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Heartland Daily Podcast – EIF: Obamacare, Medicaid Expansion and Welfare Reform

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 12:05 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to Heartland’s Emerging Issues Forum (EIF) held in Seattle, Washington. EIF brings together elected officials, policy analysts, and government affairs professionals from across the country. In this first panel, the speakers discuss the debate over the expansion of Medicaid, the future of Obamacare after the King vs Burwell decision, and how Certificate of Need laws are restricting competition amongst health care providers and driving up costs.

Speaking on this panel are Goldwater Institute Director of Healthcare Policy Naomi Lopez Bauman, Foundation for Government Accountability Senior Fellow Christina Herrera, and Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward. Moderating this panel is Heartland Government Affairs Director John Nothdurft.

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

Categories: On the Blog

President Obama's Strange Definition of 'Rent-Seeking'

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - August 26, 2015, 11:49 AM
The one and only. Obama, yesterday: When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch…

Why I Left Greenpeace

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 11:19 AM

Video and description via Prager University:

Patrick Moore explains why he helped to create Greenpeace, and why he decided to leave it. What began as a mission to improve the environment for the sake of humanity became a political movement in which humanity became the villain and hard science a non-issue.

 

Categories: On the Blog

2015 Parent Power Index Released

Blog - Education - August 26, 2015, 11:11 AM

The Center for Education Reform (CER) has released its 2015 Parent Power Index (PPI). Each state receives a grade in school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality, and transparency. The overall PPI score across the United States is only 68 percent, or a grade of D.

The top 10 states for parental power are:

  1. Indiana – 90%
  2. Florida – 89%
  3. Arizona – 88%
  4. District of Columbia – 83%
  5. Georgia – 81%
  6. Utah – 80%
  7. Louisiana – 79%
  8. Ohio – 78%
  9. Wisconsin – 78%
  10. Minnesota – 77%

Click the image below to see exactly where your state ranks for parental empowerment.

CER provides the PPI to provide as much information to parents as possible. They do not judge whether laws or good or bad. From CER’s website:

“Parent Power” means giving parents Access to quality educational Options and providing them with good Information to make smart decisions about their children’s education. The Parent Power Index (PPI) measures the ability in each state of a parent to exercise choices – no matter what their income or child’s level of academic achievement – engage with their local school and board, and have a voice in the systems that surround their child. The Parent Power Index gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether the state affords them power –and if not, what they can do to get it.

The Index does not score whether a state’s education laws are good or bad, but rather, for example, if those policies allow a maximum number of parents to actually make choices. The following “elements of power” provide a framework for evaluating and scoring state policies and practices that either ensure or limit Parent Power in the U.S.

CER even provides its scoring rubric if you want to learn how their researchers calculate the CER grades. View the rubric here.

2015 Parent Power Index Released

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 11:11 AM

The Center for Education Reform (CER) has released its 2015 Parent Power Index (PPI). Each state receives a grade in school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality, and transparency. The overall PPI score across the United States is only 68 percent, or a grade of D.

The top 10 states for parental power are:

  1. Indiana – 90%
  2. Florida – 89%
  3. Arizona – 88%
  4. District of Columbia – 83%
  5. Georgia – 81%
  6. Utah – 80%
  7. Louisiana – 79%
  8. Ohio – 78%
  9. Wisconsin – 78%
  10. Minnesota – 77%

Click the image below to see exactly where your state ranks for parental empowerment.

CER provides the PPI to provide as much information to parents as possible. They do not judge whether laws or good or bad. From CER’s website:

“Parent Power” means giving parents Access to quality educational Options and providing them with good Information to make smart decisions about their children’s education. The Parent Power Index (PPI) measures the ability in each state of a parent to exercise choices – no matter what their income or child’s level of academic achievement – engage with their local school and board, and have a voice in the systems that surround their child. The Parent Power Index gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether the state affords them power –and if not, what they can do to get it.

The Index does not score whether a state’s education laws are good or bad, but rather, for example, if those policies allow a maximum number of parents to actually make choices. The following “elements of power” provide a framework for evaluating and scoring state policies and practices that either ensure or limit Parent Power in the U.S.

CER even provides its scoring rubric if you want to learn how their researchers calculate the CER grades. View the rubric here.

Categories: On the Blog

Ohio considers the crony side of cannabis

Out of the Storm News - August 26, 2015, 8:00 AM

Ohio produced the first airplane pilot and the first man on the moon. This week, we are blessed with the consensus No. 1 preseason pick of college football teams. But this fall, all eyes will be on the state for a different kind of first – a public policy first.

Ohio is poised to become the first American state to flout the federal Schedule I drug law and to go straight to recreational marijuana use for adults without going through the medicinal purpose stage.

The proposed constitutional provision will also allow cannabis use at any age for medical purposes. Of course, as we have learned from Colorado and Washington state, doctors won’t risk their licenses to prescribe it and pharmacies won’t risk theirs to dispense it. It will continue to be only a suggestion by medical professionals for certain kinds of illness or discomfort.

Colorado and Washington have experienced some other hiccups in their marijuana experiments. For instance, it’s much more difficult to make an enforcement case for operating a motor vehicle under the influence with marijuana than it is with alcohol consumption. Lacking a standard like the 0.08 level of blood alcohol content, law enforcement largely have to rely on field tests.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Ohio State Medical Association, the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other groups oppose the initiative. Gov. John Kasich – currently on a different kind of high after winning the primary endorsement of fellow presidential candidate “Deez Nuts,” a 15-year old Iowa high school sophomore who was polling 9 percent of the votes in North Carolina on social media last month – opposes the initiative, as do most of the state’s constitutional officers.

But the most compelling reason to be concerned about Ohio’s proposed constitutional amendment is that it would, according to an editorial in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch, “change Ohio’s foundational document in order to financially benefit a handful of people.”

That’s right: a monopoly on weed production in the state Constitution.

By that, I mean that 10 plots of land in the state, by actual parcel number, are granted exclusive rights to grow, cultivate and extract the good stuff.  Facilities licensed to sell marijuana products in the state are only allowed to process cannabinoids and THC from plants grown on the 10 plots of land owned by the entrepreneurs who are funding the initiative campaign. One of whom is former boy band star Nick Lachey, perhaps best-known as Jessica Simpson’s ex-husband and reality show co-star.

How does a real libertarian sort out this new exercise in do-it-yourself crony capitalism?

Last month, Responsible Ohio filed 695,273 petition signatures with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. But after about 40 percent of the signatures were deemed invalid, the campaign came up 29,509 signatures short of the 305,591 needed to make the November ballot.  A review by Husted earlier this month determined the initiative had collected 320,267 valid signatures, qualifying in 77 of the state’s 88 counties.

More recently, the ballot backers have taken issue with the language agreed to by the Ohio Ballot Board. Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas, who is serving as counsel to Responsible Ohio, said he was preparing to sue in his former court to replace ballot language describing “recreational” marijuana with “personal use,” which better reflects the purpose of the constitutional amendment in the judgment of the supporters.

Meanwhile, the state Legislature thinks it has the antidote.  Issue 2 on the November ballot is a measure cooked up by the state’s lawmakers to nullify any future constitutional amendment that awards benefits to an exclusive set of investors. Husted swears that, if it passes, it will negate the new marijuana provision, even if both pass in the same election. The specific language of House Joint Resolution 4 preventing grants of monopoly in the Ohio Constitution is:

Restraint of trade or commerce being injurious to this state and its citizens, the power of the initiative shall not be used to pass an amendment to this constitution that would grant or create a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel, specify or determine a tax rate, or confer a commercial interest, commercial right, or commercial license to any person, nonpublic entity, or group of persons or nonpublic entities, or any combination thereof, however organized, that is not then available to other similarly situated persons or nonpublic entities.

If it were only this easy to amend the U.S. Constitution, just think how many things we could fix!

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

Protect taxpayers from another Fannie/Freddie bailout

Out of the Storm News - August 26, 2015, 7:00 AM

We, the undersigned organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans fed up with government spending and overreach, urge members of Congress to pass H.R. 1673, the Enterprise Secondary Reserve Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. This legislation takes a much-needed first step to reining in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is important that Congress pass H.R. 1673 as a standalone bill or as part of other legislation.

The Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stood at the center of the 2008 financial crisis. In the aftermath of that crisis, taxpayers provided Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with $188 billion in equity to cushion against losses related to their mortgage portfolios. Despite the significant taxpayer support they received, the danger they continue to pose to the federal balance sheet is significant. Incredibly, while the Dodd-Frank “financial reform” of 2010 imposes higher levels of capital and new regulations on community banks and life insurance companies that had nothing to do with the mortgage crisis, Fannie and Freddie operate today with virtually no capital reserves.

Since 2008, Fannie and Freddie have been under conservatorship administered through the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). Pursuant to the Obama administration’s 2012 “Third Amendment” to an agreement between FHFA and the United States Treasury, all of Fannie and Freddie’s net profits have been swept back into government coffers, thereby masking higher spending and creating phony short-term deficit reductions that the Obama administration can claim credit for. This scheme has left the two GSEs with almost no capital reserves to offset potential losses in the event of another downturn in the mortgage and housing markets.

H.R. 1673 would help protect taxpayers in the event that these two GSEs experience significant losses in the future. By creating a reserve fund using profits generated by the GSEs, the Enterprise Secondary Reserve Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act allows Fannie and Freddie to draw down such funds in the event of significant losses, rather than going back to the Treasury for additional resources. Once FHFA’s conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie ends, the reserve fund would dissolve. Simply put, the bill creates an insurance policy for taxpayers.

As long as Fannie and Freddie are under conservatorship, any losses they experience are a threat to taxpayers. While H.R. 1673 is a wise proposal, it highlights the need for Congress to reduce dramatically the role of government in the housing finance system. In particular, Fannie and Freddie’s government support – implicit and explicit – should be phased out. Until lawmakers embrace comprehensive reform, however, they should pass the Enterprise Secondary Reserve Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act. And this measure must, as a first step, be part of any large appropriations or financial services bill that attempts to deal with Fannie and Freddie.

Sincerely,

Pete Sepp
National Taxpayers Union

John Berlau
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Matthew Kandrach
60 Plus Association

Norm Singleton
Campaign for Liberty

Kristin Fecteau
Campaign to Free America

Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Richard Viguerie
ConservativeHQ.com

Tom Schatz
Council for Citizens against Government Waste

Seton Motley
Less Government

Lori Sanders
R Street Institute

Steve Ellis
Taxpayers for Common Sense

David Williams
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Judson Phillips
Tea Party Nation

Melissa Ortiz
Able Americans

British government backs e-cigarettes for smokers

Out of the Storm News - August 25, 2015, 4:09 PM

Public Health England last week became the first national government agency to endorse e-cigarettes as safer options for current smokers. Its report also dispelled several bogus anti-tobacco claims.

PHE encourages smokers to switch to e-cigarettes in order to stop smoking and to reduce smoking-related diseases and deaths. The agency strongly rejects the claim that vaping is a pathway to smoking:

There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking among adults and youth, and may in fact be contributing to it.

Additionally, PHE refutes scaremongering about nicotine poisoning (a subject I previously discussed here):

When used as intended, e-cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users, but e-liquids should be in ‘childproof’ packaging. The accuracy of nicotine content labeling currently raises no major concerns.

I have noted here and here that some researchers have fabricated claims that vapor contains dangerous levels of formaldehyde. PHE rejects the assertion:

Two recent worldwide media headlines asserted that e-cigarette use is dangerous. These were based on misinterpreted research findings. A high level of formaldehyde was found when e-liquid was over-heated to levels unpalatable to e-cigarette users, but there is no indication that…users are exposed to dangerous levels of aldehydes.

Unfortunately, the PHE report overreaches in one respect. It says that “best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes,” and this became the dominant media headline upon the report’s release. To be accurate, PHE should have reported that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than combustible cigarettes, without specifying a percentage; there is no hard data to support a number.

The 95 percent is derived from the reported opinions of a group of international experts in a publication last year. The opinions were merely “guestimates”. In truth, the health risks of long-term vaping are not known, and they are at this time unknowable. While there is universal agreement among tobacco research and policy experts that inhaling a vapor of propylene glycol, nicotine and flavoring agents is vastly safer than inhaling smoke containing thousands of toxins, the precise risk differential is unknown.

I routinely criticize e-cigarette opponents for violating scientific principles when they make outrageous claims against the products. Recognizing that the PHE report is a welcome endorsement of tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes, I am disappointed that its value is at all compromised by a comparison that cannot be scientifically validated.

How Google Can Rig Everything in Washington, D.C. – and All Around the World

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 4:07 PM

Let us ponder for a moment who and what Google is. Google has made tens of billions of dollars – being all up in your business. Uber-efficiently doing what governments the world over have for centuries only at best bumblingly attempted – accumulating reams and reams of data on millions and millions of people.

Google is a private company. These millions of people voluntarily use its products – and expose themselves to Google’s data probes. Thoughtlessly clicking “Yes” in approval of the multi-page disclaimers that appear before them – when they are actually given that opportunity. If you use Google to search, for instance – you receive no such precursory heads-up.

 

Again, Google is a private company. Thus caveat quaero applies – “let the searcher beware.” But Google is amongst other things taking huge advantage of decades of trial lawyers’ cumulative handiwork. A rational, non-lawsuit-preemptive disclosure form would be shorter, truly informative – and much more widely read. Google benefits from – and revels in – the blurring legalese.

Google’s data-capture business has been unbelievably successful. Good on them. But they have used that model to cultivate another – huge government cronyism. Which ain’t quite so hot for us. And no one has been more receptive and reciprocal than President Barack Obama and his Administration. A man Google twice uber-helped get elected – in large part by using its massive data caches.

 

Pre-Obama, Google spent a decade – and lots and lots of money – funding the outside-in push to get Network Neutrality and a full government takeover of the Internet. Google didn’t get its desired power grab – until the three Obama-appointed Democrat bureaucrats on the Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally imposed it.

For Google – lesson learned. Why lobby for policy on the outside – when you can shape it from the inside? Thus, the staff-swapping revolving door between Google and the Obama Administration is longVery longUnbelievably long.

Which leads us to another fundamental aspect of the Google business model – theftLots of theftLots and lots of theft. It steals physical property – and intellectual property. So what does Google do in DC? Have their campaign-contributed elected officials and hand-selected appointed officials transmogrify their illegal activities – into legal ones.

For instance, Google steals lots of patented stuff. So after a decade spent funding Democrats, they dump money into Republicans – and suddenly get the magically bipartisan, horribly misnamed Innovation Act. A bill that will make it much easier for Google to steal patented stuff. Oh – and guess who is currently head of the Administration’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office? Michelle Lee – whose last gig was Head of Patents and Patent Strategy for…Google.

But why work outside-in – or even inside-out – when you can preemptively choose who will be inside?

 

How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election

Google has the ability to drive millions of votes to a candidate with no one the wiser.

America’s next president could be eased into office not just by TV ads or speeches, but by Googles secret decisions….

Google acknowledges adjusting (its search) algorithm 600 times a year, but the process is secret….

Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated….

Given that many elections are won by small margins, this gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent—well within Googles control….

So as huge as the headline is – it is WAY underselling it. Google can execute this manipulation in almost any election in almost any country on the planet.

And it isn’t just elections. Google can manipulate the results you see – on ANYTHING. Any candidate or elected official. Any legislation or policy. They can shape what people here and all over the world see – and don’t see. On EVERYTHING.

The only real way to avoid becoming enmeshed in Google’s web – is to not use Google. There are lots of other providers for all the stuff Google provides. Providers who aren’t quite so nakedly political and politically connected – and abusive thereof.

Now you know – caveat quaero.

 

[Originally published at Red State]

 

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Won’t Turn Over Mine Spill Docs to Congressional Committee

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 3:57 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency may have spilled millions of gallons of toxic waste into a Colorado river, but EPA officials see no need to share any official documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine disaster, leaving Congressional investigators and Colorado residents in the dark.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee gave the EPA until this morning to hand over pertinent materials related to their “cleanup” operations in Colorado’s mine country. At the deadline, the EPA failed to turn over even a single document.

Via Watchdog.org:

A congressional committee blasted the Environmental Protection Agency today for blocking release of documents related to the Gold King mine disaster, which poured deadly chemicals into the largest source of drinking water in the West.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”

Congressional investigators are most concerned with why the EPA failed to notify people living along the Animus Rivers’ banks that their drinking water, which they also give to cattle and other livestock, was contaminated with heavy metals and other mine remnants. They would also like to know why the EPA has failed to identify the contractor responsible for the EPA’s “cleanup operation,” as well as why EPA head Gina McCarthy jetted off to Japan for a “Climate Change” conference, while there was a massive environmental disaster brewing at home.

Congress will hold a hearing on September 9th, to address the EPA’s malfeasance in both the initial mine cleanup effort and in the weeks that followed. State Senators in Utah are also investigating whether the EPA’s negligence was part of a plan to declare parts of Colorado and Utah a ‘Superfund’ site, triggering special federal regulatory power over the area, as well as special funding for the EPA.

Categories: On the Blog

The elephant in the room: The GOP’s tech dilemma

Out of the Storm News - August 25, 2015, 3:54 PM

Fifteen months ahead of the presidential election, a number of the 17 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination have invested considerable energy courting Silicon Valley. These candidates are boldly attempting to articulate a coherent understanding of the issues facing the technology industry.

This makes sense: what’s been seen traditionally as a Democratic stronghold ought to be ripe for the Republican taking. After all, it’s easy to frame the success of the Internet as an excellent manifestation of the conservative ideology that free markets and limited regulation spur economic growth and upward mobility.

Yet none of the Republican candidates has demonstrated a coherent technology-policy agenda. Despite all the overtures, the latest quarter’s financial filings revealed “most tech industry bigwigs are throwing cash at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.”

This isn’t because Hillary Clinton has a better tech agenda or better tech instincts than Republicans. Her comparative fundraising success is likely attributable primarily to the tech community’s own instinct that it’s better to trust the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

It’s clear that Republicans want to win Silicon Valley’s affection, whether it’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hailing an Uber; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., hanging out at SXSW; or Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., suggesting he would be “a new president for a new age.” Despite these photo-ops, careful evaluation of the candidates’ positions on issues important to startups, tech hubs, innovators and Internet giants show the Republican field is conspicuously out of step.

Surveillance

For some of the Republican candidates, the primary issue is an unwillingness to challenge the surveillance state. This may be due in part to a desire to preserve the party’s brand as a home for security hawks and in part to avoid appearing soft on Edward Snowden. Whatever one thinks of Snowden personally, there’s no dispute that his disclosures about the National Security Agency set off a national debate about the balance of security and privacy. These very real privacy concerns have resulted in significant economic fallout for the tech sector, as consumers and the international community lose confidence about the ability of U.S. firms to secure their data.

This summer, after much deliberation, the House and Senate passed the USA FREEDOM Act.  Swiftly signed into law by President Barack Obama, the law ends the bulk collection of phone metadata. This reform did not address all surveillance concerns, but it did represent a substantial and balanced approach to curtail the abusive spying undertaken by the government.

While the tech community universally praised the legislation, the GOP’s presidential candidates for the most part opposed efforts to rein in the NSA. Ignoring Silicon Valley, Sen. Rubio called for a “permanent extension” of the PATRIOT Act and voted against the reform. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker echoed Rubio, saying the nation “would be much better off” without the USA FREEDOM Act. Not to be outdone, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie famously defended the NSA, explaining that critics of mass spying should talk to families of the 9/11 victims.

Only two of the GOP candidates aligned with the tech community against the unwarranted mass surveillance of Americans. Sen. Paul didn’t vote for final passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, because he didn’t think it went far enough, but he did rally privacy supporters with his efforts on the Senate floor that helped bring about reform. Fellow privacy hawk Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, showed solidarity with Paul during his filibuster, even though he ultimately voted in favor of the USA FREEDOM Act.

Innovation

Last year, the conservative-leaning Young Guns Network published a paper titled “Room to Grow,” designed to serve as a conservative blueprint for an “innovative agenda that empowers individuals by increasing competition and replacing failed government policies.” In the report, American Enterprise Institute scholar James Pethokoukis correctly identified a problem hindering so many in the tech community. In his essay, “Regulatory and financial reforms to combat cronyism and modernize our economy” Pethokoukis explained: “over the years, copyright and patent law has evolved into cronyist protection of the revenue streams of powerful incumbent companies—a type of regulation that hampers innovation and entrepreneurship.”

This resonates as true in tech hubs across the country where many entrepreneurs are struggling to fight patent trolls as they develop new software and services. These “trolls” are companies that take advantage of the patent system to amass huge troves of weak and broad patents and make money by threatening lawsuits against legitimate new startups and entrepreneurs. Not only are patent trolls costing the economy $29 Billion a year, but the struggle against meritless patent litigation was even satirized front-and-center in the HBO hit comedy Silicon Valley.

Unfortunately, it appears the Republican candidates missed those episodes. For example, when pressed about his stance on patent reform in an interview with Tech Dirt, Rand Paul passed quickly over the issue, leading the author to conclude that fighting patent trolls “doesn’t appear to be of serious interest leading to Paul or his ilk.”

Of the other candidates, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been the most vocal on the topic. Unfortunately, her stance has been to oppose patent reform. Fiorina attacked a Silicon Valley-supported legislation to rein in patent trolls, explaining, “these supposed reforms pose a dire threat to our notion of property rights.” The current reform effort – Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s INNOVATION Act – actually wouldn’t change substantive patent-law rights, but it would curb frivolous litigation costs and abuses.

Net neutrality

As access to the Internet has increased dramatically, there has been serious interest and debate over its future, quite often centered on the question of net neutrality. While the conversation in D.C. largely has been partisan, in Silicon Valley, there long has been vibrant, nuanced debate, both in favor of and in opposition to net-neutrality proposals.

Unfortunately, Republican candidates largely have been tone deaf on net neutrality. Rational people can disagree on the issue, but it isn’t helpful for branding when Ted Cruz calls net neutrality the “Obamacare of the Internet” or Jeb Bush says it the “craziest idea I’ve ever heard.” (There are some other pretty crazy ideas out there.)

If Republicans are serious about relating to the interests of Silicon Valley, they must learn to speak intelligently about the issues that matter to tech interests.

On a few subjects, they do. On the national level, Republicans have embraced the benefits of the sharing economy, notably in support of car-sharing services like Uber, although at the local level, Republicans and Democrats have been split fairly evenly in their support for and opposition to these innovations.

But the sharing economy is only one aspect of the tech revolution. Republicans should extend their celebration of free-market solutions into a comprehensive tech agenda. Some of these ideas were laid out by technology analyst Derek Khanna, who has written that conservatives should “create forward-leaning legislative policies to foster innovation, not uncertainty.”

The candidates would also do well to learn from their counterparts in Congress, who have deliberated on a host of issues of concern to the tech industry. While there are still areas where the stance of congressional Republicans (particularly on immigration) is unpopular in the Valley, many Republicans are working with their Democratic counterparts to make policy changes that will enhance the tech sector.

Most notable among these are Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who have been on the front lines on surveillance reform, patent policy and rebalancing copyright. This trio hasn’t hesitated to seek support for forward-thinking solutions, both within their caucus and across the aisle.

In the absence of strongly articulated pro-tech stances in the Democratic presidential field, 2016 has the potential to be a defining election for the Republican Party on the tech-policy front. But for GOP top-of-the-ticket candidates to win over new audiences and support, there must be a concerted effort to showcase a comprehensive agenda that will spur economic growth. There’s still time for Republicans to seize these issues, but the time is shorter than GOP leaders may like to think. We can only hope that, over the next year, more of the leading Republican candidates will step up to the challenge and frame a visionary path forward.

Oil’s Down, Gasoline Isn’t. What’s Up?

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 3:48 PM

A little more than a year ago, oil prices were above $100 a barrel. The national average for gasoline was in the $3.50 range. In late spring, oil was $60ish and the national average for gas was around $2.70. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to $40 and below—yet, prices at the pump are just slightly less than they were when oil was almost double what it is today.

Oil and gasoline prices usually travel up or down in sync. But a few weeks ago the trend lines crossed and oil continued the sharp decline while gasoline has stayed steady—even increasing.

Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. Consumers are wondering: “What’s up?”

Even Congress is grilling refiners over the disparity.

While, like most markets, the answer is complicated, there are some simple responses that even Congress should be able to understand. The short explanation is “refineries”—but there’s more to that and some other components, too.

Within the U.S. exists approximately 20 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Fuel News explains that “on a perfect day,” these domestic facilities could process more than 18 million barrels of crude oil. But due, in large part, to an anti-fossil fuel attitude, it is virtually impossible to get a new refinery permitted in America. Most refineries today are old—the newest major one was completed in 1977. Most are at least 40 years old and some are more than 100. Despite signs of aging, refining capacity has continued to grow. Instead of producing at 70 percent capacity, as they were as little as a decade ago, most now run at 90 percent. They’ve become Rube Goldberg contraptions that have been modified, added on to, and upgraded. The system is strained.

To keep operating, these mature refineries need regular maintenance—usually done on the shoulders of the busy driving seasons and when systems need to be reconfigured for the different winter and summer blends. Even then, things break. Sometimes a quick repair can keep it up and running until the scheduled maintenance—known as “turnaround.” Sometimes, not. Fixing the equipment failures on the aging facilities can take weeks.

This year, several unexpected maintenance issues happened in the spring. Other refineries worked overtime to make up the shortage. That, plus low crude prices, means that many refiners didn’t shutdown for the usual spring turnaround. Fuel News notes, potential profit encouraged refiners to “get while the getting’s good.”

This pedal-to-the-metal approach is catching up with the sagging systems. On August 8, BP’s Whiting, IN, refinery, the largest supplier of gasoline in the Midwest, faced an unplanned shutdown due to a leak and possible fire hazard in its Pipestill 12 distillation unit—which processes about 40 percent of its 413,000 barrel per day capacity.

The closure of the largest of Whiting’s three units caused an immediate jump in gasoline prices in the Midwest. Stockpiles were drawn down to fill demand during summer’s peak driving season. Gasoline has been moved—via pipeline, truck, and train—from other parts of the country to balance out supply. So, while the biggest price increase was in states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois, prices raised nationwide beginning on August 11.

Meanwhile, because the Whiting plant wasn’t sucking up crude oil, its supplies grew and drove crude prices down further—hitting a six-year low. The Financial Times reports: “An outage at Whiting’s main crude distillation unit could add almost 1m [million] barrels to Cushing [The OK oil trading and storage center] every four days as long as it is out.”

Making matters worse, another Midwest refinery, Marathon’s Robinson, IL, 212,000 barrels per day facility is down for repairs that are expected to take two months.

Others smaller outages include Philadelphia Energy Solutions and the Coffeyville Resources’ refinery in Kansas. BloombergBusiness states: “As many as seven other Midwest refineries could shut units for extended time this fall.” Though, other reports indicate that some of the planned maintenance may be put off due to profit margins that are at a seven-year high.

Adding to the price increases due to refinery issues, are two other factors—both having to do with the calendar.

First, we are almost to Labor Day, which is considered the end of the summer driving season. It is when families make that one last trip to the lake or to visit grandma—which always causes a jump in demand that tightens supplies. This year, with two big refineries down, the usual spike could well be exacerbated.

The other is hurricane season. While we are just past its peak, we’ve only had one hurricane so far: Hurricane Danny—which last week was barreling toward the Northern Caribbean islands, with potential to hit the refinery-rich Gulf Coast. On Friday August 21, it moved from Tropical Storm Danny to Category 3 Hurricane status. It has since weakened, but its presence caused risk and supply concerns.

High summer-driving demands and unscheduled refinery repairs have combined to reduce supply of gasoline, and raise the price, thus the need for crude oil—especially in the Midwest—is down. Crude oil inventories at the Cushing hub continue to increase and add to the current oversupply and slide in oil prices.

While there’s some other contributing factors, the current mix of supply and demand explains: “what’s up?” The lack of new refineries punishes the whole system. Gasoline prices are up—hurting consumers. Crude prices are down—hurting producers.

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

Climate Crisis, Inc.

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 2:10 PM

$1.5 trillion and Larry Bell book explain how profiteers of climate doom keep the money flowing

No warming in 18 years, no category 3-5 hurricane hitting the USA in ten years, seas rising at barely six inches a century: computer models and hysteria are consistently contradicted by Real World experiences.

So how do White House, EPA, UN, EU, Big Green, Big Wind, liberal media, and even Google, GE and Defense Department officials justify their fixation on climate change as the greatest crisis facing humanity? How do they excuse saying government must control our energy system, our economy and nearly every aspect of our lives – deciding which jobs will be protected and which ones destroyed, even who will live and who will die – in the name of saving the planet? What drives their intense ideology?

The answer is simple. The Climate Crisis & Renewable Energy Industry has become a $1.5-trillion-a-year business! That’s equal to the annual economic activity generated by the entire US nonprofit sector, or all savings over the past ten years from consumers switching to generic drugs. By comparison, annual revenues for much-vilified Koch Industries are about $115 billion, for ExxonMobil around $365 billion.

According to a 200-page analysis by the Climate Change Business Journal, this Climate Industrial Complex can be divided into nine segments: low carbon and renewable power; carbon capture and storage; energy storage, like batteries; energy efficiency; green buildings; transportation; carbon trading; climate change adaptation; and consulting and research. Consulting is a $27-billion-per-year industry that handles “reputation management” for companies and tries to link weather events, food shortages and other problems to climate change. Research includes engineering R&D and climate studies.

The $1.5-trillion price tag appears to exclude most of the Big Green environmentalism industry, a $13.4-billion-per-year business in the USA alone. The MacArthur Foundation just gave another $50 million to global warming alarmist groups. Ex-NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chesapeake Energy gave the Sierra Club $105 million to wage war on coal (shortly before the Club began waging war on natural gas and Chesapeake Energy, in what some see as poetic justice). Warren Buffett, numerous “progressive” foundations, Vladimir Putin cronies and countless companies also give endless millions to Big Green.

Our hard-earned tax dollars are likewise only partially included in the CCBJ tally. As professor, author and columnist Larry Bell notes in his new book, Scared Witless: Prophets and profits of climate doom, the U.S. government spent over $185 billion between 2003 and 2010 on climate change items – and this wild spending spree has gotten even worse in the ensuing Obama years. We are paying for questionable to fraudulent global warming studies, climate-related technology research, loans and tax breaks for Solyndra and other companies that go bankrupt, “climate adaptation” foreign aid to poor countries, and much more.

Also not included: the salaries and pensions of thousands of EPA, NOAA, Interior, Energy and other federal bureaucrats who devote endless hours to devising and imposing regulations for Clean Power Plans, drilling and coal mining bans, renewable energy installations, and countless Climate Crisis, Inc. handouts. A significant part of the $1.9 trillion per year that American businesses and families pay to comply with mountains of federal regulations is also based on climate chaos claims.

Add in the state and local equivalents of these federal programs, bureaucrats, regulations and restrictions, and we’re talking serious money. There are also consumer costs, including the far higher electricity prices families and businesses must pay, especially in states that want to prove their climate credentials.

The impacts on companies and jobs outside the Climate Crisis Industry are enormous, and growing. For every job created in the climate and renewable sectors, two to four jobs are eliminated in other parts of the economy, studies in Spain, Scotland and other countries have found. The effects on people’s health and welfare, and on overall environmental quality, are likewise huge and widespread.

But all these adverse effects are studiously ignored by Climate Crisis profiteers – and by the false prophets of planetary doom who manipulate data, exaggerate and fabricate looming catastrophes, and create the pseudo-scientific basis for regulating carbon-based energy and industries into oblivion. Meanwhile, the regulators blatantly ignore laws that might penalize their favored constituencies.

In one glaring example, a person who merely possesses a single bald eagle feather can be fined up to $100,000 and jailed for a year. But operators of the wind turbine that killed the eagle get off scot-free. Even worse, the US Fish & Wildlife Service actively helps Big Wind hide and minimize its slaughter of millions of raptors, other birds and bats every year. It has given industrial wind operators a five-year blanket exemption from the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Birds Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act. The FWS even proposed giving Big Wind a 30-year exemption.

Thankfully, the US District Court in San Jose, CA recently ruled that the FWS and Interior Department violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws, when they issued regulations granting these companies a 30-year license to kill bald and golden eagles. But the death tolls continue to climb.

Professor Bell’s perceptive, provocative, extensively researched book reviews the attempted power grab by Big Green, Big Government and Climate Crisis, Inc. In 19 short chapters, he examines the phony scientific consensus on global warming, the secretive and speculative science and computer models used to “prove” we face a cataclysm, ongoing collusion and deceit by regulators and activists, carbon tax mania, and many of the most prominent but phony climate crises: melting glaciers, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, disappearing species and declining biodiversity. His articles and essays do likewise.

Scared Witless also lays bare the real reasons for climate fanaticism, aside from lining pockets. As one prominent politician and UN or EPA bureaucrat after another has proudly and openly said, their “true ambition” is to institute “a new global order” … “ global governance” … “redistribution of the world’s resources” … an end to “hegemonic” capitalism … and “a profound transformation” of “attitudes and lifestyles,” energy systems and “the global economic development model.”

In other words, these unelected, unaccountable US, EU and UN bureaucrats want complete control over our industries; over everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do; and over every aspect of our lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties. And they intend to “ride the global warming issue” all the way to this complete control, “even if the theory of global warming is wrong” … “even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect” … “even if the science of global warming is all phony.”

If millions of people lose their jobs in the process, if millions of retirees die from hypothermia because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly, if millions of Africans and Asians die because they are denied access to reliable, affordable carbon-based electricity – so be it. Climate Crisis, Inc. doesn’t care.

Free market principles do not apply, and free marketers need not apply. The global warming industry survives and thrives only because of secretive, fraudulent climate science; constant collusion between regulators and pressure groups; and a steady stream of government policies, regulations, preferences, subsidies and mandates – plus taxes and penalties on its competitors. CCI gives lavishly to politicians who keep the gravy train on track, while its attack dogs respond quickly, aggressively and viciously to anyone who dares to challenge its orthodoxies, perks, power and funding.

Climate change has been “real” throughout Earth and human history – periodically significant, sometimes sudden, sometimes destructive. It is driven by the sun and other powerful, complex, interacting natural forces that we still do not fully understand … and certainly cannot control. It has little or nothing to do with the carbon dioxide that makes plants grow faster and better, and is emitted as a result of using fossil fuels that have brought countless, wondrous improvements to our environment and human condition.

Climate Crisis, Inc. is a wealthy, nasty behemoth. But it is a house of cards. Become informed. Get involved. Fight back. And elect representatives – and a president – who also have the backbone to do so.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.

Categories: On the Blog

California: “Land of Poverty”

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 2:01 PM

For decades, California’s housing costs have been racing ahead of incomes, as counties and local governments have imposed restrictive land-use regulations that drove up the price of land and dwellings. This has been documented by both Dartmouth economist William A Fischel and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Middle income households have been forced to accept lower standards of living while less fortunate have been driven into poverty by the high cost of housing.Housing costs have risen in some markets compared to others that the federal government now publishes alternative poverty estimates (the Supplemental Poverty Measure), because the official poverty measure used for decades does not capture the resulting differentials. The latest figures, for 2013, show California’s housing cost adjusted poverty rate to be 23.4 percent, nearly half again as high as the national average of 15.9 percent.

Back in the years when the nation had a “California Dream,” it would have been inconceivable for things to have gotten so bad — particularly amidst what is widely hailed as a spectacular recovery. The 2013 data shows California to have the worst housing cost adjusted poverty rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But it gets worse. California’s poverty rate is now more than 50 percent higher than Mississippi, which long has set the standard for extreme poverty in the United States (Figure 1).

The size of the geographic samples used to estimate the housing adjusted poverty rates are not sufficient for the Supplemental Poverty Measure to produce local, county level or metropolitan area estimates. However, a new similar measure makes that possible.

The California Poverty Measure                           

The Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality have collaborated to establish the “California Poverty Measure,” which is similar to the Supplemental Poverty Measure adjusted for housing costs.

The press release announcing release of the first edition (for 2011) said that: “California, often thought of as the land of plenty” in the words Center on Poverty and Inequality director Professor David Grusky, is “in fact the land of poverty.”

The latest California Poverty Measure estimate, for 2012, shows a statewide poverty rate of 21.8 percent, somewhat below the Supplemental Poverty Measure and well above the Official Poverty Measure that does not adjust for housing costs (16.5 percent).

The California Poverty Measure also provides data for most of California’s 58 counties, with some smaller counties combined due to statistical limitations. This makes it possible to estimate the California Poverty Measure for metropolitan areas, using American Community Survey data.

Metropolitan Area Estimates

By far the worst metropolitan area poverty rate was in Los Angeles, at 25.3 percent. The Los Angeles County poverty rate was the highest in the state at 26.1 percent, well above that of Orange County (22.4 percent), which constitutes the balance of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. However, the Orange County rate was higher than that of any other metropolitan area or region in the state (Figure 2). San Diego’s poverty rate was 21.7 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, Riverside-San Bernardino (the Inland Empire), which is generally perceived to have greater poverty, but with lower housing costs, had a rate of 20.9 percent. The two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino had lower poverty rates than all Southern California counties except for Ventura (Oxnard) and Imperial.

The San Francisco metropolitan area had a poverty rate of 19.4 percent, more than one-fifth below that of Los Angeles. San Jose has a somewhat lower poverty rated 18.3 percent (Note 1). The metropolitan areas making constituting the exurbs of the San Francisco Bay Area had a poverty rate of 18.7 percent. This includes Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Vallejo. Sacramento had the lowest poverty rate of any major metropolitan area, at 18.2 percent.

The San Joaquin Valley, stretching from Bakersfield through Fresno to Modesto (Stockton is excluded because it is now a San Francisco Bay Area exurb) had a poverty rate of 21.3 percent, slightly below the state wide average of 21.8 percent. The balance of the state, not included in the metropolitan areas and regions described above had a poverty rate of 21.2 percent.

County Poverty Rates

As was noted above, Los Angeles County had the highest 2012 poverty rate in the state (Note 2), according to the California Poverty Measure (26.1 percent). Tulare County, in the San Joaquin Valley had the second-highest rate at 25.2 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, San Francisco County with its reputation for high income had the third worst poverty rate in the state at 23.4 percent. This is driven, at least in part, by San Francisco’s extraordinarily high median house price to household income ratio (median multiple). In this grisly statistic, it trails only Hong Kong, Vancouver and Sydney in the latest Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.Wealthy Santa Barbara County has the fourth worst poverty rate in the state, at 23.8 percent. The fifth highest poverty rate is in Stanislaus County, in the San Joaquin Valley (county seat Modesto), which is already receiving housing refugees from the San Francisco Bay Area, unable to pay the high prices (Figure 3).

The two lowest poverty rates were in suburban Sacramento counties (Note 2). Placer County’s rate was 13.2 percent and El Dorado County’s rate was 13.3 percent. Another surprise is Imperial County, which borders Mexico and has generally lower income. Nonetheless, Imperial County has the third lowest poverty rate at 13.4 percent. Shasta County (county seat Redding), located at the north end of the Sacramento Valley is ranked fourth at 14.8 percent. Two counties are tied for the fifth lowest poverty rate (16.0 percent), Marin County in suburban San Francisco and Napa County, in the exurban San Francisco Bay Area (Figure 4).

Weak Labor Market and Notoriously Expensive Housing

The original Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality press release cited California’s dismal poverty rate as resulting from “a weak labor market and California’s notoriously expensive housing.” These are problems that can be moderated starting at the top, with the Governor and legislature. The notoriously expensive housing could be addressed by loosening regulations that allow more supply to be built at lower cost. True, the new supply would not be built in Santa Monica or Palo Alto. But additional, lower cost housing on the periphery, whether in Riverside County, the High Desert exurbs of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, the San Francisco Bay Area exurbs or the San Joaquin Valley could begin to remedy the situation.

The improvement in housing affordability could help to strengthen the weak job market, by attracting both new business investment and households moving from other states.

Regrettably, Sacramento does not seem to be paying attention. Liberalizing land use regulations is not only absent from the public agenda, but restrictions are being strengthened (especially under the requirements of Senate Bill 375). In this environment, metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego could become even more grotesquely unaffordable, and the already high price to income ratios in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley could worsen. All of this could lead to slower economic growth and to even greater poverty, as more lower-middle-income households fall into poverty.

Note 1: San Benito County is excluded from the San Jose metropolitan area data. The California Poverty Measure does not report a separate poverty rate for San Benito County.

Note 2: Among the counties for which specific poverty rates are provided.

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.

Photograph: Great Seal of the State of California by Zscout370 at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

 

[Originally published at New Geography

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Heartland’s Move and the Candidates’ Views on Education

Blog - Education - August 25, 2015, 1:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Research Fellow Heather Kays appears on the “Freedom Works Show” on Tantalk1340 in Florida with host Paul Molloy. Kays was on to talk about Heartland’s move as well as where the presidential candidates stand on education issues.

The Heartland Institute recently relocated its office to Arlington Heights, a north-west suburb of Chicago. Kays calls in from the grand opening to talk to Molloy. Kays discusses some of the reasons for the move as well as some of the current education issues. Specifically, Kays breaks down candidate Jeb Bush’s stances and tells where he is right and where he is wrong.

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

 

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Heartland’s Move and the Candidates’ Views on Education

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 1:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Research Fellow Heather Kays appears on the “Freedom Works Show” on Tantalk1340 in Florida with host Paul Molloy. Kays was on to talk about Heartland’s move as well as where the presidential candidates stand on education issues.

The Heartland Institute recently relocated its office to Arlington Heights, a north-west suburb of Chicago. Kays calls in from the grand opening to talk to Molloy. Kays discusses some of the reasons for the move as well as some of the current education issues. Specifically, Kays breaks down candidate Jeb Bush’s stances and tells where he is right and where he is wrong.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Call for public access to Congressional Research Service reports

Out of the Storm News - August 25, 2015, 8:00 AM

We write in support of expanded public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Longstanding congressional policy allows members and committees to use their websites to disseminate CRS products to the public, although CRS itself may not engage in direct public dissemination. This results in a disheartening inequity. Insiders with Capitol Hill connections can easily obtain CRS reports from any of the 20,000 congressional staffers and well-resourced groups can pay for access from subscription services. However, members of the public can access only a small subset of CRS reports that are posted on an assortment of not-for-profit websites on an intermittent basis. Now is the time for a systematic solution that provides timely, comprehensive free public access to and preservation of non-confidential reports, while protecting confidential communications between CRS and members and committees of Congress.

CRS reports—not to be confused with confidential CRS memoranda and other products—play a critical role in our legislative process by informing lawmakers and staff about the important issues of the day. The public should have the same access to information. In 2014, CRS completed over 1,000 new reports and updated over 2,500 existing products. (CRS also produced nearly 3,000 confidential memoranda.)

Our interest in free public access to non-confidential CRS reports illustrates the esteem in which the agency is held. CRS reports are regularly requested by members of the public and are frequently cited by the courts and the media. For example, over the last decade, CRS reports were cited in 190 federal court opinions, including 64 at the appellate level. Over the same time period, CRS reports were cited 67 times in The Washington Post and 45 times in The New York Times. CRS reports often are published in the record of legislative proceedings.

Taxpayers provide more than $100 million annually in support of CRS, and yet members of the public often must look to private companies for consistent access. Some citizens are priced out of these services, resulting in inequitable access to information about government activity that is produced at public expense.

In fact, while CRS generates a list of all the reports it has issued over the previous year, it silently redacts that information from the public-facing version of its annual report, making it difficult for the public to even know the scope of CRS products they could obtain from Congress. A Google search returned over 27,000 reports, including 4,260 hosted on .gov domains, but there is no way to know if those documents are up-to-date, what might be missing or when they might disappear from view.

Comprehensive free public access to non-confidential CRS reports would place the reports in line with publications by other legislative support agencies in the United States and around the globe. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Law Library of Congress, and 85 percent of G-20 countries whose parliaments have subject-matter experts routinely make reports available to the public.

We hasten to emphasize that we are not calling for public access to CRS products that should be kept confidential or are distributed only to a small network on Capitol Hill. Memoranda produced at the request of a member or committee and provided to an office in direct response to a request should remain confidential unless the office itself chooses to release the report. By comparison, we believe no such protection should attach to reports typically published on CRS’ internal website or otherwise widely disseminated.

We value the work of CRS and in no way wish to impede its ability to serve Congress. CRS reports already undergo multiple levels of administrative review to ensure they are accurate, nonpartisan, balanced and well-written. Authors of every CRS product are aware of the likelihood that reports will become publicly available.

We do not make a specific recommendation on who should comprehensively publish nonconfidential CRS reports online, although the approaches outlined in H. Res. 34 (114th Congress) and S. Res. 118 (111th Congress) are reasonable. The Clerk of the House, the Secretary of the Senate, the Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Library of Congress and libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) are all reasonable places for the public to gain access to these documents. Even bulk publication on GPO’s website would be a major step forward.

We ask only that all non-confidential reports be published as they are released, updated or withdrawn; that they be published in their full, final form; that they are freely downloadable individually and in bulk; and that they be accompanied by an index or metadata that includes the report ID, the date issued/updated, the report name, a hyperlink to the report, the division that produced the report, and possibly the report author(s) as well.

In the attached appendix we briefly address concerns often raised by CRS regarding public access to reports. In doing so, we note that many committees, including the Senate Rules Committee, have published CRS reports on their websites. Also, that many CRS reports are available through third parties. We urge you to give great weight to the significant public benefit that would result from comprehensive, timely access.

We welcome the opportunity to further discuss implementing systematic public access to nonconfidential CRS reports. Please contact Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress policy director, at daniel@demandprogress.org, or Kevin Kosar, R Street Institute senior fellow and governance director, at kkosar@rstreet.org. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

American Association of Law Libraries
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
California State University San Marcos
Cause of Action
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Effective Government
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Responsive Politics
Citizens Against Government Waste
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Congressional Data Coalition
Data Transparency Coalition
Defending Dissent Foundation
Demand Progress
Engine
Essential Information
Federation of American Scientists
FreedomWorks
Free Government Information
Government Accountability Project
Middlebury College Library
Minnesota Coalition On Government Information
National Coalition for History
National Security Archive
National Security Counselors
National Taxpayers Union
NewFields Research Library
Niskanen Center
OpenTheGovernment.org
Project on Government Oversight
Public Citizen
R Street Institute
Sunlight Foundation
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University
Union of Concerned Scientists
Western Illinois University Libraries

 

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rob Natelson: Article V Constitutional Convention

Somewhat Reasonable - August 24, 2015, 3:04 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News spoke with Rob Natelson. Natelson is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute and a former Constitutional Law professor at three different universities. He and Burnett spoke about the history and the practicality of an Article V Constitutional convention.

Natelson is one of the foremost scholars concerning the Constitutional amendment process in general and Article V conventions of the States in particular. In their discussion, Natelson provides a historical analysis of what an Article V convention is, why it was put into the Constitution, how it functions, and how they have been used or not used, so far.

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

Categories: On the Blog

‘Little Green Steps’ Reflect Sustainability in Education (Part 2)

Somewhat Reasonable - August 24, 2015, 11:37 AM

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil 

The word “sustainability” is now being overused throughout our public education system. The claim is that teaching sustainable development to students will help them solve problems, such as climate change and poverty reduction, by teaching students how to change their behavior and thus help combat issues deemed as problems.

There is value in teaching our youth to respect our environment and explaining the importance of not polluting the Earth.   However, teaching only one viewpoint about controversial issues, and claiming that only one viewpoint represents established science,  certainly silences any further discussion on the issue. That is not education, it is indoctrination (brain washing) and thus becomes a form of political pollution in the classroom.

Sustainable development is a “catch phrase” that students in most every American classroom are hearing way too often. The biased education material presents students with a viewpoint claiming that the Earth is in dire peril due to mans’ irresponsible behavior, and that without an enforced program of sustainability, the Earth is doomed. Parts of that curriculum are highly debatable, but students are rarely given opposing facts or viewpoints, even though they exist. Students are rarely taught that a growing number of credible scientists have studied the issue and arrived at different statistics and conclusions than the doomsday apologists.

If the goal of schools and teachers is to encourage students to be critical thinkers, why aren’t students being given opposing facts, documented by reputable scientists, and complete with credible arguments For instance, shouldn’t students know that credible scientists strongly disagree with the premise man can control the climate and that there are logical reasons for their skepticism?  Students deserve to see evidence that indicates there has not been global warming for 18 years and six months. Important and credible facts contradict all the doom laden climate models cited in the IPCC’s (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) various reports.

To put this into perspective, children in grade school through high school today, who are presently studying the climate change propaganda, ironically have not lived during a time of global warming.

How many students, parents, or teachers are even aware today that the leading proponents of Climate Change were caught falsifying facts.  It had to be embarrassing that facts provided by the United Nation’s scientists did not align with their own global warming theory, and in fact proved the Earth had not been warming for at least two decades.   That most likely was the reason for their name change from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change”.  They might have thought people would not consider that climate change happens naturally and has done so since the Earth’s existence.   Obviously, those early documented changes could not have had anything to do with man made causes, since man wasn’t even on the Earth yet,  but who bothers to check such details.

It was discreetly decided to stop using the term “Global Warming” and switch to a name that covered any changes, hot or cold. The new name allowed all changes or patterns of weather to serve as proof of climate change.  No need for those promoting dire warnings to  worry about whether the Earth warms or cools, as both can be used to put forth their agenda.

The obvious question is:  What is the reason for blaming that people are damaging our Earth and changing our climate?  We submit it is the ageless attempt for people seeking more power and control over government and the people.  Power is seductive, and leads to a desire for even more more ways to dictate how we all shall function and live, based on a proposed scenario that is at least partially fictional. Obviously, a reason for such control must include a dire threat if people are to comply.   Climate Change is a great excuse.

It is also curious, but not unexpected given its biased agenda, that the media provides so little attention to facts that would place doubt about man-made climate change, even when international scientists were caught falsifying and/or not accurately reporting those nasty inconvenient facts.  It is time for the public to demand the media and government allow all sides of this argument to be published and readily available for students and the general public.

Sustainability in studying poverty

Schools choose to teach controversial issues dealing with other areas of sustainability, and poverty is a particularly important social issue to study.  It is highly optimistic to think a student studying poverty can add anything significant to help solve a problem that has existed for many centuries, especially when this is another subject in which specific facts are withheld.  How many students are told, and in many cases even their parents are left uninformed, about the billions of tax dollars that have been spent to relieve poverty in America?

Intensive studies and expensive government programs have continually been initiated to resolve the growing problem of poverty, but all have proven faulty, with the result being more and more Americans end up on some type of welfare program and eventual total dependency on government assistant programs.  Advocates of welfare reform in California point out that the state has one-eighth of the nation’s population but one-third of all welfare recipients.  Why?  California is one of the more attractive “nanny states” with a variety of numerous programs that provide cradle to grave assistance.

The most recent experiment by our government, referred to as “the war on poverty”, was established under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson fifty years ago.  The program has failed in spite of the length of time, large amount of invested money, numerous agencies set up to administer the program, and new laws that have been written and implemented expanding it.  Those who study the issue wonder why we continue with this expensive, failed program when evidence shows more people are added to the welfare rolls than those who escape it.  Why are we so unwilling to admit the truth and move on to something that might actually work?

Star Parker was once a black single mother on welfare, until she realized the only real solution was for her to take charge of her own life.   She succeeded in breaking her addiction to welfare and thus the system that had her bonded to eternal poverty.   Parker began a ministry to educate others of the dangerous trap of a lifetime: government  welfare. Today Star Parker is a syndicated columnistRepublican politician, author, and conservative political activist.  Star warns all who will listen, that: “The war on poverty is an unending cruel experiment on the black community that all Americans can regard as a mirror into the future of everyone, as we allow government to grow and control our destiny.”

As to the mainstream media, it has lost its appetite for hiring investigative reporters who at one time worked diligently  to find facts that tell the whole story and thus the truth.  Then too, elected officials quietly change our laws, habits, and society to accommodate a specific, unproven viewpoint, and there is no significant opposition to these powerful game changing socialists.

By attaching the word “sustainability” to whatever the subject might be, the public, having been trained to accept that term as the motivation for blind acceptance, never questions the possibility that we are being deceived by those whom we should trust the most. Therefore, whether the subject is banning fossil fuels, initiating a federal education program for all our children, or paying higher taxes to subsidize liberal ideas concocted by the elites among us, the American people rarely question the changes or new laws.

Sustainability tinkers with impressionable minds

Should we really expect our children, with their impressionable minds, to behave or believe any differently than adults, when not provided with important information or facts needed to make informed decisions?   In other words, are we to believe our children will question what they are being taught, when adults are derelict in doing so?  Few students are equipped or courageous enough to refute what they are being taught.  Most will parrot back the rhetoric offered by their teachers and textbooks, and few parents are aware of what that might be, or actually even know the truth themselves.

The challenge of parents is knowing exactly what information or material their children actually receive daily, whether at school, on their computers or cell phones, and/or watching television. Without due diligence we could be raising a generation that is being indoctrinated in unknown ways by educators and media sources that are in direct disagreement with our principles and values.

Do you know what your children or grandchildren will be taught or exposed to when they start back to school after the summer break?  If not, get involved!  Be assured that sustainability is a term most students in every classroom have heard and are been taught to fully respect, without question. The topic of sustainability will be taught from K through 12.  None of us any longer have the luxury or comfort of believing those in charge of our country or our education system have our traditional, time-honored beliefs or values in mind.  We must realize others are making decisions for our families and thus our country’s future.

Common Core offers one-sided views

What has caused our education system to change in such a short period of time?  We know elections have consequences, right?  We know presidents have differing viewpoint and political agendas and they are given the privilege of making changes.  Education was never meant to be under the control of the federal government, but instead it was designed to be a state initiated and run program.  However, President Obama may have forgotten or failed to respect that time-honored ideal.  Instead Common Core was initiated and sold to all the states with various incentives.  Following the Common Core standards came the controversial Common Core material  which is now being taught to the vast majority of children in America today.  It  has a very different look than what you might have experienced at the same age.

Common Core was designed by a select, small group of liberals, and the end product is one every parent and patriot should investigate, and be highly suspicious of the process that allowed a national education program to be accepted by states even before it was written, and obviously without any previous testing proving if it was superior to what it replaced. For instance, Illinois agreed to accept Common Core, sight unseen, back in 2010.  It is now being implemented throughout most states.

Consider that Common Core science curriculum from K-12, offers a one-sided view of Global Warming.  As noted in this article, “Scared Green: Sustainability Lies We Teach”, children are being taught material that has them terrified of what their future might be if society does not adapt to a specific behavior.   The author, Wood,  further writes: “While the sustainability pitch to children often involves extolling the little green steps they can take for themselves, it is almost always mixed with apocalyptic warnings of what will happen if they fail.”

It is not comforting to know that American schools, like many throughout the world, scare our children, using controversial material as fact, and without offering opposition information from other leading scientists  After all, how can we expect children to become critical thinkers, if we don’t give them opposing arguments?  Instead they are inundated with the importance of taking “little green steps”, and if they do not take those steps, they are led to believe the world could ultimately end up as a “temple of green doom.”

Many public-school children have sat through multiple screenings of “The Story of Stuff,” the 20-minute animated “documentary” that propagandizes young children on the environmentally ruinous nature of consumer goods, which has its roots in the all-encompassing United Nations Agenda 21, which emphasizes sustainability. The purpose, of course, is tactics which scare children into behaving in a specific way.

How is this issue affecting our college age children?  Do you know what professors are teaching in university classes today? Part 3 will address these questions.   Be prepared to wonder if the high costs paid for a college education today is worth the indoctrination they are receiving from liberal professors, many of whom have an agenda with which you might wholeheartedly disagree.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly Email: Heartland Heading to Las Vegas to Spoil Obama’s Clean Energy Summit

Blog - Education - August 24, 2015, 9:34 AM

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

Will EPA Benefit from Its Own Mistake? H. Sterling Burnett, American Spectator The environmental disaster caused by the Environmental Protection Agency at Gold King Mine in Colorado may actually benefit the agency. While a private company that spilled three million gallons of toxic sludge into a major waterway would be gearing up for criminal investigations, EPA is more likely to use the disaster to push for building a treatment plant that would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. READ MORE Walker, Rubio Endorse Patient Power Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable The Heartland Institute and other free-market groups have been calling for a set of health care policy reforms that economist and policy pioneer John Goodman once called “Patient Power.” These policies include a refundable tax credit to purchase health insurance, allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines, and expanding health savings accounts (HSAs). Now, some 30 years after the plan was first presented, leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president are embracing key parts of that plan. Time for a victory lap! READ MORE Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy Is a Preview of Things to Come Stateside Jesse Hathaway, Townhall “It may be too late for Puerto Rico, the ‘Island of Enchantment,’ but similar high-tax, high-regulation states still have time to avert disaster if they stop treating taxpayers like ATMs and start enacting pro-taxpayer, pro-growth reforms. If they don’t change their ways soon, the result will not be enchantment, but fiscal ruin.”  READ MORE Heartland Sends Truth Squad to Las Vegas to Confront Obama on Affordable Energy The Heartland Institute is sending a “truth squad” of elected officials, energy policy experts, and members of minority communities to Las Vegas to steal some thunder from President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, and their taxpayer-subsidized alternative energy cronies. Clean Energy Summit 8.0 – a political event organized by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid featuring a presentation by President Barack Obama – will be closely monitored, critiqued, and protested by Heartland and its allies. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Mischa Popoff: Leaving the Organic Food Movement Mischa Popoff, author and Heartland policy advisor, joins Environment & Climate NewsManaging Editor H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his history as an organic farmer and his time as a government organic food inspector. Popoff explains why he abandoned the organic movement and why organic farmers should embrace GMO foods rather than fight against them. LISTEN TO MORE  

Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! How Obama’s Clean Power Plan Would End the Era of Cheap Natural Gas Isaac Orr, Townhall U.S. households are saving hundreds of dollars a year because natural gas prices are low, but that’s about to change. A study by NERA Economic Consulting has found new regulations on power plants mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) will increase natural gas prices to 2007 levels, virtually guaranteeing these savings will soon be wiped out. READ MORE Cuba Deal Could Have Unexpected Silver Lining: Medical Tourism Kenneth Artz, Times and Democrat Many people question the wisdom of President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, but even misguided policies sometimes produce positive unintended consequences. Low-priced Cuban medical treatment has spurred medical tourism from Canada and Western Europe, and now Americans may follow suit. While there are significant shortcomings and risks involved, the increased competition and choice should benefit some patients and perhaps taxpayers, too.  READ MORE

Keep Your Hands Off My Beer! How Regulations Are Slowing the Growth of the Craft Brewing Industry Matthew Glans, Research & Commentary The impressive growth of the craft brewing industry has occurred despite myriad local, state, and national laws that create barriers to new entry and expansion. Many of these regulations are decades-old and ill-suited for modern markets. Many of the restrictions serve to protect from competition the larger brewers who have the resources to manage the bureaucracy more effectively than craft brewers can. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Peter Ferrara on The Larry Kudlow Show: Is 4% Growth Possible? Liberal commentators often excuse the Obama administration’s poor economic growth record by claiming the days of more rapid economic growth are behind us. Really?  Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara, author of a new book on entitlement reform titled Power to the People, joined The Larry Kudlow Show to discuss the factors and policies that stunt the growth of the American economy and how they can be changed. Economic growth, Ferrara says, is the key to solving many of the nation’s problems, including the pending entitlement crisis. LISTEN TO MORE California Judge Rules in Favor of Families in Parent Trigger Case Heather Kays, The Heartlander “The defenders of the traditional public school system often claim that it is superior to choice-based systems for delivering education, because the public school system is more responsive to citizens,” said Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas. “Isn’t it strange that when citizens actually try to influence the public school system, through the parent trigger process, the supposedly democratic traditional public school system decries and seeks to undermine their efforts?” READ MORE Number of Uninsured Declines, But Access to Care Worsens Kenneth Artz, The Heartlander Less than two years after Obamacare went into effect, the number of uninsured people has declined by 16.3 percent. The decline started before Obamacare could have been responsible for it, and much of the rest is due to the Obama administration’s expansion of Medicaid. “That would seem to be a good thing, except Medicaid is lousy coverage,” said Heartland Senior Fellow Greg Scandlen. “Most doctors don’t accept Medicaid patients, because the government’s rate of payment is so low.” READ MORE Remember Rome! Heartland Staff The Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Roman Catholic Church held a workshop on global warming on April 28, 2015 at the Vatican. The Heartland Institute sent a delegation of climate scientists and other experts to tell Pope Francis: Global warming is not a crisis! The result was astonishing: global press coverage of our presence in Rome, a robust debate within the Church about the roles of science, ideology, and concern for the poor. We created a website with dozens of links to videos, news releases, and articles generated by our trip to Rome. 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.  
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