megatons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) to 5,417 MtCO2 in 2015.
Improvements in the efficiency of electricity use, the amount of electricity used per dollar of GDP, accounted for 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. The fracking revolution, resulting in a shift in electricity production from coal to natural gas, accounted for 19 percent of the decline. By contrast, increased solar power production is responsible for just 1 percent of the decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. For every ton of carbon dioxide cut by solar power’s substitution for coal, the switch to natural gas has removed 13 tons of carbon dioxide. Globally, the amount of carbon dioxide reduced by solar power’s expansion in the United States equaled less than four hours of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2013.
Get that world leaders, frack for gas, reduce your carbon dioxide emissions — now that’s green energy.
If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.
Puerto Rico Default Begins
Gabrielle Cintorino, The Heartlander
The slow-motion train wreck that is the economy of Puerto Rico is officially going off the rails. Lawmakers in the United States territory announced plans to partially default on $1 billion in monthly bond payments owed to investors in state-owned corporations. The potential for a large- scale bankruptcy is growing as some in Congress explore the idea of amending federal laws to allow states to declare bankruptcy. READ MORE
What’s Wrong with Wikipedia?
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
In recent months, left-wing activists have hijacked The Heartland Institute’s profile at Wikipedia, removing objective descriptions of our programs and publications and replacing them with lies, errors, and outright libelous claims. Our efforts to correct the site have been rejected by the editors of the self-described “free encyclopedia.” Can you help? READ MORE
A Valentine’s Day Ode to Fracking
Isaac Orr, USA Today
Valentine’s Day is a time when we celebrate the affection and friendship we have for loved ones. Research Fellow Isaac Orr reminds us to write a special Valentine’s Day card for hydraulic fracturing. As Orr points out in USA Today, fracking has dramatically lowered the cost of gasoline and natural gas, giving people more resources to pamper their loved ones with flowers and chocolates. According to a study by the Brookings Institution, these low prices have saved people hundreds of dollars a year, depending on where they live. READ MORE
Heartland Study: The Social Impacts of Frac Sand Mining
Isaac Orr and Mark Krumenacher, Heartland Policy Study
When discussing the potential impacts of development, including frac sand mining, on land and scenic beauty, emotion and opinion tend to dominate the discussion. Heartland’s latest Policy Study brings technical facts and scientific data to the table instead. This study addresses commonly expressed concerns about frac sand mining and discusses how mining companies are already taking steps to reassure those who fear a loss in tourism and land value. READ MORE
Featured Podcast: Terry Miller: America Drops on the Economic Freedom Index
It might not surprise many that America’s economic freedom has declined in recent years. What might shock you is the fact that the United States is no longer among the top 10 freest countries in the world. Terry Miller, former U.S. ambassador and director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss the latest edition of the Economic Freedom Index. LISTEN TO MORE
March 9 Event: Never Lose a Debate with a Global Warming Alarmist!
The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Heartland President Joseph Bast, who edited the book, will discuss his findings and bid a fond farewell to one of the coauthors, Robert Carter who passed away on January 19, at a free event at Heartland’s headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois, on March 9. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy!
Vouchers Are Everywhere. What Next?
Joy Pullmann, School Reform Weekly
The school choice movement is gaining momentum and could potentially be reaching a tipping point. Currently, a majority of states offer a school choice program that includes access to private schools. As it becomes more clear that school choice encourages innovation and quality, it will open the door for further progress on other fronts including vouchers and education savings accounts. While the progress that has been made so far is a major accomplishment, advocates of individual liberty and choice still have much work to do. READ MORE
Trend Watch: Parents Are Flocking to Homeschooling Conventions
Lennie Jarratt, The Heartlander
The popularity of homeschooling continues to grow nationwide as more parents choose to withdraw their children from government schools and take a more active role in their children’s education. There are now more than 100 homeschool conferences annually, where parents learn how to craft a tailor-made curriculum for their child and network with their peers in what has become a legitimate and influential cultural and political movement – one that puts families first. READ MORE
Medicaid Expansion: The President’s Discarded Valentine
Michael Hamilton, The Hill
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2017 included a sour Valentine’s Day treat – the expansion of Medicaid, a jointly funded federal-state government program that uses taxes to provide health insurance to the poor. Using the same perverse incentives by which entitlements trap millions of Americans in poverty and government dependence, the latest Medicaid lure coaxes financially strapped states into federal assistance that is temporary and illusory. READ MORE
Ted Cruz’s Life-Saving Legislation Would Reduce FDA’s Monopoly
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
Regulations related to the introduction of new drugs and medical devices cost money and, more importantly, lives. Newly proposed legislation from U.S. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attempts to fix this problem. The Reciprocity Ensures Streamlined Use of Lifesaving Treatments Act would transform the way drugs and medical devices are approved by the federal government. READ MORE
Bonus Podcast: Ryan Yonk: The Economic Impact of Renewable Fuel Mandates
Ryan Yonk, assistant research professor at Utah State University and executive director of Strata Policy, joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss an in-depth analysis of the economic impact of renewable fuel mandates. A new study found these mandates contributed to the poor economic recovery of “corn belt” counties, despite the fact that they historically supported renewable fuel subsidies. LISTEN TO MORE
Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Climate Regulations
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
Hundreds of state legislators and business, labor, consumer, and public-interest groups are rejoicing after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to stay the Obama administration’s anti-fossil fuels Clean Power Plan. The regulation would have dramatically increased energy costs while having virtually no impact on the supposed threat of “global warming.” “We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. READ MORE