On the Blog

The Donald Trump Rule: ‘Flip-Flopping’ to the Right Position Can Be a Very Good Thing

Somewhat Reasonable - 1 hour 48 min ago

We hear the charge leveled all the time: “Flip-flopper.” When someone fundamentally changes their position on an issue.

We are naturally left to wonder if the move is genuine. Are they are saying what they think – or what they think we want to hear?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has rocketed to to the top of the sixteen-candidate heap – in large part because of his anti-illegal immigration stance. Which is from all appearances a relatively new position for him. Here’s November 2012 Trump:

“(Mitt Romney) had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

Trump’s current illegal immigration stance is…slightly more staunch. And it appears to be working for him.

(Of course, Trump is by no means the only 2016 candidate to radically reconfigure his immigration position – Hello, Senator Marco “Gang of Eight” Rubio.)

If a pol flip-flops to the right side of an issue – we shouldn’t mindlessly attack. Because we can not with any certitude know why they did it. What we can do is hail their correction – and hold them to it.

So it is with the awful Innovation Act.

The Innovation Act is fundamental transformation of the Constitutionally-protected patent process – without benefit of the Constitutional amendment process. All under the (intentional or accidental) false flags of “litigation reform” – to deal with “patent trolls.”

But “patent trolls” are almost always nothing more than people with patents – defending them against patent thieves. The patent holders usually have to sue to do that – this “litigation reform” makes it exponentially more difficult for them to do so.

An Innovation Act House vote is expected after the August recess. Except:

Patent Reform Defectors Emerge in House

The House Judiciary Committee’s lopsided approval of patent reform legislation last month would not have looked as overwhelming if every member showed up.

Six of the seven members of the committee who were absent told The Hill they are leaning toward opposing the measure in its current form. Five of those opponents supported a similar bill last Congress….

Flip-floppers all, potentially. Hopefully.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 62% (R-Calif.) had put it on the July schedule and it appeared to be heading toward quick approval after a similar bill passed the full House last Congress 325-91.

But after a series of meetings, which opponents say did not go well, the bill was taken off the July calendar. McCarthy said last week that “there is more work to be done on it.”

But why waste any more lipstick on this pig? When there are actual attractive bills to be had?

TROL Act

This is not fundamental transformation. It specifically reforms demand letter abuse – without total system disruption.

It gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to deal with bad demand letter writers – on an a la carte basis. The FTC examines each case as it comes – rather then preemptive, all-encompassing legislation where every single patent holder trying to protect their intellectual property is assumed to be acting in bad faith.

And that’s about it. With DC – less is almost always more….

Strong Act

This isn’t fundamental transformation either. It reforms demand letter abuse – and cleans up some previous DC mistakes.

The last patent reform bill – the America Invents Act – established overly broad standards for when and how patents can be challenged at the patent office. This bill tightens them.

And it uses the TROL Act language that ends abusive demand letters.

As Ronald Reagan said of his treaty dealings with the Soviet Union – “Trust, but verify.”

We should (almost always) give flip-floppers to correct positions the benefit of the doubt – and thereafter the totality of our scrutiny.

If actually elected, Trump should absolutely be held to his new anti-illegal immigration stance – which will have helped deliver him to the White House.

And to these new tentatively anti-Innovation Act Republicans and Democrats – we say “Welcome (almost) home. Do the right thing – and vote No.”

Better still, House Leadership should take further note – and not waste any more makeup on this swine.

Let’s permanently leave it in the legislative pen. And move on to much better looking bills.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

FAA Warning Raises More Questions About Boeing Batteries

Somewhat Reasonable - 3 hours 56 min ago

It appears – two years after Boeing had fire incidents from installed lithium ion batteries that shut down deliveries of its vaunted Dreamliner 787 – that its “solution” to “vent” heat and flames outside the aircrafts has prevented any catastrophes, so far.

But it hasn’t alleviated concerns about the batteries’ physics and makeup. Last week Boeing issued a warning to its airline customers to not carry bulk shipments of lithium-ions because if they catch fire or overheat, they’re unstoppable. A spokesman told the Associated Press that the manufacturer has advised airlines not to transport the batteries “until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented.” Likewise, the FAA simultaneously stated that its research has found that carriage of lithium ion batteries “presents a risk.”

The alert was industry-wide. At a safety forum held last week in Washington by the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing’s fire protection system specialist Doug Ferguson explained what led to the decision to issue the warning. He said standard fire suppression systems employed on aircraft, called Halon 1301, are ineffective against the “thermal runaway” that bulk quantities of lithium ion batteries are known for.

“Unrestricted quantities of lithium batteries that are involved in a cargo fire…can still create hazards that would effect the continued safe flight and landing of the aircraft,” Ferguson said, “particularly depending on the location, the type and quantity of batteries and the time required for a safe landing.”

Boeing, after dismissing any fears about fires in the lithium-ion batteries that power most of the Dreamliner’s systems (saying “it almost doesn’t matter” what caused them), apparently had an intervention from a higher power. According to Aviation International News, the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations issued recommendations regarding transport of lith-ions. Boeing and fellow manufacturers Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier participated in developing the advisory, with plans to meet soon to work on packaging that can contain or mitigate thermal runaway fires.

“What has happened,” Ferguson added, “is that testing has shown that there are higher rates of smoke production, flammable vapor, pressures and temperatures that occur with fires that involve…lithium-ion batteries….than with ordinary Class A type combustibles – paper products for instance.”

So did Boeing learn something new all of a sudden? Or was the company pressed by industry groups to align with them over their serious concerns about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries? According to a physicist who has closely followed the Boeing situation, and battery fires in general, the dangers of bundled lith-ions and the shortcomings of Halon are nothing new.

“It was already very well-known 5 years ago that Halon has no chance whatsoever to extinguish a fire involving significant numbers of Lithium-ion batteries in air cargo,” said Lewis Larsen of Chicago-based Lattice Energy. “The notion that it would take yet another 5 years for this particular epiphany to finally dawn on them is simply not believable.”

At the safety forum Ferguson said in testing, the Halon controlled flames, but the thermal heat that migrated from battery to battery was unaffected. It’s a phenomenon with which Ferguson and Boeing’s safety team should be well experienced. Two Japanese airlines suffered battery fires on Dreamliners in January 2013, which spurred the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down operations while the incidents were investigated. And in 2006 a 787 battery explosion caused a “devastating lab fire” in Arizona, burning a 10,000-square-foot facility to the ground.

Two years ago Larsen said debris from a thermal runaway event on a Japan Air Lines Dreamliner showed that heat from internal shorts reached temperatures far higher than Boeing engineers likely contemplated in their design. The evidence showed that temperatures reached to the boiling point for stainless steel and then turned into gaseous vapor.

Boeing, however, was not to be deterred from its celebrated, fuel-efficient “green” Dreamliner, which is loaded with the troublesome batteries. Despite never finding out what caused the Japanese airlines’ fires, the company took measures designed to vent heat and flames outside the fuselage and thus mitigate risk, rather than try to detect the cause of the fires in the first place.

The FAA says the solution is good enough, but that may not instill confidence since the agency certified the airworthiness of the Dreamliner batteries in the first place. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the original fires determined that both FAA and Boeing failed to sufficiently oversee the batteries’ manufacturing process, which opened the door to design flaws. The list of failures in the safety inspection process is reportedly lengthy.

The problems haven’t fully dissipated. In January 2014 Japan Air Lines suffered another malfunction with a Dreamliner battery overheating, with reported smoke and liquid coming out. Last month an Aeromexico Dreamliner made an emergency landing in Ireland due to an alert in the cargo hold, but a spokesman said there was no fire. The cause has not yet been announced. And in May the FAA issued a maintenance mandate for the Dreamliner, after testing showed the plane could lose all electrical power after being continuously powered for 248 days.

Flyer, beware.

[Originally posted at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

A Newfangled Nanny State? U.K. Government to Force Fat People to Lose Weight

Somewhat Reasonable - 4 hours 11 min ago

The Conservative Party of the U.K. – the Tories, Winston Churchill’s political bloc back in the day – is giving new meaning to the old pejorative “the nanny state” when it comes to health care policy. A report in the Daily Mail, republished in the Conservative Home daily, the newsletter of the Conservative Party, indicates that the government of Prime Minister David Cameron  has floated a plan that would force the obese to lose weight, or lose their disability benefits. “Obese people who refuse medical treatment to help them lose weight could have their benefits cut, the Prime Minister will announce today,” The Daily Mail reported. “David Cameron will launch a review to work out the cost to taxpayers and the economy of ‘preventable’ conditions such as obesity and drug and alcohol addiction. He has asked a government health adviser to examine plans to force people with health problems to undertake treatment when claiming benefits.”

Approximately 1,800 men and women in the U.K. receive “ incapacity benefits,” what Americans call disability, with the main reason listed as “weight-related issues,” the report added. “The claimants currently get offered treatment such as courses and medication to help them get better and back to work, but there is no legal requirement to accept the help.”

According to The Conservative Home daily, the Prime Minister has also asked a government health adviser to examine the feasibility of these plans to “force people with health problems to undertake treatment when claiming benefits.” The reports did not note at what weight level — or Body Mass Index (BMI) score one is considered overweight by the government.

One wonders what Michelle Obama – the dietary doyenne and First Lady of the U.S. – thinks about this intrusive policy of the newfangled nanny state, called the United Kingdom, and whether he husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, would ever consider making this kind of a policy integral to Obamacare.

Academy Award Winning Actress Gwenneth Paltrow on the set of the movie, Shallow Hall.

Categories: On the Blog

The Latest Bughouse Square Debates: Heartland, and School Choice, Won

Somewhat Reasonable - 12 hours 42 min ago

At the latest Bughouse Square Debate in Chicago on July 25, from left: Mark Weyermuller, Heartland’s Bruno Behrend, and Lennie Jarratt.

Standing on a soapbox giving a political speech sounds like fun. That was the order of business this past Saturday at Bug House Square. This is the informal name of Washington Square, a park at Clark and Walton on the near north side of Chicago. The event was sponsored by the Newberry Library, which is across the street.

I came out to hear my friend Bruno Behrend speak on the subject “Public or Private? What should be the future of public schools in Chicago?” He debated Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago Public School principal.

You can imagine the topics. Bruno spoke of school choice, charter schools, right to work, vouchers, private schools, with focus on the residents, taxpayers, and children. Bruno is known  for using the term, “government education complex.”

This from his Heartland Institute blog: “The ‘Government Education Complex’  is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.”

The other side spoke of higher taxes and more spending. Much of his focus was on the importance of teachers. In true “soapbox debate” fashion, the audience of about 1000 cheered, booed, groaned, and heckled.

Many people look at the Chicago Public Schools as a jobs program for teachers and as a political activist group. Of course there are millions of dollars available for vendors and contractors.  Recently I wrote about the $20 million no bid contract for SUPES, an outsourced educational firm to train principles now under investigation. This led to the dismissal of Barbara Byrd Bennett, the superintendent and part of the school board. Many refer to it as a scandal, but few media stories about it lately.

I would call it the appearance of impropriety or better yet, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption.

 

There were several other smaller debates throughout the park all day.  There were about 20 tables of activist groups including Planned Parenthood, The Green Party, and Socialists of America. The socialists were promoting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It appeared that the attendees could be categorized as left-leaning. The term “socialism” was used openly throughout the afternoon. Of course, there was a handful of us conservatives promoting limited government with freedom, liberty, and opportunity.

 

The debate went well, as I declared Bruno the winner. Bruno is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute.  Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.  They just moved their offices to Arlington Heights and are planning an open house on Saturday, August 23, 2015 from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM.  More details can be found on their website.

Next year I would encourage more conservatives to attend this event.  It is important to get the message out of limited government with less taxes, less spending, and less borrowing. This will create more freedom, liberty, and opportunity for all. I welcome the debate, even if I have to stand on a soapbox.

[First posted at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Cato University Day Three: Liberty and the American Experience

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 10:09 PM

Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett speaks on jurisprudence.

Today, Cato University Director Tom Palmer concluded his lecture series on the origins of state and government. He showed how guilds, churches, and other associations served as an alternative to government in mediating disputes between private citizens. He also showed how earlier documents like the Magna Carta and some Kosice and Hungarian tracts served as predecessors to the American republic because of their emphasis on limiting arbitrary monarchic rule. He also showed how the unique feudal system in Europe, while imperfect, introduced more equal relations between lord and subject and a contractual system of reciprocal obligations that would be echoed in today’s democracies.

Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett gave Cato University attendants a treat when he interpreted various portions of the Declaration of Independence for us. Barnett discussed how natural rights are naturally found in humans, noting that the primary function of the government is to preserve its citizens’ natural rights. He discouraged the judiciary from “discovering” rights in the Constitution and to consider how their rulings may unintentionally benefit special interest groups. Barnett also showed how the theme of unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—is also echoed throughout the Constitution.

United States Military Academy Professor Robert McDonald gave two lectures in the afternoon. The first concerned the role of property rights in improving the lots of the American colonists. In the settlements Jamestown and Plymouth, many inhabitants initially starved to death in the early 17th century because of the collective farming system imposed on the populations by the British government. Men were mandated to work together in the fields, give their crops to the state, and receive an equal amount of the total yield. Morale soon fell as they were disincentivized to work and committed themselves to other endeavors like seeking gold. When men in those towns were allowed to plant and keep their crops privately a few decades later, production skyrocketed and the overall population and life expectancies increased. These formerly backward colonies became so successful with newfound property rights that indentured servants and later slaves were brought from across the Atlantic Ocean to satisfy European demands for crops.

McDonald’s second lecture concerned liberty and the American experience. Oppressive tax laws by the British on the American colonies were repealed time and time again before the tragic Boston Massacre in 1766. The Tea Act taxed the colonies on that highly demanded good and led to the Boston Tea Party. Although the newly formed United States won the Revolutionary War a few years later, liberty was difficult to preserve. Contentious elections in 1800, 1860, 2000 and other years divided the country even while the United States grappled with an increasingly activist judiciary and the legacy of slavery and Native American displacement. McDonald argued that the American experiment, while fraught with tragedy and errors, is well-worth maintaining because of its unique history and the Founding Fathers’ emphasis on small government and liberty.

Our customary dinner lecture was given by Palmer on the history of the liberty movement in the world. Palmer highlighted every society has two narratives: one of power and domination and the other of liberty. Statist and individualist forces have often fought throughout history. Palmer located the American Revolution as a link in the chain of pro-liberty Atlantic Revolutions. Classical liberalism emphasizes the unalienable rights of individuals and has been used to promote the women’s movement and eliminate slavery and serfdom in the 19th century. The 20th century was tragic in that many nations became dominated by statist and fascist factions and wreaked havoc on their own people. Since the dawn of the 21st century, the liberty movement has shown promise due to new communications technologies and the appeal of the libertarian virtues of individual rights and responsibilities, solidarity, respect for peaceful diversity, and a belief in the dignity of mankind, he concluded.

Categories: On the Blog

Chris Farley Government: Remember When It Was Congress That Made Law? That Was Awesome

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 11:00 AM

Remember that recurring Saturday Night Live skit where the late Chris Farley was the ultimate fanboy – interviewing those for whom he was the ultimate fanboy?

Sniveling and sweaty, he would bring up some of his favorite memories of his interviewees – pretending they were questions by prefacing them with “Remember…?”

And when the interviewee said he did in fact remember, Farley would blurt out “That was AWESOME.”

To wit: Farley’s sit-down with Paul McCartney.

“You remember Beatle Mania? Where those four guys went on stage and looked like you and then they played Beatles songs and….

“Yeah, I heard about that.

“That was AWESOME.

I often think of the Farley Model when watching the media “interview” a Democrat. Especially, sickeningly so when it’s Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

But with the eternally overreaching Obama Administration, I am starting to feel more and more like the Anti-Farley.

This Administration issues executive fiat after executive fiat – piling the power grabs skyward.

And again and again, the allegedly opposition Republican Party – emplaced by We the People in control of the Legislative Branch – acts outraged and issues stern press releases. But does nothing to actually rein them in.

The President keeps encroaching on Congress’ lawmaking turf – and the lawmakers keep ceding the field.

Leaving us Less Government types to turn to one another and ask “Remember when it was Congress that made law? And defended their Constitutional prerogative to do so? That was AWESOME.”

Obama: ‘I Have a Pen and I Have a Phone’

Obama’s One-Man Rule Amounts To A ‘Gradual, Quiet Coup’

President Obama and every one of his Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards are working non-stop as stealth, unelected, unaccountable “law”makers.

By Unilaterally Changing ObamaCare, Obama Is Making A Mockery Of The Constitution

Obama EPA Climate Decrees Will Further Damage U.S. Economy

Obama’s Objective: Nationalize California’s Government-Made Water Disaster

Obama Proposes Massive Gun Ban by Regulation Fiat

Obama to Order Expansion of Overtime Pay for Millions of Workers

Likely the biggest Obama Administration power grabs have come from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because they have so much more of the still-private sector to grab.

Because the FCC has set its sites on the Internet. Which – unlike just about every other economic sector – didn’t really have an agency (or eight) assigned to crush regulate it.

Back at the Internet’s dawn – during the Bill Clinton Administration – two unbelievably unleashing government decisions were made. The World Wide Web was privatized – and deemed to be basically regulation-free.

As always happens when the government doesn’t “help” – the Web has exploded. Becoming an always-evolving, ever-expanding, free-speech-free-market Xanadu.

President Obama could not let that stand. So he sicced on the Internet the FCC. Which is supposed to an independent agency – free from political arm-twisting.

President Obama’s FCC happily obliged. And unilaterally declared the Internet subject to 1934 law. Written for…land line telephones – and railroads. Seems eminently applicable, yes?

This is Network Neutrality – on century-old steroids. It is a HUGE power grab. Which will hopefully (yet again) be dumped by the courts.

Of course the FCC has by no means stopped there. Behold their abuse of the merger approval process.

When any two or more companies want to become one – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department both have to give their approval. If those companies have anything to do with anything communications – the FCC piles in and piles on.

As does the FTC and Justice – when the FCC goes into merger-approval-mode, they grab their “law”-writing pens. And impose countless a la carte regulations they could never get through Congress. All three agencies take their licks – but the FCC usually hits the hardest.

These are called merger “conditions” or “concessions.” But that’s like saying I conceded my wallet to the guy with the gun and the mask. The merging companies are government hostages – to get out they have to give in. These are merger capitulations.

Rent Seeking in the FCC’s Approval of the AT&T/DirecTV Merger

(T)he FCC is largely free to ask firms for an almost unlimited range of concessions in exchange for favorable outcomes in matters before the commission. Such rent-seeking is business as usual.

In the merger context, the only practical limit on what the commission can request is however much the parties are willing to give up before walking away from the deal.

The FCC almost always takes full advantage.

FCC Approves AT&T, DirecTV Merger ‘With Conditions’

  • The soon-to-be single entity must expand high speed fiber Internet access to at least 12.5 million customer locations, E-rate eligible schools and libraries within the next four years.
  • AT&T must offer broadband access to low-income consumers at discounted rates. AT&T responded it will start with plans of 3Mbps service at $5 per month and 10Mbps for $10 per month.

These two capitulations will cost a LOT of money. These exorbitant costs will of course be passed along to AT&T and DirecTV customers – in the form of much higher monthly rates. Because “pro-consumer” – or something.

  • AT&T cannot write its own rules on data caps and providing access to online video, circling back into the tangled web that is net neutrality.

The FCC mandated a la carte Net Neutrality – in case the courts dump the whole-hog-grab. Something the Commission also did in the Comcast-NBC merger.

And remember this?

(FCC Chairman) Tom Wheeler Tweaks Net Neutrality Plan After Google Push

When the FCC Chair turned his law-writing pen into a waiter’s order-taking pen. Allowing huge President-Obama-and-Democrat-donating Google to order customized a la carte changes to the grab.

Fellow bandwidth-uber-hog Netflix is also in Waiter Wheeler’s section. And also gets to order way off the menu.

Netflix to Support Charter Acquisition of Time Warner Cable

So – merging companies now have to get Obama’s cronies’ approval, too. Which they will grant – in exchange for self-tailored capitulations, of course.

Netflix Inc. will support Charter Communications Inc.’s $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. in exchange for free access to Charters customers…. 

To quote another Saturday Night Live skit: “Well isn’t that special.”

So in the Age of Obama – the unelected regulatory agencies get to write “laws.” Their Crony Socialist donors get to write “laws.”

The only people who don’t get to write (actual) laws – are the Representatives elected and Constitutionally-mandated to do so.

All of which is anything but awesome.

[Originally published atRedState]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Repeal and Replace’ Fails in Senate, As Conservatives Scramble for Anti-Obamacare Votes

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 8:32 AM

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other conservatives this weekend were unsuccessful in their attempt to repeal Obamacare through a parliamentary procedure. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would not allow the “repeal and replace” legislation to be added to another bill regarding the Import-Export Bank. Conservatives are concerned the Senate does not have the votes to pass a veto-proof bill.

Consequently, the National Center for Public Policy Research is proposing a “five-point plan” to help Republicans repeal ObamaCare and replace it with free market-based reforms. The NCPPR plan is as follows,

1. Sponsor Regular Congressional Hearings. Congress should hold weekly hearings on key health care issues, including mounting problems with ObamaCare and alternatives for more free-market reforms. Hearings on the latter will enable lawmakers and the public to debate free-market alternatives.

2. Hold Regional Town Hall Meetings. Republicans should hold town hall meetings across the U.S., seeking advice from Americans on what works and what doesn’t work about our current health care complex.

3. Appoint Congressional Working Groups. Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should appoint health care working groups consisting of Members of Congress/Senators they trust who are committed to ObamaCare repeal.

4. Put Health Care Bills on the President’s Desk — Despite His Pledge to Veto Them.  Nothing gets a policy conversation started faster in Washington than sending a bill to the President’s desk.

5. Be Transparent. Americans should not have to wait for reform to pass to find out what’s in it.”

Experts commented that, all told, the cumulative effect of these moves would be powerful. “The hearings, town hall meetings, working groups and public debates of this Five-Point Plan will help insure that the process of evaluating, repealing and replacing ObamaCare is done in a transparent manner, which in turn will help insure that the next health care policy approved by Congress is one the American people are happy to live with,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Categories: On the Blog

Freedom to Move: Personal Freedom or Government Control, Part II

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2015, 7:01 AM

There are many economic fallacies that surround the issue of freer or open immigration into the United States, and few of them can stand up to serious critical examination.

The Fallacy that Immigrants “Steal” Jobs from Americans.

Opponents of more open immigration sometimes argue that the arrival of more immigrants means the threatened loss of jobs for those already living in the country.

The often-implicit assumption behind this argument is that there are a fixed number of jobs in the country, and if more workers enter the labor market, by definition any work gained by one of the new arrivals must mean lost employment for someone else already there.

As long as there are unsatisfied wants that more production could gratify, then there is always more work for more hands to do. An increased number of workers within a country means that there can occur what economists call both more extensive and more intensive use of labor. By more extensive use of labor is meant that things that could not be done before because there were not enough hands to do them can now be undertaken.

The available number of employable workers might have enabled the production and supplying of a certain amount of, say, shirts, pants, and shoes. But given the availability of labor, and the importance that consumers assigned to having desired goods, it may have been impossible to also produce and supply hats that people also wanted to wear.

The arrival of additional hands through immigration to do productive work would now allow this unsatisfied want for headwear to be partly fulfilled without having to withdraw hands for the production of any of those shirts, pants, or shoes.

By more intensive use of labor, economists mean the more refined development of the system of specialization. More hands to perform desired work means that employers can undertake a more developed division of labor that enables an increased productivity.

Suppose that within a factory there were enough available workers to divide possible tasks into four steps or stages of production, each of which enables the participants to more industriously and productively focus their efforts and attentions to one part of the production process.

The arrival of more workers, again possibly through immigration, to be employed within such enterprises enables the potential and possible tasks to be divided into more refined and detailed steps that, again, raises the productivity and output of all those who participate in the economy’s activities. The increased output per worker means that all in the society can have available through trade a greater supply of wanted goods and services that might not have been possible without the new hands to assist in the work to be done.

Adam Smith began his famous book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), precisely by emphasizing the benefits from division of labor. He also pointed out that the extent of the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. It makes little sense to take greater advantage of specialization to expand output to, say, a quantity of 1,000 units of some useful good from 500 units if there are not enough people participating in the network of exchange to buy all that can be produced through that intensified division of labor.

But in a country as large as the United States with its more than 320 million people and a global economy within which America trades with billions of people, any opportunity to more intensively develop the division of labor through the use of more available hands made possible by immigration can be successfully and profitably absorbed into the national work force.

The Fallacy that Immigrants Lower the National Wage Level.

Another fear often expressed about the arrival of large numbers of immigrants is that their addition to the national labor force will tend to push wages in general down in the economy as they compete for jobs currently held by the existing workers.

It should be remembered that there is no such thing as a “national wage level.” This, like the general “price level” of goods and services, is a statistical creation by selecting, summing, and averaging a large number of individual wages, each of which reflects the supply and demand for the specific types, skills and qualities of labor in particular markets for hiring workers.

It is certainly the case that if, all other things the same and unchanged, a significant number of qualified immigrant economists, all with teaching and specialization skills similar to my own, were to enter the job market for professors’ positions, the salary for my labor services in my narrow segment of the university teaching market would likely be bid down.

But this is no different than if more college and university age students out of the domestic population were to decide to major in economics, then earn their advanced degrees in the subject, and proceed to try to land jobs with their newly acquired PhDs. The greater supply of such economists might result in my employable salary being competed down.

On the other hand, the consumers of economics teaching services might very well find themselves able to acquire their education at a lower price because the cost of hiring such qualified economics professors will have decreased.

Suppose this were to happen. With a decline in the cost of an economics education, both parents and students may now have more money left in their pockets after having paid the tuition and related expenses. With this “freed up” sum of money they would now have the financial ability to buy more of other things they previously could not afford when paying higher tuition fees.

This will result in an increased demand for other desired goods and services. The prices for these goods and services, other things held given, would tend to rise, increasing the profitability of increasing their supply. This would open up new and increased demands for other types of labor – those able and skilled to, perhaps, produce more flat-screen televisions, or more service jobs at restaurants as people can afford to eat out more frequently, or more employment in other avenues of education. This greater demand made possible by the lower cost of some labor services due to immigrant workers in certain sectors or parts of the market would raise the demand for more workers, and therefore their potential wages and incomes, in other parts of the market.

The Fallacy that Unskilled Immigrants Have No Niche to Fill.

But what about the unskilled or poorly educated immigrants at the lower end of the employment scale? Studies over the years have shown that often it is the unskilled immigrants who fill niches in the market that many in the existing labor pool in the nation are unwilling to perform.

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century it was not unusual to find that many of the domestic servants in not just wealthy but middle class households were young Irish girls who had come over to escape from the potato famine in their native country as well as the British rule that they disliked. Uneducated with only simple “country manners,” this became their entry into the American labor market. Over a generation or two, the wave of Irish immigrants and their children improved their education and employment skills and left behind such domestic work as their talents fetched higher wages in other corners of the market.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, hired gardeners were often of Japanese background in places like California, for instance. As the descendants of these Japanese immigrants entered the mainstream of American life, especially after the Second World War, the image of the hired gardener was no longer that of Japanese.

Over the last few decades those of Hispanic background have filled the niche of hired gardeners, certainly not exclusively but often, as has the role of domestic servant in various parts of the country. If immigrant integration into American society follows the same paths as in the past, two or three decades from now, the stereo-types of Hispanics will have changed as they integrated into the general labor market, moving on to other economic niches and roles, as it did f other immigrant groups in earlier times.

We have seen this with many ethnic groups that have settled and integrated themselves into the general and greater social and economic environment within the country. It is no longer a caricature or cliché to refer to the “Chinese” laundry, because those of Chinese ancestry in America are simply, now, “Americans” distributed and dispersed among many professions and occupations and callings fully integrated into American society in almost all instances.

As new waves of immigrants have entered the American economy, they have filled roles that earlier waves have transitioned out of, just as they are most likely to do in the future. Think of it as the “new guys” who start their careers with the “entry level” jobs. They often are paid less than other workers at first, and are assigned tasks and jobs that others in the firm or enterprise no longer do and do not want to do. But it is the starting point for learning skills, gaining experience, and demonstrating higher worth and value for themselves over time to earn the promotion and better salary in the future, either from their initial employer or some other who sees and values their acquired abilities and potentials.

Filling these roles and entry level positions for the unskilled or low skilled enables part of the immigrant population to have an avenue for starting on the path of improved opportunity in America compared to the old country they have left behind.

To statistically cover over all these real and distinct changes and improvements in employments, incomes, and availabilities of goods by reducing them to price and wage averages and aggregates hides from view not only the real nature of adaptation to change in general, but more specifically many of the positive affects and impacts of immigrants to the United States.

Reducing Government Regulations and Welfare Temptations

We should keep in mind that the problems that some immigrants face are the same problems that government has imposed as stumbling blocks to improvement on all in the society: minimum wage laws, business taxes that hinder investment and capital formation, and regulations that prevent growth and innovation through anti-competitive policies.

These are the roots of many of our social and economic difficulties that harm both native-born and immigrant looking for work and trying to materially advance, including, for some, finding ways to escape from poverty and poor living conditions.

But what about the attempts of political panderers and plunderers to try to buy the votes of new immigrants who obtain or may obtain in the future the right to vote by offering them access to the “benefits” of the welfare state?

Let us remember that those who use such means for gaining political power have had their success with the American-born and American citizen population. It is their votes that have established, maintained, and expanded the interventionist-welfare state that so dangerously burdens the country. It cannot be blamed on “foreigners” – whether legal or illegal. As the cartoon character, “Pogo,” once said, “We’ve met the enemy, and he is us.”

Rather than punish those who, like our ancestors, want to come to America for their “second chance” for a better life for themselves and their children by closing the door of immigration, the task should be to eliminate the controls and regulations that hinder improvement for all of us.

Ending Access to the Welfare State for Any Immigrants

But given that fact that this is not likely to happen in any immediate future, what might be a “second best”? Let me suggest that one answer is to say that anyone may come to America to work, investment, live, and enjoy a freer life.

But for a period of, say, the first fifteen years during which they reside in the United States they are ineligible for access to any welfare-redistributive programs for themselves and their family members.

If this seems harsh, it is worth recalling that before the modern welfare state that is how every generation of immigrants came to America and made their way – either through they own hard work or the voluntary assistance of private charity.

I wonder how many critics of open or freer immigration into the United States would be as negative as they are if the new arrivals were expected to make their own way rather than receive any tax-based handouts from the government?

Part of America’s greatness has precisely been as a haven, a port of last call, for those denied religious freedom, or suffering under brutal and corrupt governments, or locked out of economic opportunities due to political systems of favor and privilege in their own lands.

It has not always been an easy or straight path for the new comer to America’s shores. But the fact that for over two centuries millions have come shows that it has not just been a dream but a reality of a land of opportunity and prosperity.

It has also been the country’s life-blood of new and innovative risk-taking, entrepreneurially spirited enterprisers, and youthful hopefuls who want to breath freer than where they were born. It is a good part of what had made America a dynamic and vibrant country unlike so many others around the world.

To turn our backs on this American tradition and legacy is to betray the essence of what America has been since its beginnings.

[Originally posted atThere are many economic fallacies that surround the issue of freer or open immigration into the United States, and few of them can stand up to serious critical examination.The Fallacy that Immigrants “Steal” Jobs from Americans.

Opponents of more open immigration sometimes argue that the arrival of more immigrants means the threatened loss of jobs for those already living in the country.

The often-implicit assumption behind this argument is that there are a fixed number of jobs in the country, and if more workers enter the labor market, by definition any work gained by one of the new arrivals must mean lost employment for someone else already there.

As long as there are unsatisfied wants that more production could gratify, then there is always more work for more hands to do. An increased number of workers within a country means that there can occur what economists call both more extensive and more intensive use of labor. By more extensive use of labor is meant that things that could not be done before because there were not enough hands to do them can now be undertaken.

The available number of employable workers might have enabled the production and supplying of a certain amount of, say, shirts, pants, and shoes. But given the availability of labor, and the importance that consumers assigned to having desired goods, it may have been impossible to also produce and supply hats that people also wanted to wear.

The arrival of additional hands through immigration to do productive work would now allow this unsatisfied want for headwear to be partly fulfilled without having to withdraw hands for the production of any of those shirts, pants, or shoes.

By more intensive use of labor, economists mean the more refined development of the system of specialization. More hands to perform desired work means that employers can undertake a more developed division of labor that enables an increased productivity.

Suppose that within a factory there were enough available workers to divide possible tasks into four steps or stages of production, each of which enables the participants to more industriously and productively focus their efforts and attentions to one part of the production process.

The arrival of more workers, again possibly through immigration, to be employed within such enterprises enables the potential and possible tasks to be divided into more refined and detailed steps that, again, raises the productivity and output of all those who participate in the economy’s activities. The increased output per worker means that all in the society can have available through trade a greater supply of wanted goods and services that might not have been possible without the new hands to assist in the work to be done.

Adam Smith began his famous book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), precisely by emphasizing the benefits from division of labor. He also pointed out that the extent of the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. It makes little sense to take greater advantage of specialization to expand output to, say, a quantity of 1,000 units of some useful good from 500 units if there are not enough people participating in the network of exchange to buy all that can be produced through that intensified division of labor.

But in a country as large as the United States with its more than 320 million people and a global economy within which America trades with billions of people, any opportunity to more intensively develop the division of labor through the use of more available hands made possible by immigration can be successfully and profitably absorbed into the national work force.

The Fallacy that Immigrants Lower the National Wage Level.

Another fear often expressed about the arrival of large numbers of immigrants is that their addition to the national labor force will tend to push wages in general down in the economy as they compete for jobs currently held by the existing workers.

It should be remembered that there is no such thing as a “national wage level.” This, like the general “price level” of goods and services, is a statistical creation by selecting, summing, and averaging a large number of individual wages, each of which reflects the supply and demand for the specific types, skills and qualities of labor in particular markets for hiring workers.

It is certainly the case that if, all other things the same and unchanged, a significant number of qualified immigrant economists, all with teaching and specialization skills similar to my own, were to enter the job market for professors’ positions, the salary for my labor services in my narrow segment of the university teaching market would likely be bid down.

But this is no different than if more college and university age students out of the domestic population were to decide to major in economics, then earn their advanced degrees in the subject, and proceed to try to land jobs with their newly acquired PhDs. The greater supply of such economists might result in my employable salary being competed down.

On the other hand, the consumers of economics teaching services might very well find themselves able to acquire their education at a lower price because the cost of hiring such qualified economics professors will have decreased.

Suppose this were to happen. With a decline in the cost of an economics education, both parents and students may now have more money left in their pockets after having paid the tuition and related expenses. With this “freed up” sum of money they would now have the financial ability to buy more of other things they previously could not afford when paying higher tuition fees.

This will result in an increased demand for other desired goods and services. The prices for these goods and services, other things held given, would tend to rise, increasing the profitability of increasing their supply. This would open up new and increased demands for other types of labor – those able and skilled to, perhaps, produce more flat-screen televisions, or more service jobs at restaurants as people can afford to eat out more frequently, or more employment in other avenues of education. This greater demand made possible by the lower cost of some labor services due to immigrant workers in certain sectors or parts of the market would raise the demand for more workers, and therefore their potential wages and incomes, in other parts of the market.

The Fallacy that Unskilled Immigrants Have No Niche to Fill.

But what about the unskilled or poorly educated immigrants at the lower end of the employment scale? Studies over the years have shown that often it is the unskilled immigrants who fill niches in the market that many in the existing labor pool in the nation are unwilling to perform.

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century it was not unusual to find that many of the domestic servants in not just wealthy but middle class households were young Irish girls who had come over to escape from the potato famine in their native country as well as the British rule that they disliked. Uneducated with only simple “country manners,” this became their entry into the American labor market. Over a generation or two, the wave of Irish immigrants and their children improved their education and employment skills and left behind such domestic work as their talents fetched higher wages in other corners of the market.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, hired gardeners were often of Japanese background in places like California, for instance. As the descendants of these Japanese immigrants entered the mainstream of American life, especially after the Second World War, the image of the hired gardener was no longer that of Japanese.

Over the last few decades those of Hispanic background have filled the niche of hired gardeners, certainly not exclusively but often, as has the role of domestic servant in various parts of the country. If immigrant integration into American society follows the same paths as in the past, two or three decades from now, the stereo-types of Hispanics will have changed as they integrated into the general labor market, moving on to other economic niches and roles, as it did f other immigrant groups in earlier times.

We have seen this with many ethnic groups that have settled and integrated themselves into the general and greater social and economic environment within the country. It is no longer a caricature or cliché to refer to the “Chinese” laundry, because those of Chinese ancestry in America are simply, now, “Americans” distributed and dispersed among many professions and occupations and callings fully integrated into American society in almost all instances.

As new waves of immigrants have entered the American economy, they have filled roles that earlier waves have transitioned out of, just as they are most likely to do in the future. Think of it as the “new guys” who start their careers with the “entry level” jobs. They often are paid less than other workers at first, and are assigned tasks and jobs that others in the firm or enterprise no longer do and do not want to do. But it is the starting point for learning skills, gaining experience, and demonstrating higher worth and value for themselves over time to earn the promotion and better salary in the future, either from their initial employer or some other who sees and values their acquired abilities and potentials.

Filling these roles and entry level positions for the unskilled or low skilled enables part of the immigrant population to have an avenue for starting on the path of improved opportunity in America compared to the old country they have left behind.

To statistically cover over all these real and distinct changes and improvements in employments, incomes, and availabilities of goods by reducing them to price and wage averages and aggregates hides from view not only the real nature of adaptation to change in general, but more specifically many of the positive affects and impacts of immigrants to the United States.

Reducing Government Regulations and Welfare Temptations

We should keep in mind that the problems that some immigrants face are the same problems that government has imposed as stumbling blocks to improvement on all in the society: minimum wage laws, business taxes that hinder investment and capital formation, and regulations that prevent growth and innovation through anti-competitive policies.

These are the roots of many of our social and economic difficulties that harm both native-born and immigrant looking for work and trying to materially advance, including, for some, finding ways to escape from poverty and poor living conditions.

But what about the attempts of political panderers and plunderers to try to buy the votes of new immigrants who obtain or may obtain in the future the right to vote by offering them access to the “benefits” of the welfare state?

Let us remember that those who use such means for gaining political power have had their success with the American-born and American citizen population. It is their votes that have established, maintained, and expanded the interventionist-welfare state that so dangerously burdens the country. It cannot be blamed on “foreigners” – whether legal or illegal. As the cartoon character, “Pogo,” once said, “We’ve met the enemy, and he is us.”

Rather than punish those who, like our ancestors, want to come to America for their “second chance” for a better life for themselves and their children by closing the door of immigration, the task should be to eliminate the controls and regulations that hinder improvement for all of us.

Ending Access to the Welfare State for Any Immigrants

But given that fact that this is not likely to happen in any immediate future, what might be a “second best”? Let me suggest that one answer is to say that anyone may come to America to work, investment, live, and enjoy a freer life.

But for a period of, say, the first fifteen years during which they reside in the United States they are ineligible for access to any welfare-redistributive programs for themselves and their family members.

If this seems harsh, it is worth recalling that before the modern welfare state that is how every generation of immigrants came to America and made their way – either through they own hard work or the voluntary assistance of private charity.

I wonder how many critics of open or freer immigration into the United States would be as negative as they are if the new arrivals were expected to make their own way rather than receive any tax-based handouts from the government?

Part of America’s greatness has precisely been as a haven, a port of last call, for those denied religious freedom, or suffering under brutal and corrupt governments, or locked out of economic opportunities due to political systems of favor and privilege in their own lands.

It has not always been an easy or straight path for the new comer to America’s shores. But the fact that for over two centuries millions have come shows that it has not just been a dream but a reality of a land of opportunity and prosperity.

It has also been the country’s life-blood of new and innovative risk-taking, entrepreneurially spirited enterprisers, and youthful hopefuls who want to breath freer than where they were born. It is a good part of what had made America a dynamic and vibrant country unlike so many others around the world.

To turn our backs on this American tradition and legacy is to betray the essence of what America has been since its beginnings.

[Originally Posted at Epic Times]
Categories: On the Blog

Cato University Day Two: Liberty, The State, and The Free Market

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 8:52 PM

Cato University Logo

Today, I started my second day at Cato University by attending a morning lecture by Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate economic studies at Harvard, on the power of incentives. Miron taught the audience about consequential libertarianism, an approach that advocates “small government across the board” and is healthily skeptical of policies from the political left and right. Consequential libertarianism asks questions about the relative impact of policies and serves as a useful system for ranking them. Miron distinguished this approach from philosophical libertarianism, which equally rejects most government policies because they violate individuals’ unalienable rights. Miron concluded by noting policies often have unintended consequences that must be taken into account by analysts and legislators.

Next, Tom Palmer, the director of Cato University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, delivered his first of a two-part lecture series on the origins of state and government. He started by contradicting an interesting argument espoused by University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein: the state is the source of all created value. Palmer argued government exists because of the surpluses of individual and group production. Businesses and individuals create wealth through exchange, as seen in many modern economic institutions today. Palmer drew from Cicero and other thinkers to show that without an established rule of law, crime would run rampant and fruitful production would cease because of a breach of societal trust. Palmer also elaborated on the role of the rule of law in promoting trust, justice, and freedom in society.

After lunch, Palmer lectured on freedom from a historical perspective. He defined rights as “an instrument for human liberty” and voiced skepticism about Karl Marx characterization of history as a predictable and inevitable pattern of events, noting that history contains more accidents than most want to acknowledge. According to Palmer, a theory of higher law was born in the influence of philosophical Athens and religiously inspired Jerusalem. All humans derive their rights from their capacity to reason and are equally under the scrutiny of the law, so “law is not just what a guy with a big club says it is.” He highlighted John Locke’s robust definition of property as life, liberty, and estate and harkened to the belief that we also “own” our actions. Palmer also discussed how states successfully claim a monopoly on force and distinguished between external and internal sovereignty.

Miron gave another lecture on the economics of cooperation and coercion, arguing that many interventionist policies have a negative impact on society due to unintended consequences. Some unintended consequences include tax distortions, an elimination of Pareto voluntary exchanges that benefit one party at no expense to the other, and altered individual incentives. Government programs can be notoriously difficult to enforce, especially when evaders’ livelihoods depend on their illicit activities. Too many interventionist policies and complicated laws can incentivize the citizenry to select which laws to follow and which to break. Palmer argued that small governments are superior to their counterparts in promoting equity, efficiency, and economic liberty and said federal agencies performing the same actions as civic organizations and religious institutions should be eliminated.

After a scrumptious dinner, New York Times science columnist John Tierney discussed the role of self-control in successful people’s lives and how it is intrinsically linked to human freedom. During the American Revolution, the rebels realized “to be free from a tyrant’s rule, man had to be able to rule themselves.” The Victorian Era touted hard work and discipline as the path to success and happiness, as opposed to the feel good pop psychology of today’s self-help books. Will power is the ability to master your temptations and complete tasks. This ability can be sapped with too many decisions, indecisiveness, a poor diet, and exhaustion. Tierney said will power is a muscle that can be developed through setting realistic goals, monitoring progress, not juggling too many tasks at once, and above all not making decisions on an empty stomach.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Cato University Day One: Arrival and Settling In

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 8:39 PM

Goodie bags for Bastiat Scholars!

I am attending Cato University 2015, an immersive seminar program occurring on July 26-31 at the think tank’s headquarters in Washington, DC that educates students and professionals on political economy. I received a Bastiat Scholarship I that covers my hotel stay and conference-related expenses. Interning at Heartland helped me receive the scholarship, and I am very grateful to this organization for helping open new doors for me. I am structuring my Cato University 2015 experience as a five-part chronological blog series.

I arrived in the capital on Sunday in 90-degree weather. I visited The Newseum, a museum devoted to cataloguing the history of journalism and calling for freedom of the press throughout the world. The museum exceeded my expectations with its interactive exhibits and memorialization of journalists killed in civil and international conflicts. The juxtaposition of the gray East Germany side of the Berlin Wall with its graffiti-covered western counterpart spoke truths words couldn’t about the transformative role of democracy in people’s lives. Afterward, I visited the Capitol. Although the Rotunda and other parts of the building were closed, I watched the Senate proceedings in the chamber, spotting John McCain and Rand Paul.

Later that Sunday afternoon, I registered for Cato University, receiving a large tote bag stuffed with educational sustenance. After a lovely reception on the roof of the Cato Institute headquarters, we ate dinner while listening to Cato University Director Tom Palmer lecture on the role of Cato the Younger in promoting liberty in the floundering Roman Republic and the impact of his legacy on the Founding Fathers and, indirectly, the founding of the Cato Institute. The audience also learned about the Cato Institute’s mission: promoting limited government that primarily serves to enhance individual rights around the world. After dinner, we attended a brief meeting for Bastiat Scholars before going to bed.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Bughouse Square Debate Recap

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 4:25 PM

On July 25, Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend took part in the famous “Bughouse Square Debate”  before an audience of 500 people in Washington Square Park in the North Side of Chicago. Behrend debated Troy LaRaviere, principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago’s Wrigleyville, on the question: “Public or private? What should be the future of public education in Chicago?”

The debate was passionate, yet civil. LaRaviere started explaining the difference between scientific data and  the use of averages and overall data. He then espoused the virtues of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), quoting statistics and claiming CPS was outperforming charter schools in Chicago. To bolster his claims, he referenced the Chicago Sun-Times article “CPS outpaces charter schools in improvements, especially in reading.” LaRaviere later revealed the data was furnished by CPS.

Behrend’s argument was clear: The current large urban districts, the teachers unions, and the public school system itself, are willing to protect themselves with lobbying in Springfield and Washington, DC. The lobbyists use cherry-picked data that obscure the truth. Behrend stated: “There is not enough money in the world to implement a top-down bureaucratic approach that will work for everyone.”

Two questions Behrend asked the audience put the matter into a proper perspective:

  1. Why is there such a high demand for charter schools if CPS is working so well?
  2. If CPS is doing so great, why are nearly 40 percent of the students not graduating?

Behrend went on to highlight the rights of parents to choose, for whatever reason they deemed important, the school and education for their children. He called for the breaking up of large urban districts such as CPS into local parent councils, wards, or individual schools run by excellent principals, such as LaRaviere.

LaRaviere, in praising CPS, also directly called parents who wanted out of CPS uninformed and misled due to continual talk of failing schools. This was reiterated during the audience Q&A. An audience member brought up the fact nearly 40 percent of CPS teachers choose to send their children to private schools. LaRaviere admitted that both teachers and principals do this.

Behrend noted the best “vote” a parent could make was not for mayor or alderman, but taking an education savings account and vote with the money following their child to the school of their choice, thus opening up a “vast new array of education opportunities.”

The crowd was heavily skewed center-left, with dozens of CPS teachers in attendance. Questions from the audience were heavily tilted to the protection of public schools and against capitalism. Behrend handled the audience questions deftly. There were two particular instances that stood out.

The first was an attack on Heartland as a stakeholder in education. Behrend rejected the premise of the question itself and the underlying connotation that unless one is certified by the system or employed by the system, one does not have a right to criticize it. He stated, “Everyone here is a taxpayer and is paying for the system.”

The second notable interaction with the audience when the questions turned to corporations and their profits. The audience, i.e. teachers union members, reacted very negatively when Behrend pointed out the union itself was actually a corporation.

At the end of the lively event, the debate moderator  stated, “This is the most civil and best debate I can remember here at the Bughouse Square Debates.”

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama: Iranian oil, good. Canadian oil, bad. American oil, bad.

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 2:40 PM

President Obama’s confusing approach to energy encourages our enemies who shout “death to America,” while penalizing our closest allies and even our own job creators.

Iran’s participation in the nuclear negotiations that have slogged on for months, have now, ultimately, netted a deal that will allow Iran to export its oil—which is the only reason they came to the table (they surely are not interested in burnishing Obama’s legacy). International sanctions have, since 2011, cut Iran’s oil exports in half and severely damaged its economy. Iran, it is estimated, currently has more than 50 million barrels of oil in storage on 28 tankers at sea—part of a months’ long build up.

It is widely reported that, due to aging infrastructure and saturated storage, it will take Iran months to bring its production back up to pre-sanction levels. The millions of barrels of oil parked offshore are indicative of their eagerness to increase exports. Once the sanctions are lifted—if Congress approves the terms of the deal, Iran wants to be ready to move its oil. In fact, even before the sanctions have been lifted, Iran is already moving some of its “floating storage.”

On July 17, the Financial Times (FT) reported: “The departure of a giant Iranian supertanker from the flotilla of vessels storing oil off the country’s coast has triggered speculation Tehran is moving to ramp up its crude exports.” The Starla, “a 2 million barrel vessel,” set sail—moving the oil closer to customers in Asia. In April, another tanker, Happiness, sailed from Iran to China, where, since June, it has parked off the port City of Dalian.

Starla is the first vessel storing crude offshore to sail after the nuclear deal was reached—which is, according to the FT: “signaling its looming return to the oil market.” Reuters calls its departure: “a milestone following a months-long build-up of idling crude tankers.” Analysts at Macquarie Capital, apparently think the oil on Starla will not be parked, waiting for sanctions to be lifted. A research note, states: Iran is “likely assuming that either a small increase in exports will not undermine the historic accord reached or that no one will notice.” We noticed.

Already, before sanctions are lifted, global oil prices are feeling the pressure of Iran’s increased exports. Since the deal’s been announced, crude prices have lost almost all of the recent gains.

While the Obama Administration’s actions are allowing Iran, which hates America, to boost its economy by increasing its oil exports, they are hurting our closest ally but putting delay after delay in front of the Keystone pipeline—which would help Canada export its oil.

After six-and-a-half years of kicking the can down the road, and despite widespread support and positive reports, the Keystone pipeline is no closer to construction than it was on the day the application was submitted. It is obvious President Obama doesn’t like the project, which will create tens of thousands of jobs, according to his own State Department. Back in February, he vetoed the bill Congress sent him that would have authorized construction, saying that it circumvented “longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.” At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “Congress won’t stop pursuing good ideas, including this one.” But he was not able to gather enough votes to override the veto and, since then, we’ve heard nothing about the Keystone pipeline. In Washington, DC, silence on an important issue like Keystone isn’t always golden.

There is no pending legislation on Keystone, but the permit application has still not been approved or rejected. I had hoped that the unions, who want the jobs Keystone would provide, would be able to pressure enough Democrats to support the project, to push a bill over the veto-proof line. But that didn’t happen. For months, Keystone has been silently dangling. But that may be about to change.

Reliable sources tell me that Obama is prepared to, finally, announce his decision on Keystone. According to the well-sourced, and verified, rumor, he is going to say: “No”—probably just before or after the Labor Day holiday. He’ll conclude that it is not in the “national interest.” So helping our ally grow its economy and export its oil is not in our national interest but helping our sworn enemy do the same, is? It’s like the “Channeling Jeff Foxworthy” parody states: we just “might live in a country founded by geniuses and run by idiots.”

Speaking of economic growth and oil exports, what about here at home, in the good old U.S. of A.? Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) questions the deal that allows Iran to export its oil, while we cannot: “As Congress begins its 60-day review of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about whether it is in our nation’s—and the world’s—best interests. Not least among them are the underexplored, but potentially significant consequences the deal will hold for American energy producers.”

Most people don’t realize that the U.S. is, as Murkowski says in her op-ed, “the only advanced nation that generally prohibits oil exports.” Due to decades-old policy, born in a different energy era, American oil producers are prohibited from exporting crude oil because it was perceived to be in “short supply.” (Note: refined petroleum product, such as gasoline and diesel, can be exported and is our number one export. We are also about ready to ship our major first tanker full of natural gas headed for Europe.) Today, when it comes to crude oil, our cup runneth over. The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer or oil and gas. Rather than short supply, we have an over-supply—so much so that American crude oil (WTI) is sold at a discount over the global market (Brent). This disadvantages U.S. producers but doesn’t benefit consumers because gasoline is sold based on the higher-priced Brent.

Murkowski argues that it is time to lift the 40-year-old oil export ban. She’s introduced bipartisan legislation that would do just that, but, if he was so inclined, President Obama could reverse the policy himself—if he found it to be in the national interest. And how could it not be?

Allowing U.S. crude oil into the world market enhances global energy security, as it would be less impacted by tensions in the Middle East. Our allies in Europe and Asia would have access to supply from a friendly and reliable source—remember the Arab Oil Embargo crippled Japan’s economy because it had no domestic supply and was overly reliant on Arab sources. Lifting the oil export ban would allow U.S. crude to be sold at the true market price, not the discounted rate, which would help stem the job losses currently being felt throughout the oil patch due to the low price of oil and exacerbated by the drop in the price of crude triggered by the Iran deal.

So, the Obama Administration is lobbying Congress to lift the sanctions on Iran, a country that views America as The Great Satan. Lifting sanctions would allow Iran to resume full oil export capabilities and boost its economy—while refusing to give our allies and our own country the same benefit. Iranian oil will enter the world market, while Canadian and American oil is constrained. How is that in the “national interest?”

It appears we might just be living in a country founded by geniuses and run by idiots.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Conspiracy Theories Emerging on Global Warming Professor Front

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 11:36 AM

Now that the public opinion appears to have shifted against the global warming alarmists – the latest polls show that the Pope’s popularity has dipped due to his advocacy on the climate change issue – the Left is getting even more hyperbolic.

 The Daily Telegraph, the U.K. newspaper, reports, “Three scientists investigating melting Arctic ice may have been assassinated…claims Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams who suspects the deaths of the three scientists were more than just an ‘extraordinary’ coincidence.”

 According to the newspaper report, Professor Wadhams claims he fears being labelled a “looney” over his unfounded fear that the deaths of the scientists were more than just a coincidence, but he insisted the trio could have been murdered and hinted that the oil industry or else sinister government forces might be implicated.

“The three scientists he identified – Seymour Laxon and Katherine Giles, both climate change scientists at University College London, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for marine Science – all died within the space of a few months in early 2013,” the paper noted.

 “Prof Wadhams said that in the weeks after Prof Laxon’s death he believed he was targeted by a lorry which tried to force him off the road. He reported the incident to the police. Asked if he thought hitmen might have been behind the deaths, Prof Wadhams, who is Professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, told The Telegraph: ‘Yes. I do believe assassins possibly murdered them but I can see that I would be thought of as a looney for believing this.’”

More ‘looney’ theories about global warming from academia.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

NC Supreme Court Rules Opportunity Scholarships ‘Constitutional’

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2015, 10:50 AM

In a 4–3 ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled July 23, 2015 taxpayer-funded opportunity scholarships that allow students from low-income households to choose to attend private schools are “constitutional.”

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Mark Martin wrote, “Our review is limited to a determination of whether plaintiffs have demonstrated that the program legislation plainly and clearly violates our Constitution. … Plaintiffs have made no such showing in this case. Accordingly, the trial court erred in declaring the Opportunity Scholarship Program unconstitutional.”

This overturned a 2014 ruling by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood. Hobgood, in that ruling wrote, “Appropriating taxpayer funds to unaccountable schools does not accomplish a public purpose.”

Education policy experts were enthusiastic about the ruling.

“This is a huge win for students and parents in the state of North Carolina, as well as supporters of school choice everywhere,” said Heather Kays, managing editor of School Reform News. “The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides low-income families with the ability to have more control over their child’s education. Rather than leaving these students in traditional public schools, which may be under serving them or simply may not be a good fit, this choice program allows parents to decide the best educational opportunity for their child.

“Traditional public schools now have even more reason to improve their quality and performance,” said Kays. “The Institute for Justice, which worked on the case, and the families who appealed the ruling against the Opportunity Scholarship Program, deserve commendation, as does the court for its decision.”

The scholarship program is only available to students whose household income is less than 133 percent of qualification for free or reduced lunch. The amount of the scholarship is $4,200.

Categories: On the Blog

Coalition Partners Implore Governor, Speaker to Back Private School Tax Credit in Illinois

Somewhat Reasonable - July 26, 2015, 6:52 PM

Roman Catholic Church leaders are pushing a proposal to expand the state education tax credit to $1000 from the current $500 in Illinois, according to a report in the Catholic New World, the newsweekly of the archdiocese of Chicago.

Archbishop Blaise Cupich wrote a letter in recent weeks which urged Catholics in Northern Illinois to contact their legislators in support of the tax credit, which applies to children enrolled in a private school for grades K-12. The credit would also be expanded to those who create scholarships for up to $1000 for children.

Private schools, the archbishop said, are a place “of hope and learning and a beacon of safety in our communities.”

The church has organized a coalition to pursue the legislative reform that would create the improved tax credit regime, called the Illinois Kids Campaign.

Even though the state is currently operating without an approved budget, the new fiscal year started on July 1 without agreement from Speaker Madigan or Governor Rauner on budget terms, the church is going to continue lobbying on the matter, the newspaper reported.

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 20: Archbishop-Elect Blase Cupich (R) greets Francis Cardinal George during a press conference on September 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Cupich, the new archbishop of Chicago, is pushing for tax credits for private schools.

Categories: On the Blog

Senate GOP Poised to Repeal Obamacare Through Parliamentary Procedure

Somewhat Reasonable - July 25, 2015, 11:16 AM

Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), this week disclosed that they are moving forward with legislation to overturn Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act of 2009 (ACA) — through a parliamentary procedure requiring only 51 votes, a bare majority.

In a report in this morning’s edition of The Washington Post, journalists noted that Democrats infamously employed the strategy two years ago to stop Republican stalling on President Obama’s nominees to fill judicial openings.

“Now Lee wants to use the partisan procedure get rid of Obamacare,” the Post reports. “It’s unclear whether Lee’s gambit will work — but if it does, there are likely 51 senators who would vote to repeal Obama’s signature domestic achievement.”

The House of Representatives has passed a number of bills to repeal Obamacare, in part, and in whole. The GOP has the majority in both houses of Congress, after a stunning election victory in November of 2014.

For months, radio talk show hosts like Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and even Rush Limbaugh, have complained that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was too weak in character to pass a repeal of the health care law, and wanted to get along with Democrats and be considered a good, bipartisan player by Washington D.C. insiders.

But Supreme Court Justice John Roberts last month allowed Obamacare to stay in place – despite the predictions of many conservative analysts that he would invalidate the law. That judicial maneuver seems to have inspired legislators to act with determination in the Senate.

“Typically, legislation needs to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle before it can even get an actual vote in the Senate. But Republicans don’t have enough anti-Obamacare support in the Senate to reach that filibuster-proof threshold. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already preparing to prove that point on Sunday when the Senate is scheduled to vote on an Obamacare repeal amendment ,” The Washington Post reports.

President Obama is going to butt heads with the Senate next week as a vote is planned to repeal Obamacare.

Categories: On the Blog

How Safe is Your Drinking Water and Can the EPA Really be Trusted?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 25, 2015, 8:14 AM

Shouldn’t safety be the ultimate goal for the water we use and drink daily, which local water companies provide for residents in every state in this nation?  But can the public be certain that the water provided is all that it’s reported to be?

A quote from the poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, came to mind — memorized many years ago in a high school English class, never to be forgotten — when gathering my thoughts to tackle the issue of water safety. The speaker of the quoted lines in Coleridge’s epic poem is a sailor on a becalmed ship who is surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink:

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.

“What’s in my Water?” by David De John

David De John in his book, “What’s in my Water?”, sets forth in fourteen chaptersthe risks involved in some drinking water. Featured in De John’s book are chapters dealing with the following subjects:  “About EPA contaminant levels; About Water Supply Filtration Systems; Skin Absorption/Inhalation of Contaminants; Is Bottled Water the Answer?; Filtration Devices and Equipment; and EPA Violation Information and Reports.”

De John has been called upon as the expert to review Department of Health investigation reports on water quality by the media. As a keynote speaker at medical conferences, De John has likewise spoken at numerous public venues. Furthermore, his book has been used as training material by some of the largest water filtration companies in the country, along with being distributed to consumers as educational information by the companies.

De John owned multiple water filtration locations in the Midwest. During that period, he came upon a report — referenced as originating from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) — indicating that approximately one million people become ill every year and an estimated 100,000 people die due to infectious drinking water.

This CDC report spearheaded De John’s quest to find the truth about our nation’s drinking water quality, leading him to conduct extensive research through thousands of pages of information and data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Center for Disease Control (CDC); the American Journal of Public Health; the Department of Public Health and many more sources.

As such, De John’s book is not based on opinions or theories, nor is it intended to impart health or medical advice.  Instead, “What’s in my Water?” is a compilation of the important elements of De John’s research obtained from government and professional organizations, which, in turn, led to his writing of “What’s in my Water?”, prompted, in a large part, by requests from DeJohn’s numerous business associates who at one time were competitors.

EPA and Contaminates

In speaking recently to De John by phone, he stressed how important it was for readers to be briefed on what the Environmental Protection Agency has to say about contaminants in our drinking water:  As printed here on Page 2 of“Drinking Water Quality Consumer Confidence Reports”:

“Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Children and infants, pregnant women and their fetuses, the frail elderly, people undergoing chemotherapy or living with HIV/AIDS, and transplant patients can be particularly at risk for infections… If you have special health care needs, consider taking additional precautions with your drinking water…”

As the standards set by the EPA are relied upon and trusted throughout this nation for drinking water quality, it was most shocking to learn from De John how the Environmental Protection Agency defines contaminant levels. Additionally, the list of drinking water contaminants and their health effects can be further reviewed here.

  • “Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG):  The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.”
  • “Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.”

It becomes extremely important that the wording of the above EPA definitions be examined.

  • The first definition is about MCLG (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal):  Notice the wording: “below which there is NO KNOWN OR EXPECTED RISK TO HEALTH” and “THEY ARE UNENFORCEABLE.”
  •  The second one defines MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level): Again notice the wording: “using the BEST AVAILABLE TREATMENT TECHNOLOGY AND TAKING COST INTO CONSIDERATION” and “MCL’s are enforceable standards.”

Dichotomy Between EPA’s Standards for contaminants and what is allowed

How can it be that the EPA regulates 90 contaminants in our drinking water, allows 33 of those contaminants to exceed the lower level (MCLG), but then decides to regulate the 33 at the higher level (MCL)?  In other words, just because the MCLG states that it allows for a margin of safety, doesn’t mean that drinking water is safe with contaminants at the higher regulated level (MCL)?  Even the EPA is at odds with its own MCLG and MCL definitions as to what constitutes safe contaminate levels in the water we drink.  How is this so?

A cancer-causing contaminant called Radium 226 and 228 can be present in drinking water around the country. The EPA set the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) for Radium 226 and 228 at ZERO. That is the level at which there is no known or expected risk to health.  Nevertheless, it’s unbelievable that the EPA allows Water Supply Systems to provide drinking water with a Radium 226 & 228 level of 5 pCi/L.

Is it safe to drink water over a long period of time if containing a 5pCi/L Radium 226 & 228 level?  No!  Increased levels of Radium 226 & 228 are even linked by the EPA to an increased risk of cancer, including fatal cancer.

Following is what the Maryland Department of Environment, the US EPA and the Anne Arundel County Health Department states about long term ingestion of Radium 226 & 228, as found under “What are the health risks of radium indigestion?”

“For radium 226 and 228, the U.S. EPA estimates that the additional lifetime risks associated with drinking water containing 5pCi/l is about 1 in 10,000. This means that if 10,000 people were to consume two liters of this water per day for 50 years, one additional fatal cancer would be estimated among the 10,000 exposed individuals. According to the EPA model, as the level of radium increases, so does the risk. For example, increasing the concentration of radium from 5 to 10 pCi/l would increase the lifetime risk from approximately one to two additional deaths per 10,000 individuals.”

More about Radium 226 & 228  

What they are talking about is death from drinking tap water from your kitchen sink with Radium 226 & 228 at the allowed Maximum Contaminant Level?

As David De John related to me, in his initial research for the book he found over 45 Water Supply Systems that were violating the “higher allowed level” (Maximum Contaminant Level) for Radium 226 & 228 here in Illinois alone. Some Water Supply Systems had levels of over 24 pCi/L. That is almost 500% higher than the allowed 5 pCi/L level.

Based on the Maryland Department of Health and the U.S. EPA’s calculations in the quote above, that would mean potentially five cancer deaths per year per 10,000 people. Although De John did assure me that some of the Water Supply Systems have taken steps to fix the contaminant level, there  still remain many with contaminant levels far exceeding the “higher allowed” Maximum Contaminant Level. This is not a new problem, for Radium 226 & 228 is formed in the rock beds down in the earth and seeps through the cracks in the rocks into the aquifers where Water Supply Systems might be pumping water from.

Radium 226 & 228 is but one of the 33 contaminants in your drinking water that the EPA allows to exceed the MCLG stated lower level, which the EPA then deems as acceptable at the “higher”MCL (Maximum Contaminate Level).  However, a dichotomy exists in what the EPA has to say about drinking water with contaminants that exceed the higher Maximum Contaminant Level and how violations are issued.

“A health-based violation means that either a system has exposed their users to what EPA has judged as an unreasonable risk of illness, or a system has failed to treat their water to the extent EPA has judged necessary to protect their users from an unreasonable risk of illness in the event that the regulated contaminant is present in source water.”

To be noted is that for 33 of the 90 contaminants being regulated by the EPA that were allowed to exceed the MCLG lower level (MCLG), no violations were issued by the EPA until they reached the higher MCL.  Noted below are violations reported by the EPA in 2010:

  • 8,522 violations for health based standards reported by Water Supply System
  • 17,519 Water Supply Systems were in violation for failure to monitor or submit a report on contaminants in their water.

Contaminants added to water with EPA approval 

Contaminates in your drinking water should not be your only concern. Regulated and potentially dangerous contaminants approved by the EPA are actually added by the Water Supply Systems themselves, such as Chlorine.

Chlorine started being used back in the 1908 because of illnesses like Cholera and Typhoid. For reference purposes at that time it was estimated that Typhoid Fever killed about 25 people out of 100,000 people. That was serious enough for the government to take action to stop any more deaths. Those death rates work out to 2 ½ per 10,000 people. As a reference point, the anticipated death rate from cancer stated by the EPA from Radium 226 & 228 in drinking water is 1 per 10,000 people at the allowed Maximum contaminant level.

Consider what the EPA has to say about chlorine:

“Disinfectants, while effective in controlling many microorganisms, react with matter in water to form DBPs. Unchlorinated private well water is unlikely to contain any DBPs……..While health effects from exposure to disinfectants and DBPs vary by contaminant, some epidemiological studies have shown a link between bladder, rectal and colon cancers and DBP exposure.”

What about lead?  Can lead be in your drinking water?  Absolutely YES!

“Evidence also suggests that for children with BLLs 5–9 ugdl [indicates lead poisoning threshold], no single source of exposure predominates. For these children, the contribution of multiple sources, including drinking water, seems likely, particularly for children who do not have well-established risk factors such as living in old housing or having a parent who is exposed to lead at work (38). CDC and its Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention concur that primary prevention of lead exposure is essential to reducing high BLLs in children and that reducing water lead levels is an important step in achieving this goal. …”

What about Fluoride?  The Maximum Contaminant Level set by the EPA for fluoride was 1.2 ppm until a few years ago, when it was increased from 1.2 ppm to 4.0 ppm.  Why did this happen?

“Political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised the acceptable level of fluoride in drinking water from 1.2 ppm to 4 ppm, over objections from their agency scientists… 7,000 *EPA union employees and the unions jumped into the debate.”

*The 7,000 union employees argued against increasing the level of fluoride in drinking water.

According to this report put out by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health: “The PTD, 5.0 mg F/kg, is defined as the dose of ingested fluoride that should trigger immediate therapeutic intervention and hospitalization because of the likelihood of serious toxic consequences.”

Take a look at a tube of toothpaste with Fluoride as an ingredient and you will find a warning:

“…..If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing seek professional assistance or contact a Poison Control Center immediately.”

Did you know that the recommended amount of toothpaste that should be used is a size of a pea!?

Highlighted information in David De John’s book

“What’s in my Water?” is filled with vital information to help you understand what is taking place with our nations water quality and what you can do about it. There are actions points in almost every chapter, there is a chapter on home water filtration systems, bottled water, the complete EPA contaminant list, levels and affects, along with a list of every states drinking water quality office contact information and more.

Also included in De John’s book is a complete list of the EPA Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants, their MCLG’s and MCLs, the EPA stated potential health effects from Long-Term Exposure above the MCL and a list of the 33 contaminants that are allowed to exceed the MCLG. There is also a sample of the Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report (which is available to all consumers from their Water Supply System) with an explanation of how to understand it, and a list of every state’s Drinking Water Protection Program Offices with phone numbers and addresses.

The embedded links are special, in that additional information can be be seen that relates to the issue at hand.

I recommend that if you read only one book this year, it has to be “What’s in my Water?” recognizing that the information in the De John’s book is not intended as health or medical advice.  Any medical questions or concerns should be discussed with a qualified medical practitioner.

How does your drinking water measure up in your community or city?  It is up to you to request the latest analysis of the water you are being supplied by your local water treatment plant.  If not acceptable, demand that action be taken.

After all, it is your health and the health of those in your city or community who might be at risk.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

House Action to Ban GMO Labeling Laws Merits Praise

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2015, 4:25 PM

If the U.S. House has its way, state laws passed (and those being considered) requiring that foods produced using genetic modification (i.e. genetically modified crops or biotech foods) be label would become moot. On July 24, 2015, the house voted 275 for to 150 against, passing a bill banning state laws that force food makers to place labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The agriculture industry complained individual state labeling standards would be costly and confusing and, more importantly, any standard, even a universal federal standard, would unfairly lend credence to environmentalists false assertions or suggestions that biotech foods are not as safe or healthy as conventional foods developed through traditional cross breeding techniques.

Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have already passed mandatory GMO labeling laws, though they have yet to take effect, while GMO labeling laws are being considered in few other states. The House bill would prevent them all.

Democrats and Republican’s alike supported the GMO labeling ban. The Minneapolis Star Tribune notes Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota supported the House bill he said, “hundreds of scientific, peer reviewed studies have found [genetically engineered] foods are just as safe and nutritious as non-[genetically engineered] foods.” Another Minnesota Rep. who voted in favor of the bill, Republican Rep. Tom Emmer argued “Minnesota farmers already deal with heavy compliance regulations to ensure that genetically engineered crops are safe to eat.”

The vote came on the heels another in a long list of literature reviews and analyses demonstrating the safety of biotech foods was published in Salon Magazine on July 15, 2015. In it the author William Saletan notes, organizations lobbying against GMOs routinely lie and have been consistently anti-scientific in their claims about biotech foods, contributing to public misunderstanding and, in some cases, hysteria.

Much of the food industry was thrilled with the House vote and hopes the Senate will move quickly to pass the bill as well.

Ag-giants General Mills and Cargill, and the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperative, CHS Inc., each lobbied for the bill. In statements post-passage, they praised the House vote. CHS Inc.’s statement said “CHS applauds the House of Representatives for passing the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.”

Sometimes sound science wins despite environmental fear-mongering. Three cheers for the House of Representatives.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly Email: Catholics Disapprove of Pope’s Views on Capitalism and Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2015, 4:15 PM

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

How High School Nearly Destroyed Me, and Why School Choice Matters Justin Haskins, TownHall “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.” READ MORE Mr. President: The 1970s Called, They Want Their Crude Oil Export Ban Back Isaac Orr, The Hill President Barack Obama, who once mocked Mitt Romney for a vision of foreign policy out of the 1980s, has his former GOP presidential opponent beat. The president’s energy policy is straight out of the crisis-mode 1970s. It’s time for an update, and for the United States to embrace the global market for crude via our fracking revolution. READ MORE Gallup Poll: Catholics Disapprove of Pope’s Views on Capitalism and Climate Change Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable Since Pope Francis this spring publicly embraced global warming as “real” and “man-made,” his popularity numbers in the Gallup Tracking Poll have plummeted by 17 points. Conservative Catholics in particular are adopting a dim view of the pope due to his controversial statements about capitalism and global warming. Leaders on the left celebrated when they recruited the pope to their political cause, but the folks in the pews know the difference between religious faith and politics. The left always destroys the institutions it conquers. Let’s hope the Catholic Church survives this unfortunate episode. READ MORE Featured Podcast: The Global Warming Debate James M. Taylor, Heartland’s vice president for external relations, and Steve Goreham, author of The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism joined Chicago talk radio legend Milt Rosenberg for a spirited and wide-ranging conversation about global warming. You won’t want to miss this! Taylor, Goreham, and Rosenberg examine the current state of the global warming debate and provide answers to common questions from environmental alarmists. LISTEN TO MORE  

Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! Why We Need a New Constitutional Convention Edmund Contoski, Somewhat Reasonable  Amending the U.S. Constitution may seem an extreme step for lovers of liberty to take to restore freedom and limited government, but all the alternatives have been tried and failed. Congress has proven worthless as far as reducing spending, and it is not about to trim its own power.  That power must be taken away!  The way to do this is with a constitutional amendment by a new constitutional convention called by the states. READ MORE Colorado Court Decision on School Choice Points to Need to Re-Examine Blaine Amendments Heather Kays, Watchdog Blaine Amendments are add-ons to many state constitutions that prohibit the government from giving direct assistance to religious organizations. They originated in the 1800s as a product of anti-Catholic bigotry and are cynically supported today by self-described “progressives” to prevent all religious schools from participating in school choice programs. The Colorado Supreme Court decision to strike down a county voucher program, citing the state’s Blaine Amendment, points to the need to re-examine all Blaine Amendments. READ MORE 

Bonus Podcast: Leonard Gilroy on Privatizing Public Needs Reason Foundation’s Leonard Gilroy talks with Budget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway about how allowing private-sector businesses to compete with government agencies best serves the public. Gilroy explains privatization helps people in many ways they may not even know. For instance, services like trash collection or the management of recreational parks are often provided and funded by private businesses. LISTEN TO MORE EPA Flooded With Lawsuits Over Controversial Power Grab Ron Arnold, Daily Caller  The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule is so alarming because it enables agency bureaucrats to control virtually anything that gets wet, including a desert dry wash that gets a “drizzle.” That is actual EPA language criticized by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) at the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change in Washington in June.  READ MORE  Black Market for Salt Arises in Indiana School Cafeterias Ken Artz, The Heartlander  A black market for salt packets has developed among schoolchildren at a district in Indiana to help the students flavor their bland, unappetizing lunches. “I’ve heard critics of the school lunch program say it tastes like prison food,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “We’re creating a prison-like environment of trading contraband ingredients in school. Look what we’re doing to our children.” READ MORE GAO: Half of All Medicaid Money Is Spent on Only 5 Percent of Enrollees  Bruce Walker, The Heartlander  “This is another good reason to block-grant Medicaid to the states and let them tailor programs to meet the needs of their own unique populations, rather than having to follow one-size-fits-none diktats from Washington, DC,” said Jack McHugh, a policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “States could then establish reasonable rules to eliminate some of the perverse and destructive incentives that currently dominate today’s medical welfare state.”  READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Bruno Behrend to be Featured at the Bughouse Square Debates

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2015, 3:01 PM

Image via Past Bughouse Debate Pictures

This Saturday Heartland’s own Bruno Behrend will be debating Chicago Public School Principal Troy LaRaviere at the Bughouse Square Debate. This will be the featured debate on the topic “Public or private? What should be the future of public education in Chicago?”

Join us in support of Bruno and the students who need access to quality education outside of the many failing schools within the Chicago Public Schools.

Washington Square Park (a.k.a., Bughouse Square)
901 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL
Across from the Newberry

Events 12 noon – 4 pm
12:15 – 1:15 – Featured Debate: Bruno vs Troy
Public or private? What should be the future of public education in Chicago?

Bruno Behrend, Senior Fellow for Education Policy at the Heartland Institute, and Troy LaRaviere, Principal of Blaine Elementary School, will offer their perspectives on these hotly contested issues during the Main Debate, followed by a Q&A with the audience. Heckling of a civil and friendly nature during the Main Debate is encouraged.

See all the speakers are https://www.newberry.org/07252015-2015-bughouse-square-debates

See you Saturday at high noon.

Categories: On the Blog
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