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Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Patrick Moore: Celebrate CO2

Somewhat Reasonable - July 14, 2016, 4:14 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and a leader in the international environmental field, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about how he ultimately broke with Greenpeace.

Dr. Moore forcefully rebuts Greenpeace’s arguments against GMO foods and in particular their harmful campaign against golden rice. He also addresses why he supports Resolute Forest Products in their case against Greenpeace, and taking on Greenpeace and other climate alarmists. Moore says we should celebrate rising carbon dioxide and that the worlds plants need more not less of it.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Truth About GMO Crops

Somewhat Reasonable - July 14, 2016, 2:08 PM

Under the assumption that your table is set with genetically modified foods, what does that mean, and should you be concerned for your health? On Wednesday, June 29, The Heartland Institute featured Julie Kelly, who has become one of the leading, non-scientists raising her voice in the sometimes contentious debate over the safety of this nation’s food system regarding GMOs.

Julie Kelly refers to herself as an “accidental activist.” Originally a stay-at-home mom with a background in political consulting, Kelly’s love for food led her to teaching cooking classes — which led her become displeased with how the food movement, usually on the left, was telling us what we should eat and shouldn’t eat.

Kelly gained national prominence after the Wall Street Journal in October 2014 published her op-ed that exposed the political activism of one of Americas most well-known celebrity chefs, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio. That moment launched her into a food fight of words — from GMOs, to the national school lunch program, to the national dietary guidelines. Since Kelly’s first WSJ op-ed, she has had four more published. Julie is also a featured contributor to both National Review Online and the Genetic Literary Project, a scientific-based website.

Guided by research, Kelly has become a staunch defender of American agriculture and biotechnology to improve the world’s food supply — fostered, in part, by her concern about the food her daughters were consuming, and to improve her cooking classes. As Kelly described the GMO controversy: It is not a science or an agricultural issue, but more of a political issue as dictated by environmental groups.   

What are GMOs?

Everything we eat has been modified over a period of time. None of our food is “natural,” not even kale, which is genetically derived from broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts. Specifically, a genetically modified (GM) is a plant developed through a process in which a copy of a desired gene or section of genetic material from one plant or organism is placed in another plant. The only GMOs commercially available in the U.S. are the following nine crops: soybeans, corn (field and sweet), papaya, potato, canola, cotton, alfalfa, summer squash, and sugar beets. (Sugar is the same whether it comes from cane or beets. The molecule doesn’t change. One half of the sugar we use comes from beets.) Kelly noted that the Hershey chocolate company is getting rid of GMO sugar from sugar beets to make the claim that its products are GMO free. Why? Because sugar beet farming is 100 percent GMO farming.

Just as important, Kelly said, is to know is what a GMO isn’t. It’s not an ingredient in the food we eat, which may be made using one or more of the eight common GM crops. Nor are GMOs the same as processed foods — which may contain one or more of the eight GM crops, or they can be made with organic or other non-GM ingredients.

Kelly acknowledged that within the last year a new promising form of gene-editing tool has been developed known as CRISPR/Cas9, which doesn’t involve using genes from other plant species. Instead, modification is achieved through the precise editing of an organism’s native genome. Food produced this way falls under the catgory of genome-edited crops(GECs). Some believe that genome editing is a more efficient and precise method of manipulating genes than the conventional GMO breeding methods we have used for millennia.

Magic of Genetics (GMOs)

Now that we know what GMOs are, why were the nine GMO commercially crops available in the U.S. created in the first place? It might surprise many to know that GMO crops were created to achieve a desired trait in order to better meet a customer’s needs. It is amazing what is happening in agriculture. Mitch Daniels is a great defender of GMOs. Consider the following to judge the value of GMO crops to the farmer through the use of genetically engineered seeds:

  1. Insect resistance crops.
  2. Drought resistance crops.
  3. Herbicide tolerance crops.
  4. Disease resistance crops. (It was through genetic modification the Hawaiian papaya industry was able to overcome the papaya ringspot virus, that had the potential to devastate that industry.)
  5. Increased and enhanced nutritional content. (Genetically modified soybeans with a healthier oil profile are used in a new, heart-healthy soybean oil.)

Transition from no prejudice to embracing safety of GMOs

Julie Kelly started her writing career without any prejudice at all — that is, until she observed the global battle over golden rice. This rice contains beta-carotene which helps fight Vitamin A deficiency in children and pregnant women. A battle also exists over the Vitamin A enriched sweet potato. Millions of pre-age school children around the world go blind for lack of Vitamin A. While there is no concern any longer in America about children not getting enough Vitamin A, why should Vitamin A be denied to children who desperately need it in countries like Africa?

Julie has unconditionally come to believe that GMOs are perfectly safe to consume. Her stance is supported by numerous scientific organizations. An exhaustive report from the National Academies of Sciences released on May 17, 2016, reports that genetically engineered crops are safe for humans and animals to eat, and have not caused increases in cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism or allergies. Consider also a letter signed by more than 100 scientists asking Greenpeace to end its smear campaign against GMOs: “We urge Greenpeace and their followers to examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with food and crops improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of relevant scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon its campaign against ‘genetically modified organisms’ in general and particularly against golden rice.”

Exploitation of Moms

As to why GMOs are maligned as being unsafe to consume, Julie attributes opposition to wealthy individuals and environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, who exploit mothers by convincing them that the food system is broken and expensive organic foods is the way to go. Fortunes have been made through exploitation of the truth.

Much of the opposition to consuming GMO crops has its basis in herbicides, specifically Roundup, a common commercial and industrial weed killer. Through genetic engineering, “Roundup Ready” crops have been developed to permit direct, “over the top” application of the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate found in Roundup to kill nearby weeds without killing the crops

Test have shown that Roundup can be safely used and does not cause cancer — and, besides, it is not sprayed all over the crops close to harvest. After all, farmers and their children eat their own food without concern. These facts don’t deter the fear mongers, however. The Internet is awash in articles condemning the use of Roundup.

 What about the push toward labeling food?

Don’t people have a right to know what is going into their food? Of course. But what if GMO labeling mandates have nothing to do with health, nutrition, or safety? Vermont was the first state to require labeling of any food containing GMO — with the exceptions of beer and cheese. Think about why that is, Kelly said.

There is also currently a move in the U.S. Senate to pass a GMO labeling bill, but a national solution will be difficult to achieve both consumer-wise and politically. The bill proposed by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. would allow food companies to choose between disclosing GMO status on the packages, on a QR code, or a call-in line — and it would also preempt state-level laws, such as Vermont’s. Labels would be required for a product “that contains genetic material,” which would exempt many ingredients derived from GMO crops that no longer contain “genetic material” after being processed. Julie stands squarely against the Senate bill.

In conclusion:

  • Our food system is safe and affordable.
  • The application of safe chemicals to our crops has replaced is labor to the point that only 2 percent of our population is involved in farming.
  • And moms: Stop worrying. Organic food is no safer than GMOs. It just costs more.

[Originally published at the Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Tax Hampton Roads to Pay for Metro

Somewhat Reasonable - July 14, 2016, 2:01 PM

Three cheers to the 11 Virginia General Assembly delegates who appropriately articulated to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that the newly created “Metro Safety Commission should not be used as a vehicle to propose or recommend a new dedicated funding stream or tax increase to support Metro.”

The lawmakers should be applauded for acknowledging the poor management and incompetency that plagues WMATA, the mass transit rail system serving areas of Maryland, Virginia and Washington. The delegates say the most logical solution to the transit system’s financial woes is for WMATA to “get [its] labor and operations costs under control.”

As simple as that solution may sound, the reality is WMATA is a complete mess, and radical reforms are needed to turn this situation around. The Washington Post reported in April on just some of WMATA’s failures over the past year, which included passengers getting sick, including one who died; smoke-filled tunnels; fires; and a derailment. Then, on March 16, “the entire subway was shut down for 24 hours for urgent safety repairs.”

As available statistics show, riders have taken notice of WMATA’s failures, and they have chosen to look elsewhere to fulfill their transportation needs. According to the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Metro ridership “is down by 5 percent since 2010 and continues to fall, even as the region’s population grows.” While the agency has largely deflected blame for the lag in numbers, in October, Metro did take note of the “frequency of severe delays” that affected its ridership volume.

The 11 delegates are absolutely correct to refuse to provide additional funding to this ineffectual transit system at the expense of Virginia’s taxpayers, especially when the few benefits WMATA offers applies only to a very limited segment of the commonwealth’s population.

In fiscal year 2016, the transportation budget allocated more than $314 million to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Fund, while Hampton Roads received approximately $168 million. Hampton Roads’ highways are so bad that in 2013, the Virginia Department of Transportation had to pay motorists for damage to their vehicles caused by potholes that suddenly appeared after a February storm.

Hampton Roads will need additional funds in the future to address other serious regional transportation issues, as more than one-fifth of its bridges are 50 years old or older. The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization reported in 2012 that “the region would need $8 billion over the next 25 years to keep up existing bridges.”

Metro already is receiving more than its fair share of state funding. As the 11 delegates opposing additional funding explained, the state already committed in 2007 to provide $50 million a year in capital funding for 10 years to help pay for much-needed Metro improvements, and in 2013, the General Assembly agreed to provide $300 million in state funds to help pay for the construction of Metro’s Silver Line. According to the letter penned by the 11 delegates, the commonwealth also “provides an annual operating subsidy to WMATA of about $100 million,” and it receives even more funding from Maryland and Washington taxpayers.

After scores of issues, underperformance and ineffective management, the General Assembly should not provide additional tax dollars to clean up Metro’s mess. Throwing more tax dollars at WMATA’s problems would only be putting a Band-Aid on the system; it wouldn’t fix the underlying issues that keep the agency from performing at an effective level.

WMATA and regional leaders should look at ways Metro can earn additional revenue for itself, rather than rely on handouts funded by many taxpayers who will never use the service they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars propping up.


Categories: On the Blog

Students Learn Climate Change Advocacy, Not Climate Science - The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 14, 2016, 8:41 AM
For almost thirty years, I have taught climate science at three different universities. What I have observed is that students are increasingly being fed climate…

Already 240 Published Papers In 2016 Alone Show the “97% Climate Consensus” Is A Fantasy

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 14, 2016, 12:25 AM
From Friends of Science Newsletter by Albert Jacobs Kenneth Richard has compiled a list of 770 papers published since January 1, 2014 that contradict the IPCC…

The Biggest Impediment To Economic Advancement: Government

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 6:51 PM

The U.S. economy continues its Barack Obama Administration-long hobbled limp. President Obama will be our nations first to never, ever have even one year of 3% or higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

We are the United States of Anemia.

Why? Government. The private sector is under full-on governmental assault.

Just the federal government just last year taxed away more than $3.2 trillion. But it spent nearly $3.7 trillion, which means it borrowed the other $0.5 trillion – even more coin rendered unavailable for much better private sector use. And just federal regulations impose compliance costs of an additional $1.9 trillion.

That’s nearly $6 trillion per annum in just federal government impediment. More than one-third of our entire $17.4 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Then you add in the fifty state governments. And the 3,007 county governments. And the multitudinous city and town governments. And….

I can’t imagine why the economy isn’t roaring.

But one example of progress impediment? Governments’ (at all levels) opposition to the petroleum drilling technique known as fracking.

Federal Judge Blocks Major Fracking Rule, Calling It ‘Contrary To Law’: “U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Tuesday…(ruled) that the federal agency’s claim that it had ‘implicit’ congressional authority for the regulations ‘lacks common sense.’”

“Lacks common sense” is a very fair assessment – and not just legally. Where fracking has occurred – it has thrived on a monumental scale. (Hello, North Dakota.) And has been a fundamental component of the private sector’s fundamental transformation of not just the global oil market and the broader global economy – but geopolitics as well.

We’ve been searching for decades for a way to “end our dependence on foreign oil.” Fracking delivered it. Government didn’t deliver – it opposed the private sector doing so.

Meanwhile, what has government spent the last several decades doing to “end our dependence on foreign oil?” Wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on “green energy” (solar, wind, ethanol, etc). Which is neither green nor energy – and costs exponentially more than traditional energy sources.

Renewable Energy ‘Simply WON’T WORK’ (Say) Top Google Engineers: “Windmills, solar, tidal – all a ‘false hope’, say Stanford PhDs.”

Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’

The government isn’t picking winners and losers – it’s picking losers at the expense of winners.

“Green energy” can not exist to not-produce energy – without these massive government money infusions. Even consistently bizarre Europe is beginning to get reacquainted with this reality. And thus so too is their “green energy” “industry.”

Europe’s Green Energy Industry Faces Collapse As Subsidies Are Cut

Spain’s Green Energy Production Crippled Without Subsidy Crutch

Germany Votes To Abandon Most Green Energy Subsidies

The private sector delivers results – government delivers disasters.

So when, in the pursuit of Network Neutrality, the Obama Administration power-grabbed the entire Internet – serious flags should have been raised.

In fact many were. The Tech Sector’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and we free market Reality-lovers practically dislocated shoulders waving them. Warning that slamming the network with so many additional regulations (and prospective taxes) would make it much harder for the Internet’s incredible growth to continue.

Let us consider the wireless Web. Look on your cell phone – for the little letters “4G.” As in Fourth Generation – the current-most-advanced wireless network. For the last many years, wireless providers have spent lots of time and lots of money developing “5G” – the next generation, and a huge technological step forward. Much faster speeds – opening up to blossom theInternet of Things:

“(T)he network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.”

Verizon aims to roll out “5G” in 2017. AT&T says it will beat Verizon to the punch (you have to love private sector completion). Other providers are working to join them as rapidly as possible (you really have to love private sector completion).

But then the Obama Administration dropped its Net Neutrality anvil. Unlike Wile E. Coyote – they didn’t miss.

And with our arms in slings – we sadly, knowingly read this from across the Pond:

European Telecom Companies Deliver ‘5G Manifesto’ to Recommend Against Net Neutrality Regulation

“On July 7, a coalition of 20 telecom companies in the continent — including Vodafone, Telenor, Orange, Nokia, BT, Ericsson, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, and Hutchison — put together the ‘5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe.’…

“While the document is mostly used to outline the key advantages of 5G, its purpose serves to warn governments of the potential dangers of over-regulation of the open internet, essentially arguing against intervention.

“‘The telecom Industry warns that the current Net Neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC, create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment,’ the document states. ‘Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.’”

The Left bizarrely wants to make us more like Europe. Now, in many instances, we’re worse.

There is here already so much pre-Net Neutrality money and energy inertia behind our “5G” rollout – that we will get there.

But this government straightjacket absolutely jeopardizes the next, necessary, massive influxes of cash and attending effort necessary to fully form “5G” – and to create, develop and deliver whatever comes next.

Which won’t come next – because government got in the way.

As we warned. As Europe’s telecom companies are warning.

The Left, still, isn’t listening.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jay Lehr: The Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 3:55 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia.

Lehr discusses the myths and facts surrounding shale gas and renewable power sources. In this dicsussion, Lehr also covers hydro power and nuclear power.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Forcing Unrealistic Hikes Endangers Drivers, Zaps the Economy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 12:41 PM

In pursuit of his misguided climate obsession, President Barack Obama has opened yet another front in his continuing war against America’s 260 million car owners.

Starting in the 2025 model year, less than a decade away, new vehicles will have to achieve a whopping average 54.5 mpg.

This phase of his climate crusade will force motorists into smaller vehicles that are less safe and more expensive. It constitutes a deadly assault that will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year.

Congress established the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards in 1975 in an effort to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

The law required car manufacturers to meet mandated fuel economy targets or pay a hefty tax on gas-guzzling sedans.

The results? Many people switched to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Others, however, started driving trucks, and a new category of vehicles was born: SUVs and minivans.

Ironically, the popularity of trucks, SUVs and minivans came as a direct result of environmentalists’ efforts to force people out of the large, comfortable, powerful cars they liked.

Trucks, SUVs and minivans didn’t have to meet the most stringent fuel economy standards, so to keep features they liked, millions of people replaced the family sedan with an SUV or truck.

As fuel efficiency increased, driving became cheaper, so people drove more miles, negating the marginal gains of using more fuel-efficient vehicles. Higher CAFE standards now apply to this class of vehicles, further reducing consumer choice and safety.

Although CAFE standards did not reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, they did cost thousands of lives.

The fastest way to increase fuel economy is to shed vehicle weight, which compromises safety. Research has shown the size and weight reductions of passenger vehicles undertaken to meet CAFE standards resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

For instance, researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution found for every 100 pounds shaved off new cars to meet CAFE standards, between 440-780 additional people were killed in auto accidents in the United States, or a total of 2,200-3,900 lives lost per model year.

As a result, since it began in 1975, CAFE has resulted in more deaths than all the lives of U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War.

The laws of physics don’t change. In a crash, larger and heavier is better than lighter and smaller. Naturally, the Obama administration doesn’t like to talk about this.

Now environmental radicals and the Obama administration have shifted their argument, saying people should drive small vehicles not to defund Middle East tyrants but to prevent global warming.

But this view is problematic. The National Academy of Sciences has found shifting to more fuel-efficient cars does not prevent or even slow purported global warming.

The academy found higher CAFE standards shifts greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipe to the factory, because vehicles using lighter-weight materials require more energy consumption for the production of substitute materials, offsetting any decreases of greenhouse gas emissions achieved through fuel efficiency.

If environmental activism uninfluenced by facts is the driving force behind your purchasing decisions, you are free to buy electric, hybrid or clean diesel vehicles.

If comfort, power and the ability to haul a boat or ferry a soccer team are your goals, you should be free to buy the type of large, powerful vehicle that fits your needs.

Choose the car you want. The life you save may be your own, and the planet won’t care.


Categories: On the Blog

Constitutional Sound Bites: Quick and Easy American History

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 12:35 PM

Quick, pay attention – think you know all you should about America’s founding? Well, here’s some “Constitutional Sound Bites” from a powerful new book authored by David Shestokas:

 “Declaration of Independence – Did you know?

  • Thomas Jefferson became a lawyer at 24 years old and wrote the “Declaration” at age 33.
  • The impact of the “Declaration of Independence” upon the world was dramatic.  When written in 1776 it was the first such document in history to declare a people free and self-governing.
  • Before the “Declaration of Independence”, a government was typically an empire controlled by a royal family.
  • The Declaration of Independence issued a list of grievances against King.
  • Jefferson patterned the Declaration like a complaint in a court case.  There is a statement of law, a list of violations of law and the proper remedy for those violations

Preamble to Constitution –  Words and phrases as understood by our Founding Fathers –  Did you know?

  • What was meant by “more perfect union?” –  Still related at the time to the Latin origin, perficere, to finish or complete.  It meant a more complete union than had existed before the “Constitution.
  • What was meant by to “establish justice?”  The implication is that justice did not exist under the “Articles of Confederation.”
  • What was meant by “general welfare?”  “General” meant applicable to the whole rather than to the local, individual, or special interests, while welfare” referred to a Constitution goal to promote the happiness of the nation as a whole.

“U.S. Constitution” – Did you know? 

  • The “Constitution” represented the most important event in human history.  Before the ratification process took place in 1787 and 1788, self-government hadn’t existed before.
  • Gouverneur Morris, a lawyer at 19 years old, wrote the Constitution at age 35, yet he is one of the most unknown Founding Fathers.
  • Although Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were on the 5-member committee to write the Constitution, James Madison gave Gouverneur Morris credit for the final Constitution, which he wrote in four days!
  • Colonists knew what a “Power of Attorney” was.  This form was used by lawyers of the time for many different occasions. 
  • Power of Attorney was explained in terms of what many Americans have in the 21centruy, a Health Care Power of Attorney.  
  • Constitution followed the form of the commonly understood Power of Attorney. 
  • Constitution laid side by side with the Power of Attorney follows the same outline.

Bill of Rights – Did you know?

  • The first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
  • James Madison originally proposed 19 amendments to the First Congress.
  • These amendments were changes to the originally ratified Constitution.
  • Supporters of the Constitution had promised to add a Bill of Rights during debate about whether or not the Constitution should be adopted, in response to Anti-Federalists who argued against the Constitution because it lacked protections for basic human liberty.

The First Amendment – Did you know?

  • How many rights are named in the First Amendment and what are they?  
  • Remembering them all will place you among one in one thousand who are able to state the number of rights and then name them.
  • These questions were posed to Heartland attendees by David Shestokas.  Two got all five right.  Many forgot “Freedom to Petition for Redress of Grievances” There is a reason for this:  The people no longer have the right to have their representatives entertain their petitions.  
  • The other four rights are: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, and Assembly.

In a continuing series of free events sponsored by The Heartland Institute, David J. Shestokas, author and lawyer, was featured in keeping with Heartland’s recently established Center for Constitutional Reform, a project of The Heartland Institute.  Kyle Maichle as Project Manager of Constitution Reform, introduced Mr. Shestokas who provided insight into his book, Constitutional Sound Bites, which provides an accurate and accessible resource regarding the “Declaration of Independence”, “Constitution”, and “Bill of Rights.”  The book is available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions.  

David Shestokas earned his B.A. in political science from Bradley University in 1975 and his J.D., cum laude in 1987 from The John Marshall Law School where he swerved on the institution’s law review.  Mr. Shestokas founded the Law Office of David Shestokas in November on 1987.  After practicing in areas such as criminal defense, corporate law, real estate, and business financing, he later served as Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County in Chicago from 1994 to 1998.  During that time he also worked on the Felony Review Unit, participating in police investigations and making charging decisions in more than 400 felony cases.  

David Shestokas reveals

As Mr. Shestokas notes: The leaders of Revolutionary American were used to reading long documents like the Federalist Papers to gain understanding of the important documents of that time, but it’s not the way the American people receive their information in the twenty-first century.  Americans have become used to getting information in small dose through sound-bites.  

Keeping this in mind, Shestokas’ unique book assumes a question and answer format which allows readers to quickly and effectively grasp bursts of material, both children and adults, at a time when our Nation’s Founding receives little attention in American classrooms.  For as Mr. Shestokas related, it is difficult to be a good American without understanding how America was made and what America stands for. 

Below are the first three question posed to readers under Chapter 1, Constitutional Consideration, of Shestokas’ book.  Answers are located in the book below each question:

  • What events during the Christmas of 1776 saved United States independence and set the stage for the Constitution? 
  • How long after the Declaration of Independence did the Constitution go into effect?
  • Why does the United States have three branches of government?

Answers are set forth in a concise, easy to understand, and meaningful way.  This is definitely a must-read book with historical anecdotes that add depth and content which make 18th Century history come to life in 21th Century style. 

Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed a South Carolina House bill into law on June 1, 2016 that implements the study of U.S. founding documents into the social studies programs of the state’s public high schools.  All public education students, both in high school and in college, are required to pass a test after a year-long class.  Every state should have such a requirement.     

Power is always trying to restrict liberty.   Education is so important to understand when abuse of power is taking place, which our Founding Fathers, in declaring independence from England, wanted to leave behind.  Documents were fashioned to make this new nation unique and different from any other nation in the world.  

Beyond Constitutional Sound Bites, in collaboration with Dr. Berta Arias, Spanish professor and past president of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education Shestokas has produced the first explanation of America’s Founding Documents in Spanish, Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales, for the 36,000,000 Americans more comfortable with Spanish than English. Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales is also available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

The collaboration of Shestokas and Arias has also lead to the first Spanish language website devoted to America’s Founding Principles: De Los Estados Unidos  http://www.delosestadosunidos.com/ (About the United States).

Future plans include a children’s book, and a book devoted to the amendments following the Bill of Rights.

The You Tube of the Heartland event featuring David Shestokas and his book,Constitutional Sound Bites, can be viewed hereConstitutional Sound Bites is not Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal.  It’s American! 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Self-Determination and Individual Choice Post Brexit

Somewhat Reasonable - July 13, 2016, 6:43 AM

The recent vote within the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union has once again implicitly raised the issue of the right of self-determination through secession. In other words, do individuals have a right to determine under which political authority they shall live and be represented?

This is, of course, an almost taboo subject in the United States because of its linkage with the Southern Confederacy and the attempted preservation of slavery in the 1860s. While defenders of Southern secession often argue that there were other issues besides slavery that motivated the Southern states to leave the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860, including tariffs and government spending, the fact is slavery was the most important catalyst for Southern secession.

1860s Southern Secession Vs. Self-Determination Today

Anyone who reads the proclamations of secession issued, for example, by South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, or Texas, soon finds that at the core of their decisions to withdraw from the Union was the desire to preserve slavery as the fundamental institution of their societies from perceived anti-slavery threats from the North.

The proponents of Southern secession declared theirs to be a “democratic” choice reflecting the will of the people in these Southern states. But as the nineteenth century British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, pointed out in 1863, “Secession, may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection, but it may also be an enormous crime” when its purpose is the preservation of holding a portion of the population in perpetual bondage. If secession was meant to be an expression of the will of the people, Mill asked, “Have the slaves been consulted? Has their will been counted as any part in the estimate of collective volition? They are a part of the population . . . Remember, we consider them to be human beings, entitled to human rights.”

However, in the context of Europe or the United States today, for instance, this type of challenge to self-determination and secession no longer applies. Personal freedom and a general equality for all citizens under the rule of law are taken for granted on both sides of the Atlantic, even if rarely perfectly practiced. There is no longer a call for secession for the purpose of maintaining a slave system in place. It has far more to do with the distinct principle of the right of people to decide on the political regime under which they wish to live, especially if they consider the existing one to be harmful to the preservation or restoration of a greater degree of liberty in society.

Government Control Versus Individual Freedom To Choose

The most guarded prerogative of every government is its legitimized monopoly over the use of force within its territorial jurisdiction. The second most important prerogative is its exclusive control over all its territory. By implication, governments therefore claim an exclusive right over the political, economic, and cultural destinies of the people under their control. If people may not voluntarily and peacefully separate from the state in which they live, then it is tacitly claiming ownership
 over them.

Of course, the most fundamental right of self-determination is the individual’s right to live his life as he chooses, as long as he does not violate any other person’s right to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. In other words, the core principle underlying any free society is the right of self-ownership. The individual is not the property of the state, any collective group, or any other individual. Without this principle, freedom is unsustainable in the long run.

The classical liberals of the nineteenth century believed that individuals should be free to determine their own lives. It is why they advocated private property, voluntary exchange, and constitutionally limited government. They also believed that people should be free to reside and work in any country they wish. In general, therefore, they advocated freedom of movement. Governments should not compel people to stay within their political boundaries, nor should any government prohibit them from entering its territory for peaceful purposes.

Individual Self-Determination And Secession

An extension of this principle was
 that individuals should be free to 
determine through plebiscite what 
political authority would exist where they lived. It should be kept in mind that this is distinctly different from the collectivists’ notion of “national self-determination,” the alleged necessity for 
all members of an ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural group to be incorporated within a single political entity, regardless of their wishes. Thus, for instance, the Nazis demanded that all members of the “Aryan race” be forcefully united within a Greater Germany under National Socialist leadership.

Classical liberalism implies “individual self-determination.” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises argued in his book on Liberalism (1927) that the liberal ideal would allow individuals within towns, districts, and regions to vote on which state they would live under; they could remain part of the existing state, join another state, or form a new one.

Mises stated that in principle this choice should be left to each individual, not majorities, since a minority (including a minority of one) might find itself within the jurisdiction of a government not of its own choosing. But because it was difficult to imagine how competing police and judicial systems could function on the same street corner, Mises viewed the majoritarian solution to be a workable second best.
Or as Mises expressed it:

“The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with . . .

“However, the right of self-determination of which we speak is not the right of self-determination of nations, but rather the right of self-determination of the inhabitants of every territory large enough to form an independent administrative unit. If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done. This is impracticable only because of compelling technical considerations, which make it necessary that a region be governed as a single administrative unit and the right of self-determination be restricted tot the will of the majority of the inhabitants or areas large enough to count as territorial units in the administration of the country.”

Precisely because it could turn out that an individual found himself still living under a political regime not of his choosing even with this territorial conception of individual self-determination through plebiscite, the classical liberals argued that the best way to assure that the state did not abuse him through the use of state power on behalf of some others should be that every government be limited to only protecting the life, liberty, and honestly acquired property of its citizens in a social order based on voluntary association and free-market exchange.

In such a world the use of political power to benefit some at the coerced expense of others would be eliminated or at least reduced to the smallest amount humanly possible. Government, then, would be only a “night-watchman” responsible for guarding each individual from force and fraud under the equal protection of law within its monopoly jurisdiction.

Self-Determination And The Crimean Conflict

Even if governments were not successfully limited to the protection of individuals and their rights rather than a plunderer of what rightfully belonged to them, such a system of localized individual self-determination would minimize the number of any, say, racial, ethic, religious, linguistic or social groups that might be fearful of discriminatory or deleterious government regulations and controls or prohibitions targeting them as a minority within the jurisdiction of such abusive political power.

Let’s take the case of the Crimea. The peninsula has a mixed population of a Russian majority and Ukrainian and Tatar minorities. It was designated as within the political jurisdiction of Ukraine at the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the Russian government undertook a not very clandestine military invasion of the Crimea in the spring of 2014 that culminated in an annexation of the territory within the Russian Federation.

The Ukrainian government, not surprisingly, declared the annexation and the Russian-manipulated plebiscite that preceded it as illegal and unrecognized by them. The authorities in Kiev said that the peninsula was part of the Ukrainian state and even a plebiscite under international supervision and monitoring would not be allowed.

The Ukrainian and Tatar minorities in Crimea were clearly opposed to the Russian annexation, and, indeed, some within the Russian-speaking majority might very well not have been supportive of being forcefully joined to the Russian state, if there had been a truly fair and open plebiscite. Since then, Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea have reported experiencing various forms of political and economic discrimination under their new masters in Moscow.

If the type of self-determining plebiscite that was proposed by Ludwig von Mises had been implemented, instead, it might have very well resulted in a political map of Crimea under which portions of the peninsula were the same color as Russia, other parts may have been the same color as Ukraine, and still others parts, possibly where ethnic Tatars were in a majority, might have been a totally different color marking those areas as a new Tatar state separate from both Russia and Ukraine.

Many of the individuals in each group would, no doubt, have then felt that their choice and desire concerning under which political jurisdiction they were to live had been more successfully fulfilled. Various ethic and linguistic and political tensions and animosities in the Crimea would have been, at least, minimized.

As long as a reasonable degree of freedom of trade and travel prevailed among these new political entities in the Crimea and between them and the rest of the world, centuries-old group conflicts would have been reduced, while living the individuals within these neighboring political jurisdictions still benefiting from the advantages that come from division of labor, and commerce and trade.

Self-Determination For People In Scotland And Northern Ireland

Taking the argument up to the present, the referendum within the United Kingdom over leaving the European Union was hardly unanimous. The total vote for withdrawing from EU membership was barely 52 percent. In England and Wales the leave vote was 53 percent, respectively, but in Scotland the vote to remain in the EU was 62 percent and in Northern Ireland it was 53 percent to remain. The vote in the city of London and surrounding areas was 60 percent for staying in the European Union.

Some in Scotland have called for a new plebiscite on Scottish independence so that part of the United Kingdom could attempt to remain within the EU. Voices have also been raised in Northern Ireland for a plebiscite on unification with the Republic of Ireland as a gateway to remaining with the European Union.
Again, the classical liberal ideal would call for a vote within Scotland by towns and regions to determine whether the individuals in various parts of Scotland desired to remain within the United Kingdom or have national independence with or without joining the European Union.

It may turn out that all of Scotland would show majority votes for independence, or it might be only areas, regions and districts within which clear majorities had opted for such a political choice. In the latter case, any areas of Scotland in which majorities chose to remain part of the United Kingdom would be allowed to do so, with new boundaries marking off where England ended and a new independent Scotland began, even if this meant enclaves of UK administered regions or areas within the boundaries of an independent Scotland.

To the extent that the voices for Scottish independence have spoken up partly because of a desire for remaining within the European Union, that hope might be squashed by other national governments within the EU. A Spanish representative to the European Union said that a separate Scottish membership within the EU would be voted “no” by Spain. Why? Because the Spanish government in Madrid is fearful that such a precedent would only embolden those in the Spanish region of Catalina who have been calling for independence from the rest of Spain. And acceptance of new members within the EU requires unanimous consent by all existing members.

In the case of Northern Ireland, this part of the island remained a part of Great Britain following the independence of the Irish Republic in 1922 due to the desire of many Protestants in the north not wanting to be a minority within a Catholic majority state. But within Northern Ireland, the territory is divided into more heavily populated Protestant areas surrounding Belfast and more heavily Catholic areas along the border with the Republic of Ireland.

A plebiscite would possibly result in a large part of the border districts choosing to unite with the Irish Republic to the south, while a smaller area closer to Belfast might vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. And, again, there will likely be towns and districts on both sides of such a new drawing of a border that would, respectively, be part of the Irish Republic or continuing to be part of the UK as enclaves within the territory of the other country.

What can very likely be said, I would suggest, is that if such a plebiscite procedure had been followed in 1922 or any time after that, many of the more than 100,000 people either killed, wounded or in some other way physically impacted by the violent sectarian fighting from 1969 to the 1990s in Northern Ireland might not have suffered that fate.

Self-Determination And The Ideal Of Individual Freedom

For the classical liberal, the underlying principle is the right of an individual to live his life as he chooses, wherever he chooses, for peaceful purposes with others in the global society. In a classical liberal world, the forming or transforming of governments would have only one purpose: to eliminate the use of political force for plundering purposes through regulations and compulsory redistributions, and, make government the securer of liberty rather than its violator.

But in the world in which we live, governments rarely limit their activities to such useful but far more limited activities. Instead, special interest groups of various and sundry types use governments to gain benefits at the expense of others. And often in many parts of the world the dividing line between groups wishing to use the state for these purposes is delineated by religion, language, ethnicity, or ideology.

The idea of individual self-determination through local and regional plebiscite can serve as political method to reduce or prevent some of the types of conflicts that have tragically torn communities and countries apart in oceans of human blood and indiscriminate destruction of otherwise productive property.

It could be a powerful, more “individualist” method for reducing some forms of human conflict in what remains a far too collectivist world in which political power is used for predatory purposes, great and small.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Senate Dems' #WebOfDenial Climate Inquisition is Really About Free Speech

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 13, 2016, 6:35 AM
Early this week, Senate Democrats launched a systematic campaign against the alleged #WebOfDenial -- a cabal of nonprofit groups dedicated to "denying" the idea…

The Left's Climate Change 'Web of Denial'

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 13, 2016, 6:32 AM
In the latest bout of political theater, 19 congressional Democrats took the stage of the Senate floor Tuesday to attack free-market organizations for allegedly…

Dem Senator’s Floor Speech to Attack Nonprofit Critical of Her

Environment Suite - In The News - July 13, 2016, 6:31 AM
Share Email Sen. Jeanne Shaheen / AP BY: A Democratic Senator will take to the chamber floor on Tuesday to attack a group that exposed her secret collaboration…

Conservatives fire back at climate-change senators' 'coordinated attack' on speech - Watchdog.org

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 12, 2016, 7:37 PM
By M.D. Kittle | First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org Free-market groups are firing back at Senate Democrats’ coordinated attack on climate-change…

"Dems Assigned Conservative Groups to Attack on Senate Floor" - Overlawyered

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 12, 2016, 7:28 PM
Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of the Hoover Institution, the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, or the Acton Institute? Lachlan Markay,…

#WebOfDenial Push by Senate Dems Exposes Their Hatred of Free Speech

Somewhat Reasonable - July 12, 2016, 3:47 PM

By this evening, a total of 19 Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, will have taken to the floor of the United States Senate to attack the free speech rights of individual and organizations that disagree with the government dogma on the causes and consequences of global warming. Make no mistake: This is an abuse of power and an attempt to intimidate American citizens to keep quiet, and to send those who support them running scared.

It will not work.

The Heartland Institute today released a statement on this campaign, which goes by the hashtag #WebOfDenial. We’ve also been duking it out on Twitter here, here, here, here, and with many more tweets. Click here to read the release, but here’s my contribution:

“Sen. Whitehouse is, once again, abusing the power of his office to lead a coordinated attack on free speech. By singling out Heartland and other groups, Whitehouse and his allies are trying to intimidate us and our supporters into silence, but he will fail.

“Every American has the right to support the causes they believe in, even if a cabal of senators disagree. The words uttered by Sen. Whitehouse and others participating in this stunt are as un-American as they are unscientific.”

I was apparently too kind to Sheldon, even with that sharp rebuke. In a Facebook Live video — in which fewer than 30 watched live (I know, I was among them) — Whitehouse said “The Heartland Institute is about as reprehensible as you can get.” It’s a little flattering to live rent-free in a senator’s brain, but is that appropriate coming from sitting US Senator about a group of his fellow Americans? Regardless, it’s typical of Whitehouse.

All this yapping is in service to a resolution put forth by Senate Democrats — which has no chance of being voted on, let alone passed — which officially “disapproves of activities by certain corporations, trade associations, foundations, and organizations funded by those corporations” to “deliberately mislead” the public “about the dangers of their products.” As my friend Rick Henderson at the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal notes, the resoultion gets worse:

Using language once associated with Red-baiting U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., the Democratic resolution also demands information from these organizations about “what they knew about climate change and when they knew that information.”

Have you now or have you ever been associated with someone who questions unscientific state dogma on the climate? Why, yes. Yes, I have. So come get me … as well as members and leaders of 22 other groups that signed a public letter today pushing back on this affront to free speech. Read the letter, and see who signed it, here. It’s also pasted below.

July 12, 2016

Dear Senators:

We, the undersigned, have long since known that you have a list—an enemies list of intellectual foes you wish to isolate. But our policy differences are not why we write. We write today with grave concern over political leadership in a time of deep national division. We write at a time when free speech and association are more important than ever in our national experiment. How will we, together, solve problems if we cannot speak? How can you lead when you refuse to listen?

You were elected by the people to build consensus and find compromise—to fiercely debate the most pressing issues of our day. Often, these debates are meant to be contentious and without a clear solution because innovation comes from great challenge. Sadly, our democracy and our freedom hangs in the balance as you use your office to bully and single out groups to blame rather than ideas to debate.

Just as you do, our civil society organizations represent many, many millions of Americans and a wide array of perspectives and interests. They deserve and increasingly demand healthy and respectful political dialogue, and well-informed, well-debated public policies. To support the debate our founders intended, all Americans have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of threats from overzealous government officials—threats paraded and perpetrated by you on the Senate floor.

The delicate balance of our democracy is preserved when all groups are free to speak in the public square, and ALL Americans should be concerned when agents of the government use their official offices to marginalize political foes.

Your enemies list groups together organizations that themselves maintain differing perspectives. While you have singled us out, labeling us as the enemy, we don’t even always agree with one another. And that’s the point: disagreement breeds solutions.

We hear you. Your threat is clear: There is a heavy and inconvenient cost to disagreeing with you. Calls for debate will be met with political retribution. That’s called tyranny. And, we reject it.

At the birth of our nation, patriots asserted their right to speech and broke British law in doing so. King George used the full force of the British crown to suppress the rebellion—to suppress speech. In spite of the tyrant’s commands and because they had put their lives on the line to defend their rights, the patriots enshrined free speech in our founding documents; the same documents that gave you your job.

In a country where you should be the patriots leading us into a great future, sadly today you are the tyrants, and we are the patriots.

It was fun sparring with the well-funded climate alarmists on social media today — especially when I leaned on the research at Heartland’s Left Exposed website, which I encourage you to browse and use as a resource of your own to push back at the eco-left. Here’s some prominent profiles to whet your appetite:

Tom Steyer
James Hansen
Bill McKibben
Naomi Klein
Seth Borenstein (AP propagandist reporter)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Tides Foundation
MacArthur Foundation
Packard Foundation
Pew Charitable Trusts
The Hewlett Foundation
Center for American Progress
Climate Action Network
Environmental Working Group
Institute of Global Environment and Society
Union of Concerned Scientists

UPDATE 7/18: Here’s a rundown of the number of times a think tank was mentioned by the #WebOfDenial cabal … and Heartland came out on top.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Brandon Arnold: The Emerging Issues of Budget & Tax Policy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 12, 2016, 2:16 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to an Emerging Issues Forum conference call hosted by MaryAnn McCabe, State Government Relations Manager for The Heartland Institute. The conference call features Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union.

Arnold joins the conference call to discuss several important budget and tax related issues. He covers everything from sin taxes to states switching to 401(k) style pension plans.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Watch video of protest at Attorney General Bill Schuette's home

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 12, 2016, 11:08 AM
MIDLAND, MI — The group that staged a protest at the Midland home of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette last week is claiming Schuette's office unfairly…

... - Linkis.com

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 12, 2016, 7:08 AM
Why are you closing? It hides the content It looks like an ad I trust only original links Link shared by National Center @NationalCenter Democrats' 'Web of…

Socialist or Fascist

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 12, 2016, 6:52 AM
It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist." He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to…
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