On the Blog

Naomi Klein, The Heartland Institute, and Are We Blind, Too?

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 8:47 PM

Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate,” and attendee of Heartland’s Sixth Climate Conference.

The Heartland Institute and “Heartlanders” are mentioned on at least 30 pages in Klein’s best-selling 2014 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (see the index). Excerpts from her interview with me appear on page 42 and elsewhere. Plainly, that interview and her attendance at the 2011 International Conference on Climate Change had a big influence on this book.

In fact, an early draft of the first one-third of the book appeared as the cover article in The Nation in 2011 shortly after the conference. No other think tank or advocacy group on the right is mentioned in This Changes Everything nearly as often as Heartland is; The Heritage Foundation is mentioned once, American Enterprise Institute twice, Cato Institute just six times, for example. Google searches and anecdotal reports show Klein also mentions me and Heartland frequently in her public presentations.

Klein probably views us as her most influential opponent in the debate because, like her, we are utterly sincere and see past the science debate to the motivation of the principal players. She doesn’t accuse us of being a front for oil or coal companies. She knows we believe the left’s interest in global warming is tactical, a pretense for calling for more government control over the economy. She agrees with us that this is a powerful tactic, one she believes socialists on the left aren’t pursuing with enough vigor.

So we often are on Klein’s mind. She uses us as a foil or a straw horse sometimes, but more often as a worthy opponent in the debate over the future of the world.

Klein often expresses her fear that her side has been co-opted by special-interest groups – ethanol producers, wind and solar companies, liberal foundations – the same way our side was at risk of being co-opted by fossil fuel companies. For both our sides, being co-opted means endorsing “technofixes” and programs that foist onto taxpayers and ratepayers the cost of a transition to expensive and unreliable renewable fuels, i.e., fascism. On this issue, socialists and libertarians unite in opposing a “third way.”

Ironically and importantly, the left’s attacks on ExxonMobil and other oil companies saved us from being co-opted by the oil industry and other corporate interests. In 2007, ExxonMobil said it would continue funding us only if we agreed to admit that man-made global warming “may” be causing a climate crisis. Had I said yes to that, the debate today would be much different. Instead, we started running ads in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere with the headline “Global Warming Is Not a Crisis.”

Similarly, Renaissance Reinsurance (RenRe), a major Heartland donor, RenRe was comfortable with our position on climate change so long as their support wasn’t public knowledge. Our contacts with the company were at least as skeptical about man-made climate change as anyone at Heartland. In 2012, following the Fakegate incident that revealed their funding, they said they would continue to fund us only if we publicly retracted and reversed our position on the underlying science of climate change. I said “take a walk,” and they did.

As near as I can tell, nothing similar has occurred on the left. Klein is highly critical of some of the largest environmental groups and liberal foundations for using the global warming issue to steer the debate to cap and trade, subsidies to renewable energy companies, and giving money to third-world dictators to shut them up, rather than abolishing capitalism and reaching for socialism. There isn’t much money out there, apparently, to support Klein-style radicalism, though it sells lots of books.

So the left, in the climate debate, is co-opted by crony capitalists and liberal philanthropists. The right pretty much is similarly co-opted by crony capitalists and conservative philanthropists — except for Heartland, Competitive Enterprise Institute, a few other worthy and principled allies. Heartland’s efforts validated questioning the “scientific consensus,” something we realized early on was necessary to stopping the march toward cap and trade, carbon taxes, or worse. It fundamentally changed the debate, turned public opinion, and stopped the global warming movement dead in its tracks.

Klein’s understanding of climate science is superficial at best and thinly sourced in this book. That’s her greatest vulnerability: She “believes” in global warming without having looked under the hood. It’s hard to blame her for that: She has clearly spent thousands of hours researching and writing on the policy and political aspects of the issue, interviewing everyone from the left to the far left with an opinion (or financial interest) in the issue. It’s hard to find time to also master the science aspects. But as a result, her ideological fervor and confirmation bias blind her to the possibility that she is wrong.

Are we similarly blinded? I don’t think so, because the financial rewards to us of “admitting” man-made global warming “may” be a crisis are enormous. We had a strong financial incentive to truly look under the hood and decide which side we should be on.

More than ANY other think tank or advocacy group in the debate on either the right or the left, we’ve studied the science. Ask yourself: where is the Environmental Defense Fund’s or Greenpeace’s equivalent of Climate Change Reconsidered? They don’t exist. Because they don’t care enough about the science, because at the end of the day, the science doesn’t matter to them. It doesn’t affect their tactic of using global warming as a scare tactic to raise money and advance a left-wing agenda. As Klein writes, “it’s not about carbon, it’s about capitalism.”

We do care about the science. We do ask ourselves, constantly, if the science is on our side.You don’t assemble an international team of climate scientists and publish four thick volumes of pure science on an issue if you think the science doesn’t matter.

Klein’s greatest strength is recogzing that nothing less than the abolition of capitalism will achieve the drastic reductions in emissions her side is calling for… and she’s willing to say it out loud. I love that about her. The leaders of the environmental movement, who pretend this isn’t about ideology and that “stopping” climate change would be costless, hate her for revealing this.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Says It Will Enforce Clean Water Rules Despite Court Order

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 2:57 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency is pledging to enforce its new “wetland rules” even though a federal judge has issued a stay order on the rule in 13 states. Several authorities, including state-based environmental authorities have argued that the rule is overly broad, and that the EPA is infringing on state sovereignty by attempting to regulate even tiny waterways.

The EPA claims that they instituted the new “wetland rule,” which defines “wetland” to mean most instances of standing water short of large puddles, fills a hole in an earlier rule that left “60%” of American wetlands unprotected. The new rule, the EPA claims, would force a permitting process for any entity that pollutes or has the potential to pollute body of water that has a “significant and direct connection” to a larger body of water.

Either way, the EPA is not interested in obeying the Federal court that’s tasked with judging which side is correct.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it is going forward with a new federal rule to protect small streams, tributaries and wetlands, despite a court ruling that blocked the measure in 13 central and Western states.

The EPA says the rule, which took effect Friday in more than three dozen states, will safeguard drinking water for millions of Americans.

Opponents pledged to continue to fight the rule, emboldened by a federal court decision Thursday that blocked it from Alaska to Arkansas…

The federal ruling Thursday was in North Dakota, where officials from that state and 12 others argued the new guidelines are overly broad and infringe on their sovereignty. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo agreed that they might have a case, issuing a temporary injunction.

The EPA said after the ruling that it would not implement the new rules in those 13 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Several other lawsuits remain, from other states and also from farm and business groups.

The court stayed enforcement of the rule for a reason: opponents claim that the rule is so broad as to encompass nearly any body of standing water on any land.

Saying that the rule may govern “drainpipes and puddles” is exaggerating the issue somewhat, but the plaintiffs do claim that the rule is so broad that it makes it next to impossible to say what won’t be affected, especially if the EPA is looking for something to hold a company accountable for. Standing water on grazing land, for instance, may not be “significant” to a farmer, but if the EPA wants to declare the land its on under their sovereignty, farmers are concerned that they could use the rule as an excuse to take over. Since such a takeover – or even a monetary fine – could constitute an irreparable harm under the law, the federal ruling declared that the EPA cannot enforce the rule until a court determines whether its Constitutional.

The EPA, however, considers the wetland problem to be of immediate urgency, so apparently they’ll take their chances. Their first targets are, of course, unclear. They could certainly, say, go after a major entity that may have leaked millions of gallons of mine waste-water into a major American waterway – themselves.

Categories: On the Blog

Biotech Foods Can Save People and the Environment

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 2:50 PM

Approximately 800 million people are currently malnourished, and the world’s population is expected to rise by 2 billion by the year 2050. If we use current technologies—or, Heaven forbid, roll back use of modern agricultural practices—we will have to plow down literally millions of acres to relieve the projected hunger expected to come as a result of the growing population. Fortunately, a widespread embrace of biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops can help ensure there is enough food for all.

Earth is bountiful and fecund, but it does not yield its treasures without hard work. Earth’s natural ability to produce the food necessary to feed human and animal populations has been enhanced greatly since the agricultural revolution more than 10,000 years ago. Our forbearers applied ingenuity and innovation to the improvement of crops; increased the efficiency of our land and water use; and improved methods of distribution, storage, and defense against animal and plants pests.

Even so, millions of people still suffer from privation and starvation. The world’s farmers currently produce more than enough food to feed Earth’s 7 billion people, using approximately 6 million square miles—an amount of land equal in size to the United States and Europe. Where malnutrition, famine, and starvation still occur, it is caused by broken distribution systems due to wars (civil and otherwise), poor infrastructure, flawed political and economic institutions, and authoritarian regimes that use starvation as a political tool. 

That won’t always be the case, however. The planet’s population is expected to peak during this century at approximately 9 billion. It will then likely taper off rapidly. In order to feed that peak population and their pets with diets similar to those currently enjoyed by people in developed countries, we will have to triple the production of food by 2050. Even if all farmers adopt the modern farming practices with high inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, the most we can realistically hope to do is double crop production on the current amount of land we are using.

There is only so much arable land and water usable for crop production. Substantially expanding the amount of land under active cultivation, which would be exceptionally difficult, would be a disaster for wildlife and native plants. The lands most likely to be converted to agriculture are forests, rangelands, and other wildlands, especially in the tropics—the most biodiverse region on Earth, where most population growth is occurring and where hunger and where malnutrition is most prominent.

Fortunately, there is another way of raising yields: The judicious use of biotechnology to produce hardier, disease-resistant, pest-resistant, vitamin-fortified crops that more efficiently use water and can be grown more readily on marginal lands can increase global food production by the threefold margin needed for the world’s 9 billion people. And it can be done while only marginally increasing the amount of acreage in production.

Unfortunately, environmental extremists have targeted the use of bioengineering. They raise baseless fears about “Frankenfoods” escaping the lab, and they argue no technology should be used until it can be shown to pose absolutely no risks whatsoever to humans or the environment.

Arguing biotech researchers are “playing God,” environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have threatened to lead a consumer boycott of companies that use bioengineered foods and to create a flood of negative publicity.

Several countries have banned the use of bioengineered foods, and the Free Thought Project lists 400 mostly small companies that claim not to use bioengineered products. More countries and companies jumping on the “ban the genetically modified organisms” bandwagon could devastate farmers who have begun to rely on biotech foods to raise yields while reducing their use of costly pesticides.

These scares are decidedly unscientific. Responding to environmentalist scare tactics, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and every major research body that has looked into the health and safety of genetically modified crops have endorsed their use.

A research assessment published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology in 2014 examining 1,783 studies on the safety and environmental impacts of genetically modified foods confirmed this. The Italian researchers couldn’t find a single credible example of GM foods posing any harm to humans or animals. Nor did they find any evidence GM crops have any negative environmental impact.

Unlike crops developed through traditional crossbreeding techniques, genetically modified foods are among the most extensively studied scientific subjects in history. Simply put, they are safe.

Extreme environmentalists ignore the very real dangers of doing without the new technologies. Turning our back on nutritional, safe, bioengineered foods would irresponsibly condemn millions of people to unnecessary suffering and, in some cases, even death. Nowthat would be “playing God” with a vengeance.

[Originally published at The Hill]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Reviewed: Mountain Whispers, Days Without Sun

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 2:42 PM

Mountain Whispers, Days Without Sun

by Coleman Alderson

Reviewed by Marita Noon and Jay Lehr

It is time for a new modern book to tell Ayn Rand’s story from Atlas Shrugged and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in modern terms. There is no question that todays environmental zealotry which is the theme of a new novel Mountains Whispers, Days Without Sun fills the bill. While Rand told a potentially true story this book updates it into our own future with the built in horrors of Agenda 21. A world movement of elitists who plan to take control of all of our land to use as they wish. They desire to concentrate folks in the cities where control is easier and create a new religion of sustainability.

Movies have been made of both Atlas Shrugged and Brave New World but never resonated with todays young folks, the so called millennials. Mountain Whispers could well make the impact necessary to make sure this dystopian story never unfolds.

What will America look like if the environmentalists win?

In every war, there are winners and losers. Whether the war is ideological or physical, or even if a truce is declared—there are still battles that end in victory or defeat.

In the United States, and most of the western world, there is an ideological war with dire physical consequences. It is the war on fossil fuels. But, the war is much bigger than energy. It is about freedom. It is about control. It is about global governance.

In his debut novel, author Coleman Alderson carefully weaves the green narrative into a spell-binding thriller set just slightly more than 35 years from now—when all of the green policies have taken force—and paints a gripping picture of how the Global Energy Enforcement Organization (GEEO) takes control of every aspect of our lives, leaving people struggling to survive a bleak existence.

But not everyone is willing to abandon freedom for the neat and tidy life promised in “Progress City.” They resist being “registered” and moved to work on an organic farm, assigned to drudge labor in the city, or picked to serve in “the administration.” Even many of those who originally accepted the move begin to realize the mistake they made. The friction creates the story as the “retros”—Appalachian Mountain folks, many of whom worked in the now-closed coal mines—resist registration and citification.

The cities are important because they represent “manageable regions.” It is more sustainable to have people in cities where they don’t use so many resources. For example, they don’t need cars. Instead they use public transportation or bicycles.

One of the lead characters is a young man named Agent Candler Greaves who is sent to round up the rebellious “retros.” Having been raised with the “save the planet” mantra, he genuinely wants to “help guide humanity toward a harmonious existence with the planet.” But, as the author’s portrayal makes vividly clear, the result of the GEEO’s efforts is a decrease in various public services, more land restrictions, limited availability of food, electricity, and medical treatments—while the leadership thrives in spite of it all.

Because a story captures people’s emotions, readers will internalize Mountain Whispers Days without Sun’s message more deeply than from facts and statistics. Alderson effectively illustrates the impact of all the mandates. The result is a depopulation of the rural areas and the control of people. Their individual hopes and aspirations are killed in the name of the collective.

The idea of citizens willingly accepting locator chips under their skin in order to be tracked may seem extreme to some, but closer to reality than we think. If you’ve seen advertising pop up on your computer based on websites you’ve visited, or if as you pull out of your driveway on Monday morning, your phone, without your asking it to, tells you how long it will take you to get to work, you know the scenario presented in Mountain Whispers Days without Sun, is totally possible. We must, like the Appalachian Mountain folks, fight it while still an ideological war.

The war we are fighting, as Alderson explains in the afterword: “is a saga of two cultures, of two divergent ways of life, and ultimately two paths leading into our future. One way leads to empowerment and living close to the land; the other promotes safety, security, and a global technocracy prescribed to minimize human impact on the environment.”

Alderson is an optimist. In the end, it is going to be OK. If we can figure out how to put a brake on the policies and bring reason into the discussion, we can, then, figure out how to avoid living out the scary future laid out in Mountain Whispers Days without Sun.

Coleman Alderson blogs on matters of energy and freedom at LittleRedPill.com, and you can find Mountain Whispers – Days Without Sun on Amazon.

Categories: On the Blog

Hidden Emails Reveal a Secret Anti-Fossil Fuel Network

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 1:37 PM

Hidden emails reveal a secret anti-fossil fuel network involving the White House, Democrat governors, wealthy donors and foundations, and front groups

Most of us feel that time goes by faster as we get older. It does. When you are five years old, one year represents 20 percent of your life. Yet, when you are fifty, that same calendar year is only 2 percent of your life—making that single timeframe much smaller. Those of us involved in fighting the bad energy policies coming out of Washington have a similar feeling: the second term of the Obama Administration seems to be throwing much more at us and at such speed that we can barely keep up. Likewise, they are.

We knew that President Obama was planning to fundamentally transform America, but even many of his initial supporters have been shocked as his true intentions have been revealed. Following his November 2012 reelection, his administration has removed any pretense of representing the majority of Americans and has pursued his ideological agenda with wild abandon—leaving many of us feeling incapacitated; thrown to the curb as it speeds by.

His legacy climate-change agenda is at the core of the rapid-fire regulations and the disregard for any speed bump the courts may place in front of the administration. When the Supreme Court smacked it down for failing to consider economic impacts of the mercury and air toxics standards for power plants, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responded with a shrug, as their goal had essentially already been met. On August 27, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction—blocking EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from enforcing the Waters of the United States rule in the thirteen states that requested the injunction. The response? The Hill reports: “the Obama administration says it will largely enforce the regulation as planned.”

Having failed to push the unpopular policies through Congress, the administration has resorted to regulatory overreach—and assembled a campaign to use friendly governors and state attorney general offices, in collaboration with pressure groups and ideologically aligned benefactors, to advance the agenda.

The White House knows that the public is not with them. While polls show that slightly more than half of the American public believe the “effects of global warming are already happening,” it repeatedly comes in at the bottom of the list of priorities on which we think Obama and Congress should focus. The President’s pet policy fares even worse when pollsters ask if Americans agree: “government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth?” Only 12 percent “strongly agree.” Additionally, the very age group—young voters—that helped propel Obama into the Oval Office, is the group least convinced that climate change is a reality and the least “likely to support government funding for climate change solutions.”

It is, presumably, for this reason that a scheme hatched by now-disgraced former Oregon Governor Kitzhaber’s highest-paid aide Dan Carol—“a former Democratic opposition researcher,” who, according to the Oregonian, “worked on behalf of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama”—received an enthusiastic response from the White House and its allies. Remember, Kitzhaber resigned from office on February 13, 2015, amid allegations of criminal wrongdoing for the role his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, held in his office and whether she used that role to obtain private consulting work promoting the climate agenda. Carol, who was paid close to double Kitzhaber’s salary, according to a new report from Energy & Environment Legal Institute, left his public position “after appearing to have too closely intertwined government and the tax-payer dependent ‘clean energy’ industry with interest group lobbies.”

The goal of what was originally called “Dan’s concept” was to bring about a “coalescence of private financial and ideological interests with public offices to advance the officeholders’ agenda and political aspiration”—more specifically: “to bring the Obama Administration’s plans to reality and to protect them.”

This was done, according to dozens of emails obtained through federal and state open record laws, “through a coordinated campaign of parallel advocacy to support close coordination of public offices” and involved a “political operation with outside staff funded by some of the biggest names in left-liberal foundation giving,” including, according to the emails, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, the Rockefeller Brothers, and the Hewlett Foundation. The first emails in the scandal began in mid-2013.

Kitzhaber wasn’t the only governor involved—he’s just the only one, so far, to resign. Many Democrat governors and their staff supported the scheme. You’d expect that California’s Governor Jerry Brown or Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe are part of the plan—called, among other names, the Governors Climate Compact—as they are avid supporters of the President’s climate-change initiatives. What is surprising is Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s “quiet engagement.” He decried Obama’s Clean Power Plan (Final rule announced on August 3, 2015), as being “disastrous” for Kentucky. In a statement about the Plan, he said: “I have remained steadfast in my support of Kentucky’s important coal and manufacturing industries, and the affordable energy and good jobs they provide the Commonwealth and the nation.” Yet, he isn’t opposing the rule and emails show that he is part of the “core group of governors quietly working to promote the climate agenda.”

In response to the records request, Beshear’s office “asserts that ‘no records’ exist in its files involving the Steyer campaign.” The E&E Legal report continues: “Numerous emails from other governors copying a senior Beshear aide on her official account, emails which Beshear’s office surely possesses, unless it has chosen to destroy politically damaging emails.” An email bearing that aide’s name, Rebecca Byers, includes Kentucky as one of the states “that can’t commit to the GCC [Governors Climate Compact] publicly now but would welcome quiet engagement.”

Other states indicated in the emails include Minnesota, Rhode Island, Illinois, Connecticut, California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, New York, Vermont, and Virginia. Three newly elected Republican Governors have been targeted by the campaign—Larry Hogan (MD), Charlie Baker (MA), and Bruce Rauner (IL). Reelected Republican Governor Rick Snyder (MI) has apparently joined the “core group.”

I’ve read the entire report—which had me holding my breath as if I were reading a spy thriller—and reviewed the emails.

The amount of coordination involved in the multi-state plan is shocking. The amount of money involved is staggering—a six-month budget of $1,030,00 for the orchestrators and multi-state director and $180,000 to a group to produce a paper supporting the plan’s claims. And, as the 55-page report points out, this collection of emails is in no way complete. At the conclusion of the executive summary: “Context and common sense indicate that the emails E&E Legal obtained and detail in this report do not represent all relevant correspondence pulling together the scheme they describe. Public records laws extend to those records created, sent or received by public servants; private sector correspondence is only captured when copying public offices, with the caveat that most of the White House is exempt. Further, however, the records we have obtained reflect more than the time and other parameters of our requests; they are also a function of the thoroughness of offices’ responses, the willingness of former and current staff to search nonofficial accounts, and even several stonewalls as noted in the following pages.”

The E&E Legal report was of particular interest to me in that it followed the theme of my extensive coverage of Obama’s green-energy crony-corruption scandal. Many of the same names, with which I’d become familiar, popped up over and over again: Terry McAuliffe—who received government funding for his failed electric car enterprise; Cathy Zoe—who worked for the Department of Energy, and, of course, John Podesta—who ran the Center for American Progress and who helped write the 2009 Stimulus Bill, and who then became a “senior advisor” to President Obama and is presently campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.

It also caught my attention because little more than a month ago—perhaps with a hint that this report was forthcoming—the HuffPost published a story claiming that groups like mine were part of a “secret network of fossil fuel and utility backed groups working to stop clean energy.” Calling me—along with others—out by name, the author states: “The strategy of creating and funding many different organizations and front groups provides an artificial chorus of voices united behind eliminating or weakening renewable energy laws.” He concludes that the attacks “are the result of coordinated, national campaigns orchestrated by utilities and fossil fuel companies through their trade associations and front groups.”

Oh, how I wish we were that well-coordinated and funded. If we were, I would have written this column last week when the E&E Legal report was released. Instead of receiving the information from the source, a New York City journalist forwarded it to me.

Yes, I am part of a loosely affiliated network of people who share similar concerns. Once a year, I meet with a group of private citizens and activists over property rights issues. I am on an email list of individuals and groups opposing wind turbines—often for different reasons. I have a cadre of scientists I’ve met at different meetings upon whom I do call for their varied expertise. Individuals often email me tips and news stories. True, most of the folks on my nearly 5000-person email distribution list are part of the energy industry—though there are plenty of concerned citizens, too. In 2014, the average donation to my organization was under $500.

Imagine what we could do with the same amount of money and coordination the E&E Legal report revealed—after all we have the public on our side—average citizens whose utility bills are going up by double digits due to the policies espoused by President Obama and his politically connected allies who benefit from American’s tax dollars.

I hope you’ll join our chorus—you can subscribe and/or contribute to my efforts. We are not working in the shadows and are, in fact, proud of our efforts on behalf of all Americans, their jobs, and energy that is effective, efficient, and economical.

If this small—but organized and well-funded—group pushing Obama’s agenda were allowed to run rampant, without the roadblocks little pockets of opposition (like my group) erect though public education and exposure of the facts (such this E&E legal report), it is scary to think about where America would be today. Remember, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

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. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – State Rep. Mark Finchem (AZ): Common Core and Student Data Privacy

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 12:58 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor Heather Kays speaks with Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Finchem joins Kays to talk about Common Core and student data privacy.

Kays and Finchem discuss the difficulty in repealing and replacing Common Core despite a strong grassroots movement against it in Arizona. Finchem also talks about his most recent effort to draw attention to the fact that Common Core is being used to collect and distribute student data.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly Email: Heartland Launches Center for Constitutional Reform

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2015, 10:04 AM

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.

Affordable Energy Summit Counters Obama-Reid Event
Sterling Burnett, The Heartlander
The Heartland Institute, National Black Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Policy Research Institute, and Libertarian Party of Nevada teamed up to organize a counter-program in Las Vegas this week to steal some thunder from President Obama and the Democrats’ “Clean Energy Summit.” Our presence was reported by the Associated Press and other media outlets. READ MORE

Prager University’s ‘Why I Left Greenpeace’ Features Patrick Moore
In this video from Prager University, Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, explains why he helped to create the organization … and what caused him to leave. Moore recounts how a simple movement to preserve the environment turned into a political movement that viewed humanity as an enemy of Earth.  READ MORE

Heartland Launches Center for Constitutional Reform
On August 26th, Heartland hosted an event in Dallas, Texas announcing the launch of our newest center, the Center for Constitutional Reform. Speakers at the event included Heartland President Joseph Bast; legal scholar David Guldenschuh; Nick Dranias, president of Compact for America; Peter Ferrara, Heartland senior fellow and author of Power to the People; former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL). READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Rob Natelson: Article V Constitutional Convention
Rob Natelson, senior fellow at the Independence Institute and former constitutional law professor, joins Environment & Climate News Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the history and practicality of an Article V constitutional convention. Natelson provides a historical analysis of what an Article V convention is, why it was put into the Constitution, how it functions, and how such conventions have been used (or not used), in the past. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

 

The Heartland versus The Ruling Class!
The Heartland Institute’s 31st Anniversary Benefit Dinner will take place Thursday, October 8 at The Cotillion, 360 South Creekside Drive in Palatine, Illinois. This year’s theme is “The Heartland versus The Ruling Class,”featuring the thoughts of keynote speaker Angelo Codevilla, Ph.D., author of The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It. Also featuring this year’s Heartland Liberty Prize winner Donald Devine, Ph.D. Join us for dinner, drinks, great conversation, and fellowship in liberty! MORE INFO HERE

Government Grant Funding Holds Back Scientific Inquiry
Jesse Hathaway, Daily Caller 
Research on important public health matters is unbiased when it’s funded by the government, right? Wrong. The National Institutes of Health pours hundreds of millions of dollars a year – $623 million in 2014 alone, according to Dr. Brad Radu – into research designed to advance the agency’s stated goal of “a world free of tobacco use.” This has resulted in phony research exaggerating the negative health effects of both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, an important advance in harm reduction efforts. READ MORE

Florida Legislators Recognize Need for Flexibility, Choice in Special Education
Heather Kays, Townhall 
Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Account program has proven to be a perfect solution for special-needs students eager to learn but with disabilities that make a traditional classroom environment difficult. This year, the first year of the program, about 1,700 students received accounts. Next year, there will be enough money for more than 5,000 students, because Florida legislators increased its funding from $18.4 million to $53.4 million.  READ MORE

Obesity and Health Care Costs Continue to Rise Under Obamacare
Justin Haskins, Human Events 
In the months leading up to the passage of the Obamacare, President Barack Obama traveled across the country claiming the law would cause nation to grow healthier from its various programs and mandates. Like “if you like your current insurance, you can keep it,” this was promise the president couldn’t keep. Various mandates and provisions in Obamacare force health insurance companies to offer programs and other initiatives intended to help obese patients lose weight, but these programs depend on the patient’s willingness to enroll in the offered programs and work regularly with primary care physicians to adopt healthier lifestyle routines. Health care is becoming more expensive and obesity rates continue to grow. READ MORE

Poorer Nations Set for 99% of Population Growth
Wendell Cox, New Geography 
According to the new United Nations World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, the population of the world is projected to rise from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 11.2 billion in 2100. The projections indicate a continuation of trends that cause concern. A world that is experiencing virtually 100 percent of its growth in its poorest areas cannot help but face a tough future. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Obamacare, Medicaid Expansion and Welfare Reform
This edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast was recorded at Heartland’s Emerging Issues Forum (EIF) held in Seattle on August 7, where a panel discussed Obamacare, Medicaid expansion, and welfare reform. The panel, led by Heartland Government Relations Director John Nothdurft, includes Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of health care policy for the Goldwater Institute;  Christina Herrera, a senior fellow of the Foundation for Government Accountability; and Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

The Subprime College Crisis
Joy Pullmann, The Heartlander 
Remember the subprime mortgage crisis that fed the 2008 recession? That, too, was fueled by easy taxpayer money from a national government foolishly pushing social outcomes. The Obama administration, rather than dealing with the root problem of government meddling with markets, has doubled down on taxpayers’ exposure by offering young people even more taxpayer money to offset their student loans. New figures show approximately one in six student-loan holders are in default. READ MORE

Greenpeace Workers Stage Strike, Walkout
Emily Zanotti, Somewhat Reasonable 
According to the San Diego Free Press, 16 of 19 canvassers hired by Greenpeace to collect small-dollar donations and routine donation commitments have walked off the job and are currently “on strike.” The group accuses Greenpeace of “hypocricy” (sic), claiming that while touting progressive ideals, Greenpeace benefits primarily from the work of a labor force that has no minimum wage and must meet donation quotas regularly to retain their employment. READ MORE

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Categories: On the Blog

Chris Christie Wants to Track All Foreign Visitors ‘Like They Are a FedEx Package’ to Curtail Illegal Immigration

Somewhat Reasonable - August 29, 2015, 7:48 PM

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, once considered a moderate conservative candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, today proposed a very authoritarian policy: tracking all visitors on tourist visas as if they were a piece of mail set for overnight delivery. This will, he believes, prevent foreigners from overstaying their visa terms, one common form of illegal immigration to the U.S.

“At any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is. It’s on the truck. It’s at the station. It’s on the airplane,” Christie said while campaigning in New Hampshire, whose state slogan is Live Free or Die. “Yet we let people come to this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them. So here’s what I’m going to do as president: I’m going to ask Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, to come work for the government for three months, just come for three months to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and show these people.”

According to The Washington Post, remark sparked laughter and applause from the audience. “But it shows again how serious the Republican field of presidential contenders is about catching up to billionaire Donald Trump, whose campaign has been built in part on such tough talk,” the Post reported.

Whether the tracking would involve bar codes, biometrics, or chips embedded in the bodies of the foreign travelers, has not yet been disclosed by the Christie for President Campaign. To paraphrase the rock star Phil Collins, in his 1980s hit, henceforth, it’s no fun being an illegal alien.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Rep. Randy Hultgren, Other State, Local Officials Headlined Heartland’s ‘Open House’ Last week

Somewhat Reasonable - August 28, 2015, 4:37 PM

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), the mayor of Arlington Heights, Ill., and other influential state and local officials headlined last week’s “open house” at the new headquarters office of the Heartland Institute, a free market think tank.

Hultgren spoke on an array of national public policy issues, including the Iran nuclear power deal negotiated by the Obama administration, the GOP Congress’s failure to repeal Obamacare, and his support for federal science and technology laboratories, like the nearby Fermi Lab, a department of energy facility that employs many high-skilled workers locally.

The Congressman also had the crowd laughing with lighthearted childhood stories, growing up in this area, as the son of a local funeral home director.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) with the president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, last week. Photo by MaryAnn McCabe.

Categories: On the Blog

Solyndra Executives Misled Federal Officials, Investigators Find

Somewhat Reasonable - August 28, 2015, 1:37 PM

President Obama committed, Monday, to financing a new generation of “alternative energy” industrialists under his Clean Power Plan, but one of the original Department of Energy program loan recipients, solar power company Solyndra, reportedly misled DOE officials in pursuit of government money, a federal investigators report has found.

According to the Energy Department’s Inspector General, who conducted a four-year investigation alongside the FBI, while Solyndra claimed that they had a guaranteed $2.2 billion in firm contracts for their innovative, cylindrical solar panels, Solyndra had quietly offered secret discounts to all of its customers, many of whom never made good on their full contracts.

According to the Washington Post:

Solyndra’s leaders engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions” that drew a rosy picture of their company enjoying robust sales while they lobbied to win the first clean energy loan the new administration awarded in 2009, a lengthy investigation uncovered. The Silicon Valley start-up’s dramatic rise and then collapse into bankruptcy two years later became a rallying cry for critics of President Obama’s signature program to create jobs by injecting billions of dollars into clean energy firms…

Solyndra officials told the government in 2009, for example, that they had firm contracts to sell $2.2 billion worth of their unique cylindrical solar panels over the next five years. But behind the scenes, investigators found, Solyndra was struggling with customers who were balking at the high panel prices, arranging secret side deals to pay discounted prices and refusing to buy as many panels as they once promised.

In addition, investigators discovered that Department of Energy employees, in charge of reviewing Solyndra’s loan application, felt “pressure” from inside the Administration to approve the Solyndra loan, and so overlooked many of the warning bells in the application’s finer print.

If you recall, in one of his first acts in office, President Obama approved a whopping $787 billion federal stimulus program, part of which would be dedicated to funding upstart alternative energy companies. The Department of Energy was responsible for overseeing these loans, and many of the loans were awarded to major campaign donors and bundlers, rather than to deserving alternative energy programs. According to Peter Schweizer, $16.4 billion of the $20 billion in DOE loans granted went to “companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama backers,” members of his finance committee and Democratic National Committee mega-donors. The program itself was run by Steve Spinner, a major Obama donor and finance committee member who “happened” to join the DOE as their “chief strategic operations officer” after Obama’s 2008 campaign. Spinner was ultimately put in charge of the alternative energy loan program.

Solyndra was no exception to the crony rule; according to a report compiled for National Review, Solyndra’s biggest backer was the Kaiser Family Foundation, run by George Kaiser, a major donor to Obama’s campaign (at one event for Obama, Kaiser reportedly bundled more than a quarter million for Obama’s 2008 campaign). Kaiser Family Foundation’s primary investment arm is Argonaut Ventures LLC, which was also Solyndra’s largest shareholder. While the DOE was considering Solyndra’s loan, Kaiser himself visited the White House, and Solyndra officials had meetings with the President and his staff no fewer than 20 times. In the end, although Solyndra had been turned down for loans under the Bush Administration because of its questionable economics, and against the better judgment of specific officials at the DOE and Office of Management and Budget, Solyndra received $535 million in DOE loans, which they then used in an ill-fated effort to go public.

After Solyndra finally collapsed and shut its doors, the Administration and friendly Democrats in Congress were quick to deny any wrongdoing in the DOE loan process, blaming Solyndra’s abysmal failure on the economic downturn, and reassuring now skeptical taxpayers that Solyndra had at least created a “ripple” effect, sparking other solar energy companies to take on new and innovated processes. Taxpayers were left on the hook for about $527 million of the $535 million loan – but George Kaiser, whose investment company’s claim was ahead of the Federal government’s in the bankruptcy process, managed to recover most of their investment from auctioned assets, leaving nothing for taxpayers or the DOE to recover for their loans.

The Inspector General’s report goes into detail on exactly how Solyndra inflated it’s financial status, from offering its customers quiet discounts, to submitting income spreadsheets to clearly disinterested DOE analysts, to giving fake excuses to DOE consultants so investigators wouldn’t contact any real customers for their opinion. Solyndra, for its part, maintains that it provided all necessary information to the DOE, and that the DOE, not Solyndra, had rushed through the loan process in order to approve the money before a major press event – a now-infamous speech President Obama  gave at Solyndra’s California headquarters. The IG said it would not pursue a detailed investigation into political pressure the DOE may have felt from both Solyndra and the Administration, but did note that pressure was part of the reason they felt the DOE did not take appropriate measures in vetting the loan to begin with.

So far, the Department of Justice, despite seemingly having enough evidence to pursue a case in Califrnia, has so far declined to press charges for fraud against Solyndra and its executives. The Inspector General plans to press DOJ officials to take a second look at the case.

 

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast: Outdated Laws, Colonies on Mars, and Candidates with Beards

Somewhat Reasonable - August 28, 2015, 11:12 AM

Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft host the first episode of the “In The Tank”, a weekly podcast that will feature interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, and stories and light hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news from a right of center perspective. The show will be available for download as a podcast every Friday.

In today’s episode, Donny and John talk about Michigan repealing dumb laws against embellishing the national anthem, what states tax “Sin” the most, the prospects of a free and privately funded Mars Colony, America’s welfare system being just as generous at Europe’s, and how Presidential candidates would fare in a “beard off”.

·         Michigan House Passes Package Repealing Outdated Laws

·         The States Most Dependent on Sin Taxes

·         Billionaires Wanted to Fund Private Mars Colony

·         The U.S. Is on Par With Many European Welfare States: Study

·         What Would 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidates Look Like With Beards?

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on Itunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox atInTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Scott Sumner: The Recent Volatility of the Stock Market

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2015, 4:23 PM

In today’s episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor Jesse Hathaway talks with Mercatus Center monetary policy program director and Bentley University economics professor Scott Sumner about the American stock market’s recent up-and-down volatility, the increasing threat of an international economic recession, and how our country’s centralized banking policies make the problem worse.

The first step to solving a problem is setting goals, and Sumner explains how the Federal Reserve’s lack of measurable targets and tight grip on leads to an aimless attitude towards monetary policies. Instead of the current system of centralized control, Sumner proposes creating market-based controls responsive to the so-called “wisdom of the crowds.”

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

Categories: On the Blog

Florida Legislators Recognize Need for Flexibility, Choice in Special Education

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2015, 11:12 AM

Brandon Berman is 17 years old and is one of the approximately 1,700 students participating in Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) program. Brandon is autistic and has muscular dystrophy, seizures, spastic paraplegia, and a feeding tube, and he is most likely going to die from a brain tumor. He also has an unwavering desire to learn, and his parents have fought to make sure he gets that opportunity.

“He has a fatal diagnosis,” his mother, Donna Berman, recently told me by phone. “As long as he wants to learn and as long as I can give an education to him, I will.”

Florida’s PLSA program provides an education savings account for special-needs students and has proven to be a perfect solution for students like Brandon. Parents initially pay for approved educational services and then are reimbursed. Funding provided through the program can pay for everything from instructional materials to curriculum to approved specialized services and therapies.

This year Florida legislators have tripled the amount of money allocated for the program, raising funding from $18.4 million to $53.4 million. That’s enough money to help more than 5,000 students during the next school year. This year, the first year of the program, about 1,700 students received accounts.

Eligibility now includes three- and four-year-olds with diagnoses covered by the program. Students with muscular dystrophy and anywhere on the autism disorder spectrum will also be eligible. Previously, the state used a nonmedical definition of autism that excluded some autistic students. Part-time tutoring will now be an approved expense for children enrolled fulltime as private school or homeschool students.

These changes show Florida legislators have recognized the need for flexibility and choice when designing special-education funding. The rest of country should consider enacting similar legislation, because a program such as this makes an enormous difference to each family it serves.

The Berman family of Port Orange has tried almost every educational option available to special-needs students in Florida.

“We’ve tried all the routes of the school,” said Berman, a licensed practical nurse who has taught and cared for her son since his health began to decline. “We did the McKay Scholarship. We tried homebound options more than once. But four hours a week—four hours total of direct instruction with a teacher—it’s just not enough.”

The PLSA program allows Berman to tailor Brandon’s education. She can teach him while they wait in doctors’ offices. Berman says she has been successful in stretching the funding and making it cost-effective by carefully determining how to spend it.

“We learned all about fabric and then learned math and science through the sewing machine,” said Berman. “We’ve grown gardens. All the schools said he would never learn to read. They kept asking me why I continued to request a reading specialist and said he would never learn to read. Little did I know he knew how to read; he was just intimidated by the number of words on a page.”

Through a process of trial and error, Berman enlarged the size of the text on Brandon’s e-reader so the words visible on the screen were what would normally appear on a quarter of a page.

“It’s unfortunate that the public school system doesn’t see that not every child can be supported in a classroom,” said Berman. She says she knows there are good, hardworking teachers in many public schools but the education system prejudges some students and gives them less attention than they need.

“The PLSA has been an incredible gift,” said Berman. “It’s got great potential for children like mine who don’t fit into a specific program designed for special-needs students.”

Brandon recently insisted on reading a mystery book on his own without his mother’s help. The Boxcar Children books are now his favorites.

“I’ve seen him stand up taller,” said Berman. “I’ve seen him take pride again. It’s almost as if he didn’t feel he could succeed. He’s much more comfortable being included in things.”

Berman says there are misconceptions about the PLSA program.

“It’s not taking jobs away from people,” said Berman. “It’s not. It’s helping children. My son cannot be stuck in a caveman system when he has Space Age problems. We’re not making the schools go broke. It’s the same funding that would have been used for my son anyway, and now I have the funding to help him.”

Florida legislators deserve recognition for seeing the need to expand the PLSA program to help more families like the Bermans.

“No, he won’t be able to walk across a stage like other students,” Berman told me. “He won’t be able to collect a diploma with his peers, but his peers never really knew him because of the way the system is set up. He can just become the best him. And he does matter.”

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Poorer Nations Set for 99% of Population Growth

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2015, 9:09 AM

According to the new United Nations World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revisionthe population of the world is projected to rise from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 11.2 billion in 2100. This represents a 53 percent increase. However, over the period, population growth will moderate substantially. This is indicated by the annual growth rate the first year (2015 to 2016), at 1.1 percent, compared to the last year (2099 to 2100) at 0.1 percent. Annual population growth is projected to decline 90 percent from the beginning of the period to the end (Figure 1).

Growth by Continent

The distribution of growth among the continents will be anything but even. Approximately 83 percent of the growth is projected to be in Africa, which is to grow approximately 270 percent. Asia is expected to account for 13 percent of the world’s growth and add 11 percent to its population. Northern America (Note), while growing 40 percent is expected to account for four percent of the world’s population growth. Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to account for 2.2 percent of the world’s growth, and add 14 percent to their population. Europe (including all of Russia) is expected to decline in population by 13 percent (Figure 2).

Population Growth by Income Status

World population growth is expected to vary widely by current income status (Figure 3). Income status is indicated on page 137 of this United Nations publication.

The world’s high income nations are expected to add only eight percent (111 million) to their population and will represent only three percent of the population growth. These nations are principally in North America and Europe, but also include Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and others.

The world’s upper middle income nations are expected to experience a population decline of three percent, which amounts to a loss of 82 million residents. China, Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Iran and Brazil are examples of upper-middle income nations. When combined with the high income gain noted above the more affluent half of the world’s nations would add 29 million residents, or just 0.7 percent of the world’s growth. This is fewer people than live in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

This means that more than 99 percent of world growth from 2015 to 2100 is expected to be among the lower income nations. The lower middle income nations would gain 2 billion people, representing 52 percent of the population growth.  The lower-middle income nations include India, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Vietnam, Guatemala and others.

The lower income nations would gain 1.8 billion people, capturing 47 percent of the world’s growth. The lower income nations include Bangladesh, Tanzania, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and others.

In the high income and upper middle income regions, population growth will be also anything but consistent. Nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia are expected to grow far faster. The United States is expected to add 40 percent to its population and more than four times the population growth of all of the upper half of nations. Canada (up 39 percent) and Australia (up 77 percent), combined, are expected to add more population than the total upper income half of nations.  These gains will be largely offset by losses in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Italy and others.

Largest Population by Nation

China, with the largest population in 2015, is expected to fall behind India in 2050 and remain in second place by 2100. India is expected to be the largest nation in both 2050 and 2100. However, India’s population will be less in 2100 than it was in 2050.

Eight of the 10 most populated nations, including India and China are expected to have a lower population in 2100 than in 2050 (Figure 4). Pakistan is expected to reach its population peak in 2095 and start declining in 2096. This leaves only the United States among today’s today’s 10 largest nations that is expected to be adding population in 2100. The growth rate between 2099 and 2100 (0.2 percent) is expected to be considerably below the growth rate at the beginning of the period (2015-2016), which was 0.7 percent.

By 2100, there are expected to be substantial changes to the top 10 nations in population. Five of the 10 largest nations in the world are expected to be in Africa. This is an increase from one in 2015 (Figure 5). Nigeria will have replaced the United States as the third largest nation, with approximately 750 million people, having more than quadrupled in size. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo – Kinshasa) would ranked fifth, and is expected to reach 390 million people, quintupling in size. Tanzania would ranked eighth, reaching 300 million residents, nearly 6 times its 2015 population. Ethiopia would have more than 240 million residents, 2.5 times its current population and would rank ninth. The 10th largest nation would be Niger, with 210 million residents, a figure 10 times its 2015 level. Among the African nations in the top 10, only Ethiopia would be declining by 2100, having reached its population peak in 2097.

Pakistan would retain its current sixth position, while Indonesia would fall from 4th to 7th. As noted above, India would be the largest nation in China would be second largest in 2100. By that date India would have an overall gain of approximately 350 million people from 2015, while China would lose 370 million people. The United States would add more than 125 million people. Brazil, which is currently ranked 5th, would lose approximately 10 million people and fall to 13th position. Eighth ranked Bangladesh, which was long among the fastest growing nations in the world, would gain only 10 million people and fall to 14th position. Russia, ranked 9th, would fall to 23rd, losing 25 million residents. Mexico, ranked 10th, would gain 20 million residents, and would be ranked 18th in 2100.

The Uncertainty of Projections

Of course projections of any kind are subject to wide error ranges. Economic growth, the extent of poverty, wars, social trends, medical advances and other factors can interfere. The simple fact is that none of us and no organization knows the future for sure. One study of UN population trends in six Southeast Asian nations found that 1980 projections from 1950 were 13.9 percent off by nation, with a range from minus 20 percent to plus 27 percent. There had been some improvement in comparing 1975 projections to 2000 actual populations, with an average error of 8.2 percent. The range was little improved, from minus 23 percent to plus 25 percent. Obviously projections are likely to be much more accurate in early years and the chances for greater accuracy are improved in larger nations or regions.

A World of Challenges

Regardless of the extent of accuracy, which cannot be known at this point, the projections indicate a continuation of trends that cause concern. A world that is experiencing virtually 100 percent of its growth in its poorest areas cannot help but face a tougher future. This makes it clear that the principal priority of governments around the world should be to improve affluence and reduce poverty. The challenges are gargantuan, but focusing on these issues is likely to result in a better, though less than ideal, world.

Note:  Northern America includes Canada, the United States, Greenland, Bermuda and the French territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Photograph: Western Railway Headquarters (Churchgate), Mumbai, India (by author)

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

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

[Originally published at New Geography]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Government Grant Funding Corrupts Tobacco Research, Holds Back Scientific Inquiry

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 4:20 PM

Government ought to rely on unbiased scientific findings when making policy decisions regarding important issues. But unfortunately, many government agencies undermine the scientific process by using it for their own purposes rather than to discover the truth, a reality President Dwight Eisenhower pointed out in his farewell address more than a half-century ago. The situation has only become worse since then, with government funding of tobacco studies providing a vivid example.

Of course we all know tobacco use is harmful, but the important scientific question that remains is how best to help people quit or at least moderate their use and reduce the harm tobacco can do. Unfortunately, federal agencies are shortchanging science about harm reduction in favor of finding ways to force everyone to quit.

According to Dr. Brad Rodu, in 2014 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) doled out $623 million to more than 1,000 university researchers interested in advancing its stated goal of “a world free of tobacco use.” In one such solicitation for researchers willing to fit facts to dogma, NIH set aside $10 million for eight to 10 studies, provided those studies proved useful in helping the government “develop effective ways to limit the spread and promote cessation of smokeless tobacco use.”

Studies show smokeless tobacco is much less harmful than smoking, and hence it should be part of any harm-reduction strategy governments would pursue. That is the very opposite of what the NIH is doing.

his is a big problem because academic research has become highly dependent on government subsidies, which can prove very lucrative to both researchers and the universities that employ them. Government grants such as those from NIH cover the upfront cost of scientific inquiry, such as faculty and graduate student salaries and equipment purchases.

Those grants also cover administrative costs, which the university pockets. For example, a $1 million grant could provide the university itself with $250,000 in revenue for overhead.

Because NIH grants are so valuable to both researchers and the universities for whom they work, violating the dogma purveyed by government agencies is unprofitable. In turn, little to no tobacco harm reduction research is conducted, because there’s little money in exploring that particular line of inquiry.

Searching NIH’s Office of Extramural Research for available grants, I found no funding opportunities between January 1, 2013 and January 1, 2015 involving the words “tobacco harm reduction.” Searching for funding opportunities involving the terms “tobacco cessation,” revealed six grants were available, totaling at least $3.4 million or an average of more than $550,000 per grant. Two of the cessation-related grants had no specified upper limit.

Similarly, government agencies are themselves unduly influenced by the lure of big-money grants. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarded members of its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) with between $53 million and $273 million in grants to fund their respective proposed studies, even though other studies were rated higher by FDA reviewers.

TPSAC member Jonathan Samet, a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, was one such recipient of government funding. FDA officials called its decision to give agency insiders as much as $273 million in funding “purely coincidental,” declining to explain further to Reuters reporters.

Government agencies’ dominance of academic funding perverts the scientific process, creating a situation where our knowledge begins with preapproved doctrine, proceeds to cherry-picked data, and ends with confirmation of the state-sponsored doctrine. By funding those studies that advance preapproved policy goals, government subsidization of academic research encourages researchers to twist the facts to fit the dollar signs.

Given their history of actively inserting policy objectives into the scientific process, government agencies such as FDA and NIH should be removed from the grant-funding business. Congress should rewrite their appropriations accordingly.

Funding studies expected to advance favored preexisting narratives and funding studies from favorite sons is not “science.” It’s political maneuvering at its worst. Dr. Brad Rodu, the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville’s  James Graham Brown Cancer Center, has conducted extensive research on this topic. His research appears on his blog, Tobacco Truth, at http://rodutobaccotruth.blogspot.com/.

[A slightly different version of this essay was originally published by The Daily Caller.]
Categories: On the Blog

Greenpeace Workers Stage Strike, Walkout

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 3:02 PM

San Diego Greenpeace canvassers are leading a strike against the global environmental activism giant, claiming that Greenpeace has provided them little in the way of job security, and has violated what they believe to be fair labor policies.

According to the San Diego Free Press, 16 of 19 canvassers hired by Greenpeace to collect small-dollar donations and routine donation commitments have walked off the job and are currently “on strike.” The group accuses Greenpeace of “hypocricy,” claiming that while touting progressive ideals, Greenpeace benefits primarily from the work of a labor force that has no minimum wage and must meet donation quotas regularly to retain their employment.

The strike, led by two veteran canvassers in Socialist Alternative San Diego, comes against an organization that claims to be progressive. However, Greenpeace uses a quota system where even veteran fundraisers can be fired for missing quota two or three weeks consecutively. Senior workers bring in six or seven times their salary in recurring donations, yet are routinely fired. Morale is understandably very low. But choosing to resist, they have mobilized in defense of their jobs and dignity. Non-profits beware: the persuasive skills developed by your employees can be used against you. Instead of selling Greenpeace, organizers now sell the strike against it.

Tara Dawn, a strike member from the Sacramento field office, said “As a single mother, I work hard week in and week out not knowing if I’ll have a dependable paycheck to keep a roof over our heads. That is a very difficult reality to face. I love my job and the organization I work for, but myself and the all of the other canvassers deserve to see reform.”

They claim that senior and mid-level Greenpeace managers have formed a “Worker Elite,” and that Greenpeace’s vast network of managers are paid well enough that street-level canvassers, who collect names, small-dollar donations and multi-month donation commitments from San Diego residents should be given a “fair share.”

A cursory glance at Craiglist can give you a good idea of what the Greenpeace canvasser job entails. Greenpeace advertises a similar position in Los Angeles – a “frontline” worker – as a “full-time” job and lists only an hourly wage of $13-15 per hour, slightly more than the minimum wage. They do offer paid training time, bonuses for good performance, and a full benefits and leave package for those Greenpeace canvassers who maintain their employment for three months. Employees even get paid vacations and even mass transit subsidies. There is, however, no “job security” involved. You can’t have everything.

It’s not hard to believe that Greenpeace provides an excellent employment package. After all, the “non-profit” mega-group boasts a $360 million global budget, spending an average of $10 million per year on US operations alone. According to its recent 990 IRS filing, Greenpeace took in more than $32 million in 2014. Of course, you can’t please everyone.

Categories: On the Blog

Sustainability Movement Fosters Hotbeds of Liberal Indoctrination (Part 3)

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 12:51 PM

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil 

Common Core at the K -12 level in education is shifting and distorting education in many liberal ways, but what about the education being taught to our college age students?   We should be even more concerned about that group, as they will soon be part of society and influencing it very soon. The obvious concern is whether they too are part of the Liberal’s attempt to insert their socialist agenda into the curriculum and thus minds of America’s youth.

Brace yourself for the sad truth.  Our college and university campuses are actual hotbeds of liberal indoctrination, to a degree that should shock every reasonable American. Whether a parent or not, we all should demand an in-depth investigation and potential change in the college system which will guarantee more balance and objectivity.

It is essential that students be informed of all facts, encouraged to consider every option, and taught to listen to opposing arguments on any given subject (especially those which society identifies as controversial), in order to develop critical thinking skills that teach how to seek all facts and arrive at educated opinions to determine the truth.

Instead, college students are being indoctrinated with a strong liberal agenda, which excludes conservative arguments. Much of the teaching encompasses the edicts of United Nation’s Agenda 21, with “a specific and heavy emphasis on sustainability.”

Study by Peter Wood and Rachelle Peterson on sustainability and college campuses 

Through the study of college curriculum, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, and Rachelle Peterson concluded that it was on college campuses where the sustainability movement gets its voice of authority and where it molds the views and commands the attention of young people. Their combined study resulted in Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism, published March 25, 2015.  In a June 12, 2015 article, “Sustainability’s War on Doubt”, Wood describes “sustainability” in a much broader sense, of which global warming is just one part of the whole.

“Sustainability” is not so much a call for the wise use of resources as it is a declaration against all forms of ‘exploitation’, such as exploiting the animal, mineral, and vegetable resources of the planet.  The sustainability movement embraces a fuzzy version of the Marxist idea that capitalism is essentially about human exploitation, and totally ignores the concepts of wealth creation, comparative advantage, and material progress.”

As expressed in the executive summary of Wood’s study, the following will be taught in sustainability programs offered at colleges and universities, and students will be exposed to the following liberal dogma of ideas and unproven claims:

1) Catastrophic manmade global warming is an indisputable fact, and switching to renewable energy from inexpensive and abundant fossil fuel energy is the only plausible answer; 2) that today’s society and economy are built on greed and waste, and thus we must rebuild society along progressive political lines; 3) that mass environmental activism is the way to achieve goals 1 and 2; and 4) that we must either persuade the skeptics or silence them.”  So far, we believe they have largely resorted to silencing the opposition by refusing to reveal the mounting evidence that refutes their arguments.

The Executive summary describes the sustainability movement from its origin to today’s application, which, in turn, will have important consequences for the future of this nation.  We must not allow the minds of our young people to be manipulated into conforming to this socialist political agenda that is at odds with our Constitution and the values and ideals upon which this nation was founded.

Consider the following:

  • The 1987 United Nations report, “Our Common Future”, better known as the Brundtland Report, ignited the sustainability movement by uniting environmentalism with hostility to free markets and demands for “social” justice.” Driving the initiative to make sustainability part of every course is the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), an effort launched by “Second Nature”  a group founded by John Kerry and Teresa Heinz. As of 2015, 697 college and universities have signed this commitment, which includes a pledge to “make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.”
  • Beginning in 2007, the President’s Climate Commitment tapped the power of college presidents to set the agendas for their institutions.  Sustainability is now among the highest priorities at colleges and universities.  Colleges are currently ranked by their success in meeting sustainability goals. There seems no limit to the extent those behind this movement will go.  An example of this extremism is evident at the University of Virginia, where students are asked to pledge themselves to sustainability.  We could not find any example of the school requesting students to make a pledge to our flag or country.
  • Universities seek to use the campus as a “living laboratory” where students will not only learn about sustainability in the classroom, but will encounter it everywhere on campus.  The goal is to modify students’ values.  The question is whether parents, who have saved all their lives to send their children to college, know their children are being intentionally manipulated rather than taught.  There is no balance offered, only intense indoctrination to a specific “progressive” viewpoint embraced by the professors and others of their ilk.
  •  Nudging is a way of prodding students to do what activists want.  This technique was promoted in a 2008 bestseller, “Nudge”, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein.  There adherents contend people should be manipulated into making the choices that social planners think are the best options.  About 80 institutions hire student “eco-reps to shame their peers into riding a bike to classes or buying carbon offsets to make up for their flights home at Christmas.

Sustainability advances indoctrination to nurture Pavlovian responses 

The sustainability movement represents a significant shift in higher education:  from educating students with rational and moral knowledge that prepares them to make future prudent, conscious choices to that of an indoctrination program with the feverish goal of training operations designed to elicit Pavlovian responses.  The liberals call that progress.  We call it indoctrination that deprives students of opposing opinions and facts; thus limiting their ability to discern the truth.

Sustainability projects cost U.S. higher education schools nearly $3.4 billion per year.  Society is interested in reducing costs of education, so that more students can attend college and not be forced into borrowing money and accumulating debts before they even begin their careers.

As a remedy to soaring college tuition, George Will suggests the following: “Hundreds of millions could be saved, with no cost to any institution’s core educational mission, by eliminating every position whose title contains the word ‘sustainability’– and, while we are at it, ‘diversity,’ ‘multicultural’ or ‘inclusivity.’  The result would be higher education; higher than the propaganda-saturated version we have, and more sustainable.”

Mr. Will’s conclusions are correct. On campuses across the United States, where sustainability has become dogma, an honest investigation of global warming is nearly impossible.  Scientific debate requires openness, not conformity to a fixed theory exempt from external review. Instead, debate is discouraged, by the continual comment that Climate Change is “settled science”.  But what does that mean?  Of course Climate Change exists and has since the Earth began.  The question and demand for proof, is whether it is even possible for man to influence changes in Earth’s climate, before assuming it has done so.

young person attending Cornell will find that 13% of all Cornell’s undergraduate courses deal in one way or another with sustainability; at Colorado State University the percentage is 22%; and at Middlebury College in Vermont it is a full 25% of all courses offered.  Of all the “degree programs” in sustainability, offered worldwide, 95% of them are offered by colleges and universities in the U.S.   Unfortunately, out of 772 colleges and universities globally who are members of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), 90% of that membership – a whopping 694 of the colleges and universities are in the United States.

Wood’s “Sustainability’s War on Doubt?” states:

“As closed as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the New York Times are to expressions of alternative views, the typical college campus is even worse.  To agree to debate the pro-sustainability position would imply the existence of contrary arguments and evidence worthy of consideration.”  That is their excuse and no mention is made of the many scientists and scholars who disagree with the “elites” position, and who have serious facts to offer, which would be excellent contributions to an intensive debate.

Young people and parents and being hoodwinked and short-changed

Do young people really need to devote their education to the noble goal of saving the Earth, and, if so, saving it from what?  During the entire lives of most college students there has been no global warming.  Not withstanding, sustainability advocates prefer a campus on which they can expand their control over every detail of student life.  Many campuses have created “trayless cafeterias” in which students have to juggle their plates. Bottled water is similarly frowned on. Presented as energy saving, the intent is to prod students into thinking at every turn about the need to be sustainable.  Those students who disagree with the sustainability doctrine are made to feel shamed if they don’t conform to the latest “green” gimmick.  They are even considered a threat to society.

Parents are now tasked with deciding whether the excessive cost of a college education and their children’s obvious indoctrination to a liberal agenda is the best course for their lives.  Would the time and money be better spent on starting or investing in a business of interest?   How concerned are parents that schools are intruding into areas other than what is needed for a future career?    Is it the right of university professors to indoctrinate vulnerable students to their liberal social ideals, and are parents even aware that many college courses seek to instill the ideals of a movement that aims for drastic change in the way humanity relates to the natural world?  Do parents know or care what is happening in college classrooms?  Is the average taxpayer even aware of the intensive indoctrination?

Should our tax-funded universities be allowed to indoctrinate students with a controversial and disputed agenda that is presented from one viewpoint only?  Is it time for parents and all citizens to demand equality, thus allowing critical thinking to develop among students and hopefully even professors. There is nothing fair about current hiring practices in most colleges and universities that favor liberal professors at as high as a 9 to 1 ratio. With such liberal domination, Conservatives tend to seek other careers knowing they will be largely ignored, even shunned by those who dominate the world of academic today.  Conservatives claim they are not provided a fair chance to advance.  Thus the few in the system, who have opposing liberal viewpoints, rarely present them.  If we want fairness in our universities, taxpayers will have to demand changes in a variety of areas, beginning with an unbiased study and evaluation of the issue, and concluding with sweeping changes that emphasize equality and fairness in every area.

Bill Ayers and other professors of his ilk must be shown the back door. It is time to demand something more of America’s professors and colleges, rather than continue with the current expensive brain washing indoctrination by socialist/progressive instructors, who oppose our historical values and Constitution in favor of an agenda filled with disputable and unproven facts, most often created behind closed doors and within the United Nations.

Will American patriots call their elected officials and demand equitable changes?  Who among us will demand positive, historical values be reinstated, that credible arguments be presented in every classroom, and that liberal professors not be allowed to dominate our colleges and universities?

The future of our country hangs in the balance, and only those who have studied and remember history will know the impotence of taking action while we still have the opportunity to do so.

Please consider calling your representatives, at the state and federal level, asking, if not demanding equality.  Our institutions of higher learning need to be more conscious of fairness and diversity, within their hiring practices and certainly classroom curriculum and professors’ teachings, especially if they receive any government funding.  The one-sided liberal approach must cease and be replaced with opportunities to learn both sides of arguments on controversial issues.  Our children deserve an education, not an indoctrination!

Thorner/O’Neil:  Sustainability: The Overly Used Word intended to Silence Conservatives

Thorner/O’Neil:  Little Green Steps Reflect Sustainability in Education 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – EIF: Obamacare, Medicaid Expansion and Welfare Reform

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 12:05 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to Heartland’s Emerging Issues Forum (EIF) held in Seattle, Washington. EIF brings together elected officials, policy analysts, and government affairs professionals from across the country. In this first panel, the speakers discuss the debate over the expansion of Medicaid, the future of Obamacare after the King vs Burwell decision, and how Certificate of Need laws are restricting competition amongst health care providers and driving up costs.

Speaking on this panel are Goldwater Institute Director of Healthcare Policy Naomi Lopez Bauman, Foundation for Government Accountability Senior Fellow Christina Herrera, and Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward. Moderating this panel is Heartland Government Affairs Director John Nothdurft.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Why I Left Greenpeace

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 11:19 AM

Video and description via Prager University:

Patrick Moore explains why he helped to create Greenpeace, and why he decided to leave it. What began as a mission to improve the environment for the sake of humanity became a political movement in which humanity became the villain and hard science a non-issue.

 

Categories: On the Blog

2015 Parent Power Index Released

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2015, 11:11 AM

The Center for Education Reform (CER) has released its 2015 Parent Power Index (PPI). Each state receives a grade in school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality, and transparency. The overall PPI score across the United States is only 68 percent, or a grade of D.

The top 10 states for parental power are:

  1. Indiana – 90%
  2. Florida – 89%
  3. Arizona – 88%
  4. District of Columbia – 83%
  5. Georgia – 81%
  6. Utah – 80%
  7. Louisiana – 79%
  8. Ohio – 78%
  9. Wisconsin – 78%
  10. Minnesota – 77%

Click the image below to see exactly where your state ranks for parental empowerment.

CER provides the PPI to provide as much information to parents as possible. They do not judge whether laws or good or bad. From CER’s website:

“Parent Power” means giving parents Access to quality educational Options and providing them with good Information to make smart decisions about their children’s education. The Parent Power Index (PPI) measures the ability in each state of a parent to exercise choices – no matter what their income or child’s level of academic achievement – engage with their local school and board, and have a voice in the systems that surround their child. The Parent Power Index gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether the state affords them power –and if not, what they can do to get it.

The Index does not score whether a state’s education laws are good or bad, but rather, for example, if those policies allow a maximum number of parents to actually make choices. The following “elements of power” provide a framework for evaluating and scoring state policies and practices that either ensure or limit Parent Power in the U.S.

CER even provides its scoring rubric if you want to learn how their researchers calculate the CER grades. View the rubric here.

Categories: On the Blog
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