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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 32 min 18 sec ago

Another Climate Alarmist’s Predictions Don’t Match Real-World Data

8 hours 27 min ago

Whenever there is a new record set, whether rain, hurricane, drought, etc., those in the climate change alarmist camp seem to be quick to point to global warming as the cause and make more dire predictions regarding the future—even when there are other documented reasons and even when hard data (not models) disputes the claim. Such is the case with Lake Mead. On May 20, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced that the nation’s largest reservoir, located near Las Vegas, NV, reached an all-time low. The current level slipped below the previous record set in June 2015.

Despite reports of the mismanagement of the important water resource, USA Today responded to the news by proclaiming: “Due to a long drought and climate change, Lake Mead’s water levels continue to fall.”

Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, and brother to former Colorado Senator Mark Udall and cousin to New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, declared: “This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds.” According to the Desert Sun, he added: “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline.”

Udall previously stated: “Climate change is water change. The two go hand in hand. Heat drives the water cycle. …You have to invoke temperatures to explain the current drought.”

Back in 2010, the Smithsonian magazine, cites Udall when it says: “Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years. … Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation. Udall said: ‘You’re going to see earlier runoff and lower flows later in the year,’ so water will be more scarce during the growing season.”

While Udall’s statements are dramatic and coincide with the climate crisis narrative his better-known family members espouse, they do not, according New Mexico hydrologist Mike Wallace, reflect actual temperature and stream flow records in the Colorado River Basin. (Ihighlighted Wallace’s work on ocean acidification in December 2014.)

Both Wallace and Udall claim to be experts in the hydrology and climatology of the western U.S. Wallace has more than 30 years of experience in the field. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in nanosciences at the University of New Mexico. Under his advisor solar physicist Harjit Ahluwalia, Wallace researches solar connections to the earth’s climate with an emphasis on hydrology—the topic of his dissertation. Udall’s undergraduate degree is in engineering and he holds an MBA from Colorado State University.

However, Wallace told me: “I’m the only hydrologist who is publishing moisture and temperature forecasts in reaches of the Upper Colorado River, years in advance, with consistently high accuracy.”

Regarding Udall’s comments in the Smithsonian, Wallace, who looks at streamflow records going back to the early twentieth century, finds that streamflows have actually been going up in recent years—correlating to ocean and solar drivers.

Wallace, who counts the city of Santa Fe as one of his forecasting business clients, pioneered the discovery that moisture patterns in his area of study—which overlaps Udall’s—are deeply anchored to ocean indexes and sunspot numbers. He boldly asserts: “There is no correlation of CO2 emissions history to the moisture time series that I have evaluated. Also, for the same stations that I review there is little or no correlation of temperature to streamflow. Rather, ocean drivers can account for changes in temperature and moisture in this region, and those drivers appear to be driven themselves by solar cycles.”

While Udall believes temperatures are rising and causing reduced streamflow into Lake Mead, Wallace disputes the premise. Wallace says he has three years of successful forecast exercises to back up his claim that, in his study areas, “temperatures are hardly trending in any direction and, in any case, those temperatures are not correlating to streamflow.”

Wallace’s work focuses on streams charged by high mountains—above 9000 feet. His study regions include many of the tributaries of the Colorado River such as the San Juan River and the Green River—both of which are sourced in the Rocky Mountains. He says: “There haven’t been any unusually low streamflow rates or unusually high temperatures in my area of focus. In fact, flows are going up, not down, compared to two and three years ago and some temperatures are actually trending down over the same recent time frame.”

Using his proprietary method (patent pending) with more than 200 accurate forecasts, and applying to areas near the nexus of the Upper Rio Grande and the Upper Colorado Rivers, Wallace is projecting 3-4 years of generally increased water flows, followed by 3-4 years of generally decreasing moisture (drought). He posits that his innovations help municipalities, flood control authorities, irrigation districts, and resource management agencies better plan for future moisture and temperature conditions.

An example of real science at work without political interference, Wallace explains: “Research suggests that as the Sun’s radiant energy increases and decreases in sync with its sunspot cycles, the planet’s hydrosphere (all of the water) responds accordingly.  Others have suggested this, but I’ve taken that several steps further. First, I’ve discovered reproducible, high correlations between sun spot numbers and a few key features of Earth’s climate.  Second, I’ve developed a series of unique calculations, which additionally consider global hydroclimatological patterns, the site location and elevation, and latency effects, to produce my forecasts. A majority of those forecast exercises have turned out to be far more accurate than any competing method, including any or all of the global circulation models (GCMs) endorsed by the UN IPCC—which I believe is what Mr. Udall must be using for his assertions.”

Wallace has written and presented several papers on his discoveries. But he continues to experience resistance from major peer-reviewed journals to publish any of his findings. The troubles likely lie in his demonstrations that emissions are uncorrelated to climate in his study regions. In any case, scientific paper
s are often considered as precursors to actual applications, and Wallace already has a working, proven application. Even without peer journal-publication panache, Wallace is receiving steady and growing recognition from the hydroclimate community. In April, he was an invited presenter to the 30th Annual Rio Grande Basin Snowmelt Runoff Forecast Meeting, sponsored by the USDA SNOTEL network and attended by top regional hydroclimate scientists from agencies including the National Weather Service (NWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If Wallace is correct, and he has a successful climate forecast record to back up his projections, Udall can’t also be right. Wallace believes most of Udall’s climate assertions, such as the claim that regional temperatures explain everything about the drought, are too simplistic.  He also expresses concern regarding Udall’s use of the term “drought.”   “To accept those Lake Mead statements as factual,” Wallace said, “anything short of an epic flooding event, must be an epic drought event.”

After all is said and done, the natural processes that Wallace has distilled down to a working forecast system, don’t, in any way, appear to fit the crisis narrative that the Udall and many climate “authorities” perpetuate. You should ask if we really need more funding, bigger departments, and greater public anxiety to fix something that, at least, in the western U.S., appears to wholly be explained by natural cycles.

(Wallace’s forecasts, profiled at www.abeqas.com, provide a sobering perspective—perhaps an antidote to the ongoing “drought” hysteria.)

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Daniel Dew: Criminal Justice Reform

8 hours 33 min ago

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions criminal justice fellow Daniel Dew about criminal justice reform, debunking some of the myths around this new idea.

As state lawmakers deal with competing budget trade-offs and increasingly expensive entitlement programs, such as Medicaid and pensions, economic realities are requiring the reassessment of past “tough on crime” policies. Refusals to address the problems with these policies are now haunting lawmakers, as their failure to monitor policies for cost-effectiveness and necessity have led to out-of-control spending, burdening taxpayers and threatening their liberty.

Daniel explains how criminal justice reform is more about being “smart on crime” than “tough on crime,” and how taxpayers benefit from policies that make sense and are backed by evidence, instead of policies that may make people feel good, but are prohibitively expensive or unnecessarily punitive.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Free-Market Alternative To Education Socialism

9 hours 5 min ago

More than a few parents active in the fight to end Common Core’s suffocating grip on elementary and secondary education are targeting privatization as their enemy. They object to corporate groups seeking to redefine education as workforce preparation and to vendors hawking instructional materials for a curriculum most parents and many teachers do not favor.

Actually, Common Core is not at all about privatization. Instead, it is the opposite: a collaboration of powerful economic interests and big government to push a single-minded agenda on the public schools. Schools remain statist entities, more centrally controlled than ever.

In reality, true privatization could be the way for citizens to regain control of their local schools from the scourge of socialism that has been dragging down American education for decades.

Imagine, if you can, denationalization of education (no more standards imposed by distant bureaucrats) coupled with complete privatization of schools and universities, from kindergarten through graduate school. Yes, that would mean total separation of school and state.

Libertarian intellectual Richard Ebeling, distinguished professor of ethics and free enterprise leadership at The Citadel, recently envisioned several ways to achieve true privatization of education.

At the primary, middle, and high school levels, control of schools might be transferred to teachers and staff members who would become shareholders with a vested interest in offering the substantive education most parents want for their children. Or the schools might be auctioned to entrepreneurs with an incentive to run them with efficiency and pizazz so families would want to become customers.

Families could afford to pay directly for private schools because, with government out of the picture, all the taxes earmarked for education would be repealed. That would amount to a huge savings in family budgets because it is not uncommon for schooling to be the largest single expenditure in a local government budget.

In a competitive education marketplace, supply-side incentives would encourage upgrades in the types and quality of schools available for families, something that does not happen under socialized education. Moreover, an end to the education degree and certification racket would mean school principals would be free to hire and supervise knowledgeable teachers without teachers unions and bureaucracies imposing seniority-based rules that lock in mediocrity and make it difficult or even impossible to remove demonstrably bad teachers.

A similar process would occur in higher education, with the state-controlled colleges and universities being sold and the numerous grants and subsidies lavished on nominally private institutions being terminated. Subsequently, all taxes propping up this system would be repealed, with massive tax relief again boosting family budgets so parents could afford to purchase educational services they deem worthwhile for their children.

In a thought-provoking article for the Future of Freedom Foundation (“Educational Socialism Versus the Free Market”), Ebeling argues if schools and colleges were privatized in this manner and had to provide the kind of education parents and students considered to be worth the price of tuition, much of today’s political correctness and ideologically driven courses would yield to classes and subjects far more in line with traditional education.

Ebeling notes academe has gone from being an open marketplace of competing ideas, freely discussed, to an arena of collectivist indoctrination where trashing of “traditional American ideals of individualism, free enterprise, and constitutionally limited government” is commonplace. With lifetime tenure and tax-supported salaries, faculty members answer to no one but themselves as they instill in young people jaundiced views of foundational values such as “freedom, self-responsibility, and the character and values of a free society.”

This corrosive outlook filters down to K–12 schooling via collegiate-level teacher preparation and other avenues, and it is all the more troubling because these are the most impressionable years when bad ideas may become permanent core beliefs.

No doubt, mere mention of privatization will provoke conniption fits within the education establishment. As if on cue, the Huffington Post ran a teacher/blogger’s article on May 16 asserting free enterprise will never, ever work in K–12 education. The basis of Peter Greene’s piece was that some charter schools had closed their doors, supposedly proving they are heartless businesses that do not care about special-needs children. Never mind that charters are public schools operating squarely within the governmental system and are supposed to close when they fail to deliver promised results.

A wholesale transfer of public schools and colleges to private hands will not happen overnight. However, the accumulating success of private choice made available through such mechanisms as vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and Education Savings Accounts is beginning to show what is possible. Moreover, a current model already demonstrates a parent-centered free-market approach works well in addressing the needs of all kinds of children. That model is homeschooling, which has doubled its numbers of children over the past decade and booms all the more with each new federal usurpation of control over education policy.

Robert Holland (holland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute. 

 

[Originally published on The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Ad Feedback Breaking Free from Obama’s Fantasy of a Sexless Society with Parental Choice

11 hours 3 min ago

By having his minions in the Education and Justice Departments threaten public school districts with loss of federal funding unless they satisfy the far left’s fondest fantasies of a sexless society, President Barack Obama may have awakened many Americans to the need to disconnect education from the federal government. A clean break would be best; states could simply stop accepting handouts from the U.S. Education Department (USED).

No one suggests that would be easy. USED spending has ballooned in inflation-adjusted dollars from $4.5 billion in 1965—the year President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed—to more than $40 billion in 2016. However, states and localities would have huge savings in federal compliance costs to help offset the loss of grants. A Heritage Foundation study in 2007 found bureaucratic costs whittled a $1,500 per-child federal Title I grant to effectively just $554 in Florida. Federal programs do more to create armies of bureaucratic paper-pushers than they do to help students or teachers.

As for parental choice, it is now more essential than ever. Its exercise must be free of any federal entanglements. What about the proposal floated by some conservatives to make federal education aid portable—so that it would follow students to schools of their choice? Forget about it. That would only enable Obama successors to rewrite applicable law and apply it to voucher schools, as the Obama administration did on May 13 when it decreed Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex applies to one’s “gender identity,” a term that does not appear anywhere in the law in question. Obama’s Friday letter constitutes a full presidential takeover of the nation’s schools.

That bizarre turn in executive lawmaking, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers, comes just as many scholars were celebrating the triumph of choice over centralization in U.S. education.

Paul E. Peterson, a noteworthy thinker and the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, will have an article in the summer issue of Education Next that concludes, “the Bush-Obama era of reform via federal regulation has come to an end.” Peterson prefaced that conclusion by asserting, “If school reform is to move forward, it will occur via new forms of competition—whether they be vouchers, charters, home schooling, digital learning, or the transformation of district schools into decentralized, autonomous units.”

That is a nice thought, but nothing is guaranteed.

Peterson cited tons of data showing federal regulation implemented under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top program, as well as executive branch lawmaking established through NCLB waivers, failed to close the minority achievement gap or raise U.S. students’ near-cellar-dwelling ranking on knowledge of math among youth in industrialized nations. But the Harvard scholar buys too easily into Washington, DC officials’ conventional wisdom about NCLB’s successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). They believe ESSA now lifts the onerous burden of federal regulation and frees localities and states to innovate. Actually, ESSA continues to mandate uniform assessments of students, empowers the U.S. secretary of education to pass judgment on states’ standards and action plans, and opens multiple pathways to new forms of federal meddling, such as through Baby Common Core—federalized preschool.

Now comes Obama’s reckless foray into lawmaking using his dictatorial letter, which could embolden future presidents to follow suit. Peterson’s conclusion that charter schools are the type of choice most likely to bring about a needed post-regulatory reconstruction of the educational system has become shakier than ever. Yes, charter schools have opened some cracks in the public-education monopoly, particularly in big cities that have given families lucky enough to win admissions lotteries an opening to better schools within the system. But charter schools remain in the governmental orbit, and some even receive federal start-up aid. They are not immune from decrees such as Obama’s.

The best bet to advance choice free of federal interference is the creation of education savings account (ESA) programs, which allow parents to elect to have their portion of state (not federal) subsidies deposited into an account from which they may draw to pay for an array of educational services—such as tutoring, online instruction, private tuition, homeschooling, or advanced classes at a university. Thereby, ESA programs transcend school choice; it is about customizing education for each child.

Since its start in Arizona in 2011, ESAs have spread to four more states and are pending in the legislatures of 16 more. If ESA programs survive challenges from the left, they could help bring about a vibrant marketplace that truly would secure the blessings of liberty in a post-regulatory era.

[Originally published at CNS News]

Categories: On the Blog

What if Environmental Laws Make Things Worse?

12 hours 8 min ago

Time and again, humans have put into motion well-intentioned schemes to restore the environment to the condition people have come to believe is natural and pre-ordained by some higher authority, but they only made things worse. So:

  • What if what we think we know about ecology and environmental policy is just wrong?
  • What if environmental laws make things worse?
  • What if the very idea of nature has been hijacked by politics?
  • And what if “the wilderness” is something we create in our minds, as opposed to being an actual description of nature?

These are the questions Jim Lakely, Communications Director at The Heartland Institute, posed to those in attendance before introducing author Ryan M. Yonk as guest speaker at a Heartland event on Wednesday, May 11.

Yonk, along with Randy T. Simmons and Kenneth J. Sim, wrote Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment, a book published by the Independent Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy research and educational organization that shapes idea into profound and lasting impact. [How to purchase Nature Unbound.]

About the authors: 

Ryan M. Yonk is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Assistant Research Professor of Economics and Finance at Utah State University, and Executive Director of Strata Policy.

Randy T. Simmons is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Co-founder, President, and Director of Research of Strata.

Kenneth J. Sim is Director of the Reliable Energy Education Network and a former Analyst with Strata Policy.

The book, Nature Unbound

In Nature Unbound, Yonk and his co-authors offer a devastating critique of federal environmental policy by scrutinizing it through the lenses of biological ecology and political ecology. The book makes us rethink environmental objectives. It aligns incentives with goals and affirms the notion that human beings are an integral part of the natural order and merit no less consideration than Earth’s other treasures. It isn’t enough to try to put an area into a time-capsule and preserve it for future generations. After all the natural world changes and even degrades. Nature is constantly in flux and will not maintain its beauty or current state without human intervention.

Nature Unbound likewise makes a good case for abandoning the balance of nature myth and rethinking the environmental laws aimed at maintaining the mythical balance. This thinking was present in passing the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, and, more recently, a slew of renewable energy legislation – even though laws often fail to meet their stated environmental goals and may lead instead to worse environmental and economic outcomes. For instance, did stopping logging operations in the Pacific Northwest return forests to their natural state? Ecosystems do not exist in a steady-state equilibrium where, if left alone, they return to an idealized conditions.

Guest Speaker and Author, Ryan Yonk

Yonk initially tackled two central problems about environmental thinking which are deeply flawed:

1. Balance of Nature: The outdated notion that nature actually has a steady equilibrium it rests at, that the environment would return to some Eden-like state if only humans wouldn’t have touched it. But does a well-tended garden just happen on its own?

2. Assumed Perfect Political Process: The unfounded notion that the political process represents the best science and the popular will. 

The Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Clean Air Act (Air Pollution Control Act of 1955) were passed to take back what was never meant to be. Even the American Indians changed the land to make it more hospitable. In actuality, things were getting better even before strict regulations were enacted – and not because of the new regulations. Rather, growing prosperity gave man more leisure time with which to engage the environment in positive ways.

Two early environmental crusaders cited by Yonk were John Muir and Aldo Leopold

John Muir, a friend of President Teddy Roosevelt, founded the Sierra Club and helped guide an evolving wilderness movement that considered wilderness sacred space. Wanting to preserve the “cathedral of the mountains,” the Scottish environmentalist failed to draw support for his dream until he got involved in politics. He convinced Roosevelt of the beauty of his “wilderness as sacred space” vision, turning what had been a local discussion into a political one. In 1890, with the urging of Muir, Roosevelt created Yosemite National Park. 

Aldo Leopold, called by some the father of wildlife conservation in America, helped organize the Wilderness Society. Early on, however, Leopold realized that restrictive laws had largely failed in their mission to conserve America’s forests, rivers, and other natural resources.

Conservation laws explode in late 60s and 70s

Following a decades-long lull in the passage of environmental laws, the late 60s and early 70s saw a surge we still feel today. Congress Greatly assisted through the infusion of government cash, the following laws and regulations were passed: the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act , the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and created the Environmental Protection Agency. Although largely a failure in the ecological sense, they succeeded in the political realm.

Yonk presented this slogan of how restrictive environmental laws come into being: “Good Intentions, Bad Results.” Government is often motivated by disasters to do something, especially when the public demands action, but the results many times fail as an effective means to tackle the issue hand. For example: The 1969 Santa Barbara, CA oil spill, a relatively minor one as oil spills go, provided the impetus for the 1973 Clean Air Act (CAA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972, which was grew out of the amended Federal Water Pollution control Act of 1948.

But what happens if nothing is done when a situation merits human intervention, such as the Bark and Beetle crisis Yonk cited? The outcome from failing to initially address the beetles was to create a fire risk because of damaged trees in the Logan, Oregon area. By 1989 the area had become a tinderbox – and with a no intervention policy, the Forest Service didn’t attempt to put out the fires; instead they put out people.

Biological and Political Principles in Managing the Environment

What about biological principles in regards to the environment? A slide presented by Yonk listed them as two-fold:

  • Managing nature protects biological integrity better that does natural regulation.
  • Natural, wilderness, preservation, and ecosystems are only human constructs, not scientific ones.

In regard to political principles interfering with good environmental policy, these three principles were noted:

  • Powerful political forces are invested in existing legislation and regulation.
  • Making political changes will require extensive and intensive political entrepreneurship.
  • Marginal changes are more possible than wholesale changes, as nature is always in flux.

A short quote from Nature Unbound describes how this nation has dealt with environmental issues:  

“This nation’s conservation history might be compressed into two sentences: We tried to get conservation by buying land, by subsidizing desirable changes in land use, and by passing restrictive laws. The last method largely failed; the other two have produce some small samples of success.”

Concluding Thoughts

A number of questions were addressed to Yonk by those in attendance and by others watching the live-stream of the event on Heartland’s YouTube page. 

One question was about the EPA and how people are selected to serve in the agency and how it fits in the structure of the executive branch. Yonk noted that EPA directly reports to the administration. President Obama is the agency’s boss, even though the EPA administrator is not a cabinet member. EPA has become completely radical in nature and is self-selecting in its members. They go from lobbying organizations into government and then into the regulating world to create policy. The same is also happening in other government agencies, where bureaucratic self-interests are easily realized and agents are constantly pushing for increases in budget and size.

Before introducing speaker and author, Ryan M. Yonk, Jim Lakely spoke with pride about Heartland’s new Michael Parry Mazur Memorial Library with its wealth of liberty and free market books. As Freedom and Liberty are under assault in this country, the support of both principles are important to to the survival of this nation. Read here my write-up about the grand opening on Wednesday, May 4th, 2016.

Lakely also solicited the donation of books for The Heartland Institute and suggested checking attics and basements. As Lakely said: “You can sure that they will be read and used.” To donate your books, call Heartland at 312/377-4000.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lindsey Burke: The Emerging Issues of Education

May 30, 2016, 8:07 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to the first Emerging Issues Forum conference call hosted by John Nothdurft, Director of Government Relations at The Heartland Institute. The conference call features Lindsey Burke, a Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation.

Burke joins the conference call to discuss several important education-related issues.  She covers school reform efforts in the United States, the Common Core State Standards debate, and educational choice options, including education savings accounts (ESAs) and charter schools.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Security and Exchange Commission Issues Climate Chaos ‘Guidance’

May 29, 2016, 10:14 PM

Government-enforced ‘climate justice’ is a good reason to be blue.

President Obama continues to use “dangerous manmade climate change” to justify a massive regulatory onslaught that will “fundamentally transform” America’s energy, economic, business, industrial, social, legal and constitutional systems before he leaves office.

The more science batters alarmist claims; the more people realize that plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide makes life on Earth possible; the more China, India and other developing countries burn oil, gas and coal and increase their CO2 emissions to lift billions out of poverty, malnutrition, disease and brutally short lives — the more the administration issues draconian climate edicts.

Almost every department, agency and bureaucrat that didn’t eagerly volunteer has been dragooned to aid the campaign — from the EPA and Agriculture, Interior, Defense and State Departments, to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the latest agency to re-up.

Pressure from climate and environmental activist groups “persuaded” the SEC to release its initial “interpretive guidance” on climate change in January 2010. It purported to help companies decide when they must disclose how their business might be affected by actual physical climate change, by direct impacts from laws, regulations or international agreements, or indirectly by effects on business trends.

In March 2016, the Commission told ExxonMobil and Chevron they had to let shareholders vote on whether the companies must explain how their profitability might be affected by climate change and laws to prevent it. Both resolutions were rejected, but proponents vowed to return as often as it takes to win.

On April 13, 2016, the SEC published a 341-page Concept Release intended to “seek public comment” on ways to modernize, improve and enhance Regulation S-K business and financial disclosure requirements for registered companies’ annual and other reports. It asks whether new specific disclosure requirements should be added to ensure greater transparency and aid investors in determining whether companies are being socially responsible, properly handling diversity and inclusion concerns – as well as adequately addressing needs and risks associated with climate change, resource scarcity and sustainable development.

Many people view these as legitimate concerns. They certainly are on the minds of certain investors and interest groups – especially CERES, Environmental Defense, and the California State Teachers and Public Employees Retirement Systems — all of which seek to advance their narrow parochial interests on climate change, “appropriate” energy, and particularly taxpayer subsidies for their favorite causes and cronies. The issues are certainly being used to drive Obama administration agendas.

However, prudent investors (as well as employees, consumers and voters) might want greater disclosure, transparency and honesty regarding the full panoply of risks associated with laws and regulations imposed in the name of stabilizing Earth’s always-unstable climate and weather … mandates, preferences and subsidies enacted to support “eco-friendly” wind, solar and biofuel “alternatives” to oil, natural gas and coal  … and campaign contributions that keep supportive legislators and judges in office.

This climate crisis edifice owes its existence to assertions that fossil fuel emissions have replaced natural forces in climate change, and any future changes will be disastrous. As those claims are further debunked, or enough voters and legislators become disgusted about the $1.5 trillion spent every year on climate crisis programs, the risks won’t come from climate change. They will come from a vengeful public.

No wonder Al Gore, Michael Mann and their comrades refuse to debate, jealously guard their kingdom, and chortle as state AGs prosecute “climate deniers” for racketeering. Prudent investors might want to study these issues in greater depth and raise a few questions that Obama’s SEC prefers not to entertain.

* As scientist John Christy told Congress in February, the climate agenda is driven by data that have been massaged and manipulated, assertions and predictions that are contradicted by Real World data and observations, and “demonstrably deficient” computer models that predict global temperatures way above what have actually been measured, and cannot even reproduce past temperatures. Climatology remains an immature science that cannot even explain major historical climate events, much less predict the future.

Those problems are compounded by phony “hockey stick” temperature graphs, ClimateGate emails, once reputable scientific journals rejecting papers that contest climate catastrophe claims, and headline-grabbing disaster “studies” that are based on rank speculation or written by environmental activists.

Are the alleged physical impacts of climate change real, or merely generated by computers and activists? Are they due to fossil fuels, or to natural forces that have driven climate and weather throughout history?

* Regardless of how much the United States, Europe and other developed countries slash their fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, developing nations will continue using those fuels at a feverish pace. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations will thus continue to climb beyond the 400 ppm (0.04%) level. Job losses, reduced living standards and countless other sacrifices by Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Australians — especially by poor, working class and minority families — will not affect this trend.

Will we even be able to detect the effect of developed nation sacrifices on Earth’s climate, against normal, natural fluctuations? Why aren’t we measuring the harmful effects of anti-fossil fuel laws, regulations and treaties? How are these policies and actions moral, socially responsible or sustainable?

* Many positive profit projections and other indirect benefits to business trends are based on assertions that manmade climate chaos is real and massive subsidies for renewable energy will continue. Negative effects on profits and corporate reputations are assumed to result from associations with fossil fuels.

But if governments begin to reject climate alarmism or eliminate mandates, subsidies, guaranteed loans, feed-in tariffs and exemptions from endangered species laws, companies built on this house of cards will collapse. A number of EU and Chinese wind and solar companies have already gone belly-up or lost up to 90% of their market value, as demand for their products waned. Meanwhile, companies now vilified for producing or using fossil fuels that sustain our economies, jobs and living standards would benefit.

Coal, oil and natural gas still provide over 80 percenet of all US and global energy. Largely because of abundant natural gas produced via fracking. US CO2 emissions declined in 2014, while the EU’s rose 0.7 percent.

Shouldn’t wind turbine companies have to disclose that generating just 20 percent of US electricity with wind power would require some 186,000 turbines, 19,000 miles of new transmission lines, 18,000,000 acres of land, and 270,000,000 tons of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and rare earths, plus millions of dead birds and bats every year? Is that sustainable?

Shouldn’t insurance companies and reinsurers have to “disclose” that their higher rates and profits are based on 20-foot higher sea levels and more violent hurricanes conjured up by bogus computer models? Doesn’t that amount to deceptive advertising, fear-mongering and corporate social irresponsibility?

* If President Obama and the SEC are going to demand full disclosure, honesty, transparency and accountability, those fundamental principles should also apply to government officials. They rarely do.

Justice Department lawyers have knowingly lied to judges in immigration cases. Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes and other officials have been caught in multiple bald-faced lies. The IRS deliberately targeted conservatives, and then destroyed records and lied about its actions. EPA bungled a mine cleanup, polluted waterways in four states and lied about the impacts. NOAA and EPA have engaged in systematic misrepresentations and data manipulation on climate change. No one has been punished.

The impacts on company profits, investors, employees, families and communities have been extensive. Government agencies want more and more power and control over our lives – but refuse to accept any accountability for incompetence, malfeasance, deliberate lies or the serious harm they cause.

This is why Americans are fed up. Perhaps the 2016 elections will finally bring long overdue change.

Categories: On the Blog

Google’s Growing US Search/Android Share Complicates FCC’s AllVid Proposal

May 29, 2016, 10:47 AM

[Note: this blog was submitted to the FCC as a reply comment in the AllVid Set Top Box NPRM.]

As more evidence comes to light exposing Google’s much increased search and Android dominance in the U.S. since the FTC closed its search and Android antitrust probes in January 2013, it only becomes clearer that the FCC’s AllVid proposed rulemaking to “Unlock the [set-top] Box” is obviously anticompetitive overall, not pro-competitive as the FCC naively claims.

(A brief context refresh is needed here. In a nutshell, Google is the primary impetus behind the FCC’s controversial AllVid set top box proposal that would force U.S. pay-TV providers to effectively open-source  cable set-top boxes and the $200b worth of proprietary video programming/information that flows through them, so that Google and other edge platforms could monetize that proprietary video programming without a license — for free.

If passed this summer, Google will be the lion’s share commercial beneficiary of this FCC rulemaking, because Google commands the Internet’s dominant “navigation device,”  its dominant search engine, and it commands the world’s and America’s dominant licensable mobile operating system, Android, the “gateway software” for the mobile Internet.)

The core problem here is the FCC’s misrepresentation that when one “unlocks” something of great value, it presents no risk to the great value previously protected by the lock.

In other words, the FCC is cherry-picking and selectively framing the question to be about the $20b in annual set-top-box revenue, when it is really about the business viability and sustainability of America’s entire $200b a year, pay-TV ecosystem, in which set top boxes currently serve as the linchpin security component.

Consider the evidence that Google has become an even more dominant Internet gatekeeper since the FCC announced its AllVid rulemaking.

Search

This May, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the EU plans to fine Google an EU record ~€3b for “web search monopoly abuse” and that “Google will be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals.” The EU’s 2015 Statement of Objections put Google’s search share at >90% in the EU.

Earlier in May, Politico reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was reopening its Google Search antitrust investigation.

Thus the FTC and the media need to update their thinking from 2012 when the FTC shut down their Google search bias and Android investigations without any action on those particular complaints.

When they do, they will find a very different factual story in 2016 — to the extent they investigate beyond  Google’s U.S. desktop search market share of 64% per comScore, and investigate Google’s mobile and mobile + desktop market shares.  

Mobile search matters much more now, because Google announced a year ago that over half of all Google searches in the U.S. are mobile searches; and because mobile’s rate of growth far exceeds desktop’s rate of growth.

Google’s U.S. mobile search market share is now ~90%, given StatCounter’s current estimate of ~91% U.S. mobile search market share; and Netmarketshare’s implicit estimate of ~90% share given: Android and iOS comprise ~90% of U.S. OS mobile share and Apple iOS uses Google search by default; and given Google’s global mobile share is currently ~95%.

In addition to mobile searches growing faster than desktop searches, Google’s only significant U.S. search competitor, the combined Microsoft-Bing-Yahoo search platform, is losing share steadily because Microsoft effectively has conceded the mobile search and search advertising markets by writing off Nokia, and in selling off display ad assets to Verizon and map assets to Uber. And its former happy search partner, Yahoo, is now unhappy with Bing and petitioning the DOJ for permission to use Google’s platform for up to half of its search inventory.

Simply, the two estimates above indicate Google’s 2016 search share is 33% higher than it was in 2012 (from 64% for desktop in 2012 to 85% for desktop-mobile combined in 2016); and 41% higher than 2012,if the baseline is 64% desktop share to ~90% mobile share.

That is a huge change in the underlying fact predicate at the FTC in just a little over three years. This is damning evidence that Google’s monopoly network effects are exceptionally powerful.

Operating System

In addition to search shares being very different today from 2016, the search and Android investigations that the FTC decided to drop in late 2012, are completely different than the search-driven Android case that the EU charged Google with last month, in its April 2016 Android Statement of Objections.

Simply, the EU charged competitive foreclosure behavior: “Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. First, the practices mean that Google Search is pre-installed and set as the default, or exclusive, search service on most Android devices sold in Europe. Second, the practices appear to close off ways for rival search engines to access the market, via competing mobile browsers and operating systems.”

Importantly, the FTC’s 2012 staff report on the Google antitrust investigation concluded that “Google has strengthened its monopolies over search and search advertising through anticompetitive means, and has forestalled competitors and would be competitors’ ability to challenge those monopolies, and this will have lasting negative effects on consumer welfare.” (p. 116)

The point here is that, if a majority of FTC commissioners were willing to investigate and prosecute Google for straightforward antitrust violations, there is ample evidence to do so, given this particular case and the EU’s evidentiary findings.

There is also additional powerful evidence today that Android is a U.S. licensable mobile operating system monopoly because, the only company still trying to develop a competing operating system to Android and iOS, Acadine Technologies effectively gave-up this week because it could not attract the necessary capital to try get fully started. This comes on the heels of Mozilla giving up a few months ago on its attempt to create a Firefox mobile OS to compete with Android.

What this means is that for everybody else than Apple (which has its own iOS), most every maker of a FCC mandated set top box would have to use Android as its operating system.

Conclusion

What does this all mean for the FCC and its AllVid set top box proposal?

First it means that what the FCC is proposing to do — open sourcing the most valuable corpus of premium video programming in the world for the primary commercial benefit of Google’s search, search advertising, and licensable mobile OS monopolies — is profoundly anti-competitive.

Second it’s also the functional equivalent of an improper, FCC no-bid, sole source government contract to supply an operating system to millions of navigation devices that would not exist, but for the FCC especially creating them particularly for Google’s commercial benefit.

The FCC should start over from scratch.

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

Categories: On the Blog

Donald Trump, China, Trade – and Intellectual Property Theft

May 28, 2016, 10:40 AM

We are in the midst of a presidential race that is fundamentally changing how many view – and thought they knew – politics. Donald Trump especially is radically altering that map. What many thought were permanent lines – turned out to be drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch. That the presumptive Republican nominee has spent the last year shaking into oblivion.

Much of what Trump has altered – desperately needed to be altered. Change can be a very good thing – especially when terrible ideas and actions have been ensconced and accepted as “the norm” and “that’s how it’s always been done.

That’s certainly the case in many instances with intellectual property (IP). Intellectual property has come to be seen as somehow less than physical property – and thus less worthy of protection from theft. In an ever increasingly digital economy – that’s even less good.

One of the first major purveyors of IP theft was Napster. Launched on June 1, 1999, Napster was a website designed to allow its users to steal digital copies of music. Millions of people downloaded songs – for which they did not pay. These same people – who would never have walked into a brick-and-mortar Tower Records store and stolen the same music on CDs – had no compunction doing the exact same thing digitally. In this way did Napster help begin to artificially, dangerously lessen the perceived value of IP.

But just because you aren’t stealing anything tangible – doesn’t mean you aren’t stealing. By illegally replicating a song (or movie, or book, or….) – you are lessening the value of the legal copies thereof. It is the exact same reason you aren’t allowed to print fake money – because it devalues real money. (Someone please tell the United States Treasury.)

Flash forward nearly two decades – and we have China. Which is Napster on uber-steroids – ensconced as government policy. On May 15 on Fox News Sunday, in defense of Trump’s call for a reanalysis of how we cut trade deals, Republican former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said “When you hear, for example, that the Chinese last year probably stole $360 billion in intellectual property from the United States, I think being tough about that’s a good thing. I think conservatives can be for very tough-minded trade.”

$360 billion is a LOT of heisted coin. Is that a correct count? Uber-Left PolitiFact actually said “It could actually be higher.” Equally uber-Left PundiFact said “The first thing we should note, however, is that the $360 billion figure is only for losses from cyber-hacking — a limitation that Gingrich didn’t specify. Of course, adding in non-cyber losses would only increase that figure beyond $360 billion.”

So Gingrich’s $360 billion of Chinese per annum intellectual property theft is a…conservative estimate. It’s likely much worse. And guess who picks up that massive tab? You do – in the form of higher prices for the music, movies and other things they’re stealing.

Keep that in mind when next you hear how much a “trade war” will cost you. If the “war” is negotiating anti-theft mandates – the benefits will far outweigh the costs. And will restore some sanity to intellectual property perception.

All of this raises another question. Why would our Congress work to undermine any aspect of intellectual property protection? Why would they make it harder for our creators to protect their creations? And thereby easier for the likes of China to continue – and even increase – their thievery?

Sadly, that’s what Republicans are leading the charge to do to patents. Behold the woefully misnamed “Innovation Act”:

‘Innovation Act’ Will Stifle Innovation: “For investors in technology start-ups, things are about to get much more complex and dangerous….(T)his bill actually will kill investment and innovation … The American patent, so indispensable to technology start-ups, is about to be rendered useless when faced with an infringer of disproportionate size … “

The Innovation Act Would Hurt Inventors Like Me, And Thousands Of Others: “(T)he Innovation Act threatens American inventors, particularly individual inventors and those working at small businesses and startups …”

Meanwhile, China and its ilk are licking their chops – hoping this terrible legislation becomes law.

We have decades of bad intellectual property precedent to undo. The Innovation Act isn’t helping.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Get-Well Wishes for Elizabeth Clarke

May 28, 2016, 5:33 AM

The nearly-centenarian Elizabeth Clarke is extremely ill after a serious fall and is convalescing at home in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Mrs. Clarke is a doyenne of the conservative movement in the Chicago area, a leader of Eagle Forum and the National Federation of Independent Business, and a staunch supporter of the Lincoln Legal Foundation, the Heartland Institute, the Illinois Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the United Republican Fund of Illinois, the Chicago Conservative Conference, and countless other pro-freedom, pro-market, pro-family, and pro-life causes and groups in Illinois and across America.

Mrs. Clarke and her late husband, Edwin, were fixtures at nearly every conservative, libertarian, and allied meeting, conference, symposium, rally, and celebration held in the Chicago area over the last many decades. As long as health permitted they regularly attended the monthly center-right coalition meeting of the Fort Dearborn Group.

Just before the Fourth of July two years ago, in 2014, when Mrs. Clarke was 96, I had the privilege of interviewing her for an oral history project of the Heartland Institute about her remarkable life and about the changes that she had seen in the world since her birth near the end of World War I. 

Elizabeth Clark, age 96, discusses the incredible changes the world has experienced over the past 90 years with Heartland friend Joe Morris. In part two of this two-part series, Clark discusses how education has changed over the years.

Heartland has posted the interviews with Mrs. Clarke in the podcast archive of its website at www.Heartland.org.

Part 1 can be heard here:  https://www.heartland.org/podcasts/2014/07/02/elizabeth-clark-96-years-young

Part 2 can be heard here:  https://www.heartland.org/podcasts/2014/07/03/elizabeth-clark-age-96-discusses-incredible-changes-world-has-experienced-over-p

I am sure that Mrs. Clarke would welcome cards, letters, and other messages of cheer as she struggles with illness.  She is still quite mentally active and alert, and enjoys having messages read to her by her family, friends, and caregivers.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep40): Fixing Income Inequality, CON Laws, Telemedicine, and Nutritional Labeling

May 27, 2016, 3:27 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #40 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the John Locke Foundation, the Palmetto Promise Institute, and the Mercatus Center.

Featured Work of the Week

This week’s featured work of the week is from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. John and Donny discuss a two reports recently released titled “People, Not Ratios: Why the Debate over Income Inequality Asks the Wrong Questions,” and “The Rising Tide: Answering the Right Questions in the Inequality Debate.” These two reports seek to explain why focusing on income inequality is a distraction and why we need to focus on how to increase the well-being of those in poverty by reducing barriers to entry and encouraging real free-market reforms.

In the World of Think Tankery

Today Donny and John talk about an article from the John Locke Foundation titled “Economics and Environment: NC CON law is central planning beyond Bernie’s wildest dreams.” This article explains the absurdity of Certificate of Need Laws by comparing the industry to the production of computers. The author shows that if the computer industry was as centrally planned as health care facilities, no one would stand for it. Donny compares these CON laws to the draconian “Directive 10-289” rules from Atlas Shrugged.

In the next segment, Donny and John discuss an update from the Palmetto Promise Institute about how “New Technology could Change Lives in South Carolina.” An innovative new online startup, Opternative, is attempting to change the way people go about getting an eye examine. With a new app, people can check their eyesight and obtain a prescription without having to go to the eye doctor. This innovation is now meeting resistance in a number of states. A recently passed bill banning this new technology was vetoed by South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley.

The last item discussed by Donny and John is an article authored by Richard Williams, Vice President for Policy Research at the Mercatus Center, titled “Why the New Nutrition Labels Won’t Work.”

Events 

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 at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

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

Categories: On the Blog

In Venezuela, Net Neutrality Does In Fact Mean Internet Censorship

May 27, 2016, 11:12 AM

Venezuela is an official Socialist Utopia disaster area. (It would be nice if Team Bernie Sanders and his Democrat cohorts were paying attention – but who are we kidding.)

The United States State Department issued a travel warning back on September 18 (which still appears to be in place). The news, meanwhile, is chock full of horror stories for the people of Venezuela – the victims of full government’s inexorable conclusion.

Venezuela: How the Socialist Paradise Turned into Debt and Hyperinflation Hell

Venezuelan Economy Collapsing as Debt, Hyperinflation Take Their Toll

Imagine No Possessions, Imagine Venezuela

‘We Are Like a Bomb’: Food Riots Show Venezuela Crisis Has Gone Beyond Politics

What Venezuela’s Food Rationing Tells Us: The Price Of Something Is The Price Of Something

Venezuela, Where a Hamburger is Officially $170

With Socialism, you end up with just about nothing of everything – except government. There’s always plenty of that.

If you think $170 hamburgers are expensive in Government Xanadu – imagine how expensive “free speech” is. A government run amok – that has ruined its nation – can not allow its people to discuss said damage. So you get:

Venezuela: Research Confirms Censorship of News Platforms, Currency Websites: “A recent study conducted by the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) in Venezuela has confirmed that at least 43 different websites are being blocked in the country, shedding new light on the filtering practices of the Venezuelan government. The research focused on documenting incidents surrounding web access and net neutrality, zeroing in on the treatment of national networks during the 2015 elections.”

Wait – what? There’s that U.S. buzz phrase – Net Neutrality. We here have been incessantly told that Net Neutrality has nothing to do with content control and government censorship. Venezuela’s government would seem to disagree:

“In 90% of cases, the websites in the study were being blocked consistently across all five of Venezuela’s largest ISPs. All appeared to constitute some violation of the notoriously broad Law on Social Responsibility on Radio, Television and Electronic Media, suggesting that the websites were blocked in compliance with an administrative measureunder the aforementioned law. More specifically, the Institute inferred that the websites are considered to promote disobedience of the law, disavow authorities, or ‘foster unrest’ within society.

Sounds pretty Tea Party-Conservative to me. Here, Net Neutrality will end up being the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – for the Internet.

But we knew all of this before the Barack Obama Administration power grabbed the Web – because one of Net Neutrality’s biggest proponents said so. Behold college professor and avowed Marxist (please pardon the redundancy) Robert McChesney:

“Any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.”

“There is no real answer (to the U.S. economic crisis) but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”

“At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

How very Hugo Chavez of him. Speaking of, Professor McChesney was a big fan of what Chavez was doing – and Venezuela continues to do.

“Venezuela is a constitutional republic. Chavez has won landslide victories that would be the envy of almost any elected leader in the world, in internationally monitored elections.”

“Aggressive unqualified political dissent is alive and well in the Venezuelan mainstream media, in a manner few other democratic nations have ever known, including our own.”

Ummm…not so much. In fact, Professor McChesney loved Venezuela’s first forays intoshutting down dissenting media:

“If (critical of Hugo Chavez Venezuelan station) RCTV were broadcasting in the United States, its license would have been revoked years ago. In fact its owners would likely have been tried for criminal offenses, including treason.”

Not yet here, Professor McChesney. But our Net Neutrality is new – give it time.

Venezuela’s head start is not one to emulate. But that’s exactly what we’re doing.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA’s Taking on Strippers

May 27, 2016, 10:56 AM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final methane rule on May 12. The 600-page rule is agenda-driven and backed by pseudoscience, emotions, and unicorn dust, and it’s important to note one specific change in the final rule amounts to a regulatory taking. The final rule imposes costly regulations on wells producing fewer than 15 barrels per day, effectively shutting down those businesses.

In North Dakota, there are over 3,000 low-volume wells, often referred to as “stripper wells.” Stripper wells are defined as those wells that produce fewer than 40 barrels of oil per day; the majority produce 15 barrels or less. The drop in oil prices is already impacting the viability of stripper wells, and the state’s oil regulators have recently loosened rules to allow these wells to be idle for up to two years as the operators wait for higher oil prices.

Stripper wells ensure every last drop of oil can be produced in a region, but the low volume means the owners of these wells are very vulnerable to changes in costs related to maintaining and operating each well. When EPA expanded its methane rule to include these low-volume wells, it effectively added significant costs to each well — a decision that will likely lead operators to abandon their projects.

A press release issued by the National Stripper Well Association (NSWA) puts it bluntly. “These new rules will cripple stripper and marginal well owners and operators, and on top of historically low oil prices, we are looking at total disaster,” said NSWA Chairwoman Darlene Wallace. “By requiring the addition of new costly equipment requirements and expensive leak detection the economics within the oil and gas industry as a whole will be fundamentally changed, severely and forever.”

Forcing owners of these low-volume wells to shut them down amounts to a regulatory taking. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. Courts have ruled this right, commonly referred to as the Takings Clause, applies to the loss of many kinds of property taken as a result of government regulation.

According to previous court decisions, a regulatory taking must meet the “substantially advances” test, which means the regulation must substantially advance a legitimate government purpose in order to be valid. EPA has attempted to identify the legitimate government purpose behind the new methane rule, but the agency’s estimated benefits, which focus heavily on stopping climate change, are certainly up for debate. But even if it can be proven the broad goals behind the policy are valid, it will be exceptionally difficult for EPA to prove its regulations targeting the very small stripper wells “substantially” accomplish those goals.

In the final rule, EPA discusses the removal of the low-volume exemption, saying, “We were concerned about the burden on small business, in particular, where there may be little emission reduction to be achieved.” This doesn’t sound as though EPA is convinced its rule will have a substantial impact, and in other sections of the rule, EPA offers wildly conflicting views. For instance, the rule in one section says comments in favor of the exemption “did not provide any data,” but in the next paragraph, EPA favorably cites a comment against an exemption for stripper wells: “One commenter indicated that low production well sites have the potential to emit high fugitive emissions.”

Apparently, the lack of data in this instance was not fatal — probably because the term “high fugitive emissions” is so ominous that it simply must be bad.

The bottom line is the application of EPA’s methane rule to stripper wells amounts to a regulatory taking. By forcing the abandonment of private property for the owners of low-volume wells, the government will need to compensate each owner for the loss of real property — unless the regulation aimed at each low-volume well substantially advances the stated legitimate purpose, a hard assertion to prove, to say the least.

It has to be noted neither President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan nor his commitment to the Paris agreement were founded on a legitimate government purpose, but even if EPA can conjure a supposedly legitimate purpose for its new methane rule, forcing the abandonment of stripper wells in North Dakota and elsewhere will not substantially advance that purpose.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Arthur Viterito: Other Factors that Impact Global Temperatures

May 26, 2016, 3:58 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Arthur Viterito, a professor of Geography of the College of Southern Maryland, joins managing editor for Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his recent research exploring other factors that affect global temperatures.

Viterito’s recent research shows geothermal venting, particularly in the Oceans affecting the transportation of heat, has a significant impact on recent warming. Critically, seismic activity correlates with temperature changes better than carbon dioxide, yet is not accounted for in climate models.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: Examining Obamacare Repeal & Replace Options

May 25, 2016, 12:10 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Peter Ferrara, Heartland Senior Fellow and author of the Power to the People, joins host Michael Hamilton to discuss the different proposed plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Ferrara talks through the most essential features of GOP repeal and replace plans, including a universal health insurance tax credit (UHITC) promoted by John C. Goodman – Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and president of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research. Ferrara also drills down into the benefits of block-granting Medicaid to the states.

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

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

LA Times Gets Story About Portland Banning Climate Doubt Almost Right

May 25, 2016, 9:03 AM

Los Angeles Times reporter Joy Resmovits reached out to me yesterday for comment about the controversy over the Portland Public Schools board voting unanimously last week to institute a ban on any materials or discussion that express doubts human activity is causing a catastrophic climate crisis. Because Ms. Resmovits is an education reporter, and not an environment reporter, there was some semblance of balance.

The angle of the story, naturally, was sympathetic to the members of the school board, who were now experience a “backlash” from folks who saw the resolution as nutty at best and harmful at worst. Heck, consindering the LA Times has banned any “skeptic” commentary on its pages, I was just happy they gave us a call.

The Heartland Institute, a conservative group, posted on its blog that the school district was “demanding that their unshakable faith in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming be the only thing taught in school.” In an email, Heartland’s director of communications, Jim Lakely, said the resolution was harmful because “it teaches kids in Portland public schools the falsehood that the science is settled.” He said he’s concerned that kids will be “indoctrinated instead of taught how the scientific method works.”

I can only imagine the reaction of some readers and editors. I’m guessing they won’t make the mistake of calling me again and exposing their readers to the truth.

One quibble — aside from the angle that underplayed the radicalism of the school board — is the way Resmovitz played hide the pea with the proof that the district did ban the words “may,” “might,” and “could” from any future materials that mention climate change.

At the school board meeting, [environmental activist Bill Bigelow] pointed to two textbooks — a modern history book and a science book — that he said don’t adequately characterize climate change. “The text is thick with the skeptical language of ‘might’ and ‘could’ and ‘may,’” he said at the time.

That could explain why the story took on a life of its own, Rosenau said. And, in fact, Lakely, the Heartland Institute spokesman, said his organization opposed what he characterized as a ban on textbooks that use the words “might,” “may” and “could” about climate science. The resolution, however, doesn’t actually use those terms.

Yes, it’s technically correct that the board’s resolution on climate change curriculum does use those words. But the man who proposed the resolution said those words in his testimony, and the resolution states that the district “will abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.” That is the same thing.

I pointed that out to Resmovitz, and she did quote that passage from the resolution in her second paragraph. But readers need to see that passage in the context of my quote — and that means near my quote. Doing so, however, would get in the way of the narrative that right-wing “skeptics” are making a big deal over nothing — and that I’m mischaracterizing the controversy.

I’d be mad, but I was in the mainstream media for 16 years, and I know how this goes. At least this was almost right, which makes it better than most MSM fare.

Categories: On the Blog

Citizens’ Revolutionary Week: Day Two

May 25, 2016, 8:00 AM

Yesterday, I visited day two of the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week, an annual liberal activist conference held in Washington, D.C. hosted by far-left activist Ralph Nader.

Day two’s theme was “Breaking Through Media,” a celebration of liberal policy wins such as the Federal Communications Commission’s February 2015 net neutrality regulation. The day was all about figuring out how to build on those wins to use the government’s power over media to freeze out conservative ideas and promote liberal ideas with the power of net neutrality.

Speakers such as liberal activist Kevin Zeese and University of Iowa College of Law professor Nicholas Johnson suggested re-regulating speech in the U.S., by bringing back the “fairness doctrine,” an FCC policy requiring television stations and other broadcasters to distribute government-approved doses of government-approved points of view.

Keep on checking out Somewhat Reasonable all this week as I report from the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week!

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Michael Coons: In Pursuit of a Countermand Amendment

May 24, 2016, 4:19 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Michael Coons, National Legislative Director of Citizen Initiatives, joins hosts Donald Kendal and Kyle Maichle to talk about the Article V movement to create a Countermand Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The Countermand Amendment would give state legislatures the power of rescission. States would be able to fight back against executive orders. Coons explains how this amendment can fundamentally change how the states interact with the federal government. So far the proposed amendment has only been passed by the state of Alaska. Coons outlines the plan going forward and addresses multiple concerns a criticisms frequently brought up when discussing the Article V process.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Texas Republicans Overwhelmingly Approve Article V into State’s Party Platform

May 24, 2016, 2:39 PM

On May 13, delegates to the state convention for the Republican Party of Texas approved a plank in the party’s platform that supports an Article V convention.

The plank received the backing of more than 80 percent of the 8,000 delegates present during the convention, which was held from May 12 to May 14 in Dallas, Texas. The topic of an Article V convention was a pretty contentious topic during hearings held by the permanent platform committee of the Texas Republican Party in the days leading up to the plank’s approval. Passionate testimony, both for and against Article V, occurred during the hearing.

A former member of the platform committee wrote a blog post imploring committee members to reject the proposed Article V plank, but the vocal opposition did not sway enough members’ opinions, as the plank was cleared out of committee and eventually approved on the convention floor.

“We support the Bill of Rights as written by our Founding Fathers and assert the authority of the 10th amendment. We urge our Texas State Legislators to call for a limited Article V Convention of States for the specific purpose of reducing the power of the federal government, including implementation of term limits. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by 3/4 of the states,” reads the Texas GOP plank.

The party’s plank on Article V is different from a separate plank in the platform opposing a constitutional convention and calling on the legislature to rescind a 1977 application. The plank does not affect the state’s 1979 application for a convention calling for a balanced budget amendment.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced his support for the Convention of States project in January during an event sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). Convention of States is a multiple amendment application for an Article V convention calling for a balanced budget requirement, term limits on members of Congress, and reductions in federal regulations. At the same event, Abbott called for nine new amendments to the Constitution of the United States, including giving states the authority to override unconstitutional laws from the national government.

Texas has become a prime target for organizations pursuing their own efforts for an Article V convention since Abbott’s announcement in January. The overwhelming approval of Texas Republicans for an Article V convention signals that momentum has shifted in favor of the movement to add additional Article V applications, which could be approved during the 2017 legislative session.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Attorney General Delegated His State Powers to Predatory Lawyer in Suit Against ExxonMobil

May 24, 2016, 12:59 PM

Al Gore (left) and Claude Walker (right).

At a press conference held on March 29, 2016, a coalition of 19 Democratic state attorneys general and one Independent – with former Vice President Al Gore as the speaker that they privately tagged as their headline-grabbing “star power” – announced their collective efforts to deal with the problem of climate change. The attorneys general, calling themselves “AGs United for Clean Power,” declared that they planned to “creatively and aggressively” use their powers to force ExxonMobil, think tanks and individuals to comply with their preferred policy on climate change, urged on by activists intolerant of contrary views.

The press that attended had mixed reactions to the show, some overjoyed, some skeptical. Shawn McCoy, publisher of Inside Sources, questioned the AGs, saying: “A Bloomberg Review editorial noted that the Exxon investigation is preposterous and a dangerous affirmation of power. The New York Times has pointed out that Exxon has published research that lines up with mainstream climatology and therefore there’s not a comparison to Big Tobacco. So is this a publicity stunt? Is the investigation a publicity stunt?”

The AGs denied it with vigor, particularly the Independent, Claude Earl Walker, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands of the United States – an unincorporated U.S. Territory in the Caribbean Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.*

Walker took the microphone and called Al Gore “my hero,” then gave an impassioned speech pledging to do something “transformational” to end reliance on fossil fuel, beginning with an investigation into ExxonMobil, which manufactures a product he believes is “destroying this earth.”

After his performance, Walker “destroyed this earth” a bit by benefitting from the expenditure of a considerable amount of Jet A fuel (most likely made by ExxonMobil Aviation) while flying the 1,628 air miles from JFK back to Cyril King Airport near his office in the capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, also known as a popular cruise ship port.

Evidence shows that Walker’s March 29 press conference performance was merely for show. In reality, he had been colluding with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, his colleagues and environmental group leaders for more than a month. Walker sent his 19-page subpoena alleging “conspiracy to obtain money by false pretenses” to ExxonMobil headquarters in Dallas, Texas on March 15 – exactly two weeks before taking the stage in New York City, a fact he did not mention. He had something to hide and he hid it.

When ExxonMobil received the subpoena filed by Walker, the return address was the Washington, D.C. office of Linda Singer. Walker had delegated his territorial powers to her as his “national counsel” who would manage the investigation because his U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice was in disorder, according to Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Walker had been nominated for the office by the governor only last August and became “the fourth person in eight months to lead the beleaguered department – one the governor acknowledged remains in a “mess,” according to the Virgin Islands Consortium.

Singer was the perfect lawyer to perform a predatory investigation under the Virgin Islands’ Criminal Influenced and Corrupt Organization law (CICO), a stand-in for the mainland’s federal Mafia-busting Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO).

Singer is a partner in Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, which touts itself as “the most effective law firm in the United States for lawsuits with a strong social and political component.” Singer is so qualified because she is a former attorney general turned plaintiffs’ lawyer with deep experience using questionable tactics to win lucrative cases. She was featured in a 2014 New York Times investigative report, “Lawyers Create Big Paydays by Coaxing Attorneys General to Sue.”

Singer was selected as the Times’ opener for their report, describing how she approached Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico with an “unusual proposition.” She wanted him “to sue the owner of a nursing home in rural New Mexico that Mr. King had never heard of and Ms. Singer had never set foot in.” Her proposed lawsuit did not cite any specific complaints about care, only numbers on staffing levels suggesting that residents were being mistreated. AG King wanted details, and Singer shortly emailed him that, “I finally got the numbers on the nursing home case and would love to discuss it with you briefly.”

The New York Times wryly highlighted “the enormous potential payoff for Ms. Singer’s firm if she could persuade Mr. King to hire her and use his state powers to investigate and sue, which he did.” This legal racket is a thriving industry, the Times continued: “Plaintiffs’ lawyers working on a contingency-fee basis have teamed up mostly with Democratic state attorneys general to file hundreds of lawsuits against businesses that make anything from pharmaceuticals to snack foods.” Not surprisingly, law firm members in this industry give generous election campaign contributions to Democratic Attorneys General candidates and party political organizations.

The payday industry was prompted by the Big Payday of the Big Tobacco case, according to the Times. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, characterized such sue-and-settle surrogates as “the buccaneers of the trial bar” in his opinion piece, “Exxon Is Big Tobacco? Tell Me Another.”

ExxonMobil did the reasonable thing in the face of the social and political lawsuit: It sued Attorney General Walker, Linda Singer, and Cohen Milstein for violating its “constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process of law and constitute the common law tort of abuse of process.”

Other victims of Walker’s abuse of process have also gone on the attack with lawsuits seeking sanctions against the AG, whose office has withdrawn its subpoena of libertarian think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute, but still threatens to re-impose it at its whim. CEI is redoubling its efforts against Walker.

The Climate Change Movement and its attorneys general are not so invulnerable as they thought.

*USVI is directly overseen by the U.S. federal government and has no sovereignty such as states possess, but is allowed to elect its own territorial governor and members of its territorial legislature. Residents are citizens of the United States, elect non-voting delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives, but cannot vote in presidential elections. The Territory has its own Department of Justice headed by a governor-nominated and legislature-confirmed attorney general.

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