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Heartland Daily Podcast – Tim Bishop: EPA Taking Authority Over Land Using Clean Water Act

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 4:03 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Tim Bishop, a partner in the Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at MayerBrown LLP, who is serving as counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation, joins Host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss new EPA regulations that give it authority over land that is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes land in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Delaware and the District of Columbia. These regulations amount to federal zoning imposed on states and localities in the Chesapeake bay watershed under the guise of the clean water act. Bishop shows why this is contrary to the intention and language of the clean water act and of a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers and designed federalism.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Will the American People Be Suckered or Given Succor?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 2:20 PM

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), receiving a large bi-partisan approval in the House of Representatives earlier this year, is supposedly going to be taken up in the Senate this week. The provision has been added into the conference report (the final version of a bill to be considered by both chambers of congress) of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.

PITFA would continue the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) which was extended multiple times over the last seventeen years. ITFA was first signed into law in 1998. Originally intended to be permanent but negotiated to be temporary, the Act bans federal, state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on online sales and Internet access, and protects consumers by limiting taxes on transactions to one state.

If ITFA expires then Internet using consumers will be burdened with at least $16.4 billion a year in new taxes. Given a still sluggish economy one may be tempted to think that passage the Senate would be eager to avoid this tax. After all, what politician wants to go on the campaign trail this fall bragging that they have imposed a massive new tax specifically targeting Internet users? What politician wants to explain why that while the federal government spends millions on making broadband available to citizens that they voted to fleece those very same citizens, driving up costs and hence reducing the amount of broadband usage in the U.S.?

To date, only one thing has prevented passage of a permanent moratorium and the elimination of disparate, discriminatory tax treatment of the Internet–politics. That threat remains for the upcoming vote but the tactics have gotten even more desperate.

For years, big-government pro-taxers, particularly in the Senate have put off a permanent fix in an effort to force Congress, and the nation, to accept a massive tax increase and the radical expansion of government authority with a legislative vehicle once oxymoronically named the Mainstreet Fairness Act. They have often deployed the parliamentary tricks that voters increasingly reject to thwart the vote. This time, however, there may be nowhere to hide.

Rumor has it that Senators Enzi of Wyoming, Alexander of Tennessee, and Durbin of Illinois will attempt to strip the PITFA language from the proposal and support the tax using a parliamentary trick. To be successful the three Senators need 57 other Senators to side with them.

Simply put, Senators who side with Senators Enzi and Alexander are supporting a massive tax increase. Those who oppose this trick are voting against a tax increase, standing to protect the Internet and its users from a discriminatory tax.

Opposing the Internet crushing tax, a broad coalition of 45 organizations from across the country, including Madery Bridge, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging its leadership to finally, permanently ban taxes on Internet access and end the game-playing with national policy.

The vote is an easy one to make for those who oppose massive government and huge tax increases. Finally called out of the shadows to vote in the light of day, the people will see where their Senators line up on the issue allowing citizens to decide for themselves whether their Senators should be ordered out of the U.S. Senate.

Categories: On the Blog

“Keep it in the Ground” at Work in the Real World

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 12:35 PM

Going forward, we know what the new year of environmental activism looks like. They have told us. They have made it perfectly clear. They call it: “Keep it in the ground.”

The campaign is about all fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. Instead of an “all of the above” energy policy, when it comes to fossil fuels, they want “none of the above.” A big part of the effort is focused on preventing the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands—which is supported by presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton. The recent moratorium of leasing federal lands for coal mining, announced by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, is considered a great victory for “keep it in the ground.”

I wrote about the movement in December. Last month, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion editorial for one of its leaders, Bill McKibben: “How to drive a stake through the heart of zombie fossil fuel.” In it, McKibben states: “In May, a coalition across six continents is being organized to engage in mass civil disobedience to ‘keep it in the ground.’”

While big news items fuel the fight, smaller, symbolic wins are part of the strategy. Introducing the plan late last year, The Hill states: “It stretches into local fights, over small drilling wells, coal mines and infrastructure.”

Here’s what keep it in the ground looks like in the real world—in “local fights” and “over small drilling wells.”

In a suburb of Albuquerque known more for computer chip-making than crude oil extraction, the anti-fossil fuel crowd is doing everything they can to prevent a “small drilling well” from being developed.

In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the major employer is Intel. It is also home to several call centers—though the Sprint call center just announced it is closing and cutting 394 jobs. New Mexico has the nation’s highest jobless rate: 6.8%.

Rio Rancho is in Sandoval County—which currently, in the northern part of the county, has 600 oil-and-gas wells on tribal or federal lands. According to the NM Tax Research Institute, in 2013, when oil prices were higher, Sandoval County producers shipped 1.08 million barrels of oil worth $86 million and 394.1 million MCF (one MCF = one thousand cubic feet) of natural gas worth $1.6 billion.

After leasing the mineral rights last year, an Oklahoma company, SandRidge Energy Inc., is hoping to drill an exploratory well. The well, which has already received approval from the state Oil and Conversation Division (OCD), is “about four miles outside of the Rio Rancho city limits,” reports the Albuquerque Journal. It will be a vertical well, drilled to a depth of 10,500 feet—which is expected to take about 25 days. Until the well is drilled and logged, engineers will not know whether the resource will warrant development or, if it does, if it will require hydraulic fracturing. The OCD permit is to drill, complete, and produce the well. Jami Grindatto, president and CEO of the Sandoval Economic Alliance says the environmental footprint would be “small.”

Several previous exploratory wells have been drilled in the Albuquerque Basin that were determined not to be economically viable—though oil was found.

To begin drilling, SandRidge needs a zoning variance from the county. On December 10, the Planning and Zoning Committee held a contentious meeting to hear public comment on the SandRidge application. So many wanted to speak, there wasn’t time, nor space, to accommodate them. Another meeting, in a larger venue, was scheduled for January 28. There, dozens of people spewed generic talking points against fracking; speaking vaguely about pollution, earthquakes, and/or water contamination. The Committee, to no avail, asked presenters to stay on topic and address just this one well—this application.

A few folks braved the hostile crowd and spoke in support of the project—only to be booed.

It was in this atmosphere that the Committee recommended that the County Commissioners deny the request. Essentially, they threw up their hands and acknowledged that they weren’t equipped to deal with the intricacies of the application—which is why such decisions are better made at the state levels, where there are engineers and geologists who understand the process.

The Sandoval County Commissioners may still approve the special use permit at the February 18 meeting—as they are the final decision makers.

In December, Sandoval County Commissioner James Dominguez, District 1, said he “has some major concerns that the drilling could compromise the water supply and air quality in Rio Rancho.” KOAT News cites Dominguez as saying: “I know that eventually, in time, it will pollute our water sources”—this despite the definitive August 2015 EPA study released that confirmed hydraulic fracturing does not pollute the water supply.

In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm. Perhaps the upcoming meeting will be an opportunity to provide more factual information to the political decision makers. (Readers are encouraged to send supportive comments to the commissioners and/or attend the February 18 meeting.)

One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”

One day later, another small band from the anti-fossil-fuel movement also celebrated an almost insignificant victory that adds to the momentum. This one in California.

On January 29, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit environmental groups filed two years against two federal agencies that they claim permitted offshore fracking and other forms of high-pressure well stimulation techniques: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The settlement requires public notice for any future offshore applications for fracking and acidification. Additionally, the agencies have agreed to provide what’s termed “a programmatic” environmental assessment of the potential impacts of such techniques on the coastal environment.

To read the press releases from the environmental groups, one would think that these government agencies were in cahoots with ExxonMobil and that they were sneaking around, letting the oil companies run amok. In fact, the companies who’ve applied for drilling permits, have followed a very stringent application process—under which they were approved. However, once exploratory wells were drilled, they were found not to be good candidates for hydraulic fracturing.

A consulting petroleum geologist, with more than 30 years’ experience—almost exclusively in California—explained it to me this way: “There’s not a lot of hydraulic fracturing going on offshore, because, similar to most of California, it simply isn’t effective. Most of the rocks are adequately fractured by Mother Nature. Generally speaking fracking is effective in a few places where it has been used without incident since the 1940s. It is not an issue.”

The settlement requires “a programmatic” environmental assessment be completed by May 28—during which time “the agencies will withhold approval of drilling permits.” Sources I spoke with, told me that this, too, was not a big deal—which would explain why ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute agreed not to oppose the settlement. In the current low-priced oil environment companies are not clamoring for new drilling targets. It is believed that once the assessment is complete, the existing requirements will be found to be appropriate and permitting can move forward.

Additionally, offshore rigs are currently shutdown in the region—an overreaction to a pipeline break last spring.

So, if this “settlement” is much ado about nothing, why even bring it up? Because, it is an example of those “local fights;” the little “wins” that motive the “keep it in the ground” movement and encourage them for the bigger fights—like hydraulic fracturing in the deep water Gulf of Mexico.

These two stories are likely just a sampling of the battles being played out in county commissions and government agencies throughout America. As in these cases, a small handful of activists are shaping policy that affects all of us and impacts the economics of our communities by, potentially, cutting funding for education and public services.

“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Insurance differences stall progress on ride-hail regulation

Out of the Storm News - February 08, 2016, 12:27 PM

From Tampa Tribune

Instead, they support the House version by Rep. Matt Gaetz, HB 509, which passed out of the House with a supermajority vote of 108-10 and vast bipartisan support. It follows recommendations made by a coalition of insurance companies and transportation network companies as a compromise after years of fighting each other, and is being promoted by conservative, free market groups like R Street and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Obama, Democrats and Bureaucrats Bury America’s Future Under More Federal Regulations

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 11:10 AM

America’s abysmal 0.7% economic growth during the fourth quarter of 2015 meant the annual growth rate was an anemic 2.4% … and average annual growth for the six-year Obama era a pathetic 2.2 percent.

This is “dead last compared to six other recession recoveries since 1960,” Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore points out. The six averaged a robust 4.0% while the Reagan era recovery averaged a “sizzling” 4.8% over six years. That means the Obama recovery lost $1.8 trillion (in constant 2009 money) that would have been pumped into the economy under an average recovery, and $2.8 trillion under a Reagan-style rebound, Moore says, citing a congressional Joint Economic Committee analysis.

But job growth is “strong,” the White House insists, averaging 280,000 each of the last three months of 2015 (and a mere 151,000 last month). This deceptive claim hides the fact that 94 million Americans over age 16 are not working. The horrid 62.7% labor force participation rate remains the worst in decades.

Under an average post-1960 recovery, 5 million more Americans would be working today than actually are; a Reagan recovery would have 12 million more working now. Even an average recovery would have given every American an after-tax annual income $3,339 higher than he or she is actually getting today, the JEC calculates. That’s why tens of millions are on unemployment, disability and food stamps.

Many jobs created during the Obama era are part-time, held by people who want full-time work but cannot find it – and those part-time slots offer lower salaries, benefits and job security. That means family bread winners must work several jobs to make ends meet, often suffering the adverse health effects of increased stress and sleep deprivation: ulcers, weight gain, strokes, heart attacks, alcohol, drugs, suicide.

While the official jobless rate is 5.0% the real one is 10% or higher, since the official rate ignores those who have given up looking and dropped out of the analysis – or have entered the cash only, barter, pay-little-income-tax economy. Moreover, jobless rates for black and Hispanic Americans are much higher. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger notes that black unemployment is 9% in Texas, 12% in South Carolina, and 13% in Arkansas, again not counting those too demoralized to look for work.

What has gone wrong with the American economy and job-creating machine?

First of all, the Obama Administration has deliberately destroyed tens of thousands of jobs in the name of preventing “dangerous manmade climate change” and “fundamentally transforming” our energy, economic, social and legal systems – via its war on coal, oil, natural gas, manufacturing, and the vast majority of economic activities on government controlled lands in the western states and Alaska.

Entire communities, states and regions are being hammered. If these policies continue, millions more Americans will lose their jobs in the next few years.

Second, government has simply gotten much too big, powerful and unaccountable – at the local and state level, and especially at the federal level. It is not coincidental that five of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States are in the Washington, DC area. Members of Congress and 20% of federal bureaucrats earn well into six-figure incomes, while many lawyers and lobbyists working the legislative and regulatory hallways and back rooms earn millions annually.

According to carefully nurtured mythology, our “public servants” are more knowledgeable and altruistic than almost anyone in the private sector; and they are dedicated to finding and punishing miscreants who would routinely rob, cheat and pollute if it weren’t for the lawmakers and regulators. It does happen. But IRS, VA, EPA, Benghazi, Gold King, Flint, Michigan and countless other examples dramatize how false this narrative is – as do multiple studies by Congress, Ron Arnold, E&E Legal, myself and many others.

In far too many cases, the president and his regulators are arrogant, incompetent, negligent, abusive and vindictive. While they still employ the formal regulatory process (draft rules, comment periods, reviews and final rulemaking), they increasingly avoid it via executive orders, guidance memos, informal bulletins and other tactics that have equally effective regulatory impact. They also use investigations, tax exemption denials, tax audits, warning letters, land and property seizures, and selective arrests, fines and prosecutions, to compel businesses, nonprofits, political groups and individuals to kowtow to them.

Government agencies and officials routinely coordinate or collude with activist groups to develop and promote policies and regulations, often employing secret personal email accounts, off-site meetings that avoid transparency, and million-dollar payments to activists who rubberstamp and promote the rules. They exaggerate and manipulate data and studies to justify policies and regulations, while demanding larger budgets, more personnel, more power to control our lives, livelihoods and business operations.

And yet even shady, incompetent or blatantly illegal actions are shielded by colleagues, judges, laws, politicians and the media from any accountability, liability or penalty. And policies and rules arising from these questionable to illegal means are rarely overturned by the courts.

Large corporations and wealthy individuals can often survive, even thrive, under these conditions – especially if they secure mandates, subsidies and government-guaranteed loans for their products. They also use laws, regulations and bureaucracies to stifle competition. Small businesses cannot even read the mountains of laws and regulations, much less comprehend them or know they are in compliance.

* The Tax Code is 74,000 pages and 33 million words long, counting important cases and interpretations. America’s 35% corporate tax rate is the highest among all developed countries.

* The Code of Federal Regulations is 175,000 pages long and coupled with more than 1.4 million pages of ten-point-type Federal Register proposed and final rules published just since 1993.

* The 2015 Federal Register contained a record 81,611 pages. The 2016 FR will likely be even longer, as some 60 federal departments, agencies and commissions have more than 3,000 regulations in the pipeline, to implement and impose every remaining item on the Obama agenda.

* Over 4,450 federal crimes are embedded in those laws and regulations – and neither an inability to understand the complex edicts nor an absence of intent to violate them is a defense.

* Complying with all these regulations costs American businesses and families $1.9 trillion per year. That’s one-tenth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product – $5,900 a year for every American citizen.

* EPA’s new 70 ppb ozone standard will likely put half of all U.S. counties out of compliance and close down transportation, housing and factory projects, for minuscule to imaginary health benefits.

* EPA’s Clean Power Plan will cost up to $73 billion annually in higher electricity prices, force states to shutter their coal-fired power plants, and destroy numerous mining, utility and factory jobs – to prevent a hypothetical and undetectable 0.018 degrees C (0.032 degrees F) of warming 85 years from now.

* The 2015 Paris climate treaty will cost some $484 billion per year for the next 25 years, just to replace carbon-based energy with wind, solar and biofuel energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculates.

Now climate activists want EPA to use the Clean Air Act and Paris treaty to regulate and eliminate all vehicle, drilling, pipeline, landfill, gas-fired generator and other CO2 and methane sources, crippling our economy – and then still send hundreds of billions to developing countries for “climate reparations.”

But as climate scientist John Christy recently told Congress, the entire Obama climate agenda is based on computer models that do not work. “The real word is not going along with rapid warming” assertions, he emphasized. “The models need to go back to the drawing board.” And EPA’s rules need to be scrapped.

You may despise politics. But the politicians and bureaucrats are hot on your trail – and Democrats running for president would put Obama’s policies on steroids. (So would Michael Bloomberg). So get motivated, informed and involved – before our vibrant free enterprise republic is only a dim memory.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Google Can’t Criticize EU Much for Ruling it Dominant & Anticompetitive

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 11:02 AM

In the next several weeks, expect the EC’s Competition Directorate to decide that Google is in fact dominant with >90% share of Internet search in Europe and that Google has abused its search dominance by biasing its own Shopping service over competitors. It also could formally charge Google for abuse of its search dominance in contractually tying Google Search and other search-driven apps like Maps, YouTube, etc. to Android to extend its search dominance to mobile search and to the operating system market where Android now owns >80% share.

In taking a most extreme and ultimately indefensible legal and PR position, that the EU antitrust case is “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics,” Google has painted itself into a corner, PR-wise and politically, much more than many appreciate. Why?

First, the U.S. DOJ has already officially found Google dominant in search/search-advertising — twice.

It will be very hard for Google to credibly argue that its >90% share of Internet search is not dominance when the EU legal threshold for dominance is just ~40%.

It will also be hard for Google to get the USG to publicly pound the table on their behalf, because it is public knowledge that both the Bush DOJ and the Obama DOJ both officially found Google dominant after in-depth investigations.

The Bush DOJ determined in 2008: “The Department’s investigation revealed that Internet search advertising and Internet search syndication are each relevant antitrust markets and that Google is by far the largest provider of such services, with shares of more than 70 percent in both markets.” The Obama DOJ determined in 2010: “…Google, the firm that now dominates these markets … [“Internet search and paid search advertising”].”

Second, on a factual level, the FTC’s staff report on Google antitrust showed that both the FTC staff investigators, and even Google, viewed Google as dominant.

We learned from the inadvertent release of the FTC staff report that recommended an antitrust case against Google, that FTC investigators concluded that: “Google is clearly the dominant provider of ‘general’ search services in the U.S.” (p. 68).

The FTC also discovered an admission by Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, who stated: “We’re the dominant incumbent in the industry” (footnote 547). In addition, the FTC uncovered email evidence Larry Page personally supported the search bias self-dealing that Google now denies: “Larry [Page] thought product [Google’s shopping service] should get more exposure” (footnote 120).

Third, Google can’t claim to be innocent victim of EU antitrust charges when it is obviously a rare serial antitrust recidivist.   

In 2008, Google dropped its proposed Google-Yahoo Ad Agreement because the DOJ threatened a Section 1 & 2 monopolization case for trying to extend its >70% dominance of Internet search advertising and search syndication to a >90% share via the collusive proposal with Yahoo.

In 2009, the DOJ opposed the proposed Google Book Settlement as anticompetitive, and in 2011, a U.S. Court agreed and rejected the settlement as anti-competitive — a legal position by the way, that was officially supported by Germany and France in their opposition filings.

In 2010, the DOJ and Court prohibited Google and six other companies from continuing to engage is anticompetitive employee solicitation agreements.

In 2013, both the FTC and the EU settled with Google to prohibit it from continuing to anti-competitively abuse its Standard Essential Patent (SEP) portfolio, after the DOJ warnedGoogle to not do so when it approved Google’s acquisition of Motorola.

Fourth, U.S. State AGs are asking the FTC for a new look at the Google antitrust case.

A recent bipartisan letter from the Attorney Generals of Utah and the District of Columbia said: “We encourage the commission to consider new information and developments that have become available both domestically and internationally since closing its Google investigationper Bloomberg.

This is timely and significant because of the pending EU decisions on Google Search-bias and the Android-tying/app-bias investigation, and also because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in the coming weeks against Google’s Section 230 lawsuit claiming that state Attorney Generals have no law enforcement jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute Google for violation of state laws. 41 State AGs, including Utah and DC’s, oppose Google’s audacious claim of special legal immunity from state law enforcement.

Fifth, new Android mobile search financials spotlight Google’s market power of tying search to Android.

We recently learned fromthe Oracle v. Google-Android copyright infringement case that Android enjoyed monopoly-size >70% gross profit margins in 2014. We just learned from Google’s earnings, that Google’s mobile search dominance also made Google most valuable company in the world.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said: “Above all, our Q4 results show the great momentum and opportunity we have in mobile search…” Given what we now know from the Oracle 2014 Google-Android financials and Google’s 2015 financials that exceeded revenue and profit expectations, Google Android probably now generates over a third of Google’s revenues and over 40% of Google’s profits. This is not normal competitive growth; this is anticompetitive Google-Android contractual tying in requiring Google Search to be the default and prominent search engine on Android devices – to drive dominance in mobile search.

Finally, neither Google nor the USG want to beg media or EU questions into why the USG is aggressively defending Google in public when the DOJ has previously found Google dominant and anticompetitive.

To the extent that Boss Google uses its influence machine to get the USG, FTC or the DOJ to publicly defend Google against the EU as not dominant, or as an innocent victim of the EU’s antitrust charges, they will put the put the USG, FTC, and DOJ in the embarrassing position of answering logical public accountability questions it does not want asked.

Like why is Google allowed to create at least the perception of a conflict of interest by enthroning so many of its former employees or consultants in so many Federal Government positions of commercial importance to Google?

Why did the DOJ not require Google to fully comply with the requirements in its $500m criminal forfeiture, Non-Prosecution Agreement, when Google broke five laws during the probation period?

Why did the FTC shut down the Google antitrust investigation abruptly over the advice of the FTC’s professional investigators, and why did the FTC put out a press release defending Google at Google’s behest?

 

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

Categories: On the Blog

The Windmills of Bernie’s Mind

Environment Suite - In The News - February 08, 2016, 10:59 AM
Photo: Associated Press Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in December introduced a sweeping renewable-energy plan that would, among other things, require tens…

The Windmills of Bernie’s Mind

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - February 08, 2016, 10:59 AM
Photo: Associated Press Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in December introduced a sweeping renewable-energy plan that would, among other things, require tens…

Demand Lawmakers Enact a Permanent Smart Meter Opt Out for Illinoisans

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 10:54 AM

Although the installation of Smart Meters by ComEd has already been completed in some areas of Illinois – despite protests from concerned citizens – a recent news account alerted Lake County residents that they have been targeted next for Smart Meter installation.

An article published in the Daily Herald on January 29, 2016, stated how Libertyville, IL, is in the next round of communities in Lake County to have standard analog meters replaced by “smart” devices. Quoted in the article was David Doherty, director of the Smart Meter transformation for ComEd, who explained how “Smart Meters collect energy usage information that can be read remotely, allowing the company to determine and react to power outages more quickly.  The meters also will send a signal when a customer loses power.”

According to company literature that is distributed by ComEd to community leaders in advance of Smart Meter installation: “Smart Meters will provide consumers benefits from the new technology, allowing consumers to access their power usage online so habits can be altered, as needed, to better manage their energy consumption. Smart Meters will likewise provide access to optional pricing programs, such as switching use to times when it costs less to produce.”

Spin vs Truth 

The above benefits most likely sound entirely logical to Illinoisans, especially when coupled with this canned statement frequently made by Smart Meter installers when questioned by home owners about the need for a Smart Meter: Smart Meters will eliminate the need for meter readers.  

But Beware, Illinoisans!  What you are receiving from ComEd is spin instead of facts. It was in July of last year when I took the CUBFacts Smart Meter information (Citizen Utility Board) propaganda sheet with its ComEd supplied facts to the woodshed for its inaccurate information.  In my article, “Beware of Propaganda to Quell Inconvenient Truths About Smart Meters”, the CUBFacts Smart Meter Information sheet was evaluated for misleading statements and edited accordingly.  What is in bold was taken directly from CUBFacts, followed each time by my explanation of what really is true!

It is important to your family’s health security and privacy to say NO to a Smart Meter installation when you are accordingly notified.  Take the op-out delay that is being offered. Realize that the opt-out choice is not a permanent one and that Smart Meter installation is just being delayed until 2018 with no opportunity to oppose installation after that. Other states offer a permanent opt-out to their utility customers. ComEd customers in Illinois do not have that option.

ComEd Lobbyist Contrived No-opt out Law

As to the history of the law that makes Wireless Smart Meters mandatory in Illinois: ComEd lobbyists wrote the law; it was passed by the General Assembly against vehement and persistent opposition from the Attorney General, AARP, and informed citizens aware of the risks. ComEd spent 16 million dollars convincing the General Assembly to over-ride Governor Quinn’s Veto. When elected, Governor Rauner then signed another bill favoring ComEd over the rights of citizens to have a choice. 

It is tragic for consumers that Chicago’s powerful and politically-connected ComEd was able to convince the General Assembly to pass a law that could potentially threaten homes, harm lives, adversely impact nature, invade privacy, and, in a broader scope, undermine the state’s security by making the electric grid more vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Doesn’t every ComEd customer deserve the right to have a choice to opt-out permanently in the face of the real and present dangers that having a Smart Meter on the side of their house or business could engender? It is unjust and un-American to force Wireless Smart Meters on every home without alerting residents to the many risks and offering them a choice.

Reasons to Reject Smart Meters

1. Health and Environment – Smart Meters are installed in a Mesh Network which relays data from one house to another and eventually on to a collector unit, which is an additional wireless network that sends the data back to the utility. ComEd says that Radio Frequency (RF) emissions only take place 4 times a day every 6 hours.

That may be true for one household’s data measurements. However, Smart Meters also send and receive network management messages every few seconds around the clock. In a California Court the utility admitted that a Smart Meter emits from 10 to 190,000 bursts a day. Each burst is sending RF/microwave radiation into the home and throughout the neighborhood. The power level of each burst is about 1,000 milliwatts, making Smart Meters one of the most powerful RF radiators in a community

What this means to ComEd Customers?:  that a Class 2B Carcinogen (the category for wireless RF emissions, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer ‘IARC” of the World Health Organization) is being mandated on ALL homes in the ComEd service territory. Even worse, there is NO PERMANENT OPT-OUT OPTION AVAILABLE.

People who have already had their Smart Meter installed are complaining of headaches, ringing in the ears, rashes, nausea, insomnia, chest pressure, heart palpitations, nose bleeds, and weakness, etc. There is a potential threat to those with medical implants and weakened immune systems. The well-being of pets is also of concern. Studies that have been done on wildlife, trees, plants, and bees show that they will also suffer from the RF/microwave emissions blanketing the state.  

Breaking news on January, 29, 2016:  the Pennsylvania Utility Commission is allowing a hearing to go forward of a nurse who says Smart Meter made her sick.  What makes this so interesting is that PECO is an Exelon Company, like ComEd.  

2. Privacy Invasion — Without your consent, the computer inside the Smart Meter collects private energy behavior patterns that will be available to government agencies and could be at some point be for sale to marketers. A hacker or thief could use this data to know whether or not the home is occupied and if high-end electronics are in the home. 

3. Hacking and Cyber-Security – Vulnerabilities in wireless data transmission can pose national security risks to the electric grid. A former CIA Director calls the Smart Grid “really, really STUPID”. ComEd will be installing 4,000,000 access points to the Internet; every private home and business in their service territory.

4. Higher Bills – Smart Meters monitor usage 24/7 as a means of instituting Time-of-Use pricing. Due to escalating charges for peak time usage, bills can double, or worse. Time-of-Use pricing boosts ComEd profits while penalizing those who need lower electric rates the most—stay-at-home moms, the elderly, the unemployed, and those with disabilities. Anyone who is unable to change their behavior, such as washing dishes and doing laundry at off-peak hours, will not benefit from having a Smart Meter.

5. Appliances: RF Radiation and Privacy Invasion – New appliances come with mandated wireless RF transmitters that emit RF signals to the wireless Smart Meter around-the-clock. Manufacturers can also keep track of information about their appliances for future marketing through the wireless transmissions.  Because the Smart Appliance Services are provided through wireless networks and the Internet, communications could be intercepted by others.  

6. Lack of Control – The utility owns and maintains 100% control over computer hardware and software upgrades inside Smart Meters. With Demand Response, a utility company can selectively turn on/off appliances or an entire household.

7. Loss of Property and Safety – There has been hundreds of reports of electrical fires caused by arching and sparking within the Smart Meter. Homes with older wiring may be more susceptible to the risk of fire.  

Corix, the company ComEd is using for installation gives their employees, who have no prior electrical experience, two weeks of classroom instruction and one week of field work. In California, more than a 100 GE Smart Meters (manufacturer ComEd selected) have exploded right on homes due to a power surge. And, Smart Meters have been known to “fry” electronics. 

Should you still have doubts about the dangers posed by Smart Meters, this website deserves careful study. Under the name of SkyVision Solutions, this site  (www.smartgridawareness.org) is dedicated to raising public awareness about the costs and risks associated with smart grid systems as well as the potential hazards related to Radio Frequency Radiation emissions from Smart Meters.

Here is the link to my https://youtu.be/aoodNMI3nzc appearance on a local Comcast TV cable show talking about the dangers posed by Smart Meters, with a warning about cell phones. Both wireless devices produce electromagnetic radiation. There is mounting evidence that that RF-EMF radiation is carcinogenic. The fact that exposure to our population is increasing at an exponential rate, the potential consequences are catastrophic.

Action Required 

1)  Call the ComEd Smart Meter installation line (866) 368-8326 and request a DELAY if a Smart Meter has not already been installed. If one has been installed, call and have it be replaced with a non-transmitting meter.

2)  Contact Governor Bruce Rauner and your elected Illinois General Assembly legislators. Insist the Utility Modernization law be amended and the ICC ruling requiring mandatory compliance be changed. Demand a PERMANENT TRUE OPT-OUT, NOT JUST A DELAY! 

ALL WIRELESS DEVICES, INCLUDING CELL PHONES, ARE VOLUNTARY AND CAN BE TURNED OFF WHEN NOT IN USE. SMART METERS ARE MANDATORY AND ARE ON 24/7, FOREVER.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Seven years ago today, WikiLeaks published 6,700 CRS reports…and nobody was hurt

Out of the Storm News - February 08, 2016, 7:00 AM

Feb. 8, 2009 began like any other Sunday for me. I was up early taking care of a young child, gulping coffee and scanning the news. The New York Times turned my stomach with its report that a Polish engineer had been beheaded by the Taliban. The Grey Lady also gleefully described the tribulations of Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. A happier bit of news came from The Washington Post. Its sports section reminded me that my Cleveland Cavs were playing the Los Angeles Lakers on television at 3:30 that afternoon.

At some point that morning, I managed to get online. (I did not have a smartphone back then.) The Internet was abuzz with speculation about the 51st Grammy Awards, which were that night. (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss would fare well.) And there sat an email from a colleague of mine at the Congressional Research Service, asking if I had heard that WikiLeaks had published a trove of our reports.

I hadn’t.

Julian Assange’s outfit announced its work online with relish:

Change you can download. WikiLeaks has released nearly a billion dollars worth of quasi-secret reports commissioned by the United States Congress. The 6,780 reports, current as of this month, comprise over 127,000 pages of material on some of the most contentious issues in the nation, from the U.S. relationship with Israel to the financial collapse. Nearly 2,300 of the reports were updated in the last 12 months, while the oldest report goes back to 1990. The release represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices. The CRS is Congress’s analytical agency and has a budget in excess of $100M per year.

My stomach fell, and various thoughts ran through my mind. What would happen at the office? Were my reports in the trove? (Answer: yes.) My email address and 5-digit phone extension were on our reports. Would lobbyists and angry members of the public start contacting us to complain about our work?

That week at the office, I and many other CRS employees jabbered anxiously in the hallways and over coffee about how this could have happened and what it meant for the agency.

As it happened, the WikiLeaks massive report dump had no effect on us. In my succeeding six years at the agency not once did I hear any employee report any harm had resulted. The reason was not difficult to discern: many, if not most, of the CRS reports already had been put online by the Federation of American Scientists and various agencies of the U.S. government itself. Lobbyists and other hyperpolitical sorts inclined to pressure CRS already had our reports, often acquired via pricy subscription services.

This bit of history is important to keep in mind as Congress considers legislation to expand public access to CRS reports. There are individuals on Capitol Hill who claim bad things will happen if this commonsensical reform is enacted. The WikiLeaks report dump demonstrates that posting CRS reports to a central public repository (like GPO.gov) will do no harm to either CRS or its employees.

Today, more than 27,000 copies of CRS reports are scattered about the Internet. The average citizen, however, does not know where to look for them or what keywords will bring them up in Google. (Compare this search versus this search.) It’s way past time for Congress to give the public some value for the $100 million it spends on CRS each year.

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

True Climate Criminals Facing Trial

Somewhat Reasonable - February 07, 2016, 2:05 PM

Another prominent climate scientist has been accused of breaking the law. Following on the heels of the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under a cloud of sexual abuse charges, Dr. Daniel Michael Alongi, senior principal research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, was arrested, accused of fraudulently diverting more than half-a-million dollars in government funds intended for climate research into his own pockets during the past seven years. If convicted of all charges, Alongi faces up to 30 years in prison.

The Townsville Bulletin reports Alongi has already admitted to police he made false invoices and credit card statements and created fake email trails to claim expenses over seven years. During the period of Alongi’s alleged fraud, his research focusing on the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, coastal mangroves, and coastal ecosystems was published in national and international journals.

Meanwhile back in the U.S., a trial has begun for five climate activists with Rising Tide Seattle arrested in 2014 for criminal trespass and blocking the passage of a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken Formation in Montana and North Dakota to oil terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

A spokesperson for Rising Tide said the activists “will be the first ever to argue that [otherwise criminal] actions were justified because of the threat of climate change, using the ‘necessity defense.’ The outcome of [the] trial could set a national precedent for climate related civil disobedience. …” Washington state agencies are considering adding six new oil-by-rail facilities in the state; a report commissioned by the Sightline Institute said those facilities could allow as much as 114,000 barrels per day to be produced beyond what would be produced without the terminals.

Responding to the supposed threat, Patrick Mazza, one of the activists arrested for blocking the train, said, “There came a point where I could no longer sit back and wait for the politicians to act. I had to put my body on the line to demand not talk, but action on a massive scale to rapidly replace fossil fuels.”

Climate skeptics exercise their free speech rights and the mainstream media trumpets legislators and climate radicals calls try them for racketeering. Meanwhile, climate alarmists commit real crimes and the mainstream media is virtually silent on the matter.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep24): The Heartland Institute, Economic Freedom Ranking, and Super Bowl I Tape

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2016, 4:20 PM

The format has been tweaked for episode #24 of the In The Tank Podcast. Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft explore the world of think tanks. 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.

Moving forward, the In The Tank Podcast will feature several segments that give you a view into what the think tanks around the world are working on. These segments include:

Better Know a Think Tank

This segment will feature a representative from a think tank who will discuss the mission, objectives, and work of their organization.

Since this is the first episode of this new format, we get to know The Heartland Institute better.

Featured Work of the Week

In this segment, we will highlight a study or report produced by a think tank that we feel deserves extra recognition.

We discuss the World Economic Freedom Ranking produced by The Heritage Foundation where America has slipped down to #11.

In the World of Think Tankery

Here is where we discuss other timely, newsworthy stories that think tanks focus on.

Today we discussed The Freedom Foundation‘s report on Washington State’s Failed Minimum Wage Experiment. We also touched on an article by Reason about a person’s struggle over a tape of Super Bowl I with the NFL.

Events

In this last segment, we cover a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.

Heritage Foundation – The Great Flat Tax Debate (Feb 8) D.C.

Heartland Institute – Forum on Article V Convention (Feb 24) Suburbs of Chicago

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – Civil Asset Forfeiture: Time for Reform in Oklahoma? (Feb 10) Oklahoma City

Foundation for Economic Freedom – Debunking the Progressive Myth (Feb 8) Suburbs of Denver

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Strict Scrutiny for Firearms Restrictions?

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - February 05, 2016, 4:11 PM
by An appeals-court panel rules that gun-control laws must pass an exceedingly high threshold to be constitutional. For the first time, a federal appeals court…

Video of panel ‘The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report: Five Years Later’

Out of the Storm News - February 05, 2016, 3:14 PM

To mark the fifth anniversary of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report, R Street hosted a Feb. 4 panel featuring commission members Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute and Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum, along with Edward Murphy of the Congressional Research Service, Tom Stanton of Johns Hopkins University and Philip Wallach of the Brookings Institution. R Street’s Alex J. Pollock served as moderator. You can watch video of the full panel below.

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

Heartland Weekly – Heartland Celebrates National School Choice Week With Packed Event

Blog - Education - February 05, 2016, 2:56 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Obamacare Paperwork: A Multi-Billion-Dollar Cost Americans Can’t Afford
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature law, has caused significant premium price increases and has forced millions of Americans out of insurance plans they enjoyed prior to the law’s passage. One of the biggest burdens that is rarely mentioned is the millions of hours of paperwork required for businesses and individuals to keep up with federal regulators’ demands. These added regulatory expenses reduce efficiency and increase costs, hurting businesses and families. READ MORE

Oregon Legislators Move to Make Energy More Expensive
Tim Benson, Heartland Research & Commentary
In the name of combating “man-caused global warming,” legislators in Oregon are taking steps that will guarantee poor and middle-income families pay more for energy. Two pieces of legislation have been proposed that would shutter all of the state’s coal-producing power plants and require utilities to meet 50 percent of customer demand with renewable energy. This is the opposite of moves being made by other states to roll back their renewable energy mandates to enjoy the benefits of cheap and reliable energy.  READ MORE

Heartland National School Choice Event a Great Success
To promote National School Choice Week, The Heartland Institute held a packed event in its new home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, featuring former congressman Joe Walsh, Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison, and Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Chicago Archdiocese. The message: “Fund children, not districts.” Children need an education system flexible enough to meet individual needs instead of the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. If you missed it, the whole event was live-streamed and is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Marian Tupy – Tracking Human Quality of Life Over the Centuries
Life on Planet Earth has gotten easier and more enjoyable over time, and modern technology has benefitted billions of people. Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, joinsBudget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Cato project that allows people to create, compare, and share statistical indices of how human quality of life has changed over the centuries.  LISTEN TO MORE

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. Read about Heartland President Joseph Bast’s discussion of the book on the Lynn Woolley Show HERE. 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! READ MORE

What Will Socialized Health Care Do to YOUR Medical Care?
Jane M. Orient, M.D., AAPS
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist Democratic candidate for president, is running a populist campaign with universal health care as one of his central platforms. What would a socialized health care system mean for your medical care? Would it deliver low-quality care, like Medicare, or even lower-quality care like the scandal-prone Veterans Administration? Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and a Heartland Institute policy advisor, asks these questions and more. READ MORE

A Constitutional Convention Can Be Limited in Scope
Kyle Maichle, San Antonio Express-News
The spending problem of the federal government and the skyrocketing national debt have driven many to push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some of these supporters include Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. While this movement is picking up steam, others are reluctant to support such a change out of concern that any effort to amend the Constitution might open the door to undesirable changes. Kyle Maichle, Heartland’s project manager for constitutional reform, dispels this myth. READ MORE

Obama’s EPA to Anti-Frackers: You’re Wrong
Tim Benson, Toledo Blade
The hydraulic fracking revolution has done more to reduce energy prices and increase American energy independence than any other innovation in recent history. However, opponents of fracking routinely repeat the same two allegations. They say the disposal of wastewater causes earthquakes and proper regulations are not in place to protect citizens. Two reports released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discredit those claims and show the processes are being done in a safe and proper manner. READ MORE

‘Big Data’ Tries to Zero Out Parents in Common Core Review
Robert Holland, Townhall
When parents began to shine a light on the deception at the root of the Common Core State Standards initiative, some states responded by using an online tool developed with Academic Benchmarks, Inc. that government officials claimed gave parents input into the development of standards. But Academic Benchmarks is not the disinterested party so many have been claiming it is. In fact, there are good reasons for parents and pro-school-choice education activists to be very concerned about the Cincinnati-headquartered firm. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Jessica Sena: Let’s Not ‘Keep it in the Ground’
One of the latest environmental campaigns to capture attention is the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, which advocates leaving 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground forever. Jessica Sena joins research fellow Isaac Orr to explain why this is a disastrous proposition that would lead to higher energy prices and premature death in developing nations. LISTEN TO MORE

Los Angeles Teen One of 12 in the World to Achieve a Perfect AP Calculus Score
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
Seventeen-year-old Cedrick Argueta is only the twelfth student in the world to receive a perfect score on the notoriously difficult Advanced Placement calculus AB exam. He attributes his success to plain-old hard work. “While I think talent is a big part of doing well, hard work definitely trumps that,” he told a local news station, echoing what many researchers have said despite the widespread belief that stupendous academic skills are a fixed trait. Also in this issue of School Choice Weekly: Virginia lawmakers have introduced a bill that would create education savings accounts for any child enrolled in public school or about to enter kindergarten, and Arizona Gov. Mary Fallin has called for education savings account legislation. READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Heartland Weekly – Heartland Celebrates National School Choice Week With Packed Event

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2016, 2:56 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Obamacare Paperwork: A Multi-Billion-Dollar Cost Americans Can’t Afford
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature law, has caused significant premium price increases and has forced millions of Americans out of insurance plans they enjoyed prior to the law’s passage. One of the biggest burdens that is rarely mentioned is the millions of hours of paperwork required for businesses and individuals to keep up with federal regulators’ demands. These added regulatory expenses reduce efficiency and increase costs, hurting businesses and families. READ MORE

Oregon Legislators Move to Make Energy More Expensive
Tim Benson, Heartland Research & Commentary
In the name of combating “man-caused global warming,” legislators in Oregon are taking steps that will guarantee poor and middle-income families pay more for energy. Two pieces of legislation have been proposed that would shutter all of the state’s coal-producing power plants and require utilities to meet 50 percent of customer demand with renewable energy. This is the opposite of moves being made by other states to roll back their renewable energy mandates to enjoy the benefits of cheap and reliable energy.  READ MORE

Heartland National School Choice Event a Great Success
To promote National School Choice Week, The Heartland Institute held a packed event in its new home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, featuring former congressman Joe Walsh, Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison, and Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Chicago Archdiocese. The message: “Fund children, not districts.” Children need an education system flexible enough to meet individual needs instead of the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. If you missed it, the whole event was live-streamed and is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Marian Tupy – Tracking Human Quality of Life Over the Centuries
Life on Planet Earth has gotten easier and more enjoyable over time, and modern technology has benefitted billions of people. Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, joinsBudget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Cato project that allows people to create, compare, and share statistical indices of how human quality of life has changed over the centuries.  LISTEN TO MORE

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. Read about Heartland President Joseph Bast’s discussion of the book on the Lynn Woolley Show HERE. 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! READ MORE

What Will Socialized Health Care Do to YOUR Medical Care?
Jane M. Orient, M.D., AAPS
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist Democratic candidate for president, is running a populist campaign with universal health care as one of his central platforms. What would a socialized health care system mean for your medical care? Would it deliver low-quality care, like Medicare, or even lower-quality care like the scandal-prone Veterans Administration? Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and a Heartland Institute policy advisor, asks these questions and more. READ MORE

A Constitutional Convention Can Be Limited in Scope
Kyle Maichle, San Antonio Express-News
The spending problem of the federal government and the skyrocketing national debt have driven many to push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some of these supporters include Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. While this movement is picking up steam, others are reluctant to support such a change out of concern that any effort to amend the Constitution might open the door to undesirable changes. Kyle Maichle, Heartland’s project manager for constitutional reform, dispels this myth. READ MORE

Obama’s EPA to Anti-Frackers: You’re Wrong
Tim Benson, Toledo Blade
The hydraulic fracking revolution has done more to reduce energy prices and increase American energy independence than any other innovation in recent history. However, opponents of fracking routinely repeat the same two allegations. They say the disposal of wastewater causes earthquakes and proper regulations are not in place to protect citizens. Two reports released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discredit those claims and show the processes are being done in a safe and proper manner. READ MORE

‘Big Data’ Tries to Zero Out Parents in Common Core Review
Robert Holland, Townhall
When parents began to shine a light on the deception at the root of the Common Core State Standards initiative, some states responded by using an online tool developed with Academic Benchmarks, Inc. that government officials claimed gave parents input into the development of standards. But Academic Benchmarks is not the disinterested party so many have been claiming it is. In fact, there are good reasons for parents and pro-school-choice education activists to be very concerned about the Cincinnati-headquartered firm. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Jessica Sena: Let’s Not ‘Keep it in the Ground’
One of the latest environmental campaigns to capture attention is the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, which advocates leaving 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground forever. Jessica Sena joins research fellow Isaac Orr to explain why this is a disastrous proposition that would lead to higher energy prices and premature death in developing nations. LISTEN TO MORE

Los Angeles Teen One of 12 in the World to Achieve a Perfect AP Calculus Score
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
Seventeen-year-old Cedrick Argueta is only the twelfth student in the world to receive a perfect score on the notoriously difficult Advanced Placement calculus AB exam. He attributes his success to plain-old hard work. “While I think talent is a big part of doing well, hard work definitely trumps that,” he told a local news station, echoing what many researchers have said despite the widespread belief that stupendous academic skills are a fixed trait. Also in this issue of School Choice Weekly: Virginia lawmakers have introduced a bill that would create education savings accounts for any child enrolled in public school or about to enter kindergarten, and Arizona Gov. Mary Fallin has called for education savings account legislation. READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

A tale of two sovereigns

Out of the Storm News - February 05, 2016, 1:49 PM

Canute was a king of Denmark who ruled over an empire that included large parts of Sweden, all of Norway and almost all of England. He ruled over person and property alike. He ruled over the land and sought to expand his direct control over the activities of the sea, as well.

Legend has it that, one fine 11th century day, resplendent in royal finery as he stood by the shore, he remarkably issued a command to the tide. He said:

I command you therefore not to rise onto my land.

But, the tide did not heed Canute. Disobediently, the sea disregarded Canute’s admonition, did as it would and rose anyway. Canute responded by announcing to those present:

Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings…

Nine centuries later, the voters of California, invested with collective sovereignty, decided that they would, as much as possible, take direct control over automobile-insurance pricing. Toward that end, through the power of Proposition 103, they commanded insurance rates not to rise in their land. Bolder than King Canute, they even commanded insurance rates to go down! Unlike Canute, however, they set up a huge engineering organization and a system of regulatory dams and dykes to control the flow and rise of prices.

Nearly 30 years later, has the power of the second sovereign been any more noteworthy than the power of the first? No, not really. As outlined in my study entitled “The troublesome legacy of Prop 103,” the measure has expanded the regulatory bureaucracy and associated costs of doing business in California, while doing nothing to reduce insurance fraud or insurance rates. Instead of saving California consumers money, it has yielded only dramatic growth in the regulatory purview of the California Department of Insurance, at immense cost to taxpayers and premium-payers alike.

Yet, the legacy of Prop 103 remains confused. The initiative was passed Nov. 8, 1988. By coincidence, it so happens that Nov. 6 marks the feast of St. Illtyd, the 5th century Welsh abbot who is celebrated for accomplishing what King Canute could not.

Illtyd marched to the shore, drew a line in the sand and prayed for the tide not to wash across his line. Through what has been recorded by church officials as a miracle, Illtyd’s prayer was answered and the tide never crossed the line.

Advocates of Prop 103 have declared the law’s value based upon a similar premise. They claim the mantle of Illtyd, instead of their earned status as inheritors of the legacy of Canute. Like the tide, the underlying activity of markets, the costs that drive them, are immured to the pronouncements of kings and regulators alike. That Canute was frustrated and Illtyd exalted had everything to do with the tide and nothing to do with their pronouncements. But where luck failed to smile upon Canute, it elevated Illtyd to sainthood.

So, too, has it been with the authors of Prop 103. They passed their ballot initiative at a time when insurance cost drivers were ebbing from a high tide and have been able to claim with considerable success the credit for stabilized and reduced auto insurance premiums, in spite of no clear academic consensus to support that claim.

Ultimately, between sovereigns, has the power of the people of California been any more noteworthy in its ability to control insurance rates than was King Canute in his effort to command the tide to stop rising? Yes, but only insofar as the lesson learned by King Canute was less time-consuming and less expensive than the second sovereign’s ongoing effort.

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

David Bowie’s legacy on copyright and the future of music

Out of the Storm News - February 05, 2016, 1:13 PM

The following was co-authored by R Street Innovation Policy Director Mike Godwin.

Amid the steady stream of “hot takes” the past few weeks on the legacy of the late great David Bowie, The Washington Post’s Robert Gebelhoff dug up some of the rock legend’s contrarian views on copyright, if only to rebuke them thoroughly.

Gebelhoff’s piece cited a 2002 interview Bowie gave to The New York Times in which he prophesied: “I’m fully confident that copyright…will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing…It’s terribly exciting.”

Exciting though it may have been, Bowie’s prediction obviously has not come to pass, for which Gebelhoff says we should be thankful. In his piece, he notes that strong copyright laws “play an essential role in our creative economy – and have done so for centuries.” He cites as evidence a recent Stanford University/NBER study on how differing laws in Italian city-states led to more operas being produced where copyright was protected.

Bowie has long been an innovator and music visionary, experimenting with early ways to use the Internet to “cybercast” concerts and connect with fans. But it’s important that Bowie wasn’t necessarily seeking the death of copyright (after all, he used it to make a living). Instead, he was paying heed to what digital media already had done to revolutionize copyright-centered industries.

What he got right was detecting traditional copyright industry’s anxiety – the same anxiety that has led them to push successfully for copyright terms to be extended by nearly 580 percent over the last 200 years. Mickey Mouse famously has enjoyed several retroactive copyright term extensions since Walt Disney’s death, though Walt has yet to take advantage of this added incentive.

So why would Bowie, whose fortune and fame owed so much to the music industry, be excited about the end of copyright? The answer is straightforward: as a working, successful musician and producer, he knew as well as anyone that unlimited copyright protection could hinder creation, as well as remunerate it. If you’re a fan of Bowie’s “Young Americans,” you know that part of its power as a song derives directly from its unembarrassed quotation of the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.”

While copyright didn’t disappear in the decade since Bowie’s interview, Bowie was in many ways right about the impending shakeup of the industry. More and more consumers, particularly millennials, are listening to their music on demand through a streaming subscription, rather than purchasing copies a la carte. Remix has become a central technique for new creativity. And heavy-handed copyright can get in its way. Look, for instance, at what future presidential candidate Kanye West did with Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.” Bowie’s vision that “music itself is going to become like running water or electricity” turned out to be pretty accurate.

This trend has led to sharply declining revenues from physical sales (except for vinyl, which isdoing fine, thanks to hipsters) and a steadily increasing share for streaming. Digital downloads are still popular and continue to represent a major revenue source for now. As physical formats have fallen out of favor, as Bowie perhaps foresaw, the industry experienced a period of sharp disruption.

The result has been not just depressed global revenues, but also a whole apparatus of production, distribution and retail falling away. As a 2015 study by Midia observed, the narrative of “music industry decline is a label phenomenon.” Which echoes what Bowie saw coming in 2002: “I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way.”

Of course, the role of our copyright system is not to protect established industries from disruption. Policymakers shouldn’t protect the record store from Apple or the bookstore from Amazon. Our nation’s founders gave Congress a mandate to use copyright to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” That is, to provide the carrot to spur artistic creation. If we take copyright “incentives” too far, they can undermine artistic freedom by imposing limits on other forms of creative expression and uses of tangible property.

Even the opera study Gebelhoff cites in his piece acknowledges this, as its authors write that “there is no clear evidence” that copyright extension beyond the author’s life span creates meaningful incentives. In fact, they suggest it has little effect “beyond the first five years.” In anarticle about the study, New York University law professor Christopher Jon Sprigman notes that: “[this] conclusion is particularly important because our contemporary debate is usually not whether to have copyright at all, but rather whether to extend already very long copyright terms.”

Bowie was wrong that copyright would end, but he was right that copyright as we know it is under threat. Its foundation, built for an analog age, increasingly struggles to function in the digital one. And its market, warped by decades of heavy-handed government intervention and industry carve-outs, doesn’t know how to operate freely anymore.

That’s why substantial reforms will be inevitable. As Congress slowly moves in that direction, it should be mindful of this lesson: stronger copyright laws don’t automatically incentivize more creative freedom. In fact, they often come at its expense.

Bill legalizing ridesharing moving through West Virginia House

Out of the Storm News - February 05, 2016, 12:45 PM

What a difference a year makes in the world of ridesharing. Just 18 months ago, only one state (Colorado) had passed comprehensive legislation legalizing and regulating the emerging market of transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. Now we’re down to just a handful of states that have yet to act.

Joining Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri and New Mexico among states that are seeing renewed legislative pushes in 2016, the majority leader of West Virginia’s House of Delegates has introduced legislation that would authorize the state Department of Motor Vehicles to license TNC drivers and enforce minimum basic requirements for insurance criminal background checks.

H.B. 4228 – the bill from Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan – cleared the House Roads and Transportation Committee earlier this week and now will be sent on to the House Finance Committee. Like other recent bills crafted in the wake of last year’s major inter-industry compromise, the measure provides that insurance requirements can be satisfied either by the driver or the TNC, and sets minimum levels of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident for bodily injury, as well as $25,000 for physical damage.

The measure also would clarify that TNC drivers are considered independent contractors under state law, provided both parties agree by contract and the TNC does not prescribe the driver’s hours, territory or forbid drivers from doing other work or driving for rival TNCs. As a result, the law would stipulated that TNCs are not responsible to provide workers’ compensation coverage to drivers.

The West Virginia Legislature came within a hair of passing a similar bill, S.B. 585, during last year’s session. Differing versions of the measure did manage to pass both houses, but the chambers ultimately could not reach a compromise on language prohibiting drivers from discriminating against passengers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender presentation.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, separately introduced a bill during this session, H.B. 4305, that would require TNCs to have a nondiscrimination policy and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Similar generic anti-discrimination language also is included in the Cowles bill, which states:

(a) The transportation network company shall adopt a policy of nondiscrimination with respect to riders and potential riders and notify transportation network company drivers of such policy.

(b) Transportation network company drivers shall comply with all applicable laws regarding nondiscrimination against riders or potential riders.

(c) Transportation network company drivers shall comply with all applicable laws relating to accommodation of service animals.

(d) A transportation network company may not impose additional charges for providing services to persons with physical disabilities because of those disabilities.

 

 

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After latest F-35 setback, time to consider a replacement

Out of the Storm News - February 05, 2016, 9:59 AM

Just when the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter project appeared it couldn’t get any worse, it went and did exactly that.

The case study in how not to procure a weapons system has received yet another failing grade. According to a new 48-page report from J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, the version of the F-35 designed for the Marine Corps has not yet demonstrated it is fit to enter combat on its own.

“If in an opposed combat scenario,” Gilmore writes, “the F-35 Block 2B aircraft would need to avoid threat engagement and would require augmentation by other friendly forces.” As reported by Popular Mechanics, the F-35 would require fighter escort because, at high speeds, it can’t actually fire its weapons:

[Gilmore] lists off some of the problems facing…the current version of the F-35 Block 2B, including the fact that the F-35 is unable to deploy weapons or defensive countermeasures while flying at its maximum speed—pilots will need to slow down from the F-35’s max speed of Mach 1.6 to Mach 1.2 or less in order to fire.

Software bugs continue to plague the fighter as well, with 11 out of 12 weapons tested during Block 2B evaluation severely hampered. The software malfunctions, Gilmore writes, “required intervention by the developmental test control team to overcome system deficiencies and ensure a successful event (i.e., acquire and identify the target and engage it with a weapon).

Not only can the F-35 not fire its weapons, but the fighter also has issues with overheating. The F-35’s weapons bay can overheat if the atmospheric temperature exceeds 90 degrees and when the plane is flying at high speeds under 25,000 feet. The way to mitigate the overheating is to open the weapons bay doors. The problem? That compromises the plane’s stealth capabilities, which are its first line of defense.

The Pentagon report also had critiques of the Navy version of the F-35. It said the plane’s current timeline to be ready for full-scale testing by August 2017 is unrealistic. The training simulator originally designed for the plane was scrapped after it was behind schedule and the new one has not yet been authorized. The new recommended target date is now August 2018.

Given these problems and the newly reported ones about the software, it’s probably time for the military to consider the unthinkable: a replacement for the F-35. The military, of course, has no such plans.

The F-35 is a Cold War relic designed to use stealth technology to gain superiority over all enemies, air and ground. The problem with stealth technology is that the Russians and Chinese are on track to beat it. The F-35 would then have to rely on its agility and weapons to win an encounter against an advanced enemy. But the F-35 loses simulated dogfights to older F-16s and cannot see enemies very well at beyond visual range. It is essentially a glorified F-117 stealth bomber.

The National Interest has twice published articles (one in 2014 and one last year, when Canada considered withdrawing from the F-35 program) suggesting replacements for the F-35. The common suggestions are a combination of updated legacy-fleet airframes and foreign airplanes such as the French-made Dassault Rafale and the Swedish-made Saab JAS-39 Gripen. Both articles also recommended ordering more UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, aka “drones”) and electronic-warfare-capable aircraft.

The F-35 places American national security at-risk by depleting resources available for other weapons systems and equipment the military needs. It also places American national security at risk by not being about to live up to its “jack-of-all-trades” billing. It’s time for Congress and the Pentagon to begin putting together a plan to replace the F-35 that will save taxpayer money and protect American national security.

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