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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Did Obama Cover Up Real Reason for Obamacare Website Crash?

July 13, 2015, 9:39 AM

The launch of HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s online health insurance marketplace, in October 2013 was a complete disaster, a reality even the most ardent supporters of Obamacare admit. There were multiple site crashes, long waiting times for anxious consumers, and one delay after another.

Nearly two years after its failed launch, there still remain more questions than answers, but perhaps the recent King v. Burwell case has subtly lifted the veil on the real reason for the crash.

Then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius emphatically denied Obama knew anything about the website’s obvious flaws prior to the botched launch of the site. Republicans sharply criticized Sebelius and the Obama administration, and many GOP leaders questioned both Obama’s truthfulness and his competence.

“Either Secretary Sebelius is lying to protect President Obama or the president needs to get control of his signature health care law,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

After months of congressional investigations and Sebelius’ eventual resignation, the pursuit of the truth about the website disaster eventually faded away, and Congress and the media moved on to more pressing matters.

It’s still unclear why, after countless wasted tax dollars and more than three full years to build the site after Obamacare’s passage in 2010, the government failed to produce a working website that could accomplish the simple task of selling health insurance policies.

At the time of the HealthCare.gov crash, Obama’s media spin doctors insisted the site’s failure was caused by “extremely high” traffic, as Sebelius reiterated in an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta. According to Sebelius, nearly 20 million people visited the site in just the first three weeks, a volume site designers simply weren’t prepared for.

This excuse, repeated countless times by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and others, makes little sense upon close examination. If the Obama administration expected its signature program to be successful, why wouldn’t nearly 20 million people visit the site? Shouldn’t HealthCare.gov’s designers have been prepared for the possibility a good many of the more than 30 million people who were said to be without health insurance could visit the site within the first few weeks?

Many have chalked this blunder up to just another failure of big government, but I think a much more logical explanation explains the website’s failure—and it has to do with cases such as King v. Burwell.

When the website crashed in 2013, numerous legal cases had the potential to end in disaster for Obama’s most important piece of legislation. One of the most ominous objections to Obamacare, presented by the plaintiffs in King, was that although its plain language seemed to indicate subsidies were available only to those who purchase health insurance from state-established exchanges, the Obama administration was providing subsidies to individuals through the federal health insurance marketplace as well.

The defense employed by the Obama administration against the claim that such an action violated the obvious mandates in the Obamacare legislation had to be that the language referring to the “states” was vague and open to interpretation. The real intent of the law, the Obama administration insisted, was for the subsidies to be available to everyone, regardless of which exchange health insurance was purchased in.

This helps explain the obvious flaws of the HealthCare.gov website.

If the Obama administration, at the time of the passage of Obamacare, expected most states to establish their own exchanges because it knew that’s what the law required in order to gain access to the subsidies, it makes sense the federal website wasn’t designed with 20 million visitors in mind. Nearly every state would presumably have its own marketplace and dedicated website, so traffic to the federal exchange would be limited.

At the time of the HealthCare.gov crash, and in the months leading up to it, many states refused to establish their own exchanges, which meant the federal site would have to handle a much greater volume than was originally expected. At that point the Obama administration would have had to make a difficult choice: Either recognize HealthCare.gov would likely be overwhelmed and admit it had not expected many states to rely on the federal exchange, or it could pretend the inevitable rollout failure was simply a flaw in the website’s design and take the heat for being ill-prepared.

Allowing itself to look incompetent was a political risk, to be sure, but the administration absolutely could not acknowledge it had expected the states to establish their own exchanges with their own websites. Such an admission would indicate the administration knew the law compelled states to create their own exchanges in order to have access to needed federal subsidies, the very argument Obama would later reject in King.

Although it doesn’t prove the case, the billowing smoke behind this fire is more conspicuous than ever: The HealthCare.gov website was never intended to handle the millions of people who eventually tried to use it, because the plan had always been, as Obamacare clearly lays out, for the states to create their own exchanges rather than rely on the federal government—just as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argued.

[Originally published at The Blaze]

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Concern is Mis-directed

July 13, 2015, 9:15 AM

“Climate” is formally the thirty year “average” of weather. Climate is what we expect, on average – weather is what we actually get.

It is true that atmospheric conditions (dust, smoke, smog, aerosols, aircraft contrails, clouds and trace gases) can affect Earth’s weather. But none of these minor atmospheric constituents can generate energy – they merely filter, reflect, transfer or redirect a portion of solar energy. The effects of any changes tend to be short-lived, or reversed as the atmosphere clears; or they often trigger negative feedbacks that largely offset the initial effect. In particular, carbon dioxide does not drive the weather. No weather forecaster notes what tomorrow’s level of CO2 is likely to be, and no farmer wonders what it will be next spring.

The sun is the short-term weather wizard. It clearly controls the changing temperatures of day and night, winter and summer; it energises the atmosphere to give the power to storms and cyclones; together with the Moon it produces tides and gyres and their changing cycles drive weather cycles on Earth. Meteorologists, long-range forecasters who study solar and planetary phases, and many intelligent farmers are best placed to forecast weather. The carbon-centric model predictions have failed dismally, suggesting strongly that carbon dioxide does not control weather.

Does CO2 drive significant climate change?

Earth currently basks in a benign climate interval, an interglacial warm period punctuated by occasional “Little Ice Ages” and between long periodic species-destroying eras of ice. As recently as twelve thousand years ago, large parts of Earth’s surface were covered by ice sheets up to 3km thick. Many species of mega-fauna disappeared suddenly in this cataclysm.

Global warming has never been a threat to Earth’s inhabitants, even with temperatures several degrees above those of this modern warm era. The real danger to life on Earth is global cooling, and its big brother, Snow-ball Earth.

Studies of sun-spots and other solar variables suggest that a “Little Ice Age” is probably caused by solar variations. If solar activity decreases, two things happen. Firstly, Earth’s surface cools because of the reduced solar radiation. Secondly, the sun’s magnetic shield also weakens, allowing more cosmic rays to strike the atmosphere, thus creating more nuclei for cloud generation. The extra cloud cover adds to the cooling trend by shading the surface and reflecting more solar radiation. Those who study solar cycles are already warning that Earth is facing the likely onset of a modern “Little Ice Age”.

Intuition tells us that all we need for a “Big Ice Age” is sustained cold on Earth’s surface. This would indeed strip most of the moisture out of the atmosphere as rain, hail and snow; freeze lakes and rivers; produce cold dry deserts; and create growing fringes of sea-ice in previously temperate latitudes. But cold alone will not create thick continents of ice from coast to coast. To create massive ice sheets, energy is needed to evaporate a huge volume of water from the oceans which is then condensed in the cold atmosphere and added to the growing ice sheets.

Some ice ages also start suddenly. Millions of mammoths and other mega-fauna were buried in hail which was so sudden and sustained that their un-decomposed carcasses are still being excavated from their icy tombs.

For large ice sheets to grow quickly on land two things are required – warm seas to evaporate billions of tons of water from the oceans, and a frigid atmosphere over land to quickly turn that moisture into continental rain, snow and ice. As cloud cover increases, and snow falls in increasing amounts, the white snowy surface reflects more solar energy back into space, maintaining the cold atmosphere despite the expulsion of large quantities of two “greenhouse” gases (water vapour and carbon dioxide) from the warm ocean into the atmosphere.

To plunge Earth suddenly into a sustained “Big Ice Age” thus requires huge amounts of energy to heat the seas while not warming the atmosphere – neither solar energy nor any greenhouse gas can do this. Geothermal energy from widespread undersea volcanism is the most likely agent.

Ocean research reveals that long strips of molten crustal rocks are periodically exposed by Earth movements along faulted trenches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Like kettles on the stove, the oceans above these “Belts of Fire” get hot, releasing water vapour and carbon dioxide gases. A cold cloudy atmosphere completes the conveyor belt, condensing water and soluble gases from the atmosphere to produce fast-growing snow fields and ice sheets.

There is abundant evidence in the geological record that many geological eras end with massive earth movements, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, a sudden ice age and widespread extinction of many species. These eras of intense volcanism and earth movements appear to be triggered by magnetic reversals on Earth which result from electro-magnetic disturbances from the Cosmos.

Minor eruptions from undersea volcanoes can change ocean temperatures and currents, and produce weather disrupters such as El Nino. Huge eruptions (or large meteor impacts) can trigger earthquakes, global veils of dust and aerosols, tidal waves or even a new ice age.

Retreat of the ice sheets requires a reversal of the water-ice conveyor belt – melt the ice, evaporate the water and condense the moisture back into now cooling oceans. Only continental volcanism, maybe assisted by warming solar cycles, can cause the often-fast retreat of the ice sheets.

To make these dramatic/alarming changes to Earth’s climate requires far more energy than humans or traces of non-combustible gases in the atmosphere can provide.

Water vapour is by far the most important greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide is a bit player), but neither of these gases can warm Earth out of an ice age. A cold atmosphere has limited ability to hold these greenhouse gases – water vapour condenses in the cold air and is lost as rain and snow; carbon dioxide is lost by dissolving in the cold water and then gets trapped in the ice sheets. The sparse greenhouse gases that remain in a cold atmosphere are powerless to break the grip of the ice. It needs agencies which provide real energy into the system (such as the sun or geothermal heat).

Carbon dioxide does not drive weather, or climate, or the icy extinctions – it varies mainly as a result, not the cause, of past temperature changes. Its great role in the global scheme is to feed the biosphere. To spend money trying to interfere with the carbon cycle is foolish; to try to bury carbon dioxide is a crime against the biosphere.

Instead of wasting vast amounts of money on useless climate models and futile attempts to reduce the atmospheric content of a benign and beneficial gas like carbon dioxide, we should redirect climate research funds into studying the cycles of ice ages, submarine volcanism, magnetic reversals, solar activity and comets – one of these is more likely to cause our next climate catastrophe. Meteorologists, astro-physicists, geologists and cycles analysts, not government-directed carbon-centric climate modellers, are best placed to forecast future trends in climates.

Categories: On the Blog

Obama and EPA Imperil Minority Welfare

July 13, 2015, 9:05 AM

“Clean Power Plan” would bring imaginary benefits – and real health and welfare damage

Paul Driessen and Roger Bezdek

The Obama Environmental Protection Agency and environmental activists frequently claim that climate change will disproportionately affect poor and minority communities. In their view, this justifies unprecedented environmental regulations, like EPA’s pending “Clean Power Plan” (CPP) to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fueled power plants 30% by 2030.

But what effect will the regulation itself have on poor and minority communities?

The plan will result in higher electricity costs for businesses and families, lost jobs, lower incomes, higher poverty rates, reduced living standards, and diminished health and welfare, our exhaustive recent study found. This damage will be inflicted at the national level and in all 50 states. The CPP will impact all low-income groups, but hit America’s 128 million Blacks and Hispanics especially hard.

The EPA rules will: 1) more than double the cost of natural gas and electricity, adding over $1 trillion to family and business energy bills; 2) require average families to pay $1,225 more in inflation-adjusted dollars for power and gas in 2030 than in 2012; 3) destroy millions of jobs in companies and industries that can no longer compete, here or internationally; and 4) significantly reduce U.S. economic growth every year for the next two decades, causing more than $2.3 trillion in total lost gross domestic product.

Compared to whites, blacks and Hispanics already spend 50% and 10% more of their incomes on utilities, respectively, 20% and 90% more on food, and 10% and 5% more on housing. The EPA regulations will significantly increase the minority family “energy burden” – the percentage of annual household incomes they must pay for residential energy bills – and thus the number of families driven into energy poverty. Inability to pay energy bills is second only to inability to pay rent as the leading cause of homelessness, so increasing numbers of poor and minority families will become homeless.

Black and Hispanic household incomes will decline by increasing amounts every year, while their food and healthcare costs will climb significantly, since those business sectors will also have to pay much more for energy. The poverty rate will increase by more than 23% for blacks and more than 26% for Hispanics.

EPA’s rule will force poor and minority families to choose between buying food, putting gas in the car, going to the doctor, buying medicines, giving to their church, saving for retirement, or making mortgage, rent and car payments. Small businesses will have to find thousands more just to keep the heat, lights and air conditioning on, without laying people off or closing their doors. Factories, malls, school districts, hospitals and cities will have to pay millions more for energy.

By 2035, cumulative job losses resulting from the rule will total 7 million for blacks and 12 million for Hispanics. Most of these losses will occur in localities where blacks and Hispanics are most heavily concentrated. The rule will especially harm residents of seven states with the highest concentrations of blacks and Hispanics: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York and Texas.

Entire communities could sink into poverty. Bread winners lucky enough to find work will be forced to take multiple jobs, commute longer distances, and suffer severe sleep deprivation. Families will have to cope with more stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse. Nutrition and medical care will suffer. More people will have strokes and heart attacks.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) bluntly summed up the effects of EPA’s “clean power” rules. “A lot of people on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum are going to die,” he said.

Ironically, these are the very people that Obama and EPA claim to care about the most. As African-American author and news analyst Deneen Borelli observes, President Obama “is rewarding his overwhelming support by black voters with an energy policy that will significantly reduce their disposable income.” Indeed, she says, climate change is “the green movement’s new Jim Crow law.”

National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford accurately called EPA’s carbon dioxide regulation “a slap in the face to poor and minority families.”

Blacks and Hispanics work hard to provide better futures for their children. The EPA regulations will push the American dream even further out of reach for them. Their incomes will be less, their unemployment rates will increase substantially, and it will take those who are out of work longer to find another job. Blacks and Hispanics are often the “last hired and the first fired.”

These are real impacts. However, EPA refuses to consider them, much less tabulate them and compare them to supposed regulatory benefits. It won’t even acknowledge that the health and climate risks that its costly regulations will allegedly prevent are in fact speculative, exaggerated and even fabricated.

For almost 20 years, average planetary temperatures have barely budged, even as carbon dioxide levels “soared” from 0.03% all the way to 0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere. No category 3-5 hurricane has hit the United States for a record 9-1/2 years. Tornadoes, floods, droughts, polar bears, polar ice, sea levels and wildfires are all in line with, or better than, historic patterns and trends. Meanwhile, the Sahel is green again, thanks to that extra plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide, without which life on Earth would end.

Moreover, even if CO2 does drive climate change, slashing US greenhouse gas emissions would bring no benefits, since China, India and other developing nations will not be reducing their enormous emissions.

Other EPA rules are equally suspect. Its mercury regs are based on an imaginary group of US women who catch and eat 300 pounds of fish annually – and whose children would supposedly improve their IQs by an un-measurable 0.00209 points if coal-fired power plants are shut down. As to soot, EPA’s illegal experiments on 296 people found that even “dangerous” or “lethal” exposures harmed no one.

Our air is clean. We don’t need these job-killing, health-impairing EPA regulations. But our governing elites will not give up their power or perks – or their propensity for playing with people’s livelihoods, living standards, health and well-being, for virtually no climate stability, air quality or other benefits.

The good news is that all of this is not inevitable. A recent Supreme Court decision held that EPA should have considered these and other enormous costs from its “mercury and air toxics” regulations, before imposing the rules. The decision should give governors and federal and state lawmakers every incentive to resist EPA’s harmful and dictatorial actions, and not wait for the CPP regulation to go into effect.

A dozen states have already sued EPA over its Clean Power Plan, which is opposed by experts on both sides of the aisle – and even noted liberal constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe. Other states should join the suit, demand a full accounting of regulatory costs, and simply refuse to implement the plan.

As currently written, the regulation calls on unelected state environmental agencies to draft their own state plans and submit them directly to EPA for review and approval. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has signed an executive order blocking her state’s environmental agency from submitting a plan. Other states have introduced legislation to the same effect. More should follow them into battle.

The grim reality is that the EPA wants states to do their dirty work for them.  By submitting a plan, states will become complicit in the agency’s plan to shut down affordable, reliable power generation, destroy jobs and livelihoods, and plunge minority families deeper into poverty, hardship and ill health.

For the sake of their constituents, elected officials in Washington and state capitals have an obligation to fight this federal takeover of state authority. They should act soon. EPA is scheduled to release its final regulation in August, initiating a one-year period before states will be forced to comply.

As this deadline approaches, our elected officials should determine how best to confront – and resist – EPA’s latest power grab. They should remember that the jobs, economic well-being, health and very lives of millions of minority and blue-collar families hang in the balance.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine. Dr. Roger Bezdek is an internationally recognized energy analyst and president of Management Information Services, Inc., in Washington, DC (www.MISI-net.com).

Categories: On the Blog

Groups Fight Bureaucracy Over Endangered Bird That Was Never in Danger

July 11, 2015, 9:07 PM

The golden-cheeked warbler. Not endangered.

Bad science and corrupt bureaucrats turned a beautiful migratory songbird that nests only in Texas into a 1990s terror that good science and concerned citizens are now fighting to exonerate.

The songbird is the golden-cheeked warbler and the fear it instills comes from its status as an endangered species protected by a bureaucracy that confiscates property, bankrupts businesses and imprisons decent people – and we now know that the warbler was never endangered at all.

A coalition of three groups, Texans for Positive Economic Policy, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Reason Foundation, hand-delivered a petition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) offices in Washington, DC, requesting that the warbler be removed from the endangered list, citing verified scientific evidence of ample populations and abundant habitat.

The official story is that the golden-cheeked warbler was erroneously believed to be rapidly going extinct when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed it under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 on an emergency basis. The FWS claimed the warbler’s best breeding habitat was primarily in the mature juniper nesting trees of the Hill Country that spreads westward from the outskirts of Austin, a bungled guess based on outmoded 10-year-old satellite mapping and an unverified 14-year-old study of warbler density.

The details are not so innocent: the golden-cheeked warbler listing petition was a handwritten document dated February 1, 1990, signed “Timothy Jones, Earth First!” (the vandalism-and-arson radical group). The petition wasn’t challenged by the FWS addressee, Alisa Shall, Wildlife Biologist, or anyone else in the agency. The warbler was simply listed upon Jones’ request.

The listed warbler instantly became a weapon for the FWS to restrict landowners’ use of their property and even jeopardized military training. And some federal officials frightened landowners into selling at panic prices to environmental groups.

Margaret Rodgers, an elderly lady who owned a ranch west of Austin, was clearing a fencerow of invading young junipers so she could rebuild the fence they were pushing down so badly that her livestock got out – a familiar problem to Hill Country ranchers. An informer told FWS Field Supervisor Robert M. Short, who wrote to Mrs. Rodgers in December 1990, that her property “supports prime habitat for the federally-listed endangered golden-cheeked warbler,” and threatened her with criminal and civil penalties for cutting the 6-foot high junipers (hardly “prime habitat”): “Section 11(b)(1) provides for a fine of not more than $50,000 or imprisonment up to one year, or both.”

Mrs. Rodgers immediately warned fellow ranchers of Short’s threat and something odd: The Nature Conservancy had already bought out adjoining parcels of the ranch owned by relatives, and she had just refused a lowball offer from the Conservancy to buy her land. Nobody believed that the timing of the Nature Conservancy’s offer and Field Supervisor Short’s letter were coincidence.

Brian Seasholes, director of Reason Foundation’s Endangered Species Project and part of the effort to save the golden-cheeked warbler from its fearsome status, has new, thorough, and accurate data that indicates the warbler’s habitat and population are much greater than the FWS believed in 1990.

Seaholes wrote in the Daily Caller that “a number of peer-reviewed studies published in the early 2010s, primarily by researchers at Texas A & M University, document that compared to 1990 the warbler’s population is nineteen times larger, breeding habitat is five times larger and much more widely distributed, and the warbler can breed in a much wider range of habitat types.”

He believes that “all of this scientific research is a slam dunk because there is no basis for keeping the warbler listed under the Endangered Species Act.”

But bureaucrats don’t willingly surrender their power, and Seasholes sees “strong indications” that the Fish and Wildlife Service will “try to fight reality in order to keep the warbler listed,” and, of course, to keep their bullying authority intact.

The Washington, D.C.-based Marzulla Law Firm, arguably the premiere property rights law firm in the nation, was the clear and obvious choice to put together the petition to delist the golden cheeked warbler.

Robert Henneke, director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation says, “we consider state and local conservation efforts as being of greater benefit to the warbler and that continued ESA regulation can impede voluntary and local conservation efforts.”

One of the petitioners, Susan Combs, is a fourth generation Texan with astonishing experience, having served as a state representative, agriculture commissioner, and most recently, as state comptroller for public accounts. Combs has devoted her career to Endangered Species Act issues, heading the state task force on endangered species.

This is a formidable coalition backed with formidable scientific and legal talent, all up against a formidable bureaucracy more interested in its own power than the welfare of the nature it is charged to protect.

Categories: On the Blog

Democrats Want Big Government Crony Socialism – Why Are Some Republicans Giving It to Them?

July 10, 2015, 4:21 PM

Look, we get why Democrats want to use the giant-ness of the federal government to punish their enemies and reward their friends. Crony Socialism is in their ideological DNA. And they grow government as huge as possible – to then have the largest possible weapon to wield.

But why would Republicans help them with any of this? They are (allegedly) the Less Government Party. The side representing the Little Guys against the Bigs – Big Government and Big Cronyism. As the late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan observed:

You can’t be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.

But more and more Republicans look less and less like what they pledge to be.

The examples are now, sadly, myriad. To cite but one huge one: There are 93+ million Little Guys out of the U.S. workforce. Unable to find a gig – or out so long and so discouraged that they have given up even looking.

Why then are so many Republicans joining with Big Government Democrats in calling for amnesty for 11-20 million (or more) illegal aliens – here taking jobs and driving down wages? Because Republican-dictating Big Cronies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce want it.

Big Government means Big Cronies trump the Little Guys.

And so it is yet again – with Republicans bizarrely leading the charge.

Judiciary Committee Approves Goodlatte Patent Bill by Overwhelming, Bipartisan Vote

House Judiciary Committee Chairman and chief sponsor of the Innovation Act Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) praised today’s Committee vote.  

With this, Republicans are helping perhaps the biggest Big Crony of them all. A Crony that has almost always sided – with Democrats. It’s mega-company Google – and they are licking their chops.

Google Public Policy Blog: Patent Reform Needed More Than Ever

Posted by Michelle Lee, Head of Patents and Patent Strategy.

Michelle Lee – that name sounds familiar….

Former Google Exec Michelle Lee To Head Up U.S. Patent Office

Of course. Why did President Barack Obama have Lee and Google so exquisitely positioned at the forefront of his mind?

Google Makes Most of Close Ties to White House

Search giant averages a White House meeting a week during Obama administration.

Of course. All of which certainly helps explain this:

Obama Urges Patent Reform

Google Leverages Patent Reform for Crony Ends 

Patent Reform Bill Is The Law According To Google

Google has been of massive assistance – to President Obama.

Google ‘Second Biggest Donor’ to Obama, Has Too Much Power

Barack Obama and Google – Crony Socialism on Steroids

Currently in Power – The Google Administration

Google is Very Tight with the Obama Administration

Google’s Incestuous Ties with the Obama Administration

Obama & Google (A Love Story)

Google has been of massive assistance – to Democrats.

Google Now an Arm of the Democratic Party?

Google: The Democrats’ Private Intelligence Agency

Google and Democrats Deny That Google Is Helping Democrats

Google’s Washington Influence Is Spreading, Some Say Too Much

So why on Earth are Congressional Republicans leading the charge to help Democrat Big Crony Google?

Google Learns Its Democratic Political Ties Have Bounds

Google Has Gone Republican

Google’s Political Action Committee (PAC) donated 55% of its money to Republican candidates between July and October (2010), The Hill reports. (Democrats got the rest.)

This is a big change: In the previous filing on Google’s donations, Democrats got 58% of the money.

Google has upped their Republican donations – all they way to Democrat parity. And presto – we now miraculously have this bipartisan, terribly bad, Big Government patent “reform” bill. That Big Crony Google loves.

Who doesn’t love it? The Little Guys.

Small Inventors Raise Patent Reform Concerns

‘Patent Reform’ Will Keep Small Business Inventions From Being Commercialized

Small-Time Inventors Cry Foul On Patent Changes

Patent reform will give too much power to big companies….

I think Google qualifies as a “big company.” Don’t you?

Google Market Cap As of May 2015 – $367.6 Billion

So on whose side will Republicans be?

The biggest Big Government Big Cronies of them all? Or the Little Guys?

Categories: On the Blog

Comparisons: Commuting in London and New York

July 10, 2015, 3:27 PM

The world’s two leading Global Cities, London and New York are, according to most indicators, remarkably similar in their patterns of regional commuting. This is the conclusion from our recent review of commuting in London and commuting in New York. This analysis contrasts the results between the London Area (Greater London Authority, East and Southeast regions) and the New York combined statistical area, which stretches from New York state, to New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. (A unique animated graphic illustrates the London commuting pattern, at “undertheraeder.com.” The map is here and illustrates the size of the greenbelt in the London area).

Population and Area

The London and New York areas had almost identical populations in 2014. New York had 23.663 million residents and London had 23.431 million residents, just one percent less. London, however, is growing more rapidly, adding 1.1 percent per year since the 2011 census, while New York’s increase has been 0.8 percent annually since the 2010 census (Figure 1).

The land areas are also similar (Figure 2). The London commute shed covers 15,400 square miles (39,800 square kilometers). The New York area is about 10 percent smaller, covering 13,900 square miles (36,000 square kilometers).

Broadly, the two cities can be divided into similar sectors. Both have among the largest central business districts (downtowns or CBDs) in the world. The two central municipalities, the Greater London Authority and the city of New York both have somewhat over 8 million population. There is a first ring of counties located outside the Greater London Authority and the city of New York. Finally there are outer counties in both areas. The geographic areas are described in the “Geographical Note” below.

Distribution of Employment

In the distribution of employment between the two cities is remarkably similar (Figure 3). In each case, the suburban counties account for 60% of employment. In both London and New York, the outer counties have slightly more employment than the inner counties, though in both cases the inner counties and outer counties have approximately 30% of employment.

This leaves approximately 40% of the employment for the central cities. In New York, 22% of the employment is in Manhattan, which contains the central business district. In London, a somewhat smaller 16% of the employment is in the five local authority areas that include the central business district (Camden, Lambeth, city of London, Southwark and the city of Westminster). The balance of the city of New York — the outer boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, has just 18% of the area’s employment, while the balance of the Greater London Authority — outer London and the balance of inner London — has 25% of the area’s employment.

Where People Live and Work

The distribution of the jobs are relative to resident workers is also similar between London and New York. In both cities, the inner counties and the outer counties have nearly the same number of jobs as resident workers. In the case of London, there are 99 jobs per 100 resident workers in the inner counties and a somewhat smaller 92 in the outer counties. In New York, there are 97 jobs per resident worker in the inner counties and 87 in the outer counties. The largest imbalances in both areas occur in the core municipalities. There are approximately 330 jobs per 100 resident workers in the local authority areas containing London’s central business district. Manhattan, with New York’s central business district has a somewhat smaller 280 jobs per 100 resident workers. Indicating the draw of the central business district for workers living in the balance of both core municipalities, there are only 83 jobs for each 100 workers in the balance of the Greater London Authority and 68 in the balance of the city of New York (Figure 4).

In the two cities, most resident workers are employed in their home sector, 68% in New York and 67% in London. This is also the case in each of the sectors of the two cities. In New York, the largest percentage of resident workers (85%) is employed in Manhattan, with the central business district. The number is considerably smaller (64%) in the jurisdictions containing London’s central business district. In London, the largest share of resident workers employed in their own sector is 88% in the outer counties. In both cities, the inner counties also have a relatively strong balance of local residents, with 71% working in their home sector in New York and 75% in London. In both cities, the smallest number of resident workers employed in their home sectors are in the balance of the core municipality, 62% in London and 55% in New York (Figure 5).

Commuting to the Central Business Districts

The data indicates a surprisingly limited draw for the two central business districts. Often media articles and even academics presume that cities are monocentric — that most employees work in the central business district. This isn’t even close to being the case. In fact, the analysis of commuting in the New York and London areas shows that only in the sectors containing the central business districts does the central business district attract most of the resident workers. Even in the relatively jobs-poor balance of the two core municipalities, only 36% in New York and 30% in London work in the jurisdictions containing the CBDs. In the inner counties, the numbers are much smaller. Only 14% of New York inner county resident workers have employment in Manhattan, with an even smaller number, 8% of London’s inner county resident workers commuting to CBD jurisdictions. The numbers are even smaller in the outer counties, where only 4.6% of New Yorkers commute to Manhattan and 2.4% of Londoners commute to the CBD jurisdictions (Figure 6).

In both cases, approximately 75% of CBD employees are drawn from the core municipality. In New York, approximately 30% of the central business district employees are from Manhattan, while 43% are from the outer boroughs. In London, 19% of the central business district employees are from the five CBD jurisdictions and 57% are from the balance of the Greater London Authority.

Manhattan is a somewhat stronger draw to the suburban counties, with 18% of employees from the inner counties and 8% from the outer counties. The London CBD draws 17% of its workers from the inner counties and 5% from the outer counties. Despite the comprehensive suburban rail system in New York and both suburban and national rail system in London, comparatively few workers commute from beyond the outer counties — 2.6% in London in 1.5% and New York (Figure 7).

How Commuters Travel

There are also similarities between the commuting methods in the London and New York areas. In both cases, cars, vans and other light vehicles carry the majority of commuters, 53% in London and 62% in New York (Figure 8). Mass transit carries virtually the same share of commuters in both cities, at 26%. Many more Londoners walk to work the New Yorkers, at 10%, compared to less than 6%. Approximately 5.8% of London workers report working at home, somewhat more than New York’s 4.1% (Since the two nations use different census survey instruments, the data may not be completely comparable).

Widely Dispersed Global Cities

Ultimately the key finding is that the world’s two greatest Global Cities are widely dispersed. Despite the strength of their cores, the overwhelming majority of employment is in the suburbs. Only a small percentage of resident employees in the suburban areas work in the central business districts. A majority of resident workers is attracted to the CBDs only from the jurisdictions containing the CBDs themselves.

—–

Geographical Note: The geographical sectors are as follows:

London (Greater London Authority, Southeast England and East England): The central business district is situated in a wide corridor on both sides of the Thames River. It is contained in local authority areas, including the city of London, the city of Westminster and the boroughs of Camden, Southwark and Lambeth. The inner counties border on the metropolitan greenbelt, which surrounds the Greater London Authority. They are Berkshire Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey. The outer counties are Cambridgeshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and West Sussex.

New York (New York Combined Statistical Area): The area includes 35 counties, in eight metropolitan areas, including New York (NY-NJ-PA), Allentown-Bethlehem (PA-NJ),  Bridgeport-Stamford (CT), East Stroudsburg (PA), Kingston (NY), New Haven (CT), Torrington (CT) and Trenton (NJ).

—–

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

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

Photograph: Traffic in Bergen County, New Jersey (a  New York inner suburban county), by author.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Roundup of Education News

July 10, 2015, 10:43 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Research Fellow Heather Kays appears on the “Freedom Works Show” on Tantalk1340 in Florida with host Paul Molloy. Kays was on to talk about the latest news in America’s education system.

Kays and Molloy discuss school districts doling out punishments when students opt out of Common Core tests, education savings accounts in Florida expanding and Indiana students sneaking in and selling salt, pepper and sugar to make school lunches taste better.

Kays and Molloy also talk about former CNN reporter Campbell Brown’s upcoming project, an education news website called “The Seventy Four” she says will not shy away from advocacy.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Gaia Hypothesis Is Either Trivial And Useless Or False And Ridiculous

July 10, 2015, 8:55 AM

Hans Schellnhuber is an adviser to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In the peer-reviewed Nature paper “Climbing the co-evolution ladder” (431, 913 (21 October 2004)) he and two co-authors wrote:

Stanislav Lem’s science-fiction masterpiece, Solaris, tells the gripping — and scary — story of a super-intelligent super-organism that has transmuted into a vast ocean covering most of the surface of a distant planet. Thus information-processing (that is, active) life and force-driven (that is, passive) environment have finally merged into a single entity.

Earth, these authors tell us, has not “yet” reached this “this vanishing point of evolutionary history. But modern civilization already perturbs — if not dominates — various large-scale processes and components of the planet.”Dominates. They speak of a global “metabolism” of carbon and other elements, and of a global “anatomy” that is “largely a product of relentless socio-economic action.” Largely.

The remainder of the brief article sketches steps in the evolutionary history of organisms, with open hints that man tends toward or actually is an aberration. The authors point out the trivial truth that all animals evolve inside a system in which other animals live and which is geologically arranged in particular ways.

They end with these words, “Pursing this concept of entwined evolution may reveal where we are ultimately heading — towards Solaris, or something even scarier.”

It is clear from the context, and from this plain statement, that the authors believe the earth—or rather, Earth—may become, or perhaps already is, a self-aware, rational creature. Solaris, incidentally, is summarized on Wikipedia:

Solaris chronicles the ultimate futility of attempted communications with the extraterrestrial life on a far-distant planet. Solaris is almost completely covered with an ocean that is revealed to be a single, planet-encompassing organism, with whom Terran scientists are attempting communication. What appear to be waves on its surface are later revealed to be the equivalents of muscle contractions…

The ocean’s intelligence expresses physical phenomena in ways difficult for the protagonists to explain using conventional scientific method, deeply upsetting the scientists. The alien mind of Solaris is so greatly different from the human mind of (objective) consciousness that attempts at inter-species communications are a dismal failure.

In a separate peer-reviewed paper, also in Nature, “‘Earth system’ analysis and the second Copernican revolution“, Schellnhuber opens what turns out to be a paean to computer simulation with the statement “we see much that is relevant to unravelling the mysteries of the Earth’s physique, or ‘Gaia’s body’”.

He writes later on that

Ecosphere science is therefore coming of age, lending respectability to its romantic companion, Gaia theory, as pioneered by Lovelock and Margulis. This hotly debated ‘geophysiological’ approach to Earth-system analysis argues that the biosphere contributes in an almost cognizant way to self-regulating feedback mechanisms that have kept the Earth’s surface environment stable and habitable for life.

Taken to an extreme, the Gaia approach may even include the influence of biospheric activities on the Earth’s plate-tectonic processes — through modulation of thermal and viscous gradient fields across the upper geological layers…

Schellnhuber asks, “But is it really Gaia who commands the engine room of the Earth system?” He answers there is no “clear answer”. A clear answer would be, for instance, “No: don’t be absurd.” The answer which he prefers might be found in this revealing paragraph:

Although effects such as the glaciations may still be interpreted as over-reactions to small disturbances — a kind of cathartic geophysiological fever — the main events, resulting in accelerated maturation by shock treatment, indicate that Gaia faces a powerful antagonist. Rampino has proposed personifying this opposition as Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

Interesting how glaciations are a “a kind of cathartic geophysiological fever” and not a chill. Be sure you caught the right word. It is geophysiological, not geological.

He continues:

About four billion years into Earth’s history, a third planetary might emerged, a challenger to these two intransigent forces [Gaia and Shiva, the external shocks such as asteroids]: human civilization. Let us stay with mythological imagery and call this power Prometheus.

Enter his simulations, i.e. models, the second Copernican revolution. “These models seek to integrate the main processes and forces — Gaia, Shiva and Prometheus — through effective quantitative equations.” Curiously, about the use of these models he says “insights acquired during the present climate crisis may enable humanity to suppress future glaciation events by judicious injection of ‘designer greenhouse gases’ into the atmosphere.” Global warming can be a good thing.

Now to Gaia herself, or rather to the idea or hypothesis. Lovelock, one of the originators of the idea, in a peer-reviewed Nature paper “Gaia: The living Earth” (426, 769-770 (18 December 2003); a paper in which he approvingly cites Schellnhuber) said it was his “hypothesis that living organisms regulate the atmosphere in their own interest.” He also said “the concept of a live Earth is ancient”, which is very true. Pantheists, for instance, believed it long ago. His summary of the theory:

Briefly, it states that organisms and their material environment evolve as a single coupled system, from which emerges the sustained self-regulation of climate and chemistry at a habitable state for whatever is the current biota.

Like life, Gaia is an emergent phenomenon, comprehensible intuitively, but difficult or impossible to analyse by reduction — not surprisingly it is often misunderstood…

Gaia theory does not contradict darwinism, rather it extends it to include evolutionary biology and evolutionary geology as a single science. In Gaia theory, organisms change their material environment as well as adapt to it.

It should be plain that the Gaia hypothesis is, in one sense, trivially true and doubted by no one. Obviously, all life is part of one big whole, everything influences everything else to varying degree, and man is one animal among many. If a habitat cannot sustain an organism, that organism moves on or dies. And every organism, including man, influences his environment; indeed, must. Evolution does not happen in a bottle; organisms are adapted to the environment in which they live. There are no penguins in the Sahara.

Since this is true, and trivial, it is silly to put a mythical name to it, particularly one which evokes the idea of sentience or rationality, or worse. Taking Gaia in its purely metaphorical sense adds nothing to our understanding, but it can and does detract.

But there is another sense where Gaia is just plain false. “The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human components.” Self-regulating is not true.

Now a body, your body, is self-regulating. It maintains homeostasis: your internal temperature is somewhat constant, as is your salt content, and so forth. You ingest and excrete. Further, you are not aware, for the most part, of these regulations. Your body just carries out its business. But you are aware. And your body—its parts, that is—acts for an end, which is the good of you. Your parts are not independent of you, either. You don’t seen colons walking (slithering?) down the road.

And this is so of other organisms: their bodies act for their ends, which are the good of those organisms. Their parts are also their parts and not independent of them.

The earth, or rather its parts, which includes us and carrots and plastic, is not acting towards the end of the good of the earth. Earth is not an “emergent” system. It is a collection of individual lifeforms and plain stuff, like rocks, lakes, and oceans. And an atmosphere which extends into space, and becomes part of space.

The earth does not note that it is heating up and in response “self-regulate” in some fashion, say, by launching another glaciation. Its “parts” don’t act in unity toward the goal of the good of the Earth-as-life-form. Each species and each thing reacts, as it must, to its ever-changing environment, but the result is only seen as stable by happenstance. Or by—and who will admit this?—divine design.

“Self-regulating” is either wishful thinking or a clear instance of false pattern recognition. For instance, Gaia sure hates most of the plants and animals that she bore. She’s killed off most of them, and ruthlessly. None of us will be having a trilobite salad for dinner tonight. Nor will any of us become a late night snack for a saber-toothed tiger. There are no glaciers perched over Detroit today, though there will be in the future, most likely, nor is there greenery near the north pole, though there used to be.

Gaia is a useless concept. The people who employ it cannot resist the allure of stretching the metaphor past the snapping point. I’ve yet to see where the sympathetic writer doesn’t imply, perhaps indirectly, that he knows what, for instance, the ideal climate is, or the ideal ecosystem. If he thinks he does, let him say so and be done with the mumbo-jumbo. No teasing hints!

Instead, all we get are plaintive whiny warnings that Gaia is angry and will, if we continue to anger her, cause the sky to fall. We also hear absurd statements that while Gaia may be self-regulating, mankind is somehow able to separate himself from his Mother Earth and un-regulate the Earthly self. Nobody ever explains how. If we are part of nature, which we are, then we are part of it, inseparable from it. Just like radishes, aardvarks, and boulders.

Everything, as I said above, effects everything else, and this includes us. As should be obvious to any scientist or philosopher, there is no way to “minimize” man’s effect on nature. Even if we all went the way of the Dutch tomorrow, our corpses and artifacts will forever shape the future.

Now it is a whole other discussion about what our purpose is; that is, what end we are acting toward. But it cannot be that this end is Mother Gaia Earth. Also, if you think about it, this whole other discussion is the only one worth having.

[Originally published at William M Briggs]

Categories: On the Blog

Latest Liberal Lament: Obamacare Does Not Provide Health Insurance for All Illegal Aliens

July 10, 2015, 7:44 AM

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) yesterday published an online opinion piece by three liberal lawyers who fret that Obamacare does not provide comprehensive health insurance for illegal aliens.

In a July 9 online viewpoint piece entitled, King v. Burwell: Subsidizing U.S. Health Insurance for Low-and-Middle-Income Individuals, the authors note the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “leaves behind approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants. Not only are they excluded from premium tax credits and Medicaid — with narrow exceptions — they cannot even purchase health insurance on ACA exchanges at full price.”

Illegal aliens, or as authors Lawrence O. Gostin, JD; Mary C. DeBartolo, JD, MPH; Daniel A. Hougendobler, JD, MPH, LLM call them, “undocumented immigrants,” are “very likely to be uninsured.”

Between 1999 and 2007, more than half of illegal aliens in America were believed to have gone without insurance, according to JAMA.

“Uninsured and undocumented immigrants, however, are still able to access limited care through emergency services—a highly cost-inefficient method,” the authors opine.

The authors continue, “Not only is this a moral and fiscal failure, it endangers the public’s health by impeding access to prevention and treatment, particularly for infectious, sexually transmitted, and vaccine-preventable diseases, e.g., human immunodeficiency virus/AIDS, tuberculosis, and measles. Instead of distributing costs evenly as health insurance would do, the financial burden falls primarily on safety-net hospitals, which will sustain funding cuts under the ACA.“

The authors note that since there is no “humane federal policy,” local government can make a difference here.

“In California, for example, 47 of the state’s 58 counties provide some low-cost health care to undocumented immigrants. However, national action is needed to guarantee universal health coverage,” the authors assert.

The authors warn that if illegal aliens do not receive subsidized health insurance, the whole concept of affordable health care in the U.S. may “unravel.”

Obamacare does not insure most “undocumented” immigrants, JAMA reports.

Categories: On the Blog

Gov. ‘Moonbeam’ To Meet With Pope Francis on Climate Change

July 09, 2015, 5:59 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.), a tireless – and some might say tiresome –activist for international progressive causes, is planning a trip to the Vatican later this month to hold a conclave with Pope Francis on climate change.

Once nicknamed Gov. “Moonbeam” decades ago by the media for his often eccentric views, Brown, a former Roman Catholic seminarian, who left the study for the priesthood for the secular glory of politics, will attend a conference with His Holiness on July 21 and July 22 at the Vatican.

The agenda of the conference held by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – the “inter-related topics of climate change and sex slavery,” according to a spokesman for the Pope.

“In the spirit of the pope’s encyclical, this unprecedented gathering of global leaders is a wake-up call to face up to the common threats of climate change and human exploitation,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “This is about the future of humanity and how we as human beings live and treat one another and the natural world around us.”

Though high-profile celebrities keep the topic of climate change in the news, the radical left is not completely united on the issue, as the deadline for the COP 21 Paris global warming talks approach this fall.

Radical activist groups, like Platforma Boliviana, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth International and Greenpeace, and the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, last week issued a news release announcing their opposition to carbon trading, a key goal of the U.N. climate change treaty talks.

The radicals also called for “environmental reparations” from industrialized countries to poorer counties.

From the tone of his released statement, and his past actions, one wonders whether Gov. Moonbeam will go along with the eco-radicals, or the liberal political establishment, on climate change policy issues.

Gov. Jerry Brown, pop star Linda Rondstat, and members of the Eagles country rock group, back during his Governor “Moonbeam” days.

Categories: On the Blog

City Club of Chicago Panel Addresses Chiraq Film Controversy

July 09, 2015, 4:28 PM

On July 9, the City Club of Chicago hosted an event on Chiraq, a controversial Spike Lee film on Chicago violence that will be

The panelists prepare for a question on Chicago gun violence.

released in 2016. The panelists were Dr. Carl Bell, staff psychiatrist at Jackson Park Hospital’s Outpatient Family Practice Clinic and Inpatient Consultation Liaison Service; Will Burns, Alderman of Chicago’s 4th Ward; John Fountain, a journalism professor at Roosevelt University and Chicago Sun-Times reporter; and Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. They made prepared statements before answering audience questions.

“Chiraq” is a portmanteau of the words “Chicago” and “Iraq” and is used by some to suggest Chicago violence has reached third-world levels or suggest Chicago has become a tale of two cities, with its affluent and bustling downtown and suburbs juxtaposed with the violent and dilapidated South and West sides. The words may have been first used in these high-crime neighborhoods.

Since the start of 2015, 1171 people have been shot and 205 of those individuals have been killed, Pfleger said in his statement before arguing some politicians seemed more worried about how Chiraq would harm the city’s reputation than the murders and deteriorating communities themselves.

Pfleger praised Lee for addressing the taboo subject of black-on-black crime that forms a high percentage of Chicago crimes before issuing a final blistering criticism.

“CPS [Chicago Public Schools] is under a federal investigation and the state is in a shutdown, so what are we doing worrying about a movie title?” Pfleger demanded to loud applause.

Burns represented the other side of the coin, condemning Chiraq for seeking to exploit Chicago violence and tarnishing the efforts of South and West Side leaders attempting to better their neighborhoods. He suggested establishing a living wage and improving housing and education prospects in underserved areas to reduce their homicide rate.

Fountain disagreed, saying Chicagoans shouldn’t shy away from admitting the truth and working toward a solution.

“It [Chiraq] is a named birthed in cold hard facts,” Fountain said before alluding to the trend of Chicago becoming two cities so unequal that children’s zip codes have a large bearing on whether they will live to be 18.

While Burns pointed to the economic resurgence of some South Side communities and the hope existing in those areas, Pfleger maintains fundamental change is yet to come, saying the French Tourist Bureau tells tourists to avoid Chicago’s South and West Side.

Bell highlighted the popular misconception Chicago violence is gang-related and pointed out most violent crimes are committed by people knowing their victims. He argued Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often mitigated even in children by strong support and system and views the disappearing social fabric of Chicago neighborhoods, absence of fathers, high rates of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and large number of liquor stores as causes of conflict.

Since fear permeates many of these areas and many households have only one parent, there are fewer ways of supporting and monitoring young people.

“Teenagers are like automobiles. All gas, no brakes or steering wheels,” Bell said, arguing adults function as their guides and prevent them from crashing.

A number of solutions to gun violence are brought up. Burns believes in the power of supervouchers and increased economic mobility. Bell says choline, an over-the-counter nutrient, can minimize brain damage from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in utero and after birth. Pfleger thinks targeting illegal gun producers and having each gun identified under the original buyer’s name can reduce violent crimes. For Fountain, addressing the root causes of black-on-black crime is crucial.

For Pfleger, saved lives have a visible impact.

“We’ve got to change communities where teddy bears and balloons

are becoming national symbols,” Pfleger concluded.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jeff Stier: FDA’s New Food Labeling Law

July 09, 2015, 3:54 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Kenneth Artz, managing editor of Health Care News speaks with Jeff Stier. Stier s a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington D.C. where he heads its Risk Analysis Division. Stier joins Artz to discuss the FDA’s new food labeling law, a law which will require most food establishments in the United States to list calorie counts for their food items.

Stier says he believes in the objective of the law, to help people reduce their calorie intake and to become healthier, but the bigger question is whether or not the government can effectively help. The costs and unintended consequences of this new law will likely far exceed the benefits. Listen in as Stier breaks down the FDA’s regulation, the likely obstacles and  its origins.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Organic Relationships, Niche Marketing Key for Social Media Outreach

July 09, 2015, 2:58 PM

Panelist Patrick Cuttica answers a question about organic engagement on social media.

On July 8, I represented The Heartland Institute at The Publicity Club of Chicago’s (PCC) luncheon on Strategies for Creating Engaging Social Content. PCC is the United States’ largest independent public relations membership organization and consists of Chicago-area professionals. I met people working at the communications departments at the University of Chicago and Depaul University and Market Day.

We were first treated to a scrumptious Maggiano’s lunch served Italian family style. As we ate, the speakers introduced themselves. Katy Lynch, CEO of Techweek and cofounder of SocialKaty, Inc, moderated the event by asking panelists questions before fielding audience queries. The panelists were Jason Miller, vice president of FleishmanHillard Chicago; Katie Eng, director of planning at PACO Communications; Brad Boron, digital director at The Chicago White Sox; and Patrick Cuttica, product marketing manager at Sprout Social, Inc.

The panelists first addressed how to generate high amounts of social activity. Miller stressed the importance of understanding the audience and constantly changing nature of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. Cuttica underscored the need for companies to highlight the cultural relevance of their brands to different demographic groups. He added that it is crucial for them to understand and capitalize on their consumers’ relationship with their brands.

For Cuttica, genuine interaction with consumers is king.

“Organic engagement will always win,” he said.

That extends to social media crisis management. Responding too quickly or harshly to a problem can make it balloon on forums like Reddit and cause unnecessary harm.

“Responding immediately is often seen as inauthentic,” said Eng, adding companies should grow thick skin and not make a habit out of moderating negative comments.

Boron, who previously worked with the Chicago Blackhawks, helped the team be the first in the National Hockey League to have a Twitter account and recorded interactions between its players on team buses. Later, he helped record a 105 year-old White Sox fan first time on the pitch. Boron’s teams combined visual and verbal graphics to show their players’ human side and expand their social media outreach.

Humans process visual information up to 60,000 faster than words. When the panelists were asked about the value of video, photos, and infographics in their work, they said visual media is an entry point for viewers and should complement written content.

When asked about using analytics to measure return on investment (ROI), Boron stressed that return on relationship (ROR) is a better metric for quantifying social media success. ROI is measured in likes, comments, and shares, but ROR is measured by loyalty, conversations, and response rates. Different sets of metrics should be used for analyzing broadcasting and recruiting campaigns, Miller added.

Other topics addressed included how to use celebrities to promote company brands, the emergence of the cell phone, and how to tailor material to different generations.

Boron concluded social media is a vital part of every business and is here to stay.

“Social media now has a seat at the table,” he said.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review of The Neglected Sun: ‘Buy This Book, Our Future May Depend On It’

July 09, 2015, 12:08 PM

The following review was posted this week at the Amazon.com page for The Neglected Sun by Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Luning, which The Heartland Institute re-published in English to keep it in current and in print.

In the words of George Devries Klein:

In both my opinion and experience, this book is by far the best book I have encountered and read on the issue of climate change and anthropogenic global warming. Anyone interested in this topic should read a copy. It’s that definitive.

The book is a translation of the German version, Der Kalte Sonne, published in 2012. Thus, some of the policy discussions are set in a German context. They do provide a glimpse of what could happen if similar policies are adopted elsewhere as one sees today in the UK.

Here are some critical things I learned from the book (this is an incomplete list):

  • The sun, including its magnetic cycles, and inner dynamics, exerts the major control on climate variability and climate change.
  • Six different cycles of solar activity are documented. The climate history of the earth, including the last 150 years, correlate closely with these cycles which range from 11 to 2300 years. Moreover, some are amplified long term by Milankovich orbital parameters.
  • The sun’s quantitative influence on climate change exceeds the influence of anthropogenic CO2, although the authors acknowledge that anthropogenic CO2 has a minor role to play in raising global temperatures (I concur with this interpretation). The supporting arguments are well-buttressed and convincing
  • The current temperature “Pause” is explained in terms of solar cycles and decreasing solar radiation. Likely, a period of cooling is ahead as solar radiation entering a diminished phase.
  • Chapters 5 (Has the IPCC really done its homework?), 6 (The misunderstood climate amplifiers), and 7 (A look into the future) provide the most detailed and accurate critique of the UN-IPCC’s reports I have read (I call it a withering dissection). Thus, projected future temperature increases are expected to be much less than the UN-IPCC infers and the climate ‘crisis’ is overblown far too much. These chapters are incisive.
  • The last two chapters deal with German climate and energy policy. They are instructive because the policies are failing, particularly as electricity costs have skyrocketed since implementation. This is becoming a universal problem.
  • A trivial (or perhaps not) fact I did not know. Before Angela Merkel became Chancellor of Germany, she was the minister of the environment. It appears she was co-opted by the green movement well before her rise to global prominence.

Summary recommendation: Buy this book. Our future may depend on it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: George Devries Klein is a geologist who earned his MA from the University of Kansas and his PhD from Yale University in that field. He worked for Sinclair Research, Inc., and taught at the Universities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Illinois @ Urbana Champaign. He is now Professor Emeritus, Geology, University of Illinois @ Urbana Champaign.

Between 1996 and 2014, he was president of SD-STRAT Geoscience Consultants, Inc, a geological consulting firm in the petroleum field. He is now retired in Guam.

Categories: On the Blog

White House Conference on Aging: Will Elder Justice be Addressed Sufficiently?

July 09, 2015, 9:27 AM

As noted in Part 1, Tom Fields of Mentor, Ohio, as a 25-year advocate for legal reforms to fix the broken elder care system, provided links and documents for me to focus attention on the issue of Elder Justice.  At the same time, Mr. Fields alerted me to the upcoming White House Conference on Aging which should serve as a venue to discuss Elder Care Justice and the remedies and reforms so urgently needed to fix a failing system.

Next Monday, July 13, the White will host its 5th Conference on Aging, as it has once every decade since 1961, to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans. As 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security, the 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs as well as to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.

Organizers of the July 13th conference have singled out the following four themes for consideration.

1)     Retirement Security

2)     Healthy Aging

3)     Long-Term Services and Supports

4)     Elder Justice

Each of the four themes have been addressed by the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) in a series of policy briefs made available on-line.  The WHCOA has also invited public comment and published them on-line along with its briefs.  This comment contributed by Tom Fields on the subject of Elder Justice can be found at 6/10/2015 3:01:04 PM.  In the past the conference processes were determined by statute with the form and structure directed by Congress through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act.  Of concern is that to date Congress has not reauthorized the Older Americans Act, and the pending bill does not include a statutory requirement or framework for the 2015 conference.

In an effort to engage with older Americans, their families, caregivers, leaders in the aging field and others on the key issues affecting older Americans, the White House Conference on Aging did launch a series of five regional forums to help provide input and ideas for its July Conference, co-sponsored with AARP and co-planned with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (a coalition of more than 70 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older Americans).

Tom Fields, as an attendee at the Cleveland regional forum, encouraged WHCOA organizers to address a checklist of the kind that he has proposed for use in clinical and other settings at his website . Fields further requested at the Cleveland regional forum that his 3-minute video be presented and discussed, which  ABC News presents online at this site and reports on here.

Why the need to address a checklist at WHCOS?

The American Medical Association in the past has recognized the need for a checklist in clinical settings.  More specifically, the AMA reported the following:

“Every clinical setting should have a protocol for the detection and assessment of elder mistreatment. This may be a narrative, a checklist, or some other type of standardized form that enables all providers in that practice setting to rapidly assess for elder mistreatment and document it in a way that allows physicians to look at patterns over time.” (Source: Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Elder Abuse and Neglect, American Medical Association, 1992, pages 7-12)

The AMA in the same report offered the following advice:

“Clinicians do not have to prove that elder mistreatment has occurred; they need only document a reasonable cause to suspect that it has. “Reasonable cause” reporting can be as simple as stating that the patient seems to have health or personal problems and needs assistance, especially if the clinician suspects forms of abuse or neglect that are difficult to quantify.”

The AMA even had thoughts on how the interview should be conducted:

“The interview and examination of an elderly patient should always be conducted first, away from the caregiver or suspected abuser.”

As suggested by Tom Fields, a well written checklist would identify specific signs of severe cognitive impairment, any one of which should provide a mandatory reporter of abuse to suspect and then report an abusive situation.

The checklist’s criteria could be determined by victims as well as experienced professionals in the fields of medicine and law; nevertheless, it is victims and experienced medical professionals who can best identify conditions which suggest severe cognitive impairment to competent medical authority.

As to the objectives of the checklist, it would be to assist in identifying those conditions which should provide competent medical or legal authority — not necessarily both — a reason to suspect that the subject is suffering severe cognitive impairment, where severe cognitive impairment is the condition, which, either alone or in conjunction with physical impairment, prevents a subject from performing everyday activities without assistance.

Value of playing and discussing  3-minute video at WHCOA

As Elder Justice is one of the four themes selected for consideration by the conference, it is urgent that a positive response be directed toward elder abuse, which often involves the exploitation of an elder’s cognitive impairment.

Accordingly, the message sent by the 3-minute video cannot be denied or overlooked: No scam should be simpler to prevent and remedy than one which takes place in the emergency room of a hospital.

The above statement of fact should prompt WHCOA members and others to ask and seek answers to questions such as:

  • What would it cost to prevent such scams?
  • What have federal and state lawmakers done to prevent such scams?
  • What has the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging done to prevent such scams?
  • What have the American Bar Association, state bar associations, and local bar associations done to prevent such scams?
  • What have the Elder Justice Act and other laws done to prevent such scams?
  • What has the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau done to prevent such scams?

Scams involving financial exploitation are rampant

The scams most authorities focus on today involve the exploitation of elders suffering a mild cognitive impairment, which has been characterized by the Investor Protection Trust and others as a condition of seniors “who can perform most daily functions, but have trouble or become confused with others, like following their medicine regimen and managing their finances”

Financial abuse of the elderly is running rampant in the country and is growing as the population ages. Yet, there are few consistent national standards for what financial advisors, who deal with the money elderly people have worked a lifetime to save, should do when they suspect abuse. Input is being sought at the site noted on fraud against the elderly.

Professionals’ judgements contribute to both the prevalence of abuse and the ability to prevent and intervene.  As suggested in this study:  “Identifying and enhancing risk thresholds in the detection of elder financial abuse: a signal detection analysis of professionals’ decision making”, it is desirable to try and bring novice professionals’ judgmental risk thresholds to the level of competent professionals as quickly and effectively as possible.

It is quite telling that the exploitation of mild cognitive impairment has not changed from what it was back in 1939 when Fred Rodell, wrote in his book, “Woe Unto You Lawyers”: “The legal trade, in short, is nothing but a high-class racket. It is a racket far more lucrative and more powerful and hence more dangerous than any of those minor and much-publicized rackets

In Conclusion

The following question should be of concern to all senior citizens.  If government and professional organizations are not going to do what is necessary in order to protect you from being scammed while your cognitive abilities are “severely” impaired, are they really going to do what is necessary to protect you from being scammed if their cognitive abilities are only “mildly” impaired or not impaired at all?

Over three years ago, in 2012, Tom Fields submitted a 16-page document in response to a request for information by the CFPB’s (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) on the financial security of older Americans.  So far the federal government has remained delinquent on the issues surrounding elder care.

With the White House Conference on Aging set for July 13, will the 5th conference accomplish anything of note to help prevent elder abuse scams?

Calls must be made to the White House and to elected legislators with a message reminding them that seniors are a powerful force in politics and society.  They deserve to be treated with dignity and should not be used as pawns by some in the legal profession as a means to enrich themselves financially from those who lack the cognitive ability to perceive what is happening, through devious means.

In Chicago and in many cities throughout the U.S., elder abuse scams happen with regularity in the Probate Courts, but justice is rarely served, as the fraud perpetrators are not apprehended.

Some supplementary reading material:

Part 1:  Thorner:  Elder Justice Act Under Obamacare Fails

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA Got Marketing Help from the Center for American Progress

July 08, 2015, 8:25 PM

The Center for American Progress, a progressive, DC-based think tank that has served as a training ground for Obama Administration officials, coordinated with the EPA to provide talking points on carbon control rules, emails show.

A series of emails, obtained by the Environment and Energy Legal Institute, demonstrate an ongoing relationship between the EPA – specifically Joseph Goffman, a senior official with the EPA’s air and radiation practice – and CAP’s then-strategy director David Weiss. The two collaborated as they tried to convince a New York Times reporter, who had discovered that the Carbon Capture and Sequestration program (the EPA’s method for assisting power plants that could not meet Clean Air Act regulations for air pollution) was much less effective than the EPA had previously noted.

According to the Free Beacon, which broke the story:

A prominent left-wing group helped formulate Environmental Protection Agency talking points designed to sell a controversial regulatory scheme to skeptical journalists, internal emails show.

The emails show Joseph Goffman, the senior counsel of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, circulating talking points from Center for American Progress climate strategy director Daniel Weiss among EPA colleagues attempting to sell the agency’s controversial power plant regulations to a New York Times reporter.

Weiss emailed Goffman in September 2013 with a series of suggestions for convincing the Times’ Matt Wald of the commercial viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, a vital component of the agency’s stringent power plant emissions regulations.

Goffmann, who you’ve met before, no doubt, in our coverage of the EPA’s carbon emissions regulations and “Clean Air Act” materials, had been charged with making a legal justification for the carbon regulations, which would have a demonstrable economic impact on the power industry. As part of that justification, the EPA tried desperately to include references to CCS technology, which they said making adapting to their air pollution standards economically feasible and technologically possible, even for existing coal-powered plants.

The problem? CCS’s reliability has always been in question, and the New York Times became aware of that, sometime in 2013. NYT reporter Matt Wald planned to go public with an “expose” of the CCS program, and Goffman wanted to either head him off or convince him of the error of his ways. Working with associates in the White House and in the EPA’s messaging department (yes, they have one), Goffman contacted Weiss and began sharing ideas. According to the emails, Weiss outlined what he called a “compelling case” that CCS was ready for prime time. Goffman then appears to have emailed Weiss’s suggestions (though copy-pasted in to his own email) to his communications colleagues.

Even though the effort was manic and the collaboration widespread, the “compelling case” for CCS does not appear to have swayed Matt Wald, who went on to write his original story about CCS – and it’s failures. Weiss, on the other hand, apparently so enamored of the CCS justification he’d emailed to Goffman, went on to co-author a Center for American Progress white paper using almost the same language.

The Center for American Progress has filled a number of key roles for the Obama Administration, from rehabbing their ex-employees for suitability on cable news television programs, to serving as a proving ground for administration employees – according to Heartland’s own research, CAP’s outlets have submitted recommendations to 32 regulatory agencies in the Obama Administration and make up 5 of 6 positions on regulatory agencies in the Administration itself. Of the approximately $40 million CAP takes in on a yearly basis from organizations like the George Soros Open Society Foundation and corporations like Wal-Mart, it spends $3.5 million on lobbying for its policies alone. This, however, is one of the first indications that it actively collaborates with the Obama Administration and its officials on marketing strategies for environmental regulations.

The EPA insists that the interactions are just fine (since, of course, no one misrepresented themselves, and no one used copyrighted material), but the emails imply a much larger, closer relationship between the Administration and CAP than was expected. It’s not a surprising relationship of course, given what we known from research on both organizations, but it is concerning – especially that the EPA, which is supposed to focus on environmental protection, is so closely affiliated with an organization tasked with pushing an environmental agenda that relies more on ideology than it does on science.

Categories: On the Blog

Magnum PI: Busted by California’s ‘Green’ Police for Allegedly Pumping Water

July 08, 2015, 8:22 PM

Actor Tom Selleck first rose to fame in the 1980s as star of the TV dreamy detective drama, Magnum PI. But he seems to have landed the wrong side of the green lawmen in California, who are about as credible, in the law enforcement hierarchy, as his fictional, Hawaiian-shirt wearing private eye.

A Southern California water district is alleging that the actor on more than 10 occasions “filled a commercial water truck from a public hydrant,” and completely ignored several “cease-and-desist” letters from the environmental police dispatched by the water bureaucrats.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a trade journal for the entertainment industry, Selleck is in “hot water” in the drought-stricken state. “Calleguas Municipal Water District filed suit against the actor and his wife, Jillie Mack, on Monday, claiming he used a public hydrant to fill a commercial water truck on 12 different occasions,” the trade journal reported.

“With the state of California suffering through a serious drought, the water district says that it saw the truck fill up from a hydrant at a Thousand Oaks construction site and then take seven trips in September and October 2013 into the Hidden Valley area that is believed to be Selleck’s residence,” the report stated. “Court documents allege that the star continued filling his tanker even after cease-and-desist notices were sent to two of his Southern California homes. The district, which serves a large portion of Ventura County, claims it paid $21,685.55 to an investigator to look into the alleged water theft. It is seeking that amount and an injunction, along with court and attorney fees.”

Selleck was not available for comment, the trade paper reported.

Governor Brown (D-Calif.) declared a drought State of Emergency in January of this year in California, even though, according to news reports, the crisis has been escalating for four years.

According to Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, the California drought is man-made, and was caused by government mismanagement and over-regulation. The state for years has operated its own “climate change” policy, and is said to have some of the most draconian environmental regulations in the U.S.

“A complex and inconsistent system of laws, court decisions, and regulations at the state and federal levels is resulting in the mismanagement of critical water resources throughout the Western United States.  The current regulatory framework that governs the movement and storage of water is based upon out-of-date science and a regulatory morass, resulting in the misallocation of precious water resources and a lack of adequate water storage,” states the committee’s web site.

 

Green police chasing TV star Tom Selleck for alleged water violations.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Solar Energy’s Stunning Growth: 99% Pays, 1% Benefits

July 08, 2015, 12:55 PM

 

If you live in the United States, vote, pay taxes, and get your electricity from a utility company, you’ve helped the solar power industry. You support the solar industry through a variety of tax and regulatory policies—voted in by politicians you elected—that favor it over other lower-cost forms of electricity generation.

When you read headlines such as CNBC’s touting “Solar power’s stunning growth,” realize that it’s thanks to you—even if you’ve never even thought of putting solar panels on your roof or live in an apartment where you couldn’t install them if you wanted to.

The CNBC story from December 2014 that claims: “U.S. generation up 100 percent this year,” acknowledges the reality of my postulation. “Four major factors have made the solar surge possible,” it states. It, then, goes on to list them:

  • The extension of the Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy;
  • State renewable portfolio standards;
  • The Obama administration’s pro-solar policies, including friendly environmental reviews, cash grants in lieu of tax credits and guaranteed loans; and
  • The steep decline in the price of PV.

With such favorable conditions, solar may seem like a fail-safe investment—which is exactly what Sunrun Inc. hopes for with its new initial public offering (IPO).

Sunrun, as Wall Street Journal summarizes, “installs solar panels on residential homes either for no upfront cost or at low cost. Sunrun owns the solar panels and receives monthly payments from homeowners for the power generated by the panels. It also receives government tax incentives to cover its costs.”

Reading through the 234 pages of fine print in Sunrun’s form S-1, filed on June 25 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it becomes clear that success comes from government policies.

Government-dependent growth is why, on page 104, under the heading, “Government Regulation,” Sunrun maintains a “policy team to focus on the key regulatory and legislative issues impacting our entire industry.” The “policy team” means lobbyists whose sole job is to insure policy favorable to its business model.

Under the heading “Policies and Incentives” the S-1, on page 89, outlines specific “federal, state, and local policies” that have “been strong factors affecting the market for distributed solar generation.”

The S-1 states: “Tax incentives have accelerated growth in U.S. solar energy system installations.” Under today’s policy, businesses and homeowners who install a solar system can receive a tax credit worth up to 30 percent of the system’s cost—though it is scheduled to drop to 10 percent on January 1, 2017. In bold print, page 18 states: “Our business currently depends on the availability of utility rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives in addition to other tax benefits. The expiration, elimination, or reduction of these rebates and incentives could adversely impact our business.” Extending the Federal Investment Tax Credit is likely a top priority of the “policy team.”

All U.S. taxpayers, then, are paying for solar’s “stunning growth.”

Net metering is essentially a “utility rebate,” that, according to page 18, provides “homeowners with a one-for-one full retail credit within a monthly billing period for electricity that the solar energy system exports to the electric grid.” Interestingly, the only states where Sunrun operates are those states that have “adopted net metering policies.” Sunrun’s S-1 acknowledges, “we rely on net metering and related policies to offer competitive pricing to homeowners” and “changes in net metering policies may significantly reduce demand for electricity from our solar service offerings.”

It is net-metering policies that have made all ratepayers shoulder the tab for solar’s “stunning growth.” As the S-1 points out, homeowners get “a one-for-one full retail credit” for the electricity the system generates. What it doesn’t make clear is that the policy requires the utility to pay the retail rate for the excess electricity generated from the homeowners solar system, whether it needs it or not, and even though it can get lower-priced electricity from existing conventional sources. As a result, the utility is wasting money and not operating efficiently as a business must to be profitable. This loss is a result of government policy, not bad management. Therefore, to stay in business the utility has to raise rates on all its customers so that the few can benefit. Page 88 points out: “Residential solar has penetrated less than 1% of the 83 million single family detached homes in the United States.”

Many states now revisit the generous net-metering policies put in place years ago when solar adoption was miniscule. For example, in Arizona, where solar penetration now ranks as the second highest in the country, homeowners who install new solar systems pay a fee for plugging into the electric grid of Arizona Public Service. Solar customers need to plug into the grid. Page 99 explains: “The home’s energy usage is provided by the solar energy system with any additional needs provided by the local utility.”

The solar industry acknowledges that “these changes could materially reduce the demand for our products and could limit the number of markets in which our products are competitive with electricity provided by the utilities.” As Sunrun states: “We focus our resources on markets with high electricity rates, favorable policy environments, and other characteristics that allow for low operational costs and favorable unit margins.”

If you are tired of your tax dollars raising your electricity costs—benefiting the 1 percent while the 99 percent pays twice—your best investment may come at the ballot box.

Categories: On the Blog

Government Crushes People – Then Writes Them Checks

July 08, 2015, 12:47 PM

A computer programming maxim is “Garbage in – garbage out.”

(C)omputers, since they operate by logical processes, will unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).

No one or nothing produces more garbage than government. And their trash has nowhere to go except all over the private sector – us.

The federal government alone spends almost $4 trillion a year – that is a LOT of garbage. Hundreds of billions of that is borrowed, which is debt and interest for which We the People are responsible – more garbage. Then there’s what they do with so much of that money – create ever more regulations. More garbage.

Every year – almost $4 trillion more spent, hundreds of billions more in borrowing and interest, and tens of thousands of pages of new regulations created. Piled on top of what they’ve already piled on top of us. To wit:

  • Combined with $3.454 trillion in federal spending, Washington’s share of the economy now reaches 31 percent.
  • Costs for Americans to comply with federal regulations reached $1.863 trillion in 2013. That is more than the GDPs of Canada or Australia.
  • This is the 21st edition of Ten Thousand Commandments. In that time, 87,282 final rules have been issued. That’s more than 3,500 per year – or about nine per day.

And as we know, the Barack Obama Administration is this dumbness – on steroids.

Choke: 1,568 New Regs, 38,000 Federal Register Pages Already This Year

This year – is only half over.

We are completely smothered – unable to breathe, let alone move. Buried under a sky-high pile of steaming, stinking government.

Then the bureaucrats look at us and say “Okay – start producing. We have the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) waiting to excruciatingly over-tax your output.”

After all that garbage in – why are we surprised when we get garbage out?

25 Horrible Statistics About The U.S. Economy That Barack Obama Does Not Want You To Know

Bizarrely, the government then – after inflicting so much damage – subsidizes many who can’t successfully emerge from their garbage dump. The utter inanity of which the late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan crystallized.

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

The George W. Bush and Obama Administrations ushered in a new, even larger Age of Bailouts.

The 2008 global economic collapse was caused just about entirely by government. Banks were forced for decades to make hundreds of thousands of home loans to people everyone knew couldn’t pay them back. The bad papers mounted and mounted – and when the market teetered ever so slightly, the Everest of government garbage avalanched down and buried the planet.

Our government’s response – was to cut checks for hundreds of billions of dollars to the institutions they forced to make the loans.

Getting mad at the banks is like shooting someone – and then getting mad at them for bleeding on you. This was entirely government’s fault.

And lest we forget – government subsidies also go to indirect victims. Government regulates the daylight out of job creators – crushing their ability to create jobs. Then writes checks – welfare, food stamps, etc. – to people who can’t find work.

Only those steadfastly ideological and impervious to facts think continuing this garbage-in-garbage-out insanity is a good idea.

The late, inordinately great Will Rogers said “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” The converse is just as true: If you find you have completely buried something – stop shoveling.

We Less Government types rightly work to shrink government in all directions. Methinks we will be much more effective if we work on undoing tandem-government-damage – the causes and effects.

It’s always better when working to end government “help” – to offer solutions to the problems. The government is all too often the cause that begets the effect. The solution to too much government isn’t more government – it’s less.

We want to minimize as much as possible the government-money-for-nothing welfare state. We should simultaneously point out and work to minimize the government regulations that made it oh-so-much-harder for these people to get jobs.

We want to end government bailouts. We should simultaneously point out and work to minimize the government regulations that caused these calamitous situations.

There’s an old joke:

A guy is in his car on a one-lane, no-pass country road, stuck behind a county government truck. 

Every fifty yards the truck stops, and two guys jump out. On the side of the road, one guy digs a hole – and the other guy fills it up. Fifty yards later, same thing – over and over.

Fed up, the guy in the car drives around the truck, pulls up to the driver and demands “What on Earth are you guys doing? 

The driver replies “The guy who plants the trees called in sick.

This exquisitely epitomizes the government regulations-bailouts cycle.

We are the guy who plants the trees. We’re sick, all right.

To end the government digging out – we must also end the government shoveling us under.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Elder Justice Act Under Obamacare Fails Seniors – Part 1

July 08, 2015, 12:36 PM

A few weeks ago, Tom Field, a 25-year advocate of legal reforms as they apply to the elderly, reached out to Nancy Thorner via a phone call from Mentor, Ohio, to ascertain whether Thorner had further interest in pursuing the issue after reading an article emailed to him and others that Thorner had written on July 9, 2011 titled, “Allegations of Alleged Corruption and Abuse at the Probate Court Level in Cook County, IL.”

What prompted Tom Fields to devote 25 years as an elder care/abuse advocate were the circumstances that surrounded his dad’s death in Florida. Read here the story Fields wrote about this tragic happening.

As background to understanding what exists at the present time to deal with elder care and its abuse, it is necessary to know what laws have been enacted and the reach and application of these laws.

The Elder Justice Act of 2010

The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare, on March 23, 2010. The Office of Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services manages the operation, administration, and assessment of elder abuse prevention, legal assistance development, and pension counseling programs. The act itself applies to long term care providers who have received at least $10,000 during the previous year in federal funds.  As can be noted below, under the statute assisted living facilities do not qualify as long term care providers.

  • Nursing facilities
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Inpatient hospice units
  • Intermediate care facilities for mentally disabled

After Thorner’s cursory reading of The Elder Justice Act, it sounded quite acceptable, at least in its written form, but further research indicated that it was a mistake to have focused exclusively on the written word. In doing so overlooked was what the Act doesn’t do.

Further research revealed that funding for the Elder Justice Act is allocated by the Older Americans Act (OAA), established in 1965 in response to concern by policymakers about a lack of community social services for older persons.  Amended numerous times since 1965, the original OAA legislation established authority for grants to States for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. Now days the OAA is considered to be the major vehicle for the organization and delivery of social and nutrition services to the aging through APS (Adult Protective Services).

Regarding funding, in FY 2014 less than $9 million or 0.5 percent of total OAA funding went to the APS for the prevention and detection of elder abuse.  It is Adult Protective Services (APS) that provides services to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them.  In most states, APS caseworkers are the first responders to report abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults.

Should this lack of APS funding be a legitimate excuse for ignoring elderly abuse?  Increased APS funding, which seems to be the government’s solution to solving all of its problems, is not needed to correct the failure of our laws to establish a mechanism that will alert authorities to deplorable and heart-wrenching situation, nor will increased APS funding ensure that authorities will respond correctly to situations involving elderly abuse.

Defining Elder Care Abuse

Although the true prevalence of elder abuse is unknown primarily due to lack of consensus regarding the definition, the failure to follow through with action that either causes harm or places older adults at risk of harm, or within harm’s way, are systematic of abuse situation.  Abuse may take the form of physical, mental, emotional, and/or financial.

Much material exists about the exploitation of adults by professional guardians.  As already noted, one of the articles Thorner wrote in 2011 prompted Tom Fields to reach out to her.  Her article, “Abuse and Corruption Rampant in Probate Court of Cook County, IL”, exposed the wide spread corruption in the Chicago Probate Court System. Thorner details how a judge removed the power of attorney from a daughter who was caring for her elderly mother.  With a court appointed custodian, over time the daughter’s elderly mother’s funds were depleted in a process that involved a corrupt judicial system in which the presiding judge, a court-appointed power of attorney, and a compliant nursing facility all colluded to propagate the elder abuse scheme.  The husband of the elderly mother’s daughter, who wasn’t even allowed to visit her mother in the nursing home after her custodianship was removed, set up this website to note and expose other situations involving elderly abuse and judicial corruption.

Tom Fields’ video as a powerful example of elderly abuse

The elderly abuse in this video was shared by Tom Fields and addresses the need for legislation to prevent the financial exploitation of the elderly. The scene is from a 3-minute video recorded in a hospital’s emergency room.  The ABC News Broadcast of the video can be viewed here, as part of an online report that was presented by ABC on elder abuse.

The elderly patient in the video has just suffered a massive stroke. The attorney is presenting the patient a will to sign. The attorney is recording the video in order to present it as evidence that the patient’s condition is not being financially exploited. In fact, the video ended up being key evidence that resulted in the attorney being disbarred and indicted on criminal charge.

Accordingly, the video reflects a situation that happens all too often when the validity of the ward’s POAs (Power of Attorneys) is challenged and ignored. It matters not whether the issues involved are simple or complicated, if lawmakers are derelict in doing what is expected of them to prevent the cognitive impairments of the elderly from being exploited.  Additional abusive guardianship situations can be viewed here.

Little more is required than (1) a simple checklist which identifies the most obvious situations, such as the one recorded by the video; (2) a law which requires authorities and/or affected family members to be notified in those situations; and (3) a script for authorities to follow that ensures they interview the subject in a manner which meets forensic standards that prevent interested parties from biasing or otherwise interfering with the interview.

The moral arising from Tom Fields’ video is as follows:  No scam should be simpler to prevent than one which take place in the emergency room of a hospital, yet our government and professional associations have repeatedly proven themselves unequal to this task. .

Questions addressing elements of federal laws that facilitate rather than stem exploitation

Neither the Elder Justice Act, nor any other laws now in place, can be counted upon to reliably prevent or remedy the kinds of scams many are experiencing at the hands of legal professionals to prevent financial exploitation while attending to their elderly loved ones or friends with cognitive impairments

As to the video itself, it provides the context for the following rather lengthy list of questions posed by Tom Fields which address elements of federal laws which not only facilitate the exploitation of cognitively-impaired older adults, but which also are responsible for its under-reporting. Fifteen of the questions have been noted here.Check here for the remaining eight questions.

1) Does the video provide any REASONS FOR SUSPECTING that this victim was being financially exploited?

2) Does the video suggest that the LAWYER WAS AWARE that someone might reasonably suspect that this victim was being taken advantage of?

3) Did MANDATORY REPORTING LAWS protect this victim against being taken advantage of?

4) Did ADULT PROTECTIVE SERVICE LAWS protect this victim against being taken advantage of?

5) Did GUARDIANSHIP LAWS protect this victim against being taken advantage of?

6) Did the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) protect this victim against being taken advantage of?

7) Did the OAA (Older Americans Act) protect this victim against being taken advantage of?

8) COULD OUR LEGISLATURE include in our mandatory reporting laws a provision that would require mandatory reporters to report circumstances such as these?

9) SHOULD OUR MANDATORY REPORTING LAWS INCLUDE a provision that would require mandatory reporters to report circumstances such as these?

10) TO WHOM SHOULD OUR MANDATORY REPORTING LAWS REQUIRE NOTIFICATION in situations such as this one? A representative of the hospital, such as its risk manager or patient ombudsman? Adult Protective Services? Law enforcement? Affected family members? At least one of the above? All the above?

11) SOME STATES DEFINE “EXPLOITATION” as the unlawful or improper act of a caretaker. SHOULD THESE STATES AMEND THEIR CODE so as to include the unlawful or improper acts of others, as do the statutes of other states, including Florida, as well as the Older Americans Act?

12) DO OUR LAWS REQUIRE A MEDICAL EXAMINATION of the subject in order to establish the validity of a will, trust, deed, POA or other significant document that is executed in a situation like this?

13) SHOULD OUR LAWS REQUIRE a medical examination of the subject in order to establish the validity of an important document that is executed in a situation like this?

14) WOULD A MEDICAL EXAMINATION of the subject suffice to establish the validity of an important document that is executed in a situation like this?

15) CAN SOMEONE WHO IS MENTALLY COMPETENT still be defrauded or unduly influenced into executing an important document in a situation like this?

Severe cognitive impairment vs. mild

Both the government and professional associations, including the American Bar Association and the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), could and should do a lot more to prevent scams by implementing the recommendations of the American Medical Association and others, but none do, despite awareness of what they need to do.

To the contrary they ignore the needs which arise when an elderly individual suffers from “severe” cognitive impairment — such as was depicted in the 3-minute video — in contrast to “mild” cognitive impairment which is characterized by Investor Protection Trust as mild cognitive impairment occurring in seniors who can perform most daily functions, but have trouble or become confused with others, such as following their medicine regimen and managing their finances.

Part 2 will discuss the negligence and fraud which plagues our court system and has destroyed confidence in not only our legal system. but also more generally in our government, as well as proposed legal reforms.

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