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California poised to adopt ultra-leftist K-12 history curriculum

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 01, 2016, 11:32 PM
Stanley Kurtz reports that California is on the verge of approving a new and sharply leftist K-12 curriculum framework for history and social sciences. The…

Greenpeace Under Fire — Again!

Somewhat Reasonable - June 01, 2016, 3:40 PM

It hasn’t been a great 1 1/2 years for Greenpeace, the world’s largest, most well-funded, and arguably its least honest, environmental activist organization.

Greenpeace has been controversial for years, engaging in direct action, legal actions, and consumer boycott campaigns under the false guise of protecting the environment when time after time, its activities are shown to be little more than venal fundraising tools. Many of Greenpeace’s questionable actions are detailed at the Environmental Policy Alliance’s Big Green Radicals website, which provides a litany of misdeeds I advocate readers peruse at their leisure.

In an interview I conducted with Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, he shared about the disreputable turn Greenpeace had taken since its founding.

In late 2014 and 2015, Greenpeace ran afoul of both the governments of Peru and India for their activities which violated the law. In the Peruvian case, a Greenpeace stunt damaged a world heritage site.

Now, it seems Greenpeace will find itself in court once again. On May 31, Resolute Forest Products Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace Fund, Inc., STAND (formerly ForestEthics) and a number of their associates alleging a campaign embarked upon by Greenpeace,  “Resolute: Forest Destroyer,” violates federal racketeering, trademark, defamation and tortious interference laws claims under Georgia and federal law.

Resolute’s complaint, worth reading in its entirety, claims Greenpeace has falsely accusing the company of, among other things: (a) “destroying endangered forests,” and “operating and sourcing wood . . . in violation of law”; (b) causing the “destruction of endangered species” and “critical caribou habitat” and risking a “Caribou Herd Death Spiral,” “extirpation” and “extinction;” (c) “abandoning” and “impoverishing” the Boreal’s indigenous communities; and (d) impairing the Boreal’s ability to mitigate climate change. The creation, promotion and spread of these falsehoods, including through email and boycott  campaigns has harmed Resolute’s reputation and cost it income.

In truth, Resolute’s federal case is just one step in an ongoing legal and PR battle the company has been waging against Greenpeace since 2010. As detailed by the Media Research Center, in late 2012, after Greenpeace had spread the false information that Resolute had breached the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement by illegally logging in “suspended harvest” areas, it was forced to issue a “Notice of Correction,” owning up to the lies they’d spread. Indeed, Greenpeace has been fighting not to be brought before the bar and too account in Canada since Resolute sued it in Canadian courts in 2013.

Not too prejudge the outcome or pick sides of course, but I look forward to the bully Greenpeace getting its legal comeuppance. May it be forced to pay millions of dollars in fines and punitive damages. Perhaps that would force donors who still have an open mind and really care about the environment — as opposed to the blind Greenpeace acolytes who have drunk its radical Kool-Aid —  to consider whether they want their scarce conservation dollars going to an organization that spends more than 60 percent of its income on salaries and an increasing portion of its remaining funds paying off legal claims for its malicious, unwarranted actions.

Categories: On the Blog

Naomi Oreskes Warps History

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

Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes is best known to climate realists by her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt and its scurrilous demonization of climate skeptics as paid hacks parroting the fossil-fuel industry’s self-serving opposition to the “consensus view” of man-made climate catastrophe, but that screed doesn’t reveal the flaws in her work.

A short, obscure, error-riddled essay titled, “My Science is Better than Your Science,” that she wrote in 2011 is more significant. It was a chapter in a book titled, How Well Do Facts Travel? The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge, and examined the 1991 origin of the “skeptics are paid industry shills” narrative supposedly found in a legendary set of “leaked Western Fuels memos.”

That short chapter is important because Oreskes totally misinterprets the “memos” as Big Coal’s plan for a vast national campaign with paid climate scientists that created the lasting public doubt about global warming. That’s the very same interpretation repeated endlessly by climate alarmists including Al Gore, Ross Gelbspan (1997’s The Heat Is On), Canadian public relations flak James Hoggan ’s attack website DeSmogBlog, and many others.

Appallingly, nobody in this parade of critics did any fact checking of the memos, not even historian Naomi Oreskes, which is a serious lapse for a historian. In fact, Oreskes and the others were using a garbled conglomeration of nearly a dozen different memos from different sources that were collected by Greenpeace and posted unsorted and in no rational order on one of its websites – because they never checked who they really came from.

Critics had no idea what they were looking at in the hundred-or-so pages of “Western Fuels memos.” They simply took the pieces that made skeptics look the worst and patched them together into an assumption-laden fairy-tale, historian Oreskes most unseemly of all.

Had Oreskes, the renowned Harvard Professor of the History of Science, bothered to interview any of the clearly identified sources of the “Western Fuels memos,” she would have discovered that less than one-third of the jumbled “memos” involved Western Fuels Association at all.

It’s ironic that the “Western Fuels memos” became known as “Orders from Big Coal” because Western Fuels Association is actually just the opposite of what the alarmist critics thought: It’s a small, not-for-profit, member-owned co-op serving 24 consumer-owned rural and small municipal electric cooperatives and other public power systems from Wyoming to Kansas. Oreskes never mentions that, probably because she never researched her sources well enough to know it.

The Western Fuels Association co-op members were small and besieged by national news stories that gave only the crisis side of the climate change issue and desperately needed a national campaign with professional support from reputable academics with long track records as outspoken skeptics. WFA created some of the “memos” while trying to assemble a coalition to operate that hoped-for nationwide opposition campaign. That campaign never happened; its ten-day trial run flopped miserably. It was closer to Comedy of Errors than Merchants of Doubt fronting for Big Coal.

Oreskes had no idea what Western Fuels actually did. What WFA really did with coal was to manage contract mining and transportation of coal from member-owned mines and buy additional coal in the open market – facts printed on the inside cover of WFA’s annual reports, available to all. Historian Oreskes either did not examine WFA’s annual reports, which would have shown her it was a not-for-profit electrical co-op, or she knew and did not tell her audience, leaving a false impression.

If WFA was the source of only about one-third of the “memos,” then who were the sources of the remainder? The “memos” were, in fact, the everyday work products of two electric power associations (Western Fuels Association being one) and three of their public relations companies.

The other power association was the giant Edison Electric Institute, the representative and lobbying center of all investor-owned electrical utilities in the United States. These power companies are highly regulated by public utility commissions that are very sensitive to public opinion and would not and did not participate in any climate-skeptic actions at all. In fact, EEI had its own Climate Task Force which publicly denounced Western Fuels Association’s attempt to form a skeptic coalition.

EEI coordinated the most misinterpreted single document of all the “memos,” which was originally contained in a bulky 100-plus page package sent to EEI from opinion survey firm Cambridge Reports of Massachusetts. The fateful page was in a routine public opinion poll and proposal for a related campaign of the type that EEI regularly commissioned, this year on public attitudes about global warming.

That single most misinterpreted Cambridge Reports page was titled “Strategy,” listing nine goals, topped by “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” That was seen by critics as “orders from Big Coal headquarters” to reposition the public into believing global warming is not a fact. Al Gore even featured it in ominous red letters spread across a frame of his movie An Inconvenient Truth. In fact, it was one of several suggestions for an ad layout offered by Cambridge Reports for an EEI campaign that never happened – a fate suffered by many of Cambridge Reports proposals from year to year, according to the owner at the time.

The other “memos” included letters, meeting notices, reports to Western Fuels from a hired Washington public relations firm and sample ad layouts from Simmons Advertising in Grand Forks, North Dakota, a direct mail firm, for a proposed test run – a ten-day radio and newspaper campaign, and that’s all.

The Western Fuels climate skeptics picked the semi-humorous acronym “ICE” to use in creating a name for themselves, and asked EEI’s communications executive to include that and numerous other requests to Cambridge Reports for inclusion in the report. He agreed. EEI gave a copy of the resulting 100-page report to WFA’s Washington public relations firm, but the WFA CEO never even saw it, and when interviewed and told me about it, he said WFA would never use “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” because it was too abstract and egg-headed for its rural audience. WFA’s communications director says that, unlike his CEO, he saw the page and had no idea how to “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact),” so he left it in the pile and selected useful pages to send to Simmons in North Dakota.

Cambridge Reports suggested several names to fit the “ICE” acronym, including “Informed Citizens for the Environment,” and “Information Council for the Environment.” Western Fuels selected the latter, so “Information Council for the Environment” was the only name the public ever saw for the “Big Coal Front Group.”

Thus, the businesses that created the “memos” had no grandiose plan or the power to impose one. EEI rejected a publicity campaign and relied upon their expertise, which was lobbying, to raise public concern about a proposed “carbon tax,” or cap-and-trade law. Western Fuels selected climate skeptic approaches with well-established skeptic scientist spokesmen as a balance to the deluge of alarmist publicity of the day.

However, even the national campaign planned by Western Fuels never happened: Its test run failed from the start, and their informal coalition dissolved in public disagreements between the skeptic faction and the lobbying faction. In July, 1991, the aborted coalition was an obvious impossibility. The factions went their separate ways, smaller ones with the skeptic message, big investor-owned ones with lobbying, fearing upset among their urban environmentalist consumers.

Everyone actually connected to the “Western Fuels memos” said that Oreskes did not contact them for comment, and none had ever heard of her.

The package of “Western Fuels memos” is publicly available today only in 50 poorly scanned and frustratingly incomplete images on a Greenpeace Investigations site. The originals were destroyed in a North Dakota flood that washed away the facilities of Simmons, so where did Oreskes get the entire set? She claims that she found them “in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) headquarters in Washington, D.C.” and advises that “scholars wishing to consult these materials should contact the AMS.”

Contact with AMS revealed that the Society is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, not Washington, D.C. It maintains a small Washington office that deals with government affairs but keeps no archives. The AMS archivist in Boston verified that no such documents ever existed in Society archives. Oreskes’ claim is disputed.

Oreskes said in her chapter in “How Well Do Facts Travel?” that an “Anthony Socci” brought the documents to her attention. The AMS archivist said that Socci – a Senate Commerce Committee staffer from 1991 to 1993 who managed hearings for Senator Al Gore – had been an AMS employee for a short time, and likely had a personal copy in his office that he made available to Oreskes. Perhaps that does not sound as scholarly as “an acquaintance gave the documents to me,” so she may have just made it sound respectable by calling Socci’s file cabinet an “archive.”

Going back one step, how did Socci get the “secret Big Coal documents”? The answer is almost laughable. Among the “memos” is a letter on EEI letterhead dated May 6, 1991 showing that the Institute’s global warming task force strongly disparaged the Western Fuels skeptic campaign and said their entire file would be sent to every Edison Electric Institute member – all the regulated electrical utilities in the United States. So, any one of thousands of utility workers could have given them to anybody they wanted to. The documents were never secret. Probably the only one who didn’t know about them were real members of Big Coal – Peabody, Arch, all the big names – which were busily lobbying Congress and had no faith in PR campaigns.

Within a month of the EEI’s letter, the documents were circulating in the streets, especially among environmentalists in Washington, D.C.. The Sierra Club forwarded a copy to the New York Times, mentioned in a July 8, 1991 article headlined, “Pro Coal Ad Campaign Disputes Warming Idea.” More people saw that article in one day than everything Western Fuels did in months of struggle, puzzling, engaging climate skeptic scientists for a ten-day, three-city trial run, and coming up with nothing.

But activists needed to create outrage in order to attract attention and satisfy their need to dominate. So science historian Naomi Oreskes took what amounts to climate skeptic vanilla pudding and labeled it as deadly poison peddled by Merchants of Doubt without any investigation into the original source documents and no requests for comment from the clearly named involved parties. That breaks every rule of journalistic ethics, not to mention scholarly historiography.

A noted historian, asked for the ideal definition of history, once said, “Ideally, history is what really happened.”

Oreskes didn’t ask.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Dr. Jay Lehr on Obama’s Climate Action Plan: New Methane Rule Targets American Industry

Somewhat Reasonable - June 01, 2016, 11:15 AM

On Tuesday, May 31, Heartland Science Director Dr. Jay Lehr, PhD, was a guest on the radio show “Energy Matters” with host Scott Hennen on The Legendary Voice of the Northern Plains. Lehr was invited on to discuss the EPA’s Methane Rule as a part of President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan.”

Lehr explains that the “Climate Action Plan” is intended to eliminate fossil fuels and reduce emissions from shale gas, a naturally abundant source off fuel within the United States. As a result of these regulations, American fuel costs rise and force Americans to rely on foreign sources of energy. Lehr touches on Donald Trump’s address to the oil industry in North Dakota last week, in which he expressed support for independent entrepreneurs in the industry. During the talk, Trump encouraged private landowners who have utilized new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, allowing Americans to make use of vast quantities of fossil fuel. It was these innovations, Lehr explains, that have allowed Americans to begin the securitization of energy independence.

Lehr goes on to state that Congress’ current policies of subsidizing alternate sources of energy like wind and solar are ultimately ineffective. Because the United States and many other nations have naturally plentiful sources of fossil fuel, less efficient energy sources cannot feasibly compete with oil. Lehr comments that the United States is the only nation in which land ownership grants the rights to all minerals contained within the ground, giving the US an inherent economic advantage. However, as a result of President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” oil prices have already risen.

Further, Lehr explains that the left’s sensationalization and demonization of methane is not actually founded in science. Methane, although a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2, actually dissipates into the atmosphere shortly after release. This means that its emission and presence in our atmosphere is of little consequence to our climate. Lehr states that our climate is affected by more variables than that of which can be scientifically handled and thus cannot be captured accurately by a mathematical model. Lehr points out that modern scientists do not have the ability to accurately predict the temperature two weeks from now, let alone one hundred years.

Lehr states that the EPA’s new restrictions on methane emissions cannot and will not affect the environment, meaning that the “Climate Action Plan” can only be targeted at the oil industry itself. President Obama and his administration have continually used global warming as a vehicle to constrain the energy sector and as Lehr explains, infringe upon commercial rights.

Listen to the interview in full using the player above.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jackie Stewart: The Harmful and Unrealistic Goals of “Keep It In The Ground”

Somewhat Reasonable - June 01, 2016, 10:52 AM

After the success of the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline, environmental activists set their sights on persuading Universities and other investors to divest from fossil fuels. Ultimately, these efforts were unsuccessful, leading these professional activists to found the Keep It In the Ground movement, who’s mission is to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.

In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Jackie Stewart, from Energy in Depth, and Research Fellow Isaac Orr discuss the origins and influence of the Keep It In The Ground movement, and how they affect public policy. This affect on public policy comes despite receiving rebuke from Sally Jewel, the Secretary of the Interior, who dismissed the movement as unrealistic.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Apparently, Failing Civics Class is a Media Job Requirement

Blog - Education - June 01, 2016, 1:23 AM

Our public schools have for decades served not as education facilities – but as social services and indoctrination centers. From which the average graduate can’t read the diploma they’re handed – but they can roll a condom on a banana. Where people are brainwashed into preferring failed-everywhere socialism over wealth-producing capitalism – but are blithering, blinkered boobs when asked why.

The late, great comedian George Carlin understood why government does this: “Governments don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. That is against their interests. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept it.”

Most government schools don’t teach – or don’t teach properly – one of the greatest documents in human history: our Constitution. Which produced the most prosperous, egalitarian nation ever. But which government schools by and large impugn as racist and fatally flawed – and thus not worthy of proper consideration.

So concepts like the separation and balance of government powers – are foreign to most government school victims. Concepts like:

The Legislative Branch (Congress) – and only the Legislative Branch – legislates. And the Executive Branch then – and only then – executes the laws written by Congress. And enforces – only what Congress expressly wrote in the laws. If the Executive Branch goes beyond the powers granted it by the laws of the Legislative Branch – it is exceeding its authority, and usurping Congress’. Separation – and balance – of powers.

Government school victims mostly don’t know this. And many of these victims – matriculated and landed gigs in the media. But one example:

The Barack Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 unilaterally granted themselves huge new taxing and regulatory authorities over the Internet. They “reclassified” the way the Web is regulated – so that they are now imposing 1934 landline telephone law on the Net. Because despite the Internet not even existing until a half-century later, I’m quite sure our 1934 Congress had it in mind when writing their phone laws.

Our more modern Congresses never wrote a law authorizing reclassification – a necessary precedent to any such move by the Executive Branch. Thus what the FCC did is an egregious overreach. A huge violation of the separation and balance of powers. Now the House of Representatives is doing exactly for what the Constitution calls when the Executive Branch overreaches – use the Legislative Branch’s power of the purse to rein it in.

Do our government school victims in the media understand any of this?  Of course not. Get a load of this raft of totally ignorant headlines.

House Republican Unveils Bill to Limit FCC’s Net Neutrality Plans

The FCC can’t have plans – unless and until Congress gives them plans.

House Republicans Slam FCC Net Neutrality Proposal, Tout Own Bill

The media misses utterly that the FCC never had a “bill” – they issued a unilateral fiat. And bizarrely, incorrectly places the FCC and Congress on equal Constitutional footing when it comes to deciding what the FCC does.

House Republicans Vote to Kill FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

Since only Congress can create rules – their looking to kill the FCC’s unilateral rules is exactly for what the Constitution calls.

House Republicans Again Target Net Neutrality With Budget Attack

That would actually be the Congress using its Constitutional power of the purse to address a rogue Executive Branch agency.

Republicans Move to Gut FCC and Crush its Net Neutrality Crusade with Paralyzing Budget Rules

Executive Branch agencies aren’t supposed to run off on unilateral “crusades” – they are to enforce as written the Legislative Branch’s laws. When an agency tilts at idealogical windmills – it is Congress’ Constitutional duty to dock its allowance.

FCC…Gets Bitten in the Ass by Net Neutrality

I have zero sympathy for self-inflicted, authoritarian wounds. Neither should you. The media has oodles of it – if they are suffered in the pursuit of ever larger government.

House Republicans Move To Eliminate Net Neutrality

No, they don’t. Net Neutrality has always existed on the Web. What House Republicans are doing is limiting the FCC’s illegal, unilateral Net Neutrality regulations (which demonstrates that in addition to being illegal, the FCC’s moves were also totally unnecessary).

Republican Budget Proposal Would Gut Net Neutrality

No it wouldn’t. It would gut the FCC’s unilateral power grab – executed under the guise of Net Neutrality.

Zombie Bills: The Ongoing Congressional Attacks on Net Neutrality

Again, not on Net Neutrality – on the FCC’s power grab. Note the media’s utter backwardness here. The Congress “attacks” Net Neutrality regulations – that can not actually exist until Congress writes law giving the FCC the authority to make them.

House Budget Bill Guts Net Neutrality, Kills FCC Authority

The media says Congress wants to “kill” – what only Congress can actually create. The FCC declaring itself Internet Overlord – doesn’t make it legally so. Congress looking to restore Constitutional order – isn’t “killing” anything.

Republicans Defy Net Neutrality

Yet again – no, they don’t.

GOP Moves to Gut Net Neutrality, FCC Budget

GOP Pushing Bill That Guts FCC Authority, Kills Net Neutrality

GOP Budget Bill Would Kill Net Neutrality

Republicans Hope to Kill the FCC’s…Net Neutrality

Blah, blah, blah.

How’s that for a cavalcade of media Constitutional ignorance – and thus mis-reporting?

Government schools…are winning.

[Originally published at RedState]

Apparently, Failing Civics Class is a Media Job Requirement

Somewhat Reasonable - June 01, 2016, 1:23 AM

Our public schools have for decades served not as education facilities – but as social services and indoctrination centers. From which the average graduate can’t read the diploma they’re handed – but they can roll a condom on a banana. Where people are brainwashed into preferring failed-everywhere socialism over wealth-producing capitalism – but are blithering, blinkered boobs when asked why.

The late, great comedian George Carlin understood why government does this: “Governments don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. That is against their interests. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept it.”

Most government schools don’t teach – or don’t teach properly – one of the greatest documents in human history: our Constitution. Which produced the most prosperous, egalitarian nation ever. But which government schools by and large impugn as racist and fatally flawed – and thus not worthy of proper consideration.

So concepts like the separation and balance of government powers – are foreign to most government school victims. Concepts like:

The Legislative Branch (Congress) – and only the Legislative Branch – legislates. And the Executive Branch then – and only then – executes the laws written by Congress. And enforces – only what Congress expressly wrote in the laws. If the Executive Branch goes beyond the powers granted it by the laws of the Legislative Branch – it is exceeding its authority, and usurping Congress’. Separation – and balance – of powers.

Government school victims mostly don’t know this. And many of these victims – matriculated and landed gigs in the media. But one example:

The Barack Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 unilaterally granted themselves huge new taxing and regulatory authorities over the Internet. They “reclassified” the way the Web is regulated – so that they are now imposing 1934 landline telephone law on the Net. Because despite the Internet not even existing until a half-century later, I’m quite sure our 1934 Congress had it in mind when writing their phone laws.

Our more modern Congresses never wrote a law authorizing reclassification – a necessary precedent to any such move by the Executive Branch. Thus what the FCC did is an egregious overreach. A huge violation of the separation and balance of powers. Now the House of Representatives is doing exactly for what the Constitution calls when the Executive Branch overreaches – use the Legislative Branch’s power of the purse to rein it in.

Do our government school victims in the media understand any of this?  Of course not. Get a load of this raft of totally ignorant headlines.

House Republican Unveils Bill to Limit FCC’s Net Neutrality Plans

The FCC can’t have plans – unless and until Congress gives them plans.

House Republicans Slam FCC Net Neutrality Proposal, Tout Own Bill

The media misses utterly that the FCC never had a “bill” – they issued a unilateral fiat. And bizarrely, incorrectly places the FCC and Congress on equal Constitutional footing when it comes to deciding what the FCC does.

House Republicans Vote to Kill FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

Since only Congress can create rules – their looking to kill the FCC’s unilateral rules is exactly for what the Constitution calls.

House Republicans Again Target Net Neutrality With Budget Attack

That would actually be the Congress using its Constitutional power of the purse to address a rogue Executive Branch agency.

Republicans Move to Gut FCC and Crush its Net Neutrality Crusade with Paralyzing Budget Rules

Executive Branch agencies aren’t supposed to run off on unilateral “crusades” – they are to enforce as written the Legislative Branch’s laws. When an agency tilts at idealogical windmills – it is Congress’ Constitutional duty to dock its allowance.

FCC…Gets Bitten in the Ass by Net Neutrality

I have zero sympathy for self-inflicted, authoritarian wounds. Neither should you. The media has oodles of it – if they are suffered in the pursuit of ever larger government.

House Republicans Move To Eliminate Net Neutrality

No, they don’t. Net Neutrality has always existed on the Web. What House Republicans are doing is limiting the FCC’s illegal, unilateral Net Neutrality regulations (which demonstrates that in addition to being illegal, the FCC’s moves were also totally unnecessary).

Republican Budget Proposal Would Gut Net Neutrality

No it wouldn’t. It would gut the FCC’s unilateral power grab – executed under the guise of Net Neutrality.

Zombie Bills: The Ongoing Congressional Attacks on Net Neutrality

Again, not on Net Neutrality – on the FCC’s power grab. Note the media’s utter backwardness here. The Congress “attacks” Net Neutrality regulations – that can not actually exist until Congress writes law giving the FCC the authority to make them.

House Budget Bill Guts Net Neutrality, Kills FCC Authority

The media says Congress wants to “kill” – what only Congress can actually create. The FCC declaring itself Internet Overlord – doesn’t make it legally so. Congress looking to restore Constitutional order – isn’t “killing” anything.

Republicans Defy Net Neutrality

Yet again – no, they don’t.

GOP Moves to Gut Net Neutrality, FCC Budget

GOP Pushing Bill That Guts FCC Authority, Kills Net Neutrality

GOP Budget Bill Would Kill Net Neutrality

Republicans Hope to Kill the FCC’s…Net Neutrality

Blah, blah, blah.

How’s that for a cavalcade of media Constitutional ignorance – and thus mis-reporting?

Government schools…are winning.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Top-two primary limits voters’ choices

Out of the Storm News - May 31, 2016, 6:01 PM

If a California-style “top two” primary were in place for presidential races in 2008, the nation’s voters would have had to choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the general election. There would have been no “third party” candidates on the ballot – and no chance for voters to show their disgust by writing in “Mickey Mouse.”

How’s that for a choice that reflects – as the “Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act” promises – “the right of every Californian to vote for the candidate of his or her choice?”

Of course, “top two” doesn’t exist for presidential races. California’s system – whereby the top two vote-getters in the primary face off in the November general election, even if they are from the same party – applies to statewide races, legislative races and to U.S. Senate and congressional races. But that “what if” illustrates its fundamental flaw; instead of enhancing voter choice, this reform significantly contracts it.  The only way to protest the choices is to not vote at all.

This presidential year, Americans are faced with what many view as distasteful alternatives: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many voters are seeking alternatives and looking to third-party choices. Why shouldn’t voters have the same chance to seek out alternatives in lower-profile races?

I’ve voted in almost every election over the last 36 years, yet in the last election I declined to vote for U.S. Congress and some other races given the unacceptable “either-or” choice on the ballot. As a registered Libertarian, I can vote for my preferred candidate in the primary – but the general election is what really matters.

The “top two” ballot initiative promised a lot. “Our state government is broken…,” explained the argument in favor of Proposition 14. “It’s time to end the bickering and gridlock and fix the system.” Supporters said its passage would result in the election of more moderates who would work across party lines because the primary election would force candidates to seek out votes from everyone – not just party loyalists.

The problems Proposition 14’s backers pointed to in 2010 – 12 percent unemployment rates, $20-billion-plus budget deficits, gridlock – have subsided. But it would be fanciful to give this system credit. Voters also approved Proposition 25 in 2010, which allowed the Legislature to pass budgets with a simple majority, rather than a supermajority. Democrats no longer need Republican votes to ram through budgets. Furthermore, voters agreed to raise their taxes, thanks to Proposition 30. The economy has recovered. None of this has led to less partisanship – but the general-fund budget crisis has subsided, as one party gained more power over the other.

Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News and a longtime critic of the “top two” system, was the one who clued me into the fact that in 2008, because of a crowded split field, there would have been no Republican candidate under a Top Two system. He also points to a 2013 study in the American Journal of Political Science that examines primaries and partisanship across the country. “It studied 18,000 legislators between 1992-2010,” Winger explained. “It finds no correlation between type of primary system and the degree of polarization and partisanship in legislatures.” So it’s questionable this loss of choice is providing much in return.

Winger notes another likely side effect: declining voter participation. “California turnout declined more than any other state between November 2010 and November 2014,” he added. No wonder. When the general election choices often are between two members of the same party, there’s little motivation to vote. There’s plenty of motivation to leave blank the ballot in some major races.

The “top two” is like many other gimmicks good-government activists have embraced over the years. Term limits, for instance, was meant to replace career politicians with citizen legislators. Instead, it created a game of musical chairs. Politicians always jockey for the next office. That reform also reduced the capitol’s institutional knowledge.

“Top two” likewise has caused unforeseen consequences, as The Atlantic explained in its December profile. The magazine looked, in part, at moderate Democrat Steve Glazer’s special state Senate election against liberal Democrat Susan Bonilla. This race is often used as evidence of the new primary’s success and, in my view, was the best outcome. But the details also spotlight the system’s flaws.

Bonilla had the backing of the Democratic establishment and unions and was the almost-certain winner if Republican candidate Michaela Hertle grabbed second spot. But Hertle pulled out and endorsed Glazer. As The Atlantic reported, “just before the election a flyer appeared on the doorsteps of voters in District 7 telling them to vote for her because she’s a ‘real Republican,’ in an apparent effort to trick voters into casting ballots for a candidate who was no longer running.”

Glazer came in second and then won the general election – but the “top two” makes such games-playing more likely, even if it occasionally leads to a good, moderate candidate beating out a union ally. It rarely leads to a clearer choice for voters.

“Top two” was conceived in backroom political shenanigans. Back when a supermajority was needed to pass a budget, moderate Republican Abel Maldonado agreed to support a budget deal in exchange for putting the new primary system before voters. Voters favored it 54 percent to 46 percent. But it’s troubling to change the election rules to achieve specific political outcomes – i.e., moderates passing reforms designed to elect more moderates.

Often, interesting ideas come from the extremes. Liberal Democrats often back important civil-liberties reforms (including asset forfeiture and police accountability) while conservative Republicans push useful fiscal measures. Rarely does much innovative policy come from the middle. Moderates may be more open to deal-making than legislators firmly grounded in a political philosophy. One can argue about the value of having more moderates in office.

Without question, though, the system fails at a key promise: giving voters more choices.

Another Climate Alarmist’s Predictions Don’t Match Real-World Data

Somewhat Reasonable - May 31, 2016, 2:21 PM

Whenever there is a new record set, whether rain, hurricane, drought, etc., those in the climate change alarmist camp seem to be quick to point to global warming as the cause and make more dire predictions regarding the future—even when there are other documented reasons and even when hard data (not models) disputes the claim. Such is the case with Lake Mead. On May 20, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced that the nation’s largest reservoir, located near Las Vegas, NV, reached an all-time low. The current level slipped below the previous record set in June 2015.

Despite reports of the mismanagement of the important water resource, USA Today responded to the news by proclaiming: “Due to a long drought and climate change, Lake Mead’s water levels continue to fall.”

Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, and brother to former Colorado Senator Mark Udall and cousin to New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, declared: “This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds.” According to the Desert Sun, he added: “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline.”

Udall previously stated: “Climate change is water change. The two go hand in hand. Heat drives the water cycle. …You have to invoke temperatures to explain the current drought.”

Back in 2010, the Smithsonian magazine, cites Udall when it says: “Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years. … Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation. Udall said: ‘You’re going to see earlier runoff and lower flows later in the year,’ so water will be more scarce during the growing season.”

While Udall’s statements are dramatic and coincide with the climate crisis narrative his better-known family members espouse, they do not, according New Mexico hydrologist Mike Wallace, reflect actual temperature and stream flow records in the Colorado River Basin. (Ihighlighted Wallace’s work on ocean acidification in December 2014.)

Both Wallace and Udall claim to be experts in the hydrology and climatology of the western U.S. Wallace has more than 30 years of experience in the field. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in nanosciences at the University of New Mexico. Under his advisor solar physicist Harjit Ahluwalia, Wallace researches solar connections to the earth’s climate with an emphasis on hydrology—the topic of his dissertation. Udall’s undergraduate degree is in engineering and he holds an MBA from Colorado State University.

However, Wallace told me: “I’m the only hydrologist who is publishing moisture and temperature forecasts in reaches of the Upper Colorado River, years in advance, with consistently high accuracy.”

Regarding Udall’s comments in the Smithsonian, Wallace, who looks at streamflow records going back to the early twentieth century, finds that streamflows have actually been going up in recent years—correlating to ocean and solar drivers.

Wallace, who counts the city of Santa Fe as one of his forecasting business clients, pioneered the discovery that moisture patterns in his area of study—which overlaps Udall’s—are deeply anchored to ocean indexes and sunspot numbers. He boldly asserts: “There is no correlation of CO2 emissions history to the moisture time series that I have evaluated. Also, for the same stations that I review there is little or no correlation of temperature to streamflow. Rather, ocean drivers can account for changes in temperature and moisture in this region, and those drivers appear to be driven themselves by solar cycles.”

While Udall believes temperatures are rising and causing reduced streamflow into Lake Mead, Wallace disputes the premise. Wallace says he has three years of successful forecast exercises to back up his claim that, in his study areas, “temperatures are hardly trending in any direction and, in any case, those temperatures are not correlating to streamflow.”

Wallace’s work focuses on streams charged by high mountains—above 9000 feet. His study regions include many of the tributaries of the Colorado River such as the San Juan River and the Green River—both of which are sourced in the Rocky Mountains. He says: “There haven’t been any unusually low streamflow rates or unusually high temperatures in my area of focus. In fact, flows are going up, not down, compared to two and three years ago and some temperatures are actually trending down over the same recent time frame.”

Using his proprietary method (patent pending) with more than 200 accurate forecasts, and applying to areas near the nexus of the Upper Rio Grande and the Upper Colorado Rivers, Wallace is projecting 3-4 years of generally increased water flows, followed by 3-4 years of generally decreasing moisture (drought). He posits that his innovations help municipalities, flood control authorities, irrigation districts, and resource management agencies better plan for future moisture and temperature conditions.

An example of real science at work without political interference, Wallace explains: “Research suggests that as the Sun’s radiant energy increases and decreases in sync with its sunspot cycles, the planet’s hydrosphere (all of the water) responds accordingly.  Others have suggested this, but I’ve taken that several steps further. First, I’ve discovered reproducible, high correlations between sun spot numbers and a few key features of Earth’s climate.  Second, I’ve developed a series of unique calculations, which additionally consider global hydroclimatological patterns, the site location and elevation, and latency effects, to produce my forecasts. A majority of those forecast exercises have turned out to be far more accurate than any competing method, including any or all of the global circulation models (GCMs) endorsed by the UN IPCC—which I believe is what Mr. Udall must be using for his assertions.”

Wallace has written and presented several papers on his discoveries. But he continues to experience resistance from major peer-reviewed journals to publish any of his findings. The troubles likely lie in his demonstrations that emissions are uncorrelated to climate in his study regions. In any case, scientific paper
s are often considered as precursors to actual applications, and Wallace already has a working, proven application. Even without peer journal-publication panache, Wallace is receiving steady and growing recognition from the hydroclimate community. In April, he was an invited presenter to the 30th Annual Rio Grande Basin Snowmelt Runoff Forecast Meeting, sponsored by the USDA SNOTEL network and attended by top regional hydroclimate scientists from agencies including the National Weather Service (NWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If Wallace is correct, and he has a successful climate forecast record to back up his projections, Udall can’t also be right. Wallace believes most of Udall’s climate assertions, such as the claim that regional temperatures explain everything about the drought, are too simplistic.  He also expresses concern regarding Udall’s use of the term “drought.”   “To accept those Lake Mead statements as factual,” Wallace said, “anything short of an epic flooding event, must be an epic drought event.”

After all is said and done, the natural processes that Wallace has distilled down to a working forecast system, don’t, in any way, appear to fit the crisis narrative that the Udall and many climate “authorities” perpetuate. You should ask if we really need more funding, bigger departments, and greater public anxiety to fix something that, at least, in the western U.S., appears to wholly be explained by natural cycles.

(Wallace’s forecasts, profiled at www.abeqas.com, provide a sobering perspective—perhaps an antidote to the ongoing “drought” hysteria.)

Categories: On the Blog

Recap of R Street’s May 26 GSE reform conference

Out of the Storm News - May 31, 2016, 2:18 PM

Government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have essentially no capital, have been in government conservatorship for nearly eight years and are totally dependent on the taxpayers.

As Congress considers measures such as H.R. 4913, the Housing Finance Restructuring Act of 2016, the R Street Institute hosted a May 26 conference on ways to reform the GSEs, moderated by R Street Distinguished Senior Fellow Alex J. Pollock. The bill’s sponsor – Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. – was on hand to discuss the bill and address various criticisms of it, explaining how it would require much stronger capital formation for Fannie and Freddie than in the past.

Jim Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute emphasized putting Fannie and Freddie on the same plane as private “too big to fail” financial institutions, citing ideas he and Pollock outlined in their co-authored paper “How to fix Fannie and Freddie.”

Jim Parrott of the Urban Institute and Falling Creek Advisors discussed the importance of having a deep market for credit risk, backed with infrastructure in the public domain; he also raised a number of difficult questions H.R. 4913 leaves open. Mike Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association discussed credit availability, mortgage rates and the effect Fannie and Freddie reform could have on these key factors.

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

Heartland Daily Podcast – Daniel Dew: Criminal Justice Reform

Somewhat Reasonable - May 31, 2016, 2:14 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions criminal justice fellow Daniel Dew about criminal justice reform, debunking some of the myths around this new idea.

As state lawmakers deal with competing budget trade-offs and increasingly expensive entitlement programs, such as Medicaid and pensions, economic realities are requiring the reassessment of past “tough on crime” policies. Refusals to address the problems with these policies are now haunting lawmakers, as their failure to monitor policies for cost-effectiveness and necessity have led to out-of-control spending, burdening taxpayers and threatening their liberty.

Daniel explains how criminal justice reform is more about being “smart on crime” than “tough on crime,” and how taxpayers benefit from policies that make sense and are backed by evidence, instead of policies that may make people feel good, but are prohibitively expensive or unnecessarily punitive.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Free-Market Alternative To Education Socialism

Blog - Education - May 31, 2016, 1:43 PM

More than a few parents active in the fight to end Common Core’s suffocating grip on elementary and secondary education are targeting privatization as their enemy. They object to corporate groups seeking to redefine education as workforce preparation and to vendors hawking instructional materials for a curriculum most parents and many teachers do not favor.

Actually, Common Core is not at all about privatization. Instead, it is the opposite: a collaboration of powerful economic interests and big government to push a single-minded agenda on the public schools. Schools remain statist entities, more centrally controlled than ever.

In reality, true privatization could be the way for citizens to regain control of their local schools from the scourge of socialism that has been dragging down American education for decades.

Imagine, if you can, denationalization of education (no more standards imposed by distant bureaucrats) coupled with complete privatization of schools and universities, from kindergarten through graduate school. Yes, that would mean total separation of school and state.

Libertarian intellectual Richard Ebeling, distinguished professor of ethics and free enterprise leadership at The Citadel, recently envisioned several ways to achieve true privatization of education.

At the primary, middle, and high school levels, control of schools might be transferred to teachers and staff members who would become shareholders with a vested interest in offering the substantive education most parents want for their children. Or the schools might be auctioned to entrepreneurs with an incentive to run them with efficiency and pizazz so families would want to become customers.

Families could afford to pay directly for private schools because, with government out of the picture, all the taxes earmarked for education would be repealed. That would amount to a huge savings in family budgets because it is not uncommon for schooling to be the largest single expenditure in a local government budget.

In a competitive education marketplace, supply-side incentives would encourage upgrades in the types and quality of schools available for families, something that does not happen under socialized education. Moreover, an end to the education degree and certification racket would mean school principals would be free to hire and supervise knowledgeable teachers without teachers unions and bureaucracies imposing seniority-based rules that lock in mediocrity and make it difficult or even impossible to remove demonstrably bad teachers.

A similar process would occur in higher education, with the state-controlled colleges and universities being sold and the numerous grants and subsidies lavished on nominally private institutions being terminated. Subsequently, all taxes propping up this system would be repealed, with massive tax relief again boosting family budgets so parents could afford to purchase educational services they deem worthwhile for their children.

In a thought-provoking article for the Future of Freedom Foundation (“Educational Socialism Versus the Free Market”), Ebeling argues if schools and colleges were privatized in this manner and had to provide the kind of education parents and students considered to be worth the price of tuition, much of today’s political correctness and ideologically driven courses would yield to classes and subjects far more in line with traditional education.

Ebeling notes academe has gone from being an open marketplace of competing ideas, freely discussed, to an arena of collectivist indoctrination where trashing of “traditional American ideals of individualism, free enterprise, and constitutionally limited government” is commonplace. With lifetime tenure and tax-supported salaries, faculty members answer to no one but themselves as they instill in young people jaundiced views of foundational values such as “freedom, self-responsibility, and the character and values of a free society.”

This corrosive outlook filters down to K–12 schooling via collegiate-level teacher preparation and other avenues, and it is all the more troubling because these are the most impressionable years when bad ideas may become permanent core beliefs.

No doubt, mere mention of privatization will provoke conniption fits within the education establishment. As if on cue, the Huffington Post ran a teacher/blogger’s article on May 16 asserting free enterprise will never, ever work in K–12 education. The basis of Peter Greene’s piece was that some charter schools had closed their doors, supposedly proving they are heartless businesses that do not care about special-needs children. Never mind that charters are public schools operating squarely within the governmental system and are supposed to close when they fail to deliver promised results.

A wholesale transfer of public schools and colleges to private hands will not happen overnight. However, the accumulating success of private choice made available through such mechanisms as vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and Education Savings Accounts is beginning to show what is possible. Moreover, a current model already demonstrates a parent-centered free-market approach works well in addressing the needs of all kinds of children. That model is homeschooling, which has doubled its numbers of children over the past decade and booms all the more with each new federal usurpation of control over education policy.

Robert Holland (holland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute. 

 

[Originally published on The Daily Caller]

The Free-Market Alternative To Education Socialism

Somewhat Reasonable - May 31, 2016, 1:43 PM

More than a few parents active in the fight to end Common Core’s suffocating grip on elementary and secondary education are targeting privatization as their enemy. They object to corporate groups seeking to redefine education as workforce preparation and to vendors hawking instructional materials for a curriculum most parents and many teachers do not favor.

Actually, Common Core is not at all about privatization. Instead, it is the opposite: a collaboration of powerful economic interests and big government to push a single-minded agenda on the public schools. Schools remain statist entities, more centrally controlled than ever.

In reality, true privatization could be the way for citizens to regain control of their local schools from the scourge of socialism that has been dragging down American education for decades.

Imagine, if you can, denationalization of education (no more standards imposed by distant bureaucrats) coupled with complete privatization of schools and universities, from kindergarten through graduate school. Yes, that would mean total separation of school and state.

Libertarian intellectual Richard Ebeling, distinguished professor of ethics and free enterprise leadership at The Citadel, recently envisioned several ways to achieve true privatization of education.

At the primary, middle, and high school levels, control of schools might be transferred to teachers and staff members who would become shareholders with a vested interest in offering the substantive education most parents want for their children. Or the schools might be auctioned to entrepreneurs with an incentive to run them with efficiency and pizazz so families would want to become customers.

Families could afford to pay directly for private schools because, with government out of the picture, all the taxes earmarked for education would be repealed. That would amount to a huge savings in family budgets because it is not uncommon for schooling to be the largest single expenditure in a local government budget.

In a competitive education marketplace, supply-side incentives would encourage upgrades in the types and quality of schools available for families, something that does not happen under socialized education. Moreover, an end to the education degree and certification racket would mean school principals would be free to hire and supervise knowledgeable teachers without teachers unions and bureaucracies imposing seniority-based rules that lock in mediocrity and make it difficult or even impossible to remove demonstrably bad teachers.

A similar process would occur in higher education, with the state-controlled colleges and universities being sold and the numerous grants and subsidies lavished on nominally private institutions being terminated. Subsequently, all taxes propping up this system would be repealed, with massive tax relief again boosting family budgets so parents could afford to purchase educational services they deem worthwhile for their children.

In a thought-provoking article for the Future of Freedom Foundation (“Educational Socialism Versus the Free Market”), Ebeling argues if schools and colleges were privatized in this manner and had to provide the kind of education parents and students considered to be worth the price of tuition, much of today’s political correctness and ideologically driven courses would yield to classes and subjects far more in line with traditional education.

Ebeling notes academe has gone from being an open marketplace of competing ideas, freely discussed, to an arena of collectivist indoctrination where trashing of “traditional American ideals of individualism, free enterprise, and constitutionally limited government” is commonplace. With lifetime tenure and tax-supported salaries, faculty members answer to no one but themselves as they instill in young people jaundiced views of foundational values such as “freedom, self-responsibility, and the character and values of a free society.”

This corrosive outlook filters down to K–12 schooling via collegiate-level teacher preparation and other avenues, and it is all the more troubling because these are the most impressionable years when bad ideas may become permanent core beliefs.

No doubt, mere mention of privatization will provoke conniption fits within the education establishment. As if on cue, the Huffington Post ran a teacher/blogger’s article on May 16 asserting free enterprise will never, ever work in K–12 education. The basis of Peter Greene’s piece was that some charter schools had closed their doors, supposedly proving they are heartless businesses that do not care about special-needs children. Never mind that charters are public schools operating squarely within the governmental system and are supposed to close when they fail to deliver promised results.

A wholesale transfer of public schools and colleges to private hands will not happen overnight. However, the accumulating success of private choice made available through such mechanisms as vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and Education Savings Accounts is beginning to show what is possible. Moreover, a current model already demonstrates a parent-centered free-market approach works well in addressing the needs of all kinds of children. That model is homeschooling, which has doubled its numbers of children over the past decade and booms all the more with each new federal usurpation of control over education policy.

Robert Holland (holland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute. 

 

[Originally published on The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Hand Our TVs Over to Google

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - May 31, 2016, 12:20 PM
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press THE cable set-top box — a clunky technology from a bygone era that costs many consumers around $10 a month — is headed for an…

Crushing Climate-Change Dissent for Profit

Environment Suite - In The News - May 31, 2016, 11:51 AM
‘P rogressive” government officials have launched an Orwellian effort to outlaw research that dares question the soundness of computer-predicted climate…

Crushing Climate-Change Dissent for Profit

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - May 31, 2016, 11:51 AM
‘P rogressive” government officials have launched an Orwellian effort to outlaw research that dares question the soundness of computer-predicted climate…

Ad Feedback Breaking Free from Obama’s Fantasy of a Sexless Society with Parental Choice

Blog - Education - May 31, 2016, 11:44 AM

By having his minions in the Education and Justice Departments threaten public school districts with loss of federal funding unless they satisfy the far left’s fondest fantasies of a sexless society, President Barack Obama may have awakened many Americans to the need to disconnect education from the federal government. A clean break would be best; states could simply stop accepting handouts from the U.S. Education Department (USED).

No one suggests that would be easy. USED spending has ballooned in inflation-adjusted dollars from $4.5 billion in 1965—the year President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed—to more than $40 billion in 2016. However, states and localities would have huge savings in federal compliance costs to help offset the loss of grants. A Heritage Foundation study in 2007 found bureaucratic costs whittled a $1,500 per-child federal Title I grant to effectively just $554 in Florida. Federal programs do more to create armies of bureaucratic paper-pushers than they do to help students or teachers.

As for parental choice, it is now more essential than ever. Its exercise must be free of any federal entanglements. What about the proposal floated by some conservatives to make federal education aid portable—so that it would follow students to schools of their choice? Forget about it. That would only enable Obama successors to rewrite applicable law and apply it to voucher schools, as the Obama administration did on May 13 when it decreed Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex applies to one’s “gender identity,” a term that does not appear anywhere in the law in question. Obama’s Friday letter constitutes a full presidential takeover of the nation’s schools.

That bizarre turn in executive lawmaking, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers, comes just as many scholars were celebrating the triumph of choice over centralization in U.S. education.

Paul E. Peterson, a noteworthy thinker and the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, will have an article in the summer issue of Education Next that concludes, “the Bush-Obama era of reform via federal regulation has come to an end.” Peterson prefaced that conclusion by asserting, “If school reform is to move forward, it will occur via new forms of competition—whether they be vouchers, charters, home schooling, digital learning, or the transformation of district schools into decentralized, autonomous units.”

That is a nice thought, but nothing is guaranteed.

Peterson cited tons of data showing federal regulation implemented under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top program, as well as executive branch lawmaking established through NCLB waivers, failed to close the minority achievement gap or raise U.S. students’ near-cellar-dwelling ranking on knowledge of math among youth in industrialized nations. But the Harvard scholar buys too easily into Washington, DC officials’ conventional wisdom about NCLB’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). They believe ESSA now lifts the onerous burden of federal regulation and frees localities and states to innovate. Actually, ESSA continues to mandate uniform assessments of students, empowers the U.S. secretary of education to pass judgment on states’ standards and action plans, and opens multiple pathways to new forms of federal meddling, such as through Baby Common Core—federalized preschool.

Now comes Obama’s reckless foray into lawmaking using his dictatorial letter, which could embolden future presidents to follow suit. Peterson’s conclusion that charter schools are the type of choice most likely to bring about a needed post-regulatory reconstruction of the educational system has become shakier than ever. Yes, charter schools have opened some cracks in the public-education monopoly, particularly in big cities that have given families lucky enough to win admissions lotteries an opening to better schools within the system. But charter schools remain in the governmental orbit, and some even receive federal start-up aid. They are not immune from decrees such as Obama’s.

The best bet to advance choice free of federal interference is the creation of education savings account (ESA) programs, which allow parents to elect to have their portion of state (not federal) subsidies deposited into an account from which they may draw to pay for an array of educational services—such as tutoring, online instruction, private tuition, homeschooling, or advanced classes at a university. Thereby, ESA programs transcend school choice; it is about customizing education for each child.

Since its start in Arizona in 2011, ESAs have spread to four more states and are pending in the legislatures of 16 more. If ESA programs survive challenges from the left, they could help bring about a vibrant marketplace that truly would secure the blessings of liberty in a post-regulatory era.

[Originally published at CNS News]

Ad Feedback Breaking Free from Obama’s Fantasy of a Sexless Society with Parental Choice

Somewhat Reasonable - May 31, 2016, 11:44 AM

By having his minions in the Education and Justice Departments threaten public school districts with loss of federal funding unless they satisfy the far left’s fondest fantasies of a sexless society, President Barack Obama may have awakened many Americans to the need to disconnect education from the federal government. A clean break would be best; states could simply stop accepting handouts from the U.S. Education Department (USED).

No one suggests that would be easy. USED spending has ballooned in inflation-adjusted dollars from $4.5 billion in 1965—the year President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed—to more than $40 billion in 2016. However, states and localities would have huge savings in federal compliance costs to help offset the loss of grants. A Heritage Foundation study in 2007 found bureaucratic costs whittled a $1,500 per-child federal Title I grant to effectively just $554 in Florida. Federal programs do more to create armies of bureaucratic paper-pushers than they do to help students or teachers.

As for parental choice, it is now more essential than ever. Its exercise must be free of any federal entanglements. What about the proposal floated by some conservatives to make federal education aid portable—so that it would follow students to schools of their choice? Forget about it. That would only enable Obama successors to rewrite applicable law and apply it to voucher schools, as the Obama administration did on May 13 when it decreed Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex applies to one’s “gender identity,” a term that does not appear anywhere in the law in question. Obama’s Friday letter constitutes a full presidential takeover of the nation’s schools.

That bizarre turn in executive lawmaking, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers, comes just as many scholars were celebrating the triumph of choice over centralization in U.S. education.

Paul E. Peterson, a noteworthy thinker and the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, will have an article in the summer issue of Education Next that concludes, “the Bush-Obama era of reform via federal regulation has come to an end.” Peterson prefaced that conclusion by asserting, “If school reform is to move forward, it will occur via new forms of competition—whether they be vouchers, charters, home schooling, digital learning, or the transformation of district schools into decentralized, autonomous units.”

That is a nice thought, but nothing is guaranteed.

Peterson cited tons of data showing federal regulation implemented under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top program, as well as executive branch lawmaking established through NCLB waivers, failed to close the minority achievement gap or raise U.S. students’ near-cellar-dwelling ranking on knowledge of math among youth in industrialized nations. But the Harvard scholar buys too easily into Washington, DC officials’ conventional wisdom about NCLB’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). They believe ESSA now lifts the onerous burden of federal regulation and frees localities and states to innovate. Actually, ESSA continues to mandate uniform assessments of students, empowers the U.S. secretary of education to pass judgment on states’ standards and action plans, and opens multiple pathways to new forms of federal meddling, such as through Baby Common Core—federalized preschool.

Now comes Obama’s reckless foray into lawmaking using his dictatorial letter, which could embolden future presidents to follow suit. Peterson’s conclusion that charter schools are the type of choice most likely to bring about a needed post-regulatory reconstruction of the educational system has become shakier than ever. Yes, charter schools have opened some cracks in the public-education monopoly, particularly in big cities that have given families lucky enough to win admissions lotteries an opening to better schools within the system. But charter schools remain in the governmental orbit, and some even receive federal start-up aid. They are not immune from decrees such as Obama’s.

The best bet to advance choice free of federal interference is the creation of education savings account (ESA) programs, which allow parents to elect to have their portion of state (not federal) subsidies deposited into an account from which they may draw to pay for an array of educational services—such as tutoring, online instruction, private tuition, homeschooling, or advanced classes at a university. Thereby, ESA programs transcend school choice; it is about customizing education for each child.

Since its start in Arizona in 2011, ESAs have spread to four more states and are pending in the legislatures of 16 more. If ESA programs survive challenges from the left, they could help bring about a vibrant marketplace that truly would secure the blessings of liberty in a post-regulatory era.

[Originally published at CNS News]

Categories: On the Blog

Some American values may be dimming, but transparency continues to shine bright

Out of the Storm News - May 31, 2016, 10:57 AM

Attending a Memorial Day ceremony in my little city yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened all of the sudden to make it palatable for so many young people, according to the polls, to be voting in utter disregard of their progenitors who bled and died to keep America off the socialist path.

I grew up a military dependent, as did my wife. Her grandfather was the senior officer aboard his flagship, the USS Arizona, and he went down with her during the Japanese attack on the American fleet that brought us officially into World War II. Her father commanded, directly or indirectly, three of our four naval fleets. My father piloted a plane in the first B-29 raid on the Japanese homeland, flying over the Himalayas to bases in China.

Most people like me have been raised to think that what 1,320,357 Americans wearing our military uniform gave their lives to protect has an enduring and unique value for all of us. Part of that value was always understood to be a publicly provided safety net for those caught by unfortunate circumstances, but like its namesake, it was reserved pretty much for people who lost their balance. Then it was expanded for people we owed, like military veterans.

But most of those well over a million defenders didn’t put their lives on the line to protect the safety net or Veterans Affairs benefits or Medicare. They fought in defense of the right to make their own life choices, to live with unfettered possibilities and to worship how they chose.

But enduring apparently does not mean what it used to, and the economic system that is today failing so spectacularly in Venezuela nonetheless finds its supporters. Even social-media videos of shoppers looting what’s left in the grocery stores doesn’t seem to have destroyed the brand for lots of Americans. The link between shortages of food, medicine or other basics of civilization and price-and-currency controls is something that is not guaranteed to be understood by adults in this country anymore, to say nothing of our youth.

In fact, there is an inelegant theory to explain why so many young people could support a socialist this year for president. They want someone else to pay their student loans.

Part of the disaffection with the “system”– both here and, literally, around the globe – is almost certainly due to different lessons in schools today than we were taught, and part of it could be lack of transparency. This helps to explain why revelations of personal gain and manipulation of the levers of government by elected officials have caused vacancies in the national leadership of Iceland and Brazil in the past couple of months.

As in many other areas of public policy, the states have led the way in updating their efforts to allow citizens to evaluate government services and expenditures based on availability of data. Lack of transparency led one brave constitutional officer in Ohio – a former Marine, by the way – to go all-out to inform Buckeye State citizens of how taxpayer money is spent. The officer was Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who put every single state check online for everybody to see – a total $400 billion of state expenditures.

Mandel effectively and inexpensively developed a program and website to allow taxpayers to see what they are paying for. In doing so, Ohio earned the only A+, and perfect score of 100, in the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 2015 survey of state government transparency. The site, OhioCheckbook.com, has since launched partnerships with the Ohio police and fire pension fund and with many of the state’s largest counties, including those that contain major cities like Cincinnati and Columbus. Mandel and his team are moving to include school-district data as well.

Alas, not even Ohio has a comprehensive list of government entities that are self-funded outside the state budget. In some states, current reform efforts focus on abuses in civil-forfeiture laws, illustrating how lack of transparency translates into lack of oversight by those officials responsible to taxpayers.

So if responsibility to the foundational ideals of the country isn’t always in evidence, even on Memorial Day, at least we still have public opinion on the side of accountability to taxpayers to afford us some protection.

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

California’s Cap-and-Trade Bubble

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - May 31, 2016, 10:49 AM
The state capitol building of California Photo: Getty Images When carbon cap and trade flopped in Europe, liberals blamed design flaws and hailed California’s…
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