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Rep. Randy Hultgren, Other State, Local Officials Headlined Heartland’s ‘Open House’ Last week

Somewhat Reasonable - 5 hours 35 min ago

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), the mayor of Arlington Heights, Ill., and other influential state and local officials headlined last week’s “open house” at the new headquarters office of the Heartland Institute, a free market think tank.

Hultgren spoke on an array of national public policy issues, including the Iran nuclear power deal negotiated by the Obama administration, the GOP Congress’s failure to repeal Obamacare, and his support for federal science and technology laboratories, like the nearby Fermi Lab, a department of energy facility that employs many high-skilled workers locally.

The Congressman also had the crowd laughing with lighthearted childhood stories, growing up in this area, as the son of a local funeral home director.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) with the president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, last week. Photo by MaryAnn McCabe.

Categories: On the Blog

Solyndra Executives Misled Federal Officials, Investigators Find

Somewhat Reasonable - 8 hours 35 min ago

President Obama committed, Monday, to financing a new generation of “alternative energy” industrialists under his Clean Power Plan, but one of the original Department of Energy program loan recipients, solar power company Solyndra, reportedly misled DOE officials in pursuit of government money, a federal investigators report has found.

According to the Energy Department’s Inspector General, who conducted a four-year investigation alongside the FBI, while Solyndra claimed that they had a guaranteed $2.2 billion in firm contracts for their innovative, cylindrical solar panels, Solyndra had quietly offered secret discounts to all of its customers, many of whom never made good on their full contracts.

According to the Washington Post:

Solyndra’s leaders engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions” that drew a rosy picture of their company enjoying robust sales while they lobbied to win the first clean energy loan the new administration awarded in 2009, a lengthy investigation uncovered. The Silicon Valley start-up’s dramatic rise and then collapse into bankruptcy two years later became a rallying cry for critics of President Obama’s signature program to create jobs by injecting billions of dollars into clean energy firms…

Solyndra officials told the government in 2009, for example, that they had firm contracts to sell $2.2 billion worth of their unique cylindrical solar panels over the next five years. But behind the scenes, investigators found, Solyndra was struggling with customers who were balking at the high panel prices, arranging secret side deals to pay discounted prices and refusing to buy as many panels as they once promised.

In addition, investigators discovered that Department of Energy employees, in charge of reviewing Solyndra’s loan application, felt “pressure” from inside the Administration to approve the Solyndra loan, and so overlooked many of the warning bells in the application’s finer print.

If you recall, in one of his first acts in office, President Obama approved a whopping $787 billion federal stimulus program, part of which would be dedicated to funding upstart alternative energy companies. The Department of Energy was responsible for overseeing these loans, and many of the loans were awarded to major campaign donors and bundlers, rather than to deserving alternative energy programs. According to Peter Schweizer, $16.4 billion of the $20 billion in DOE loans granted went to “companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama backers,” members of his finance committee and Democratic National Committee mega-donors. The program itself was run by Steve Spinner, a major Obama donor and finance committee member who “happened” to join the DOE as their “chief strategic operations officer” after Obama’s 2008 campaign. Spinner was ultimately put in charge of the alternative energy loan program.

Solyndra was no exception to the crony rule; according to a report compiled for National Review, Solyndra’s biggest backer was the Kaiser Family Foundation, run by George Kaiser, a major donor to Obama’s campaign (at one event for Obama, Kaiser reportedly bundled more than a quarter million for Obama’s 2008 campaign). Kaiser Family Foundation’s primary investment arm is Argonaut Ventures LLC, which was also Solyndra’s largest shareholder. While the DOE was considering Solyndra’s loan, Kaiser himself visited the White House, and Solyndra officials had meetings with the President and his staff no fewer than 20 times. In the end, although Solyndra had been turned down for loans under the Bush Administration because of its questionable economics, and against the better judgment of specific officials at the DOE and Office of Management and Budget, Solyndra received $535 million in DOE loans, which they then used in an ill-fated effort to go public.

After Solyndra finally collapsed and shut its doors, the Administration and friendly Democrats in Congress were quick to deny any wrongdoing in the DOE loan process, blaming Solyndra’s abysmal failure on the economic downturn, and reassuring now skeptical taxpayers that Solyndra had at least created a “ripple” effect, sparking other solar energy companies to take on new and innovated processes. Taxpayers were left on the hook for about $527 million of the $535 million loan – but George Kaiser, whose investment company’s claim was ahead of the Federal government’s in the bankruptcy process, managed to recover most of their investment from auctioned assets, leaving nothing for taxpayers or the DOE to recover for their loans.

The Inspector General’s report goes into detail on exactly how Solyndra inflated it’s financial status, from offering its customers quiet discounts, to submitting income spreadsheets to clearly disinterested DOE analysts, to giving fake excuses to DOE consultants so investigators wouldn’t contact any real customers for their opinion. Solyndra, for its part, maintains that it provided all necessary information to the DOE, and that the DOE, not Solyndra, had rushed through the loan process in order to approve the money before a major press event – a now-infamous speech President Obama  gave at Solyndra’s California headquarters. The IG said it would not pursue a detailed investigation into political pressure the DOE may have felt from both Solyndra and the Administration, but did note that pressure was part of the reason they felt the DOE did not take appropriate measures in vetting the loan to begin with.

So far, the Department of Justice, despite seemingly having enough evidence to pursue a case in Califrnia, has so far declined to press charges for fraud against Solyndra and its executives. The Inspector General plans to press DOJ officials to take a second look at the case.

 

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA’s propaganda machine

Out of the Storm News - 9 hours 48 min ago

A little over a century ago, U.S. Rep. Frederick Gillett, R-Mass., read something in The New York Times that vexed him. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Roads advertised that it was seeking to hire a publicity expert. Gillett could not understand why a government agency needed someone to “advertise” its work.

A few weeks later, on Sept. 6, 1913, Gillett introduced legislation, which read: “no money appropriated by this or any other act shall be used for the compensation of any publicity experts unless specifically appropriated for that purpose.” When House Agriculture Committee Chairman Asbury Lever, D-S.C., asked for his rationale, Gillett clarified that he saw no harm in agencies employing editors to write agency reports in “more popular language.” What offended Gillett was agencies spending public funds to “extol” their work.

Gillett’s amendment was accepted, and remains law to this day. In addition to the Gillett law, Congress has banned agencies from encouraging the public to lobby Congress, a prohibition included in the 2015 omnibus spending act. But one would not know it from a glance at how routinely agencies dole out propaganda.

Today, federal agencies regularly toot their horns to the public. They blog, post videos to YouTube, host Google hangouts and generally flood the Internet with feel-good messages. What would the children do without kids.usa.gov and its videos instructing them what gear they need to play various sports?

Of the lot, the Environmental Protection Agency might be the most pushy and self-aggrandizing. The agency has at least a dozen Twitter accounts that have posted more than 70,000 tweets over the past seven years. The EPA’s unabashed willingness to politick has been on full display in the recent public relations blitz to support its “Clean Power Plan.” The agency has posted videos, blogged, issued press releases and frenetically blasted out 140-character propaganda:

How would you spend $100 billion? Climate/weather disasters in the US cost that much in 2012! https://t.co/bnWoepAQRO #ActOnClimate

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) July 20, 2015

People w/heart & lung illnesses are especially vulnerable to excessive heat exposure. Climate change means more health risks. #ActOnClimate

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) July 28, 2015

Today w/#CleanPowerPlan we are showing the world what’s possible. Countries across the globe will step up as we lead. pic.twitter.com/YR4hAU6HDs

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) August 3, 2015

No one has led us to #ActOnClimate as fearlessly as @POTUS. It’s made all the difference for #CleanPowerPlan. pic.twitter.com/eoOeLKpk1X

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) August 3, 2015

Cost-benefit analysis is an inherently complex enterprise. Analysts can come to very different results, especially when one is trying to calculate the interplay between consumer demand, power production and climatological effects on health. The EPA, however, brooks no dissent and the agency’s public communications lack all nuance. The EPA Connect blog confidently asserts that, thanks to its new regulations:

By 2030, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants will be 90 percent lower than 2005 levels, and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower. Because these pollutants can create dangerous soot and smog, the historically low levels mean we’ll avoid 90,000 children’s asthma attacks, 300,000 missed days of school and work, and up to 3,600 premature deaths in 2030 alone.

As for those who think otherwise, EPA Administrator Tom Reynolds writes: “they’re wrong.

Whatever one’s feelings about the risks of climate change and the new emissions regulations, it is undeniable the EPA is not simply informing the public. It is propagandizing. The EPA’s spin doctors are relentlessly on script, often in coordination with the Surgeon General’s Office and other Obama appointees.

The rationale for all this public-relations work is plain: the EPA is trying to build grassroots support for its agenda, presumably in hopes that widespread public support for it will kneecap critics in Congress.

This is not quite how the Founders drew up our government. Congress, by virtue of being popularly elected, is to represent the public interest. The legislature enacts the laws and the executive branch is supposed to implement them. If legislators stray from the desires of the voters, they get voted out. That is democratic accountability.

Congress’ best option is to direct the Government Accountability Office and the EPA Inspector General’s Office to audit the agency’s public-relations activities. This tactic has worked in the past. The Department of Health and Human Services dialed back its promotion of new Medicare benefits after it was subjected to GAO scrutiny. The Department of Defense abolished one of its public communications units after it was caught trying to manipulate press coverage.

The U.S. Constitution’s careful balance of powers goes out the window when executive agencies make policy unilaterally and then manufacture public sentiment in support.

Take kids off the sex-offender registries

Out of the Storm News - 10 hours 22 min ago

At age 10, Maya R. did something that would disturb just about anyone: “Me and my step-brothers, who were ages 8 and 5, ‘flashed’ each other and play-acted sex while fully clothed,” she told Human Rights Watch researcher Nicole Pittman. After copping to the incident in juvenile court, Maya’s punishment was an 18-month sentence in a detention center, mandatory counseling, and a quarter-century of registration as a sex offender.

Maya’s mistake had significant consequences for her life. With her name on a sex-offender registry, she faced harassment in college and ultimately dropped out. Facing huge barriers to finding housing, she spent 90 days in a homeless shelter. She fell into a deep depression. Despite a clean adult record and a life that eventually got on the right track—she did missionary work, married, and now has a child of her own—Maya can’t escape the “sex offender” label. She and thousands of others like her continue to be punished for mistakes they made as children.

In April, prosecutors in Archbold, Ohio, brought charges that could have meant mandatory registration for high-school students caught exchanging nude “selfies.” An Indiana judge, likewise, has sentenced two teenage boys to lifetime sex-offender registration for having sex with teenage girls they met online. In some states, even trivial offenses like public urination and streaking can land children on registries.

Currently, 40 states have sex-offender registration for those convicted in juvenile court. This ought to trouble us, not least because it undermines the usefulness of the registries. It’s a policy that needs to change at both the federal and the state levels.

The juvenile justice system is predicated on a trade-off. Juvenile defendants have fewer rights, but the system is supposed to expend greater effort at rehabilitation. There are no jury trials in juvenile courts. Records are typically confidential, and rules of evidence are looser. As counterbalance, juveniles serve shorter sentences and are sent less frequently to secure facilities. Sanctions are, at least in theory, levied in the “best interests” of those convicted, rather than meted out as punishment.

Unlike adult criminal records, which normally follow offenders for life, juvenile records can be sealed at age 18 (the procedure is automatic in some states). Even unsealed juvenile court convictions (which generally aren’t on the public Internet) typically don’t affect offenders’ ability to vote, live where they choose, receive most government benefits, get professional licenses, and hold public office. When juveniles commit particularly atrocious crimes, like murder or violent rape, every state offers a procedure that would permit them to be tried and sentenced as adults.

Sex-offender registries impose some of the most severe restrictions that face anyone convicted of a criminal offense. In addition to public humiliation, made more intense in the Internet age, those required to register as sex offenders often are forbidden from living close to schools and day-care centers, pushing many far out into the country or even into homelessness (and homeless shelters turn many away). Sex offenders can be denied professional licenses and may be subject to near-constant police surveillance. Since most juveniles on sex-offender registries have victimized other juveniles, some also face restrictions intended for adult pedophiles, and can be excluded from living with their own siblings and even, as they get older, with their own children. Even those who do manage to find jobs and places to live will generally see much lower wages and find healthy adult relationships much harder to establish.

Registry laws were created to deal with the problems of recidivist pedophiles and serial rapists. They are a harsh response, but public sentiment holds they are just. And they are certainly popular, as evidenced by near-unanimous votes to create them in state after state. It’s less obvious how society benefits from imposing such long-lasting sanctions in response to mistakes made by children. There’s little evidence that youthful sex offenders remain a public danger. The largest meta-analysis shows that only about 7 percent of youthful sex offenders are ever convicted of another offense. Some studies have found reoffense rates as low as 1 percent. By comparison, 40 percent of adults convicted of serious crimes reoffend.

Juveniles convicted of sex offenses clutter the registries. They account for as much as 25 percent of the rolls. Monitoring these individuals for decades wastes resources that law enforcement and social workers otherwise could use more effectively to target those who pose real dangers to society. (And where young offenders do appear to pose such truly significant risks, prosecutors can avail themselves of the opportunity to file adult charges.)

States are encouraged to include juveniles in their registries by the federal Adam Walsh Act, which ties federal funding to state and local enforcement to the degree to which state registries comply with the law’s classification system for sex offenders. Not only should these incentives be eliminated, but Congress should consider withholding some grant funds from states that continue to list those adjudicated in juvenile court on the registries.

At the least, many states should rejigger their registry laws. Teenagers who have sexual relationships or exchange nude “selfies” with other teenagers may need counseling, punishments from their parents, and admonitions from other adults. But they shouldn’t routinely face criminal sanctions for “statutory rape” or “child pornography.”

Pre-teens like Maya R. who act out sexually may well have serious problems that require more extensive intervention. But absent strong evidence that they’re likely to reoffend, they shouldn’t face lifetime sanctions more severe than those levied on juveniles who commit crimes like armed robbery and auto theft. Like other juvenile offenders’, their records should be eligible to be sealed, and they certainly shouldn’t spend long periods on sex-offender registries.

Including children on sex-offender registries is a grave injustice that does little good and much harm. Congress and state legislatures need to undo the damage they have done.

In The Tank Podcast: Outdated Laws, Colonies on Mars, and Candidates with Beards

Somewhat Reasonable - 11 hours 23 sec ago

Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft host the first episode of the “In The Tank”, a weekly podcast that will feature interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, and stories and light hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news from a right of center perspective. The show will be available for download as a podcast every Friday.

In today’s episode, Donny and John talk about Michigan repealing dumb laws against embellishing the national anthem, what states tax “Sin” the most, the prospects of a free and privately funded Mars Colony, America’s welfare system being just as generous at Europe’s, and how Presidential candidates would fare in a “beard off”.

·         Michigan House Passes Package Repealing Outdated Laws

·         The States Most Dependent on Sin Taxes

·         Billionaires Wanted to Fund Private Mars Colony

·         The U.S. Is on Par With Many European Welfare States: Study

·         What Would 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidates Look Like With Beards?

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

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Blog: Judge blocks EPA water rule; EPA say they will defy injunction

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - 11 hours 56 min ago
A federal judge has ruled that a controversial regulation that would give the Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction over small streams and ditches is…

What consensus? Less than half of climate scientists agree with the IPCC “95%” certainty « JoNova

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - 12 hours 10 min ago
… I used to think there was a consensus among government-funded certified climate scientists, but a better study by Verheggen Strengers, Verheegen, and Vringer…

Heartland Daily Podcast – Scott Sumner: The Recent Volatility of the Stock Market

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2015, 4:23 PM

In today’s episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor Jesse Hathaway talks with Mercatus Center monetary policy program director and Bentley University economics professor Scott Sumner about the American stock market’s recent up-and-down volatility, the increasing threat of an international economic recession, and how our country’s centralized banking policies make the problem worse.

The first step to solving a problem is setting goals, and Sumner explains how the Federal Reserve’s lack of measurable targets and tight grip on leads to an aimless attitude towards monetary policies. Instead of the current system of centralized control, Sumner proposes creating market-based controls responsive to the so-called “wisdom of the crowds.”

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

Categories: On the Blog

Need for dialogue on tobacco harm reduction

Out of the Storm News - August 27, 2015, 1:24 PM

What is now needed, if we are to ever secure the personal and public health benefits that e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction can offer, is honest and sincere dialogue on this topic between the public health community, industry representatives and consumer representatives. This has been impossible to date because of the perception within the public-health community that the industry is evil and engaging in such dialogue would constitute collaboration with the enemy.

For the past four years, Scott Ballin, working with and through a team at the University of Virginia, has hosted a series of what they call Morven Dialogues. These have attracted industry representatives and the handful of public health people known to be supportive of THR and e-cigarettes, but no active participation from FDA, CDC, NIH, AMA, or heart, lung or cancer societies.

The issue I would like to see addressed, both domestically and internationally is this perception that the industry is an evil monolithic enterprise and that there are none within the industry who would sincerely welcome the opportunity to partner with public health colleagues in pursuit of shared public health objectives.

Florida Legislators Recognize Need for Flexibility, Choice in Special Education

Blog - Education - August 27, 2015, 11:12 AM

Brandon Berman is 17 years old and is one of the approximately 1,700 students participating in Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) program. Brandon is autistic and has muscular dystrophy, seizures, spastic paraplegia, and a feeding tube, and he is most likely going to die from a brain tumor. He also has an unwavering desire to learn, and his parents have fought to make sure he gets that opportunity.

“He has a fatal diagnosis,” his mother, Donna Berman, recently told me by phone. “As long as he wants to learn and as long as I can give an education to him, I will.”

Florida’s PLSA program provides an education savings account for special-needs students and has proven to be a perfect solution for students like Brandon. Parents initially pay for approved educational services and then are reimbursed. Funding provided through the program can pay for everything from instructional materials to curriculum to approved specialized services and therapies.

This year Florida legislators have tripled the amount of money allocated for the program, raising funding from $18.4 million to $53.4 million. That’s enough money to help more than 5,000 students during the next school year. This year, the first year of the program, about 1,700 students received accounts.

Eligibility now includes three- and four-year-olds with diagnoses covered by the program. Students with muscular dystrophy and anywhere on the autism disorder spectrum will also be eligible. Previously, the state used a nonmedical definition of autism that excluded some autistic students. Part-time tutoring will now be an approved expense for children enrolled fulltime as private school or homeschool students.

These changes show Florida legislators have recognized the need for flexibility and choice when designing special-education funding. The rest of country should consider enacting similar legislation, because a program such as this makes an enormous difference to each family it serves.

The Berman family of Port Orange has tried almost every educational option available to special-needs students in Florida.

“We’ve tried all the routes of the school,” said Berman, a licensed practical nurse who has taught and cared for her son since his health began to decline. “We did the McKay Scholarship. We tried homebound options more than once. But four hours a week—four hours total of direct instruction with a teacher—it’s just not enough.”

The PLSA program allows Berman to tailor Brandon’s education. She can teach him while they wait in doctors’ offices. Berman says she has been successful in stretching the funding and making it cost-effective by carefully determining how to spend it.

“We learned all about fabric and then learned math and science through the sewing machine,” said Berman. “We’ve grown gardens. All the schools said he would never learn to read. They kept asking me why I continued to request a reading specialist and said he would never learn to read. Little did I know he knew how to read; he was just intimidated by the number of words on a page.”

Through a process of trial and error, Berman enlarged the size of the text on Brandon’s e-reader so the words visible on the screen were what would normally appear on a quarter of a page.

“It’s unfortunate that the public school system doesn’t see that not every child can be supported in a classroom,” said Berman. She says she knows there are good, hardworking teachers in many public schools but the education system prejudges some students and gives them less attention than they need.

“The PLSA has been an incredible gift,” said Berman. “It’s got great potential for children like mine who don’t fit into a specific program designed for special-needs students.”

Brandon recently insisted on reading a mystery book on his own without his mother’s help. The Boxcar Children books are now his favorites.

“I’ve seen him stand up taller,” said Berman. “I’ve seen him take pride again. It’s almost as if he didn’t feel he could succeed. He’s much more comfortable being included in things.”

Berman says there are misconceptions about the PLSA program.

“It’s not taking jobs away from people,” said Berman. “It’s not. It’s helping children. My son cannot be stuck in a caveman system when he has Space Age problems. We’re not making the schools go broke. It’s the same funding that would have been used for my son anyway, and now I have the funding to help him.”

Florida legislators deserve recognition for seeing the need to expand the PLSA program to help more families like the Bermans.

“No, he won’t be able to walk across a stage like other students,” Berman told me. “He won’t be able to collect a diploma with his peers, but his peers never really knew him because of the way the system is set up. He can just become the best him. And he does matter.”

[Originally published at Townhall]

Florida Legislators Recognize Need for Flexibility, Choice in Special Education

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2015, 11:12 AM

Brandon Berman is 17 years old and is one of the approximately 1,700 students participating in Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) program. Brandon is autistic and has muscular dystrophy, seizures, spastic paraplegia, and a feeding tube, and he is most likely going to die from a brain tumor. He also has an unwavering desire to learn, and his parents have fought to make sure he gets that opportunity.

“He has a fatal diagnosis,” his mother, Donna Berman, recently told me by phone. “As long as he wants to learn and as long as I can give an education to him, I will.”

Florida’s PLSA program provides an education savings account for special-needs students and has proven to be a perfect solution for students like Brandon. Parents initially pay for approved educational services and then are reimbursed. Funding provided through the program can pay for everything from instructional materials to curriculum to approved specialized services and therapies.

This year Florida legislators have tripled the amount of money allocated for the program, raising funding from $18.4 million to $53.4 million. That’s enough money to help more than 5,000 students during the next school year. This year, the first year of the program, about 1,700 students received accounts.

Eligibility now includes three- and four-year-olds with diagnoses covered by the program. Students with muscular dystrophy and anywhere on the autism disorder spectrum will also be eligible. Previously, the state used a nonmedical definition of autism that excluded some autistic students. Part-time tutoring will now be an approved expense for children enrolled fulltime as private school or homeschool students.

These changes show Florida legislators have recognized the need for flexibility and choice when designing special-education funding. The rest of country should consider enacting similar legislation, because a program such as this makes an enormous difference to each family it serves.

The Berman family of Port Orange has tried almost every educational option available to special-needs students in Florida.

“We’ve tried all the routes of the school,” said Berman, a licensed practical nurse who has taught and cared for her son since his health began to decline. “We did the McKay Scholarship. We tried homebound options more than once. But four hours a week—four hours total of direct instruction with a teacher—it’s just not enough.”

The PLSA program allows Berman to tailor Brandon’s education. She can teach him while they wait in doctors’ offices. Berman says she has been successful in stretching the funding and making it cost-effective by carefully determining how to spend it.

“We learned all about fabric and then learned math and science through the sewing machine,” said Berman. “We’ve grown gardens. All the schools said he would never learn to read. They kept asking me why I continued to request a reading specialist and said he would never learn to read. Little did I know he knew how to read; he was just intimidated by the number of words on a page.”

Through a process of trial and error, Berman enlarged the size of the text on Brandon’s e-reader so the words visible on the screen were what would normally appear on a quarter of a page.

“It’s unfortunate that the public school system doesn’t see that not every child can be supported in a classroom,” said Berman. She says she knows there are good, hardworking teachers in many public schools but the education system prejudges some students and gives them less attention than they need.

“The PLSA has been an incredible gift,” said Berman. “It’s got great potential for children like mine who don’t fit into a specific program designed for special-needs students.”

Brandon recently insisted on reading a mystery book on his own without his mother’s help. The Boxcar Children books are now his favorites.

“I’ve seen him stand up taller,” said Berman. “I’ve seen him take pride again. It’s almost as if he didn’t feel he could succeed. He’s much more comfortable being included in things.”

Berman says there are misconceptions about the PLSA program.

“It’s not taking jobs away from people,” said Berman. “It’s not. It’s helping children. My son cannot be stuck in a caveman system when he has Space Age problems. We’re not making the schools go broke. It’s the same funding that would have been used for my son anyway, and now I have the funding to help him.”

Florida legislators deserve recognition for seeing the need to expand the PLSA program to help more families like the Bermans.

“No, he won’t be able to walk across a stage like other students,” Berman told me. “He won’t be able to collect a diploma with his peers, but his peers never really knew him because of the way the system is set up. He can just become the best him. And he does matter.”

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Poorer Nations Set for 99% of Population Growth

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2015, 9:09 AM

According to the new United Nations World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revisionthe population of the world is projected to rise from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 11.2 billion in 2100. This represents a 53 percent increase. However, over the period, population growth will moderate substantially. This is indicated by the annual growth rate the first year (2015 to 2016), at 1.1 percent, compared to the last year (2099 to 2100) at 0.1 percent. Annual population growth is projected to decline 90 percent from the beginning of the period to the end (Figure 1).

Growth by Continent

The distribution of growth among the continents will be anything but even. Approximately 83 percent of the growth is projected to be in Africa, which is to grow approximately 270 percent. Asia is expected to account for 13 percent of the world’s growth and add 11 percent to its population. Northern America (Note), while growing 40 percent is expected to account for four percent of the world’s population growth. Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to account for 2.2 percent of the world’s growth, and add 14 percent to their population. Europe (including all of Russia) is expected to decline in population by 13 percent (Figure 2).

Population Growth by Income Status

World population growth is expected to vary widely by current income status (Figure 3). Income status is indicated on page 137 of this United Nations publication.

The world’s high income nations are expected to add only eight percent (111 million) to their population and will represent only three percent of the population growth. These nations are principally in North America and Europe, but also include Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and others.

The world’s upper middle income nations are expected to experience a population decline of three percent, which amounts to a loss of 82 million residents. China, Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Iran and Brazil are examples of upper-middle income nations. When combined with the high income gain noted above the more affluent half of the world’s nations would add 29 million residents, or just 0.7 percent of the world’s growth. This is fewer people than live in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

This means that more than 99 percent of world growth from 2015 to 2100 is expected to be among the lower income nations. The lower middle income nations would gain 2 billion people, representing 52 percent of the population growth.  The lower-middle income nations include India, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Vietnam, Guatemala and others.

The lower income nations would gain 1.8 billion people, capturing 47 percent of the world’s growth. The lower income nations include Bangladesh, Tanzania, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and others.

In the high income and upper middle income regions, population growth will be also anything but consistent. Nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia are expected to grow far faster. The United States is expected to add 40 percent to its population and more than four times the population growth of all of the upper half of nations. Canada (up 39 percent) and Australia (up 77 percent), combined, are expected to add more population than the total upper income half of nations.  These gains will be largely offset by losses in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Italy and others.

Largest Population by Nation

China, with the largest population in 2015, is expected to fall behind India in 2050 and remain in second place by 2100. India is expected to be the largest nation in both 2050 and 2100. However, India’s population will be less in 2100 than it was in 2050.

Eight of the 10 most populated nations, including India and China are expected to have a lower population in 2100 than in 2050 (Figure 4). Pakistan is expected to reach its population peak in 2095 and start declining in 2096. This leaves only the United States among today’s today’s 10 largest nations that is expected to be adding population in 2100. The growth rate between 2099 and 2100 (0.2 percent) is expected to be considerably below the growth rate at the beginning of the period (2015-2016), which was 0.7 percent.

By 2100, there are expected to be substantial changes to the top 10 nations in population. Five of the 10 largest nations in the world are expected to be in Africa. This is an increase from one in 2015 (Figure 5). Nigeria will have replaced the United States as the third largest nation, with approximately 750 million people, having more than quadrupled in size. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo – Kinshasa) would ranked fifth, and is expected to reach 390 million people, quintupling in size. Tanzania would ranked eighth, reaching 300 million residents, nearly 6 times its 2015 population. Ethiopia would have more than 240 million residents, 2.5 times its current population and would rank ninth. The 10th largest nation would be Niger, with 210 million residents, a figure 10 times its 2015 level. Among the African nations in the top 10, only Ethiopia would be declining by 2100, having reached its population peak in 2097.

Pakistan would retain its current sixth position, while Indonesia would fall from 4th to 7th. As noted above, India would be the largest nation in China would be second largest in 2100. By that date India would have an overall gain of approximately 350 million people from 2015, while China would lose 370 million people. The United States would add more than 125 million people. Brazil, which is currently ranked 5th, would lose approximately 10 million people and fall to 13th position. Eighth ranked Bangladesh, which was long among the fastest growing nations in the world, would gain only 10 million people and fall to 14th position. Russia, ranked 9th, would fall to 23rd, losing 25 million residents. Mexico, ranked 10th, would gain 20 million residents, and would be ranked 18th in 2100.

The Uncertainty of Projections

Of course projections of any kind are subject to wide error ranges. Economic growth, the extent of poverty, wars, social trends, medical advances and other factors can interfere. The simple fact is that none of us and no organization knows the future for sure. One study of UN population trends in six Southeast Asian nations found that 1980 projections from 1950 were 13.9 percent off by nation, with a range from minus 20 percent to plus 27 percent. There had been some improvement in comparing 1975 projections to 2000 actual populations, with an average error of 8.2 percent. The range was little improved, from minus 23 percent to plus 25 percent. Obviously projections are likely to be much more accurate in early years and the chances for greater accuracy are improved in larger nations or regions.

A World of Challenges

Regardless of the extent of accuracy, which cannot be known at this point, the projections indicate a continuation of trends that cause concern. A world that is experiencing virtually 100 percent of its growth in its poorest areas cannot help but face a tougher future. This makes it clear that the principal priority of governments around the world should be to improve affluence and reduce poverty. The challenges are gargantuan, but focusing on these issues is likely to result in a better, though less than ideal, world.

Note:  Northern America includes Canada, the United States, Greenland, Bermuda and the French territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Photograph: Western Railway Headquarters (Churchgate), Mumbai, India (by author)

Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California) and principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm.

He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

[Originally published at New Geography]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Carly Fiorina celebrates ‘Women’s Equality Day’ by paying women as much as men

Out of the Storm News - August 26, 2015, 6:20 PM

Feminists long have struggled with the concept of “equal pay.” Although most social justice-y gender studies majors demand that “equal pay” mean “totally, statistically equal,” that standard is actually an impossible one to reach. Women choose different jobs from their male colleagues, often select less dangerous professions (which pay less than the more dangerous ones), work shorter hours and take breaks in the middle of their careers to raise children, and generally make different choices than men.

Now, those choices might be the result of ingrained cultural norms, but the idea that women earn $0.77 to every man’s $1.00 because of blatant sexism in the workplace long has been exposed as a myth – and not even a very good one.

There are instances of true pay inequality, though. For example, Hillary Clinton, while she served in the Senate, paid her female employees 28 percent less than her male employees, overall. She tried to explain it away by insisting that the women on her staff held lower-level positions, something that seems to verify both claims that the “pay gap” is bogus, and that Hillary Clinton is, herself, kind of sexist in her hiring practices.

On Women’s Equality Day (at least, that’s what the Internet tells me), we take a moment to remember all those women Hillary Clinton failed as a feminist. Especially now that Carly Fiorina, the other woman in the presidential race, has been revealed to be the real candidate of pay equality.

As women working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign struggle with a gender pay gap, women working for the businesswoman and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina are coming out on top.

The median female annual salary on Fiorina’s campaign is $69,724, about $15,000 higher than the median male annual salary of $54,829, according to data made available to the Washington Free Beacon by the campaign.

The highest paid members of Fiorina’s staff are her campaign managers Frank Sadler and Sarah Isgur Flores, who both make $150,000 a year.

The next six highest salaries on the campaign are all for female employees. The lowest salary is for a male.

According to an analysis done by the Free Beacon of Clinton campaign salaries (post her tenure in the Senate), women on Fiorina’s campaign are actually faring far better than the women on Clinton’s. They’re promoted higher, in positions of greater authority and paid far more.

Fiorina, for her part, says that the “feminism” isn’t actually intentional – since she comes from the business world, she promotes what she calls a “ruthlessly cultiva[ted] meritocracy,” and her best employees simply rise to the top. In the case of her campaign, those employees happen to be female.

As far as the so-called “gender pay gap” is concerned, Carly says she recognizes that there are factors that keep women from reaching their full potential…but, to paraphrase, Hillary Clinton has pretty much no idea what those are or how to overcome them.

So, as Twitter celebrates “Women’s Equality Day” and the passage of the 14th Amendment, perhaps they should look closely at exactly who is keeping that ball rolling.

Government Grant Funding Corrupts Tobacco Research, Holds Back Scientific Inquiry

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 4:20 PM

Government ought to rely on unbiased scientific findings when making policy decisions regarding important issues. But unfortunately, many government agencies undermine the scientific process by using it for their own purposes rather than to discover the truth, a reality President Dwight Eisenhower pointed out in his farewell address more than a half-century ago. The situation has only become worse since then, with government funding of tobacco studies providing a vivid example.

Of course we all know tobacco use is harmful, but the important scientific question that remains is how best to help people quit or at least moderate their use and reduce the harm tobacco can do. Unfortunately, federal agencies are shortchanging science about harm reduction in favor of finding ways to force everyone to quit.

According to Dr. Brad Rodu, in 2014 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) doled out $623 million to more than 1,000 university researchers interested in advancing its stated goal of “a world free of tobacco use.” In one such solicitation for researchers willing to fit facts to dogma, NIH set aside $10 million for eight to 10 studies, provided those studies proved useful in helping the government “develop effective ways to limit the spread and promote cessation of smokeless tobacco use.”

Studies show smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than smoking, and hence it should be part of any harm-reduction strategy governments would pursue. That is the very opposite of what the NIH is doing.

his is a big problem because academic research has become highly dependent on government subsidies, which can prove very lucrative to both researchers and the universities that employ them. Government grants such as those from NIH cover the upfront cost of scientific inquiry, such as faculty and graduate student salaries and equipment purchases.

Those grants also cover administrative costs, which the university pockets. For example, a $1 million grant could provide the university itself with $250,000 in revenue for overhead.

Because NIH grants are so valuable to both researchers and the universities for whom they work, violating the dogma purveyed by government agencies is unprofitable. In turn, little to no tobacco harm reduction research is conducted, because there’s little money in exploring that particular line of inquiry.

Searching NIH’s Office of Extramural Research for available grants, I found no funding opportunities between January 1, 2013 and January 1, 2015 involving the words “tobacco harm reduction.” Searching for funding opportunities involving the terms “tobacco cessation,” revealed six grants were available, totaling at least $3.4 million or an average of more than $550,000 per grant. Two of the cessation-related grants had no specified upper limit.

Similarly, government agencies are themselves unduly influenced by the lure of big-money grants. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarded members of its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) with between $53 million and $273 million in grants to fund their respective proposed studies, even though other studies were rated higher by FDA reviewers.

TPSAC member Jonathan Samet, a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, was one such recipient of government funding. FDA officials called its decision to give agency insiders as much as $273 million in funding “purely coincidental,” declining to explain further to Reuters reporters.

Government agencies’ dominance of academic funding perverts the scientific process, creating a situation where our knowledge begins with preapproved doctrine, proceeds to cherry-picked data, and ends with confirmation of the state-sponsored doctrine. By funding those studies that advance preapproved policy goals, government subsidization of academic research encourages researchers to twist the facts to fit the dollar signs.

Given their history of actively inserting policy objectives into the scientific process, government agencies such as FDA and NIH should be removed from the grant-funding business. Congress should rewrite their appropriations accordingly.

Funding studies expected to advance favored preexisting narratives and funding studies from favorite sons is not “science.” It’s political maneuvering at its worst. Dr. Brad Rodu, the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville’s  James Graham Brown Cancer Center, has conducted extensive research on this topic. His research appears on his blog, Tobacco Truth, at http://rodutobaccotruth.blogspot.com/.

[A slightly different version of this essay was originally published by The Daily Caller.]
Categories: On the Blog

If you don’t support the party line, don’t speak

Out of the Storm News - August 26, 2015, 3:52 PM

I am extremely disappointed to announce that my invitation to speak at the fall conference of the Council of Institutional Investors has been withdrawn. The conference organizers have determined that my presence at the conference may create a “hostile environment.”

The hostility is not a result of the paper I was to present, “Activist Hedge Funds in a World of Board Independence: Creators or Destroyers of Long-Term Value?,” which is forthcoming in the Columbia Business Law Review, and then discuss with a distinguished panel. Instead, it appears to be because of an exchange of comments I had on a corporate-governance blog concerning the shout-down of my recent R Street policy brief, “Public-pension funds play with newest toy in corporate governance.”

I believe my presentation would have been extremely educational for CII members and possibly change their way of thinking about hedge-fund activism. Yet I understand that the CII has the right to withdraw its invitation if the conference managers so choose. Given that the CII is still dominated by public and union pension funds, at least based on the make-up of its board of directors, I should not be surprised by their decision.

Nonetheless, it is very disappointing to see that the action was taken because of the expectation that there was going to be a critical mass of participants so intolerant of my views on the use of proxy access by public pension funds that they would create a hostile environment during my presentation. To have members like that does not reflect well on the organization and the positions it advocates.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

White House politicizes a tragedy ... again

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - August 26, 2015, 3:49 PM
Can’t take a break from ideology and politics to simply comment on a tragedy. The newswoman and cameraman who were shot and killed on a live TV feed this…

Greenpeace Workers Stage Strike, Walkout

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 3:02 PM

San Diego Greenpeace canvassers are leading a strike against the global environmental activism giant, claiming that Greenpeace has provided them little in the way of job security, and has violated what they believe to be fair labor policies.

According to the San Diego Free Press, 16 of 19 canvassers hired by Greenpeace to collect small-dollar donations and routine donation commitments have walked off the job and are currently “on strike.” The group accuses Greenpeace of “hypocricy,” claiming that while touting progressive ideals, Greenpeace benefits primarily from the work of a labor force that has no minimum wage and must meet donation quotas regularly to retain their employment.

The strike, led by two veteran canvassers in Socialist Alternative San Diego, comes against an organization that claims to be progressive. However, Greenpeace uses a quota system where even veteran fundraisers can be fired for missing quota two or three weeks consecutively. Senior workers bring in six or seven times their salary in recurring donations, yet are routinely fired. Morale is understandably very low. But choosing to resist, they have mobilized in defense of their jobs and dignity. Non-profits beware: the persuasive skills developed by your employees can be used against you. Instead of selling Greenpeace, organizers now sell the strike against it.

Tara Dawn, a strike member from the Sacramento field office, said “As a single mother, I work hard week in and week out not knowing if I’ll have a dependable paycheck to keep a roof over our heads. That is a very difficult reality to face. I love my job and the organization I work for, but myself and the all of the other canvassers deserve to see reform.”

They claim that senior and mid-level Greenpeace managers have formed a “Worker Elite,” and that Greenpeace’s vast network of managers are paid well enough that street-level canvassers, who collect names, small-dollar donations and multi-month donation commitments from San Diego residents should be given a “fair share.”

A cursory glance at Craiglist can give you a good idea of what the Greenpeace canvasser job entails. Greenpeace advertises a similar position in Los Angeles – a “frontline” worker – as a “full-time” job and lists only an hourly wage of $13-15 per hour, slightly more than the minimum wage. They do offer paid training time, bonuses for good performance, and a full benefits and leave package for those Greenpeace canvassers who maintain their employment for three months. Employees even get paid vacations and even mass transit subsidies. There is, however, no “job security” involved. You can’t have everything.

It’s not hard to believe that Greenpeace provides an excellent employment package. After all, the “non-profit” mega-group boasts a $360 million global budget, spending an average of $10 million per year on US operations alone. According to its recent 990 IRS filing, Greenpeace took in more than $32 million in 2014. Of course, you can’t please everyone.

Categories: On the Blog

THE HOCKEY SCHTICK: New paper finds 'robust' relationship between cosmic rays and global temperature, corroborates Svensmark's solar-cosmic ray theory of climate

Environment Suite - In The News - August 26, 2015, 2:47 PM
A reply paper published today in PNAS “identifies a causal relationship between cosmic rays (CRs) and interannual variation in global temperature (ΔGT).” The…

The New York Times —Still Denying Vaping's Benefits?

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - August 26, 2015, 2:42 PM
Never comfortable when today’s neo-Puritan orthodoxies come under fire, the New York Times editorializes on an inconvenient report by Public Health England (“an…

Power plants in NY closing after “help” from government - Hot Air

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - August 26, 2015, 2:41 PM
Out in the western portion of New York there is a coal fired power plant located in Dunkirk which is operated by NRG Energy. It’s an aging plant and they…
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