On the Blog

This Memorial Day, if You Listen to One Podcast, Let This Be the One

Somewhat Reasonable - 4 hours 45 min ago

As we ponder the valiant choices made by the men and women who have stood against a Hobbesian world to preserve our Republic, you might want to spend a few minutes with this podcast of a broadcast of Constitutionally Speaking by Dave Shestokas. It is perhaps the finest interview yet conducted on the Compact for America Initiative and the Compact for a Balanced Budget effort.

The Compact for a Balanced Budget has already been joined by Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Dakota. It is being overseen by the first Interstate Commission in history with the purpose of representing the States in amending the U.S. Constitution. Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio are currently considering legislation to join it. And Congress could soon activate the Compact by passing HCR 26 with simple majorities and no presidential presentment.

This growing movement is relevant to our meditations this weekend because of the oath taken by our brave servicemen.

The bottom line is that our Republic is hanging by a thread, having been damaged more greatly by its internal politics than anything else. There’s a structural reason for that:

* The Constitution mistakenly allows the federal government unlimited borrowing capacity, which creates the illusion of unlimited resources, which guarantees unlimited government captured to serve special interests when politicians use the illusion of unlimited resources to promise anything it takes to get elected.

* The 16th Amendment to the Constitution, as currently interpreted, mistakenly bestowed upon the federal government limitless taxing power, which further propels the limitless growth and unbounded reach of the federal government.

* The 17th Amendment to the Constitution mistakenly removed the States from a position of control over the U.S. Senate, which consolidated all national power in the Washington political class, which made disregarding the will of the American people and federal overreach far easier.

These structural defects can only be remedied by a constitutional amendment. The Compact for a Balanced Budget’s amendment does just that:

* It limits the federal government’s borrowing capacity.

* It restores the States (and the American people) to relevance in national policy making by giving them control over any increase in the federal government’s borrowing capacity.

* It limits the federal government’s taxing power by targeting it to reducing favoritism in the tax code and encouraging more voluntary and transparent forms of taxation.

We owe it to the men and women who risked and lost their lives to use the ultimate tool we have to restore the Republic — the power states hold to amend the constitution by convention and the power of interstate compacts to make it user-friendly.

There are no guarantees in life except for failure if we do nothing but yield to the political status quo.

If you like what you hear in the interview, consider getting involved here: http://www.compactforamerica.org/#!get-involved/cecw

And stay tuned for details on our Freedom Fest Article V debate and Compact for America workshop on July 10, 2015 at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas!

Categories: On the Blog

Public Utilities: A Tax Hidden In Plain Sight

Somewhat Reasonable - 12 hours 5 min ago

Although ‘Main Street’ is still stuck in Obama’s ‘Great Mailaise II’, the same does not appear to be the case for ‘Wall Street’ in general and for the construction industry in particular.

Many would argue that this is more about money inflation by the Fed than economic fundamentals, but that is perhaps a topic for another day. Slightly up with other stocks are those of so called public utilities. Public utilities don’t compete for a huge amount of equity finance in the US (less than 4%, on some estimates), but they certainly do so in terms of US debt finance in the form of municipal bonds (more than 9%, on some estimates).

Given that public utilities, even privately owned ones, are so heavily regulated and controlled by government, such competition for finance by them is more akin to crowding out of other investment. This drain on the economy is made far worse given every business and household is directly and indirectly impacted by the seemingly never-ending rise in utility prices (plus poor quality, and lack of innovation). The state and federal regulation of these ‘so called’ natural monopolies (very worryingly, now including the Internet) in fact virtually ‘locks in’ such an upward trajectory. Thus, it is in reality a tax hidden in plain sight.

The reason this system of regulation is akin to a tax, is that unlike most other forms of regulation, it regularly produces readily identifiable impacts in the form of the regulated prices that have to be paid directly or indirectly by every business and household in the country. These ‘pseudo-taxes’ are almost always on the rise like real taxes (as per the diagram below), and also like the latter include all of the predictable inefficiencies associated with government central planning (ie the government regulators) and government protected cronyism (ie the utilities themselves).

Like the Fed which does not control but creates inflation, this regulatory system does not control but creates monopoly prices … through such mechanisms as entry barriers, competition restrictions and substitution impediments as well as through regulatory capture and other Public Choice Theory effects. Even more fundamentally, these prices aren’t even real prices as such, due to the impossibility of socialist economic calculation … as pointed out by one of the 20th century’s greatest economists and thinkers who once said:

“No alleged ‘fact finding’ and no armchair speculation can discover another price at which demand and supply would become equal. The failure of all experiments to find a satisfactory solution for the limited-space monopoly of public utilities clearly proves this truth.” – Ludwig von Mises

The little remembered history of such regulation (in the US, at least) was that there was initially, and for quite some time, plenty of effective competition (and thus decreasing prices, and increasing service quantity, quality and innovation) prior to the less effective competitors lobbying for market protection regulation in exchange for utility oversight regulation. In addition, the economic theory of natural monopoly came much later, well after such regulation started. This type of regulation started federally with rail in the 1870s, and at state level with other industries from 1907 in my home state of Wisconsin.

I have worked in and around the regulation of public natural monopoly utilities for quite some time now – ie for almost 20 years as an economist, regulatory expert and project manager. At first, I believed that such regulation was fair and necessary as well as efficient and effective.

The ‘cracks’ in this belief first started to appear for me in the late 1990s (when I was working for a state utility regulator in Australia). These ‘cracks’ continued to widen for me as I experienced more and more utilities regulation (plus more and more life) around Australia and then in the UK in the late 2000s. My time in the UK (plus my frequent travel to the US then and since) blew these growing ‘cracks’ wide open, along with my eyes … as it was in the UK that a rediscovered the Austrian School of economics.

Despite the importance of these services and their costs to poor and middle class households as well as to many small, medium and large businesses, public utilities have been largely ignored by think tanks in the US and around the English-speaking world. Although, honorable mentions are deserved for the following:CAEM (energy reform); IEA (annual utilities regulation conference); IER (energyreform); IPA (utilities regulation submissions); and Reason (airports and roads reform).

There are certainly a number of academics in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere specializing in public utilities, but most do not seriously analyse much less promote free market friendly reforms such as: commercialization and corporatization; privatization and PPPs; customer engagement and negotiated settlements; lighter-handed regulation; and deregulation and liberation.

It has thus been largely taken for granted for well over a century that these natural monopoly markets fail and thus should continue to be directly and indirectly regulated as well as sometimes continue to be government owned … despite the fact that therefore prices always go up, quality always goes down, and innovation is completely lacking. This is why I created the following 10 realities or ‘Catch-22s’ of public utilities (originally published here for Mises.ca … and where I offer an Austrian economics ‘smack down’ of the ‘lamestream’ economics and ‘crony capitalism’ underpinnings of permanent public utilities regulation):

Public Utilities | 10-for-22#1 Monopolies are unnatural (not natural)

#2 Markets are undefinable (not defined)

#3 Competition is a process (not a structure)

#4 Value is subjective (not objective)

#5 Prices determine costs (not vice versa)

#6 WACC as interest and return (not)

#7 Incentives are profits and losses (not formulas and benchmarks)

#8 Information is created and decentralised (not given and centralised)

#9 Regulation hasn’t worked (in practice)

#10 Regulation can’t work (in theory)

Hopefully the gaping theoretical, statistical and historical shortcomings of public utilities regulation can be put more and more on the ‘radar’ of the long suffering businesses and households of America and elsewhere. This is especially the case, given what one of the 20th century’s greatest libertarians and ‘renaissance men’ pointed out:

“The very term ‘public utility’, furthermore, is an absurd one. Every good is useful ‘to the public’, and almost every good, if we take a large enough chunk of supply as the unit, may be considered ‘necessary’. Any designation of a few industries as ‘public utilities’ is completely arbitrary and unjustified.” – Murray Rothbard

[First published at Townhall.]

Categories: On the Blog

Almost Half of State Health Insurance Exchanges Are Fighting for Survival

Somewhat Reasonable - 12 hours 33 min ago

Almost half of the 17 health insurance exchanges set up by the states and the District of Columbia under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, are in trouble financially, The Washington Post reports.

The setbacks are creating fiscal headaches for state officials, just five years after the passage of President Barack Obama’s massive health care reform bill.

Many of the exchanges are dealing with rising costs, especially those related to inefficient technology, expensive customer support centers, and unexpectedly low enrollments.

To stave off financial crisis, state officials are considering a number of solutions, such as raising fees on insurers, cost-sharing with other states, and begging state lawmakers for a quick shot of cash. Others are looking at turning over the whole enterprise to the federal exchange HealthCare.gov.

Enrollment Short of Predictions

Dr. Roger Stark, a health care policy analyst at the Washington Policy Center and a retired physician, says many state exchanges were set up as public-private partnerships and were required to be financially self-sufficient, but enrollment for most exchanges has fallen short of predicted levels.

“Premium fees to support the exchanges have consequently not met goals,” Stark said. “Washington State, where individual-market enrollment is at 60 percent of [the] predicted [level] and 80 percent of overall enrollees are in Medicaid, is an excellent example.”

Universal Aspirations, Financial Nightmares

Several mostly blue states jumped on the health insurance exchange bandwagon as a way of showing support for Obamacare, says Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.

Something similar happened in 1993 and 1994 with Clintoncare, Matthews says. Several states passed their own versions of the Clinton health care proposal—which never passed in Washington, DC—explaining they were going to reduce the number of uninsured and thereby save so much money they eventually would be able to provide universal coverage for all their residents.

“Those universal-coverage dreams turned into financial nightmares, and every one of those states eventually dramatically modified, scaled down, or eliminated their plans,” Matthews said.

“It’s entirely possible we will see something similar with health insurance exchanges, though what direction those changes take would depend on the Supreme Court’s June ruling,” Matthews said, referring to the decision in King v. Burwell. In King, the plaintiffs are challenging the IRS’ decision to provide subsidies for insurance purchased through federal exchanges in defiance of the explicit wording of the ACA.

‘Doomed from the Start’

Greg Scandlen, founder and director of Consumers for Health Care Choices and a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says the situation is another example of the federal government’s interference in the U.S. economy.

“Policy wonks sit around a table in Washington, DC and make ambitious plans for ruling the world without any understanding of what it takes to run a business, in this case, a health insurance exchange,” Scandlen said.

Categories: On the Blog

Memorial Day 2015

Somewhat Reasonable - May 24, 2015, 8:59 PM

A lone U.S. Army bugler plays Taps at the conclusion of the First Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel at Arlington National Cemetery, March 11, 2009. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

We need to remind ourselves that Memorial Day is not just another three-day weekend or a day when all manner of sales are offered to those who want to go shopping. It is a day set aside to honor the ultimate sacrifice of those who have fought to defend our nation and take military action in foreign nations. We honor, too, those who suffered wounds and returned home.

We like to think of America as a nation that has gone to war only when we had to, but a new book, “America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or Been Invaded with Almost Every Country on Earth” tells a different story based on history.

As documented by its authors, Christopher Kelly and Stuart Laycock, America, “has invaded or fought in eighty-four out of 194 countries (countries recognized by the United Nations and excluding the United States) in the world. That’s 43 percent of the total. And it hasn’t been militarily involved with just ninety or a hundred countries. It has had some form of military involvement with a spectacular 191 out of 194. That’s more than 98 percent.”

“Most people,” the authors note “would probably agree that much of what America has done around the world has clearly been wise and noble (as in helping liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.) Some, however, have been wrong and/or unwise. And some of what America has done has been in-between. In some sense, it’s like looking at the history of one’s own family. And, indeed, all of it—the liberations, the fiascos, and follies—is, in some sense, part of the history of every American citizen.”

That’s why it is a good idea to pause on Memorial Day because as an American it is part of your history. “Americans are always hoping for peace but usually preparing for war” says the authors who remind us that “the American eagle is an ambivalent bird holding arrows in the talons of one foot and an olive branch in the other.”

Our natural instinct is for peace. Only aggressive nations, usually led by despots, want war. That is not a description of America. We have not, however, shied from war when the enemy was a well-defined aggressor.

“In the twenty-first century, the United States, though challenged by Russia and China, is the sole remaining superpower. The global responsibilities that we began to shoulder in the twentieth century seem today more burdensome than ever. The cost of being the world’s policeman seems exorbitant in terms of both lives and treasure.”

That’s why we need to remind ourselves that, as a former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has said of America, “We are the indispensable nation.”

We have learned what happens when our President has retreated from the responsibility to deter war. Since leaving Iraq with no U.S. military ground support that nation which was stable at the end of our war there has come under attack by the Islamic State. The President’s efforts to reach a deal with Iran that would allow them to become a nuclear power is causing Arab states to regard the U.S. as abandoning them and could lead to a nuclear arms race in a part of the world that is far from stable.

The U.S. in the wake of World War Two has a vast network of bases and alliances that span the world. Many of those bases were created at the invitation of the host nation. The result, as the authors note is that “The U.S. military, but virtue of its global reach, is almost invariably the first to respond to natural disasters as they occur around the world. If not us, then who will?”

On Memorial Day we honor our sons and daughters who gave their lives when their nation called on them.

“Today the sacrifice of over 218,000 American servicemen and servicewomen is memorialized in military cemeteries in twenty-four different overseas cemeteries in eleven different countries. The boundaries of Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty, therefore, stretch around the world.”

We worry about the emergence of other world powers, but I doubt that Russia which lost 127 million of its people in World War Two or China which is focused on building an economy based heavily on world trade are serious wartime threats.

That does not, however, exclude the likelihood that events may cause the next President to conclude that the only way to put the lid on the Middle East is to return militarily to Iraq and to make it clear to Iran that its nuclear ambitions are untenable and unacceptable.

The ancient Romans knew a truth they share in the phrase, “Si vis pacem, para bellum.”  If you want peace, plans for war.

About the only thing that is predictable is that somewhere in the world there will be new wars and, given its power and its responsibility, America may well be engaged in restoring the peace.

[First posted at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Activists Blur Distinction Between Animal Welfare, Rights

Somewhat Reasonable - May 24, 2015, 9:17 AM

What do Corky the orca and Hercules the chimpanzee have in common? Neither are “persons.”

Although those facts seem noncontroversial, both required adjudication.

In April, it took a correction from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe to establish that Hercules was not in fact a person eligible for a writ of habeas corpus. The New York Post reported that the judge “acknowledged that she inadvertently got turned into a monkey’s uncle by signing court papers, submitted by (The Nonhuman Rights Project,) that inadvertently bestowed human status on two chimpanzees” used at a state university.

The case is not over. A hearing on whether the “imprisoned” chimpanzees have special humanlike rights is scheduled for May 27.

In Corky’s case, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued Seaworld seeking the release of Corky and four other whales. In the case heard in federal court in 2012, PETA sought to extend the constitutional right against slavery to whales, which the group’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kerr, awkwardly conceded, “happen not to have been born human.”

Mr. Kerr said that PETA’s “lawsuit stands for the simple but powerful proposition that slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on the gender, race or religion of the slave.” He called the case “the next frontier of civil rights.”

PETA’s case was dismissed in 2013, and to date, animals are still not recognized as humans. But the animal rights activists pledge to fight on.

Indeed, animal “rights” activists scored a victory earlier this year – not in court – but through political tactics. Their perpetual stream of litigation and proposed bans of elephants in circuses caused Ringling Bros. to phase out its use of elephants in their circus.

These cases are part of a broader campaign in which radical activists purposefully seek to blur the important distinction between “animal welfare” and “animal rights.”

Simply put, animal welfare is the notion shared by all decent humans that we should take good care of animals. Animal rights, on the other hand, is a system where whales can be considered slaves and research chimpanzees have “personhood.”

Wesley J. Smith, senior fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at the Discovery Institute, points out that, “knowing that most of society disagrees” with the animal rights approach, “animal rights organizations often hide their radical ultimate agenda (to end all human use of animals) behind a facade of animal welfare-style activism.”

Smith points out that animal rights groups are happy to co-opt society’s appropriate belief in animal welfare to advance their unpopular animal rights approach.

In fact, Humane Watch reports that according to public polling, “about 70 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that (the Humane Society of the U.S.) is a pet shelter ‘umbrella group’ and that HSUS gives most of its money to pet shelters.”

But Humane Society of the U.S. doesn’t run any pet shelters and only gives 1 percent of its budget to local shelters.

So while HSUS fundraising focuses on animal welfare such as dog and cat rescue, it spends donor money on radical rights advocacy.

How radical are these groups? In one disturbing campaign, on Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, April 16, animal rights activists held a funeral procession in New York City to remember pigs and cows who are “victims of the animal holocaust.”

Lest you think this was just one careless campaign by the most radical of radicals, PETA itself sponsored a “Holocaust on a Plate” campaign in 2003 to rail against the eating of animals. Lisa Lange, PETA’s then vice president of communications, defended the appropriateness of the campaign, telling CNN, “Nazi concentration camps were modeled after slaughterhouses.”

The groups don’t compare our use of animals to the holocaust merely because of its shock value; they use it because it is central to their radical animal rights agenda, which, unlike animal welfare, is based on moral equivalence between animals and humans.

When animal rights extremists raise huge sums of money off our concern for animal welfare, but use the money to advance a rights agenda, they divert critically needed money, awareness and advocacy-resources away from actual animal welfare.

Radical activists such as PETA and their allies have become better at masking their unpopular agenda. But don’t be fooled. The best way to come together and truly protect animals is to advance animal welfare and reject animal rights.


[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

Mark Bittman’s ‘A Bone To Pick’ Continues His War On Food

Somewhat Reasonable - May 24, 2015, 8:40 AM

Don’t let his bespectacled, mild-manner fool you: Mark Bittman is the foodie version of a war-monger.

“There’s a war here,” the New York Times columnist proclaimed at a food conference last year. His battle is America’s next social justice crusade much like civil rights and suffrage. But this time, the oppressors are McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Monsanto. From soda to sugar to meat, Bittman has declared war on nearly every ingredient in the American food system.

And if the pen is mightier than the sword, Bittman is the literary Napoleon of the progressive food movement. He depicts our food system as enemy territory that must be conquered then ruled by the omnipotent culinary elite in Manhattan and San Francisco with support from taxpayer-funded bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

His latest book, “A Bone to Pick” (Penguin Random House, May 5), is a collection of Bittman’s NYT columns on how to “un-invent this food system” that has been “a major contributor to climate change, spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned countless volumes of land and water, wasted energy and tortured billions of animals.”

Like all good social warriors, Bittman is armed with a plan for victory. The introduction of the book is his “Food Manifesto for the Future,” which lists a number of government-controlled remedies from the rational (limit subsidies) to the banal (mandate more labeling) to the outlandish (offer cooking classes for everyone and even give free cookware and cooking assistance to poor people.) Nearly every solution requires the reach of the federal government—which Bittman refers to as the “entity that is supposed to be vigilant regarding our health and welfare”—and the largess of the American taxpayer.

Other entries are somewhat comical, such as his suggestion to convert suburban lawns into vegetable gardens. “If you want to plant a lawn, that’s fine though it’s a waste of water and energy…Lawns are an attempt to dominate and homogenize nature.” Another column fantasizes about his “dream food label” designed as a stoplight for witless American consumers.

But few of Bittman’s strategies are revolutionary; in fact, many have been tried with limited or no success. Consider his repeated call to limit consumption of soda, sugar and processed foods by children. He cites California’s ban on sugary drinks and restrictions on unhealthy snacks in public schools over the last several years. The result? By 2010, California’s childhood overweight/obesity rate dropped—by 1%. It’s still an eye-popping 38% among adolescents despite massive statewide efforts to stem the crisis.

He often promotes taxing unhealthy food to fund subsidies and access to healthier food, such as his idea to convert “soda machines to vending machines that dispense grapes and carrots.” Pushing fresh produce is a big goal for many urban leaders and is being tried at great expense and unknown results. The CDC’s Putting Prevention to Work fund is one such example: The federal government gave local governments money to reimburse corner stores to buy refrigerators to sell produce.

Even when food corporations try to satisfy Mr. Bittman’s agenda, he questions their motives and integrity. McDonald’s is one example; it’s a frequent target in his book. He mocks the company’s efforts to please him, writing that McDonald’s wants foodies like “…me to stop kvetching and instead acknowledge that they’re making great strides in promoting health.” He sniffs that “only the most gullible will buy” McDonald’s attempts to offer healthier menu choices. Bittman has pointed to “the decline of McDonald’s” as a win for the food movement.

Wal-Mart is another product of capitalism on Bittman’s enemies list. Its efforts to offer more affordable produce is lambasted in the book, claiming the retailer will “beat the living daylights out of produce suppliers, crushing a few thousand more small farmers.” Apparently, to Bittman, inefficient organic farmers are more important than struggling families who want inexpensive vegetables. Wal-Mart is the largest grocery store in America with more than 3,000 stores nationwide and could play a major role in the private market’s attempt to shape eating habits. Instead, the company is ridiculed.

But Bittman and his anti-corporate allies insist that industry is the cause of obesity and can’t have a role in addressing the problem. In fact, activists including Michele Simon scoffed when the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition of large food and beverage companies announced a major reduction in calories sold. Now the industry group is funding a study by the City University of New York School of Public Health to assess the impact of the industry’s healthy community programs across the country. No doubt, opponents will show their true colors and scorn the privately-funded science.

The book identifies a number of heroes, including organic products, Whole Foods and Chipotle. No doubt the Mexican restaurant chain will earn high praise from Bittman for its dubious PR stunt announcing its food is now GMO-free even though the author clearly struggles with a position on GMOs. You get the sense he supports the biotechnology—but that would be anathema among his pals in the culinary elite—so he splits the baby by supporting labels on GMO food. (Chipotle’s anti-GMO campaign is a perfect example of how difficult and questionable any nationwide labeling effort would be.)

Bittman reserves praise for another important player in the fight against food: himself. He refers to himself as a “pioneer” of the food movement and boasts that people say to him, “You’ve helped me change my life.”

But make no mistake; Bittman’s battle plan puts little emphasis on people changing their own lives. To him, “personal responsibility” is a right-wing idea that’s been proven wrong. That’s why Bittman finds it necessary to slam the private sector while advocating for shifting more resources, control and power to government officials.  Unfortunately, Bittman’s ideas are the public policy equivalent to the negative attributes of fast food he decries; slickly marketed, bereft of substance, and over time, will lead to buyer’s remorse.


[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

Is The Global Left Counting on Pope to Split the Catholic Church Over Global Warming?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 23, 2015, 3:01 PM

Pope Francis is expected to release an encyclical on the environment and human ecology that will most likely contradict the principles and politics of most conservative Catholics, particularly in the United States.

Might the global Left be counting on Pope Francis to help them split the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church has been around for over two thousand years and has survived many different battles — including the yoke of communist regimes in Catholic countries like Poland — but will it survive Pope Francis alignment with leftist movements?  Has the Left finally come out with a method that will destroy the power of the Church to cause further damage to an already weakened Church, having been busy for years preparing for this moment?  Not to be forgotten is the unholy alliance of international communism with the jihadi Islamists.

Just when the “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” movement is beginning to lose credibility in our society, the “believers” are finding support from an unsuspected source: The Catholic Church.  According to an article on the Daily Beast: “The encyclical isn’t even out yet and at least one climate-change-denying conservative group has claimed that the Pope has been misled and misinformed.”  What this writer calls a “climate change-denying conservative group is The Heartland Institute.

The Heartland Institute together with CFACT have for years provided the facts on the climate issue.  Thousands of scientists are on their side. See signatures on petition here. The Vatican authorities did not allow this organization’s representatives to participate.

Why not allow opposition to also be represented?  Interviewed in this article was Dr. Christiana Peppard, a “specialist” in environmental ethics who teaches in the theology department at Fordham University.  As the author of Just Water , and who with Pope Francis will offer the encyclical, Dr. Peppard declared that “viewed from the angle of consumptive impact, it would be super-developed countries like the U.S. that need to slow our reproductive rates in order to be proportionate consumers of the earth’s goods.”  Naturally, it is all about evil, selfish, capitalistic Americans!

Will Pope Francis agree that Americans need to bring down our reproductive rates?  How will this be accomplished when President Obama is encouraging ethnic groups who produce the most children to cross the border illegally and then be given amnesty, while also allowing mass immigration from Muslim countries, also well known for high birth rates.

Might this be the desired scenario?  The International Left, with help from Islamists, big business, NGOs, religious organizations, and unscrupulous billionaires like George Soros, will unite under the guidance of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” to bring down the United States of America as a constitutional Republic, further replacing it with a totalitarian government that will redistribute our wealth to all parasitic governments in the world.  That, indeed, seems the ultimate goal of climate change promoters: to take over our wealth and destroy our middle class. Is this what the Pope really desires?

It is impossible to ascertain the reason the Pope is joining in this venture against the American people, but the Pope has at times been critical of the US for her wealth and capitalism without once mentioning her charity and compassion.  It is difficult to understand why the Pope, a man of God, would not even attempt to listen to those who oppose this issue, as if they didn’t count as human beings.  Instead, the Pope seems driven by a zealous political/social crusade.

Does Pope Francis not understand what happens to the poorest people in the world when energy availability is curtailed?  The poor are the ones who benefit the most from fossil fuels produced cheaply instead of the wood burning methods that brings them respiratory diseases.  The only people who benefit by curtailing fossil fuels are the multi-billionaires who have invested in “green technology” that is inefficient or who wish to monopolize energy sources, like Vladimir Putin.

The same wealthy globalists who have exploited our economies have also taken advantage of the scientific ignorance of our populations.  When was Science changed to a democratic vote by the majority?  The science that currently is taught in schools comes from politicians and the media reliance on junk science, like Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

A large number of scientists have been skeptical about global warming for years, and with good reason.  CO2 levels on earth have in the past been four to eighteen times the current readings.  Global climate has warmed since the Little Ice Age (1400 to 1700 AD).  The first occurred between 1900 and 1945, and the second in 1975 until 1998, and then stopped and began falling again after reaching a high of 1.16ºF above the average global mean temperature. There hasn’t been any warming since then.  In addition, we must keep in mind that all the information from the IPCC reports (United Nations) comes from computer models.  The actual temperatures measured by both satellite data and independent balloon data show a near zero trend from 1979-1997.

How is it moral to deny cheap energy for the poorest people on earth so that the elitists can enjoy nature at their pleasure?  How is it moral for Christian teaching to place the earth above human beings?  “Genesis”  1:27-28:

“God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying:  Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.  Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds on the air, and all the living things that move on earth.”

Without cheap energy millions cannot provide food and clean water for their families.  Why should the poor in Africa have no right to the development that energy has brought to the West?  Reduction of carbon emissions would bring disaster to the poorest people on earth, the ones Christians are supposed to love.  A 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 would only reduce global average temperature in 2100 by an inconsequential 0.07C. Even an elimination of all CO2 emissions by the United States would prevent only 0.17C of warming.

Pope John Paul II was a major player in bringing down communist USSR.  He knew communism because he lived it.  May St. John Paul II be able to help save the Catholic Church from the errors and closed mind of Pope Francis by guiding Francis back to the mission of the Church, doing the will of God.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Michael Bastasch: Upcoming ICCC10 Panelist, Talking Energy Policy

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 3:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Research Fellow Isaac Orr talks with The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch. Bastasch is going to be a panelist at the upcoming International Conference on Climate Change taking place in Washington D.C. on June 11 and 12. Bastasch and Orr discuss energy policy.

During the podcast, Bastasch and Orr touch on many topics including the climate change debate and renewable energy. Orr explains that his preference for oil and coal are based on renewable energy’s inability to compete at this time with fossil fuels. Bastasch explains that the time where renewable efficiencies equal that of fossil fuels may still be a ways off. Bastasch also gives a sneak peek as to the content of his presentation at ICCC10.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Global Warming Skeptic Embarrasses Environmental Defense Fund in TV Debate

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 2:09 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 everyFridaywith a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Why Does John Kerry Invest in Fossil Fuel Stocks?
Ron Arnold, The Daily Caller
John Kerry talks a good game about how we should all reduce our carbon footprint, but he doesn’t put his wife’s money where his mouth is. Kerry invests in at least 365 securities connected to fossil fuel industries.  Among the “sinners” in Kerry’s portfolio: ExxonMobil and a Canadian firm with ties to the Keystone XL pipeline. READ MORE


Obamacare Strains Emergency Rooms
Jim Waters, The Heartlander
Yet another Obamacare promise broken: Three-quarters of doctors responding to a nationwide survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicate they have seen an increase in ER visits since Obamacare became law. READ MORE


Video – Heartland Friend Marc Morano Embarrasses the Environmental Defense Fund in TV Debate
Jim Lakely, Somewhat Reasonable
Carol Andress, director of legislative operations for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was humiliated in a televised debate with CFACT’s Marc Morano. It is impossible to overstate what a blow-out this debate was for Morano. He was the Harlem Globetrotters to EDF’s Washington Generals.  READ MORE


Featured Podcast: Dr. Brad Rodu on FDA’s Missing Tobacco Data
Heartland Senior Fellow Dr. Brad Rodu urges the Food & Drug Administration to “show its work.” Rodu says the raw data of taxpayer-funded studies on tobacco use are being kept from the public. Meanwhile, government agencies selectively release sound-bites to media outlets and spin the story towards preferred narratives. LISTEN TO MORE




Heartland – A Great Nonprofit If you love The Heartland Institute and its efforts on behalf of individual liberty and smaller government, tell the world! You have an opportunity to help us make even more of a difference. GreatNonprofits – a review site like TripAdvisor – honors highly reviewed nonprofits with its Top-Rated Awards. Won’t you help us raise visibility for our work by posting a review of your experience with us? All reviews will be visible to potential donors and volunteers. It’s easy and takes only 3 minutes! GET STARTED NOW

No, Affordable Oil Will Not Cause A New Great Depression
James M. Taylor and Justin Haskins, Forbes
Fracking for oil and natural gas has created thousands of jobs in the United States. With those jobs come billions of dollars in government tax revenues and immeasurable U.S. economic benefits. What’s not to like? Democratic Party strategist Robert Weiner claims, implausibly, that America’s new energy boom will cause a new Great Depression. READ MORE


A New Threat to Privacy: Automated License-Plate Tracking
Jen Kuznicki, The Heartlander
“It’s alarming that one company said they gathered about three million records a day, scooping up info to sell to other companies and possibly the government,” said Melissa Ngo, privacy consultant and former senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This is personal information about where you’ve been and where you’re likely go to, because most of us have set patterns for work, school, and home life.” READ MORE


How Google and Netflix Profit From FCC’s Net Neutrality Power Grab
Warner Todd Huston, The Heartlander
“Net neutrality is massive regulatory protectionism for government-crony businesses,” said Seton Motley, president of Less Government. “It outlaws charging bandwidth-hog companies for being bandwidth-hog companies, which means our Internet access prices skyrocket to augment the profits of companies like Google and Netflix.”  READ MORE


Bonus Podcast: Bruno Behrend on Common Core
Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend joins Dave Elswick to discuss the latest on Common Core. Behrend and Elswick talk about the popular perceptions of Common Core and public education, and why even more government control is not the solution to our educational problems.  LISTEN TO MORE

Obama Threatens States that Refuse to Expand Medicaid
Sean Parnell, The Heartlander
“The real scandal here is the citizens of states send their tax dollars to Washington, DC and the feds will only let them have their money back if they do what Washington wants them to do. It would be a great campaign theme for the various presidential candidates: The only tax money going to Washington should be for what the federal government needs to fulfill its limited, constitutional obligations.” READ MORE



Why Government Deficits and Debt Matter
Richard Ebeling, Epic Times
CBO calculates that by 2025 “modest” annual budget deficits will add more than $7.5 trillion to the existing $18.3 trillion of federal government debt, for a total a decade from now of almost $26 trillion. This will be more than a 40 percent increase in the federal government’s debt over the coming ten-year period.  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

Newly-Released Study Questions Administration’s Conclusions on Ozone

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 1:56 PM

What if “global warming” actually improved ozone levels? A new study from the University of Houston, that collected information the impact of climate change on ozone at ground level, found that when the temperature was routinely higher than normal, in one of the most polluted cities in the country, the ground ozone levels were actually lower, because of other, more impactful side effects of natural climate change. The higher the land surface temperature, the researchers at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science found, the higher the pressure gradients, which in turn increase offshore winds, which in turn contributed to more days with lower ground-level ozone levels.

This means, of course, that the Obama Administration’s and the EPA’s conclusion that global warming means more higher-ozone days is now in question. Okay – of course, it was always in question, since the conclusion was far from “settled science,” – but in this case, there’s empirical evidence that not only is global warming a phenomenon that could have positive natural impacts, but that the generally-accepted practice of limiting carbon emissions so as to limit land temperature levels so as to limit higher ozone days is flawed, at best. In fact, according to the ICA researchers, higher land temperatures could be responsible for cleaning up cluttered and carbon-choked coastal cities worldwide.

The White House is not likely to acknowledge these results. After all, they’ve claimed that global warming-caused inevitable higher ozone levels are responsible for everything from asthma to hurricanes to the rise in international terrorism. They’ve used such claims as an excuse to throttle industry, including electricity-producing coal plants, and to circumvent the free market, insisting that untested alternative energy sources, not supported by the free market, should receive billions in taxpayer subsidies. After all, they’ve already claimed that such measures will actually reduce global warming, too, and such a conclusion is clearly in question. It’s far from likely that they’ll abandon the “settled science” in order to take a clearer, more comprehensive, fact-based view of climate change and how it truly impacts the human population.

Categories: On the Blog

Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 9:13 AM

Updated data from NASA satellite instruments reveal the Earth’s polar ice caps have not receded at all since the satellite instruments began measuring the ice caps in 1979. Since the end of 2012, moreover, total polar ice extent has largely remained above the post-1979 average. The updated data contradict one of the most frequently asserted global warming claims – that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede.

The timing of the 1979 NASA satellite instrument launch could not have been better for global warming alarmists. The late 1970s marked the end of a 30-year cooling trend. As a result, the polar ice caps were quite likely more extensive than they had been since at least the 1920s. Nevertheless, this abnormally extensive 1979 polar ice extent would appear to be the “normal” baseline when comparing post-1979 polar ice extent.

Updated NASA satellite data show the polar ice caps remained at approximately their 1979 extent until the middle of the last decade. Beginning in 2005, however, polar ice modestly receded for several years. By 2012, polar sea ice had receded by approximately 10 percent from 1979 measurements. (Total polar ice area – factoring in both sea and land ice – had receded by much less than 10 percent, but alarmists focused on the sea ice loss as “proof” of a global warming crisis.)

A 10-percent decline in polar sea ice is not very remarkable, especially considering the 1979 baseline was abnormally high anyway. Regardless, global warming activists and a compliant news media frequently and vociferously claimed the modest polar ice cap retreat was a sign of impending catastrophe. Al Gore even predicted the Arctic ice cap could completely disappear by 2014.

In late 2012, however, polar ice dramatically rebounded and quickly surpassed the post-1979 average. Ever since, the polar ice caps have been at a greater average extent than the post-1979 mean.

Now, in May 2015, the updated NASA data show polar sea ice is approximately 5 percent above the post-1979 average.

During the modest decline in 2005 through 2012, the media presented a daily barrage of melting ice cap stories. Since the ice caps rebounded – and then some – how have the media reported the issue?

The frequency of polar ice cap stories may have abated, but the tone and content has not changed at all. Here are some of the titles of news items I pulled yesterday from the front two pages of a GoogleNews search for “polar ice caps”:

Climate change is melting more than just the polar ice caps

2020: Antarctic ice shelf could collapse

An Arctic ice cap’s shockingly rapid slide into the sea

New satellite maps show polar ice caps melting at ‘unprecedented rate’

The only Google News items even hinting that the polar ice caps may not have melted so much (indeed not at all) came from overtly conservative websites. The “mainstream” media is alternating between maintaining radio silence on the extended run of above-average polar ice and falsely asserting the polar ice caps are receding at an alarming rate.

To be sure, receding polar ice caps are an expected result of the modest global warming we can expect in the years ahead. In and of themselves, receding polar ice caps have little if any negative impact on human health and welfare, and likely a positive benefit by opening up previously ice-entombed land to human, animal, and plant life. Nevertheless, polar ice cap extent will likely be a measuring stick for how much the planet is or is not warming.

The Earth has warmed modestly since the Little Ice Age ended a little over 100 years ago, and the Earth will likely continue to warm modestly as a result of natural and human factors. As a result, at some point in time, NASA satellite instruments should begin to report a modest retreat of polar ice caps. The modest retreat – like that which happened briefly from 2005 through 2012 – would not be proof or evidence of a global warming crisis. Such a retreat would merely illustrate that global temperatures are continuing their gradual recovery from the Little Ice Age. Such a recovery – despite alarmist claims to the contrary – would not be uniformly or even on balance detrimental to human health and welfare. Instead, an avalanche of scientific evidence indicates recently warming temperatures have significantly improved human health and welfare, just as warming temperatures have always done.

[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

The Slow Death of Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM

Think about the major policy undertakings of the Obama administration over the past six and a half years. It began with a “stimulus” that wasted trillions in the quest of generating jobs, but did little to nothing in achieving that goal. That was followed by ObamaCare which most agree has been a disaster for the nation’s healthcare sector and, finally, Common Core, a one-size-fits-all testing program intended, we were told, to improve learning standards in the nation’s schools.  The only thing it has achieved is the opposition of parents, teachers unions, and entire states.

In the April edition of The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News, one could find headlines that included “Arizona House Votes to Repeal and Replace Common Core”, “Arizona House Votes to Repeal Common Core”, ”West Virginia  House Passes Common Core Repeal Bill”, and “Ohio Bill Would Protect Students Opting Out of Common Core Tests.”  In March, some 19 states had introduced legislation to either halt or replace Common Core. Do you see a trend here?

One trend of significance was noted in a commentary by Jason L. Riley in the May 6 edition of The Wall Street Journal. “The Soccer Mom Revolt Against Common Core” cited a national poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University earlier this year that put “approval for the new standards at 17%, against 40% who disapproved and other 42% who were undecided. A breakdown by gender had Common Core support 22% for men and only 12% for women.”

Perhaps the greatest surprise among these numbers is that the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Educational Association, as Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation noted in February “is no longer a cheerleader for Common Core national education standards.” In a letter to the union’s three million members, its president, Dennis Van Roekel, took Common Core to task for its failure to even provide information for implementing it in their classrooms.  The American Federation of Teachers had raised similar concerns nearly a year earlier!

Writing on September 2014, Joy Pullman, a Heartland Institute research fellow whose expertise is education held forth on the “Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core.” Among them was “The senseless, infuriating math.”  “If Common Core hadn’t deformed even the most elementary of our math abilities so that simple addition now takes dots, dashes, boxes, hashmarks, and foam cubes, plus an inordinate amount of time”, you are not going to get the right answer.

Parents in growing numbers have discovered, as Pullman notes, that “when they do go to their local school boards, often all they get are disgusted looks and a bored thumb-twiddling during their two-minute public comment allowance.”  Pullman says, “The bottom line is, parents have no choice whether their kids will learn Common Core, no matter what school they put them in.”  That, obviously, is changing as state after state pulls out of the Common Core program.

In a new book by Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman, “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children”, Blumenfeld points to “Growing levels of illiteracy, plunging international rankings, the decline of critical-thinking skills, mushrooming decadence, mass shootings, and companies that can’t find the skilled workers they need—these have become some of the atrocious hallmarks of U.S. public schools.”

“Common Core schemers are engaged in what can only be described as consumer fraud with monumental implications for education and the future of America.”  The bottom line is that “the scheme was never field-tested before being foisted on America.”

There is no part of student’s education that Common Core does not impede or corrupt. In the area of science, Blumenfeld says “Instead of teaching children about science—real science—the standards will offer students a steady stream of controversial propaganda presented as unchallenged fact.” Regarding climate change “students will be required to learn that human activities are mostly to blame, even though this notion is disputed by countless scientists and a vast, growing body of actual scientific observational evidence.”

Closest to home are Common Core’s “National Sexuality Education Standards” aimed to begin the “sexualization of children in kindergarten” says Blumenfeld. “Is learning about ‘homosexual marriage’ before first grade in government schools really ‘age appropriate’ or necessary?” But it gets more radical “with graphic lessons promoting everything from masturbation and fornication to transgenderism and homosexuality.”

We shouldn’t be surprised at the backlash Common Core has received from both parents and teachers unions among others. Like the “stimulus” and ObamaCare, Common Core demonstrates a thorough lack of understanding of the values of individuality that have underwritten our nation’s free market economy, helped create a respected healthcare system, and which parents have expected the educational system to pass on to new generations.

Instead Common Core teaches collectivism—socialism—and degrades various elements of education from math to English to science.

It cannot be removed from our nation’s schools soon enough.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Violates the Law, Lobbies for More Power

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 5:20 PM

Environmental Protection Agency building and sign, Washington, DC

President Obama and the cronies in his administration (with his tacit support) continue to violate laws, rules and regulations. Obama and his friends evidently believe the rules don’t apply to them.

Let’s review just a few examples:

* President Obama, who promised to run the most transparent presidential administration in history has instead arguably run the most secretive and opaque administrations. In March, the White House announced it was removing a regulation subjecting its office to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests – in other words the White House was exempting itself from public scrutiny and oversight. An Associated Press investigation showed that secrecy had increased dramatically under the Obama administration. The AP analysis showed the government censored or denied outright 244,675 of the 704,394 requests made, that’s 36 percent of the time, more than any previous President. On another 196,034 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper. Requests for NSA records were censored or denied 98 percent of the time. In addition the administration has prosecuted more government whistleblowers for leaks and reporters for not revealing their sources than any administration in history.

* Obama’s Justice Department, against the recommendation of its career prosecutors, dropped charges against and refused to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling station.

It has steadfastly refused to uphold the nation’s immigration laws by prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants arrested in the U.S. Regardless of how one feels about current immigration laws, the Justice department’s job is to enforce the laws we have not ignore them until the President gets a law more to his liking – the Attorney General is the peoples prosecutor, not the President’s private attorney.

The same justice department, under former Attorney General Eric Holder, aided and abetted gun runners in delivering firearms to Mexican drug cartels and then tried to use the fact that Mexican drug lords got firearms from the U.S. to call for stricter gun laws that it had been pushing for before the ATF let the guns walk, and implement new firearm sales reporting requirements. A number of the agents at the ATF that reported their agency’s wrongdoing were transferred, demoted or forced out, while those in charge of the pernicious program dubbed “Fast and Furious,” were promoted. When Congress wanted to know more botched law enforcement effort, Holder stonewalled, fighting in court Congress’ attempts to obtain e-mails and documents relating to the program to determine, who knew what and when.

* The administration used the IRS as its own personal partisan attack dog, denying or delaying non-profit status for conservative foundations and tea party related groups, and launching tax investigations into critics of the administration that already had non-profit status. When caught out on this, the executive in charge of the IRS office that administers non-profit applications, Lois Lerner, denied targeting the groups, then later admitted the groups were targeted. Lerner was found in contempt of Congress for refusing a subpoena to testify. But, the Obama justice department came to her rescue by refusing to prosecute her for contempt of Congress. Lerner later claimed that her computer crashed resulting in the loss of her e-mails, and remarkably, for a government computer linked to the IRS server, there were no backups. In the months since Lerner was relieved of duty, tens of thousands of these missing e-mails have been found and released; 6,400 of them just last month (more than five years after Lerner’s wrongdoing).

* And then there is the State Department. Under former Secretary of State, now presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, it ignored requests from the diplomatic compound in Benghazi to beef up security, it ignored warnings that an attack was planned, and then after the attack took place and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed, blamed the attack on riots in response to a film that almost no one had seen or heard of. Subsequent investigations showed the attacks were planned, coordinated acts of terrorism, having nothing to do with a movie and the State Department knew this fact, when it falsely claimed the film was the instigating factor. In the aftermath, it has been revealed that in violation of State Department rules (and federal policies for conducting official business in general) Secretary Clinton conducted official business through a private e-mail account (all official business is supposed to be conducted through an department employees’ government accounts) and rather than preserving those e-mails for the public record, once again as required by department policy, she destroyed them.

I have rehashed these myriad instances of malfeasance, to show a pattern, and by way of revealing how unsurprised and not-shocked I am by the revelation that one more agency in the Obama administration has been found violating the rules that are meant to keep it honest.

The New York Times has revealed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ginned up support for its proposal to expand its control from navigable waters in the United States to basically all waters of the U.S. through grassroots lobbying, in violation of federal law but with the full support of the Obama administration.

The controversial WOTUS rule intended to skirt limits the Supreme Court has placed on the EPA’s control over wetlands, has many critics, but you wouldn’t know if from the comments received by the EPA. Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than one million comments, and more than 87 percent favoring the agency’s proposal.

Why so popular? As the Times reports:

The Obama administration is the first to give the E.P.A. a mandate to create broad public outreach campaigns, using the tactics of elections, in support of federal environmental regulations before they are final. Test[ing] the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to … enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.

While federal law permits the president and political appointees, like the E.P.A. administrator, to promote government policy, or to support or oppose pending legislation, the Justice Department, in a series of legal opinions going back nearly three decades, has told federal agencies that they should not engage in substantial “grass-roots” lobbying, defined as “communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, or particular segments of the general public, intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive.”

Late last year, the E.P.A. sponsored a drive on Facebook and Twitter to promote its proposed clean water rule in conjunction with the Sierra Club. At the same time, Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group with deep ties to Mr. Obama, was also pushing the rule. They urged the public to flood the agency with positive comments to counter opposition from farming and industry groups.

The results were then offered as proof that the proposal was popular.

At minimum, the actions of the agency are highly unusual. “The agency is supposed to be more of an honest broker, not a partisan advocate in this process,” said Jeffrey W. Lubbers, a professor of practice in administrative law at the American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book “A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking.”

“I have not seen before from a federal agency this stark of an effort to generate endorsements of a proposal during the open comment period,” he said.

Obama’s EPA has a long history of pushing ethical boundaries and skirting the edges of the law.

In January of this year I reported on a PR move the EPA tried to hide that was discovered through a FOIA request. Recognizing public opinion polls consistently showed the public was not buying the administration’s global warming hype, a memo discovered through a FOIA showed the EPA convince the public that children and minorities faced special health risk due to human caused climate change. As I wrote at the time:

EPA’s decision to shift the debate from concerns about melting ice caps and declining caribou and polar bear populations, to promoting the idea global warming poses a direct threat to public health, especially children’s health, and air and water quality.

Most Americans will never see a polar ice cap, nor will [they] ever have a chance to see a polar bear in its natural habitat. Therefore, it is easy to detach from the seriousness of the issue. Unfortunately, climate change in the abstract is an increasingly – and consistently – unpersuasive argument to make. However, if we shift from making this issue about polar caps [to being] about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue home to many Americans

The problem for EPA is, there has been no serious research linking global warming or greenhouse gas emissions to human health problems or air or water pollution.

More recently, as detailed in story in the forthcoming July Environment & Climate News, on March 2, Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blasted EPA for first saying it had conducted a thorough search for the requested documents and then retracting its claim years later in a footnote to another document. Lamberth wrote, “[T]he recurrent instances of disregard that EPA employees display for FOIA obligations should not be tolerated by the agency at large.”

Lamberth accused EPA of foot-dragging on the FOIA requests until after the 2012 presidential election. A February 2014 Environment & Climate News article reported the Energy & Environment Legal Institute had obtained emails showing the Starbucks located in the J.W. Marriott Hotel near EPA’s Washington, DC headquarters served as a an “off campus” meeting place where EPA officials and environmental activists regularly met to plot strategy. By not meeting at EPA headquarters, the activists avoided signing in at the agency. Absent the FOIA request, their meetings would have remained secret.

“Either EPA sought to evade Landmark’s lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents, or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark’s request,” Lamberth said. “Either scenario reflects poorly on EPA and surely serves to diminish the public’s trust in the agency.”

With those two scandals as background, and new Obama administration misdeeds being discovered almost daily, I was frankly more surprised the New York Times reported on the EPA’s illicit lobbying efforts than I was by the EPA’s acts.

Sometimes the paper whose motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” actually publishes news fit to print.

Categories: On the Blog

Will Congress Finally Defend Its Constitutional Turf – to Stop the EPA’s Assault on Water?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 3:13 PM

Boy with rubber boots jumping in…-the EPA’s Jurisdiction 

It is an empirical fact – a metaphysical certitude. Government overreaches.

And the Barack Obama Administration has the longest, most overactive arms ever. With many, many, MANY power-grabbing hands.

Obama’s Legacy of Overreach

Obama Amnesty ‘Unprecedented’ Threat to Constitution

Obama Is Breaking The Law By Repeatedly Making Changes To ObamaCare Without Going Through Congress

Net Neutrality Power Grab Is Worse than ObamaCare

The Coming Climate Onslaught

President Obama readies a sweeping list of executive actions.

And on, and on, and….

Glaringly absent in all of this power-grabbing – has been actual, tangible Congressional opposition to any of it. Which is yet another Constitutional problem.

The Founding Fathers created a limited, delimited federal government. It is only supposed to do what the Document expressly grants it the authority to do.

A fundamental component of this limiting is the balance of powers. The three Branches – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary – are supposed to respectively do what each is expressly told to do. And nothing else.

The Founders envisioned each Branch jealously, vociferously defending its turf – and thus its power. That inter-branch tension would serve as a check on them all.

That protection has been eroding for decades. The Legislative – Congress, the only elected representatives of We the People – has for at least a century been ceding more and more of its power.

To the Judiciary

The Senate has been way too lax in its Advise and Consent authority over the Executive’s appointments of judges and Justices. Far too often the President’s nominees are given a cursory glance – and thoughtless approval.

Those in robes have thus felt increasingly free to perversely find more and more emanations from penumbras in existing statute. They write law – Congress’ job – rather than merely interpret and enforce it.

In response to which Congress has done…nothing. The Senate also has the responsibility of impeaching rogue judges – they almost never do it.

To the Executive

As we noted above, the Obama Administration has been in unprecedentedly huge fashion over-using the overly huge regulatory apparatus. But this, too, precedes this President by decades.

The countless Executive Branch Departments, Commissions, Agencies and Boards are supposed to enforce existing law. They are instead incessantly going well beyond these bounds – writing new law with no Congressional tether.

President Obama placidly asserted that he would do this on steroids – unilaterally use his pen and his phone to write law to end-run the Congresses we elected to stop him.

Because he knew the Congresses we elected to stop him – wouldn’t.

Congressional Republicans have only paid lip service to opposition. They talk a big game – and then do nothing.

And Congressional Democrats?

Sheila Jackson Lee: Writing Executive Orders for Obama to Sign ‘Our Number One Agenda’

Well that sort of defeats the purpose of being in Congress, does it not?

Well, there might be an Executive overreach so egregious, its implications so damaging – that Congress in bipartisan fashion might actually, finally do its Constitutional duty.

Farmers, Congress Take Aim at EPA Water Rule

Republicans and some rural Democrats are sharpening their attacks against a forthcoming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that they say could vastly extend the agency’s reach over waterways and agriculture.

GOP lawmakers and Democrats from agriculture-heavy districts contend the Waters of the United States rule amounts to executive overreach….

What is the EPA doing?

In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes.

The EPA says 60 percent of the nation’s streams and wetlands are not protected from pollution.

That actually means 60% of the nation’s streams and wetlands are protected from government. The EPA won’t stand for that.

This is actually an instance where the Judiciary has done its duty in reining in the Executive. In fact, it’s done it twice.

(There have been) two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limited what waterways the government can regulate and the proposed rule is meant to clarify which smaller ones they include.

Why would that stop the EPA? Clearly, it won’t. So Congress must.

Congress will play host Tuesday to three hearings that will touch on the rule, including one on Senate legislation that would require the EPA to submit a different regulation that follows certain principles and specifically includes some bodies of water, groundwater and soil water.

The federal government is out of control. One of the fundamental problems is the Branches are failing to stay in their respective lanes.

It is WAY past time for the respective Branches to get back in them. Or be forced therein.

Congress must reclaim its Constitutional lawmaking authority. Starting now.

[Originally published at Red State]


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dan Ikenson: Export-Import Bank

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 1:22 PM

In this episode of the Budget & Tax News podcast, Cato Institute trade policy expert Dan Ikenson joins managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the Export-Import Bank, a government export credit agency created in 1934 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Ikenson says the Export-Import Bank, or “Ex-Im,” picks winners and losers in the American economy by favoring some businesses over others. By subsidizing the cost of private businesses’ exports, Ex-Im actually drags down non-subsidized businesses in a wide range of industries. Instead of helping small businesses sell their goods abroad, most Ex-Im spending goes to a small number of large multinational companies, like Boeing.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Scientists Battle Eco-Bullies, ‘March on Monsanto’ Menace

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 8:57 AM

Research scientists are banding together and refuting radical environmental activists who have harassed them and their colleagues, calling the forthcoming progressive “March Against Monsanto” this Saturday in Chicago, and related global protests on genetically modified organisms, a “menace.”

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) include plants which are cross-bred with other flora to resist pesticides, and pests, and increase food production.

Leftists fear this food source is unsafe, and have railed against it, with increasing effectiveness in Europe. At one time, leftist activists claimed that genetic engineering could create “Franken-foods,” or food products as scary and threatening as the Frankenstein monster of movie lore.

The March Against Monsanto stirs up irrational fears and anger in good people by using myths and manipulating the facts,” says geneticist Dr. Haro von Mogel, on his blog, March Against Myths About Modification. “We know that MAM will not be able to marshal the science to support their views, so they will resort to name-calling and innuendo.”

Dr. von Mogel says progressive activists have already called his voluntary association “shills” for the biotechnology industry. “Par for the course,” says the geneticist. “But when we go to our demonstrations we will go with kindness and a desire to help people learn more about genetically engineered crops. We will not stoop to their level.”

Radical leftists are gathering on Saturday at the federal plaza in downtown Chicago, and in other U.S. cities, including Portland, Washington DC and Seattle, and globally in Ottawa, Brisbane, and Amsterdam.

Scientists and science activists plan to simultaneously march in downtown Chicago, and post on social media to help “bust some mammoth-sized myths” about genetically modified organisms.

“We’ve got information to pass out, fully referenced on our site, so people can look up the information themselves,” says Dr. von Mogel. “If we can put a smidgen of doubt, and desire to investigate, into the minds of people, they will gain the power to defend themselves against those myths.’

For more information on the counter-demonstration, go to: http://www.mamyths.org

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Greg Walcher: Solar Still Too Expensive, Unreliable and Inefficient

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 3:56 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of Energy & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett speaks with Greg Walcher. Walcher is president of the Natural Resources Group and a Heartland policy advisor. Walcher discusses his forthcoming paper, “Not Ready Yet: Why Homeowners Still Find Solar Power Too Expensive, Unreliable, Inefficient, and Undependable.”

Walcher has a wealth of experience on energy and environmental issues both from the private sector and the public sector perspective; the latter having served as the Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He discusses the high costs associated with solar power installations, the subsidies non-solar users are paying through net-metering laws to people who install solar power on their homes and the unreliability of solar power.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Stupefying Generations of Americans

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 2:25 PM

I used the verb “stupefying” to describe a long process in our nation’s schools that has produced several generations of Americans, dumbed down and resulting in more than half who are functionally illiterate, nor can do math, and, as a recent headline reported “Student’s Results in Social Studies Stagnate.”

“U.S. middle-school students’ performance on social studies didn’t improve much between 2010 and 2014, federal test scores released Wednesday (April 29) show, underscoring concerns about the uniformed citizenry and workforce.”  When it comes to U.S. history, the share of students scoring at or above proficiency last year was 18%, up one percentage point from 2010. In other words, over 80% failed to have a grasp on the subject, critical to every citizen’s understanding of U.S. history, its Constitution, and governance.

An extraordinary new book by Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman, “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children” ($26.95, WND Books) should be the center of conversation for a nation’s media, but I suspect this may be among the few places you would learn about it. Blumenfeld has written ten books on education and Newman is an international journalist, educator and consultant.

What history does teach us is that progressives, also known as communists, have slaughtered millions in their quest to create the perfect society where everybody earns the same amount, thus abandoning them to equal poverty. To achieve this, it was necessary to exercise complete control over what the children learned and what the media shared as news.

Blumenfeld notes that “In the United States the socialist utopians adopted a new and unique method of conquering a nation; by dumbing down its people, by destroying the brainpower of millions of its citizens.”

This was launched in 1898 by John Dewey, a socialist, and outlined in his essay titled ‘The Primary-Education Fetich.’  “In it he showed his fellow progressives how to transform America into a collectivist utopia by taking over the public schools and destroying the literacy of millions of Americans.”

“The plan has been so successfully implemented that it is now a fact that half of America’s adult population are functionally illiterate. They can’t read their nation’s Constitution or its Declaration of Independence. They can’t even read their high school diploma.”

This was achieved by changing how children are taught to read in our government schools. Previously the method was phonetics in which children learned the alphabet, the sounds the letters represented, and how in combination they composed words. The present method is called “whole word” in which the child must recognize the whole word without identifying its alphabetical elements. “That forces children to read English as if it were Chinese,” says Blumenfeld.

He notes that most teachers are unaware of what they are doing and most parents trust the public schools that are supposed to represent the cherished values of our democratic republic. “But the unhappy truth is that today’s public schools have rejected the values of the Founding Fathers and adopted values from nineteenth-century European social utopian plans that completely contradict our own concepts of individual freedom.”

Blumenfeld also identifies a fact that is hidden in the growing numbers of people who having passed through our schools or attending experience dyslexia and learning disabilities.  Brain scans have demonstrated this. Our schools are places where the answer to the normal child’s energy and curiosity is deemed being “over-active” and our schools “push various psychiatric drugs on millions of children by requiring them to take such powerful, mid-altering stimulants as Ritalin or Adderal to alleviate such school-induced disorders as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These drugs are as potent as cocaine and have even caused sudden death among teen athletes.”

“The long-term utopian plan required destroying America’s political, social, and moral culture of religious freedom, individual rights, unobtrusive government, and high literacy for all.”

That is a virtual definition of what has occurred in America today. We see it in the attack on religion, particularly Christianity, in America. We see it in the attack on traditional marriage in the name of the homosexual objective of “same-sex marriage.” We see individual businesses attacked for not wanting to give up their spiritual values and beliefs when challenged by homosexuals. We see it in the vast growth in the numbers of single mothers, often never married. And, of late, we see it in the obscene hatred being directed against our nation’s police forces.

The statistics cited in “Crimes of the Educators” have been published by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and they include:

Eighty-one percent of American 18 year olds are unprepared for college coursework.

More than 25 percent of students fail to graduate from high school in four years; for African-American and Hispanic students, this number is approaching 40 percent.

Seventy percent of those in prison and 70 percent of those on welfare read at the lowest literacy levels according to the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey.

According to tests in 2012 given to 15-year-olds by the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, U.S. students were at 17thplace in the world on reading, 29th in math, and 20th in science.

“These failures,” says Blumenfeld, “ are not the result of an accident. They are the result of programs created by the best-organized and best-paid educators on the planet. All of these programs that create failure were conceived to produce precisely the results we are getting.”

This explains, too, why many concerned parents have decided to teach their children at home while others spend their money to have their children tutored to overcome the damage of our public schools.

If you have looked around and thought to yourself that too many of the people who see, hear, work with, and who vote are dumb, you now know why.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

New CBO ‘Scoring’ Policy May Doom Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 9:52 AM

A new economic “scoring” policy at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), so-called “dynamic scoring,” may dramatically impact Obamacare, revealing further financial flaws in the already controversial healthcare entitlement program.

Presently, according to a report in Modern Healthcare, analyses from the CBO use “static scoring,” a method that looks at the direct economic effects of a proposed law without factoring in how the economy will respond in the long-term. But, “dynamic scoring” incorporates macroeconomic elements, and assumptions, into the analytical mix.

The House of Representatives adopted a resolution earlier this year stating CBO must use dynamic scoring in its cost estimates of all federal legislation “to the greatest extent practicable.” New leadership just installed by the Congress at the CBO is moving forward with that mandate this spring.

“CBO expects to devote considerable attention to further developing its capacity to conduct dynamic analysis in the coming year so that it can effectively carry out the requirements specified in the budget resolution,” Keith Hall, new director of the CBO, told the Senate Budget Committee yesterday.

Hall assumed command of the CBO in April, replacing Douglas Elmendorf. “The agency anticipates that the form in which the information is provided to the Congress will evolve over time depending on what sort of presentation seems most useful.”

The use of dynamic scoring could affect the spending and revenue projections of the Affordable Care Act, Modern Healthcare reports.

“In the coming year, CBO expects to expend a great deal of effort analyzing healthcare spending,” Hall said. “The agency is in the process of analyzing various aspects of the healthcare system and enhancing its analytical capacity to assess the effects of future legislation on that system and on the federal budget.”

Categories: On the Blog

Another Promise Broken: ER Visits up Under Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 9:18 AM

Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) passage in 2010, President Barack Obama spent month after month traveling across the United States to reassure Americans the vast right-wing-manufactured conspiracy theories about the law weren’t true.

Contrary to claims by Republicans and conservative pundits, “If you like your doctor, you’re going to be able to keep your doctor,” Obama pledged at George Mason University.

“If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law,” stated the White House website.

However, once the ACA began to be enforced, it became apparent the Obama administration—not its pro-liberty critics—was the one spewing distortions. Thousands of Americans who did in fact want to keep their doctor or their health insurance plan found themselves pushed into more expensive policies, some of which were not accepted by their doctors.

The numerous problems resulting from Obamacare—the rising premiums, the inconvenience of the health insurance marketplace, and the problems thousands had to face when looking for new doctors after years of building relationships with the ones they preferred—were said to be necessary to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. More than 30 million people were without health insurance, and millions were forced to receive expensive treatment for routine problems at emergency rooms (ER) rather than at primary care facilities.

Obamacare may not have been a perfect proposal, its proponents acknowledged, but it is necessary to improve millions of lives.

“I think that it’s very important that we provide coverage for all people because if everybody’s got coverage, then they’re not going to the emergency room for treatment,” Obama said at a town hall forum in Rio Rancho, New Mexico in 2009.

But like the other failed promises made by the Obama administration, his pledge the passage of the ACA would result in fewer costly emergency room visits has yet to be fulfilled.

According to a poll conducted by Marketing General Incorporated for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), three-quarters of emergency physicians say ER visits are on the rise, a significant increase from one year ago.

Further, a press release by ACEP indicates over 50 percent of the physicians surveyed say the number of Medicaid patients going to the ER has increased as well.

ACEP says one of the reasons for the increase, which directly contradicts the promises made by the Obama administration, is wait times for patients looking to see primary care doctors has notably worsened. This isn’t surprising considering the ACA effectively added millions of insured patients to the health care marketplace without doing anything to increase the supply of doctors.

“There is strong evidence that Medicaid access to primary care and specialty care is not timely, leaving Medicaid patients with few options other than the emergency department,” said Dr. Orlee Panitch, chair of the Emergency Medicine Action Fund and an emergency physician for MEPHealth in Germantown, Maryland.  “In addition, states with punitive policies toward Medicaid patients in the ER may be discouraging low-income patients with serious medical conditions from seeking necessary care, which is dangerous and wrong.”

Obamacare’s failure to accomplish one of its most important goals—moving impoverished people out of emergency rooms and into primary care facilities—is further proof the ACA has been an utter disaster. Costs continue to rise, wait times have increased, patients have lost preferred doctors and health care plans, and the impoverished have continued to be stuck going to hospital emergency rooms instead of receiving the care of a primary care doctor.

Now, more than ever, it’s apparent the ACA needs to be repealed and replaced with legislation that will lower costs and improve the lives of all Americans without infringing individuals’ rights.

[Originally Published in the Washington Examiner]

Categories: On the Blog
Syndicate content