Feed aggregator

Reporters Explain Why Global Warming Doesn't Need Balance

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - March 24, 2015, 3:23 PM
Is it morally permissible to allow “climate deniers” to appear in print and televised media? Columbia University journalism students wrestled with this question…

Bill sets expiration date for federal rules

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 1:58 PM

From The Hill:

Market research and advocacy groups including the R Street Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Citizens Against Government Waste released an open letter Tuesday that called on senators to pass the bill.

“Despite being authorized to review and update rules affecting small business, most agencies fail to complete this review in an acceptable manner,” the letter said. “This ensures the ever-growing list of rules continues to multiply, disproportionately weighing down small entities with fewer available resources.” 

Quoting figures from the National Association of Manufacturers, the groups said regulatory compliance for small businesses cost an average of $11,724 per employee in 2012 and $34,67 for small manufacturers. Since 1993, more than 87,000 rules have been issued.

“If the cost of complying with U.S. regulations were an economy unto itself, it would be the 10th largest in the world, coming in at $1.863 trillion,” the letter said citing an analysis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Why Uber’s deal with big insurance companies matters

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 1:54 PM

From Vox:

The deal is supported by State Farm, Farmers, and USAA, as well as the American Insurance Association, according to Ray Lehmann of the R Street Institute. Lehmann says Lyft is also considering supporting the framework.

Letter to SBA on Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 1:43 PM

Ash Williams
Executive Director
Florida State Board of Administration

Jack Nicholson
Chief Operating Officer
Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund

Dear Mr. Williams and Dr. Nicholson:

We the undersigned represent a diverse coalition that is concerned about the long-term continued health of Florida’s economy. We also appreciate the important role of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund in protecting our economic future. Although the Cat Fund is currently fiscally sound, thanks in part to wise decisions by yourselves and lawmakers, it is also largely due to Florida’s unprecedented, nine-year lucky streak of tropical calm.

This presents you and the State Board of Administration a unique opportunity. Given that global reinsurance prices are at their lowest level in years, this would be an ideal time to consider spreading some of Florida’s enormous hurricane risk held by the Cat Fund to the global private market. Doing so would have no adverse impact on consumers, but instead would reduce the likelihood or magnitude of debt the Cat Fund would have to incur to cover losses, and by extension, reduce the potential of multi-year assessments upon our businesses, churches, charities, local governments and most Floridians. These concerns were reflected in a 2010 report by Florida TaxWatch, and more recently in a study authored by R Street Institute analyst R.J. Lehmann published in January by The James Madison Institute.

Until January of this year, Floridians were paying assessments to cover losses dating all the way back to the 2005 hurricane season. Exporting some of the Cat Fund’s risk would protect Floridians from additional assessments should the wind blow. Furthermore, the flood of outside capital—rather than debt—after a hurricane would allow the state to quickly recover both physically and economically.

It is only a matter of time before our lucky streak runs out. As such, we urge you and the State Board of Administration to take advantage of this unique opportunity to insure some of the Cat Fund’s risk before the forthcoming hurricane season.

Steve Pociask
President & CEO
American Consumer Institute

Dominic Calabro
President & CEO
Florida Tax Watch

Pete Sepp
President
National Taxpayers Union

Tom Feeney
President & CEO
Associated Industries of Florida

Manley Fuller
President
Florida Wildlife Federation

Christian R. Cámara
Florida Director
R Street Institute

David Hart
Executive Vice President
Florida Chamber of Commerce

Bob McClure
President & CEO
The James Madison Institute

David Williams
President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

 

Poker community strengthens defense during RAWA delay; hearing set for Wednesday

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 1:14 PM

From PokerNews:

However, the three week-delay for inclement weather did prove useful for the online poker community. Backlash to the original witness list helped get a fifth witness added in Andrew Moylan, the executive director of R Street Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank. The hearing in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations was rescheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. EST.

Moylan is expected to speak out against RAWA as a violation of state rights, just what Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas noted was lacking at the hearing when the witness list was first leaked.

“I don’t know Andrew, but I’m familiar with R Street and they have a good reputation for focusing on federalism and 10th amendment issues on a whole lot of subject matters. I think they will be very credible and a good voice at the hearing.”

The FCC Delivers the Latest Dose of Obama Cronyism

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2015, 10:11 AM

The huge-er government gets – the greater its ability to deliver cronyism goodies. The bigger the wallet government has – the larger the regulatory hammer it wields – the more Crony Socialism it can dispense.

Remember when President Barack Obama said this?

“We’re going to punish our enemies and reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”

The Obama Administration is excellent at both. The punishing:

IRS Targets Conservative Groups

Obama Administration Targets Fox News Reporter in ‘Chilling’ Echo of AP Probe

Obama Administration Targets Coal with Controversial Emissions Regulations

Obama Closed and Stole Republican Car Dealerships?

And the rewarding:

80% of DOE Green Energy Loans Went to Obama Backers

How Obama’s Justice Department Selectively Blocked A Merger By Republican CEOs

Obama’s Auto Bailout Was Really a Hefty Union Payoff

US Diplomats Cry Foul as Obama Donors Take Over Top Embassy Jobs

Often there are moments of Crony Socialist harmonic convergence. When government can reward friends – while simultaneously punishing enemies.

Take, for instance, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s latest auction of spectrum – the airwaves we use for all things wireless.

Big Money in ‘Small’-Business Preferences

DISH Network’s brazen abuse of the Federal Communications Commission’s incentives for small businesses at a recent spectrum auction — to the tune of $3 billion, at taxpayers’ expense — was enough to make even a Dickensian villain squirm….

Using multiple shell companies to qualify for “designated entity” (DE) discounts, DISH Network effectively shaved off more than $3 billion in payments….

DE status is reserved for small businesses — not market behemoths like DISH Network.

How behemoth is DISH Network? About $34 billion. A little large for DE eligibility.

DE is Huge Government yet again trying to manipulate the marketplace – allegedly for good and noble purposes – and (shocker) failing miserably.

The DE program was created at Congress’s direction more than 20 years ago. It offers qualifying small companies a taxpayer-funded credit equal to 25 percent of the purchase price to help them compete against their larger counterparts when bidding for spectrum.

DISH got a heck of a deal.  I wonder why?

The co-founder of broadcasting giant DISH Network was accused in a federal complaint last week of intimidating company executives into making political donations that largely went to Democratic causes.

Ahh – that’s why.

DISH’s $3B in Auction Discounts ‘Makes a Mockery’ of AWS-3 Auction, FCC Official Says

Don’t get too excited – it was Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai who said that.

When government plays favorites – everyone else loses. When the Leviathan has its giant thumb on the scale – it is anything but fair.

DISH purchased spectrum on the crony cheap – that could have instead gone to any of the many other bidders. Many of whom are vocally opposed to many Administration power grab policies – including itsrecent Net Neutrality Internet takeover. One of whom – Verizon – successfully sued to undo the last Administration attempt at Net Neutrality imposition.

The Administration rewarding its friends – while punishing its enemies. The Crony Socialist twofer.

It’s way past time for Huge Government to stop trying to micro-manipulate the private sector. The ends never justify the means – and the intended ends are never met.

And it will take a Crony Socialist weapon out of the government’s vast arsenal.

Now that’s a twofer for the better.

[Originally published at Red State]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Congressional Data Coalition applauds House legislative data transparency efforts, asks for more

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 9:41 AM

On March 6, the Congressional Data Coalition and allies submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee regarding its 2016 appropriation that applauded recent progress in making legislative data more open while urging additional reforms. It is worth repeating the significant progress that has been made and our recommendations for the future, so please find a summary below. The full testimony is here

Recognition of ongoing House activities

To begin, we commend the House of Representatives for its ongoing efforts to open up congressional information. We applaud the House of Representatives for publishing online and in a structured data format bill status and summary information—soon to be joined by legislative text—and are pleased the Senate will join these efforts in the 114th Congress. In addition, the website http://docs.house.gov/ continues to serve as an excellent online source for committee and House floor information, thanks in large part to work performed by the Clerk of the House. Furthermore, the Rules Committee’s website is a tremendous resource for learning about legislation to be considered on the House floor.

We also congratulate the Office of Law Revision Counsel for its ongoing improvements to publication of the U.S. Code, which serves as a showcase of the potential of the House’s efforts. We appreciate the House’s annual conferences on legislative transparency and are looking forward to the 2015 conference. And we eagerly await the public roll-out of the Amendment Impact Program and the LRC’s codification tools, as well as the quarterly public meetings hosted by the invaluable Bulk Data Task Force.

We also remain hopeful that progress will be made on the Joint Committee on Printing’s obligation to digitize volumes of the Congressional Record from 1873 to 1998.

Summary of requests

  • Extend and broaden the Bulk Data Task Force
  • Publish the Congressional Record in XML and eliminate electronic publication gaps
  • Publish a complete and auditible archive of bill text, in a structured electronic format
  • Publish a contemporaneous list of widely distributed CRS reports that contains the report name, publication/revision/withdrawal date and report ID number
  • Release widely distributed CRS reports to the public
  • Publish the House rules and committee rules in a machine-readable format
  • Publish Bioguide in XML with a change log
  • Publish the Constitution Annotated in a machine-readable format
  • Publish House office and support agency reports online
  • Publish House Expenditure Reports in a machine-readable format

PPA plans briefings to demonstrate safety of online poker for legislators

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 9:25 AM

From Casino.org:

In the newest list, an additional witness was added: Andrew Moylan, the Executive Director of R Street. It is expected that he will voice the states’ rights argument during the hearings.

 

PPA to show RAWA flaws with Capitol Hill demonstrations

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 9:23 AM

From PokerSites.com:

Fortunately, the hearing will feature at least one poker-friendly witness. Thanks to pressure from the PPA, Andrew Moylan, the executive director and senior fellow at the R Street Institute, will now be part of proceedings.

Working for a non-profit organization in favor of free market and “limited, effective government,” Moylan’s R Street has already shown an affinity for online poker in a 2014 article entitled: Five reasons why online poker is here to stay.

Aside from citing reasons such as that poker is a popular past time and states need the money, the article also suggests that Adelson is hard to take seriously as a moral crusader. The main point the author, Steven Titch, picks up on is that Sheldon Adelson’s opposition to iGaming is somewhat ironic given that he’s made his fortune from casinos.

Surprise inclusion on the RAWA witness list

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 9:05 AM

From RecentPoker.com:

Political observers were this week speculating on the surprise inclusion of R-Street executive director Andrew Moylan on the official witness list for Wednesday’s hearing on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.
 
Several experts opined that the inclusion of Moylan, a strong advocate for states’ rights, was a move to calm widespread criticism of the original witness list, which was heavily biased against online gambling, and in some quarters was described disparagingly as a dog and pony show.
 
Poker Players Alliance executive John Pappas said Monday he was pleased with the inclusion of Moylan, who has worked with the Cato Institute, the National Taxpayers Union, and now the civil liberties body R Street, where he is the executive director.
 
“Andrew Moylan and R Street are a strong and credible voice in holding Congress accountable on matters of federalism and the 10th Amendment,” said Pappas. “Given RAWA’s serious implications for the rights of states to authorize and regulate internet gaming, Mr. Moylan will be a welcome voice on the panel.”
 
The official witness list is now a more balanced affair and features John Kindt, professor at the University of Illinois’ School of Law; Les Bernal, National Director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation; Mike Fagan, professor at Washington University’s School of Law; Andrew Moylan, Executive Director at R Street, and Parry Aftab, Executive Director at Wired Safety.  The last two witnesses are likely to give the more objective views on online gambling.

Witness list released for anti-online poker hearing

Out of the Storm News - March 24, 2015, 7:47 AM

From Card Player:

A list of witnesses was recently released. Scheduled to testify are John Kindt, professor at the University of Illinois’ School of Law, Les Bernal, National Director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation, Mike Fagan, professor at Washington University’s School of Law, Andrew Moylan, Executive Director at R Street, and Parry Aftab, Executive Director at Wired Safety.

PARCC and Common Core Undergo Scrutiny in Wealthy Lake County School District

Blog - Education - March 23, 2015, 3:49 PM

Thousands of parents across the country and here in Illinois are concerned about Common Core standards, PARCC testing on those standards, and the accumulation and storage of their children’s personal data. Thorner, as a citizen and taxpayer living in a community in northern Illinois, is represented by Lake Forest-Lake Bluff school Districts 65, 67 and 115. All have embraced Common Core standards with enthusiasm.

PARCC testing has already begun in school districts across Illinois, the state having willingly embraced Common Core standards, sight unseen, in 2010. Many parents, having been informed by organizations like Stop Illinois Common Core, are opting their children out of PARCC testing.

Not unlike many school districts in Illinois, PARCC testing is being administered in March on selected classes at Lake Forest District 115, specifically on March 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19, with later testing scheduled for May 12, 13, 14 and 15. Of concern is that for each of those 9 days, LFHS students not taking the test will experience a two hour late start of school, thus depriving students of 18 hours’ instructional time.

As in school districts across Illinois, PARCC testing wasn’t received with open arms in Lake Forest District 115.   An e-mail dated Monday, March 16, from Superintendent Michael Simeck, and sent to parents midday imploring them to send their freshmen to school on Tuesday morning (March17) to participate in the English portion of the PARCC test, was quite telling.  It seems that PARCC testing done in the prior week was “well below” the 95% threshold, meaning there was less than a 95% participation of students taking the PARCC exams.

 Superintendent Simeck stated in his email: “Students’ failure to participate in the PARCC exams will result in the district automatically failing to meet accountability obligations [Not mentioned is that federal funds are contingent upon a 95% participation rate].”In order for our district to be legally compliant, we encourage you to allow your children to take the PARCC exams or have them attend the make- up sessions, if they have missed.”

The Women’s Republican Club of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff , president, Jennifer Neubauer, deserves much credit and praise for hosting a debate on the merits and demerits of Common Core, PARCC testing, and “womb to tomb” personal data collection on students. The event took place on Saturday, March 14 at 9 a.m. at Gorton Community Center’s Stuart Room, Lake Forest. All members of the public were invited to attend the event for free.

Participants at the March 14 Saturday event

  • Bruno Behrend, J.D., a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute and a Lake Forest High School graduate. The Heartland Institute is a vocal opponent of Common Core and its mandated PARCC testing.
  • Jessica Handy, currently the Government Affairs Director with “Stand For Children”, and a vocal proponent of Common Core and PARCC.  She is a former teacher and former Illinois Senate Democratic staffer, serving in a variety of capacities before becoming the Policy and Budget Analyst for the Education and Pensions committees.
  • Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-61st), a member of the Elementary and Secondary Education School Committee in the Illinois House, make brief remarks between the solo comments of Ms. Handy and Mr. Behrend.  Representative Jesiel, whose office is in Gurnee, described Common Core as a very polarizing and a highly debated topic.  She sits on the House committee that oversees PARCC testing.

Jessica Handy and Bruno Behrend were each given 20 minutes to address their individual assessments of Common Core.  Ms. Handy, as pro Common Core advocate, is the Chicago organizer of “Stand for Children.” Her extended bio can be read hereMs. Handy described her organization’s mission accordingly:  to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education.” Because Handy believes that every kid has a right to a high quality education, Common Core strikes Jessica Handy as the way forward.

Pro Common Core, Jessica Handy, Stand for Children

As shared by Jessica Handy, the facts are stark.  Roughly a quarter of American children fail to finish high school.  That number translates to nearly one million young people leaving classrooms for the streets every year.  This is a guarantee for a life that will breed low earnings, poor health, and risk of incarceration.

In relating background information, Handy spoke about the forerunner of Common Core, “No Child Left Behind”, a George W. Bush education program that required all children by 2014 to meet NCLB standards.  As states scrambled to set their own standards for children to achieve success, the American Federation of Teachers and Fordham Institute looked at the state standards.  Some states had good standards, while others didn’t.  Illinois received a D.

Such a haphazard approach could not continue, given that 50% of students entering college needed to take remedial education courses.  Students were racking up lots of students loans and no college credits.

Enter Common Core which laid out the following:  1) what was expected of children at each grade level and 2) what children needed to know at each grade level to pass on to the next grade. Common Core was latched on to by Stand for Children in 2010, as a plan that could provide the standards for success in every state.  The organization Stand for Children is now active in 11 states.  Illinois was the 7th state to join forces with Stand for Child in 2010.

Favorable attributes of Common Core as expressed by Ms. Handy:

  • Common Core moves away from rote memorization.
  • Every math problem is a word problem.  It’s not enough to know that 9 + 6 = 15.  The child must understand why this is so, which dictates that the child is able to interpret what the numbers mean, and then be able to interpret the answer in real words.
  • In English, informational texts must be read along with standard literature, because, as adults, children will be required to read and understand informational texts.
  • First year testing assessments of PARCC will not count.  When the test is taken it is best done on a computer. No longer will a child just fill in the bubble.  Critical thinking is required where a written response might be required.
  • Common Core testing will indicate where a child needs help.
  • Common Core will eventually replace the COMPASS test for junior college and will count for college admissions at some colleges.
  • We must move into the 21th century in the way children are assessed.

Con Common Core, Bruno Behrend, Senior Fellow, The Heartland Institute

Bruno Behrend, although a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute, does his presentations for free.  In that Bruno graduated from Lake Forest High was a definite plus.  In the audience was a classmate of Behren’s when a student at Lake Forest High School.

In listening to Mr. Behrend speak about why he’s not supportive of Common Core, at times Bruno appeared almost apologetic in having to point out how his views differed from those of Jessica Handy.  It often appeared that Bruno was being overly polite in his interactions, out of fear of being considered too aggressive.  But what happens when one of the main faults of Common Core it that its agenda is left-leaning and that the purpose the PARCC testing is to assure that teacher are teaching Common Core curriculum?

In a post event interchange with Mr. Behrend, I became aware that he was well versed on the perceived left-leaning agenda of Common Core. Following are Bruno’s reasons for not fixating on the nature of the Common Core agenda:  1) Confrontation is no way to win an argument; 2) the political bent of Common Core might be upsetting to some in attendance; and 3) the format of the event didn’t lend itself to aggressive debating.  Then too, Jessica Tandy was likewise extremely polite and respectful.  Together Bruno and Jessica created an aura of comaraderie, even though their Common Core positions were on opposite ends of the scale.  But they did share a common goal.  Both Bruno and Jessica wanted all children to receive a good education.

For Bruno Behrend education is a social and an economic problem, not unlike that expressed by his counterpart, Jessica Handy.  But for Mr. Behrend Common Core is the wrong approach to education.  It is not the answer for solving the gap between how American children rank education-wise in comparison to children of other nations.  Such a dismal showing of American children is especially troubling because as a nation we dump so much money into education (Lake Forest High School spends $22,500 per student.), yet during the past 20 or so years test scores have remained flat.  Mr. Behrend did admit that Illinois’s standards were crummy, and that if Common Core standards were good he would have no problem supporting Common Core.

Behrend’s main “beef” with Common core is the centralization of education by the federal government.  As Bruno surmised, “Will we discover after 5 – 10 years that Common Core is not producing the desired educational outcome, that Common Core was an education experiment that was conducted at the expense of our children?”  Behrend mentioned two curriculum experts (one each in English and Math) who helped write the Common Core standards.  Upon disagreeing that the Common Core standards formulated were the best standards in the world, the two experts quit the validation committee and were accordingly forbidden to write a minority report.

Bruno believes that a unified set of standards sounds like a good idea, but with this nation’s diverse population, and 52 million children to educate, decentralization of education works better.  By definition Common Core will narrow the curriculum being taught and what children are learning. Apart from the federally directed Common Core state curriculum, only 15% of what is taught locally in each school district can deviate from these standards.

Bruno Behrend questioned whether Common Core really represents 21century education, as the ways in which children are learning and can learn continue to expand at a rapid pace.  Behrend spoke highly of the Khan Academy and how it is changing the rules of education. Khan Academy is an educational website that aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in).  Khan Academy is on a mission to unlock the world’s potential. Most people think their intelligence is fixed. The science says it’s not. It starts with knowing you can learn anything.   Check out this excellent youtube video about Kahn Academy.

Following is question of particular interest addressed to Bruno Behrend from a Lake Forest, District 115 parent:  “How will Common Core affect the Lake Forest School System (District 67 and 115)?  What impact will it have?  To which Bruno replied:  “Lake Forest will be the last place to get bad, and the first place to get better, because of the caliber of its students.”

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

PARCC and Common Core Undergo Scrutiny in Wealthy Lake County School District

Somewhat Reasonable - March 23, 2015, 3:49 PM

Thousands of parents across the country and here in Illinois are concerned about Common Core standards, PARCC testing on those standards, and the accumulation and storage of their children’s personal data. Thorner, as a citizen and taxpayer living in a community in northern Illinois, is represented by Lake Forest-Lake Bluff school Districts 65, 67 and 115. All have embraced Common Core standards with enthusiasm.

PARCC testing has already begun in school districts across Illinois, the state having willingly embraced Common Core standards, sight unseen, in 2010. Many parents, having been informed by organizations like Stop Illinois Common Core, are opting their children out of PARCC testing.

Not unlike many school districts in Illinois, PARCC testing is being administered in March on selected classes at Lake Forest District 115, specifically on March 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19, with later testing scheduled for May 12, 13, 14 and 15. Of concern is that for each of those 9 days, LFHS students not taking the test will experience a two hour late start of school, thus depriving students of 18 hours’ instructional time.

As in school districts across Illinois, PARCC testing wasn’t received with open arms in Lake Forest District 115.   An e-mail dated Monday, March 16, from Superintendent Michael Simeck, and sent to parents midday imploring them to send their freshmen to school on Tuesday morning (March17) to participate in the English portion of the PARCC test, was quite telling.  It seems that PARCC testing done in the prior week was “well below” the 95% threshold, meaning there was less than a 95% participation of students taking the PARCC exams.

 Superintendent Simeck stated in his email: “Students’ failure to participate in the PARCC exams will result in the district automatically failing to meet accountability obligations [Not mentioned is that federal funds are contingent upon a 95% participation rate].”In order for our district to be legally compliant, we encourage you to allow your children to take the PARCC exams or have them attend the make- up sessions, if they have missed.”

The Women’s Republican Club of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff , president, Jennifer Neubauer, deserves much credit and praise for hosting a debate on the merits and demerits of Common Core, PARCC testing, and “womb to tomb” personal data collection on students. The event took place on Saturday, March 14 at 9 a.m. at Gorton Community Center’s Stuart Room, Lake Forest. All members of the public were invited to attend the event for free.

Participants at the March 14 Saturday event

  • Bruno Behrend, J.D., a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute and a Lake Forest High School graduate. The Heartland Institute is a vocal opponent of Common Core and its mandated PARCC testing.
  • Jessica Handy, currently the Government Affairs Director with “Stand For Children”, and a vocal proponent of Common Core and PARCC.  She is a former teacher and former Illinois Senate Democratic staffer, serving in a variety of capacities before becoming the Policy and Budget Analyst for the Education and Pensions committees.
  • Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-61st), a member of the Elementary and Secondary Education School Committee in the Illinois House, make brief remarks between the solo comments of Ms. Handy and Mr. Behrend.  Representative Jesiel, whose office is in Gurnee, described Common Core as a very polarizing and a highly debated topic.  She sits on the House committee that oversees PARCC testing.

Jessica Handy and Bruno Behrend were each given 20 minutes to address their individual assessments of Common Core.  Ms. Handy, as pro Common Core advocate, is the Chicago organizer of “Stand for Children.” Her extended bio can be read hereMs. Handy described her organization’s mission accordingly:  to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education.” Because Handy believes that every kid has a right to a high quality education, Common Core strikes Jessica Handy as the way forward.

Pro Common Core, Jessica Handy, Stand for Children

As shared by Jessica Handy, the facts are stark.  Roughly a quarter of American children fail to finish high school.  That number translates to nearly one million young people leaving classrooms for the streets every year.  This is a guarantee for a life that will breed low earnings, poor health, and risk of incarceration.

In relating background information, Handy spoke about the forerunner of Common Core, “No Child Left Behind”, a George W. Bush education program that required all children by 2014 to meet NCLB standards.  As states scrambled to set their own standards for children to achieve success, the American Federation of Teachers and Fordham Institute looked at the state standards.  Some states had good standards, while others didn’t.  Illinois received a D.

Such a haphazard approach could not continue, given that 50% of students entering college needed to take remedial education courses.  Students were racking up lots of students loans and no college credits.

Enter Common Core which laid out the following:  1) what was expected of children at each grade level and 2) what children needed to know at each grade level to pass on to the next grade. Common Core was latched on to by Stand for Children in 2010, as a plan that could provide the standards for success in every state.  The organization Stand for Children is now active in 11 states.  Illinois was the 7th state to join forces with Stand for Child in 2010.

Favorable attributes of Common Core as expressed by Ms. Handy:

  • Common Core moves away from rote memorization.
  • Every math problem is a word problem.  It’s not enough to know that 9 + 6 = 15.  The child must understand why this is so, which dictates that the child is able to interpret what the numbers mean, and then be able to interpret the answer in real words.
  • In English, informational texts must be read along with standard literature, because, as adults, children will be required to read and understand informational texts.
  • First year testing assessments of PARCC will not count.  When the test is taken it is best done on a computer. No longer will a child just fill in the bubble.  Critical thinking is required where a written response might be required.
  • Common Core testing will indicate where a child needs help.
  • Common Core will eventually replace the COMPASS test for junior college and will count for college admissions at some colleges.
  • We must move into the 21th century in the way children are assessed.

Con Common Core, Bruno Behrend, Senior Fellow, The Heartland Institute

Bruno Behrend, although a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute, does his presentations for free.  In that Bruno graduated from Lake Forest High was a definite plus.  In the audience was a classmate of Behren’s when a student at Lake Forest High School.

In listening to Mr. Behrend speak about why he’s not supportive of Common Core, at times Bruno appeared almost apologetic in having to point out how his views differed from those of Jessica Handy.  It often appeared that Bruno was being overly polite in his interactions, out of fear of being considered too aggressive.  But what happens when one of the main faults of Common Core it that its agenda is left-leaning and that the purpose the PARCC testing is to assure that teacher are teaching Common Core curriculum?

In a post event interchange with Mr. Behrend, I became aware that he was well versed on the perceived left-leaning agenda of Common Core. Following are Bruno’s reasons for not fixating on the nature of the Common Core agenda:  1) Confrontation is no way to win an argument; 2) the political bent of Common Core might be upsetting to some in attendance; and 3) the format of the event didn’t lend itself to aggressive debating.  Then too, Jessica Tandy was likewise extremely polite and respectful.  Together Bruno and Jessica created an aura of comaraderie, even though their Common Core positions were on opposite ends of the scale.  But they did share a common goal.  Both Bruno and Jessica wanted all children to receive a good education.

For Bruno Behrend education is a social and an economic problem, not unlike that expressed by his counterpart, Jessica Handy.  But for Mr. Behrend Common Core is the wrong approach to education.  It is not the answer for solving the gap between how American children rank education-wise in comparison to children of other nations.  Such a dismal showing of American children is especially troubling because as a nation we dump so much money into education (Lake Forest High School spends $22,500 per student.), yet during the past 20 or so years test scores have remained flat.  Mr. Behrend did admit that Illinois’s standards were crummy, and that if Common Core standards were good he would have no problem supporting Common Core.

Behrend’s main “beef” with Common core is the centralization of education by the federal government.  As Bruno surmised, “Will we discover after 5 – 10 years that Common Core is not producing the desired educational outcome, that Common Core was an education experiment that was conducted at the expense of our children?”  Behrend mentioned two curriculum experts (one each in English and Math) who helped write the Common Core standards.  Upon disagreeing that the Common Core standards formulated were the best standards in the world, the two experts quit the validation committee and were accordingly forbidden to write a minority report.

Bruno believes that a unified set of standards sounds like a good idea, but with this nation’s diverse population, and 52 million children to educate, decentralization of education works better.  By definition Common Core will narrow the curriculum being taught and what children are learning. Apart from the federally directed Common Core state curriculum, only 15% of what is taught locally in each school district can deviate from these standards.

Bruno Behrend questioned whether Common Core really represents 21century education, as the ways in which children are learning and can learn continue to expand at a rapid pace.  Behrend spoke highly of the Khan Academy and how it is changing the rules of education. Khan Academy is an educational website that aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in).  Khan Academy is on a mission to unlock the world’s potential. Most people think their intelligence is fixed. The science says it’s not. It starts with knowing you can learn anything.   Check out this excellent youtube video about Kahn Academy.

Following is question of particular interest addressed to Bruno Behrend from a Lake Forest, District 115 parent:  “How will Common Core affect the Lake Forest School System (District 67 and 115)?  What impact will it have?  To which Bruno replied:  “Lake Forest will be the last place to get bad, and the first place to get better, because of the caliber of its students.”

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – James Taylor: Florida Solar Ballot Initiative Hoodwink

Somewhat Reasonable - March 23, 2015, 3:33 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor of Environment & Climate News, H. Sterling Burnett sits down with James M. Taylor. Taylor is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, focusing on energy and environment issues. Taylor and Burnett discuss an Florida Ballot initiative on solar companies.

Taylor dismantles the argument that the Florida initiative aimed at allowing solar companies to put roof top panels on homes and businesses is a free-market push. Solar wants to keep all its subsidies and be a co-monopolist with utilities. The bill would grant a special exemption to the electricity supply for solar, while keeping wind, geo-thermal, and other renewables sidelined. And taxpayers would foot the bill for a minimum of 30 percent of all solar power installed.  Taylor argues that conservatives, libertarians and free-marketeers in general should not be fooled by this push financed by Tom Steyer.

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

Categories: On the Blog

A World Without the Welfare State

Somewhat Reasonable - March 23, 2015, 2:43 PM

We live in an era in which few can even conceive of a world without the welfare state. Who would care for the old? How would people provide for their medical needs? What would happen to the disadvantaged and needy that fell upon hard times? In fact, there were free market solutions and non-government answers to these questions long before the modern Big Government Welfare State.

In fact, before the arrival of modern welfare state, voluntary, private-sector institutions had evolved to serve as the market providers for many of those “social services” now viewed as the near-exclusive prerogative of the government. Unfortunately, after nearly a century of increasing political and cultural collectivism, the historical memory of the pre-welfare state era has all but been lost.

Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries is an historical case study in how many of these problems were handled without political intervention in the private affairs of society.

The Friendly Societies and Mutual Insurance Protections

The focal point for many of these private-sector answers was the “friendly societies.” When they first arose in the late 18th and early 19th century Britain, the friendly societies were mutual-aid associations for insurance for the cost of funerals of workers or their family members.

But as the 19th century progressed, the friendly societies expanded their activities to encompass four primary services: 1) accident insurance that provided weekly allowances for the families of workers who were injured in their places of employment; 2) medical insurance that covered the cost of medical care and prescribed medicines for workers and their families; 3) life insurance and assistance to maintain family members in case of the death of the primary breadwinner or his spouse; and 4) funeral insurance to cover burial costs for the worker or members of his family. Later on, many of the societies also developed savings and lending facilities for members, fire insurance and loans for home purchases.

By 1910, the year before Britain’s first National Insurance Act was brought into law, approximately three-quarters of the work force of the British economy was covered by the private, voluntary insurance associations of the friendly societies. The memberships in their associations covered the entire income spectrum, from the middle- and higher-income skilled worker to the low-wage, unskilled members of the work force.

The friendly societies also offered instruction in self-responsibility, often rotated their officer positions to teach leadership among the members, and supplied advice on better managing of members’ family financial and related affairs.

In the years before the First World War, the free society had developed and was extending the very social institutions needed to handle all those concerns that in our own time are considered the responsibility of the state. What the modern welfare state did was to preempt and undermine the free market’s solutions to many of what we call today “social services.”

State regulation of the friendly societies, subsidized “free” medical and insurance services, and new taxes to cover the government’s cost for providing these national insurance schemes all resulted in a crowding-out of the voluntary alternatives of the private sector.

Private Charity and Voluntary Assistance to the Poor

 For the 300 years between 1600 and 1900, British society generally took it as axiomatic that charitable work was the responsibility of individual and private corporate effort. Even the notorious English Poor Laws that generated so many negative side effects were considered to be a narrow and limited supplement to the primary activities of the private sector.

British private philanthropy reached its zenith in the 19th century, and this was not an accident. During this epoch of classical liberalism, the state was not regarded as either the proper or most efficient vehicle for the amelioration of poverty.

Especially for the Christian classical liberal, his faith required him to take on the personal responsibility for the saving of souls for God.

Most of the Christians in 19th-century Britain also believed that to help a man in his rebirth in Christ, it was essential to help him improve his earthly life, as well. Soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, training of the unskilled for gainful employment, care for the abandoned or poverty-stricken young, and the nurturing of a sense of self-respect and self-responsibility for an independent and self-supporting life were all seen as complements to the primary task of winning sinners over for salvation.

By the 1890s, most middle-class British families devoted 10 percent of their income for charitable works — an outlay from average family income second only to expenditures on food. Total voluntary giving in Britain was greater than the entire budgets of several European governments, and more than half a million women worked as full-time volunteers for various charitable organizations.

Individual Initiative and Leadership in Voluntary Giving

Individuals of position, wealth, or vision felt it their Christian duty to take up the saving of souls and the caring for these people’s material circumstances as steppingstones to the “remaking” of Christ’s children. For example, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the seventh Earl of Shaftsbury, who was considered a prominent evangelical Christian, and as one historian of the period put it, “a sort of conscience of the nation, a man of such outstanding virtue that the association of his name with any enterprise gave it instant respectability and mass appeal.”

Thomas Barnardo, associated with the Church of Ireland, founded his own charitable organizations that came to care for, house, and educate tens of thousands of children in the poorest circumstances throughout England. William Booth created the Salvation Army, saving souls as well as teaching those who came to Christ through his organization the importance of self-responsibility and paying their own way through work and honesty in all avenues of life. William Cadbury (of Cadbury chocolates) and William Lever (of Lever Brothers’ soap) created, with their own money, model workplaces and communities for their workers.

An advantage of this world of private charity is that it enabled innovation and experimentation to discover the means most likely to bring people to God and improve their earthly conditions. At the same time, the competition among charities for voluntary contributions rewarded those organizations that demonstrated the effectiveness of the methods they used and weeded out the less successful ones.

The Rise of Socialism and the Demise of the Private Sector

At the turn of the century, however, a sea change began to occur in the philosophy and ideology of many charities and their corporate sponsors. In a period experiencing the rise of socialist ideas, the view developed that government needed to assist or supplant the efforts of private individuals and organizations. And among a growing number of Christian groups concern for earthly improvement of the poor began to take first place over the previously primary task of saving souls.

As the government began to create the welfare state, many of the private charities found it increasingly impossible to compete with the “free” services supplied by the state. And, at the same time, many people now paying higher taxes to finance government welfare programs came to believe they had paid their “fair share” through taxation, so private giving was either not needed or no longer affordable.

Also, as the 20th century has progressed, many private charitable organizations have themselves become dependent upon government funding for large fractions of their activities. This has resulted in increasing government regulation and supervision of their programs. Furthermore, since “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” Christian charities have had to diminish or remove the evangelical element in their activities under government rules against religious proselytizing by those receiving government funds.

From Private Action to Government Control

Another aspect of this politicization and co-opting of these private sector solutions to “social problems” is that it really has involved a massive growth in governmental power and decision-making.

The rhetoric is often of transferring income and wealth from “the rich” to the poor or more disadvantaged. But as a number of critics have pointed out, it has really and mostly involved a transfer of power and control from the hands of the citizenry to that of those in political authority.

This theme was especially emphasized by the French social critic, Bertrand de Jouvenel, in a book on The Ethics of Redistribution(1951). Income is not merely a means for physical maintenance of oneself and one’s family plus a few dollars for leisure activities. What we do with our income is an expression of ourselves, a statement about what we value, how we see ourselves, and what we wish and hope to be.

How We Spend Our Wealth Reflects and Teaches Values

The way we use our income enables us to teach future generations about those things that are considered worthwhile in life. Income acquired above some notion of a “minimum” is also the way individuals have had the means to perform many activities “for free” that are considered the foundation of the social order, from community and church work, to support for the arts and humanities.

Deny an individual the honest income the has earned, even when it is above some hypothetically “reasonable maximum,” and you deny him the ability to formulate, and give expression to, his own purpose as a human being. And you deny him the capacity to make his voluntary contribution to the civilization and society in which he lives, as he sees best

De Jouvenel argued that such contributions have been, and remain essential for a good society. This is demonstrated, he shows, by the common belief of most of those who advocate redistribution: since most people will no longer have the “independent means” to perform such social services and activities, the state must now perform them.

Elitist Contempt for the Common Man

And there is a strong elitist element among redistribution advocates. They do not trust “the poor” to have the intelligence or wisdom to spend their income in “socially desirable ways.” The poor prefer to spend their money on beer rather than Beethoven. So, the state takes over that responsibility for them. And it is in this that de Jouvenel sees the real significance of redistributive policies. What is redistributed is not wealth from the rich to the poor, but power from the people to the state.

Individuals no longer plan their own lives, and use their own money, to fulfill those plans. Individuals no longer care for their own children, teach them how to live as human beings or guide them as to what to value and pursue in life. In terms of time, income and talent, individuals are now reluctant to contribute themselves to the society in which they live.

No, these are now in the hands of the state because, through taxation, the state has denied individuals the capacity to do them. The state plans our lives, cares for our children, and decides what should be supported in society as socially desirable and to what extent.

And as the state grows stronger, the individual grows weaker. We become weaker, not only in relation to the state, but also as human beings because we no longer exercise those qualities and habits of mind that only self-responsibility teaches and makes possible.

In spite of the pervasiveness of the Welfare State in our modern society and the tax burden that is imposed to fund it, it is worth remembering that Americans’ generosity and benevolence still stands as a beacon for the world. In 2013, Americans donated nearly $420 billion to charitable causes, and this was a nearly 13 percent increase over the 2012 level of voluntary philanthropy in the United States.

But a culture of self-responsibility and benevolence can be and is undermined by a paternalistic state, in which the government not only takes away the income and wealth through which individuals can express and reflect their values and beliefs, but weakens the very idea that such decisions and judgments should be in private rather than political hands.

The Welfare State makes us all poorer in character and independence. Confiscation of freedom through abridgements of individuals’ rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property, also brings with it a less humane and civil society.

With liberty comes not only the individual’s right to make his own choices concerning how best to live his life. The experience of the Great Britain and the United States before the modern Welfare State makes it clear that free man are also civilized human beings who demonstrate appropriate and reasonable interest and concern with others in society deemed deserving of charitable benevolence.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Radical Environmentalism’s Death Campaigns

Somewhat Reasonable - March 23, 2015, 2:14 PM

The terms racism, white supremacy, crimes against humanity are bandied about so often that they have become almost meaningless. But they are absolutely appropriate in an arena where they are too rarely applied: radical environmentalism’s campaigns that perpetuate poverty, disease and death, by denying Earth’s most impoverished and powerless people access to modern life-saving technologies.

Imagine activist groups preventing you from having your child vaccinated against polio or hepatitis, or from starting her on chemotherapy for leukemia – because they are “concerned” about “possible side-effects” and the “ethics” of permitting such “risky” procedures. Absurd! you say. Outrageous!

Of course it is. But that is what radical environmentalists are doing to Third World countries. By denying people access to abundant, reliable, affordable electricity, modern fertilizers and biotech seeds, and especially DDT to prevent malaria and other insect-borne diseases, they are killing millions every year.

Many of my articles have documented this. Now a new film written, self-financed and produced by Dr. D. Rutledge Taylor, MD graphically presents powerful new evidence of how the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, other predominantly white environmentalist pressure groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conspired to hide and discredit scientific evidence, and wage a campaign of disinformation and outright lies, to ban the most effective weapon yet devised to prevent malaria and other vicious diseases.

3 Billion and Counting: The death toll is mounting shows how DDT was invented on the eve of World War II and became a secret weapon that kept Allied soldiers on the battlefield, instead of in hospitals or graves. After the war, it was sprayed on millions of Europeans to prevent typhus. It then eradicated malaria in Europe, the United States and other developed nations. No one ever got sick from DDT.

Available on demand and through Amazon.com, You Tube, Google Play, iTunes and elsewhere, the film chronicles how Rachel Carson’s wildly inaccurate book Silent Spring helped persuade the Audubon Society to launch the Environmental Defense Fund for the sole purpose of demanding a DDT ban.

Why would Audubon do such a thing? Its own research and Department of the Interior studies showed that bird and animal populations were exploding during the two decades when DDT was used most widely. Countless other studies documented that the life-saving chemical was safe for humans and most wildlife, including bald eagles. People actually tried to kill themselves with DDT – and repeatedly failed.

An EPA scientific panel conducted six months of hearings, compiled 9,312 pages of studies and testimony, and concluded that DDT was safe and effective, was not carcinogenic, and should not be banned. Nevertheless, without attending a single hour of hearings or reading a single page of the panel’s report, EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus banned U.S. production and use of DDT in 1972 – at a time when over 80% of the chemical was being exported for disease control.

Then why the attacks? As EDF scientist Charles Wurster said 1969, “If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before.” When asked later how he justified human deaths from pesticides that replaced DDT, versus the “mere loss of some birds,” he said “organophosphates act locally and only kill farm workers, and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes.”

Ruckelshaus said he had a political problem, and fixed it. He never considered the plight of malaria victims, and anti-DDT activists still ignore their agony and deaths. Audubon, EDF, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Pesticide Action Network, Natural Resource Defense Council and other radical groups that oppose DDT just don’t give a damn – even as they have become filthy, callously rich by opposing the life-saving chemical and other technologies.

Sierra Club executive director David Brower, Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich and other arch-environmentalists believed the biggest problem facing Planet Earth was “uncontrolled growth” in human populations. Ehrlich argued that the “instant death control” provided by DDT exports was “responsible for the drastic lowering of death rates” in underdeveloped countries. Those countries were not practicing a “birth rate solution” – and thus needed to have “death rate solutions” imposed on them, via campaigns against energy, Golden Rice and other biotech crops, and especially DDT.

Almost 3.5 billion people worldwide are at risk of getting this horrific disease, 207 million are actually infected every year, and over 800,000 die year after year from malaria. The vast majority are children and pregnant women, and some 90% of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa. In that region, a child still dies every minute from malaria, and most African children have been brain-damaged to some degree by malaria. Worldwide, nearly 80% of all infectious diseases are spread by insects.

Malaria is certainly a disease of poverty. But poverty is a disease of malaria. It leaves victims too sick to work or care for their families, for weeks on end. Medicines and hospital stays drain families’ meager savings. The disease costs tens of millions of lost work hours, billions in lost wages, and tens of billions for medicines and care in antiquated hospitals. It leaves entire nations impoverished.

However, spraying small amounts of DDT on the walls and eaves of cinderblock and mud-and-thatch homes, once or twice a year puts a long-lasting mosquito net over entire households. It keeps 80-90% of mosquitoes from even entering the homes; irritates any that do enter, so they leave without biting; and kills any that land. No other chemical, at any price, can do all this.

In response to these facts, anti-DDT pressure groups rail about risks that are trivial, illusory or fabricated. DDT is associated with low birth-weights, slow reflexes and weakened immune systems in babies, and could cause premature birth and lactation failure in nursing mothers, they claim.

Not one peer-reviewed scientific study supports any of this fear-mongering. Every one of these alleged problems is definitely associated with malaria and other endemic Third World diseases. And compared to the death and devastation that DDT could prevent, the alleged DDT risks are irrelevant.

However, constant deception and harassment by these groups have caused many health agencies and aid organizations to not use or fund DDT, and often other pesticides. Instead, they focus on bed nets, education, “capacity building,” and treatment with drugs that are too often unavailable, counterfeit, or ineffective because the malaria parasites have become resistant to them.

Still, the efforts have been somewhat successful. Millions of women and young children now sleep under insecticide-treated nets. Millions now get diagnosed more quickly and receive better care and medicines, often at clinics where two doctors examine up to 400 patients a day. In 2010, the World Health Organization and Roll Back Malaria boasted of an 18% reduction in child mortality, compared with 2000.

But that is not nearly good enough. We would never tolerate 18% as “good enough,” if American or European children’s lives (or Greenpeace and EDF kids’ lives) were at stake and a 90% reduction were possible – as it would be, if health workers were also eradicating mosquitoes and spraying DDT.

Instead, they protect Africans and Asians from minimal or illusory risks, by condemning them to agonizing deaths from readily preventable diseases. “They are using us in anti-DDT experiments,” says Ugandan human rights activist Fiona Kobusingye. “They are playing with our lives.”

They are also playing with American lives. Spraying clothes with DDT once a year would keep infected ticks away and prevent Lyme disease that leaves tens of thousands battling chronic, debilitating pain and illness for years, Dr. Taylor explains. But the same anti-pesticide radicals are dead-set against that.

Dr. Taylor ends his film by drinking 3 grams of DDT … in 2008 – with no ill effects, then or today.

Watch 3 Billion and Counting. Then contact these Big Green pressure groups and their staffs and board members, and the foundations, politicians and bureaucrats who support them. Tell them it’s time to end their eco-manslaughter.

Categories: On the Blog

A new witness will highlight inherent hypocrisy of RAWA at upcoming House hearing

Out of the Storm News - March 23, 2015, 1:12 PM

From USPoker.com:

A new name now appears along with the four we originally learned ofAndrew Moylan, the Executive Director of R Street, who will ostensibly be playing the role of states’ rights advocate at the hearing.

The addition of Moylan is the second piece of positive news regarding the hearing, as we learned Friday that the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), along with GeoComply and Caesars Entertainment, will be hosting an online gaming technology demonstration the morning of the RAWA hearing.

Did pressure get Moylan added?

It’s likely Moylan was added due to the initial backlash over the subcommittee’s unofficial witness list. The witness list was so slanted towards anti-online gambling advocates that it had been labeled everything from kabuki theater to a dog and pony show, and even the mainstream media (particularly right wing news sites) were quick to blast Chaffetz and RAWA supporters.

Andrew Moylan has been involved in politics (first with the Cato Institute, followed by National Taxpayers Union, and R Street) since graduating from Michigan University in 2005. Even though he has not personally commented on online gambling, Moylan is a staunch states’ rights and civil liberties advocate who is expected to be a strong witness against RAWA.

If this column from R Street is any indication, Moylan should be an excellent witness for the anti-RAWA crowd. Moylan should round out the witness list quite nicely.

John A. Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, was pleased to see Moylan added to the witness list, telling USPoker.com:

“Andrew Moylan and R Street are a strong and credible voice in holding Congress accountable on matters of federalism and the 10th Amendment. Given RAWA’s serious implications for the rights of states to authorize and regulate internet gaming, Mr. Moylan will be a welcomed voice on the panel.

While Congressman Chaffetz likes to claim his bill ‘restores’ Congressional intent with respect to Internet gaming, it actually does exactly the opposite. Every bill that Congress considered to prevent offshore and unregulated Internet gaming in the US always preserved the rights of states to authorize the activity.

We hope Mr. Moylan will reinforce this message and correct the Congressman’s mischaracterization.”

Oil and Gas Exports—One Policy Change, many Benefits

Somewhat Reasonable - March 23, 2015, 1:00 PM

“Businesses that sell to foreign markets put more people to work in high-quality jobs, offering more Americans the chance to earn a decent wage,” claimed the Obama administration’s Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in a March 18 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opinion piece.

She makes a strong case for U.S. exports: “jobs in export-intensive industries pay up to 18% more than jobs not related to exports.” Her premise is: “The U.S. economy ended 2014 on the uptick, and exports added to the momentum.” Noticeably absent is any mention of the potential for “high-quality jobs” and economic “uptick” that would come from the export of America’s abundant oil-and-natural gas resources—something her office should champion.

Pritzker states: “an increasing number of businesses are realizing that their customer base is no longer around the corner, but around the world. …to succeed in the 21st century, they must find a way to reach consumers in ever-expanding markets.”

Due to the modern technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. is producing more oil and natural gas than in decades. But the oil-and-gas industry is prevented from exporting to “foreign markets.”

In trade negotiations, the U.S., according to the New York Times (NYT), “typically argues that countries with excess supplies should export them.” We have excess supplies of both crude oil and natural gas that has driven down prices. We “should export them”—but we aren’t.

“Why can’t we export crude oil and natural gas?” you might ask. The NYT explains: “In 2011, the country pivoted from being the world’s largest importer of petroleum products to becoming one of the leading exporters”—though Pritzker never mentioned that.

The “energy world changed.” But, as NYT points out, exports could soak up the excess production, “but there are still political hurdles.”

For crude oil, the problem is energy policy enacted before the “energy world changed.” Signed into law in 1975, after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the goal of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, according to the International Business Times, was “to stifle the impact of future oil embargos by foreign oil producing countries.” The result was a ban on most U.S. oil exports—though some exceptions can be made and the Commerce Department has recently given export licenses to two companies for particular types of oil.

Exporting natural gas is not prohibited, but it is not encouraged. In order to export natural gas, it must be converted into Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)—which is done at multibillion-dollar facilities with long lead times for permitting and construction. The Financial Times says about two dozen U.S. LNG export facilities have been proposed with four “already under construction, which have contracts to back up their financing.”

Fortunately, there are fixes in the works that, as energy historian Daniel Yergin said, symbolize “a new era in U.S. energy and U.S. energy relations with the rest of the world.”

In January, Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act to expedite Department of Energy decisions on LNG export applications. Breaking Energy states: “The bipartisan bill could garner enough votes to gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.”

A month later, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced a bill to end the crude oil export ban: HR 702. On March 25, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to debate and vote on the bill.

In October, David Goldwyn, the State Department’s coordinator for international energy affairs in the first Obama administration, said: “The politics are hard.” He added: “When the economics become overwhelming the politics will shift.” The NYT stated: The telltale sign of a glut will be a collapse in the West Texas Intermediate [WTI] price, the principal American oil benchmark, which is currently [October 2014] about $3 below the world Brent price.” It continues, “If the spread cracks open, the economic arguments for free export of domestic crude will probably win the day.”

That day may have come. On March 13, the WSJ editorial board announced: “WTI now trades 20% below the world market price.” Holman Jenkins, who writes the Business World column for the WSJ, says: “Oil producers are already being denied a premium of $12 a barrel by not being allowed to export this oil.”

“U.S. pump prices are mainly tied to the price of Brent crude, which is freely traded on the world market and is higher than it might otherwise be because of the ban on U.S. exports,” explains the WSJ. “If U.S. producers were allowed to compete globally, prices of Brent and WTI would converge over time, and U.S. gasoline prices would come down, all things being equal.”

If Congress could muster up the political will to lift the arcane oil export ban, the U.S. could emerge as a major world exporter, which according to the NYT, would result in the “return to a status that helped make the country a great power in the first half of the 20th century.”

Pritzker brags that the Commerce Department has “worked with the private sector to help businesses reach customers overseas … and to overcome barriers to entry.”

For U.S. oil-and-gas producers the biggest barrier to reaching customers overseas is our own energy policy. With one simple policy change, lawmakers could save and create American jobs and investment, lower gasoline prices, help balance our trade deficit, aid our allies, and increase U.S. influence in the world.

Categories: On the Blog

Why the ethanol mandate is terrible policy

Out of the Storm News - March 23, 2015, 12:55 PM

You know the campaign season has started when people start talking about ethanol. Various GOP hopefuls have affirmed or reaffirmed their support for existing ethanol mandates, and while there doesn’t seem to be much of a race on the Democratic side at the moment, any candidates who do decide to run against Hillary will probably support it as well. So it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on just how truly awful a program the ethanol mandate is.

First, a note of clarification. It used to be that the federal government subsidized the production of ethanol the old fashioned way: with cash. For every gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline, blenders received a “tax credit” ranging around half a dollar. Foreign imports of ethanol were also subject to a 54-cent tariff. Both of these programs were allowed to lapse at the end of 2011.

Still on the books, however, is the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. Like the ethanol tax credit, the RFS came as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the Energy Policy Act also extended daylight saving time, so it has a lot to answer for). The RFS mandates a minimum number of gallons of different types of ethanol that must be blended into U.S. gasoline each year. The minimum amount is set to rise over time, and blenders are subject to fines if they do not comply. From the point of view of ethanol producers, tax credits are nice but it’s the mandate that brings home the bacon.

The peculiar nature of the RFS has led to some absurd unintended consequences. For example, cellulosic ethanol (which is made chiefly from grass) isn’t commercially available in the necessary quantities to meet its RFS. Blenders have therefore wound up getting fined for not using a product that doesn’t exist.

Similarly, because the formula used to set the RFS greatly overestimated the number of miles Americans would drive, blenders were required to use more ethanol than could be safely blended into all the gasoline used in American cars. EPA was eventually forced to walk back its own regulations on cellulosic ethanol to better conform with reality, but successfully resisted challenges to lower the overall mandate.

The problems with the ethanol mandate, however, go beyond poor legislative drafting. It is the very idea of the RFS, not just its implementation, that is fatally flawed. The ethanol mandate was billed as an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline, and a way to wean ourselves off dependence on foreign oil. It is neither. The ethanol mandate has led to the conversion of millions of acres of grassland and wetlands into cornfields. The environmental costs from these conversions swamp any reduced emissions from using ethanol-diluted gasoline. And while oil imports have indeed fallen in recent years, this has been the result of the boom in unconventional oil and gas production, rather than the substitution of biofuels.

Ethanol is also, of course, costly to consumers. A gallon of ethanol costs more than a gallon of gasoline, and it takes 1.5 gallons of ethanol to get the same mileage as a gallon of regular gas. Ethanol costs motorists approximately $10 billion a year in increased fuel costs.

And the cost of ethanol isn’t just felt at the pump. With 40 percent of America’s corn crop being devoted to producing the fuel, the mandate increases prices for food. And since the mandate encourages farmers to grow corn instead of other crops, the effect isn’t just limited to corn.

That’s harmful not only to Americans’ pocketbooks, but also to our national security. Research suggests that higher food prices increase the risk of instability around the world, as developing countries face riots or even revolutions over higher food prices. The Arab Spring was preceded by a spike in food prices, as were a similar series of riots in 2008.

The worst thing about the ethanol mandate, though, is what it says about our democracy. Ethanol is a rare political issue that is not polarized along ideological lines. From left to right, everyone seems to acknowledge that it is horrible policy. And yet not only does the policy continue, but people seem resigned to its continued existence.

If the United States can’t get rid of a policy that is so manifestly unjustified, how can we expect to solve more contentious issues?

Twitter account of 'prominent AGW skeptic' Steven Goddard suspended; Joe Bastardi asks 'who's next?'

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - March 23, 2015, 11:36 AM
Steven Goddard, who has dedicated himself to exposing misleading “science” and fraud in the AGW arena, has a Twitter account that has been…
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