On the Blog

Analysis: States Ready to Shut Down ‘Obamacare’ Exchanges

Somewhat Reasonable - July 23, 2015, 4:31 AM

Health care analysts are predicting that the 13 states — and the District of Columbia — that are currently offering Obamacare insurance exchanges will cease operations within five years.

According to a report on CNBC.com, federal subsidies provided to the states as part of the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009 are ending, after the government invested $5 billion overall to establish the exchanges.

Where will consumers go for information on cheap, Obamacare-compliant health insurance policies? Most likely, analysts said, they will go to HealthCare.gov, the troubled federal exchange site set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Phil Kerpen, president of the free-market advocacy group American Commitment, told CNBC.com that the state exchanges have “annual operating costs of tens of millions of dollars.

“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Kerpen said. “The economics don’t work … the ongoing maintenance costs are going to be very high. I think what’s going to happen is all the states will fall like dominoes,” said Kerpen.

The largest state exchange is Covered California, which markets more than 1.3 million health insurance plans.

 

Saved by the Supreme Court recently, the state-based Obamacare exchanges are already poised to cease operations for lack of financing.

 

Categories: On the Blog

For Now… Netflix Has Mastered Regulatory Arbitrage

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2015, 3:55 PM

Imagine if one company out of the Fortune 500, #474 with ~$6b in revenues, and 2,000 employees, representing about .03% of U.S. GDP, and .06% of the population, comprised 36%of all the vehicle traffic going in one direction on our interstate highway system on any given day.

Now imagine that one company’s lobbying was instrumental in convincing the government to grant that company’s business model the right to commercially use the highway system forever for free, by not ever having to pay a standard gas tax or private highway tolls, like other businesses or people do to pay for the relative wear and tear that their usage causes on the highway systems.

Imagine further that the government justified this special one-way highway traffic treatment, by saying it would be better and fairer for everyone if the companies that use and profit most from using the most one direction of the highway system never had to pay for that delivery benefit – that consumers should subsidize their commercial use and profits in “perpetuity.”

The company’s situation you just imagined is Netflix’. The government agency is the FCC. And the perverse government arrangement is the FCC’s mandate of a permanent zero price for all Internet downstream traffic.

Investors love Netflix, and appear blissfully ignorant of the unique and extreme regulatory arbitrage on which Netflix’ business and growth model rests, and the considerable regulatory risk Netflix faces over the next couple of years, domestically and internationally.

By way of background, it is important to remember Netflix started and thrived as a DVD mail rental service where its postage bill to the U.S. Postal Service was its biggest expense. Netflix brilliantly pivoted from mailing DVDs to Internet streaming earlier and better than most anyone.

The underappreciated brilliant part of that pivot was how Netflix and others were able to ensure that its distribution costs to consumers would go from its biggest expense to being completely subsidized by the government by getting the FCC to set a de facto permanent price of zero for all Internet downstream traffic under the guise of net neutrality.

A hinge-point in the operative concept of net neutrality was a 2009 paper by Professor Tim Wu entitled: “Subsidizing Creativity through Network Design: Zero-Pricing and Net Neutrality.” Netflix and others seized on this commercial-subsidy version of net neutrality and got that new subsidy notion embedded in the FCC’s first Open Internet Order in 2010.

From 2010 to 2014, Netflix’ burgeoning streaming business was heavily subsidized by the FCC’s de facto price regulation of a permanent zero price for downstream Internet traffic.

In 2014, the Appeals court decision, Verizon v. FCC, threatened Netflix’ gravy train because the court struck down the Wu-Netflix-subsidy-notion of net neutrality by concluding the FCC did not have the legal  authority to compel an ISP to furnish service at no cost.

Netflix then played a leading role in getting the FCC majority to oppose “Internet fast lanes” — i.e. the FCC’s ban of “paid prioritization” — which sets a de facto permanent price of zero for all downstream Internet traffic under the FCC’s assertion of Title II authority, which by the way has been challenged yet again by the entire broadband industry.

For now… Netflix has mastered regulatory arbitrage under the banner of net neutrality.

However, going forward, prospects for the FCC net neutrality, subsidy-gravy-train continuing uninterrupted appear to be more uncertain than Netflix supporters and investors appreciate.

Long term, Netflix is at least partly an FCC-dependent investment.

Domestically, the fate of Netflix’ zero-price distribution subsidy depends on the fate of the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which faces a highly uncertain outlook in the next couple of years.

As I recently explained in my analysis: “The FCC’s Title II Trifecta Gamble,” the FCC’s Order faces cumulative risk that the Title II authority it asserted in the Order will not withstand the following gauntlet of serious risks: first a House appropriations provision to defund Title II implementation; second a united-industry court challenge to overturn the legality of the Order; and third a Republican in the White House in 2017 whose FCC Republican majority would reverse the existing order.

To appreciate the cumulative risk here, to the Order and to Netflix’ regulatory gravy train, assume each outcome faces a 50-50 risk. An odds maker would tell you that .5 x .5 x .5 = .125 (12.5%) or 8-1 odds against the FCC and Netflix winning this effective trifecta gamble over the next couple of years.

Internationally, the President’s call for the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a Title IItelecommunications service creates substantial business model risk for Netflix in particular.

Under International Telecommunications Union (ITU) treaty, if a country that Netflix is targeting for growth, decides to follow America’s lead and classify the Internet into its country as “telecommunications,” it legally could impose a treaty-sanctioned sending-party-pays economic model and charge Netflix for its terminating traffic into their country.

In short, the market appears to view Netflix as a momentum play that faces little risk to its current momentum.

Such sentiment appears to ignore the risks to Netflix’ hidden subsidized economic model from Congress; the courts; the 2016 election; and other countries reclassifying downstream Internet traffic into their countries as paid telecommunications termination.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jim Manley: Goldwater Institute’s Lawsuit Against Georgia’s CON Laws

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2015, 2:22 PM

In this episode of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Jim Manley, a senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, joins managing editor Kenneth Artz to talk about the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit on behalf of two doctors against officials at the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) in Fulton County Superior Court.

The Goldwater lawsuit challenges the state’s medical Certificate of Need (CON) law, contending on five counts that the law is unconstitutional because it is “a restraint on competition, economic liberty, and consumer choice.”

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Donald: America’s ‘Individualist’ Candidate for President

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2015, 8:51 AM

Conservative pundits are confused. Donald Trump is not a libertarian, nor is he a liberal. He doesn’t act like a Republican running for President of the U.S., nor does he behave like a progressive Democrat seeking the White House.

No reason to be confused, here, folks. You are right. Trump is not a libertarian Republican, a conservative, nor a remnant of that long-endangered species, the patriotic Democrat.

Rather, he is an individualist. Like a character out of an Ayn Rand novel — perhaps even a hybrid of Dagney Taggert and Hank Reardon from Atlas Shrugged — Trump embodies that very American trait of individualism.

Remember individualists? These are the rough-and-tumble folks who refuse to conform to any political ideology, like many, millions of Americans. These kinds of people don’t fit in the GOP or the DNC, though they have often tried in the past. Reagan, a one-time New Deal enthusiast, had a lot of traditionalism in him. But what people seemed to like was his ruddy individualism. “Go ahead. Make my day,” he famously said, paraphrasing the Clint Eastwood character Dirty Harry. Americans loved it.

After nearly eight years of soul-sapping progressivism, mindless conformity to liberal banalities, as advanced by President Obama, Americans have had enough. They know the John Boehner-Mitch McConnell-style Republicanism won’t save the country, which is all they get for voting in historic majorities in the House of Representatives in reaction to Obama during the last two elections.

Americans seem to be looking for someone who is apparently unafraid of the media establishment, won’t bow to political correctness, and who, like they do, thinks every one in politics these days is either a “moron” or is “not classy,” to quote the Donald.

Marco Rubio seems to have noticed this. Or maybe it was his pollsters. This morning on Fox News Channel, Rubio was quoted as saying President Obama had “no class.” What is this but modified Trump rhetoric? Have we heard Republicans talk like this before about Obama? No, not since Rep. Joe Wilson had the temerity to yell, “You lie,” in the House chamber, when Obama was giving his speech on the Affordable Care Act in 2009, then, an unread proposal, and not yet an unread bill passed by the Congress through reconciliation budget procedures, has anyone dared speak frankly in politics, it seems. Maybe other GOP pols will incorporate Trumpian rhetoric in their spiels too, shortly. (Don’t bet on that for the Democrats though. Martin O’Malley profusely apologized for having the temerity to say, All Lives Matter, at a progressive event.)

Where does Trump stand on policy issues? He’s an individualist. On Fox this morning, in an interview, he said that he would bring jobs back to America from China. In the next breath, he said American Hispanics would vote for him because he employs so many of them at his hotels and other businesses. He also said he would reform the Veterans Administration because he knows how to “build hospitals,” and has done so before.  He’s also tired of illegal aliens, and wants to secure the border.

I don’t see any ideology there except for “let’s get this done, it’s not brain surgery,” which is very American in and of itself and which seems to transcend ideology.

Will he be a free trader or a protectionist? My guess is he would do what he thinks is right, at the moment a decision is called for, based on his individual opinion, not a consensus statement.

Will he shrink the size of government?  My guess again is that he would do what he thinks is right, at the moment a decision is called for, based on his individual opinion, not a consensus statement.

Like Gen. Douglas MacArthur, or Gen. George Patton, or even actor John Wayne, in the 1940s, who were hugely popular with Americans, he wants to get things done, and doesn’t seem to care what other elites think of him. (He is an Ivy League graduate – so don’t think he’s not an elite. He may sound like Archie Bunker, but he’s gone to school with people whose ancestors fought at Bunker Hill, and he has lived among them in New York society for ages.)

I’m not advocating that you vote for him, or not vote for him. But I will say this — every day, with every insult against the establishment, Trump becomes a more plausible presidential candidate, given this particular moment in American history.

Libertarian? Conservative? Liberal? Or an invididualist?

Categories: On the Blog

Millions of Americans Refuse to Buy Obamacare, Prefer to Pay Penalty

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2015, 9:09 PM

Millions of Americans prefer to pay a federal tax penalty, rather than being forced to buy no-frills health insurance, a development that is surprising even the White House and progressive enthusiasts of the controversial Obamacare, according to a report.

“As many as 7.5 million U.S. taxpayers reported that they owed a tax penalty for 2014 for not signing up for health insurance, the Internal Revenue Service said. That amounted to roughly $1.5 billion in penalties,” notes Marketwatch.

“That was at least 1.5 million more taxpayers than the Obama administration expected to see paying penalties under terms of the Affordable Care Act, according to reported forecasts, and as much as triple what some officials had forecast. The number, however, will come down, as the IRS says 300,000 should have claimed an exemption to the penalty.”

Penalties averaged around $200. Nearly 85% of these taxpayers reported getting a refund for the 2014 tax year, the IRS said.

The government said 12 million taxpayers claimed they were “exempt” from health-care coverage requirements.

The number of those owing the IRS a penalty, though, may climb. The agency said 5.1 million more didn’t claim an exemption, reported they would pay a penalty or said they already had coverage. The IRS said those still are being audited to determine their status.

“Administration officials had projected that anywhere from 2.7 million to 6 million taxpayers would have to shell out at least some money in penalties, according to various sources. The Obama administration had seen 2% to 4% of taxpayers forking over the fines, but that has ended up being 6% and could go higher.” Marketwatch reported.

Remember, when Obamacare was initially passed, this particular provision was deemed a penalty. Then Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts decided – for the purposes of saving the law and keeping it constitutional – that what lawmakers really meant was that the penalty was a tax. Now, however, the IRS is referring to the tax as a penalty.

When is a penalty a tax? When the Supreme Court says so. When is a tax a penalty? When the IRS says so. Got that, Mr. Citizen?

Categories: On the Blog

An Ill-Wind in Ontario

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2015, 4:12 PM

Despite rising public complaints about adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines, thousands continue to be erected across the province.

Environmentalists often talk about people whose lives are ruined by man-made global warming.

But they never mention the lives that are devastated by misguided climate change policy.

There is no better example than the debilitating human health impacts of the hundreds of thousands of industrial wind turbines (IWTs) that are being erected around the world to supposedly mitigate climate change.

In “Adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines,” a 2013 paper in the magazine of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Dr. Roy D. Jeffery, Carmen Krogh, and Brett Horner explained, “People who live or work in close proximity to IWTs have experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction.”

“The problem is not just cyclical audible noise keeping people awake but also low frequency infrasound which can travel many kilometres,” notes Dufferin County-based Barb Ashbee, who says she was forced out of her Amaranth, Ontario home by the siting of IWTs too close to it.

“Infrasound goes right through walls,” said Ashbee, operator of the Wind Victims Ontario website. “It pummels your body.”

Tens of thousands of complaints have been received by governments around the world.

Sherri Lange, CEO of North American Platform Against Wind, said, “I have personally received hundreds of phone calls from distressed people who need to vacate their homes [because of IWTs].”

Lange contended governments try to not address the issue.

“It is my experience from talking to doctors, researchers and other high-level professionals, that governments seem to be (under the influenced of) the industry.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promised her government would not force any of the 6,736 IWTs being erected by the province into “unwilling communities”.

To date, 90 communities have declared themselves as “Unwilling Hosts”, yet construction is underway, or planned, in many of these areas.

For example, in West Lincoln and surrounding regions, wind developers have received approval to install at least 77 three-Megawatt IWTs, each as tall as a 61-storey building, despite strong public objections.

Local resident Shellie Correia is particularly concerned.

Her 12-year-old son, Joey, has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and it is crucial that he live in a quiet environment.

But now, as part of the Ontario government’s climate change plans, an IWT will be sited only 550 metres from his home, the closest “setback” allowed in Ontario for residents who do not sign lease agreements with wind companies.

The province, which cites a 2010 report from its Chief Medical Officer of Health that found no direct causal links between IWTs and adverse health effects, has claimed the province’s setbacks are “the most stringent in North America”.

In reality, most jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Europe require greater setbacks. Two kilometres is commonplace.

As Correia explained in her January, 2015 presentation before the government’s Environmental Review Tribunal, “On top of the incessant, cyclical noise, there is light flicker, and infrasound. This is not something that my son will be able to tolerate.”

Correia is supported by her son’s pediatrician, Dr. Chrystella Calvert, a specialist in the care of children with developmental and mental health problems.

Calvert says, “I, as a ‘normal brain’ individual would not want this risk [of an IWT] to my mental health (or my children’s) in my neighbourhood.”

Like most governments, Ontario officials insist the adverse health effects of IWTs are minimal, citing various studies.

But there is much scientific evidence to the contrary and studies are lacking with regards to children.

Krogh, one of the authors of the report on health problems linked to IWTs that appeared in the magazine of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, wrote in a May 13, 2013 open communication to Canada’s health minister, “Vigilance and long-term surveillance systems regarding risks and adverse effects related to children are lacking. … This evaluation should take place before proceeding with additional approvals.”

But the approvals go ahead regardless.

As Correia notes, “Wynne speaks about ‘protecting’ her granddaughter’s future (in defending her government’s plan to introduce carbon pricing through cap-and-trade.) Why then, is it not important for her to protect my son, now?”

[Originally published at the Toronto Sun]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jay Lehr, Ph.D: Nuclear Power Post-Fukushima

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2015, 11:49 AM

 

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr, Ph.D. Lehr and Burnett discuss the subject of nuclear power in the post-Fukushima age.

Lehr and Burnett discuss the misplaced fears and the misunderstood benefits of nuclear power and how Japan, which shut down its nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the Fukushima incident, is beginning to bring nuclear power back to their energy mix.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Yet Again, the Left is Caught Faking Support for its Ridiculous Policies

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2015, 11:02 AM

Remember Russia’s Potemkin villages?

The phrase “Potemkin village”…was originally used to describe a fake portable village, built only to impress….

The phrase is now used, typically in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is.

The modern Left is renowned for erecting Potemkin-esque faux support and supporters for its policy ridiculousness.

You want fake feet in the street?

Boom Times for Rent-a-Mobs  

These are busy – and profitable – times for rent-a-mobs. Just days after Black Friday protests against Walmart stores, many of the same agitators will be out again on Thursday protesting at fast-food restaurants in New York City and across the country.

We’re all supposed to pretend these are “organic worker “uprisings against exploitative employers; in fact, they’re all bankrolled by Big Labor and its allies.

Ferguson Protesters Now Protesting Over Not Getting Paid

L.A. Union Members, Activists to Caravan to Arizona to Protest Immigration Law

Very, very often – We the Taxpayers are picking up large swaths of the phony protest tab. And not just for the government-union “protestors.”

Obama DOJ Facilitated Anti-Zimmerman Protests with Taxpayer Money

DOJ Sends Taxpayer-Funded ‘Protest Marshals’ to Ferguson

Free Ride. Protesters Ride to Rally on Taxpayer Dime

Nothing like Leftists using government money – to lobby for more government money. That seems fair.

Want to vote to end this? It’s getting harder and harder to do so – because your vote is increasingly likely to be cancelled out by fake voters.

Dems’ Voter-Fraud Denial

Officials Found Guilty in Obama, Clinton Ballot Petition Fraud

Democrat Election Fraud in Arkansas is Tip of the Iceberg

4 Indiana Dems Charged with Election Fraud

Maryland Democrat Quits Congressional Race Amid Vote Fraud Allegations

Again, often our money is being used – to phony the vote.

The Complete Guide to ACORN Voter Fraud

They register dead people. But that’s not all.

Voter Fraud Expert: ‘We Smell ACORN’ in Georgia

Nevada Voter Fraud Law Upheld, ACORN Conviction Sustained

ACORN Continues to Receive Taxpayer Cash

When the Left isn’t using fake people – it’s generating fake votes.

Voting Machines in Maryland Change Votes For Republicans to Votes For Democrats

Video: Machine Switches Votes from Republican to Democrat in Illinois

Video: Pennsylvania Voting Machine Switches Vote From Barack Obama To Mitt Romney

This is Marxist de rigueur. So why would Media Marxists be any different? Of course they aren’t. Back in 2010, they did this:

Free Press and NTEN Con Nonprofits into Supporting Net Neutrality

Late last month, lobbyists for the pro-net neutrality movement began circulating a letter on Capitol Hill demanding the immediate passage of a law that would allow the FCC to regulate Internet broadband.

The letter, sponsored by media reformist groups Free Press and the Nonprofit Technology Network, featured over 160 signatories, among them the Dr. Pepper Museum, Planned Parenthood of North Texas, and Operation Catnip, a spay-and-neuter clinic in Gainesville, Florida.

If you’re thinking that the aforementioned groups don’t sound like the net-neutrality types, you’d be right. One signatory doesn’t remember signing anything related to net neutrality, and the other signatories contacted by The Daily Caller could not explain their support for Title II reclassification in fact, they didn’t even attempt to explain their support.

So who didn’t see this coming?

Fake Jim Beam Letter Reveals Quiet FCC Lobbying Campaign (Politico Pro pay article)

The lobbying effort came to light after one letter – ostensibly from

famous bourbon maker Jim Beam – turned out to be a fraud….

Jim Beam’s corporate owner quickly denied penning or authorizing the June

24 letter….

(T)he letters are part of a widespread advocacy effort on the issue from public interest groups and trade groups….

COMPTEL defended the lobbying effort, saying that the group “is proud of these efforts.

The phone companies want to transition from 1930s circuit-switched wireline networks to state-of-the-art IP phone service. In part because…duh. In part because these old lines are WAY more expensive to maintain. Money dumped backwards down these imploding ratholes could be MUCH better spent advancing the tech ball – making things MUCH better and faster going forward.

But COMPTEL is fake lobbying with fake letters – for this very old technology. Because COMPTEL is apparently anti-science.

Who else is anti-science? The Communications Workers of America (CWA) – yet another union.

(I am of course kidding about “anti-science.” But see how silly that assertion sounds, ye of the Left?)

Why is the CWA anti-progress? Self-interest. Because most of the antiquated phone lines are unionized – and most of the modern lines are not. As we move away from the ancient technology – we move away from the CWA’s gravy gigs.

And all of this is on the heels of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally imposing1930s landline phone line law onto the Internet (which is Network Neutrality on steroids). Which is anti-progress – but also really pro-authoritarian.

Ridiculously outdated technology. Imposed and propped up by lies – in defense of Huge Government and its Leftist cronies.

Because that’s progressive.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Freedom to Move: Personal Liberty or Government Control, Part I

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2015, 10:15 AM

The immigration issue has once more bubbled to the surface in America because of the provocative statements and assertions by one of the Republication contenders for their party’s presidential nomination.

Immigrants – especially illegal immigrants – are accused of stealing the jobs of “real” Americans, of mooching off the welfare state at the expense of taxpaying U.S. citizens and legal residents, and threatening the political status quo of the nation, since “we all know” that too many of those immigrants, if given citizenship, will vote for the political plunders who offer them more of other people’s money.

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America the Land of Opportunity for the New Comer

It is a cliché, but it is no less true: we are a nation of immigrants. It is estimated that between 1840 and 1914, around 60 million people left Europe to settle somewhere else in the world. About 35 million of them came to the United States. The remainder found new homes in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada or Latin American countries such as Brazil and Argentina.

They came to America usually for one (or more) of three reasons: To escape religious persecution, to get from under political oppression, or to find economic opportunity for the better compared to the government controls, regulations or heavy taxes experienced in the “old country.”

In the 1840s and 1850s, large numbers of Irish came to the United States. They left behind famine and unwanted British rule. In the 1860s and 1870s, a wave of Germans came to America’s shores. They were looking for a better economic life and avoidance of the military draft due to Prussian-led wars that resulted in the unification of the Germanic states into Imperial Germany in 1871 under Kaiser Wilhelm I.

In the 1880s and 1890s, many Italians and Poles came to America looking for better material circumstances for their families. In the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century, there arrived a significant numbers of Russian Jews who were escaping from poverty and religious persecution and violence in Imperial Russia.

In between came Scandinavians, Scots, Hungarians, Lithuanians and Latvians, Romanians and Greeks, and many, many others.

Some Looking for a Second Chance, Others Brought in Chains

All were looking for a “second chance,” a new beginning in a new land that greeted many of them with the Statue of Liberty as they entered New York harbor. Most of them did not know the English language; many were illiterate or had only limited education; they were often “low skilled” with limited experience with working in the emerging modern world of commerce, industry, and trade.

But for many of us, let us not forget, they are our ancestors. They are our grandparents or great-grandparents, or great great-grandparents. We are here, enjoying the lives that we lead with the degrees of prosperity that we each are fortunate to have, because they left the “old country” to try to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Yes, not every American alive today is the descendent of such immigrants. Over 10 million Africans were brought to the Americas between the 1500s and the mid-1800s. It is estimated that upwards of two million more Africans never survived the journey across the Atlantic in the slave ships. About 500,000 of those Africans were brought to the United States during the period of the slave trade.

Yet, their descendants in the U.S., after a long and harsh political and economic battle against segregation, racial prejudices, and educational disadvantages over many decades, live far better and have more economic opportunities, today, in mainstream America than the vast majority of billions of people in other parts of the world.

 

Myths and Prejudices Against the New Arrivals

How were many of these waves of immigrants frequently viewed by those (or their descendants) who had come to America earlier? With prejudice, dislike, and intolerance.

How can the Irish or the Poles ever be “real Americans”? After all, they worship and obey the Pope in Rome! And, don’t forget, they are all drunks, and therefore are a bad example for our children. Oh, and the Italians, who besides being Pope worshipers, are all lazy and Mafia types.

What about those Germans? They cluster together in small communities clinging to speaking German and eating their German food, while wanting to spend their weekends in the park listening to military oom-pah-pah music with a beer stein in hand.

And those Jews! Well, we all know they killed Jesus. And, besides, it’s rumored that they kidnap and kill Gentile children to make matzo bread out of them. Plus, they are the blood sucking “money-changers.” Clearly their arrival means the end of God’s America!

We look back, today, at such beliefs, attitudes and prejudices with the ridicule and bemusement that they deserve. Over a hundred years later, now, they are our ancestors, and we are their descendants.

The American “Melting Pot”

When I was growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, it was still common for people sometimes to refer to themselves as Italian-Americans, or Irish-Americans, or Polish-Americans, even if it was their parents or grandparents who had originally come to America.

Today, if I ask the students in my classes what is the national or ethnic origin of their last name, or where they ancestors originally came from, many if not most of them reply that they have no idea. And they don’t seem to care. They clearly have never been inquisitive or asked their family members about it.

This shows, again, the reality of another cliché: that America is a “melting pot” of a diversity peoples that over several generations become something different from their ancestors’ national origins: they are Americans.

Intermarriage between the children and grandchildren of those waves of immigrants leaves behind the national, ethnic and religious roots of the original “new arrivals” and puts in its place the mix of many into one. Even the racial divides of the past that limited such mixing have been falling by the wayside over the decades until it has become a political controversy about which box to check on a government census form when its asks the respondent their “race.”

Freedom to Move in the Classical Liberal Age

How did many of our ancestors successfully make it to America, given the types of legal barriers – in the form of passports and visas – to people’s global movements that we take for granted today? Well, through most of the period between 1840 and 1914, there were no such legal prohibitions or restraints.

Following the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, as the new, emerging spirit of classical liberalism began to take hold over the laws and policies of European governments, passport requirements were abolished. By the middle of the nineteenth century the “freedom to move” was considered an inseparable complement to individual liberty and free trade.

Historian R. R. Palmer explained in his History of the Modern World:

“Perhaps most basic in the whole European exodus was the underlying [classical] liberalism of the age. Never before (nor since) had people been legally so free to move. Old laws requiring skilled workmen to stay in their own countries were repealed, as in England in 1824. The old semi-communal agricultural villages, with collective rights and obligations, holding the individual to his native group, fell into disuse except in Russia . . .

“Governments permitted their subjects to emigrate, to take with them their savings of shillings, marks, kroner, or lire, and to change nationality by becoming naturalized in their new homes.

“The rise of individual liberty in Europe, as well as the hope of enjoying it in America, made possible the great emigration. For so huge a mass movement the most remarkable fact is that it took place by individual initiative and individual expense.”

Work Ethic and Freedom as the Paths to the New Life

This was how my grandparents on both sides of my family made it to America. During that first decade of the twentieth century, my father’s parents came as small children from Germany and Ireland. Life was hard, but my grandfather worked hard and with an attitude of “German discipline,” started a business and ended up owning apartment buildings in Chicago (and his brother participated in one of the construction companies that built the Golden Gate Bridge).

My mother’s parents were Russian and Lithuanian Jews whose families came to America following the Pogroms in Russia in 1905. They, too, arrived in New York as small children. My mother’s father wanted to be a doctor, but informal anti-Jewish quotas to many medical schools in 1920s, made it impossible to fulfill that dream. So, instead, he went to pharmacy school, earned his degree and owned a drug store in Brooklyn, New York. (He lost it during the Great Depression because too many of his neighborhood customers to whom he extended credit were not able to pay what they owed due to the hard times.)

The way to success for these waves of immigrants was hard work, determination, and not allowing the ethnic or religious stupidities of others prevent them from going as far as they could, and hopefully making the start that would at least lead to a better life for your children.

The path to such success was education. When I was a small boy, my grandmother on my mother’s side drilled into me: “Get an education. Become a professional man. Then you have a skill and maybe you’re too valuable for the Gentiles to kill.”

My grandmother was not a backward or illiterate woman. As a young girl she had studied for the opera (she even auditioned before Florenz Ziegfeld for a role in the “Ziegfeld Follies”), loved classical music, memorized many of the famous and classic poets, and was widely read in literature.

But the memories of the Cossacks coming into her village in the Ukraine, and burning homes and killing people merely because they were Jews had left its mark. You needed to take your own life into your own hands and make a secure place in a freer country than the one she had left as that small child.

And she constantly repeated one phrase to me: “The world does not owe you a living.” And this from a woman who voted socialist or liberal Democrat, and cried when FDR died! The spirit of American individualism had become an inseparable part of even my “socialist”-leaning grandmother.

The Return of Migration Barriers Before and After the Great War

This classical liberal world of freedom of movement began to change even before the start of the First World War in 1914. For America the change began in the 1880s with restrictions on Chinese entering the United States. Labor union leaders like Samuel Gompers may have denounced the arrival of the Chinese because they supposedly were “ruining” young white men and women through the enticement of opium dens. But, in fact, behind it was the argument that the “yellow hordes” threatened white men’s jobs by being willing to work longer hours for less pay.

With the coming of the First World War, belligerent nations reintroduced restrictions on people entering or leaving their countries without government approval through the reintroduction of the officially issued “passport” and visa system.

And, then, following the war, in the early 1920s, the United States imposed stringent immigration barriers and quotas. Ethnic fears of too many inferior and less educated central and eastern Europeans entering the country, plus the growing pressure of labor unions to limit competition threatening their workplace privileged members lowered the curtain on America’s epoch of generally free migration.

The implicit premise reintroduced was the presumption that you were not a free person at liberty to live, work and travel where and when you chose, as long as you were peaceful and respectful of the rights of others.

Migration Barriers Once More Make You the Property of the State

No, you were once again the property of the state, stamped and controlled through the passport and visa systems. You may leave or enter the jurisdiction of a nation-state only at the pleasure and permission of the political authority with power over that country.

The famous German free market economist, Wilhelm Röpke, once pointed out one of the consequences of such policies in an essay on “Barriers to Migration” (1951):

“There is no doubt that the closing of the gates of immigration . . . is a part of the larger tendency of our time towards growing nationalization and collectivization of political, cultural, economic and social life . . .

“Modern nationalism and collectivism have, by the restriction of migration, perhaps come closest to the ‘servile state’ . . . Man can hardly be reduced more to a mere wheel in the clockwork of the national collectivist state than by being deprived of his freedom of movement . . . Feeling that he belongs now to his nation, body and soul, he will more easily subdued to the obedient state serf which nationalist and collectivist governments demand.”

But what about the “economic” objections to more open borders? What about jobs, wages, and taxpayers’ money? And what about the dilution of American culture and politics by the arrival of large numbers of foreign “aliens”?

We will discuss these issues in part II of this article next week.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Another Day, Another Mammoth Failure for Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2015, 6:16 PM

A new, national study is pointing to yet another instance in which the promised benefits of Obamacare have failed to materialize as forecast.

The report, published Monday in the professional medical journal the Annals of Family Medicine, eyed how physicians have been transitioning to a system which focuses on improving patient health, as opposed to fighting disease.

Researchers “found pretty negligible differences” in physician performance in the new practice model per a survey of more than 600 U.S. medical practices, reports a Wonk Blog post in The Washington Post

The study examined so-called Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which were, in theory, supposed to be more effective than traditional medical practices, as they provided incentives for physicians to educate their patients as to how to cultivate a healthy lifestyle. ACOs were authorized under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

But the Obama theory of how doctors should work with patients clashed pretty harshly with reality in the field of medicine.

“Their first finding was a mess of inconsistencies in the way doctors are paid – a combination of salary, money from providing services, and quality,” the paper stated. “The break-down in pay for the 632 physician practices surveyed varied widely, regardless of whether the doctors worked in an accountable care organization or a more traditional practice. Second, the amount of income tied to the quality of the care they delivered was small – even if they worked at an accountable care organization that was working to drive down costs by improving patient care.”

Andrew Ryan, a health economist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who headed the research sardonically commented: “I think it points to a potential problem: that these incentives aren’t getting translated to individual physicians.”

 

President Obama meets with celebrities at a Kennedy Center function. But life for doctors under his Obamacare is decidedly less glamorous.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) 

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Mexico’s Energy Reform is Rolling, Albeit with Training Wheels

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2015, 10:59 AM

Understanding the connection between energy and economic growth, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto set out to reform his country’s energy policy and invite outside intelligence and investment to boost slumping oil output. In late 2013, he succeeded in getting the constitution amended to allow private and foreign companies to explore and produce oil and gas in Mexico—for the first time in nearly eight decades. The amendments put an end to the government monopoly. Foreign companies can now compete with, or partner with, Pemex—the national oil company. Nieto hopes his reforms will bring in $50 billion in investment by 2018.

The wheels of reform move slowly, but on July 15, the first international investors put their toes in the shallow water of Mexico’s oil prize—which could be “as big as the proven reserves of Kuwait.” The Financial Times (FT) calls Mexico’s potential 107.5 billion barrels of oil: “quite a feast.” FT adds: “The country is viewed as one of the dwindling number of opportunities to add substantial reserves to portfolios after several years when the oil majors have struggled to make big discoveries.”

Disappointing Start

Yet, despite the possibilities, Mexico’s first of three auctions expected this year, being called round 1.1, was disappointing, at best. In round 1.1, 14 shallow water blocks were offered. Only two had successful bids: block 2 off the coast of Veracruz and block 7 off of Tabasco.  The winning bidder for both blocks was Sierra Oil & Gas—a Mexican company in a consortium with U.S. company, Talos, and Britain’s Premier Oil.

Thirty-eight companies—including majors such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Russia’s Lukoil—qualified to participate in the auctions, though only nine participated in round 1.1. BloombergBusiness reports: “Spokesmen for Exxon and Chevron said that while they weren’t interested in the shallow-water round of bidding, they hadn’t given up on being part of Mexico’s energy reform.”

When Mexico’s energy reforms began, oil was in the $100 a barrel range, the Mexican government expected four to seven of the blocks would be sold—representing a goal of 30-50 percent. On July 15, the success rate was a less-than-expected 14 percent.

Bad Timing

Unfortunately for Nieto, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Not only are global oil prices 50 percent of what they were when the constitutional amendments passed, the week during which the auction was scheduled, turned out to be bad news for Nieto’s hopes.

First, four days before the auction took place, “El Chapo,” Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, broke out of one of the country’s highest security prisons—again. The Economist states: “The escape of El Chapo is proof that the rule of law in Mexico is still shaky.” FT echoes the sentiment: the escape shows “impunity, corruption and the weak rule of law remain the norm in Mexico rather than the exception.”

The fields up for auction on July 15 were fields with lower probabilities of success—6-54 percent, according to a FuelFix report. While smaller companies are more willing to gamble on success, they can’t afford the security or kickbacks needed to co-exist with the cartels. The Economist explains: “Disorder does not always deter investors who can afford armoured cars and bodyguards, but it puts off smaller businesses, Mexican and foreign.”

One small U.S, company told me: “Mexico’s past history is one of political instability, expropriations, quick changes in government policies, graft and corruption, inefficiencies, and socialist-style attitudes and philosophy. With abundant opportunities in the U.S., and less risk here, why invest in Mexico?”

At the same time the news of El Chapo broke, reports indicated a deal with Iran was imminent. The nuclear accord was struck the day before Mexico’s historic auction. Concerns that Iran will soon begin exporting 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, making crude prices slide further, dampened interest in new exploration.

El Chapo’s escape highlighted the risk, while the Iran deal reduced the reward. The scales didn’t tip in Mexico’s favor.

Poor Offering

While the July 15 auction wasn’t the success it was hoped to be, there is cause for optimism. Perhaps to give itself time to work out the kinks, the National Hydrocarbon Commission offered the less desirable parcels first. The New York Times (NYT) states: “the lots offered in the first round of a multiyear auction process were not among the most commercially attractive.”

The majors, which skipped the first auction, are more interested in the deep water projects—scheduled for auction in early 2016—where the risk is lower and the reward is higher.  NYT explains: “The biggest growth will probably come in deep water fields that are adjacent to bountiful American production fields and that have yet to be thoroughly explored. The fields are thought to be large and have the added advantage of being close to the vast pipeline network in the American portion of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as American refineries and the American market itself.”

Additionally, the onshore potential will be of more interest to the new Mexican oil companies—many of which previously worked for Pemex as oil-field service contractors. They have experience with drilling on land but will need foreign partners for offshore exploration. The onshore blocks are scheduled for auction in December.

Unattractive Terms

When the terms, designed to maximize Mexico’s take more than to attract investment, were first announced, they generated little interest. They have been sweetened twice since then—and will likely be revised before the next auction.

Winners, who were pre-qualified as able to meet the financial requirements, were determined by the highest amount of profit to be shared with the Mexican government and the amount of investment pledged above the required minimum—which was set by the finance ministry and kept in a sealed envelope that was opened at the auction. For the two blocks awarded in the July 15 auction, the winner offered 55.99 % for the first block and 68.99% for the second. In each case, an investment of 10% above the minimum was offered. Some of the blocks that were not awarded did receive bids, but they were below the minimum—though the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports: “several rejected bids fell just below the minimum.”

One of the terms of concern is the stringent guarantees required in case of a blowout such as the Deepwater Horizon. The Economist calls them: “beyond international norms” and the FT reports: “Four pre-qualified companies pulled out last week—at least one because of the guarantees” which are “essentially a blank cheque.”

Additionally, Mexico has reserved the right to rescind contracts—which reminds potential investors a bit too much of Mexico’s history of expropriation.

Pablo Medina, Latin America upstream analyst at Wood MacKenzie, said, in WSJ: “I would expect the government to incorporate what it’s learned in the next tenders.”

Cautious Optimism

Despite the various bumps in the road, many are cautiously hopeful. Juan Carlos Zepeda president of the National Hydrocarbon Commission, has, according to WSJ, “higher expectations for subsequent auctions.”

In OilPro.com, Richard Sanchez, IHS Petrodata’s lead Marine Market Analyst for the Americas, states: “Mexico has vast deepwater potential, comparable to oil fields found on the US side of the Gulf of Mexico.” It is too big to fail. A consultant working with the new Mexican oil companies told me: “The resources are world-class. Mexico’s energy reforms will ultimately be successful.”

“The government estimates almost half its unproven reserves lie in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico,” the FT reports. “In addition it holds the world’s sixth biggest technically recoverable shale gas and the eighth largest shale oil prospects.”

Jim Hoffman, an oil-and-gas training and education provider who has worked in the industry for 35 years, told me: “Over time, opening Mexico will provide a huge boost for both American producers and service companies at reduced cost. It won’t happen right away, but as the infrastructure gets built, results will become better and better.” He added: “How about jobs, for Mexicans, who won’t have to cross the border illegally? How about Americans who have the opportunity to bring new and better technology and practices to an underdeveloped industry location?  What a great opportunity.”

Mexico’s energy reform is rolling. The July 15 auction gave the country a chance to try it out and start slowly—more of an evolution than a revolution. There is enthusiasm for the future. The oil-price issue will work itself out as it will take three to five years to develop the new fields. As the training wheels come off, the terms are tweaked and the offerings are more attractive, results will become better and better—delivering a whole new industry for Mexico and fresh opportunities for American companies.

Categories: On the Blog

Smart Meters: Don’t be Fooled. No Real Benefits, Incalculable Risks Pt 2

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2015, 9:51 AM

ComEd is in the process of installing 4,000,000 “Smart Meters” across the state of Illinois. Traditional analog electric meters are being replaced. Featured in Part 1 was a CUBFacts informational sheet on which CUB’s misleading statements were followed each time by an expert’s explanation.

The health effects and safety violations continue to be reported in the U.S. and in other nations. After reading this article, even the most skeptical individuals might come to a realization that Smart Meters are definitely NOT the innocent devices that the public has been told to accept.

Ronald M. Powell, Ph. D., revisited

One respected and knowledgeable professional already cited in Part 1, is Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D., who as a retired career U.S. Government scientist holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University.  During his Government career, Dr. Powell worked for the Executive Office of the President, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

As a follow up on Part 1, Dr. Powell maintains:

Wherever these meters are installed, they threaten the health of all residents in the community, violate their privacy, increase the likelihood of hacking, decrease their personal security and safety, and threaten property values in the community. And Wireless Smart Meters do all of this without any persuasive evidence of any financial benefit to the customers. All of these consequences are important for consumers; but the health threat is particularly tragic.

Note: Utility propaganda combines benefits of Smart Grid and Smart Meters together; don’t be fooled.  Much of Smart Grid is beneficial but Smart Meters cost a fortune, provide no net benefit for consumers and pose immediate and long-term threats to our health. NStar of Massachusetts states: “there is no rational basis for the implementation of AMI (Smart Meters).”

In other words, there are little, if any, benefits for the consumer and incalculable risks for residents and their families.

Making a Strong Case Against Smart Meters

The following is cited in a document by Dr. Powell, “The Health Argument for Replacing Wireless Smart Meters with a Safe Metering Technology”, which makes a strong case against the use of wireless Smart Meters:

Some of the biological effects of exposure to RF radiation can be readily sensed (the “symptoms”).  Other biological effects cannot be readily sensed, at least not until an advanced state of harm has been reached.  Unfortunately, you can be harmed by the latter even when you are free of the ‘symptoms.'” . . . literature reviews indicate that some groups of individuals are at especially high risk of harm from exposure to RF radiation:  pregnant women and their unborn children, very young children, teenagers, men of reproductive age, seniors, and anyone with a chronic health condition. 

Every resident in a community is irradiated by every Wireless Smart Meter in that community, just to varying degrees. Each Wireless Smart Meter near to a given resident produces more radiation in his home than each Wireless Smart Meter farther away. (This is because exposure drops off with distance.) But there are so many more Wireless Smart Meters that are farther away that, together, they count, too. For example, in my community there are 14,000 Wireless Smart Meters installed on our homes. Together, they issue an average of 140 million pulses of RF radiation every day, up to a maximum of 2.7 billion pulses per day. There is now no place in our community where a resident can go where he is not near to many Wireless Smart Meters and within reach of so many more Wireless Smart Meters that are farther away.

Consider the health impact from 4,000,000 Smart Meters issuing pulses of RF radiation each day, forever. If you live in Illinois in the territory serviced by ComEd, this is what you can expect. In addition, RF radiation exposures add together. Many small exposures from Smart Meter emissions can add up to a significant amount of exposure which is cumulative, building up over time.

An additional fact worth noting: “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) a part of the World Health Organization has classified wireless devices including Smart Meters as a Class 2B Carcinogen.” There are many health professionals (some from the original IARC committee) who think enough evidence exists now to have Smart Meters classified as a 2A probable Carcinogen. Either way, that makes this the first time in history that a possible Carcinogen has been mandated on ALL homes and buildings being serviced by an electric utility.

Dr. Powell has written this very important article, The Impact of Wireless Technology on Our Childrenwhich was published on Sept. 14, 2014. It is extremely timely, as more and more children are being subjected to the RF/microwave radiation from wireless devices. However, those devices are voluntary and can be switched off when not in use. By contrast, Smart Meters are mandatory and can never be turned off.

While the health consequences of exposure to RF/microwave radiation are vitally important to people of all ages, those consequences are especially serious for children. They are the most vulnerable to harm, they will have to live the longest with the harm, and they are not yet in a position to defend themselves.

This risk is well documented in the archival published literature from the international biomedical research community, certainly more than enough to evoke the Precautionary Principle to protect our children.

Dr. David O. Carpenter, edited updated 2012 BioIniative Report

Another Smart Meter expert is Dr. David O. Carpenter. He is Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health. Dr. Carpenter received his MD degree from Harvard Medical School, has more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, and testified at the President’s Council on Cancer. He is known in professional circles all over the world for his view that Smart Meters represent a real threat to the health of utility customers.  He was the leader of a group of 45 doctors and scientists who signed the “Toronto Statement” warning of the dangers of Smart Meters in 2012.  Dr. Carpenter edited the original (2007) and the updated 2012 BioIniative Report comprised of a review of 1,800 peer-reviewed studies indicating harm from RF/microwave radiation at levels far below FCC guidelines.

From the BioInitiative Report Update:  

Sometimes, science does not keep pace with new environmental exposures and the deployment runs ahead of knowledge of health risks. That is the case for Electromagnetic Fields and RF radiation in the BioInitiative report. The report underscores the critical need to face difficult questions, make mid-course corrections, try to repair the damage already done in this generation, and to think about protecting future generations. As there is now much more evidence of risks to health, the status quo is not acceptable in light of the evidence for harm.”

Significant statements by Dr. Carpenter include:

With Smart Meters:  The first cause of harm is the pulse modulation of the microwave radio carrier. My concern is that Smart Meters use multiple very high intensity pulses. The pulses are very brief, but they are extremely high intensity. There is a building body of evidence that these transients with several rises and falls, especially at high intensity, are much more dangerous than a steady sine wave which is what you think of with Electromagnetic Fields.

There are an enormous number of reports of people becoming ill after a Smart Meter was installed on their house, and that is because there is something particularly harmful about the high intensity pulses. Smart meters will adversely impact about 5% of the population almost immediately following installation, and are likely to cause cancers or neurological illnesses in the long run for a much larger share of the public.

There is no evidence that anyone is immune to the cancer risk from wireless. We do not yet know the causes of cancer although we know a lot about cancer. Some argue that the associations that we see in human health studies between exposure to RF radiation and elevated risk of cancer should be ignored simply because we do not know all of the mechanisms. That is totally inappropriate because not knowing all the mechanisms is also true for smoking and lung cancer, true for environmental exposures to chemicals, and true for various cancers that arise.

Dr. Carpenter goes on to say that as a nation, “We should be regulating on the basis of those that are most vulnerable. And by far, infants and children are the most vulnerable.”

Other Experts on Smart Meter Research: Dr. Martin Blank and Dr. Magda Havas 

Along with Dr. Ronald Powell and Dr. David Carpenter is Dr. Martin Blank introducing The International EMF Scientist Appeal signed by 190 scientists from 39 nations. These scientists have collectively published over 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on the biological or health effects RF radiation. Dr. Blank has had over 30 years of experience conducting EMF research at Columbia University and is a past president of the International Bioelectromagnetics Society. Dr. Blank gives a compelling explanation of the major health crisis we are facing due to increasing levels of environmental pollution from growing and expanding EMF sources.

While viewing the video, consider the added RF radiation exposure that will blanket Illinois from the installation of 4,000,000 Smart Meters. And be cognizant of the fact that CUB and ComEd are using propaganda to fool you into believing that Smart Meters are necessary, beneficial, and safe.

The following quote is from Dr. Magda Havas, Associate Professor of Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent University. Dr. Havas received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and completed Post-Doctoral research at Cornell University:

What do you do when you see a disaster looming and those who have the power to prevent it refuse to listen, when those with a financial interest attack by producing false information and twisting the truth, and then attempt to discredit those who are sounding the alarm?

What do you do when you see the time bomb ticking and those who can defuse it refuse to act? If Smart Meters are placed on every home, they will then contribute significantly to our exposure and this is both unwise and unsafe. This is where we are today with Smart Meters that have proven to be harmful to our health and the environment.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

How High School Nearly Destroyed Me, and Why School Choice Matters

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2015, 9:26 AM

Many say school choice is a dangerous idea because it turns parents and students into customers and teachers into something like service providers. In my experience, the absence of school choice turns parents and students into captives with no ability to make decisions that would improve educational opportunities.

My time at Dover High School (DHS), located in a small city in southern New Hampshire, was not what most people would call normal. What started as a simple medical annoyance when I was in junior high school slowly transformed into a painful and undiagnosed stomach illness that progressively got worse with each passing day. It seemed as though every time I ate something, my gut would burst into flames, preventing me from spending time with friends, attending school, and even getting my driver’s license.

With each passing year, the number of days I missed school grew. By the time I was in my third year of high school, I was absent well over 100 times in a 180-day school year, and I often came to school late on many of the remaining days.

Being sick all the time was hard enough, but it was nearly unbearable to be sick in a school where the vast majority of the teachers and school administrators thought I was fabricating the illness because it was officially undiagnosed. My parents had followed all the proper guidelines for ensuring the school would continue to make reasonable accommodations for my education. They took me to countless doctors and received documentation from each indicating there was a real medical problem. They also ensured I was signed up for the 504 Plan, a set of policies established by federal law mandating public schools continue to offer sick and disabled students an education, and they met with school officials constantly to try and keep them on-track.

No matter what my parents or I did, my teachers wouldn’t budge. They were convinced my illness was a big lie I orchestrated to get myself out of going to class. As one of my history teachers wrote in a letter, he was unwilling to comply with the mandates of the 504 Plan because he refused to support “Justin’s vacation.” Teachers would fail me in courses even when I received A grades on tests and class assignments. One of my English teachers said it wouldn’t be fair to give me a passing grade when other students “actually came to class.”

School administrators were even worse. They suspended me for missing too many days of school—an absurd irony—and one official in a meeting flatly insisted I was “a liar” who had managed to trick his parents into believing an elaborate fiction.

There was no one willing to hold these teachers and administrators accountable for breaking federal law, and there were no other public school options available. I was trapped in what seemed like a hopeless situation.

Toward the end of my junior year, a doctor affiliated with Harvard Medical School diagnosed and treated what at the time was a relatively unknown bacterial infection that, when given the opportunity to build for several years, can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. After five years of being sick, I was cured in a little over a month.

The public school officials were baffled by this turn of events and went into full panic mode. After months of giving me virtually none of the required assignments from my teachers, a school official provided me with hundreds of assignments from all of my courses in one day. Soon the teachers and administrators began to spread an elaborate story claiming I had actually been treated fairly the whole time and was now lying about the various educational problems I had cited in the previous years.

It wasn’t until the school became aware of the meticulous recordkeeping my parents had used to keep track of all the run-ins with teachers and school officials that the school district finally forced the school to resolve the crisis.

Faced with the potential of a costly lawsuit, the school’s teachers and administrators gathered in a room with my parents one afternoon to discuss options for resolving the dispute. The solution they came to was to completely fabricate three years of school records, making up grades out of thin air in order to get out of a very sticky situation. Grades were haggled and bartered over like a business transaction; providing an education was not evidently an item on the school’s priority list.

My transition into life after high school ended was difficult at times, but I eventually went on to graduate at the top of my class at the University of Richmond and obtain two graduate degrees, one in government and another in journalism. I’ve been published in some of the world’s most prominent publications, and I have the honor of working for The Heartland Institute, a leading free-market think tank.

When people ask me how I found my way into the pro-liberty movement, the honest answer is that I was pushed into it. I didn’t learn much about calculus or physics in high school, but I received a priceless lesson in how bureaucracies work, how teachers unions protect their own at the expense of schoolchildren, and why giving parents and students the freedom to make educational choices should be a universal right, not a privilege reserved for the few.

[Published in Townhall.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Milt Rosenberg Part 3: The Global Warming Debate

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2015, 8:44 AM

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

Because of the alarmists refusal to debate, Rosenberg stands in as the opposing voice to Taylor and Goreham’s skepticism.  In the third and final piece of this podcast, Taylor, Goreham and Rosenberg wrap up their conversion on climate change by touching on a few more important topics.

Part 1

Part 2

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

Categories: On the Blog

White House Conference on Aging Abuses Elders by Ignoring Injustice

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

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

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

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

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

Post Conference Disappointment and Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elderly Guardianship Situation is a Disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

National AAAPG Teleconference on Tuesday, July 21

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

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

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

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

Illinois Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Feds Going Cuckoo for Unthreatened Birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Take a Bow for the New Revolution

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

The Who in Hamburg, 1972.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Evolving Urban Form: Sprawling Boston

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

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

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

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

The Boston Combined Statistical Area

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

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

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

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

Urbanization in the Boston CSA

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

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

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

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

Suburban Densities

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

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

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

Employment Dispersion

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

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

One of the World’s Most Prosperous Metropolitan Areas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Senate Approves Education Bill Keeping Feds in Charge of Education

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

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

The 17 Senators voting against reauthorization were:

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

 

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

Categories: On the Blog
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