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There’s no good reason to delay conservation compliance

Out of the Storm News - July 20, 2015, 7:00 AM

Even as the U.S. Department of Agriculture was reporting a record 98.2 percent of farmers and ranchers have met new “conservation compliance” guidelines required to qualify for federally subsidized crop insurance, some in Congress are pushing for needless delays that would allow more time to keep destroying the environment on the taxpayers’ dime.

According to the USDA, just 1.8 percent of affected producers failed to meet the June 1 deadline set in the 2014 farm bill to submit an AD-1026 form with the Farm Service Agency. The paperwork simply identifies highly erodible land and wetlands that a farmer has or will convert to agricultural use. Under provisions of the current farm bill, an additional 1.5 million acres of highly erodible land and 1.1 million acres of wetlands will be covered by conservation compliance programs, according to the department.

The USDA certainly can’t be accused of not letting farmers and ranchers know the deadline was coming. Notifications have accompanied every crop insurance contract written in the past year for the nation’s 561,000 policyholders and insurance agents who sell the policies have been ordered to highlight the deadline. The department also mailed out more than 50,000 reminder cards and letters; made more than 25,000 phone calls and held information sessions across the countries for more than 6,000 groups.

But bowing to pressure from fruit and vegetable producers, represented by the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, the House Appropriations Committee gave unanimous support last week to a $143.9 billion Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill that will delay enforcement of conservation compliance for another year.

The Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday marked up its own version of the legislation, which thankfully did not include the delay. But this leaves a major question to resolve as both measures move to their respective chambers’ floors.

Despite having a name seemingly designed to enrage conservatives – for whom both “conservation” and “compliance” tend to be dirty words – the requirements actually are common-sense measures intended to protect taxpayers as much as they are the environment.

First signed by Ronald Reagan in 1985, conservation compliance offers farmers a basic deal. They can do whatever they want with their own land. But if they want to enjoy subsidies from the taxpayers, who pay 62 percent of farmers’ insurance premiums, they have to take some basic precautions to ensure they conserve soil and don’t drain fragile wetlands. Since the program’s inception, it’s estimated it has saved more than $1 billion and about 2 billion tons of soil.

There are only about 10,000 farmers who aren’t already in compliance and the USDA believes the vast majority are those who have died, retired or submitted forms with mismatched identifications or other paperwork errors. The department has said it will need to contact about 2,500 farmers individually, and many would be granted the opportunity to extend the deadline. The actual number of noncomplying farmers, for whom enforcement of the entire program would be put on hold, could be as low as a couple dozen.

It’s also already the case that who have not participated in USDA programs before June 1 can delay certification for the current reinsurance year and those who have already filed are still allowed to make corrections to their forms. For most farmers, conservation compliance is not new, as it was a requirement of the “direct payments” program created in 1995, but abolished as part of the 2014 farm bill. Producers of commodity crops like grain, oilseed and cotton already have to meet the requirements to be eligible for other programs.

The decision to reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance subsidy eligibility is one of the few good things to come out of the 2014 farm bill. It would be folly for Congress to put off implementation for even one more day. As Ferd Hoefner, policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, told the site Agri-Pulse: “There is no issue or problem that such a delay would be solving.”

Conferees should spike IP czar language in customs bill

Out of the Storm News - July 20, 2015, 6:00 AM

With customs bills having passed both chambers of Congress, it’s now up to conferees to decide if the final legislation will include language from the Senate bill to create a new intellectual property enforcement czar.

As my colleague Mike Godwin previously wrote, the Senate version of the bill – S. 1269, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act – features language advanced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to create a new chief of intellectual-property enforcement within the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Section 611 of the bill would amend the Trade Act of 1974 to create the new IP czar, who:

(7) shall be to conduct trade negotiations and to enforce trade agreements relating to United States intellectual property and to take appropriate actions to address acts, policies, and practices of foreign governments that have a significant adverse impact on the value of United States innovation. The Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator shall be a vigorous advocate on behalf of United States innovation and intellectual property interests. The Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator shall perform such other functions as the United States Trade Representative may direct.

The title “Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator” is itself a fundamentally conflicted idea. Promoting maximalist intellectual-property enforcement often will actually hinder innovation in a whole host of ways. In addition to this new position being a generally bad idea, the White House already has an intellectual property enforcement coordinator, who commonly is called the “IP czar.”

What’s more, the Congressional Budget Office estimates in its report on the Senate bill that creating the new position will cost taxpayers at least $10 million over the next four years. Since the USTR already looks out for U.S. intellectual property interests in negotiating trade deals, and the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration ensures that our trading partners uphold the terms of those deals, it’s hard to see why this would be a good way to spend taxpayer money. Unless you’re Sen. Hatch, and want to create another White House position that, once confirmed, will be basically unaccountable to you.

Thankfully, this provision was left out of the House version of the bill, H.R. 644. As the two chambers’ bills move to conference this week, conferees should spike the IP czar language. Conservatives, after all, shouldn’t be in the business of needlessly expanding government bureaucracy.

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

White House Conference on Aging Abuses Elders by Ignoring Injustice

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2015, 12:57 PM

Several weeks ago Tom Field, a 25-year advocate of legal reforms for the elderly and for fixing what is a broken elder care system, reached out to me via a phone call from his home in Mantor, Ohio, to inquire whether I was interested in pursuing the topic in light of the upcoming 5th White House Conference on Aging scheduled for Monday, July 13, held once every decade since 1961. Field’s overture was initiated upon his reading of my July 9, 2011 article titled, “Allegations of Alleged Corruption and Abuse in the Probate Court Level in Cook County, IL.” 

A positive response at the time to Tom Fields prompted me to write the following two articles, both of which were published at Illinois Review Article 1:  “Thorner:  Elder Justice Act under Obamacare fails seniors – Part 1” and  Article 2: “Thorner: White House Conference on Aging:  Will Elder Justice be addressed sufficiently?”

Having initially expressed doubt that anything worthwhile would be realized from the conference, it  became apparent that the question I addressed in the second article, “Will Elder Justice be addressed sufficiently?,” was deserving of a big, fat zero, an opinion verified when Tom Fields shared this post-conference email:

This tweet sum up much of what can be reported about the conference: Shame on #WHCOA and its Elder Justice Panel for refusing to address abuse by legal professionals and professional guardians

Post Conference Disappointment and Anger

It can be concluded from other post-conference e-mail reports that Tom Fields and others did their best before the July 13th WHCOA, and during the conference itself, to address the current rampant abuse by legal professional guardians.  Mr. Fields, wishing he could have applauded the conference for doing so, instead encountered a conference that never touched upon the topic, the same having occurred in nearly every other such forum conducted by the administration’s government. They include the Elder Justice Coordinating Council that was created by the Elder Justice Act (and mentioned during the conference); the Administration on Aging (and its parent, Health and Human Services); and the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging.

As Mr. Fields wrote in one of his e-mails:

“Not only did the WHCOA refuse to address such abuse, but it impeded efforts by myself and others from doing so.  How?  First by demanding that I stop circulating a handout at the regional forum which I attended, and second by refusing to share tweets which I and others sent during the conference.”

In that the conference could and should have tried to help advocates like Tom Fields network with other advocates, it didn’t accomplish this. Instead, it pushed its own agenda, one which deliberately ignored the issue identified by the tweet noted above, further exemplified by this 3-minute ABC News video presented on-line, which the conference refused to play and discuss.

As the video is a mere three minutes long, it is inexcusable that three minutes wasn’t allotted during the 50-minute Elder Justice Panel in a conference that lasted 7+ hours. Had the video been played, it would have demonstrated how current laws, including APS laws, failed to prevent a stroke victim from being taken advantage of in a hospital emergency room.

Why these laws failed in this case is discussed in this short, 2-page PDF file. The emphasis there is on the lack of a very simple mechanism, one based upon a checklist, needed in such settings to alert affected family members and authorities.  It would seem that no scam should be simpler to prevent than one which take place in the emergency room of a hospital, yet our government and professional associations have repeatedly proven themselves unequal to this task.

As to the history of the 3-minute video presented on-line by ABC News, it was initially posted by Tom Field at his own website in the aftermath of how his own father was similarly taken advantage of by a lawyer 25 years ago in a hospital just hours before he died of cancer, as testified by the doctor who had started him on a morphine drip and Do Not Resuscitate order.

The doctor’s testimony is summarized here; it is also reproduced in full beginning at this site and linked there to the other evidence, including the testimony of the defendant and others involved in this incident, including several attorneys.  A brief summary of all this and more can be seen here.

Fields not alone in observing WHCOA indifference toward Elder Care and Reform

Tom Fields wasn’t the only individual who had post-conference feelings of disappointment and angry because the WHCOA’s Elder Justice Panel didn’t mention the rampant abuse by professional guardians and the probate system.  After all, this was an issue addressed prior to the conference!  Comments by Fields and others can be found here as displayed by the WHCOA, along with its Elder Justice Policy Brief.

An acquaintance of Tom Fields, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed these concerns after watching the entire White House Conference on Aging:

I was likewise disappointed/angry that the elder justice panel did not mention abuse by professional guardians and the probate system. The suggestions provided by the panel on how the banking industry and others could address financial abuse were unrealistic.

Although the monograph on elder financial abuse developed by the WHCOA cited a family member as being the number one cause of financial abuse of an elder, the panel did not address how to handle this problem. Better trained prosecutors is a start, but won’t help in the case of guardianships, as it is all after the fact. Further, if a family member tries to intervene and stop financial abuse, the probate judges, not wanting to take the time to sort things out, take the easy way out by appointing a professional guardian.

Elderly Guardianship Situation is a Disaster

Excellent insight was shared by Sam Sugar, M.D. with Thorner about the current Abusive Probate Guardianship situation via a telephone interview which Dr. Sugar willingly consented to on Wednesday, July 15.  Dr. Sugar, like Tom Fields, was an active participant in pre-conference activity and likewise followed closely the entire July 13th WHCOA event.

Sam J. Sugar, M.D. PC, heads “Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship” with members in 25 states.  His former position was as Attending Physician at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Doral Florida.  Prior to that he was Medical Director at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Evanston, Illinois.  Dr. Sugar graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the Florida Medial Society.  He retired from active practice in 2013.

Per our conversation:  Dr. Sugar attended a Private Watch Party as the event was unfolding at the White House.  After tweeting the WHCOA dozens of times, Dr. Sugar concluded that the WHCOA was simply a political PR stunt, clarified when a woman speaking at the event noted how the same problems that existed 10 years ago still exist.  In fact, offered Dr. Sugar, the situation is much worse today. Noted was how the elderly guardianship situation is a disaster. With massive number of cases where the same “playbook” of litigation, medicate, isolate, take the estate is used by greedy lawyers and guardians. The cases predictably end up where both family and the elderly ward are losers.

According to Dr. Sugar, no one knows for sure how many wards there are nationally, but government estimates range between 1-1/2 and 3 million.  Sugar places the responsibility for this rampant copy-cat abuse, neglect, and exploitation at the footstep of the state judiciaries. Among the worst states for judicial guardianship abuse are:  Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida.  As stated by Dr. Sugar:  “What is happening is an outright theft of an individual’s entire estate under ‘color of law.’”  Furthermore, “the failure to protect elders is generated by the willingness of jurists to allow the weaponization of state laws.”

Normally, appeal to federal agencies would be a potential remedy to abuse from a state for, as an example, failure to provide due process. However, because of the “Probate Court Exception” federal courts cannot intervene and there is no remedy from the federal government and apparently, no interest in one either. Vulnerable elders and their families have been totally abandoned by their governments.

In that Dr. Sugar’s organization, Americans Against Abuse of Probate Guardianship” is not a wealthy organization, it could not afford the entry fee for a seat at the table of the WHCOA, although an attempt was made for representation.  Their website is filled with stories and information from victims around America.

National AAAPG Teleconference on Tuesday, July 21

Dr. Sam Sugar’s organization, “Americans against Abusive Probate Guardianship” is sponsoring a National Teleconference on Tuesday, July 21 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.  The conference can be accessed from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also dial in using your phone, but your computer is the preferred method of participation. United States : +1 (571) 317-3112  Access Code is:  502-285-845.

As stated by Dr. Sugar in his National AAAPG Teleconference invitation:

We need to identify key individuals in every State who will take leadership roles in our fight to stop the abuse. We need to develop a broad base of national support to be able to activate and encourage media coverage and create solid plans for lobbying for statutes we will recommend. In short, we need you to stand with us to protect our elders and ourselves.

Found here is a youtube presentation of the full 7+ hours of the WHCOA.   

Illinois Review:

http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2015/07/thorner-elder-justice-act-under-obamacare-fails-seniors-part-1.html 

http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2015/07/thorner-white-house-july-13th-conference-on-aging-will-elder-justice-be-addressed-sufficiently-.html

[Originally published at Illinois Review]
Categories: On the Blog

White House Designs ‘Race and Social Justice’ Database To Monitor Every American Neighborhood

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2015, 9:20 AM

President Obama has directed federal agencies to build a national database containing race and social justice profiles of every neighborhood, as part of a plan to probe what he perceives as the prevailing inequalities persisting in American life.

Remember, Team Obama developed quite an expertise in data mining during its successful national political campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

During those campaigns, Obama’s marketing minions discovered, and aggregated, small pockets of disaffected independents and Democrats, and whipped them into a workable voting coalition of malcontents using the latest, cutting edge digital marketing techniques.

Programmers for the campaign effort volunteered their time from Facebook and Google.

Now like-minded talent working for the government is mining data on the health, home loan, credit card, workplace, and neighborhood profile of every American, according to a report in The New York Post, authored by Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank in California.

“This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make ‘disparate impact’ cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds,” Sperry reports.

Obama, or at least his investigators, want to watch your every move with their federal databases.

Categories: On the Blog

Feds Going Cuckoo for Unthreatened Birds

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2015, 7:54 AM

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The federal government wants private landowners in arid western states to help identify and designate important habitat for a certain bird species, so the land can be protected against development, and thereby save the bird from some dire fate.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we have been there before. Or as Yogi Berra supposedly said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” However, this time it is not about sage grouse, but a less common (in Western Colorado) bird called the yellow-billed cuckoo – the original mascot of Cocoa Puffs cereal. Farmers, ranchers, and local officials are skeptical, because so many are frustrated with the notion that environmental protection always seems to require restricting human activity.

Many observers didn’t even notice when the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as threatened last fall, because we are in the midst of four-year whirlwind of new endangered listings, the result of a lawsuit requiring decisions on more than 800 species. The yellow-billed cuckoo has been on the wish list of national environmental organizations for 30 years. Their first petition asking the government to put it on the endangered list was filed in the mid-1980s. At that time, the best scientific analyses concluded that an endangered finding was unwarranted, because the bird was commonly found across most of the continent, from southern Canada to northern Mexico and in nearly all U.S. states.

The cuckoos were found to be less common in the arid West because their preferred habitat is riparian areas and wetlands along riverbanks. So the environmental groups began asking for the Western population of cuckoos to be classified as a different “subspecies” than its eastern siblings. There is no scientific basis for that, so ultimately the feds separated it on purely geographic grounds, designating a western “distinct population segment” instead. That provides the legal tool they need for separate listings in one part of the country, even though a species may be common elsewhere.

The government spent bags of public money over the years studying cuckoos and identifying potential habitat, supposedly to prevent the bird from becoming endangered in the future. Now they want to designate critical habitat in places like my hometown in Mesa County, Colorado. That may sound reasonable to some, except that these birds do not actually live in Mesa County

I know that because the Fish and Wildlife Service did this exercise before, in 2008 when it commissioned a study by the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The study, “Yellow-Billed Cuckoos in Western Colorado,” detailed surveys conducted throughout the region and identified both potential habitat and actual birds. It found that Mesa County has lots of cottonwoods (a favorite of cuckoos), as well as tamarisk, Russian olive and several other non-native species we have been working for years to eliminate. Although the area was said to be prime habitat for the yellow-billed cuckoo, the on-ground survey found only a couple birds in Montrose and Moffat Counties and a handful in Delta, but not a single bird in Mesa County. Not one.

Today one Fish and Wildlife Service employee apparently claims to have seen a yellow-billed cuckoo in Mesa County, and one photograph purports to “prove” it, though the picture shown to County Commissioners was not dated or labeled to show its location. Lots of folks still remember examples of such evidence being planted by the agency, whereas the one genuine scientific survey found otherwise, so credibility is an issue.

Some local officials are in the process of another study to map the habitat and document the birds (or lack of birds) in their communities. That may be the smart move because it is likely to confirm the conclusions of the earlier study, and of numerous farmers who know better than federal officials what birds they see on their property. More scientific information is always a good idea.

Many of us believe we should do everything we can to prevent endangered listings and to recover already listed species, including habitat protection (especially if it’s voluntary). But there is a problem here. We have seen firsthand the contempt with which the federal government views local efforts. The States of Colorado, Utah and a number of counties are suing the feds for ignoring such cooperation and breaking its promise not to list the Gunnison sage grouse.

The ink is barely dry on the federal decision to list the grouse as threatened, one of the worst broken promises in the history of conservation. Coloradans supported the Gunnison Ranchlands Legacy project for 20 years, culminating in an agreement with the government allowing landowners to enroll in a habitat management program, with the assurance that their farming practices would not get them into trouble if grouse nests are accidentally disturbed. As a result, the species was not listed, and local participation surpassed any similar program anywhere. All of this investment and local participation was made with the clear understanding that the species would not be added to the federal endangered list.

Coloradans invested over $50 million of state, local, and private money in conservation easements to preserve the grouse, saving over 64,000 acres of habitat. All that effort depended on trusting the government to do what it says, and landowners and local governments relied on that trust for a generation. Yet despite healthy and growing grouse population, the government ignored its own promises and listed the species anyway, endangering not only the bird’s future, but especially the future of such cooperation.

People in the West care about wildlife species, including both the sage grouse and the yellow-billed cuckoo. They happily invest time and resources to keep such birds from going extinct. But in the final analysis, these federal activities are not about saving birds; they are only about the listing itself. The agency loves to add new species to the list, and has been doing so for years.

Today there are 2,220 species the government says are threatened or endangered, and in the entire 40-year history of the Endangered Species Act we have successfully recovered and removed from the list less than one-half of one percent. That demonstrates rather conclusively that listing – not recovery – is their primary goal. So in 2011 when environmental groups sued the government for not making listing decisions fast enough, Interior was happy to settle out of court, agreeing to make final decisions on hundreds of new listings – and paying the environmental groups’ legal fees. Unfortunately for the birds, the process is driven more by lawsuits and money than by science.

In this case, the science has not changed in the 53 years since General Mills introduced Sonny, the yellow-billed bird that’s “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,” in 1962. The birds west of the Continental Divide are still biologically identical to those on the east side; they are still not in danger of extinction; and there are still none in my home town.

Birds fly and cuckoos are migratory, so it is possible that they stopover anywhere there is riparian habitat along rivers and streams. So the primary question remains: should we designate much of the lower Colorado River and its tributaries as critical habitat for a bird that is not native to the area, and thereby provide federal veto power over land use decisions on private land? The government has tried to assure the commissioners that it will not do that. “Trust us,” they say, “We will not use this listing to regulate water, farming, transportation, construction, and other existing economic activity.”

Sadly, that trust has already been broken. The same agency that once promised not to list the Gunnison sage grouse also once said the yellow-billed cuckoo did not warrant listing, yet here we are again. Small wonder that the very word “cuckoo” means crazy.

Categories: On the Blog

Take a Bow for the New Revolution

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2015, 7:14 PM

The Who in Hamburg, 1972.

From the outset, President Obama directed his powerful government agencies and congressional allies to help him “fundamentally transform” the United States. Too many of them were eager to nationalize the nation’s healthcare system, ignore or rewrite inconvenient laws, control the Internet and political speech, implement new regulations that imposed enormous costs for few or illusory benefits, and shut down oil, gas and coal in favor of expensive, unreliable, heavily subsidized wind, solar and biofuel energy.

We voters and citizens were supposed to “tip our hats to the new Constitution” and “take a bow for the new revolution,” as The Who put it in their classic song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

But now people seem less inclined to “smile and grin at the change all around.” They increasingly grasp the enormous costs of this ruling class totalitarian anarchy, refuse to get fooled again, and are telling Mr. Obama, “Your states and your citizens are beyond your command,” as Bob Dylan might say. Perhaps “the times are a-changing” once again, and “the losers now will be later to win” – in 2016 and beyond.

Pervasive signs certainly portend a newer revolution. Indeed, the reactions of some previous cheerleaders respond to the disdain the president often seems to show for their jobs and well-being. The energy and environment arena is only part of the total picture, but it’s a vitally important one.

Ozone. EPA is determined to implement stringent new ozone regulations – even though US ozone levels and overall air quality have improved steadily for decades, and the already tough 2008 ozone standards have not yet been fully implemented. This action would turn hundreds of cities and counties into nonattainment areas, impair manufacturing and transportation, cost up to $140 billion per year, and increase unemployment – for health benefits that are inflated or even fabricated.

A Small Business Entrepreneurship Council study found that EPA’s proposed rules would put numerous jobs at risk in a six-county Chicago area that is home to 65% of Illinois’ population, over 60% of its Latinos and 80% of its blacks, 73% of its GDP and 70% of its employment. With the unemployment rate already at 12% for Latinos and 25% for blacks, elected officials and business owners are alarmed.

The US Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, National Association of Regional Councils – Democrats and Republicans representing 19,000 cities, 3,000 counties and 500 councils – have all expressed deep concern and asked EPA to retain the 2008 ozone standards. So have the National and Illinois Black Chambers of Commerce, US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.

They worry that the new rules would stifle economic growth and investment, and cause major job losses across the country. The rules set ozone standards lower than naturally occurring in many national parks. Thus far, EPA is ignoring the pleas, though Inside EPA says the agency may grant a one-year extension for some areas to comply with the 2008 standards, before slapping them with the newer diktats.

Coal-fueled electricity generation. The Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) will force still more coal mines and power plants to close, imposing higher electricity costs on businesses and families, and causing lost jobs, lower incomes, higher poverty rates, reduced living standards, and diminished health and welfare. It will hit blacks and Hispanics especially hard and require families to pay $1,225 more per year for electricity, heating and air conditioning in 2030 than in 2012.

A dozen states have already sued EPA to prevent it from implementing the plan. They and other experts note that the CPP will bring no climate benefits, even if carbon dioxide actually is a major factor in global warming. In fact, even EPA admits it would prevent merely 0.03 degrees F of warming – because China, India, Germany and other countries are planning or building nearly 2,200 coal-fired power plants. That and increasing natural gas and gasoline use worldwide will raise atmospheric CO2 levels still higher.

Impacts on people. EPA’s rules are devastating coal-reliant communities. By 2020, they will cost 75,000 direct jobs in coal mines, power plants and railroads, a union study estimates; by 2035, job losses will reach 152,000. When secondary employment is included, the total impact will be some 485,000 lost jobs. This will also affect state tax revenues and funding for company pensions and retirement health care benefits, putting hundreds of thousands of current and future retirees in harm’s way.

EPA ignores the huge toll that job losses have on people’s health and welfare. Unemployed families find it harder to buy food, pay for doctor visits and medicine, give to churches and charities, save for college and retirement, and make mortgage, rent and car payments. They face less sleep, worse nutrition and more stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, strokes and heart attacks.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) says “a lot of people on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum are going to die,” because of the CPP. Liberal constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe (who once hired Barack Obama as a legal research assistant) says the EPA plan is unconstitutional. National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford calls it “a slap in the face to poor and minority families.”

Trade unions. Once strong supporters of President Obama, the United Mine Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and other unions have come out in strong opposition to the administration’s job-killing actions on the Keystone XL pipeline and other initiatives.

Wind power. States are reducing or terminating Renewable Portfolio Standards and programs. Kansas, West Virginia and Indiana repealed their mandate, Ohio froze its standard at 2.5% renewable electricity, and North Carolina may freeze its RPS. Wildlife groups are finally recognizing and objecting to the serious habitat destruction and bird and bat slaughter that is a hallmark of wind and solar facilities.

Collusion. There is growing concern about the cozy ties and private meetings between EPA officials and eco-activists, their sue-and-settle deals, and EPA payments to advisory committees and environmental pressure groups that propagandize for agency actions. Far too many regulations have their origins in collusion, collaboration, and secretive input and “reports” from radical anti-hydrocarbon groups.

The Secret Science Reform Act would compel EPA to develop regulations and scientific studies in the open, and allow truly independent experts to examine and challenge data, evidence and studies that supposedly support EPA dictates that could cost billions of dollars and millions of jobs. It is long overdue.

The Supremes. Even if it must ignore the clear intent or language of laws like ObamaCare, the US Supreme Court has often been another reliable Obama rubberstamp. Yet it recently ruled in Michigan v. EPA that EPA violated the law by failing to consider monetary costs in deciding to regulate air pollution from power plants. The agency’s refusal to recognize the damage its regulations inflict on human health and welfare is a far more serious offense, and the agency must not be allowed to continue doing that.

Dwindling overseas support. Countries once enamored with “renewable” energy are now reexamining those policies, as they realize wind and solar energy kills four to six jobs for every “green” job created via unsustainable subsidies – and the electricity costs families and businesses up to 36-40 cents per kilowatt-hour (without counting taxpayer subsidies), compared to 8-9 cents per kWh in coal-reliant US states.

The African Development Bank says it will no longer tolerate policies that prevent construction of coal-fired power plants needed to bring electricity to 730 million Africans who do not yet enjoy the countless blessings that this miracle energy brings. About the only reason poor countries support a new climate treaty is that they (or at least their ruling elites) expect to share in the $100 billion per year that they claim developed nations must pay them for supposed global warming “reparation, mitigation and prevention.” 

Far too many EPA and other environmental regulations are wrong for workers, families, states and the overall “quality of the human environment.” That’s why “there’s a battle outside raging.” Free, responsible citizens do not want or need to be “fundamentally transformed” by deceit, collusion and decree.

Categories: On the Blog

Tallahassee City Commission right on Uber vote

Out of the Storm News - July 18, 2015, 5:11 PM

Last week, the Tallahassee City Commission showed that even a broken clock is right twice a day. I have oftentimes taken issue with its decisions over the years —especially the vote to increase my property taxes yet again. But I feel compelled to give credit where credit is due.

As local governments around the state take protectionist, anti-market steps under the guise of “public safety” to undermine competition and drive out ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, Tallahassee commissioners actually did the right thing.

The commission enacted sensible regulations — focused on public safety rather than market interference — which will allow ride-sharing and taxi companies to safely coexist. This is not only a win for consumers, but more importantly, it preserves an alternative many have used to avoid getting behind the wheel after a night of drinking.

Unfortunately, other local governments around the state have elected to enact onerous regulations intended to drive out competition rather than to foster it. The Legislature should therefore still revisit this issue during next year’s session so that all Floridians may access the competitive transportation options that we enjoy in Tallahassee.

Cardinal George Pell takes a swing at Pope Francis' environmental encyclical - Religion News Service

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 18, 2015, 11:55 AM
Show caption Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 6, 2013 ahead of the conclave that elected Pope…

The Evolving Urban Form: Sprawling Boston

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2015, 10:58 AM

Few terms are more misunderstood than “urban sprawl.” Generally, it refers to the spatial expansion (dispersion) of cities and has been use to describe urbanization from the most dense (least sprawling) in the world (Dhaka, Bangladesh), the most dense in the United States (Los Angeles) and also the least dense in the world (such as Atlanta and Charlotte, low density world champions in their population categories).

The discussion of density and dispersion is often confused, a prisoner of pre-conceived notions about various urban areas.  Boston is in a class by itself in this regard. Boston certainly deserves its reputation for a high density urban core and a strong CBD. Yet, Boston itself represents only a small part of the urbanization in its commute shed, which is a combined statistical area (CSA) or stand-alone metropolitan area (Note 2). The CSA is the largest labor market definition and combines adjacent metropolitan areas with strong commuting ties. The city of Boston had only 8% of the Boston-Worcester-Providence CSA population in 2010.

Much of the Boston CSA is made up of extensive, low density suburbanization more akin to Atlanta or Charlotte than to Los Angeles, which has the densest suburbs.

The Boston Combined Statistical Area

In contrast to its reputation for compactness, the Boston CSA is massive in its geography, covering more than 9,700 square miles (25,000 square kilometers). It is larger than Slovenia or Israel. The CSA stretches across parts of four states, including the eastern half of Massachusetts, all of Rhode Island, a large southeastern corner of New Hampshire and the northeastern corner of Connecticut. It includes the Boston, Providence, Worcester, Manchester and Barnstable Town metropolitan areas and the Concord (NH) and Laconia (NH) micropolitan areas.

Boston is the only CSA in the nation that includes three state capitals, Boston (Massachusetts), Providence (Rhode Island) and Concord (New Hampshire). It is the only CSA in the nation that contains the largest municipalities in three states, Boston, Providence and Manchester (New Hampshire).

The Boston CSA also includes multiple CBDs, from the fifth largest in the nation, Boston, to much smaller, but historically significant Providence, Worcester, and Manchester.

Consider this: The Boston CSA is more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the southernmost point, Westerly, Rhode Island to the northernmost point, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, north of Laconia, New Hampshire and more than a third the way to Montréal. Westerly itself is less than 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the New York combined statistical area, which begins at Madison, Connecticut across the New Haven County line. From Boston’s easternmost point near Provincetown, at the end of Cape Cod, it is more than 225 miles (360 kilometers) to Lake Winnipesaukee. From Provincetown to Athol, Massachusetts, to the west is more than 180 miles (290 kilometers).

Urbanization in the Boston CSA

But perhaps the most remarkable feature of this “Greater Greater Boston” is the extent of its urbanization (Note 3). The urban areas within the Boston CSA cover 3,640 square miles (9,400 square kilometers). This includes the dominant urban area of Boston (4.2 million), Providence (1.1 million), Worcester (0.5 million), which have largely grown together and a number of other urban areas. The urbanization is illustrated in the photograph above, which superimposes a Census Bureau maps of Boston’s urbanization and the Boston CSA, both on a Google Earth image. The CSA is a “reddish” color, while the urban areas are more “pinkish,” and completely enclosed in the CSA.

If all of Boston’s urbanization were a single urban area, it would be the third most expansive in the world (Figure 1), following the combined urban area of New York-Bridgeport-New Haven (4,500 square miles or 11,600 square kilometers) and Tokyo-Yokohama (3,300 square miles or 8,500 square kilometers).

There is a big difference, however, in the intensity of development between the urbanization in these labor markets. The urban population of the Boston CSA is 7.1 million (Figure 2). The urbanization of the New York CSA has more than three times as many people (23 million), but covers only about 1.5 times the land area. Tokyo, with a tenth less land area, has more than five times the population (38 million). With a density of 1,941 per square mile (750 per square kilometer), the urbanization of Boston is 60% less dense (Figure 3) than the urbanization of the Los Angeles CSA (5,020 per square mile or 1,940 per square kilometer), which includes the Inland Empire urban area of Riverside-San Bernardino.

Pre-World War II Boston is largely confined within the Route 128 semi-circumferential highway (most of it now called Interstate 95), had a 2010 population of approximately 1.9 million, with a population density of 6,300 per square mile (2,400 per square kilometer). The core city of Boston is among the most dense in the United States, with a 2014 density of 13,300 per square mile (5,200 per square kilometer). It is also very successful, having experienced a strong population turnaround, after falling from 801,000 residents in 1950 to 562,000 in 1980 (a 30% loss). By 2014, the city had recovered nearly 40% of its former population, rising to 656,000.

Suburban Densities

But once you get outside of 128, Boston’s urban population density fall steeply. If the denser urbanization inside Route 128 and the historic, dense municipalities of Providence, Worcester and Manchester are excluded, the remainder of Boston’s urbanization has a population density of 1,435 per square mile (550 per square kilometer). This is less dense than Atlanta’s urbanization outside the city of Atlanta. Overall, the Atlanta urban area is the least dense in the world with more than 2.5 million population. Approximately two-thirds of the Boston CSA urban population lives in these sparsely settled suburbs (Figure 4).

If the Boston CSA were as dense as  the Los Angeles urban form, the population would be 18.3 million, not 7.1 million, more than 2.5 times as -people as now reside there.

In many ways, Boston is the epitome of the dispersed urban development that followed World War II. Once one of the nation’s densest urban areas, it has evolved into one of the least. What distinguishes Boston from other low density urban areas, like Atlanta, Charlotte or Birmingham (Alabama) is that is core well reflects the urban form built for the pre-automobile age.

Employment Dispersion

As would be expected, Boston’s highly dispersed urbanization has been accompanied by highly dispersed employment. Despite having the fifth largest CBD in the nation, Boston’s “hub” accounts for only 6% of the CSA employment. In the 1950s and 1960s, Route 128 became the nation’s first high-tech corridor and has been referred to as the birthplace of the modern industrial park. But most people work outside 128.

Despite Boston’s huge urban expanse the average trip travel time is only 29 minutes. This is slightly above the US average of 26 minutes and 18 minutes shorter than Hong Kong, the high-income world’s densest urban area. Hong Kong’s urban density is more than 30 times that of Boston’s urbanization.

One of the World’s Most Prosperous Metropolitan Areas

Highly dispersed Boston has emerged as one of the world’s most affluent areas. According to the Brookings Global Metro Monitor, the Boston metropolitan area has the fourth largest GDP per capita, purchasing power parity, in the world. Boston trailed only Macau, nearby Hartford and San Jose, the world’s leading technology hub. Two other Boston CSA metropolitan areas were successful enough to be included in the top 100 in the Brookings data. The Providence and Worcester metropolitan areas ranked in the top 100 (like 65 other US metropolitan areas), at about the same level as Vienna, while leading Brussels and Tokyo. Overall, Boston has to rank as one of the country’s – and the world’s most successful labor markets. It has done so while not being denser but while combining the virtues of both a successful core city and a large, expansive periphery.

Note 1: Cites have two generic forms, physical and economic (or functional). The physical form is the continuously built-up area, called the urban area or the urban agglomerations. This is the area that would be outlined by the lights of the city from a high flying airplane at night. The economic form is the labor market (metropolitan area or combined statistical area), which includes the urban area but stretches to include rural areas and other areas from which commuters are drawn. There is considerable confusion about urban terms, especially when applied to municipalities when called “cities,” Municipalities are not themselves generic cities, but are usually parts of generic cities. Some municipalities may be larger than their corresponding generic cities (principally in China).

Note 2: “Commute sheds” encompass core based statistical areas, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget. including combined statistical areas, as well as metropolitan and micropolitan areas that are not a part of combined statistical areas), Combined statistical areas themselves are formed by strong commuting patterns between adjacent metropolitan and micropolitan areas. A table of all 569 commuter sheds is posted to demographia.com.

Note 3: Combined statistical areas (and metropolitan areas) often have more than one urban area. This article combines all of the urban areas in the Boston CSA, rather than focusing only on the principal urban area, Boston. Comparisons are made to the total urbanization (not the principal urban areas) of other CSAs in the United States.

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

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

Photo:  Second largest geographical expanse of labor market urbanization in the world (Boston). US Census Bureau maps superimposed on Google Earth.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

In the tanks

Out of the Storm News - July 17, 2015, 5:41 PM

From National Journal:

As the new director of energy policy at the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank, Catrina Rorke hopes to persuade fellow conservatives that a tax on carbon pollution is sound policy. She knows that particular effort will be an uphill climb. But Rorke, 30, a Long Island native whose parents are both nuclear engineers, tells me she will also be advocating for policies that enjoy significantly more support on the Right, including cutting regulatory red tape and increasing natural-gas exports. “A big part of what I’m going to do is find ways to identify R Street as conservative on energy,” she says. “It’s helpful to be able to tell our friends that we agree with them 99 percent of the time.” Rorke, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Columbia University, joined R Street in April, after nearly four years at the American Action Forum, a “center-right” policy research group.

30 under 30

Out of the Storm News - July 17, 2015, 5:37 PM

From Red Alert Politics:

Lori Sanders is the outreach director and a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. In this role, she is responsible for R Street’s coalition efforts, as well as providing public outreach and education about public policy issues to regulators, lawmakers, and their staffs. She has appeared on numerous television and radio outlets, and her writing has been featured in National Affairs, the Weekly Standard, and National Review, among others.

Sanders came to R Street from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she most recently served as program manager for AEI’s Road to Freedom project. Prior to her work at AEI, Sanders worked at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, as a participant in the Charles Koch Institute’s Koch Associate Program.

Why is it important that at this particular point in time, right-of-center youth become involved publicly, whether in politics, media, their communities, or in other capacities?

The Republican Party and the Libertarian Party both need to move forward on a variety of issues. We tend to legislate like it’s still 1980, when in fact we face very different problems. Our generation more than any other is bearing the brunt of community breakdown, wage stagnation, and low economic growth, and we also understand more than any other generation the way that technology, ingenuity, and a renewed sense of dedication to our communities can overcome these problems. Unless we step up, our generation will be left further behind as the policies of the left continue to drag us down. The left’s ideas resonate with those looking for an answer, but in the end they just cause more problems. We need to come up with new, more inclusive solutions and find creative ways to market them for future generations.

What must elected officials and others in positions of leadership do to make a right-of-center message resonate with the Millennial generation?

We really need to focus more on how our ideas help make the world a better place. We need to showcase how our solutions lead to the new and exciting changes that improve lives everywhere. I think a lot of that relies on finding the sweet spot between promoting Millennial’s desire for freedom of choice and individuality, while also showing that our policies won’t leave anyone behind and will restore community. We focus too much on the success story of the millionaire entrepreneur and should instead focus on giving everyone the opportunity they need to build the life they want for themselves. The left’s message seems inclusive, but it’s only inclusive if you want the things they want for your life. We offer people the freedom to choose for themselves, and a restored American dream that makes it possible for them to get there.

Where would you like to see the conservative movement in 10 years — and how can it get there?

I’d love to see the conservative movement be the party for everyone — all races, sexes, and orientations — but with the message that personal responsibility combined with freedom is the best way to keep America strong. We need to focus on the plight of men and disaffected workers, on flexibility for women (particularly single mothers), and on restoring access to opportunity through more than just lower regulatory burden and lower taxes. Our message is a message for everyone, if we’re willing to find new, creative conservative solutions for all walks of life, not just those we identify with as part of our base.

Senate Approves Education Bill Keeping Feds in Charge of Education

Blog - Education - July 17, 2015, 3:48 PM

On July 16 the U.S. Senate passed S.B. 1177, the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA). This bill is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the update of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The bill, written by Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D- WA), passed by a vote of 81–17.

The 17 Senators voting against reauthorization were:

Blunt (R-MO)
Booker (D-NJ)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ) Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL) Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)

 

Passage of ECAA in the Senate clearly shows a desire to maintain federal control over education. Maintaining these federally mandated programs is stifling innovation for teachers and students. Education should focus on the students, not the system the ECAA perpetuates.

Senate Approves Education Bill Keeping Feds in Charge of Education

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2015, 3:48 PM

On July 16 the U.S. Senate passed S.B. 1177, the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA). This bill is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the update of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The bill, written by Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D- WA), passed by a vote of 81–17.

The 17 Senators voting against reauthorization were:

Blunt (R-MO)
Booker (D-NJ)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ) Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL) Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)

 

Passage of ECAA in the Senate clearly shows a desire to maintain federal control over education. Maintaining these federally mandated programs is stifling innovation for teachers and students. Education should focus on the students, not the system the ECAA perpetuates.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly Email: California Pounces on Uber, Says It Must Prove Drivers Aren’t Racist

Blog - Education - July 17, 2015, 1:41 PM

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

Maryland Bans Fracking Despite Governor’s Opposition H. Sterling Burnett, the Heartlander Gary Stone, vice president of engineering for Five States Energy, says Maryland’s limited experience with the process and benefits of fracking may have contributed to support for the ban. “Maryland joined New York and succumbed to a coalition of environmental activists and others under the ‘Don’t Frack Maryland’ campaign to pass a veto-proof two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing,” Stone said. READ MORE Research & Commentary: Continuing Affordable Care Act Problems Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary Approximately 18 million Americans who are eligible to buy insurance through Obamacare have chosen not to buy it through state and federal exchanges, even after two years of marketing with our tax dollars. Maybe that’s because premiums have skyrocketed in 2015 with more hikes on the way. Dozens of health insurance providers under Obamacare have already requested premium increases for 2016. READ MORE California Pounces on Uber, Says It Must Prove Drivers Aren’t Racist Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable Predatory California regulators fined ride-sharing innovator Uber Technologies, Inc. and suspended its operations license, pending appeal. The ruling judge stated Uber “has not complied with state laws” designed to ensure drivers don’t discriminate against possible passengers based on their race or place of residence. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Anthony Watts: Why Climate Data Are Faulty Global temperature records are only as good as the data collected at the stations and the honesty of those doing the collecting. In this Heartland Daily Podcast, Anthony Watts explains how errors in methodology at weather stations call into question the entire hypothesis of catastrophic man-caused global warming. LISTEN TO MORE  

Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! An Austrian Economist’s Advice for Greece and the EU Richard Ebeling for Somewhat Reasonable Over several decades Greek governments accumulated a fiscally unmanageable debt and have been unwilling to introduce any meaningful, long-term economic and budgetary reforms to get the country’s political-economic house in order. Ludwig Von Mises would surely have an explanation for the problems and a free-market solution. READ MORE Stop Propping up Crony-corporatist Biofuel Companies Paul Driessen, Somewhat Reasonable “Politicians, bureaucrats, and eco-activists clearly care little about the coal mine workers and communities they have destroyed. Why should biofuel producers be more sacrosanct and protected – based on false claims that these fuels ensure emission reductions, ‘home-grown’ energy supplies and climate stability?”  READ MORE

Why Your State Should Copy Nevada’s School Choice Plan Lance Izumi, the Heartlander “Many of the public schools in this country that serve … students [from middle-income families] are not as good as people think they are. It is therefore critical for states to enact programs, such as Nevada’s groundbreaking education savings accounts, to give all parents the ability to choose the best educational options for their children. Choice is a right for all, not just for some.” READ MORE Bonus Podcast: William Freeland: Puerto Rico’s Financial Mess Puerto Rico is a beautiful country that currently finds itself in an ugly mess. William Freeland, research analyst with the American Legislative Exchange Council, explains how federal regulations and bad economic policies caused the territory’s historic financial problems. LISTEN TO MORE Did Obama Cover Up Real Reason for Obamacare Website Crash? Justin Haskins, the Blaze Why couldn’t Healthcare.gov handle visits from the more than 30 million people it said lacked health insurance and needed to enroll in Obamacare? Because it expected the states to handle most of the traffic – which is exactly what the losers in King v. Burwell argued before the Supreme Court. Yet another reason that decision was so illogical. READ MORE A Congresswoman Demands Peace, Love, and Big Brother Internet, Man Seton Motley, RedState Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California penned an editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle that has the strong whiff of patchouli – a bunch of warmed-over hippie-dippie nonsense in defense of a huge government power-grab over the Internet. The Flower Children of the Summer of Love have come full circle, now advocating the kind of Big Brother tactics they used to oppose. READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Heartland Weekly Email: California Pounces on Uber, Says It Must Prove Drivers Aren’t Racist

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2015, 1:41 PM

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

Maryland Bans Fracking Despite Governor’s Opposition H. Sterling Burnett, the Heartlander Gary Stone, vice president of engineering for Five States Energy, says Maryland’s limited experience with the process and benefits of fracking may have contributed to support for the ban. “Maryland joined New York and succumbed to a coalition of environmental activists and others under the ‘Don’t Frack Maryland’ campaign to pass a veto-proof two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing,” Stone said. READ MORE Research & Commentary: Continuing Affordable Care Act Problems Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary Approximately 18 million Americans who are eligible to buy insurance through Obamacare have chosen not to buy it through state and federal exchanges, even after two years of marketing with our tax dollars. Maybe that’s because premiums have skyrocketed in 2015 with more hikes on the way. Dozens of health insurance providers under Obamacare have already requested premium increases for 2016. READ MORE California Pounces on Uber, Says It Must Prove Drivers Aren’t Racist Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable Predatory California regulators fined ride-sharing innovator Uber Technologies, Inc. and suspended its operations license, pending appeal. The ruling judge stated Uber “has not complied with state laws” designed to ensure drivers don’t discriminate against possible passengers based on their race or place of residence. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Anthony Watts: Why Climate Data Are Faulty Global temperature records are only as good as the data collected at the stations and the honesty of those doing the collecting. In this Heartland Daily Podcast, Anthony Watts explains how errors in methodology at weather stations call into question the entire hypothesis of catastrophic man-caused global warming. LISTEN TO MORE  

Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! An Austrian Economist’s Advice for Greece and the EU Richard Ebeling for Somewhat Reasonable Over several decades Greek governments accumulated a fiscally unmanageable debt and have been unwilling to introduce any meaningful, long-term economic and budgetary reforms to get the country’s political-economic house in order. Ludwig Von Mises would surely have an explanation for the problems and a free-market solution. READ MORE Stop Propping up Crony-corporatist Biofuel Companies Paul Driessen, Somewhat Reasonable “Politicians, bureaucrats, and eco-activists clearly care little about the coal mine workers and communities they have destroyed. Why should biofuel producers be more sacrosanct and protected – based on false claims that these fuels ensure emission reductions, ‘home-grown’ energy supplies and climate stability?”  READ MORE

Why Your State Should Copy Nevada’s School Choice Plan Lance Izumi, the Heartlander “Many of the public schools in this country that serve … students [from middle-income families] are not as good as people think they are. It is therefore critical for states to enact programs, such as Nevada’s groundbreaking education savings accounts, to give all parents the ability to choose the best educational options for their children. Choice is a right for all, not just for some.” READ MORE Bonus Podcast: William Freeland: Puerto Rico’s Financial Mess Puerto Rico is a beautiful country that currently finds itself in an ugly mess. William Freeland, research analyst with the American Legislative Exchange Council, explains how federal regulations and bad economic policies caused the territory’s historic financial problems. LISTEN TO MORE Did Obama Cover Up Real Reason for Obamacare Website Crash? Justin Haskins, the Blaze Why couldn’t Healthcare.gov handle visits from the more than 30 million people it said lacked health insurance and needed to enroll in Obamacare? Because it expected the states to handle most of the traffic – which is exactly what the losers in King v. Burwell argued before the Supreme Court. Yet another reason that decision was so illogical. READ MORE A Congresswoman Demands Peace, Love, and Big Brother Internet, Man Seton Motley, RedState Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California penned an editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle that has the strong whiff of patchouli – a bunch of warmed-over hippie-dippie nonsense in defense of a huge government power-grab over the Internet. The Flower Children of the Summer of Love have come full circle, now advocating the kind of Big Brother tactics they used to oppose. READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare Bureaucrats Reject ‘Laboratory of Democracy’ Experiments in Conservative States

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2015, 1:31 PM

States have long-claimed the title of “laboratories of democracy,” where innovative public policies were allowed to emerge, and furnish possible models for bi-partisan policy change in Washington.

But according to the Washington Wire blog in The Wall Street Journal online, the administration is being increasingly inflexible about some creative approaches to state Medicaid expansion.

No Job, No Problem

Recently, Utah proposed adding job search requirements, for instance, as part of expanding Medicaid access. However, the administration refused to go along.

Pennsylvania policymakers also proposed a mandatory “work/job-search requirement,” on welfare healthcare, but the White House’s vehement opposition led to a dramatic rewrite of the proposal, which devolved into a voluntary job referral service.

“Ideally, states function as laboratories of democracy, and one state’s experiments can spark broader national trends,” reports the WSJ blog. “But when it comes to health care, the administration and Obamacare are offering little flexibility to states whose leaders have differing philosophical objectives. This suggests that, at least in the near term, bipartisan health experiments will remain an elusive goal.”

Obama is not so friendly with Republicans who don’t share his socialized medicine policy goals.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Water, Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop the EPA Doesn’t Want to Control

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2015, 1:31 PM

There is an old saying in the West: “Whiskey’s fer drinkin,’ water’s fer fightin’!” Just as when the country was being settled, water today is a critical but relatively scarce commodity and hence the subject of much dispute.

The water war is about to heat up, and I don’t mean because of the drought in California.

On May 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corp of Engineers finalized their long-awaited, much-feared Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS). With this rule, EPA arrogates to itself the authority to control virtually all surface water, including isolated, ephemeral, seasonal puddles, ponds, rivulets, soggy areas, and ditches across the entire United States.

(Just look at the map above to confirm this is true, and while you are doing so please note that this map from the EPA just shows the land fed by perennial streams the EPA claims authority under WOTUS to regulate. The map does not include associated standing waters that may feed the streams or actual wetlands or swamps like the Ozarks, Coastal Louisiana, or The Everglades upon which the map above would have to be overlain to give the readers a full pictures of the breadth of the EPA’s attempted land grab.)

EPA grabbed its authority over wetlands through the backdoor, using the Clean Water Act (CWA). CWA descended from 19th century legislation aimed at keeping navigable waterways free from physical obstruction and interference. The Clean Water Act expanded the government’s authority to regulate the discharge of pollutants, on the premise pollution can impact the quality of the water and, in some cases, its navigability.

Over time, EPA’s authority to regulate the use of “navigable” waters morphed into a virtually unfettered power to restrict private property uses affecting any surface water, regardless of whether they affected navigable waters. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, EPA took control over isolated wetlands based on the types of soil, the residence of moisture-loving plants, and whether a property held water for as little as seven continuous days regardless of any connection to interstate waters, much less navigable waterways.

As a result, thousands of private landowners found themselves compelled to apply for federal permits before “developing” their land. EPA decided any activity disturbing dirt within wetlands might count as a “discharge” of fill material.

Perhaps the worst case of EPA wetlands abuse was imposed on John Pozsgai of Morrisville, Pennsylvania. After purchasing a 14-acre dumpsite to expand his truck repair business, Pozsgai cleared away more than 7,000 old tires and several rusting cars. Neighbors may have been happy to see the junk hauled away, but when Pozsgai leveled about five acres with clean fill dirt, EPA took him to court. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to three years in jail. Pozsgai’s only crime: dumping dirt on his own property without permission. The government sentenced him to jail for replacing garbage with dirt.

Recognizing constitutional limits to federal authority over water, Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 began to rein in EPA’s power by striking down its claimed authority over isolated wetlands and bodies of water, requiring water have at least a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway to fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction.

This limited check on EPA’s authority has proved too much for it and its radical environmental allies to bear. EPA’s solution is to dispose of the historical legal precedent water be “navigable” to be under federal control. Get rid of the word “navigable” and voila: EPA now has dominion over all the nation’s water and, as a result, over all the land surrounding or touching water.

Critics are already fighting back. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, pesticide manufacturers, mining companies, home builders, state and local governments, water utilities, flood control districts, the timber industry, railroads, real estate developers, golf course operators, food and beverage companies, more than 40 energy companies, and two dozen electric power companies have all critiqued EPA’s water overreach. States and businesses are already lining up to file lawsuits challenging the EPA decision.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to force EPA and the Army Corps to withdraw their new rule and consult with states and industries before writing a new proposal. The 261–155 vote included support from 24 Democrats. The Senate is considering a similar bipartisan measure.

EPA’s authority to protect water should go back to its 19th century roots, keeping waterways open for navigation and adjudicating water pollution that crosses state lines. For waters solely on private property within a single state and navigable waterways not on federal lands, solely within a single state’s borders, the state alone should have authority to regulate its uses.

Undisturbed wetlands may provide a public benefit, but if the federal government wants to maintain wetlands on private lands, it should pay just compensation to the landowners for the privilege, just as it would have to do if it wanted to erect a school or a public road on their land.

Categories: On the Blog

Beware of Propaganda to Quell Inconvenient Truths About Smart Meters – Part 1

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2015, 10:51 AM

In the likelihood that the smart meter issue is new to you or that you have been convinced that smart meters are non-threatening and offer benefits to the public, fasten your seat belts for you are to be taken on a disturbing adventure into the nature of “Smart Meters.”

ComEd plans to install approximately four million Smart Meters on homes and businesses across northern Illinois by the end of 2018, with one million wireless Smart Meters having been installed already. This Installation Schedule can help you determine when you can expect to have a Smart Meter installed.

Expert Reveals the TruthIf you care about health, including the health of your own family, and about the cost of health care in Illinois, do consider comments made by Dr. Ronald Powell, Ph.D., a retired career U.S. Government scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University.  During his government career, he worked for the Executive Office of the President, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  According to Dr. Powell:

Electric power companies [ComEd] made a dreadful mistake when they elected to install Wireless Smart Meters to measure electrical power. Wherever these meters are installed, they threaten the health of all residents in the community, violate their privacy, increase the likelihood of hacking, decrease their personal security and safety, and threaten property values in the community. And Wireless Smart Meters do all of this without any persuasive evidence of any financial benefit to the customers.

All of these consequences are important for consumers; but the health threat is particularly tragic. The biomedical research community has found adverse health effects from exposure to the RF/Microwave radiation emitted by wireless Smart Meters. 

In a phone conversation between Dr. Powell and a colleague of Thorner, who is a Smart Meter expert, Dr. Powell made these poignant comments about Smart Meters and the health issue:

The RF/Microwave radiation from Wireless Smart Meters is particularly threatening to health because that radiation is so persistent and so powerful. [Com Ed and other] power companies like to fool the public by saying, ‘Look these Smart Meters just transmit 6 times a day.’ Well, that is just misleading. That may be how many times they transmit your data, but they are a relay station for all the other Smart Meters in the neighborhood. And they all interact with each other and send each other timing signals and all kinds of stuff. And that means that they are extremely busy.  California court documents, describing Wireless Smart Meters indicate that each of these meters issues its pulses of RF radiation, on average 10,000 times per day, and up to a maximum 190,000 times per day, 24/7, forever.  Furthermore, the power level of each pulse is about 1,000 milliwatts, placing Wireless Smart Meters among the most powerful RF radiators likely to be present in a residential environment. 

What also has to be factored in is that for Smart Meters to function there are collectors, routers, and the additional wireless network that sends the collected data to the utility. These components are very powerful as well, and add to the cumulative exposure that a Smart Meter network generates.

With regard to the CUB (Citizens Utility Board) fact sheet of July, 2014, which can be viewed here, it is not out-of-line to question the integrity of the sources that were consulted to assemble the CUB Fact Sheet, which appears to be primarily pro-ComEd propaganda.

This CUB statement seen under “factors which impact public health” is especially egregious:  “In addition, there has been no conclusive evidence of any damaging ‘non-thermal’ effects produced by the RF used in…digital smart meters.”

The statement was soundly refuted below by Dr. Ronald Powell, whose outstanding work will be further discussed in Part 2, along with that of Dr. David O. Carpenter, M.D.

“There is no convincing evidence of harm from RF/microwave radiation. That is totally, and tragically false.  Further adding:  “And tragically, ignoring this problem can easily by the mistake of a lifetime, leading to profound regret.”

CUBFacts sheet:  fact checking for misleading statement 

As a way to point out the many misleading statement appearing on the CUBFacts Smart Meter information sheet that is being presented to the public as true and factual, the CUBFacts sheet was edited accordingly:   What is in bold was taken directly from CUBFacts, followed each time by an Author’s explanation of what really is!

CUB: What are smart meters?

What the experts say: Smart Meters are billing mechanisms which ComEd will use to facilitate “Time-of-Use” pricing. These digital meters are complex, temperamental electrical computers. Smart Meters gather much more data than analog meters. Data is transmitted wirelessly through Radio Frequency (RF) Microwaves which “hop” from meter to meter and on to their designated collector. In addition to measurement data, Smart Meters send or receive network messages around the clock.

CUB: How do digital meters use radio frequency?  “Digital meters communicate…periodically transmitting real-time customer energy-usage information.”

What the experts say: The reality is that the utilities are headed towards true “real-time” transmissions, which means always transmitting.

CUB:  This information can help the utility company better manage the power grid 

Experts’ explanation: That statement ignores the reality that smart meters are totally unnecessary to achieve a smart grid. Even Massachusetts’ largest utility claimed in Feb 2014 that there is “no rational basis for Smart Meters” and “Smart Meters do not reduce the number of outages.”

CUB:  (Smart meter data is) “helping them (customers) to better control costs” 

Experts’ explanation: Meta-studies of smart meter pilots have shown that only a very small percentage of customers will actually save money. In fact, in many places where smart meters are installed, customer bills increase, often dramatically.

CUB:  PG&E estimates a typical digital meter communicates…as little as one minute a day.

Experts’ explanation: That same PG&E, under oath in court, had to admit that smart meters, on average, transmit 10,000 times per day, and as often as 190,000 times per day. That means from once every 9 seconds up to two times per second.

CUB:  At 10 feet away…a digital meter…emits 300 times less RF than a typical cell phone.  

Experts’ explanation:  Richard Tell, in a report for Vermont, found that at the same distance, a smart meter and a cell phone transmit the same amount of RF. And since the amount falls off with distance, 10 feet is an intentionally misleading measurement.

Is radio frequency dangerous?

CUB: The devices’ (smart meters) RF levels…fall far below Federal Communication Commission FCC) safety standards—typically 70 times less.

Experts’ explanation:  The existing FCC “safety guidelines” were set based on studies up through 1985. The types of RF exposures common today did not exist in 1985. To protect public health, the 2007 BioInitiative Report recommends a safety standard that is less than 1/1000th of the FCC limit (0.1 uW/cm2 vs 600 uW/cm2).

CUB: Exposure to very high levels of RF radiation, warms body tissue, producing a ‘thermal effect’ that can be harmful. But the lower levels of RF utilized by digital meters and other household devices have not been shown to produce this ‘thermal effect’. In its 2011 report,…the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) writes that wireless smart meters…result in much smaller levels of RF exposure than many existing common household electronic devices, particularly cell phones and microwave ovens.

Experts’ explanation: CCST was asked by several politicians to answer two questions about smart meter safety. Their limited analysis did not answer those questions. The CCST report was heavily based on an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) report. EPRI is an electric utility industry association. The data used for both cell phones and microwave ovens were extremely inflated. Based on a recent Swedish study, the average cell phone power is one milliwatt, not the 250 milliwatts claimed in the CCST document.  So the average power density exposure AT THE HEAD is one 250th of the CCST value of 5000, or 20 uW/cm2. Compare that to the CCST value of 40 uW/cm2 at 3 feet from a smart meter. For these reasons, the CCST report was heavily criticized by scientists from around the world.

CUB: In addition, there has been no conclusive evidence of any damaging ‘non-thermal’ effects produced by the RF used in…digital smart meters. 

Experts’ explanation:  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states in its article, “The Evidence is Irrefutable”:  The peer-reviewed, scientific literature demonstrates the correlation between EMF/RF exposure and neurological, cardiac, and pulmonary disease as well as reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, cancer and other health conditions.”

CUB:  When utilities become more efficient…they rely less on power created by coal plants that have been linked to significant health problems.  

Experts’ explanation: The implied claim here is that using digital meters supposedly reduces energy use which in turn will reduce the number of coal plants, which “have been linked to significant health problems.” Meta studies of the impact of smart meters on energy usage showed that only a small percentage of the population is able to reduce their usage and the sustainable reduction for that small group was only 3%. Furthermore, the greatest usage reduction is from the purchase of high efficiency appliances and programmable thermostats.

Also, this section fails to consider the increased health care costs due to the health effects of RF from the wireless smart meters. In a mesh network, messages are passed from meter to meter using RF until a collector is reached. The collector uses RF to communicate with the utility through a network of wireless routers, creating three layers of ‘Electrosmog’. Humans can be affected by the RF from a meter 100 yards away (one football field). In a typical residential neighborhood many neighbor’s meters are within 300 feet. The meters emit RF, on average, once every 9 seconds (per testimony from California Utility, PG&E). So residents may be subjected to the transmissions of 10-15 meters, or as much as 20-30 transmissions PER SECOND, all day long. With no respite (particularly at night), a mesh network will have a huge detrimental effect on residents’ health.

CUB: Will the utility have more control over my power usage and shutting my power off?

Experts’ explanation: A major concern not addressed here is that the utility will now be able to turn off a customer’s power without first visiting the customer premises, to determine whether there are very young children, disabled or sickly residents who will be adversely affected by the complete loss of power. Also, software control of power shutoff sets the stage for human error, disgruntled employees or hackers to turn off power to one or more customers.

Summary

1.  CUB:   Like many common household items…baby monitor, garage door opener– digital meters emit low levels of electromagnetic energy, called radio frequency, or RF.   

Experts’ explanation:  By design the list of “common” items leaves off those with the higher RF exposure: cell phones, wireless laptops and microwave ovens. The proper name for RF is radio frequency radiation, or RFR. It is microwave radiation. Also by design, the meter is called a “digital meter” in an intentional effort to disguise the fact that CUB is referring to a Wireless Smart Meter.

2.  CUB:  The RF levels emitted by a digital meter…are well within FCC safety guidelines, and are much lower than many household items, including a microwave and cell phones.

Experts’ explanation:  Legal does not equal safety. The RF levels can exceed FCC guidelines in areas with multiple transmitters and a highly reflective environment. Cell phone and microwave exposures can be compared to a smart meter, but a customer can choose to limit or eliminate their use. In contrast, smart meters in a mesh network emit almost constantly 24/7 and are being forced on consumers.

3.  CUB: … there is no conclusive scientific evidence that suggests RF from a digital meter poses a health risk. 

Experts’ explanation: There is abundant evidence that RF is a probable carcinogen, and many studies (over 3000 in the 2 BioInitiative Reports) are suggestive of various other types of health damage. There are no studies proving smart meters are safe. There is no safe level of RF radiation for children.

For additional factual information on the ComEd Radiofrequency Fact Sheet, see here.

Part 2: The writings, reports, and testimonies of Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D. and David O. Carpenter, M.D. will be reviewed and presented in light of their stellar reputations and expertise on the issue of Smart Meters that extends back to 2010.  As the title of Part 2 suggests: Shouldn’t experts triumph over a corporation’s attempt to fool the public?

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Milt Rosenberg Part 2: The Global Warming Debate

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2015, 9:46 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to the Milt Rosenberg Podcast as he speaks with Heartland Senior Fellow James Taylor and author and environmental researcher Steve Goreham. In this segment, Rosenberg plays the opposing perspective in a debate about the legitimacy of the man-made global warming theory.

Because of the alarmists refusal to debate, Rosenberg stands in as the opposing voice to Taylor and Goreham’s skepticism.  In Part 2 of this podcast, Taylor, Goreham and Rosenberg take email questions and explain the “sustainability” movement.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Dear Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville welcome Uber…why can’t we?

Out of the Storm News - July 17, 2015, 8:00 AM

With a unanimous vote, Mobile’s City Council affirmed amendments to the city’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance, enabling app-based transportation companies like Uber to operate.

Huntsville has also declared itself open for business to transportation network companies (TNC) by passing recent changes to its rules.

Montgomery doesn’t appear to be far behind.

And then there’s Birmingham.

The city with an average per capita income of less than $20,000 and more than 30 percent of its residents in poverty simply can’t get out of its own way.

There are plenty of good things happening in Birmingham. We’re making inroads in the food scene. We have a really great minor league baseball stadium and several nice parks. Medical researchers and hipsters navigate the same community with ease.

Wait…it’s that last part that isn’t entirely accurate.

We’ve known for a while we need better transportation options. TNCs like Uber and Lyft meet a clear demand in Birmingham without imposing drastic infrastructure costs on the city.

If we want to bring the magic back to the Magic City, we need to think about what’s holding us back. Want to partake in Birmingham’s growing craft beer industry? How about a baseball game at Regions Field? Or even something as simple as a nice date night out for dinner at Birmingham’s Uptown Entertainment District? The obvious challenge is moving people conveniently and safely around the city and back home.

Transportation improvements are a huge part of enabling cities across the Birmingham metro area to connect.

Birmingham’s City Council blames Uber for not being able to reach a deal, but Uber doesn’t seem to have similar problems elsewhere in the state. The bigger point is that companies like Lyft and Uber don’t need Birmingham nearly as much as the city needs them.

If the mayor and City Council can’t show a better ability to work with market innovators in Birmingham, we’ll be left in the dust of our neighboring Alabama cities with a better eye to the future.

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