On the Blog
“Once an activist, always an activist.”
– The Activist’s Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life, Revolutionary Books, 2012.
You can’t separate the organic movement from the anti-GMO movement. They are one and the same, existing in perfect anti-technological symbiosis. What’s bad for GMOs is good for organics and vice versa.
With GMO labeling initiatives underway in 26 out of 50 states, and a global campaign to stop life-saving GM Golden Rice from being approved, you’re supposed to believe the leaders of the multibillion-dollar organic industry are just watching innocently from the sidelines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once an activist, always an activist. And when Democratic State Senator Noreen Evans claims her GMO labeling bill – an idea that Californians already defeated once – is “agnostic on whether GMOs are good, or whether they are bad,” she’s lying. Since when do politicians label things for no reason?
The “GMO Free Mendocino” campaign was launched in Senator Evans’ district by Els Cooperrider, a founding member of the The Mendocino Organic Network, who succeeded in 2004 not merely in banning GMOs in Mendocino County, but in having all GMO crops destroyed by order of a federal judge. With the “organic” cause as the backbone of Cooperrider’s agricultural pogrom, Mendocino instantly became Grand Central for all subsequent anti-GMO movements.
Of course, organic activists like Cooperrider are opposed to a lot of things: synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, to name but a few. And yet, all these substances combined do not come close to the opposition reserved for GMOs.
And how exactly does one process Greenpeace’s campaign to abandon up to 500,000 children who go blind every year in the developing world from Vitamin-A deficiency? Only with vague arguments taken straight from Cooperrider’s manifesto, warning of as-yet unknown, unspecified risks to human health, the environment and organic farming. Greenpeace has succeeded in keeping GMO Vitamin-A enriched Golden Rice from being approved for humanitarian use in spite of support for this life-saving crop from the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and many other charitable organizations.
Still think Sen. Evans is agnostic on GMOs?
The science of genetic engineering gave diabetics synthetic human insulin which replaced insulin from slaughtered pigs. Try to imagine someone blocking genetically-synthesized human insulin, or labeling it to encourage use of the “organic” alternative. It’s unthinkable given the high rate of diabetes in North America and Europe.
Whether they seek to ban or label GMOs, organic activists are pretending to protect consumers for their own good even though no negative effect has ever been observed from any approved GM food. Meanwhile, these very same people insist only that synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics not be used on organic farms. They do not demand bans or labels on conventional crops grown with these approved substances.
But for all the half-baked arguments against Golden Rice along with demands for the useless labeling of foods that have contained GMO ingredients for close to 20 years now, the fact is that organic and Greenpeace activists actually need GMOs. They’re quite content to continue to “co-exist” right alongside their avowed arch nemesis because it provides a vital element to their continued existence as activists.
This is why labeling campaigns have all but replaced campaigns to ban GMOs just 10-short years after Cooperrider’s runaway “success.” It also explains, incidentally, why outwardly anti-GMO Europe routinely accepts huge shipments of GM crops from America for livestock feed. Banning GMOs is the last thing on organic politicians’ and activists’ minds. They just want to control GMOs, and to that end labeling provides the perfect balance.
GMOs will remain in circulation to scare consumers, while growth in the GMO sector is severely limited under a labeling regime, so much so that fewer and fewer corporations will develop new GMO crops, thus guaranteeing that this still untapped field of science never becomes fully accepted by the masses. Existing GMO crops will continue to either be highly restricted as in Europe, or labeled like a package of cigarettes here in America, while a new crop like Golden Rice is just best left on the back burner while every possible angle on its side-effects is studied to death… literally!
It’s like the joke about the drunk looking for a contact lens under a lamppost outside a bar one night. A passerby stops to lend a hand, and after 20 minutes finally asks, “Are you sure you lost it under this lamppost?” The drunk replies, “No… it was that one over there.” The passerby is stunned. “Then why are we looking under this lamppost?” To which the drunk replies, “Because the light’s better!”
Meanwhile, rather than test organic crops to ensure they’re free of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics, voluntary record-keeping and record-checking is relied upon to supposedly keep all those substances out of premium-priced organic food. Then, before anyone notices this is nothing more than a multibillion-dollar honor-based marketing scheme, the leaders of the organic industry move quickly to where the light is better, attacking GMOs as “Frankenfoods,” accompanied by constant chatter about GMOs contaminating organic crops. It turns out there’s no such thing as “contamination” of an organic crop by GMOs.
Such “contamination” – when it occurs at all – has always been well below one-one-hundredth of a percentage point. More to the point, if they were worried about GMOs “contaminating” organic fields, why didn’t anti-GMO organic activists say so in their own standards for organic production, standards which they quite literally wrote themselves!
Clearly, anti-GMO organic activists were utterly unconcerned with GMOs right from the get-go, only deciding it was expedient to feign concern over GMO “contamination” long after the rules were established, after billions of dollars in certified-organic royalties had been collected by these activists to fund their cause. Meanwhile, studies show pesticide contamination-levels in excess of 40 percent in certified-organic products. Maybe read that sentence again if you buy organic food.
Now you know why GMO labeling initiatives, along with Greenpeace’s campaign to keep Golden Rice from reaching some very needy people, always point to the harm GMOs supposedly inflict on organic farmers. Examples are never provided. How curious. Curiouser still that reporters never ask for examples. Why, it’s almost as if reporters have never bothered to read America’s organic standards. Maybe read this paragraph again if you’re a reporter.
Labeling, as opposed to banning, makes the light all the brighter under the anti-GMO organic lamppost. And with the exception of Golden Rice – the exception that proves the rule – organic activists will never again seek to have GMOs banned as they were in Mendocino. GMOs represent a highly effective straw man for organic activists, driving revenues for Greenpeace and the global organic movement to fund yet more misguided, tax-subsidized anti-GMO campaigns.
Organic activists need GMOs the same way the Soviets needed decadent America during the Cold War. Without something plausible, never mind credible, to stand opposed to, they would collapse under the unverifiable weight of their own propaganda. Of course, as with the Cold War, innocent civilians will be sacrificed on the road to Utopia. In this case, it’s a couple million people a year in the Third World dying from Vitamin-A deficiency, along with up to 500,000 kids going blind.
When warlords and organic-munching environmentalists conspire to commit genocide in far off lands, at least the warlords don’t pretend it’s for the good of the planet.
[First posted at the Daily Caller.]
The population of the U.S. is 314 million. On the day Obamacare was passed, the estimate of the uninsured was 60 million. So in this context, the supposed 7 million Americans signed up for insurance on the Obamacare Exchanges, even if that is a valid number, and all of those have actually started paying premiums, both of which are highly dubious, does not mean any significant success for Obamacare.
That is especially so since at least 6 million Americans have lost their health insurance due to Obamacare, so far, with more to come once the illegally and arbitrarily delayed employer mandate becomes effective, if it is ever allowed to do so. The estimate based on a new Rand Corporation study is that only 858,000 Americans signed up on the Obamacare Exchanges were previously uninsured. That is barely a dent of just over 1% in the original number of uninsured, from the historic Obamacare program that was supposed to provide “universal” coverage.
Yes, there are other sources of coverage under Obamacare. President Obama told us in his celebratory, hocus pocus, Obamacare address on April Fools’ Day that “more than 3 million young adults have gained insurance under this law by staying on their family’s plan.”
But that number is a publicly documented fabrication. It comes from a 2010 survey by the highly politicized Department of Health and Human Services estimating coverage for 19 to 25 year olds from all sources, including taxpayer financed Medicaid, and private insurance, which includes employer provided insurance and individually purchased plans, not just coverage from their parents’ health insurance, as David Hogberg explained at Spectator.org on April 2.
Moreover, that data is now outdated, as later HHS surveys show that health coverage for 18 to 25 year olds has since declined from 2010, Hogberg adds. That is why HHS has not released any new data on the point for almost two years now.
In addition, Hogberg further demonstrates based on 2012 data from the far less politicized Census Bureau, which breaks out data for Medicaid and employer provided health insurance, that the number of young adults gaining coverage on their parents’ health insurance under Obamacare totals at most 258,000.
In any event, the virtue of this young adult dependency on their parents’ health insurance is greatly exaggerated. That coverage is not free. The parents are paying more for it. Moreover, these young adults are not helpless, with no alternatives for health insurance. They can get their own jobs with employer provided health insurance. Or at least they could if Obama was not President. Or they could buy their own health insurance in the market, with help from their parents, if that is needed and desired. Young adults under 26 are the least in need of health insurance, and have the least trouble getting it. The healthiest population in America, they are targeted under Obamacare as lambs to be fleeced for funds to finance health care for others.
President Obama in his April Fools’ Day speech also cited “millions more who have gained access through Medicaid expansion.” But they cannot be included among the “millions of Americans [who] finally had the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care—and the peace of mind that comes with it—as everybody else.” That is because Medicaid is a taxpayer financed, welfare program, so those covered by it are not buying anything. Moreover, Medicaid does not provide “quality” health care, because it pays so little to the doctors and hospitals providing the actual health care for the poor, that many, especially the best, won’t take patients on Medicaid. Simply expanding Medicaid to cover ultimately 100 million Americans at taxpayer expense does not qualify as any sort of achievement.
But there were other howlers in Obama’s April Fools’ Day address. He told the American people that “Because of [Obamacare], 100 million Americans have gained free preventive care, like mammograms and contraceptive care, under their existing plans.” Here we have a President of the United States who does not understand that when the government requires health insurers to provide additional benefits, the cost of their health insurance has to go up, just to ensure the insurer has enough money to pay all the covered benefits. So there is nothing “free” about Obamacare’s required preventive care.
There are high school students who understand such basic economic reasoning better than the President. Of course, there are many adults who voted for him who cannot. Those are the people the President is counting on, and who are actually the ones who are most responsible for the long term, rapid decline America is now suffering.
Another more than dubious statement by the President on April Fools’ Day was that “a whole lot of families won’t be driven into bankruptcy by a serious illness, because [Obamacare] prevents your insurer from placing dollar limits on the coverage they provide.” A whole lot of families? Where is the documentation of that? I dispute that “a whole lot of families” were being driven into bankruptcy by the dollar limits on their health coverage before Obamacare.
Of course, again the President doesn’t understand that removing dollar limits on the coverage means the cost of that coverage must be higher. And that is the more so the more families were reaching those dollar limits before. The actual effect of the Obamacare dollar limit ban is that consumers are denied the freedom of making the choice themselves of whether they want to pay more for coverage without any dollar limit. That is because Obama and his “Progressives” are so certain that they know better than everyone else what that choice should be.
But the biggest howler in Obama’s April Fools’ Day speech was that, “Under [Obamacare], the share of Americans with health insurance is up and the growth of health costs is down.” Whether the ultimate effect of Obamacare will be to reduce or increase the uninsured is highly uncertain at this time. The employer mandate has been delayed until after the elections because the President knows the effect in terminating current coverage is going to be ugly. What is certain now is that Obamacare won’t get America anywhere near universal coverage, as Obama led the Left to believe was the whole point of the exercise.
But more obviously false is the notion that Obamacare has driven the growth of health costs down. As I explained in a previous column, the decline in the growth of health costs started in 2003, when Health Savings Accounts were enacted, and Obama was still an Illinois state senator. As the number of people with HSA plans rose to 30 million over the years, the decline in health cost growth became sharper. Obamacare just went into effect, and here is our President taking credit for a health cost trend that started over a decade ago.
Unlike Obamacare, HSAs provide proven market incentives to reduce health costs. The only effect of Obamacare on health costs so far has been to increase them, due to costly overregulation. And contra Obama, that is not good for the middle class, or our fiscal future. Unless Obamacare actually reduces overall health coverage by increasing the uninsured, and the deductibles most covered people face, that cost increasing effect will become more obvious over time. But Obama will be gone by then, virulently opposing any change in his brilliant law from the private sector.
But Obama doesn’t get it. He said further on April Fools’ Day, Obamacare is:
… helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which some critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law, or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand. I’ve got to admit, I don’t get it. Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?
Many readers are not going to understand this. But my job here is to tell the truth, not to play politically correct footsie with you. What our President is telling us here, actually, is that he has so carefully avoided hearing any of the debate on this issue, that he actually does not understand the issue, on which he imagines himself as the historic founding father of American health care.
The plan I support to replace Obamacare, root and branch, is the reform proposal developed by John Goodman, President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. That proposal, unlike Obamacare, actually would ensure universal health care. But it would do so at far less cost. It would do so, again unlike Obamacare, while actually reducing health costs. That proposal is actually far more plausible than Obamacare, which has already proven itself implausible in the real world. That is why Obama has already acted to change the enacted Obamacare law without the approval of Congress, in violation of the Constitution and his own oath of office.
But Obama continued, “Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels.” Mr. Obama, the death panel in the law is called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). You have carefully avoided appointing members to this board and making it operative, until after the mid-term elections.
He knows what he is doing here, but not what he is talking about. Obama added further:
And those who have based their entire political agenda on repealing it should have to explain why Jeane should go back to being uninsured. They should explain why Sean and his family should go back to paying thousands and thousands of dollars more. They’ve got to explain why Marla doesn’t deserve to feel like she has value. They have to explain why we should go…back to the days when Americans with preexisting conditions were out of luck—they could be routinely denied the economic security of health insurance—because that is exactly what would happen if we repeal this law. Millions of people who now have health insurance would not have it.
But none of that would happen under the Goodman/NCPA reform plan I support. I explained that reform plan in a previous column. Look that up, or go to ncpa.org to find it. Again, what this demonstrates is that Obama, so carefully cloistered his whole life in his own ideological cell, is so disconnected from reality that he does not actually understand health policy issues.
But the harsh reality of how Obamacare works, or actually doesn’t work, is demonstrated by the story of Frank Alfisi, who died on January 14, 2014, at age 73, a victim of Obamacare, as explained by Jeffrey Lord at Spectator.org on April 1. Frank lived in a seniors’ apartment complex in Wantagh, Long Island, near the family of his daughter Amy.
While he was successfully treated with chemotherapy for 8 years for multiple myeloma, the chemo caused kidney failure. But Frank was fine as long as he could receive kidney dialysis three times a week. The problem began when he missed a dialysis appointment one day because he was ill with a stomach virus.
The next day, he was feeling very ill because of the toxin buildup in his body missing just one day without the scheduled dialysis. He called an ambulance, which took him to the nearby hospital to get his treatment. But under a new Medicare regulation, required by Obamacare, Frank could not receive the dialysis unless he was admitted as an inpatient for at least two days. Dialysis, however, does not require even one overnight stay. After the treatment, which takes a few hours, the patient can go home.
The doctors knew Frank could not go home without his dialysis. So they kept running tests on him to find some reason to admit him, under Medicare regulations. Around 8:30 that night, Frank’s blood pressure was so high because of the lack of dialysis that he had a seizure, still in the hospital emergency room, still not admitted, so he still could not receive the dialysis. Later that night he had a second seizure, and was unconscious for two days in the ER, still without any dialysis. His doctor told his daughter Amy, “You can thank Mr. Obama for this.” The death by Obamacare has already begun.
After that second seizure, Frank was transferred for rehab in the hope he would recover well enough to get his dialysis, first to Gurwin Jewish medical center, and then to Parker Jewish. But Frank could never get his dialysis, and died while in that rehab. He was “covered,” by Medicare, but because of Obamacare, and its cuts to Medicare to finance Obamacare, Frank was denied the actual straightforward health care that would save his life. In my interpretation, Frank Alfisi was murdered by Obamacare. This was what Sarah Palin was talking about when she used the term “death panels.”
There are other examples of cancer patients losing their health insurance that was financing the doctors keeping them alive, because the insurance did not satisfy Obamacare requirements. Edie Littlefield Sundby had health insurance that spent $1.2 million on health care for her stage 4 gall bladder cancer, as she explained in the Wall Street Journal. That plan included first rate doctors from her hometown of San Diego, to Stanford University’s Cancer Institute, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, that kept her alive for 7 years. But that plan was cancelled under Obamacare, forcing her insurer United Healthcare out of California altogether. So much for President Obama’s promise, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”
Sundby and her health insurance consultants could not find another plan in the highly touted California Obamacare Exchange that includes those same doctors, at any price. So down went another Obamacare promise, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?” But Harry Reid tells us that all such examples of Obamacare failure are lies. Tell that to Frank’s daughter Amy. I dare you.
Further, similar examples have now been published as well. But the tragedy of Obamacare extends beyond health care.
Obamacare has been a major drag on the economy, preventing full recovery from the recession. Employers trying to avoid the costs of the employer mandate have reduced many full time jobs to part time jobs. Or they have frozen hiring, and the associated costs due to Obamacare. This is contributing to income stagnation and decline for the middle class, the working class, and the poor. And it is actually increasing inequality.
The new taxes of Obamacare are also deterring job creating investment, or capital investment that would increase worker productivity, and consequently wages and incomes. The costly regulatory burdens of Obamacare are increasing rather than reducing health insurance costs, which is a further drag on the economy.
The alternative, John Goodman, NCPA plan would achieve universal health care, with no employer mandate, no individual mandate, reduced taxes and spending, and sharply reduced regulatory burdens and costs as compared to Obamacare. All of that would be sharply pro-growth, and promote more jobs, and higher wages.
But Obama says that would not be a plausible alternative. The real problem is that he is not plausible as President. Only once he leaves the White House can the American economy be liberated to grow, and American health care be liberated to once again serve the sick, especially the most sick and in need of health care.
[First posted at Forbes.]
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with a report that indicates we are all living on borrowed time as far as the global warming situation goes. There is no way I am going to cede the term “climate change” to them since the climate is always in a state of change. That ploy is simply a smokescreen because of how bad they busted with the hysteria they were whipping up about the globe warming. They should be held accountable for what they said, and not simply co-opt a redundant term that is a natural fact.
But I wish to show you an example of how I can link a natural event to the downturn in tropical activity and the global temperature – and it’s because I need to know these things that I can formulate a theory on it that is better than one that is obviously, over the last 17 years and 6 months, completely disconnected with reality. It was them, not us, that put out models that have busted.
As you will see below, the cooling has continued.
My theory is simple to understand: The global temperature responds to the great thermostat known as the oceans, and most importantly, the tropical oceans give us a huge clue as to where temperatures are heading. As Dr. Bill Gray correctly discovered back in the 1970s, the vast three-dimensional circulation of the earth’s oceans is one that has its origin not in recent events, but in a period of many years, decades, and even centuries of action and reaction of a planet in constant search of a balance it can never have because of its very design. The unmoved mover of the climate? The design of the system: More land in the Northern Hemisphere than southern; a wobble on its axis creating seasons; an open ocean at its northern pole (covered in ice) but a continent making up its southern pole; and so on and so on. It is incapable of attaining a perfect balance.
Once again here’s the reference to Dr. William Gray’s paper.
The peak of the Pacific warming arguably occurred with the super nino of 1997-1998 as the La nina behind it was long lived. There was a response to warmer again in the mid-2000s, before what could be termed a true cold Pacific Decadol Oscillation was finally christened shortly after.
But let me ask you this: If you look at Dr. Vincent Gray’s record of CO2 and temperatures, can you see any linkage between CO2 and the earth’s temperature in the geological time scale?
Can you see in recent times the splitting away of temperatures (unforecasted by the IPCC, and even worse, being used now in EPA endangerment findings to form policy on energy) from CO2?
Now let’s look at the temperature since the atmosphere arguably adjusted to the warming Pacific, seen here in the Multivariate Enso Index plots, a measure of the warmth or coolness of the regions that determine the state of the El Nino or La Nina. Notice how warm the ENSO regions were in the ’80s and ’90s, and how they are going back to where they were in the ’50s and ’70s now.
Now look at the National Center for Environmental Prediction’s (NCEP) CFSR global temps. since 2005, or the peak of the overall warming of the ENSO areas of the Pacific in the longer term. (NCEP is not a right wing think tank.)
They have started a downward drift!
Now link this to the Global ACE index which is the gold standard of measuring tropical activity, from Dr. Ryan Maue.
The peak was reached while the Pacific was in its warmest state and similar to the downturn in the ocean and the global temperature, clearly shown above. It has retreated to the low levels we see now!
Let’s look at the 400 mb level specific humidity in the warm PDO years of 1980-2005. This is a level that is crucial in the tropics. If it’s moist, the low level waves that become storms are able to develop vertically in a non-hostile environment. Quite simply put, the more moist the air is, the more conducive the atmosphere is for development. (Bluish colors represent moisture.)
Now look at the plummeting ACE years since the Pacific turned colder.
It has dried tremendously! This means wet bulb temperatures are lower at crucial levels in the tropics, and storms have to “work harder” to combat dry air to form. It’s exactly opposite of the propaganda that was spewed in an Inconvenient Truth; exactly opposite of what you have been told about so-called “trapping hot spots” (another EPA holy grail in the lines of evidence that is completely wrong); exactly opposite of what was forecasted by these people; and *opposite of the panic buttons they are trying to push.
What was it Einstein said?
“No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”
In this case, it is I who have put forth the theory that should now be challenged, because it has a much greater chance of standing up to Einstein’s statement than the obviously incorrect assumption by people now trying to ramp up even further their hysteria over a ghost that time after time is proven to be gone.
You have to understand, you must do the work to give yourself a chance to be right. There is no assurance that just because you work hard, you are going to win; but you improve your chance. Have you seen any of the so-called Giants of Climate Science alarmists doing this? Of course not. Do you see them looking at the direct contradictions to their ideas and having the humility to back off or even question them?
It’s my business to know these things. The wading into the climate fight is because I am constantly looking at this. These observations form a simple, easy to understand theory: The atmosphere warms because the oceans have the most bang for the buck. Simply look at the mixing ratios on a skew T chart and notice that a 1 degree movement at an 80 wet bulb needs something like a 15-20 F degree movement at around 0F to counter it. Once the atmosphere adapted to the warming ocean, a peak was reached, but as nature will do, the swing back started. It was like pulling the rug out from under the feet of the driver of the higher global ACE index and the natural driver of the warming that had taken place. You don’t have to believe it. I may not be right, but it’s a heck of a lot clearer linkage and theory given the complete disconnect from CO2 and global temperatures. Alarmists have obviously have not looked at this because it really does not mean to them what it does to someone that needs to be right to have any chance to survive in this field. Or if they do, they simply ignore it because whatever message they want to spout does not agree.
I think all of us will agree that, at the very least, for the past 10 years, there is linkage to the Pacific flipping its cycle, the drying over the tropics and the cooling of the global temperature and the falling ACE index. Nowhere did anyone pushing this global warming agenda have any inkling this was going to happen.
As the globe adjusts to cooling there should be a re-firing of the ACE, likely to start in the southwest Pacific first. In fact, though the Atlantic and southeast Pacific ace may be below average this year, the southwest Pacific is likely to be above, But when major cyclones hit – and they will – do not buy the climatic ambulance chasers’ idea that this is the worst ever. Not only is this an absolute falsehood, but they have no idea of what is really going on to drive this.
More and more we are living in a world that is a house of cards built on deception. The people doing the deceiving are smart enough to know how to manipulate those that choose to simply accept rather than actually look – a shame given what could be, and what is actually turning into a painful self-inflicted demise. Climate and weather are a prime example, and there is no better example than the nonsense about tropical cyclones.
[Originally published at The Patriot Post]
On March 31, the New York Times featured an article by Justin Gillis titled “Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst is Yet to Come.” The story reported findings in the just released UNIPCC Working Group II report “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability.”
The 44-page Summary For Policymakers defines the words climate change as follows:
Note that the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in its Article 1, defines climate change as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.’ The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and climate variability attributable to natural causes.
Thus the words climate change in the UNIPCC Report is changes in climate due to human-caused atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This ignores the fact climate change has occurred over the 4.5 billion-year history of the planet. Natural forces causing climate change such as solar sunspots, earth’s orbit changes, ocean currents, volcanoes, etc. are considered unimportant during the period of increased fossil-fuel produced carbon dioxide from mid-20th century to present time. This is a serious distortion of the definition of the words climate change.
Correspondent Gillis wrote, “In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at a considerable risk—a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.” He also wrote, “Studies have found that parts of the Mediterranean region are drying out because of climate change, and some experts believe that droughts there have contributed to political destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Can global warming due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide be a serious threat to the food supply? Carbon dioxide is an airborne fertilizer that increases leaf growth and root sizes that makes crops more tolerant to drought. Food growth since mid-20th century has increased drastically due to population growth from 2.5 billion to 7 billion. It may be the increase in carbon dioxide from 310 ppm to today’s 400 ppm is the reason we are able to feed 7 billion.
The article said there is a decrease in food supply due to climate change. This may be true due to foolish efforts to make biofuels from food fuels — corn and soybeans. In the U. S. alone, 5 billion bushels of corn have been used annually for several years to make ethanol from corn. Over one billion bushels of soy beans have been used to make biodiesel. The U. S. waste of food crops for biofuels could feed hundreds of millions. It is estimated world-wide crop use for biofuels could feed 500 million. lThus foolish efforts to mitigate climate change are costing the public dearly as well as other efforts to replace coal, oil, and natural gas with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. All this due to attempts at mitigating a non-existent problem of global warming caused by fossil fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Food diverted to making biofuels caused substantial price increases. The overthrow of the Egyptian and other North African governments in early 2011 called the Arab Spring is blamed on the high cost of food in those countries leading to political unrest among the poor without hope.
Mr. Gillis also wrote, “The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water, or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly ‘by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.’”
Past history shows the earth progressed for thousands of years through cycles of warming and cooling of approximate 500-year duration. The present cycle is called the Current Warming Period which started in 1850. This cycle was preceded by the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850. Historians note the Little Ice Age was a period of much misery. War was conducted over land and resources with names 100 Years War, 30 Years War, Napoleonic Wars — just to name a few. Human health suffered through events like the Bubonic Plague that wiped out one-quarter to one-half the population of Europe. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels remained the same from 1000 AD until about 1900. If climate change was a cause for these events, it had to be natural causes.
Another citation by Mr. Gillis, “The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants….”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) displays a website that show tidal gauge measurements covering over 150 years for 128 U. S. locations and another 112 locations covering the rest of the world. Examining the data shows sea level rises range from 1 to 3 mm per year at most locations or 4 inches to 12 inches per century. Examination of sea level rise the past 20 years, when the greatest increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has taken place, show the rate of rise is decreasing compared to the first half of the 20th century. Residents of Miami Beach have no greater fear of losing their property the next fifty years as those who built the homes in the early 20th century.
Lord Matt Ridley wrote for The Spectator: “We have a new climate change consensus –and its good news everyone.” He noticed that in many locations in the IPCCC reports were remarks about adapting to threats of climate change which are less expensive and disruptive than attempts at mitigation by replacing fossil fuels with non-carbon dioxide emitting energy sources or other techniques.
Adapting can be as simple as using hurricane anchors in home construction in areas threatened by hurricanes or tornados. Mitigation is the proposed abandoning the world’s abundant sources of coal, oil, and natural gas that are relatively inexpensive and spread throughout the planet. Alternative energy sources are more expensive, less reliable, less mobile, and require great land areas that make them impossible to scale up to the demands of a prosperous planet. Abandoning fossil fuels leave no hope for developing nations to rise above poverty and insures great sacrifices in life’s pleasures for developed nations.
Justin Gillis most likely based his New York Times article on press releases about the Yokohama meeting to decide the wording for the Summary for Policymakers, portions of the Summary for Policymakers, and interviews with those promoting a United Nations-led movement to regulate fossil fuel use. This would produce an article describing a scary future and demands for immediate actions to stop carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
A more common sense examination of the actual Report may lead to the conclusions of Matt Ridley that adaptation is the route for preparing for the most certain climate change that will occur naturally in spite of futile wishes for some to control the uncontrollable. Perhaps the wording for Justin Gillis article could be written “U. N. Panel Decides Adaption Policy For Climate Change and Abolish the UNIPCC.”
Mike Flannery, the legendary political editor for Fox Chicago News, called me up late Wednesday afternoon looking for comment about the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision on campaign finance law handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court. I applaud Flannery for bringing balance in his story to counter the kind of apoplectic reactions that were common in the media that day.
The framers of the Constitution established the First Amendment primarily to protect political speech. Financial contributions to political candidates or organizations that are overtly political is a form of political speech. So, as I said on camera, the McCutcheon decision was a victory for the First Amendment. I said a lot of other stuff, too, but the nature of TV news is that you get one sound bite — about five seconds — to get your point across. I’ve done this a lot, and I’m happy with this one. [NOTE: The Heartland Institute is not a political outfit, but is a 501(c) nonprofit educational organization. I was speaking about the principle of the issue. Heartland doesn’t have a dog in that fight.]
I’m grateful for the opportunity to give balance to Flannery’s report, however brief … and despite the fact that I was identified as “Mike Lakely” on screen. The Heartland Institute was identified correctly. That’s all that matters.
Enjoy the clip below. I come in at about the 50-second mark. I especially liked Fox Chicago’s set-up, which noted Barack Obama is “one of” the most prolific political fundraisers in American history. There’s no “one of” required. He’s the champ.
In 2013 the price of gold bullion lost 28 percent and closed near its low for the year. It was the first annual decline since 2000 and the worst since 1981. Gold ETFs experienced record redemptions, shrinking the funds 33 percent by year end, but they were the exception. Marcus Grubb, Managing Director of the World Gold Council, reported, “2013 has been a strong year for gold demand across sectors and geographies, with the exception of western ETF markets.” While investors were leaving ETFs, demand for gold jewelry, bars and coins was increasing, as were purchases by central banks. Globally, consumer demand increased 17 percent for gold jewelry and 28 percent for bars and coins.
The World Gold Council reported:
- 2013 saw the largest volume increase in gold jewelry demand for 16 years.
- Demand for gold bars and coins surged to an all-time high of 1,654.1 t (metric tonnes).
- Annual demand for gold used in technology stabilized at 404.8t, from 407.5t in 2012.
- Net purchases by central banks increased global official gold reserves by 368.6t., the fourth consecutive year of positive demand.
The gold markets in 2013 accelerated a trend in recent years of buyers’ preference for physical possession of gold. Premiums for physical delivery of gold in Shanghai jumped to a staggering $34.82 per ounce. In India the premiums for physical delivery soared above $100 per ounce. At the Comex, total gold available for delivery was drawn down 80 percent by year’s end. In the spring of 2013, ABN-AMRO, the largest Dutch bank, announced it would be unable to deliver physical gold and would instead offer paper gold claims to customers. On April 26, the Chinese Gold & Silver Society in Hong Kong reported it had sold out all its inventory and placed orders in Switzerland four times larger than normal in response to demand.
Jewelry is the largest single category of global demand for gold, accounting for 59 percent. The largest market is China, with India in second place, followed by the U.S. Jewelry demand in 2013 in China increased to 669t from 519t in 2012, and in India to 613t from 552t.
The WGC reports: “Consumers remain key drivers in the demand for gold…Across the world there were large increases for gold in both emerging and developed markets.” Demand for bars and coins in Turkey was up 113%, Thailand up 75%, China up 38%, Indonesia up 36%, and the U.S. up 26%. (The China Gold Association reported consumer demand increased 41%, not 38%.) According to Thomson Reuters GFMS, a precious-metals consulting firm, Chinese exchanges accounted for 22% of gold traded on exchanges in 2013, more than double the 10% of 2012.
Due to the popularity of gold in Asia, the following banks—most of them very large—opened gold vaults in Singapore or Shanghai in 2013: Deutsche Bank AG, UBS AG, Barclays PLC, and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Also, Metalor Technologies SA opened its first gold refinery in Singapore in 2013.
Technology represents only about seven percent of world gold demand, but this actually accounted for more gold in 2013 than purchases by all the world’s central banks (404.8t compared to 368.6t). Moreover, this field could grow very rapidly. Historically the principal industrial use for gold was in dentistry, but this has been surpassed by use in the fast-growing electronics industry because of the metal’s excellent conductivity and resistance to corrosion. Those characteristics also makes it the metal of choice for high-technology components in complex and challenging environments, such as the space industry and fuel cells. Gold’s catalytic properties are also beginning to create demand in the automotive sector, in the chemical industry, and in medicine because of the metal’s excellent bio-compatibility.
Platinum, palladium and rhodium are commonly used in catalytic converters in automobiles. Now a stable, effective and commercially viable catalyst can be obtained by combining gold, palladium and platinum. I don’t think anyone expects the automobile industry to decline or reduce its use of catalytic converters.
The whole field of nanotechnology is just opening up. A growing number of patents relating to gold nanotechnology suggests many new catalytic applications for medicine and the environment will be developed in coming years.
Gold can be used for precise delivery of drugs to targets within the human body and to create conducting plastics and specialized pigments. Gold enables certain tests to reliably detect malaria and many other diseases. These tests can be used in developing countries without expensive equipment or supply chains. In Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs), gold nanoparticles drive a color change on a test strip containing a single drop of blood, indicating whether a disease is present. According to the World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of RDTs have already been distributed globally.
Gold nanotechnology research is developing more efficient and accurate ways of delivering cancer treatments. Chemotherapy now widely used in treating cancer can damage healthy cells. Gold nanoparticles can target and destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy tissues largely unaffected. It’s hard to believe this use of gold will not grow significantly in the future.
Gold’s catalytic properties can be used effectively to reduce hazardous emissions to the air as well as remove pollutants from groundwater. A gold and palladium catalyst removes chlorinated compounds.
All the new uses for gold will not diminish the role of gold as a monetary metal, merely add to its value and demand. Gold’s monetary importance will continue to be determined fundamentally by national and international economic factors. Of utmost significance in this regard is the misguided continuation of the U.S. policies of government spending that balloons the national debt and taxation that stymies economic growth.
The promises that Barrack Obama made to get himself elected have proven false, are counter to logic and the lessons of history, and have left this country with a bleak future. It is obvious that the U.S. can never pay all its obligations. Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are going bankrupt, but Obama hasn’t even tried to do anything about them. Instead he proposes more spending—which, together with past obligations to spend more in the future—caused the problem in the first place. He simply made it worse—much worse—and now proposes to do more of the same. The feds spent $2.98 trillion in 2008, but Obama now proposes to spend almost a trillion dollars more ($3.9 trillion) in his budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Spending would rise by another $1 trillion by 2020, much of it fueled by the exploding costs of Obamacare, and would reach an astonishing $6 trillion by 2024. That won’t happen. A complete financial collapse will occur long before then.
It was claimed Obama’s economic recovery program of 2009 would produce 4.2% average growth, based on recoveries from previous recessions. But the problem was, “the Obama program did not promote growth, it impeded it,” according to Gramm and Solon. Recovery averaged just 2.2%, less than half the norm for postwar recoveries. Worse, the Congressional Budget Office now says our long-term growth has been permanently weakened, thereby reducing our growth rate to 2.2% for the next decade! Thus, despite all the hoopla about the economy finally turning around and improving, the CBO predicts the next decade will have the same growth rate, 2.2%, as the unimpressive period 2011-2013.
Another recent CBO report shows how slower growth is bleeding the federal government of trillions in revenue. CBO’s 10-year projection shows $4.9 trillion have already been lost due to slower growth since the recession began, and the losses are accelerating.
Obama has proposed about $1 trillion in new taxes over the next ten years, almost all from higher earners. He has learned nothing from the tax cuts by presidents Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy. In both cases, reductions in tax rates resulted in increased tax revenue for the government. When Reagan became president, he reduced the top marginal income tax rate to 28%, from 70%, but when he left office, tax revenues had almost doubled. During this same period, the inflation rate fell to 4% from 13%, unemployment dropped to 5.3% from 7.5%, 17 million new jobs were created, and the longest peacetime boon in our history was underway. When Reagan took office in 1981, the top one percent of income earners paid 17.58% of all federal income taxes. Twenty-five years later, in 2005, that one percent paid 39.38% of all income taxes despite the much lower rate. In the 1960s President Kennedy cut the highest income tax rate to 70% from 91% with a similar result. Obama’s tax ideas are an ideological fantasy out of touch with historical evidence.
Presidents Harding and Coolidge cut federal income taxes several times throughout the 1920s, sharply lowering the top rate in steps to 25% from 73%. As the top tax rates were cut, tax revenues soared, as did the share paid by the rich. Those earning over $100,000 paid 29.9% of the total in 1920, 48.8% in 1925, and 62.2% in 1929. The share of overall taxes paid by top one percent rose from about one-third in the early 1920s to two-thirds in 1928. All this means nothing to Obama because in his view Marxist ideology trumps reality.
Pursuing Karl Marx’s ideology, Obama seeks economic equality through redistribution of wealth. He has declared economic inequality is the “defining challenge of our time…That’s why I ran for president….It drives everything I do in this office.” That’s why he pitches his soak-the-rich tax proposals in the Marxist terms of class warfare and the rich as enemies of the people, impediments to achieving his dream of socialism’s equality.
The U.S. economy is in far worse shape than is generally acknowledged. Now in Obama’s fifth year as president, the labor participation rate is the lowest in 35 years. His expensive economic stimulus and jobs programs have failed. Fifty-seven months after the official end of the Great Recession, fewer Americans have jobs than in December 2007. Furthermore, the so-called recovery has been characterized by downward mobility. During the recession, 60% of job losses were in the middle pay range, 21% were lower. In the recovery, only 22% of new jobs were in the middle range while 58% were in the low end of the scale.
Home sales fell again in February, to the lowest level since July. They declined in six of the last seven months.
Job creation rose in February, which was expected after the poor number in January due to extreme winter weather in parts of the U.S. Even so, the February number of 175,000 new jobs was below the prior 12-month average of 189,000. Furthermore, the average work week (now 34.2 hours) has been declining, resulting in the equivalent net loss of 100,000 jobs since September. This cannot be explained by harsh winter weather because parts of the West, Midwest and South experienced milder than normal weather, and the numbers were already seasonally adjusted. Besides, the work week decline began before winter set in, with declines in hours in September and October.
The unemployment rate is actually about 13%, roughly twice the reported rate, if you include people “marginally attached” to the workforce. At the end of 2013 there were 27.3 million part-time jobs, 18% of the workforce. The reported unemployment rate is deceptive in that it omits those who are not employed but have stopped looking for work.
Government spending has not made Americans richer. The median net worth of American adults in now one of the lowest among developed nations according to Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook. The U.S. figure of $45,000 is less than Australia’s $220,000, France’s $142,000m—and even Greece’s $54,000. The net worth of almost a third of American adults is less than $10,000.
The Federal Reserve has been accommodative of Obama’s spending by providing whatever money is needed by simply creating more of it. There is no limit on the amount it can create because that money is backed by nothing; it is fiat money, paper not backed by gold or any material value. As a result of the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, the U.S. dollar became the world’s reserve currency. Only the dollar was directly pegged to gold, and other countries were required to maintain fixed exchange rates of their currencies to the dollar. The U.S. agreed to maintain dollar-gold convertibility for foreign central banks. President Nixon ended that convertibility in 1971, after which there has been no limit on the amount of money the Fed can create.
As a result, the U.S. began producing enormous trade deficits. Other countries would send us TV sets, washing machines, refrigerators, cameras, tools and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and we would send them more paper dollars. They would send us clothes, iphones, computers, shoes, toasters, tires and just about everything else, and we would pay for them with fiat dollars created by the Federal Reserve. Those dollars would be recycled back to the U.S. by foreign governments using their accumulating dollars to buy U.S. treasury securities—in effect, the U.S. was borrowing back the dollars, which were then used for more spending and increasing the federal debt.
Economy didn’t matter any more. The system facilitated any amount of uneconomic expenditures by passing the cost to future generations by simply adding it to their tab: a growing national debt. It became the ultimate way for politicians to redistribute wealth: steal it from future generations who have no vote in the matter, and distribute it now to voters who will put you in office or keep you there.
The system cannot continue indefinitely. Nobody can ever get out of debt by borrowing successively larger sums to cover successively larger debts. Neither can governments. Eventually debts are repaid or the borrower goes bankrupt. According to the International Monetary Fund, meeting America’s obligations will require an immediate and permanent 35% increase in all taxes and a 35% cut in all government benefits. That’s not going to happen. It can’t happen. Instead America will undergo a financial collapse. By 2025, entitlement spending and debt payments are projected to consume all federal revenue. And having the Fed print vastly more money to pay our obligations will not solve the problem; it will merely bring inflation that destroys the value of the dollar.
For five years the Fed has been engaging in “quantitative easing”—printing money—at rates as high has $85 billion per month—over $1 trillion per year. Recently that has been reduced to $65 billion per month. The Fed is not the only central bank engaging in quantitative easing. Central banks all over the world have been doing so to try to stimulate their economies and placate voters that they are “doing something.” The Fed, the European Central bank and the central banks of Japan, Switzerland and China have printed well over $10 trillion since 2007, more than tripling the size of their combined balance sheets.
Japan was the latest of the major central banks to reach its “Havenstein moment,” a moment already reached by the other central banks just mentioned. It is the moment when the person in charge of the money supply decides that massive printing of money is better than the alternative, that it is preferable to deflation. Rudolf Havenstein was the head of German Central Bank (Reichsbank) from 1908 to 1923 and presided over the great hyperinflation in Germany. The newly elected government in Japan stated in May 2013 that it aimed to improve the economy with 2 percent inflation by doubling the money supply. It said it will engage in “unlimited” or “open ended” printing of money to achieve that goal.
With all the fiat money being printed by central banks all over the world, it should be no surprise that people all over the world have been exchanging it for gold. They see it as more likely to retain value than paper currencies, which they fear could result in either uncontrollable inflation or a bursting of the monetary credit/debt bubble and catastrophic collapse.
The latter is what happened in 1929, following the credit expansion of the money supply in the 1920s. The excess credit found an outlet in the stock market. A similar expansion of credit in the mortgage/housing industry created a bubble that burst bringing on the Great Recession of recent years. Will the huge amount of money the Fed has been creating since 2007 find a similar outlet in those industries? The stock market has been making all-time highs, and the Fed’s policy of near zero interest rates has driven money from safer investments into stocks in search of higher returns. And while the Fed was buying $85 billion per month in bonds, $40 billion of that was in mortgage backed securities in an effort to goose home buying and employment in home building. So the stock market and the housing industry may be “bubble” candidates.
There are, or course, other possibilities which could upset the precarious financial position the United States has created for itself with its spending and debt problems. The most intriguing relates to the increasing demand of gold buyers to take physical delivery of gold.
As we noted, the amount of gold eligible for delivery on Comex futures contracts was drawn down 80 percent in 2013. The Comex handles 82% of all gold futures trading, but only a very tiny percentage take delivery; it is a basically an exchange for paper trading. Physical deliveries of gold on the London Bullion Market are about nine time greater than on the Comex, but here, too, paper trading predominates.
The Shanghai Gold Exchange is the one for physical delivery. Its physical deliveries have been almost equal to world gold production. In 2013 SGE delivered 2,197 tons of gold, up 92.9% from 1,139 tonnes in 2012. In January 2014, it delivered a record 247 tons, 43% greater than the monthly record set in 2013, and greater than monthly global production of gold in the entire world.
In a previous posting we noted that Germany has had difficulty since October 2012 obtaining return of gold it owns that is stored at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. That same posting noted Alan Greenspan’s testimony before the House Banking Committee, “Central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities, should the price of gold rise.” The question immediately arises whether, in fact, the Fed has leased, hypothecated or perhaps even sold gold at the Fed stored for Germany and other countries. The Fed agreed to return 300 of the 1500 tons of German gold it stores but said this would require 7 years. Why so long? If the Fed does not have all the gold, it would have to buy it, at market prices, to cover shortages in its accounts; if it has the gold but has leased it or encumbered it in some other way, it would need time to unwind those commitments or let them expire. Further suspicion is aroused by the fact that in the entire year of 2013 the Fed sent a mere 5 tons of gold back to Germany.
With the growing demand from consumers worldwide for physical possession of gold, and with Shanghai deliveries consuming effectively all of mine production, the market is very tight. Suspicions have arisen that increased demand for physical delivery for futures contracts at the Comex in particular (and perhaps in London) will exceed the exchange warehouse supplies of deliverable gold.
Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant secretary of the U.S. treasury, says, “One day the Chinese will buy 100 tons of gold, and we won’t be able to make delivery. That would crash the system. It would just pop.”
In that case the exchange would be forced to settle the futures contracts for cash, which it is legally allowed to do. But the consequences to the dollar will be enormous. There will be a decoupling between between paper gold and the physical metal. I believe metal will win. This means the gold price will be determined by trading in the metal itself, not in paper transactions that are subject to manipulation as explained by Alan Greenspan in order to give false value to a fiat currency by driving down the gold price.
There will be a tremendous loss of confidence in the dollar. The workings of the Fed will be exposed, and more confidence will be lost, not just in the Fed and the dollar as a currency—but in its role as the world’s reserve currency.
As I explained in my latest book, The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold, events have been chipping away at the dollar’s reserve status for some time. In 2011 China and Russia agreed to trade with each other in rubles and yuan, rather than dollars. China has bilateral currency swap agreements with at least 13 other countries. China has trade and investment agreements with Singapore and Korea as well as faraway countries such as Belarus and Iceland. Japan agreed to hold some of its foreign currency reserves in yuan and to issue yuan-denominated bonds in mainland China. Indonesia did the same thing. I even speculated that we may see petro-yuan replace petrodollars in the oil market.
Recently the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have agreed that trade among them will no longer be in dollars. These are all large countries with sizable populations and all, except possibly Russia, have growing economies.
Now let’s look at possible effects of the Ukrainian situation. Russia supplies gas not only to Ukraine but to many countries in the European Union via pipelines through Ukraine. It supplies 30% of Europe’s natural gas. For several countries, it is their sole source of supply, and alternative sources of supply are not available. The government in Ukraine is on the verge of bankruptcy and will need international financial aid to survive. The IMF and various nations are trying to arrange this. But most of the money Ukraine owes it owes to Russia, and if those bills aren’t paid, Russia can shut of the country’s imports of gas. (It has done so in the past.) Any funds that are given to Ukraine will quickly end up going to Russia for past debts.
As a result of promises made between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia back in the 1970s, the Saudis agreed that all energy contracts would be settled in dollars. Europeans pay for their gas from Russia with dollars.
U.S. and various other nations have imposed economic sanctions on Russia over Crimea and may impose more. Will sanctions prevent European nations from buying oil and gas from Russia? Of course not. It is in everyone’s interest to keep Russian gas flowing through the pipelines.
It is unlikely sanctions will alter Putin’s behavior, but if they become too onerous, they invite a devastating retaliation from him. What if he tells those gas-buying countries, “OK, you can pay for Russian gas in any currency other than dollars”? That would be the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The exchange rate of the dollar would plummet, the price of gold would skyrocket, and the Fed would be powerless to defend the dollar against it as Greenspan envisioned. The effect in the U.S. would be catastrophic, particularly on the New York stock exchange.
Every year the percentage of American high school graduates enrolling in college increases. Yet the cost of attaining those degrees has been growing at an astronomical pace, one that is harmful and unsustainable.
Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to assess the rising prices of goods, it is immediately clear that something very strange is going on in the higher education market. The cost of attending college has increased by nearly three times that of the CPI taken as a whole.
Today, most students can only afford college by taking out loans. While less than half of undergraduates needed loans in the early 1990s, the figure has risen to more than two-thirds. The average loan burden is now an astonishing $29,400.
In a recent interview with CCTV America, The Heartland Institute’s Director of Government Relations, John Nothdurft, described the serious woes created by the more than $1 trillion in federal student loan debt currently hobbling a generation of young Americans. Rather than being a sure way to enter the middle class, the lodestone of debt has made life a struggle for many young graduates trying to start careers. Instead of being liberating, college has shackled these people to a struggle to stay afloat, forcing many to make hard decisions; some have to move back in with their parents because they cannot get decent work, while those who can work are so laden with debt that they have to put off life milestones, like buying their first houses or starting families, far longer than did previous generations.
The sheer amount of debt is staggering, and it continues to grow as costs increase and post-college employment prospects remain the doldrums.
Why then are students continuing to enroll in college in record numbers? One reason appears to be the bizarre sensibility propagated by the media and education establishment that college must needs be the natural follow-on from high school, that all normal people go on to college. Essentially, college has been transformed in the public psyche from an optional undertaking designed to educate professionals and develop human capital into a mandatory rite of passage. Should it hold such an exalted place?
In a country ever more dependent on technology and innovation to stay ahead of global competitors, a well-educated populace is essential to success. It is absolutely true that America relies upon its superior advancement to remain a powerhouse in world commerce. Some promoters of increased college enrollment argue that it is only by getting more people into college can we retain our knowledge edge. However, that argument is not borne out by the facts.
In reality, increased college enrollment and graduation do not translate to gains to a “smart economy.” When lots of students enroll in college to study the humanities, they do not contribute to the technological gains of the country. What college so often turns out to be is an expensive four-year detour that does little to boost the career potential of a graduate.
The problem is exacerbated by the heavy government involvement in the student loans market. The government makes loans on the basis of financial need alone, and does not consider what the recipient intends to do with the money. The result is countless billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on educations that will yield no great economic value for the country. It is the definition of a poor investment decision. In the interest of treating students equally, the federal government does nothing to shepherd the people’s funds which are entrusted to its care, instead treating the people who might be able to succeed in the information economy with an engineering degree as an equal risk to the students of 19th century French poetry. This willy-nilly assessment of the value of college has no doubt contributed to the poor allocation of educational resources.
If the government insists on funding higher education, then it should make assessments in the same way private loaners would, namely to actually assess the risk-reward frontier of the loans it gives. Such assessments could go a decent way toward blunting the currently distorted incentives of loan recipients whose interest rates and borrowing amounts are unaffected by chosen courses of study.
Yet there are better ways to allocate these federal resources. One way would be to just stop distorting the higher education mark with its deluge of cash, so that colleges have to set tuition more along the lines of market-price, rather than tuition based on the amount they think they can squeeze from the government. It could also make access to vocational education more readily available so that there is a genuine alternative to college that won’t break the bank or waste government funds egregiously.
The way to an innovative society cannot be paved with crushing debt. Ultimately, something’s got to give. Rather than bankrupting the next generation, we should lay the groundwork for its success. Radically reforming the federal loan system would be a good start.
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation released its Annual State-Local Tax Burdens report on Wednesday showing results from the 2011 fiscal year. The main findings include an overall decrease in state-local tax burdens. Americans paid 9.8% of their collective income in state and local taxes in 2011. Depending on the state, the burden ranged from 6.9% to 12.6%.
The report released highlights major burdens in many states. In states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the taxpayer forgoes 11.9% of their income or higher. These states have topped of the list since 2005. These states also find themselves at the top of the lists for most liberal states in the United States and worst-run states in the United States.
Although there has been a decrease in tax burdens from 2010 to 2011, states like Connecticut have seen an overall rise in their tax burden since 1977. Despite the fact that a taxpayer in these states will never see a significant amount of their income, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are each still experiencing major budget shortfalls. The heavy tax burden has not translated into lower deficits and smart budgets.
The states with the lowest state-local tax burdens include Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota. Taxpayers forgo 6.9%, 7.0%, and 7.1% of their income in each state respectively. These states, along with many of the other least-burdened states, do not have a tax on wage income. Places like Alaska and Wyoming also have the advantage of being resource-rich.
By taking advantage of these resources such as oil, residents are relieved from a hefty tax burden. The same advantages are seen in states with major tourist destinations through tax exportation. This report by the Tax Foundation acknowledges this differentiation, unlike the Census Bureau, making its conclusions unique and potentially more accurate when measuring tax burdens.
Since 1977, all three of these least-burdened states have experienced major decreases in tax burdens. Unlike the states with the most burdensome tax policies, Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota are some of the most conservative states in the United States as well as some of the best run states. Notably, none of these states are facing major budget shortfalls. The taxpayers and residents of Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota are facing a low burden, while reaping the benefits of a well-run and well budgeted state government.
Overall, the Tax Foundation’s Annual State-Local Tax Burdens report offers important insight into burdens imposed on certain state’s residents. The report takes into account tax collections that cross state borders giving accurate accounts of the burdens faced by individuals. States that burden their residents the most are facing budget problems that high tax revenue has yet to fix. Conversely, states with a low burden simultaneously experience well run state governments and budgets.
Ever since the creation in 1988 of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it has engaged in the greatest hoax of modern times, releasing reports that predict climate-related catastrophes as if the climate has not been a completely natural and dynamic producer of events that affect our lives.
The IPCC was set up by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program. It has enlisted thousands of scientists to contribute to its scare campaign, but as Joseph Bast, the president of The Heartland Institute, noted in a recent Forbes article regarding the vast difference in the assertions of the IPCC scientists and those of its puckishly named Nonintergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), “What is a non-scientist to make of these dueling reports? Indeed, what is a scientist to make of this?”
“Very few scientists are familiar with biology, geology, physics, oceanography, engineering, medicine, economics, and scores of other more specialized disciplines that were the basis of the claims…” The IPCC has depended on the ignorance of those scientists outside their particular disciplines and recruited them to be involved in the UN hoax. The rest of us look to them to provide guidance regarding issues involving the climate and, as a result, have been deliberately deceived.
The NIPCC, anticipating the latest IPCC addition to its climate scare campaign, has just issued a new addition to its “Climate Change Reconsidered” reports. The first volume was 850 pages long and the latest is more than 1,000 pages. It represents the findings of scores of scientists from around the world and thousands of peer-reviewed studies. At this point they represent some twenty nations.
I have been an advisor to The Heartland Institute for many years and have been exposing the climate change lies since the late 1980s. A science writer, I have benefited from the work of men like atmospheric physicist, S. Fred Singer, a founder of the NPCC who has overseen five reports debunking the IPCC since 2003.
The Heartland Institute has sponsored nine international conferences that have brought together many scientists and others in an effort to debunk the UN’s climate scare campaign.
I have always depended on the common sense of people to understand that humans have nothing to do with the climate except to endure and enjoy it. We don’t create it or influence it.
The global warming campaign is based on the Big Lie that carbon dioxide (CO2) traps the Sun’s heat and warms the Earth, but the fairly miniscule amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (0.038%) does not do that in a fashion that poses any threat. Indeed, it is the Sun that determines the Earth’s climate, depending where you happen to be on the Earth. Next to oxygen, CO2 is vital to all life on Earth as it is the “food” on which all vegetation depends. More CO2 is good. Less is not so good.
The IPCC has depended in part on the print and broadcast media to spread its Big Lie. It also depends on world leaders, few of whom have any background or serious knowledge of atmospheric science, to impose policies based on the Big Lie. These policies target the use of “fossil fuels”, oil, coal and natural gas, urging a reduction of their use. The world, however, utterly depends on them and, in addition to existing reserves, new reserves are found every year.
One reason the IPCC has been in a growing state of panic is a new, completely natural cooling cycle based on a reduction of solar radiation. As James M. Taylor, the managing editor of Heartland’s “Environment & Climate News”, pointed out recently, “Winter temperatures in the contiguous United States declined by more than a full degree Celsius (more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit) during the past twenty years.” He was citing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. “The data contradicts assertions that human induced global warming is causing a rise in winter temperatures.”
In addition to the recent extremely cold winter, there have been others in 2000-2001 and 2009-2010. There will be more.
The IPCC report is full of claims about global warming, now called “climate change” since the world is obviously not warming. In March, Taylor rebutted an IPCC claim that crop production is falling, noting that global corn, rice, and wheat production have more than tripled since 1970. In recent years, the U.S. has set records for alfalfa, cotton, beans, sugar beets, canola, corn, flaxseed, hops, rice, sorghum, soybeans, sugarcane, sunflowers, peanuts, and wheat, to name just a few.
The Earth would benefit from more, not less, CO2 emissions, but the Obama administration has been engaged in imposing hundreds of new regulations aimed at reductions. It targets the development and expansion of our energy sector. The President has repeated the lies in his State of the Union speeches and we have a Secretary of State, John Kerry, who insists that climate change is the greatest threat to mankind and not the increase of nuclear weapons.
Every one of the Earth’s seven billion population are being subjected to the UN’s campaign of lies and every one of us needs to do whatever we can to bring about an end to the United Nations and reject the IPCC’s claims.[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Our last article, “Are You Under Attack by UN Agenda 21,” exposed the “United Nation Agenda 21″ scheme to grab American citizens’ property rights and freedoms. While that information is not exactly going viral throughout America, more and more people are realizing something unusual and troubling is happening in America.
That is good news, because the more citizens become observant and knowledgeable, the better chance we have of stopping what many now believe is an invasive attack upon us. While property rights are a major part of Agenda 21, it encompasses far more areas of our lives, with new laws and adverse changes from our government. We will explain the other tentacles of this odious United Nations agenda in future editions. This article will inform you of more ways it impacts our property and freedom, as well as our natural resources, parks and historic landmarks.
We must deny the assumption that only government can protect nature, air, soil, water, and open spaces. History informs us that all societies run by totalitarian governments experience severe environmental degradation where there is little or no private property and a misuse of resources. The end result is a chasm which develops between the haves and have-nots and a resulting bleak future for individual citizens.
An example of personal property being taken by the government is The Wildlands Project. It dictates how land is to be set aside for non-humans, and if your property happens to be located in one of their designated areas, you become less important than animals. In Kern County, California, there are 400 such areas planned. The pretense to confiscate the land is that it is national forest land, with the claim “it is good for the people.”
There is a definite push to have people become more dependent by relocating them from suburbs into cities, out of private homes into condos, and out of private cars onto their bikes or electric cars. Bike lanes and bike paths are all the rage right now, as cities and rural areas are being remade in accordance to the sustainable model. With high density urban developments, parking for cars could be eliminated, as there would be no need for vehicles that sprew forth CO2. As documented in the Fifth Assessment Report issued by the U.N. International Panel of Climate Change (ipcc) on September 27. 2013, manmade Global Warming was attributed in large part to CO2 emissions.
In 2013 San Francisco Bay Area residents battled city planners on the implementation of “Plan Bay Area and Senate Bill 345″– known as the “smart growth” program — which called for the moving of people from rural communities into the city’s urban sprawl so government would have more control over how they impacted the environment. Rosa KIoire, a former forensic appraiser and the founder of Democrats Against UN Agenda 21, believes the smart growth plan is more about making people live closer together so government can have more control over them than about any environmental impact.
The Monument Act was originally created to protect America’s historical landmarks and/or structures from being destroyed. That Act is now being used by the federal government to grab land for their own purposes. Those who designed the Act did not foresee something as odious as Agenda 21, and trusted that our federal government would never use the Act for any other purpose than to preserve our monuments. However, abuses are happening, as the citizens of New Mexico can testify. In December of 2012, President Obama used the Monument Act to grab the area known as the Taos Plateau, even though that area lacked properties that would qualify it for a national monument. That area of the state has enormous underground resources, such as oil, coal, and uranium, resources that could be providing economic benefits to both the state and its residents. Rather than create jobs that would benefit the people who live in New Mexico, that land now belongs to the government.
Then there is the Clean Water Act of 1972 where even mud puddles can become wetlands that must be protected. Should an area be deemed a wetland, the owner is no longer allowed to use or sell it. One of the more mindless abuses of the law happened in California. Using a provision in the Clean Water Act, which provided for a healthy habitat for fish, California officials purposely diverted the Sacrament River and allowed that essential water supply to flow into the ocean. Sound too incredible to believe? What would ever cause such a strange action?
A relatively unknown, small SMELT fish was being caught in pumps that supplied water to the valley. The fish was on the endangered list and citing the Endangered Species Act, a judge ordered the pumps that watered the valley turned off and the water diverted, lest the Delta melt be disturbed That water supply was needed to irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres of farm area in California, and without it, farmers were forced to watch once thriving fruit groves to wither and die, as well as other types of crops throughout a huge region in the California valley. Jobs were lost, lives were destroyed, all because the government chose to protect a fish over peoplewhose lives depended upon their farming their land for a living. Even when California fell victim to a severe drought, the government would not relent and let the river flow along its normal course. We now live in a land in which a fish is more important than people. Certainly this is not what our forefathers intended of the law, but an overreaching government has abused our freedoms.
The erosion of property rights has continued despite public backlash, as it did in the Supreme Court Kelo v. New London decision in 2005, which allowed a Connecticut town to seize private property not just for public use, but also for private development surrounding new offices for the Pfizer Inc. drug corporation. In 2009, New York state’s highest court ruled the state could use eminent domain to seize large numbers of homes and businesses in Brooklyn to make room for a new arena for New Jersey Nets basketball. Even more grievous, in 2005, The Supreme Court ruled that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project’s success is not guaranteed.
You are probably wondering whom is behind the U.N. Agenda 21 plan. Unfortunately, quite a few world-wide leaders, including many in our own country. Not surprising, one of the more prominent is George Soros, a billionaire and liberal socialist, who strongly supports Agenda 21. Soros’ money has been tracked to funding parts of ICLEI, as early as 1997 when his “Open Society” gave ICLEI over 2 million dollars to support a Local Agenda 21 Project. His billions fund over 90 leftist organizations such as ACORN, SEIU, MoveOn.org, Occupy Wall Street, the ACLU and most any that promote his far-left agenda. In a subsequent article we will discuss how Soros’ Open Society Institute has partnered with the U. S. Department of Education to promote a global education initiative to bring about the nationalization of the American education system known as Common Core, endorsed by Arne Duncan, Obama’s left leaning Secretary of Education.
We can only hope that we can defeat Agenda 21 before experiencing any more government abuses. One way to stop Agenda 21 from infiltrating American is to vote for Conservative candidates who oppose U.N. Agenda 21. Oh, and not just vote, but support them in every way possible. Educate yourself about the candidates and then talk to your friends, relatives, and neighbors …. maybe even your grocery store clerk. Whatever it takes: Vote against the slick liberals who make claims they have no intention of keeping. Look at their records, not their rhetoric. There is an ongoing war for our future, and we need good men to fight on the side of liberty and freedom.
When the defense of liberty becomes a crime, tyranny is already in force. At that point, failure to defend liberty makes slavery a certainty.
[Originally published at Illinois Review]
In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, the League of Nations was seen as the great hope for world peace and security. Its failure in the years between the two world wars (1919-1939) was taken as proof that a better and stronger organization was needed if yet a third world war was to be prevented.
Out of the ashes of World War II emerged the United Nations. Once again were heard the heralds proclaiming that world peace and security were in man’s reach. And, once more, mankind’s hopes were dashed during the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.
In the post–Cold War era since 1991, the world has been in search of global peace once again. It has taken the form of United Nations or NATO political and military interventions in various parts of the world. And, sometimes, it has been in the form of unilateral military actions by the United States and others countries when they have declared it to be in their “national interests.”
But the quest for world peace through either political internationalism or unilateralism is a false path to the goal of ending global conflicts.
During the twentieth century, when peace was pursued through international organizations such as the League of Nations and the UN, the world suffered from wars, civil wars, and mass murders on a scale that practically exceeds the capacity of the human mind to comprehend.
Wars and domestic political murder by governments around the world may have resulted in the deaths of more than 300 million people during the last one hundred years.Less Government Equaled Global Order
In stark contrast, during the one hundred years between 1815 and 1914, when no global political organizations for world peace existed, wars were few in number, relatively short in duration, and, compared with the twentieth century, fairly limited in their destructive effects on human life and property.
(The American Civil War of the 1860s, with more than 600,000 deaths was one striking exception to this pattern.)
For many people in the first half of the twentieth century who still had an adult’s memory of the period before the First World War, that era before 1914 seemed like a golden age.
The distinguishing characteristic of nineteenth-century Europe and North America is that, however inconsistently and imperfectly it might have been practiced, that hundred-year period between 1815 and 1914 can rightly be said to have been the product of the classical-liberal spirit.
The guiding principle that directed much of public policy in practically all the countries of the “civilized world” was the depoliticizing of social life. Its underlying premise, however incompletely grounded, was the right of the individual to his own life, liberty and honestly acquired property, with government to be the protector and no longer the violator of men’s rights.
With the triumph of free trade over mercantilism in the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century and with the elimination of many of the domestic regulations, monopoly privileges, and restraints on enterprise, the state was dramatically removed from the affairs of everyday life.
In its place arose “civil society,” the blossoming of the “private sector,” and an extension of the network of “intermediary institutions” of voluntary association and market relationships.
The “cosmopolitan ideal” that inspired many of the thinkers of the eighteenth century became a partial reality in the nineteenth century.
Men, money, and material goods, as well as all the products of intellectual discovery and inquiry, increasingly traveled freely from one corner of the globe to another, with few political impediments standing in their way.
Knowledge about the arts and the sciences became internationalized for an expanding circle of the general public.“Rules of the Game” for Peace and Prosperity
Governments of the “civilized world” did form international associations and reached various agreements with each other in the nineteenth century, it is true. . But for the most part (and separate from various changing political and military alliances), their associations and agreements were designed to facilitate the smooth functioning of private intercourse among their citizens and subjects.
They included international river commissions, railway and transportation agreements, telegraph and postal unions, health rules and guidelines, procedures for uniform weights and measures, and respect for patents and copyrights.
Governments occasionally still tried to influence the construction of these international standards and procedures to benefit some domestic interest and limit the commercial penetration of some foreign competitors.
But to a great extent the thinking behind them was to establish general “rules of the game” to assist in the further globalization of private commercial and cultural exchange. (Whether even these matters concerning standards, measures, and procedures should have been left to voluntary private association and agreement is a separate historical issue.)
Governments also attempted to agree upon rules for arbitration of disputes among themselves, on “civilized rules” for combat on land and sea, and for the humane treatment of noncombatants and neutrals if wars should break out.
These were meant to establish restraints on the destructiveness of modern warfare and to limit the damage to human life and private property. If wars were still to be fought, then at least the negative consequences for civil society should be confined as much as possible. Again, however imperfectly, the underlying concept was supposed to be a respect for the rights of the individual and his property, even in times of war.World Peace the Outcome of Greater Individual Liberty
In this classical-liberal era before 1914, a vast international order was created that facilitated a globalization of trade, commerce, and investment that fostered a cosmopolitan climate in which national borders no longer inhibited the movement of either men or ideas and in which wars were considered wild things that were to be tamed, confined, and prevented from excessively harming human life.
The fundamental force behind all of this, in cannot be emphasized enough, was the idea of individual liberty and the sanctity of private property as an inseparable extension of that freedom of the individual. Governments were endowed with legitimacy and authority to preserve and protect the individual and his property from violence and spoliation. Their function was negative and defensive.
International order and a high degree of international peace was maintainable because, to a greater or lesser degree, all of the governments of the “civilized world” shared the belief that this was among their most essential functions.
No special organization for world peace and security was needed, since the leading nations of the world all tended to follow the same “rules of the game” and because they all shared the same general classical-liberal-oriented outlook concerning man, society, and government.
I appreciate that I am making a broad generalization; numerous particulars concerning each of these countries could easily be used to argue against my sweeping conclusion. Understanding of and respect for the individual and his rights varied greatly in these Western countries of “civilized world.” And in some areas of life this respect was weak or almost non-existent in some of these countries on the European continent.
Yet I believe that when looking over an historical period, it is sometimes possible to see an idea or a belief that can be said to have captured the “spirit of the times” and that can be seen to have influenced the course of events in various ways.
And in this sense, the classical-liberal idea helped to restrain governments and set free the individual; and it served as the underlying conception that determined the “rules of the game” that international relationships required in an era of free men, private enterprise, and civil society.
International peace and order, in this sense, were inseparable from the classical-liberal ideas of private voluntary association, peaceful competition, and a globalized system of division of labor.Collectivism Meant Less Freedom and More Conflict
In the last decades of the nineteenth century, another idea began to challenge and finally superseded the classical-liberal ideal. That idea was political and economic collectivism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it took various forms: Marxian socialism, fascism, Nazism, welfare statism, social democracy, neo-mercantilism, protectionism, and imperialism.
But regardless of its permutation, its conceptions of man, society, and government opposed those of classical liberalism. Individual liberty, civil society, and market relationships were made subordinate to political ends and, in the extreme forms of political and economic collectivism, suppressed by them. Man and society were repoliticized.
It was the new idea of collectivism that set the world on the course that led to the First World War. Leading up to the war were the drive for monopolized markets; domestic regulation of trade and commerce; militarization of international relationships; the ascendancy of “great-power” politics to which individual interests were to be subservient; individual obedience to the interests of the state; and welfare statism, with its nationalization of income and redistribution of wealth.
The First World War dramatically reinforced these tendencies in a way that permanently brought an end to the classical-liberal era. It also ended the particular conditions that were conducive to international peace.
In the collectivist era of the twentieth century, everything became an affair of state because nothing was outside of political consideration. Trade and commerce were no longer matters of private individuals searching for mutually advantageous gains from trade; instead they became issues of national prosperity, national employment, national industrial development, and national standards of living.
Ownership and control of resources and raw materials in various parts of the world became matters of “national security,” as they had been under the older mercantilism, before classical liberalism had freed and privatized the economic and international affairs of life.
Every aspect of life, every human relationship, every form of commerce, enterprise, and exchange was politicized once again. Once more they were made affairs of state, rather than matters of private agreement and competition for improvement of the human condition.
What motivated the shift from classical liberalism to the collectivist era?The Danger of Special Interests and Social Engineers
Two forces came into play in the twentieth century. First was the power of special interests and the second was the appeal of the social engineer.
The principle of the equality of individual rights for all before the law was replaced with the idea of group privileges and entitlements for some at the expense of others at home and abroad. Rather than the “umpire” enforcing the “rules of the game” of respected individual rights for all, the government became an engine for redistributions, regulations and controls to benefit pitting groups within nations against each other for political favors, as well conflicts between nations wishing to plunder each other.
Adam Smith’s conception of a system of natural liberty under which every man was free to peacefully follow his own interests, with the cumulative results of men’s interactions generating a spontaneous order of human relationships, was replaced with the hubris of the government planner who considered himself wise and knowledgeable enough to reorder society according to his higher vision of the proper, fair, and just relationships that should prevail among men.
The fetish of the social engineer did not pass away with Nazism in World War II or with the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. It is the essence of the welfare state and has been the implicit agenda behind America’s and other country’s military interventions around the world both during and since the end of the Cold War.
Whether such foreign intervention is undertaken unilaterally by the United States or jointly by several nations under an aegis such as NATO’s or even in the name of the entire world with authorization from the UN, the attempt to bring peace and order in the present era will invariably fail to achieve all that is hoped from it.
The fundamental reason for this continuing failure is that such peace and order can be established on a permanent basis only in a world in which classical-liberal ideas once more predominate.Freedom Makes for World Peace, Not Social Engineers
But an understanding of a free society and ultimately its establishment cannot be socially engineered, centrally planned, or coercively imposed. It must grow within each individual.
When a sufficient number of people within a society come to share that common vision of a free civil and market society based on a respect for individual rights, with government simply the protector of those “rules of the game,” then the institutional changes will develop to transform that society into a community of free men.
This is made more difficult when the leading nation espousing a restructuring of the world has itself lost any real understanding of the meaning of freedom. How can America teach other countries and remold them into models of freedom when America itself has lost an understanding of what freedom means.
Can freedom mean government-supplied health care, government standardization of education across the nation, politically motivated favors and privileges for special-interest groups, government surveillance of and intrusion into the private affairs of ordinary citizens, regulation of industry and commerce, arrests and indefinite imprisonment without charges, and growing tax burdens to pay for the costs of domestic and foreign interventionist policies?
How can freedom be taught and planned for others when in these and many other areas neither Americans nor Europeans have any real and clear understanding what freedom means and requires in everyday daily life?
And can how foreign political and military intervention be free of both justifiable and false suspicions concerning the motives of the interventionists on the part of those being “liberated” when the intervening governments involve themselves in various domestic and international affairs precisely to use their power to benefit some at the expense of others?
Only a real and successful rebirth of the classical-liberal ideas of individual freedom, private property, impartial rule of law, freedom of trade at home and abroad, and strictly limited government can bring about a world of peace.
Only when these ideas are once again believed in, direct men’s choices, and are established will the world reduce and eliminate the primary reasons that governments go to war with each other or that men fight civil wars against each other within their own countries.
Only then will the preconditions be present for the type of world community of peaceful nations that the eighteenth- and nineteenth- century classical liberal friends of freedom envisaged and partly brought into existence in that earlier epoch of human history.No Peace in the World Without Freedom in Practice
Until then wars and civil wars will continue to break out and wreak havoc upon the world. And even the might of the most powerful nations in the world cannot prevent them from happening or eliminate their causes.
If America is to have a role in bringing about world peace, the finest and best path for it to follow is to rediscover and practice freedom within its own borders.
By reestablishing strictly limited government; by freeing the individual from the social and economic regulations, restrictions, and controls under which the people in the United States now live; by restoring the spirit of individual self-government and responsibility for the affairs of life, America will do more for world peace and order than any misguided and counterproductive political and military interventions aboard could ever hope to achieve.
By following such a course, America can serve as a model and ideal for millions around the world of what freedom and peace can achieve. There would be a respect for the American example and a legitimacy would be given to it, as people in other lands saw that America actually practiced the noninterventionist policy that it often preaches but which it continually violates in both domestic and international affairs.
The classical-liberal ideal that provided more freedom and prosperity to more people than has ever been known before can be restored, if only the ideas of individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism are more widely understood and appreciated, and most importantly valued and implemented.
[Originally published at EpicTimes]
The Obama Environmental Protection Agency recently slashed the maximum allowable sulfur content in gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10 ppm. The agency claims its new “Tier 3” rule will bring $7 billion to $19 billion in annual health benefits by 2030. “These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment and a win for our pocketbooks,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insists.
It’s all hokum. Like all too many rules emanating from EPA these days, the gasoline regulations are a case study in how America’s economy, jobs, living standards, health, and welfare are being pummeled by secretive, deceptive, and indeed fraudulent and corrupt government practices.
Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, America’s cars have eliminated some 99% of pollutants that once came out of tailpipes, notes air quality expert Joel Schwartz. Since 2004, under Tier 2 rules, refiners have reduced sulfur in gasoline from an average of 300 ppm to 30 ppm – a 90% drop, on top of pre-2004 reductions. In addition, because newer cars start out cleaner and stay cleaner throughout their lives, fleet turnover is reducing emissions by 8% to10% per year, steadily improving air quality.
The net result, says a 2012 Environ International study, is that ground-level ozone concentrations will fall even more dramatically by 2022. Volatile organic pollutants will plummet by 62%, carbon monoxide by 51%, and nitrous oxides by 80% – beyond reductions already achieved between 1970 and 2004.
EPA (which once promised to be ultra-transparent) claims its rules will add less than a penny per gallon to gasoline prices, but it won’t say how it arrived at that estimate. Industry sources say the Tier 3 rules will require $10 billion in upfront capital expenditures, an additional $2.4 billion in annual compliance expenses, significant increases in refinery energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and an extra 5 to 9 cents per gallon in manufacturing costs, all of which will certainly hit consumers at the pump.
But regardless of their ultimate cost, the rules will reduce monthly ozone levels by just 1.2 parts per billion during rush hour, says Environ. That’s equivalent to 12 cents out of $100 million or 1.2 seconds out of 32,000 years. These minuscule improvements could not even have been measured by equipment existing a couple decades ago. Their contribution to improved human health will be essentially zero.
Not so, say the EPA, the Sierra Club, and the American Lung Association (ALA). The rules will reduce asthma in “the children,” they insist. However, asthma incidences have been increasing, while air pollution has declined – demonstrating that the pollution-asthma connection is a red herring. The disease is caused by allergies, a failure to expose young children to sufficient allergens to cause their immune systems to build resistance to airborne allergens, and lack of sufficient exercise to keep lungs robust. Not surprisingly, a Southern California study found no association between asthma hospitalizations and air pollution levels.
Moreover, EPA paid the ALA $20 million between 2001 and 2010. No wonder it echoes agency claims about air quality and lung problems. The payments continue today, while EPA also funnels millions to various environmentalist pressure groups – and even to “independent” EPA scientific review panels – that likewise rubber stamp too many EPA pollution claims, studies and regulatory actions.
As Ron Arnold recently reported in The Washington Examiner, 15 of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee members have received $180.8 million in EPA grants since 2000. One CASAC panelist (Dr. Edward Avol of USC) received $51.7 million! The seven CASAC executive committee members pocketed $80.2 million. Imagine Big Oil paying that kind of cash to an advisory group, and calling it “independent.” The news media, government, and environmentalists would have a field day with that one.
The Clean Air Act, Information Quality Act, Executive Order 12866, and other laws require that agencies assess both the costs and benefits of proposed regulations, and implement them only if the rules’ benefits clearly exceed and justify their costs. However, EPA and other agencies systematically and illegally violate these rules, routinely inflate the alleged benefits of their rules, and habitually minimize or ignore their adverse impacts on energy supplies and prices, jobs, the economy, and human health and welfare.
Reporting on a hearing held by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Arnold noted that CASAC members say they weren’t even aware that they are obligated to advise EPA on both benefits and costs. Former EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Jeff Holmstead testified, “As far as I know, CASAC never fulfilled this requirement as it relates to the ozone standard or any other” rule.
Former CASAC chairman Dr. Roger McClellan told Rep. Smith he did not think the panel “ever advised EPA to take account of the role of socioeconomic factors, unemployment, or other risk factors” adversely affecting people’s health. Another former CASAC member testified that the advisory committee was not even “allowed to discuss any of the adverse consequences” associated with new rulemakings.
EPA regulations impose countless billions of dollars in annual impacts on the U.S. economy, according to studies by the Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Government Accountability Office. Estimates of total compliance costs for all federal regulations range to nearly $2 trillion per year. Some may bring benefits, but many or most also inflict significant harm on human health.
They mean millions of layoffs, far fewer jobs created, and steadily declining quality of life for millions of Americans, who cannot heat and cool their homes properly, pay the rent and mortgage, or save for retirement. They mean increased commuting to multiple jobs, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, higher incidences of depression and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse, and lower life expectancies.
In another example, EPA justifies its onerous carbon dioxide regulations by asserting that Earth’s climate is highly sensitive to C02, hypothesizing every conceivable carbon cost, and imputing huge monetized damages from hydrocarbon use and CO2 emissions ($36/ton of CO2 emitted). This completely ignores the most obvious and enormous job, health and welfare benefits of using fossil fuels; the benefits of higher carbon dioxide levels for food crops, forests and grasslands; and even the harmful effects that these regulations are having on energy prices and reliability, and thus people’s jobs, health and welfare.
The EPA, ALA, and CASAC likewise insist that new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards for coal-fired power plants will bring huge health benefits. However, the mercury risks were hugely overblown, the proclaimed dangers from fine particulates were contradicted by EPA’s own illegal experiments on human subjects – and the agency never assessed the health and welfare damage that the MATS rules will impose by causing the loss of 200,000 jobs and 23,000 megawatts of reliable, affordable electricity by 2015.
Similarly, EPA and CASAC blithely failed to consider the human carnage that will result from their new 54.5 mpg vehicle mileage standards, as people are forced into smaller, lighter, less safe cars. Having based numerous regulations on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that have been roundly criticized as erroneous and even fraudulent, EPA now refuses to reconsider any of its rules, even though there has been no warming for 17 years and the IPCC itself is back-peddling on previous claims.
Ignoring all these facts, the nation’s automakers nevertheless supported EPA’s Tier 3 sulfur rules. They prefer to have a single national standard, instead of one for California and one for the other 49 states. But to “Californiacate” America’s regulatory system is exactly the wrong direction to go. The once-Golden State has among the most perverse taxes and regulations – and thus some of the highest unemployment rates, especially for blacks, Hispanics and inland communities. Instead of emulating its strangulation by regulation proclivities, we should be forcing it to adopt more commonsense, scientifically sound rules.
Congress, state legislatures, attorneys general, people, and courts need to exert much greater control over now unaccountable government agencies. We need to terminate regulations based on the absurd view that there is no safe pollution threshold. The dose always makes the poison.
We also need to end the million-dollar payoffs to advisory groups, make them represent multiple interests and viewpoints – and ensure that government agencies fully and honestly assess and account for the harmful effects of regulations on human health and welfare, as required by law.
[Originally published at CFACT]
Your editorial “Rotten to the core” (March 23) pointed out a truth that many news articles omit or gloss over – namely, that opposition to the national Common Core standards crosses partisan and ideological lines. That is one reason to remain optimistic about the prospect for eventual repeal, despite anti-Common Core bills stalling out recently in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.
The corporate and political bigwigs pushing for uniform national standards did not give up when their first attempt failed during the Clinton years. They continued to work behind the scenes through an organization they named Achieve Inc., and they were ready to push the cause hard again after the 2008 election of President Obama.
Americans who want to preserve local and parental control of education must be no less determined. They are winning some battles as several states follow Georgia’s lead and withdraw from the nationalized student assessments linked to Common Core, and others ponder delays or following Indiana’s path to repeal. As more and more Americans discover the nature of the one-size-fits-all education being foisted on their children’s schools without their knowledge or consent, broad-based opposition will continue to grow.
[Originally published by The Augusta Chronicle]
I don’t agree with the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn very often, but in a recent article he said, “everybody should be cautious about making firm pronouncements about how the Affordable Care Act is doing.” Amen to that.
Of course, Mr. Cohn can’t help himself. He uses that reasonable statement as a launching pad for attacking, “…Cruz, Barrasso, and all the other hard-core Obamacare opponents on the right.” He just can’t imagine why these people might be skeptical of Administration claims about enrollment.
And, of course, he didn’t bother admonishing folks like Zeke Emmanuel for declaring recently in the Wall Street Journal that, “At least 12 million have received coverage directly through a provision of the law.”
Zeke was particularly impressed that the Gallup survey showed the percentage of uninsured Americans has plunged from 18% in the third-quarter of 2013 to a mere 15.9% today. Mr. Cohn also cites that survey.
Neither gentleman bothers to notice that what Gallup really shows is an astonishing spike in the percentage of uninsured in 2013 (see below) In fact, this survey is quite interesting. It shows an increase in the numbers of insured from a low of 14.4% just before Obama took office as the effects of the recession and poor employment numbers took hold. This peaked in late 2011 at 17.5% and was starting to come down, all the way to 16.3% in late 2012, when it suddenly shot up again in 2013 to 18%. This spike is likely the result of pre-Obamacare cancellations.
So, does that Administration really deserve credit for lowering the percentage today, when it also caused the rise last year? In fact, even at 15.9% the Administration has yet to get back to the 14.4% before the President was sworn in to office.
Now, Mr. Cohn writes that Obamacare critics, “are doing what they almost always do when data confounds their previously held beliefs. They are challenging the statistics….” I didn’t realize that it is somehow illegitimate to “challenge (some) statistics” by offering other statistics. I always thought that is what researchers were supposed to do.
But let me offer a mea culpa to Mr. Cohn. I was one of those people who made a “firm pronouncement about how the Affordable Care Act (was) doing.” I fully expected the numbers of uninsured to skyrocket this year.
But that was because I thought the law was the law. I expected that the massive cancellations of group plans throughout 2014 would result in 25 million people previously covered to be wandering in the wilderness this year trying to figure out what to do next.
I had no idea that the law could be changed or delayed with a wave of the imperial hand. Silly me. Today, I have completely lost track of what is still required and what has been delayed. So I have sworn off making “firm pronouncements” of anything having to do with this bucket of porridge known as Obamacare… and I suggest others should, too.
[Originally published at The Federalist]
It’s crucial you don’t see a free 40-minute documentary film out today or you might get concerned about an effort to control and dramatically reshape every American child’s education. Building the Machine has Common Core right: It’s the biggest reform you know nothing about.
The movie’s ominous background music is a tip-off to its generally negative take on the national curriculum and testing mandates, but that is mostly the fault of Common Core itself and its proponents. Of the many proponents the documentary’s director contacted for an interview, only two agreed to appear in the film.
That’s not a fluke. In my own reporting on the subject, it typically takes months of email and voicemail nagging to get some PR flack to finally refuse to answer my questions, if I get any response at all. And it’s not just me. Last month, a public relations guy for a national schools organization called me to ask if I knew how to get ahold of any of the key Common Core players so he could help them promote it. They wouldn’t answer any of his calls, either.
“‘You are really going to have to work on this Common Core thing if you think that it’s going to be accepted around the country,’” Jim Dunn said he wanted to tell Bill Gates’s foundation. Gates essentially bankrolled Common Core, as the documentary notes. “Calling people names and trivializing their concerns is shooting themselves in the foot.”
Too bad they’re not listening, because he’s right. In response to this movie, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSS) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which received big bucks from Gates to, respectively, create and promote common Core) have decided to again call people names and trivialize their concerns. Oh, and release a counter-documentary and “fact sheets” spinning what they clearly view as a devastating film.
A bunch of Missouri moms came across an email from CCSSO (more at Breitbart) complaining that “The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption.” That’s because this is essentially true. If CCSSO wants to dispute that, it should stop releasing content-less talking points and instead release all the documents, emails, and deliberations related to creating these national mandates to prove that they really did run an open process like, you know, public bodies such as school boards must when they make policy. Unfortunately, the truth makes them look bad, so they have to stick to carefully worded talking points.
That’s probably why, instead of facing straight questions from interviewers who might not already be in the tank for them, Common Core proponents prefer instead to stick to pitched interviews to friendly news organizations, like Bill Gates’s recent one-on-one with George Stephanopoulos. I challenge any Common Core proponent to name one factual error in this movie. No, smears, labels, and insinuations won’t do. I want anyone to quote a factual error. My Twitter feed’s open.
But enough of this manufactured spit fight. How about instead of letting overpaid spinmasters filter Common Core information for you, you actually take a look at the documentary for yourself? It’s free, and it’s only 40 minutes long. That was mercifully short enough for this mom of three kids under age four to be able to see it in just three viewing sessions! Even shorter, here’s a two-page fact sheet for an appetizer.
As for the film itself, it’s likely most folks will agree with its premise: You deserve to know more about the biggest education shift since progressives began centralizing American education in the late 1800s. It matters to everyone, no matter what type of school you send your kids to, or even if you don’t have kids, because the people interviewed for this film charge that Common Core endangers our economy and political freedoms. Their concerns cross political boundaries.
As Building the Machine concludes, no matter where you eventually raise your flag on the topic, it’s important that you get informed and get involved. The more central planners control education, the darker America’s future. For all that, however, there’s still hope. There are still people in this country brave enough to speak truth to power. Some of those people are on this film. And they need you to join them.
(Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the documentary almost a year ago. After that, I have had no involvement with the film besides suggesting other potential interviewees and signing a waiver allowing them to use their recording of me.)
[Originally published at The Federalist]
I was pleased that Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly accepted my invitation to participate as a keynoter at the Free State Foundation’s Sixth Annual Telecom Policy Conference on March 18. We engaged in an informative and interesting lunchtime conversation, and I am grateful to Commissioner O’Rielly for indulging my questions.
I’m also grateful that C-SPAN broadcast the entire FSF conference. You can find the video of my conversation with Commissioner O’Rielly here.
I commend to you the entire conversation. But for now I just want to focus on Commissioner O’Rielly’s discussion of Congress’s intended meaning of now-famous Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In the post-D.C. Circuit Verizon case world, Section 706 is considered to be an independent source of authority for the FCC to regulate broadband Internet providers (and perhaps other market participants as well, the so-called “edge” providers). Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s Chairman, has announced that the Commission will look to Section 706 for authority as it considers whether to adopt new non-discrimination and no-blocking rules, along with other regulatory actions.
Before taking his seat at the Commission, Commissioner O’Rielly spent almost twenty years in various congressional staff positions. At the time the Telecom Act of 1996 was being drafted, Commissioner O’Rielly served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee staff. According to his account, he was closely involved in the negotiations leading up to passage of the 1996 Act. In other words, as I said during our exchange, Commissioner O’Rielly had a “bird’s eye” view of the drafting process, including that relating to Section 706.
To my mind, this makes what he has to say about his understanding of Section 706 worth contemplating – seriously.
As recounted by Commissioner O’Rielly, in order to accept the court’s (and the FCC’s new) interpretation of what Section 706 means, you would have to make “some wild assumptions.”
· You would have to believe that a Republican Congress with a deregulatory mandate inserted very vague language into the statute to give complete authority over the Internet and broadband to the FCC, but then didn’t tell a soul. It didn’t show up in the writings, it didn’t show up in the summaries. It didn’t show up in any of the stories at the time.
· You would have to believe that the conference committee intended to codify Section 706 outside of the Communications Act, thereby separating it from the enforcement provisions of the Act, Title V, but somehow we still expected it to be enforced. [The Communications Act was not amended to include Section 706.]
· You would have to believe that the congressional committees that went on to do an extensive review of FCC authority afterwards, and even proposed legislation to rein it in, in terms of FCC reauthorization legislation, that they went through that effort, but at the same time they had provided a secret loophole to the Commission to regulate.
· You would have to believe that when Congress is having extensive debates over the ability to regulate, or the ability to give the Commission authority to regulate net neutrality, at the same time they had already given the Commission this authority.
· You would have to believe that when Congress did legislate in this space, and more particularly when they legislated on certain edge providers in certain narrow instances mostly related to public safety, you would have to believe that they went through that extensive process, and then it didn’t matter, the fact that they had already given the Commission that complete authority under Section 706.Commissioner O’Rielly’s conclusion: “It’s mindboggling to believe that all of those assumptions, and there are many more, are true. You would have to suspend your rational thought to get to that point.” [The bullet points above are close to verbatim, but please feel free to listen to Commissioner O'Rielly in his own words directly in the video.]
I don’t want to suggest that Commissioner O’Rielly’s recounting of his personal knowledge of what went on behind the scenes as the 1996 Act was written, itself, should be considered determinative for a court construing Section 706. And I don’t think Commissioner O’Rielly means to suggest that his personal recollections constitute official legislative history. Rather, the importance of what he relates is to show the irrationality – the arbitrariness and capriciousness, if you will, in administrative law terms – of adopting a novel interpretation of Section 706 that necessarily is based on so many implausible assumptions.
Commissioner O’Rielly’s persuasive recounting shows that the court’s – and now, apparently, the FCC Chairman’s – interpretation of Section 706 not only is implausible, but far afield from what was widely understood to be the provision’s original meaning – that the provision was not intended to constitute an independent grant of affirmative regulatory authority. Recall that this was the Commission’s own understanding of Section 706 as well until the agency switched its view after its first foray into net neutrality regulation met with defeat in Comcast Corp. v. FCC.
In providing a convincing account of what Congress intended – and did not intend – Section 706 to mean, Commissioner O’Rielly has performed a valuable service. Even though, for now, the D.C. Circuit panel’s opinion remains the controlling interpretation, it is important to remember that, other than holding unlawful the no-blocking and no-discrimination net neutrality rules, the court did not purport to define the boundaries of the Commission’s Section 706 authority or adjudicate any particular exercises of such authority. The court did not require the agency to adopt any new regulations. Under all the circumstances – and especially the circumstance that there is no evidence of a present market failure or consumer harm resulting from Internet provider practices – there is no reason for the Commission to move forward at this time to adopt new net neutrality or net neutrality-like rules.
Indeed, under the circumstances, and having in mind the doubt cast on the validity of the D.C. Circuit’s Section 706 reasoning by Commissioner O’Rielly’s recounting, shouldn’t this be an occasion for the FCC to exercise some (rare) regulatory humility?
In my view, it should be. The FCC Chairman should announce that the Commission will stand down and, as far as attempts to revive net neutrality regulations go, engage in watchful waiting. To adopt such a posture of regulatory restraint would not be a sign of weakness, but rather of wisdom.[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]
We’ll let college professor and avowed Marxist (please pardon the redundancy) Robert McChesney identify Net Neutrality’s objective:
“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
How very Hugo Chavez of them.
If you want to use Net Neutrality to end the private sector Web – leaving us all stuck with Government as our sole Internet Service Provider (ISP) – dramatically expanding its definition and reach is a highly useful way to go.
There are two Internet terms we need to rightly define – since the Left is in the word-warping business: “The Last Mile” and “Peering.”
“The Last Mile” refers to your house or business’s connection to the bigger Web – the last stretch of residential road to your place, well off of the main Information Superhighway.
“Peering” is the myriad data-sharing agreements between the myriad different companies on the Superhighway’s multitudinous miles – the World Wide Web’s “backbone.”
If two companies transport roughly equal amounts of data for each other – their Peering deal calls for no charge for either party. If it starts getting lopsided – the heavier data company pays for the extra freight.
Pretty simple – a fairly basic economic principle. It costs more to ship five thousand pounds than it does five.
Peering happens – on the fly, all the time. And there have been Peering deals on the Web for as long as there has been a Web.
Of late some Peering arrangements have become decidedly unequal – mostly because of video. Video consumes gi-normous amounts of broadband. The more an online-video-delivery company like Netflix grows – the more unequal their Peering arrangements get.
So ISPs are cutting new Peering deals with big data drivers like Netflix to offset the cost of this dramatic inequality. If they’re shipping five thousand pounds instead of five – they of course should pay more.
Except Netflix is balking. They want to have their dramatically increased freight weight paid for by everyone – except them.
So they are disingenuously claiming that these oh-so-common Peering deals – violate Net Neutrality.
And of course the Left has joined the chorus.
The deal should also be a wake-up call to regulators who are…grappling with what to do about Net Neutrality.
Except very recently, the Left insisted Net Neutrality had nothing to do with backbone Peering deals like these – that it was only about the Last Mile. They in fact accused others of the obfuscation in which they are now engaged.
“AT&T here seems unable to tell the difference between the last mile and the backbone.
“The FCC’s general counsel made clear that the proposal applies only to service that is offered directly to the public, and the last time we checked, the public was not offered backbone Internet connections.”
So the Left has now created a hay-yuge new, uber-expansive definition of Net Neutrality. From covering just the Last Mile – to encompassing the entire World Wide Web.
Which would give the government hay-yuge new, uber-expansive power over the Internet.
Which is exactly what the Left wants.
[Originally published at RedState]
This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is releasing its latest report, the “Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report.” Like its past reports, this one predicts apocalyptic consequences if mankind fails to give the UN the power to tax and regulate fossil fuels and subsidize and mandate the use of alternative fuels.
But happily, an international group of scientists I have been privileged to work with has conducted an independent review of IPCC’s past and new reports, along with the climate science they deliberately exclude or misrepresent.
Our group, called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), was founded in 2003 by a distinguished atmospheric physicist, S. Fred Singer, and has produced five hefty reports to date, the latest released on March 31.
So how do the IPCC and NIPCC reports differ? The final draft of the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers identifies eight “reasons for concern” which media reports say will remain the focus of the final report. The NIPCC reports address each point too, also summarizing their authors’ positions in Summaries for Policymakers. This provides a convenient way to compare and contrast the reports’ findings.
Here’s what the reports say:
IPCC: “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”
NIPCC: “Flood frequency and severity in many areas of the world were higher historically during the Little Ice Age and other cool eras than during the twentieth century. Climate change ranks well below other contributors, such as dikes and levee construction, to increased flooding.”
IPCC: “Risk of food insecurity linked to warming, drought, and precipitation variability, particularly for poorer populations.”
NIPCC: “There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity throughout the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits.
IPCC: “Risk of severe harm for large urban populations due to inland flooding.”
NIPCC: “No changes in precipitation patterns, snow, monsoons, or river flows that might be considered harmful to human well-being or plants or wildlife have been observed that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels. What changes have been observed tend to be beneficial.”
IPCC: “Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.”
NIPCC: “Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations benefit plant growth-promoting microorganisms that help land plants overcome drought conditions, a potentially negative aspect of future climate change. Continued atmospheric CO2 enrichment should prove to be a huge benefit to plants by directly enhancing their growth rates and water use efficiencies.”
IPCC: “Systemic risks due to extreme [weather] events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services.”
NIPCC: “There is no support for the model-based projection that precipitation in a warming world becomes more variable and intense. In fact, some observational data suggest just the opposite, and provide support for the proposition that precipitation responds more to cyclical variations in solar activity.”
IPCC: “Risk of loss of marine ecosystems and the services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.”
NIPCC: “Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life. Many aquatic species have shown considerable tolerance to temperatures and CO2 values predicted for the next few centuries, and many have demonstrated a likelihood of positive responses in empirical studies. Any projected adverse impacts of rising temperatures or declining seawater and freshwater pH levels (“acidification”) will be largely mitigated through phenotypic adaptation or evolution during the many decades to centuries it is expected to take for pH levels to fall.”
IPCC: “Risk of loss of terrestrial ecosystems and the services they provide for terrestrial livelihoods.”
NIPCC: “Terrestrial ecosystems have thrived throughout the world as a result of warming temperatures and rising levels of atmospheric CO2. Empirical data pertaining to numerous animal species, including amphibians, birds, butterflies, other insects, reptiles, and mammals, indicate global warming and its myriad ecological effects tend to foster the expansion and proliferation of animal habitats, ranges, and populations, or otherwise have no observable impacts one way or the other. Multiple lines of evidence indicate animal species are adapting, and in some cases evolving, to cope with climate change of the modern era.”
IPCC: “Risk of mortality, morbidity, and other harms during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations.”
NIPCC: “A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events. More lives are saved by global warming via the amelioration of cold-related deaths than those lost under excessive heat. Global warming will have a negligible influence on human morbidity and the spread of infectious diseases, a phenomenon observed in virtually all parts of the world.”
How could two teams of scientists come to such obviously contradictory conclusions on seemingly every point that matters in the debate over global warming? There are many reasons why scientists disagree, the subject, by the way, of an excellent book a couple years ago titled Wrong by David H. Freedman. A big reason is IPCC is producing what academics call “post-normal science” while NIPCC is producing old-fashioned “real science.”
What is a non-scientist to make of these dueling reports? Indeed, what is a scientist to make of this? Very few scientists are familiar with biology, geology, physics, oceanography, engineering, medicine, economics, and scores of other more specialized disciplines that were the basis for the claims summarized above.
It is frequently said of the global warming debate that it comes down to who you believe rather than what you know. Many climate scientists say they “believe in man-made global warming” even though their own research contradicts key points in the arguments advanced in support of that hypothesis. They say this because they believe the IPCC is telling the truth about findings outside their areas of expertise. Ditto influential science journals such as Nature and Science, which claim to speak on behalf of “climate science.”
The NIPCC reports were conceived and written to offer a way out of this conundrum. They are written in a style that laymen without special training can understand, provide explanations of how research was conducted and summarizing the actual findings, often quoting at length from original scholarly sources. Chapters often present research chronologically, in the order in which the studies were published, so readers can understand how the debate has changed over time.
The NIPCC reports are hefty – the first volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered series was 850 pages long, and the latest volume is more than 1,000 pages – but executive summaries and “key findings” at the beginning of each chapter make them easy to navigate and fascinating to browse. They are all available for free online at ClimateChangeReconsidered.org.
How credible are the NIPCC reports? Endorsements by prominent scientists, reviews, and citations in peer-reviewed journals appear at the Web site mentioned above. NIPCC reports are produced by scores of scientists from around the world (some 20 countries so far), cite thousands of peer-reviewed studies, and are themselves peer-reviewed. In June 2013, a division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a Chinese translation and condensed edition of the 2009 and 2011 volumes.
We know the authors of the IPCC’s reports have financial conflicts of interest, since the government bureaucracies that select them and the UN that oversees and edits the final reports stand to profit from public alarm over the possibility that global warming will be harmful. The authors of the NIPCC series have no such conflicts. The series is funded by three private family foundations without any financial interest in the outcome of the global warming debate. The publisher, The Heartland Institute, neither solicits nor receives any government or corporation funding for the Climate Change Reconsidered series. (It does receive some corporate funding for its other research and educational programs.)
So is man-made global warming a crisis? Don’t just wonder about it, understand it yourself. Read one or a few chapters of one of the NIPCC reports, and ask if what you read is logical, factual, and relevant to the debate. See if the UN or its many apologists take into account the science and evidence NIPCC summarizes, and then decide whether its predictions of “of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods” is science or fiction.
[First published at Forbes.]
They may search for the best price, only to discover, as customers in central Florida did, that after paying $20,000-40,000 for their systems, they are stuck with installations that may be unusable or unsafe. BlueChip Energy—which also operated as Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) and SunHouse Solar—sold its systems at environmental festivals and home shows. Buyers thought they were getting a good deal and doing the right thing for the environment. Instead, they were duped.
A year ago, it was revealed that BlueChip Energy’s solar panels had counterfeit UL labels—this means that the panels may not comply with standard safety requirements established by the independent global certification company Underwriters Laboratory. The Orlando Sentinel reports: “UL testing assures that a product won’t catch fire, will conduct electricity properly and can withstand weather. Without such testing, no one is certain if the solar panels may fail.” Additionally, it states: “Without the safety testing, they shouldn’t be connected to the electric grid”—which leaves customers nervous about possible risks such as overheating. Other reports claim that BlueChip inflated the efficiency rates of its photovoltaic panels, which do not meet “65 percent of the company’s published performance ratings.”
In July 2013, BlueChip’s assets were sold off at pennies on the dollar and customers were left with rooftop solar packages that now have no warranty.
With the shakeout in the solar photovoltaic industry, bankruptcy is a key concern for buyers. No company equals no warranty.
Two of China’s biggest panel makers have failed. On March 20, 2013, Suntech, one of the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturers, filed bankruptcy. Earlier this month Shanghai Chaori Solar became China’s first domestic corporate bond default. The Wall Street Journal reports that another, Baoding Tainwei, has reported a second year of losses and investors are waiting to “see if officials will let it fail.”
Regarding Suntech’s bankruptcy, an industry report says the following about the warranties: “While Suntech has said that it was committed to maintaining the warranty obligations on its products following the bankruptcy, we are unsure if customers will be willing to take a risk considering the firm’s faltering financials.”
Last month, it was reported that solar panels can be “dangerous in an emergency.” Firefighters have been forced to stop fighting a fire due to electrocution concerns. The report quotes Northampton, MA, Fire Chief Brian Duggan as saying electrocution is not their only concern: “cutting through the roof for ventilation would also take a lot longer.” Springfield fire commissioner Joe Conant says: “nothing will stop them if there’s a life to be saved, but if it’s simply to save the structure, solar panels may keep them from going on the roof.
A Fox News story on the risk solar panels pose to fire-fighters states: “Two recent fires involving structures decked with solar panels have triggered complaints from fire chiefs and calls for new codes and regulations that reflect the dangers posed by the clean-energy devices. A two-alarm fire last week at a home in Piedmont, Calif., prompted Piedmont Fire Chief Warren McLaren to say the technology ‘absolutely’ made it harder on firefighters. Weeks earlier, in Delanco, NJ, more than 7,000 solar panels on the roof of a massive 300,000-square foot warehouse factored into Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt’s refusal to send his firefighters onto the roof of a Dietz & Watson facility.”
Then, of course, there are new concerns about scam artists like the one in North Carolina who collected “money from victims under false pretense that he would buy and install solar panels in their residences.”
As if all of that wasn’t enough, a new potentially fraudulent scheme has just been exposed.
A recent report from the Arizona Republic, points to complaints the Arizona Corporation Commission—the state’s top utility regulator—is getting from Tucson customers of SolarCity Corporation. They claim: “the solar leasing company is misleading them regarding the state rules for hooking up a solar array.”
In essence, customers in Tucson are being told one thing by their utility, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), but something else by a private solar power company, SolarCity—the nation’s second largest solar electrical contractor. This has drawn the ire of Bob Stump, Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). “This is an issue of consumer protection and solar installer transparency,” Stump told the Arizona Republic.
Stump made his concerns clear in a March 12 letter to Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s Chief Executive Officer: “I am concerned that you—as well as other solar providers—may be communicating with customers in a way that is both confusing and misleading and which deprives them of the balanced information they need in order to make informed decisions.”
The letter states: “Some customers … say that solar providers have told them that the rates, rules and regulations applicable to net metering are ‘grandfathered,’ thereby implying that the rates associated with net metering are not subject to change.” As a result, Stump says: “Customers are then surprised, disappointed, and angry to learn from TEP that this may not be the case.”
As a vocal advocate for responsible energy—which I define as energy that is efficient, effective and economical—I have closely followed what is happening with Arizona’s solar industry. There, when the ACC proposed a modification to the net-metering policies to make them more equitable to all utility customers, the solar industry mounted an aggressive PR campaign in attempt to block any changes. When the decision was made in November to add a monthly fee onto the utility bills of new solar customers to make them pay for using the power grid, I applauded the effort.
In light of this new issue, with a leading solar company misleading customers, it is time for the nation’s regulators to take a hard look at their states’ policies. Remember, this past summer, Georgia regulators voted for solar leasing such as SolarCity offers.
Pat Lyons, one of New Mexico’s Public Regulatory Commissioners, watched what happened in Arizona’s net metering battle. Upon learning about SolarCity’s potential deception, he was alarmed. “As solar leasing, like SolarCity pushes, moves into additional markets, regulators across the country need to be aware of the potential pitfalls and misrepresentations.”
It is vital that solar providers be held to the same high standard to which we hold our electric utilities and are made to answer tough questions about consumer protection, safety, and operation issues. Stump’s letter to SolarCity’s CEO asked for responses to his questions by March 31 and said he will “be placing this matter on a Commission open meeting agenda in the near future in order to discuss these important concerns with my fellow commissioners.”
It may be too late to protect some solar customers in Tucson, but there is still a chance to make sure others are treated fairly. If things don’t change, the dark clouds hovering over the industry will be raining on unsuspecting customers.
[Originally published at TownHall.com]
On March 14, the Obama administration announced it was initiating a process to transfer oversight of the Internet from the United States to some yet-to-be-defined global entity.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling said, “The timing is right to start the transition process.”
You don’t need to be a credentialed foreign-policy expert, however, to harbor reservations concerning the plan to turn over management of key Internet functions to what the Commerce Department called the “global multi-stakeholder community.”
It is enough to inject a note of caution to point out that the Obama administration’s proclivity to rely on cooperation from the “international community” — rather than U.S. leadership — has not always produced hoped-for outcomes.
To understand what is at stake, it is important to know the essence of the current Internet governance regime and a bit of recent history. Currently, pursuant to a 1998 agreement with the Commerce Department, an entity called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the assignment of Internet domain names and addresses for websites across the globe.
ICANN is a nonprofit, private-sector-led multi-stakeholder organization. ICANN is required to operate in a collaborative and transparent manner that fosters accountability to the various nongovernment stakeholders — commercial enterprises, civil society organizations representing Internet users, technical experts, and so forth — that are represented in ICANN’s governance structure.
While it is not true that Al Gore invented the Internet, it is true that the Net’s roots are grounded in the United States. It is also true that the U.S. is the only nation with a formal role in overseeing the Internet’s functioning, even though the Commerce Department’s oversight has been mostly hands-off since ICANN took over management of the domain-name system 15 years ago.
With the growth in Internet usage and the number of websites across the globe during the past 15 years, perhaps it is not surprising that other countries increasingly have come to question the U.S. government’s role as the sole sovereign overseeing Internet management. After all, for a century, international telephone communications have been regulated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an arm of the United Nations. Each of the ITU’s 193 countries has one vote in its deliberations.
Whatever the current arrangements for overseeing international voice communications, turning over management of the Internet to the ITU almost certainly would be harmful. The likely result would be increased telephone-style economic regulation that would discourage continued investment in Internet facilities and innovation in services.
It would increase the likelihood that censorship of Internet communications and speech curbs would be sanctioned as official policy. Sound farfetched?
In advance of a meeting in 2012 to consider changes to the ITU’s international communications regulations, Russia’s Vladimir Putin explicitly stated that he wanted to achieve “international control of the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capability” of the United Nations.
What’s more, several countries did not hide their intent to adopt as official policy government censorship of Internet communications. A proposal floated by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran — countries not known for respecting free speech — declared that ITU member states should be allowed to restrict communications “used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, and public safety of other states; or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.”
That language is an engraved invitation for governments to engage in censorship.
It is true that currently, under the existing governance structure, individual countries often attempt to censor Internet communications, and frequently, they succeed. Right now, Turkey is blocking Twitter communications and Syria routinely has done so over the past three years.
There is a difference, though, between countries acting in contravention of current ICANN and U.S. policies intended to preserve an open Internet and some new international government-controlled organization adopting edicts that give official sanction to such speech restrictions.
To be sure, the Obama administration did state that the current nongovernmental, multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance should be maintained. Indeed, its announcement said the United States will not accept a proposal for replacing U.S. control “with a government-led or an intergovernmental organization solution.”
The U.S. government’s resolve must remain firm in this regard, especially when Russia and other like-minded countries already have declared their intent to change the open nature of the Internet if they can gain control over its governance.
While the administration says it will not turn over the Internet’s management to an intergovernmental organization like the ITU, frankly, it is not easy to envision the emergence of a replacement entity that will not be controlled by governments around the world — many of which we shouldn’t wish to see possessing such authority.
I don’t want to foreclose the possibility that such a new entity may emerge. However, I do want the Obama administration to keep its proclivities in check for relying on the “international community” to take on tasks for which such an ephemeral community may not be well-suited.
Contrary to Mr. Strickling’s claim, considering the current troublesome state of world affairs, the timing may not be right for moving ahead with plans to relinquish U.S. oversight of the Internet. At a minimum, the watchwords must be “proceed with extreme caution.”
[Originally published at The Washington Times]