On the Blog

Long, Cold Winter Makes Senator Look Like a Fool

Somewhat Reasonable - February 20, 2015, 4:03 PM

This year’s long, cold winter is making the U.S. Senate’s top global warming alarmist, liberal Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, eat his words and play the part of a fool.

Just last spring Whitehouse told a Brown University audience that global warming is making winters shorter. Not only is Mother Nature proving Whitehouse wrong, she is also inducing Rhode Islanders into wishing Whitehouse had been right. Whitehouse telling Rhode Islanders that the Ocean State needs longer, colder winters can’t be playing too well with Rhode Islanders right now.

Also last spring, Whitehouse theatrically posed in a New Hampshire ski and snowboard shop and claimed global warming is negatively impacting snowfall and New England skiing. “Clearly, when people go to New Hampshire they think of skiing. They think of going camping and hiking. They think of maple syrup and they think of moose. They think of the shoreline and they think of lakes. Every single one of them is being affected by what’s happening,” said Whitehouse. Granite Staters will beg to differ.

The ongoing snow and cold in Rhode Island and across the nation are part of a long-term pattern documented by climate scientists. The Rutgers University Global Snow Lab, for example, documents a 45-year trend of increasing winter snow cover throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Whitehouse failed to mention this while posing at the ski and snowboard shop.

U.S. winter temperatures are also in a long-term cooling trend. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show winter temperatures have cooled by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1995. Similarly, annual U.S. temperatures have been falling for at least the past decade.

Will Whitehouse now issue a public retraction and apology for his foolish global warming claims? Knowing the junior senator from Rhode Island’s propensity for self-serving politicking, don’t bet on it.

Categories: On the Blog

Opinion Poll Shows Climate Change Matters (Sort of)

Somewhat Reasonable - February 20, 2015, 2:12 PM

A new poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future sheds more heat than light on the public’s attitudes towards climate change.

The poll is being publicized because it found a sizable number of Republicans indicated they were concerned about climate change. Just one problem: Previous polls have shown the same thing. Nearly everyone, Democrat or Republican, is concerned about the possible effects of climate change. The important point is everyone has different evaluations of the danger it poses and the best responses to it.

After more than two decades of hearing nothing about climate change except radical environmental activists’ hype, fear-mongering, and misinformation parroted by a compliant media complex, it is little wonder most of the public believes the changing climate is due to human action and will be bad for future generations. Belief, however, doesn’t make claims true.

For instance, climate models and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say temperature should climb right along with the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, yet for the past two decades, CO2 emissions have risen steadily while temperatures have held steady.

Alarmists’ models say we should see more intense hurricanes, yet for nearly a decade, the United States has experienced far below the average number of hurricanes making landfall. Sea-level rise has slowed, polar bear numbers have increased, the Antarctic ice sheet has set new records, and even the Arctic is back to average ice levels for the decade. All of these trends fully contradict IPCC’s predictions.

In addition to the limitations of what the Times poll tells us about the public’s views of climate change, it suffers from a glaring weakness: It does not measure the intensity of response or relative importance of global warming compared with other possible issues.

Ask the public about almost any public policy issue frequently in the headlines, and poll respondents will say it is important: immigration, clean air, education, crime, the economy, terrorism, jobs, and retirement are all important topics, according to the polls. What we really need to know, however, is how important each issue is relative to other matters of concern. In a world of limited resources and limited voter attention, government must concentrate its efforts on what the public is most concerned about and what will motivate them when they go to the polls.

On this question, poll after poll says climate change consistently ranks at or near the bottom on the public’s list of concerns. For instance, a United Nations poll surveying more than 7 million respondents from 195 countries asked participants to rank 16 priorities. A quality education ranked first and “Action Taken on Climate Change” ranked dead last, receiving 300,000 fewer votes than “Access to Telephone and Internet,” which finished 15th on the list.

U.S. polls likewise show concern about climate change lags every other important issue, including other environmental issues such as clean air and clean water. This is true for both Republicans and a majority of Democrats. People may be worried about climate, but they are far more concerned about many other things with more direct impact on their lives. This is why when election time comes, a wise politician, except maybe in a few bluest of the blue liberal political enclaves, will focus more on jobs, the economy, crime, national security, education, retirement, or almost any other topic except global warming.

The New York Times poll isn’t completely worthless, however. Consistent with the results of other polls examining the public’s views on climate change, the Times poll found the public wants to fight climate change only if it can be done for free or very little cost. An overwhelming 74 percent of the public rejected tax increases on electricity use to encourage people to conserve to prevent climate change. Sixty-three percent also rejected higher gasoline taxes to fight climate change.

The public clearly believes fighting climate change is a good idea, unless we have to pay for it. We can debate the causes and consequences of climate change, but no one can seriously pretend significant efforts to control Earth’s climate, if it is even possible, will be cheap.

Let the public and the politicians ponder that.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Congressman @PeterRoskam (R-IL): Civil Asset Forfeiture

Somewhat Reasonable - February 20, 2015, 1:16 PM

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL) joins Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the issue of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) use of civil asset forfeiture laws to seize innocent citizens’ assets, based on suspicions that they really are financial criminals.

Roskam tells the stories of how dairy farmers, gun store owners, and other small business owners have ran afoul of the IRS’ bully tactics, and explains how he forced IRS commissioner John Koskinen to apologize for his agency’s long-running practice of seizing people’s money without first obtaining criminal convictions, or proof of wrongdoing.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Arizona House Panel Rejects Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - February 20, 2015, 10:16 AM

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

Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Oregon Governor Resigns Over ‘Green’ Scandal
H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartland Institute
The greenest governor in the U.S., four-term Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), resigned on Wednesdaywhen his intimate and covert relationships with environmental advocacy groups and renewable energy companies were exposed. Will more liberal elected officials be forced to resign as similar scandals emerge in other states? READ MORE

 

Is America Still on Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom’?
Richard Ebeling, for Somewhat Reasonable
Short answer: Yes. Heartland Policy Advisor Richard Ebeling explains how a century of central-government planning by our betters in the United States government “carries within it a loss of personal freedom and choice, and undermines the human spirit of creative thought and self-responsibility from which have come all the great accomplishments of mankind.”READ MORE

 

Heartland’s Fault: Arizona House Panel Rejects Common Core
Arizona is tearing down its Common Core standards and returning education policy decision-making back where it belongs: closer to parents and school boards. This development has angered a reporter who witnessed the procedures in the Arizona legislature week. Heartland Research Fellow Heather Kays was among those whose testimony was vital to the rejection of Common Core in the Grand Canyon State.READ MORE

 

Featured Podcast: Lord Christopher Monckton, Part 1
Christopher Monckton, the Viscount of Brenchley, is so informed and entertaining, we needed to split the podcast in two to get it all in. In Part 1, Heartland’s H. Sterling Burnett talks with Lord Monckton about the most recent developments in the climate change debate and how he became among the most prominent, visible, and vocal climate skeptics on the planet. READ MORE

 

 

Join Us at CPAC!
The Heartland Institute is once again cosponsoring the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), February 25–28 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland (just across the river from Washington, DC). Come hear candidates for the Republican nomination for president, as well as the usual stellar line-up of America’s smartest conservatives and libertarians. Be sure to stop by Heartland’s booth and meet Heartland staff, too! Our awesome t-shirts are first-come, first-serve, and will go fast!

 

Hating Tobacco More than Helping Smokers
Brad Rodu, for Somewhat Reasonable
Why does the National Institutes of Health stubbornly oppose electronic cigarettes, which are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes? Because the agency is staffed by zealots who throw reason and science aside to an ideologically driven quest to achieve a “tobacco-free” utopia. READ MORE

 

Weather Bulletin #7: Weather: 1, Climate Alarmists: 0
This winter has been brutal, rivaling last year, which was the coldest and snowiest many people have ever experienced. And it’s not just Americans and Canadians feeling the winter blues: Winter’s icy grip has led to a death rate three times the norm in Great Britain. H. Sterling Burnett delivers the latest weather report. READ MORE

 

Connecticut Sweet on Tax Hikes
Jeff Reynolds, The Heartlander
A new bill introduced in Connecticut aims to discourage junk food consumption by taxing it more, yet fatten the treasury for childhood obesity programs, higher-ed scholarships, and other spending. It can’t do both, so expect both fatter kids and more bloated spending.READ MORE

 

Britain’s National Health Service Getting Sicker Every Day
Linda Gorman, for the Heartlander
In December and January more than 7,000 surgeries in Britain were canceled due to lack of beds and NHS waiting times for cancer treatment are the highest in six years. Some 80 percent of English hospitals are said to be running a deficit, and hospital administrators say additional budget cuts will mean they can no longer “guarantee safe and effective care.” Is America going to catch the same disease? READ MORE

 

Enjoying Low Gas Prices? Don’t Get Too Used to Them
Justin Haskins, in Human Events
American motorists are enjoying some of the lowest gas prices since President Barack Obama took office. But politicians in both parties think you’re enjoying too much of a good thing and want to hike gasoline taxes. So far, Republican leaders are holding firm against this raid on the wallets of middle America. READ MORE

 

Invest in the Future of Freedom!
Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make.

Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.

Categories: On the Blog

The Bloom is Quickly Fading for Renewable Energy in America and Europe! Finally!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2015, 6:27 PM

Increasingly over the past decade both federal and state governments have given special subsidies to, provided tax advantages for and mandated the use of solar energy as a solution to environmental concerns and the need for greater domestic energy independence. A damming report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance details the enormous cost to American’s of the government’s obsessive solar power push. A few of the tidbits are below

  • A Government Accountability Office review of federal renewable energy-related initiatives for fiscal year 2010 discovered at least 345 different federal initiatives supporting solar energy. The programs are managed by nearly 20 agencies and support more than 1,500 individual projects.
  • Over the past five years, the federal government spent an estimated $150 billion subsidizing solar power and other renewable energy projects.
  • Preferable tax treatment given to solar and other alternative electricity initiatives cost Americans nearly $9 billion annually, according to the IRS.
  • State and local governments increasingly subsidize solar energy. Personal tax credits related to solar products are available in 20 states, 18 states maintain corporate tax credit and deduction programs, and 14 states and Puerto Rico offer taxpayer-funded grants to support solar electricity.

And what as all this largesse bought? Despite the subsidies and mandates solar will make up only 0.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration. Worse still, government efforts to promote solar energy have resulted in waste and fraud and diverted public and private resources from energy resources that hold more promise. For instance, “Government-backed solar boondoggles are rampant and include such devastating examples as the Solyndra loan, which cost taxpayers $535 million and left 1,100 employees without a job, and the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California, which, despite reaping $1.6 billion in subsidies, produces electricity at a cost three times higher than traditional power and has requested $539 million in additional direct handouts from the federal government.”

The word on renewables is not much better out of Europe. One recent report showed despite generous support that dwarfs the subsidies given to the wind industry in America, Germany’s wind farms are failing to deliver much power. The country has more than 25,000 turbines with a rated capacity of nearly 40,000 megawatts. However, over the course of 2014 they delivered just 14.8 percent of their rated capacity – or less than 6,000 megawatts, the amount of power one could get from just six coal fired or nuclear power stations. And, of course, unlike the power from the coal power or nuclear power plants, the power delivered by the wind turbines was so volatile and unpredictable that it could not be counted upon to provide baseload power.

With numbers like this, it is little wonder why windpower is quickly falling out of favor in Europe. Across the EU green energy subsidy programs have been slashed causing the rate of wind farm installations to plummet. The Financial Times reports new wind installations fell precipitously in much of Europe: by 90 per cent in Denmark; 84 per cent in Spain (Europes largest wind power market) and 75 per cent in Italy. The fact that the decline in new wind farm construction comes as subsidies have been slashed is not a coincident and shows just how “not ready for prime-time” wind power still is despite 40 years of support. Wind still can’t compete on price, and may never be able to compete on reliability with the much abused and criticized electric power staples — coal, natural gas and nuclear.

Categories: On the Blog

Robbing Your Wallet: Low Gas Prices Mean Big Tax Increases

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2015, 3:12 PM

When President Barack Obama first took office in January 2009, thenational average gas price was $1.95, but over most of Obama’s presidency, prices have risen continuously, averaging well over $3 per gallon through much of 2014.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, however, something truly amazing for American consumers occurred: Gas prices suddenly started to fall, and at a rapid pace. According to AAA’s Fuel Gage Report, gas prices in September 2014 averaged $3.39 per gallon, but by January 2015, gas prices had plummeted to below $2.20, with many states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas seeing gas prices fall below $2 for the first time in nearly five years.

Gasoline at the pump isn’t the only energy source with significant price declines. Natural gas prices have also fallen at notable rates, and Trevor Sikorski, head of natural gas for Energy Aspects, told Bloomberg natural gas prices could fall by as much as 30 percent in 2015.

Even though national gas prices have only been under $3 per gallon for less than five months, governments across the country have already started to propose major energy tax increases in an effort to find an easy way to alleviate budget shortfalls.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced his proposal to impose a 5 percent severance tax plus a 4.7 cents per thousand feet of volume on natural gas extraction, a plan he says could raise $1 billion in fiscal year 2017.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced in her annual State of the State address she would be willing to support increasing her state’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon if lawmakers in the legislature agree to lower income taxes.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Republican leader of the Senate Transportation Committee, told Fox News Sunday that an increase of the federal gas tax was being considered in Congress. “I don’t think we take anything off the table at this point,” Thune said.

Politicians see gas taxes as an easy way to fill government coffers, and lower prices have made what would have been an extremely unpopular tax six months ago a seemingly reasonable proposal today.

However, tax increases based on sudden price drops are foolish and could lead to unnecessary hardship for consumers in the future if prices suddenly increase again, a possibility that’s more likely than many lawmakers are willing to admit.

Perhaps the greatest reason for falling energy prices is that many oil and natural gas producers around the world like Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have uncharacteristically refused to cut production in circumstances that have traditionally led to production cuts in the past.

Continued high rates of production from foreign producers, combined with increased production over the past few years from U.S. oil and natural gas companies, is helping consumers today, but these actions will not continue for long.

U.S. shale producers have already started to cut production, and as soon as OPEC feels more comfortable with the global energy market, it will begin cutting production again as well. Prices will go back up again, and consumers will be stuck with similar energy prices from one year ago plus a new round of energy taxes.

Some politicians say energy taxes like those proposed by Wolf in Pennsylvania are aimed at energy producers, so consumers will likely avoid having to pay any additional costs. This, however, is a complete fiction.

Oil and natural gas companies have been hit hardest by falling energy prices, as evidenced by falling stock market values. Exxon Mobil’s (NYSE: XOM) stock price has fallen by 13 percent since August 2014 andChesapeake Energy’s (NYSE: CHK) price has fallen by more than 30 percent since mid-summer.

The idea that energy companies who have already experienced major revenue declines will gladly bear the burden of additional taxes is absurd. Consumers—not oil and gas companies—will be responsible for paying additional taxes once prices rise again. That is, unless voters stand firm against what will certainly be destructive government intervention and remind their legislators that just six months ago, the national average gas price was over $3 per gallon.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Why U.S Education No Longer Needs the Government

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2015, 2:54 PM

At the end of the 19th century, when most communities in the United States were still built around agrarian economies and the average American spent most of his or her day working in a factory, mill, or farm, government-run public education made sense.

Many rural communities couldn’t afford to create an advanced education system on their own, and private schools were scarce, costly, and largely unnecessary for the day-to-day lives of most people.

The necessity of public education increased as the nation’s economy changed; the United States of the 20th century required a more educated society—a need that has only grown as the country’s economy has become increasingly focused on international trade and providing services rather than manufacturing and manual labor.

At the beginning of the government-run education era, there weren’t any institutions outside of the government that could realistically put together the kind of infrastructure needed to educate the masses, especially the growing class of European immigrants and the children of rural towns. Most parents were uneducated in these parts of the country, so the idea communities could educate themselves without wealth or government guidance is unlikely.

Although the bureaucratic system actually put into place was never really an effective solution, it was better than the structures that had existed before, and it’s reasonable to argue that government-run education may have been necessary.

Now that the overwhelming majority of Americans are educated and technology has made the knowledge of the world accessible to virtually anyone anywhere, what justification exists for the disaster that is the current government-run education system? Certainly communities should still continue to pool collective resources (taxes) so that every child has access to education, but why does education have to be provided locally? Why must parents in failing, decrepit school districts be forced to send their children to these abysmal institutions when productive schools are often located in nearby districts?

The old bureaucratic education model is as outdated as riding in a horse and buggy. In fact, the communities that still utilize that mode of public transportation, such as the Amish, don’t even use government-run education!

Technology is one of the key reasons the nation is ready to move beyond the ancient government-run education model. The rise of the Internet allows the very best educators and innovators to educate millions of people at the click of a button, and for a fraction of the cost of the current government-run system.

In their book Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well, authors Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph Bast explain in detail the many advantages technology provides homeschooling parents, private schools, and charter schools.

“Digital learning stands on its own or adds great blended value because it can adapt to the capacity and speed of individual learners, provide minute-by-minute feedback on learning progress, and provide rewards suitable for individual learners,” Walberg and Bast wrote. “It is similar to an imaginary inexhaustible, highly skilled tutor.”

Numerous studies show various programs developed by education experts can significantly improve students’ performance. For instance, a recent report from the Texas Education Agency shows Texas’ Think Through Math (TTM) web-based instructional program for grades 3 through students studying algebra significantly improves performance outcomes for students. The average student using TTM experienced an improvement of 17 percentage points.

Government-run schools, contrary to their private and charter school counterparts, are bound to complicated and cumbersome union agreements, and implementing innovative education programs can be virtually impossible as a result. In many states, bad teachers cannot be fired for poor performance alone, and pay increases are typically automatic and based on years worked rather than performance.

As is the case in virtually every other situation, free markets produce better results than government programs. When parents have the power to decide where their children go to school, schools utilize technology and cutting-edge strategies to produce better results and earn a higher reputation. Bad teachers are fired and good teachers are given raises. When an education program built by experts 1,000 miles away is more effective than a local teacher’s lesson plan, the more effective strategy wins out. In short, whatever works best becomes the focus of the school, and schools with nothing to offer disappear the same way a failing business would in almost any other market.

Technology has ushered in a new revolution in how people live, learn, and connect with the world. Why shouldn’t our children receive the benefits of modern innovation? Governments have proven they are incapable of consistently providing a quality education at the same level as emerging technologies and private and charter schools.

It’s time for this antiquated model of government bureaucracy to be abandoned in favor of modern, proven strategies that utilize the numerous technological advancements in this arena that have been made over the past two decades. America’s children deserve nothing less.

[Originally published at Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

Man’s Folly to Curb C02 Emissions Contiunes to Advance Unabated

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2015, 11:00 AM

Will man’s folly over CO2 end up banning cars, limiting living space, and stripping citizens of personal freedoms, all for the purpose of creating a world some politicians envision as necessary to control the population? Or will facts that dispute the global warming alarmists be given equal publicity and consideration by the media and responsible officials?

As a starting point to better understand the man-made global warming frenzy, it is important to define CO2, when it was classified as a pollutant, and why it was classified as such.

CO2 is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide, which contains one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen. It is a heavy, odorless gas formed during respiration and by the decomposition of organic substances. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air during the process known as photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is produced by the decay of organic materials and the combustion of wood and fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas as well as natural sources like water, volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. Many environmentalists have focused more on the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Environmental Protection Agency made a decision on December 2009 to classify and in so doing added fuel to the debate. In the meantime the EPA has enacted policies that heretofore were a source of intensive debate for decades among politicians, scientists and industry, which have further escalated the controversy over whether a natural component of the earth’s atmosphere should be considered a pollutant.

Most Americans think of Co2 as what comes out of the tail pipe of a car truck or the smoke stack of a power plant. This energy-related carbon dioxide emission falls under the category of Anthropogenic Global Warming (or man-made), in contrast to the many natural causes that emit CO2, such as water, volcanic eruptions; solar flares or sunspots; evaporation of ocean water; forest fires; and the melting of large scale perma frost. Humans also exhale CO2 and plants absorb CO2 to survive. Increasing Co2 in the atmosphere for “greens” (plants) helps to feed the growing human population, as CO2 is the nutrient used by plants in photosynthesis.

As far as the CO2 emissions based on the share of global energy-related CO2 each nation creates, the U.S. took second place with a rate of 14.69% in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2014, while China came in first with around 23.4% of global CO2 emissions.

Cars and CO2

Is it any wonder that Americans perceive cars and trucks to be the highest contributors of man-made Global Warming, when global warming apologists continually make the claim. The media is willing to repeat whatever is stated by global warming advocates, but rarely print legitimate rebuttals provided by scientists with opposing data and analysis. Liberal politicians are also willing to accept one side of the argument, but not the other. Thus they enact policies and laws to accommodate the global warming interests.

A new idea has recently been proposed in CA that targets drivers of what they refer to as gas guzzling cars and trucks. A group of Bay environmentalists wants to slap warning stickers on gasoline pumps, warning drivers that the fuel they are buying is cooking the planet. The stickers would constantly remind consumers of the link between driving and climate change. The presence of those labels would obviously infer that the state of California has determined global warming is caused by greenhouse gas emissions and a major threat. A growing group of scientists vehemently disagree with that conclusion. The question becomes, why are those stickers being allowed, without absolute proof the planet is being “cooked, let alone by the gasoline from that pump?

What the liberal environmentalists seem unwilling and unable to explain is that cars have been emitting less and less CO2 for decades. With improved catalytic converters and more efficient use of fuel, less CO2 comes out of the tail pipe. In fact, some studies have shown that if all cars and trucks were eliminated, there would be little difference in CO2 emissions.

As earth has not warmed significantly over the past 18 years, despite an 8% increase in Atmospheric CO2, concern about CO2 appears either manufactured or embellished. Moreover, forward projections of solar cyclicity (absence of sun spots) imply the next few decades may be marked by global cooling rather than warming, despite continuing Co2 emissions. How foolish can man be! Or is there another agenda at play here regarding the global warming scare?

Some enthusiasts claim Earth and man are doomed unless the U.N. Agenda 21 is fully implemented. To deny the claim, according to them, is akin to heresy. Advocates of Global Warming claim Agenda 21 is a road-map to the future and a blueprint for planning and designing Sustainable cities,

Sustainable Cities, not a figment of the imagination

There are currently agencies already established that are networking to provide knowledge, resources, and innovations to accelerate the fruition of sustainable cities. The Sustainable Cities Network, works with local communities to explore sustainable approaches and address challenges. Through the Network, partners, the steering committee, and workgroups collaborate to streamline city operations, advance solar energy, mitigate the urban heat island, design sustainable neighborhoods, and secure water supplies in a changing climate, reasoning that “a robust adaptation strategy is required if cities are to continue to survive and thrive.” All this comes at a severe cost, causing speculation as to who is providing the financing and what might they gain from doing so.

Ever heard of the UCCR? This agency develops and implements strategies at the city level, which will influence the national policy, and thus dictate approaches to climate change adaptation at the global level. Once again, one wonders how city governments agree to make changes based on unproven science.

Cities are considered laboratories where the most innovative ideas for surviving in the future can be tested. The global warming advocates claim their planning will allow people “the greatest chance for survival in the face of declining resources and rising seas.” Ten cities from New York to Tokyo to Bogota were recently awarded City Climate Leadership Awards for their work by Siemens and C40 (the Cities Climate Leadership Group). Rio De Janiero won in the “Sustainable Communities” category. Once again, who provided the funding and on what basis was it accomplished?

Creating sustainable future cities in this nation

Has Agenda 21 infiltrated our own nation? Absolutely! The perpetrators of U.N. Agenda 21 are proud of the progress they have made in cities big and small. Their devotion often mirrors that of a religious fanatic, according to MIT professor of meteorology, Dr. Lindzen, who publicly labeled global warming advocates as a fanatical “cult”. Examples of there progress can be seen in the statements below:

“Bringing Sustainability to Small-Town America”, posted by Kaid Benfield, January 26, 2015, salutes communities in small-town America where even a small grant from a government or philanthropic agency can make a major impact to enable sustainability efforts significant enough to rival those of big cities. The ICMA report (Defying the Odds: Sustainability in Small and Rural Places) showcases the following small cities where sustainability efforts should be celebrated: Greensburg, Kansas; Columbus, Wisconsin; South Daytona, Florida; Homer, Alaska; Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; West Liberty, Iowa Hurricane, Utah; and Kearney, Nebraska.
“Sustaining our cities” by Allie Nicodemo, May 22nd 2014, deals with the way a city is designed. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 6.4 billion people around the globe will live in urban areas – up from 3.4 billion in 2009. Accordingly, the walkability of a city is connected to both human health and the health of the environment, which is influenced by transportation options and the use of fossil fuels. Phoenix, Arizona is spotlighted as a city that mirrors many other cities where population is on the rise. With hotter temperatures and other manifestations of climate change, Phoenix is presented as a good example of what much of the world is facing now or can expect in the future.
We don’t have to travel outside of Illinois to observe planning that is now taking place in accordance with Agenda 21’s proposal of building sustainable future cities In response to reading Part 1, Fighting climate change through compact cities without cars , Dottie McQueen, who has spoken to groups in Illinois over the past 1-1/2 years about Agenda 21, contacted Thorner to share the information about CMAP, or the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

CMAP, or the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, created in 2005, is Agenda 21 on steroids. It is comprised of unelected bureaucrats who are planning transportation needs, water usage, living conditions and more for 7 counties in northeastern Illinois. State Republican leaders will not touch A21 with a 10-foot pole, considering it to be “tin hat” predictions that ignore scientific data if it does not reflect their global warming predictions and plans.

And you better believe CMAP has a plan! As the site suggests: “Metropolitan Chicago is one of the world’s great economic centers, the area cannot afford to take its quality of life for granted.” Visit here to view their comprehensive regional plan, but be warned you will not find any facts or figures there that disagree with their conclusions. However, with the growing number of scientists who disagree with global warming predictions and claim the panic over global warming is unjustified will be hard to silence forever. They are beginning to dispute what some want to claim is “settled science” by stating that the data most often presented is full of errors and misleading information.

CO2 as worst of all myths

Of all the myths claimed by global warming enthusiasts, calling carbon dioxide a pollutant is the worst – it simply is NOT TRUE! “CO2 is a great airborne fertilizer which, as its concentrations rise, causes additional plant growth and causes plants to need less water. Without CO2 there would be no life (food) on Earth. The 120 ppm of CO2 added to the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution has caused an average increase in worldwide plant growth of over 12 percent and 18 percent for trees. There is not a single instance of CO2 being a pollutant. Ask any chemistry professor. The only thing being polluted is the minds of people, including those of our school children.

The public deserves to be presented with all the facts, myths must be exposed, and deliberate deceptions revealed. When our nation’s elected officials at the highest level of government began promoting misinformation, those who knew the truth were obliged to boldly step forth with opposing facts, figures, and corrected data to demand that funding using taxpayer dollars stop. Opponents of the man-made global warming scare are now speaking up and saying it is unnecessary to spend billions of dollars on projects perpetrated and promoted by the United Nations.

Chicago’s Heartland Institute has been at the forefront of providing proof that the issue of man-caused Climate Change has been grossly exaggerated. The “Economist” described The Heartland Institute as “the world’s most prominent thank tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.” Since 2008 The Heartland Institute has initiated, organized and hosted nine International Conferences on climate change. This summer Heartland will host its 10th International Conference on June 11 and 12 at The Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. Read about Heartland’s International Conferences here and how to sign up to attend this worthwhile event to learn the facts.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lord Christopher Monckton: The Climate Debate (Part 2/2)

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2015, 10:25 AM

In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett sits down with Lord Christopher Monckton to talk about the most recent developments in the climate change debate. Lord Christopher Monckton is among the most prominent, visible and vocal climate skeptics on the planet.  His articles have been published in newspapers and professional journals worldwide and he is a frequent guest on television and radio presenting the realist view of climate science and climate policy.

In this second portion of a two-part podcast, Monckton talks about what actions should be taken to combat climate change. He explains how the suggested proposals made by the left are off base and should be disregarded. Increasing taxes and regulations is not the proper path to follow. In Monckton’s opinion, using funds to adapt to small changes in the climate are far more practical than attempting to radically alter the climate 100 years down the road.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lord Christopher Monckton: The Climate Debate (Part 1/2)

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2015, 10:10 AM

In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett sits down with Lord Christopher Monckton to talk about the most recent developments in the climate change debate. Lord Christopher Monckton is among the most prominent, visible and vocal climate skeptics on the planet.  His articles have been published in newspapers and professional journals worldwide and he is a frequent guest on television and radio presenting the realist view of climate science and climate policy.

In this first portion of a two-part podcast, Monckton starts by explaining how he got involved in this debate before giving a brief overview of the events that have taken place in the debate so far. Monckton talks about, among other things, the IPCC’s missed temperature projections as well as the baseless claim that 2014 was the hottest year on record. Monckton’s new research “Why Models Run Hot” is also discussed. He says he and his team stumbled upon mistakes made by climate scientists that exaggerated observed warming.  Listen in as Monckton explains how these new revelations turn the man-made global warming debate on its head.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Tarren Bragdon: Medicaid Expansion

Somewhat Reasonable - February 18, 2015, 4:07 PM

Tarren Bragdon, President and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability, discusses Medicaid expansion and why so many states have declined to add to the rolls of the program.

He also explains how the perverse funding structure of the expansion prioritizes able-bodied and childless men over the traditional Medicaid population of poor single-mothers and their children, as well as the poor elderly.

He goes on to explain how the federal government is likely to renege on its funding commitment for the expansion. Governors who have attempted to get reforms of Medicaid in exchange for expanding the program have largely wound up with few of the changes they sought.

Categories: On the Blog

What’s Next for the Keystone Pipeline?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 18, 2015, 3:39 PM

After six years of dithering, the Keystone pipeline project has finally cleared both the Senate and the House with strong bipartisan support—mere percentage points away from a veto-proof majority. Now it goes to the White House where President Obama has vowed to veto it.

We won’t have to wait long. He has ten days to make a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.

The Keystone pipeline should have never been an issue in Congress. Because it crosses an international border, the pipeline requires State Department approval.

With millions of miles of pipeline already traversing the country and dozens already crossing the U.S.-Canada border—not to mention the “almost universal” support of the American public, the Keystone pipeline should never have made news, except that Obama’s environmental base (made up, according to Pew Research, of “solid liberals”) has made it the literal line in the sand, by which he can burnish his environmental legacy.

Within the President’s base, only two groups feel strongly about the Keystone pipeline—the unions want it, the environmentalists don’t. Each has pressured him to take its side.

I’ve likened the conflict to the classic cartoon image of a devil on one shoulder prodding an activity saying, “Oh it will be fun, everyone is doing it,” vs. the angel on the other warning, “be careful, you’ll get into trouble.” Only in the battle of the pipeline, the opposing sides have been in his pockets—environmental groups threatened to pull support from Obama’s 2012 re-election bid if he had approved Keystone. (Remember, billionaire activist Tom Steyer promised $100 million to candidates in the 2014 midterms who opposed Keystone.)

Trying to appease both sides, the president resisted taking a stand. Instead of a firm answer, he’s avoided a decision that would ultimately anger one side or the other. First, the problem arose of the pipeline crossing over the aquifer—so it was re-routed. Next, it was held up in the Nebraska Supreme Court—but, that received a favorable resolution. Waiting for the State Department’s fifth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) provided another delay. When the EIS finally came out, it declared the project would have minimal environmental impact and that it would produce the least amount of greenhouse gasses of any other alternative transportation method. (Note: Canadian oil sand’s crude is already pouring into America via train and truck—both methods which produce more CO2 and pose higher risk of environmental degradation due to accidents than a state-of-the-art pipeline.) Now Obama says Congress needs to let the State Department’s approval process play out—though no one knows when that might occur.

The labor unions, which want some of the 42,000 jobs the State Department projects grow increasingly impatient.

In 2012, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) broke ranks from a long-standing relationship with green groups over the Keystone pipeline and pulled out of the BlueGreen Alliance. LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan said of his fellow union leadership: “We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women.”

Having its epiphany later, after the 2014 midterms, the AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, according to the Washington Examiner, cited economic benefits and “urged the new Republican-controlled Congress and the White House to get together and approve the controversial, long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project.”

Finally, last month, James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, penned an op-ed pushing the president to approve the pipeline. In it, he calls the administration’s Keystone pipeline veto threat “passing on an opportunity to create jobs.”

Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ), citing “the economic woes he heard about from voters while campaigning,” voted with the Republicans for the third time in the February 11 House vote. In a column for The Record, Herb Jackson explained: “One reason some Democrats broke with environmentalists on the project is its support from organized labor.” Prior to running for Congress, Norcross was assistant business manager of Local 351 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Jackson reports: “Building trades unions were the most generous group contributing to his [Norcross] campaign.”

Norcoss’ crossing over exhibits the divide in the Democrat Party: unions vs. environmentalists. When it comes to lawmakers for whom the union vote is important, Keystone wins.

Once the bill is vetoed, it goes back to Congress where it must be “reconsidered”—which means it can be voted on again or can go back to committee where some adjustments may be made that will make it more attractive to members, who didn’t vote on it the first time around.

Because the Senate and the House have both voted, which Democrats voted against the bill is also well known—many of those Democrats represent heavily unionized districts.

To override the presidential veto, 5 more votes are needed in the Senate (Marco Rubio wasn’t present during the January 29 vote and would be assumed to be a “yes” vote, meaning only 4 Democrats need to be swayed.), in the House, about 12.

With some arm twisting from the unions, those additional votes shouldn’t be all that difficult to come by and the Keystone XL pipeline can finally move forward—providing Americans with thousands of good-paying jobs and increased energy security. Meanwhile, President Obama will have made his position perfectly clear.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Is America Still On F.A. Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 18, 2015, 3:03 PM

A little more than seventy years ago, on March 10, 1944, there appeared in Great Britain one of the most amazing and influential political books of the twentieth century, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek, which forewarned of socialist trends in Britain and America that ran the danger of leading to tyranny if taken to their logical conclusions.

Written during the Second World War, Hayek’s main and crucial thesis was that many of the ideological and economic trends that had culminated in the triumph and tragedy of German Nazism could be seen developing and taking hold in Great Britain, where Hayek was then living, and also in the United States.

Hayek did not argue that either Great Britain or America were inevitably and irretrievably heading for a totalitarian state exactly like the National Socialist regime then existing in Hitler’s Germany, and against which the combined economic and military strength of Great Britain and the United States were at that moment in mortal combat.

But as I shall try to explain, the threat against which Hayek was warning was that there were certain underlying political philosophical and economic policy currents at work in these two bulwarks of Western civilization that if continued ran the risk of moving these countries further away from being societies of freedom.

Great Britain and the United States, Hayek argued, were increasingly becoming politically controlled and managed states in which the individual human being faced the danger of being reduced to a cog in the machine of governmental planning. Individual liberty would be lost in societies of socialist paternalism and centralized economic direction of human affairs.

The Life and Contributions of F. A. Hayek

Friedrich August von Hayek was born on May 8, 1899 in Vienna, in the now long gone Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary. While still a teenager he served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War, seeing military action on the Italian front. When released from military service shortly after the end of the war in November 1918, he entered the University of Vienna in an accelerated program that enabled him to earn a doctorial degree in jurisprudence in 1921. Two years later in 1923, he earned a second doctoral degree in political economy from the University of Vienna.

Hayek’s first international reputation was as one of the most highly regarded economists of the 1920s and 1930s, the years between the two World Wars. With the assistance and support of his mentor and friend, the well-known Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, Hayek became the founding director of the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research in1927, a position that he held until the summer of 1931.

Hayek was invited to deliver a series of lectures at the London School of Economics in January1931 on what has become known as the Austrian theory of money and the business cycle, which resulted in his being offered a professorship at the London School, a position that he accepted and took up in the autumn of 1931.

His lectures were published shortly after under the title, Prices and Production. Along with his other writings during this period of the 1930s, he was soon recognized as one of the foremost monetary and business cycle theorists in the English-speaking world, and as a leading critic of the emerging new Macroeconomics of the Cambridge University economist, John Maynard Keynes.

Also in the 1930s and 1940s, Hayek was an outspoken critic of socialism and government central planning, editing and contributing to a collection of essays on Collectivist Economic Planning (1935); his two most famous writings on this theme during this period were his book, The Road to Serfdom (1944) and an article on “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945).

At the beginning of the 1950s, Hayek moved to the University of Chicago here in the United States. But his attention had turned from economic theory and policy in the narrow sense to the broader problems of social and political philosophy and the nature of societal order and the competitive market system. These interests culminated in two major works, The Constitution of Liberty (1960) and Law, Legislation, and Liberty that appeared in 3-volumes between 1976 and 1979,

In recognition for his work on monetary and business cycle theory and his analysis of social evolution and the institutional structures of human society, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974. Friedrich Hayek died on March 23, 1992, at the age of 92.

Growing Collectivism in Great Britain and America

As I pointed out, when The Road to Serfdom was published Great Britain and the United States were engulfed in a global war, with Nazi Germany as the primary enemy and Soviet Russia as their primary ally. In 1944 the British had a wartime coalition government of both Conservative and Labor Party members, with Winston Churchill as its head. During these war years plans were being designed within the government for a postwar socialist Britain, including nationalized health care, nationalized industries, and detailed economic planning of both industry and agriculture.

For the eight years before America’s entry into the war Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal had transformed the United States through levels of government spending, taxing, regulation, and redistribution the likes of which had never before been experienced in the nation’s history. Many of the early New Deal programs had even imposed a network of fascist-style economic controls on private industry and agriculture; the only thing that prevented them from being permanently in place were a series of decisions by the Supreme Court that declared most of these controls unconstitutional in 1935.

At the same time, the Soviet Union was frequently portrayed as a model – however one rather rough around the edges – of an ideal socialist society, freeing “the masses” from poverty and exploitation. The Nazi regime, on the other hand, was usually depicted as a brutal dictatorship designed to maintain the power and control of aristocratic and capitalist elites that surrounded Hitler.

Nazism an Outcome of Bismarck’s Welfare State

Hayek’s challenge in The Road to Serfdom was to argue that German Nazism was not an aberrant “right-wing” perversion growing out of the “contradictions” of capitalism, as Marxists and many other socialists insisted.

Instead, Hayek documented, the Nazi movement had developed out of the “enlightened” and “progressive” socialist and collectivist ideas of the pre-World War I era in Imperial Germany, ideas that many intellectuals in England and the United States had praised and propagandized for in their own countries in the years before the beginning of the First World War in 1914.

Large numbers of American graduate students went off to study at German universities in the 1880s, the 1890s, and the first decade of the 20th century.

They returned to the United States and spoke and wrote about a new and higher freedom observed in Germany, a “positive” freedom provided through government welfare state paternalism rather than the mere “negative” freedom of individual liberty in the form of absence of coercion in human relationships as practiced in America.

It was in Bismarck’s Germany during the last decades of the 19th century, after all, that there had been born the modern welfare state – national health insurance, government pension plans, regulations of industry and the workplace – and a philosophy that the national good took precedence over the interests of the “mere” individual. In this political environment Germans came to take it for granted that the paternalistic state was meant to care for them from “cradle to grave,” a phrase that was coined in Imperial Germany.

Two generations of Germans accepted that they needed to be disciplined by and obedient to the enlightened political “leadership” that guided the affairs of state for their presumed benefit. Beliefs in the right to private property and freedom of exchange were undermined as the regulatory and redistributive state increasingly managed the economic activities of the society for the greater “national interest” of the German fatherland.

The German government restricted competition and fostered the creation of monopolies and business cartels under the rationale of directing private enterprise into those avenues serving the higher interests of the German nation as a whole.

Germany’s trade with the rest of the world was hampered by taxes and tariffs designed to shift German industry and agriculture into those forms the government considered most useful to prepare the nation for greater self-sufficiency during the war that was expected to come, and which finally broke out in 1914.

By 1933, Hayek argued, fifteen years after Germany’s defeat in the First World War, when Adolf Hitler came to power during the Great Depression, the German people not only accepted the idea of the “führer principle,” – the belief that people should follow and obey the commands of the political leaders of the nation – but many in German society now wanted it and believed they needed it. Notions about individual freedom and personal responsibility had been destroyed by the philosophy of collectivism and the ideologies of nationalism and socialism.

But Hayek’s main point was that this tragic history was not unique or special to the German people. The institutional changes that accompanied the implementation of socialist and interventionist welfare-state policies potentially carried within them the seeds of political tyranny and economic servitude in any country that might follow a similar path.

 

Government Planning Means Control over People

The more government takes over responsibility for and control over the economic activities of a society, the more it diminishes the autonomy and independence of the individual. Government planning, by necessity, makes the political authority the ultimate monopoly, with the power to determine what is produced and how the resulting output shall be distributed among all the members of the society.

Belief in and expectation of government paternal care from the everyday vicissitudes of life, employment, and enterprise, Hayek insisted, weakens the spirit of self-reliance and independence. It makes for a more passive people who lose any sense of a loss of personal freedom and autonomy, as they increasingly cannot imagine a world in which government does not guaranteed many if not most of the necessities and amenities of human existence.

But it is not only economic independence that is lost as the government extends the safety nets of welfare statism and expands regulatory and planning control over society.

What personal and intellectual freedom is left to people, Hayek asked, when the government ownership of industry or heavy-handed regulation of business has the ability to determine or influence what books will be printed or movies will be shown or plays will be performed? What escape does the individual have from the power of the state when the government controls everyone’s education, employment, and consumption?

He also warned that the more that government plans production and consumption, the more the diverse values and preferences of the citizenry must be homogenized and made to conform to an overarching “social” scale of values that mirrors that hierarchy of ends captured in the central plan.

Each Free Man an End in Himself and a Means to Others’ Ends

One of the hallmarks of a free society in which people associate and cooperate through the networks and institutions of the market economy is that each individual is at liberty to peacefully pursue those interests, inclinations, and desires that suggest themselves as a source of personal meaning and happiness for him.

The more developed and complex the market society becomes with a growing population, the more there will emerge and develop diverse conceptions of the good life among people.

In the competitive market order there is no need or necessity for society-wide agreement about desired ends and goals among its members. In the division of labor of the market order, individuals earn the living that enables them to have the financial wherewithal to pursue the self-interested purposes that give value and meaning to their own lives by specializing in the production and sale of goods and services that serve as the means to the desired ends of others.

Thus, in the liberal, free market society, every man is an end in himself with his own chosen scale of values reflecting what he considers important and worthwhile. And each can try to attain those values by producing and supplying others in trade with the goods and services that serve as the means for trying to achieve their respectively chosen ends.

Fulfilling the Government Plan Requires Obedience by All

One of Hayek’s central points was the fact that a comprehensive system of socialist central planning would require the construction and imposition of a detailed system of relative values to which and within which all in the society would have to conform, if “the plan” imposed by the government was to succeed.

This was the origin of Hayek’s warning that government central planning ran the danger of becoming tyranny and a new form of “serfdom,” since any meaningful dissent in word or deed could not be permitted without threatening the fulfillment of the goals of the government’s plan. All would have to be assigned to their work, and be tied to it to assure that “the plan” met its targets.

Even dissent, Hayek warned, becomes a threat to the achievement of the plan and its related redistributive policies. How can the plan be achieved if critics attempt to undermine people’s dedication to its triumph? Politically incorrect thoughts and actions must be repressed and supplanted with propaganda and “progressive” education for all.

Thus unrestricted freedom of speech and the press, or opposition politicking, or even observed lack of enthusiasm for the purposes of the state becomes viewed as unpatriotic and potentially subversive.

 

Rule of Law or Unequal Treatment for Equal Outcomes

In addition, the classical liberal conception of an impartial rule of law, under which individuals possess equal rights to life, liberty, and the peaceful acquisition and use of private property, would have to be replaced by unequal treatment of individuals imposed by the political authorities to assure an ideologically preferred redistributive outcome.

In the free society, equality of individual rights under rule of law inevitably means an inequality of economic outcomes. Men widely differ in how they use and take advantage of their equal rights to life, liberty and property. We all know that people are far from being the same in terms of inherited traits and potentials, as well as attitudes and inclinations concerning acquiring an education, working hard, and being willing to make personal sacrifices in the present for some hoped for and possible greater benefits in the future.

In addition, our fellow men value more highly some things than others and are willing to pay more to get them. This means that some of us, as a result of intelligent forethought in deciding what occupations and trades to undertake, the education and skilled talents to acquire, as well as general circumstances and even a bit of luck, will earn higher salaries than those who market less valued goods and services in the eyes of the buying public.

To make people more “equal” in terms of the economic outcomes that emerge in the marketplace requires people to be treated very differently by the political authority responsible for that equalization.

In the foot race of life, it is inevitable that some will speed ahead of others in terms of financial and other forms of social success. But if the government is assigned the task to reduce these disparities, then it must place weights on the ankles of some in the form of taxes and regulations to slow down their outdistancing the others, while those others must be allowed to cut across the field in the form of wealth transfers, subsidies or other special treats provided by the government so they can catch up with or get ahead of those in front of them on the racecourse of society.

But, asked Hayek, by what benchmark, other than prejudice, caprice, or the influence of interest groups, would or could the planners make their decisions concerning who would be treated better and who worse in the form of government interventions, regulations, redistributions and controls? How will it be found out who is more deserving or meritorious for government differential benefits at the expense of others?

Who is more deserving? The man to whom things such as learning and luck often seem to come easily but who has eight children, a sick wife and an elderly mother to care for? Or a man to whom luck never comes, has to work hard for everything he finally gets but has only himself and a one high school honors student daughter to take care of?

And if it is replied that the answer to that requires detailed gradations of evaluation and judgment, then in whose evaluating and judging eyes and on what standard or benchmark of relative merit, deservedness and neediness shall the decisions be made by those in government?

The means available are always insufficient to attain all our desired ends, and some in the society will invariably consider any politically decided trade-offs in these matters to be unfair, unjust, and uncaring.

Whether a dictatorial minority or a democratic majority makes such decisions, there is no escape from the imposition of advantages and disadvantages given to or imposed on different members of the society by those in political authority, and upon whom the individual becomes dependent and subservient for the social and material fortunes and misfortunes of much if not all of his life.

Why the Worst Get on Top

Finally, in one of the most insightful chapters in the book, Hayek explained why, in the politicized society, there is a tendency for “the worst to get on top.” Fulfillment of the government’s plans and policies requires the leaders to have the power to use any means necessary to get the job done.

Thus those with the least conscience or fewest moral scruples are likely to rise highest in the hierarchy of control. The bureaucracies of the planned and regulated society attract those who are most likely to enjoy the use and abuse of power over others.

One form of this in Hitler’s Nazi Germany was known as what was called “working towards the Fuhrer.” In 1934, a senior Nazi government official told his subordinates, “It is the duty of every single person to attempt, in the spirit of the Fuhrer, to work towards him.” And, “the one who works correctly towards the Fuhrer along his lines and toward his aim will in future as previously have the finest reward . . . “

As historian Ian Kershaw explained in his biography, Hitler, 1889-1936 – Hubris (1998), “The way to power and advancement [in the Nazi regime] was through anticipating the ‘Fuhrer’s will’, and, without waiting for directives, taking initiatives to promote what were presumed to be Hitler’s aims and wishes.”

As Kershaw continues, “Through ‘working towards the Fuhrer’, initiatives were taken, pressures created, legislation instigated — all in ways which fell in line with what were taken to be Hitler’s aims and without the dictator necessarily having to dictate.”

In this instance, the government bureaucrat was stimulated by his superiors to anticipate Hitler’s will in instituting policies and actions in the hope for material gain and promotion within the Nazi hierarchy, and to do so with often brutal ruthlessness to the misfortune of many helpless victims.

Those who pursue such careers and who are willing to introduce and implement whatever policies necessary in the name of explicit or implicit government goals will be those who often care little about the unethical and immoral conduct that holding such political positions will require of them.

But there are others who may be led to do things in their government role and position that as a private individual in their personal life they would consider immoral or unethical behavior. This often is due to a person’s confidence of patriotic purpose and belief in his superior understanding of what must be done regardless of the violation of other people’s rights or the sacrifices imposed on other members of society to attain the greater “national” or “social” good.

With the realization that it is a controversial subject, let me suggest that a type of person who searches out employment and specialized surveillance work in the National Security Agency because he truly believes that there are potential “enemies” everywhere threatening harm to the “homeland” is highly likely to be a person who gives few second thoughts about whether intruding into the privacy of ordinary people’s emails, phone conversations, text messages, and private computer documents is unethical, illegal or even simply “bad manners.”

Indeed, the more zealous among such types of individuals will at the end of their workday not lose sleep due to a guilty conscience that a human being’s privacy rights have been violated. He is more likely to be thinking of tomorrow’s day of work and how he can find ways to do it even more effectively, regardless of high much more other people’s rights and privacy might have to be abridged in the attempt to attain the highly allusive goal of “national security.”

Indeed, way back in 1776, the famous Scottish economist, Adam Smith, warned about such people in government, when he said that nowhere would such political power “be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

Men are easily subject to arrogance and hubris, and never is that human weakness so to be feared as when government has the power that allows such individuals to practice their pretensions of superior knowledge and wisdom over their fellow human beings.

The Continuing Relevance of The Road to Serfdom

It may be asked how relevant remains Hayek’s arguments and warnings more than seventy years after the appearance of The Road to Serfdom? After all, Nazi- and Soviet-style totalitarian socialism, with their attempts to comprehensively control and plan every facet of human life, and with a ruthlessness and violence unsurpassed in any period of modern history, are now things of past. They are closed chapters in the history of the 20th century.

First, as I said earlier, Hayek never claimed and went out of his way to insist that he was not forecasting that Western nations like Great Britain or the United States would become carbon copies of either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

What he did say was that the more governments extended their power and control over the personal, social and especially economic affairs of the private individuals of society, the less freedom of choice and decision-making would the individual continue to retain in his own hands.

The less flexible and dynamic would become the society, with the greater the direction of production, investment and employment under the influencing hand of government agencies, bureaus and departments.

The wider the net of welfare state dependency and guarantees for the circumstances of everyday life, the weaker would become the sense of initiative, self-reliance, and risk-taking to improve one’s own life.

The type of serfdom that has increasingly enveloped parts of human life in the Western world was, in fact, anticipated with concern and fear by the 19th century French social philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, in his study of Democracy in Americapublished in the 1830s:

“After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

“I have always believed that this sort of servitude, regulated, mild and peaceful, of which I have just done the portrait, could be combined better than we imagine with some of the external forms of liberty, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.”

The Freedom We have Lost

Ask yourself, what corners of your daily life, in its most mundane and important aspects, are not controlled, regulated, planned, and overseen by the guiding hand of government?

Americans are free to say whatever they want – as long as it does not offend any ethnic, gender or racial group. They can pursue any career they choose – as long as they have been certified or licensed and have successfully passed inspection by an army of state regulators.

Americans may come and go as they please – as long as they have been approved for a government-issued international passport, declared whether they are carrying more than $10,000 in currency, reported all taxable or forbidden items they wish to bring into the country, and have not attempted to visit any foreign lands declared off-limits by the state.

They may buy whatever satisfies their fancy – as long as it has been manufactured, packaged, and priced according to government standards of safety, quality, and fairness, and as long as it has not been produced by a foreign supplier who exceeds his import quota or who offers to sell it below the state-mandated “fair market price.”

Americans may go about their own affairs – as long as they send their children to government schools or private schools approved by the state; as long as they do not attempt to employ too many of a particular ethic, gender, or racial group; as long as they do not attempt to plan fully for their own old age rather than pay into a mandatory government social security system.

They may enter into market relations with others – as long as they do not pay an employee less than the government-imposed minimum wage; as long as they do not attempt to construct on their own property a home or a business in violation of zoning and building ordinances; that is, as long as they do not try to live their lives outside the permissible edicts of the state.

And Americans freely take responsibility for their own actions and pay their own way – except whey they want the state to guarantee them a job or a “living wage”; except when they want to state to protect their industry or profession from competition either at home or from abroad; except when they want the state to subsidize their children’s education or their favorite art or the preservation of some wildlife area, or the medical research into the cure of some hated disease or illness; or except when they want the state to ban some books, movies, or peaceful acts between consenting adults rather than trying to change the behavior of their fellow men through peaceful persuasion or by personal example.

That many who read such a list of lost freedoms in the United States will be shocked that anyone should suggest that the state should not be concerned with many or all of these matters shows, I would suggest, just how far we have come and are continuing to go down a road to serfdom.

Restoring a Philosophy of Individual Rights

Yet, a hundred years ago before the First World War, when the citizens of the United States still lived under the influence of 19th century classical liberalism with its emphasis on individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government and voluntary association to service and solve many of the “social problems” of modern society, most people would have strongly opposed anyone who suggested that the government should envelope society with such a vast spider’s web of paternalistic plans, regulations, controls and redistributions.

It would have been considered “socialistic” and “un-American,” and not only by some supposed “right-wing fringe group” but by a wide consensus of the American people as a whole.

If we are to find a way to get off this road to paternalistic serfdom that has been weakening an understanding and draining existence out of the free society, the first task is to appreciate how this came about and what its implications can be.

Most importantly, the immorality of collectivism, with its insistence that the individual must live and sacrifice his life for “the tribe, “the nation,” “the society” must be wholeheartedly challenged and rejected. And in its place we must recover a sound and rational philosophy of individual rights that defends and respects the right of every human being to live his own life for himself as the core ethical concept in all human relationships.

As part of undertaking this task, Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom still serves an invaluable role in explaining how this road was first entered upon, what it led to in the middle decades of the 20th century century and why government planning and regulation carries within it a loss of personal freedom and choice, and undermines the human spirit of creative thought and self-responsibility from which have come all the great accomplishments of mankind.

This is why The Road to Serfdom remains a classic of political and economic ideas that still speaks to us in our own time, and why anyone who values liberty and fears for its diminishment and loss can do no better than to open its pages and absorb its lessons.

(The text is based on a talk delivered at the College of Coastal Georgia, St. Simon Island, Georgia, February 12, 2015)

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

Categories: On the Blog

NIH Funding Stifles Tobacco Harm Reduction Research and Support in Academia

Somewhat Reasonable - February 18, 2015, 12:31 PM

As a pathologist working at two large medical centers, I have studied the effects of smoking on health for over 20 years. I’ve published scores of papers on the impressive benefits of switching from cigarettes to safer, non-combustible forms of tobacco (such as Swedish snus).  This strategy – called tobacco harm reduction – has vast potential for improving public health.

In countless discussions about smoking’s devastation, people ask me: “If tobacco harm reduction is a viable quit-smoking option with huge public health benefits, why don’t U.S. medical schools advocate this concept?  Why are you almost alone among American university professors in  openly endorsing tobacco harm reduction?”

The answer resides within a powerful government agency, the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH is the pre-eminent source of research funding for virtually all universities and medical centers; it is the cudgel in the government’s campaign to create “a world free of tobacco use.” (here).  The NIH “invests nearly $30.1 billion annually in medical research for the American people,” according to its website (here).  “More than 80% of the NIH’s funding is awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world.”

The NIH hostility to tobacco harm reduction was demonstrated in 1994, when the National Cancer Institute attacked me and my university because I published an article in a scientific journal (here).  Nothing has changed in 20 years.  For example, a recent NIH announcement to fund research on smokeless tobacco, which is 98% safer than cigarettes, called for investigators “to develop an evidence base to inform smokeless tobacco control efforts, and to develop effective ways to limit the spread and promote cessation of smokeless tobacco use.”  This prohibitionist mindset produces NIH-funded researchers who are hostile to tobacco harm reduction; the rest are cowed into silence.

It is hard to overestimate the influence of NIH funding.  Universities aggressively pursue grants, and retaining NIH support is obligatory for faculty survival at most universities – influence and prestige are directly proportional to the size of one’s grants.  Due to its magnitude, NIH funding is hugely influential in determining “legitimate” areas of research conducted by hundreds of thousands of university faculty throughout the U.S.  The agency’s influence is compounded by the NIH peer review system, in which groups of 20 colleagues pass judgment on grant proposals, and from which emerges a nationwide network of researchers who are intolerant of politically incorrect topics like tobacco harm reduction.

NIH dollars are vitally important to faculty and to institutions.  Agency grants cover direct research costs, which typically pass through the university as faculty, staff and graduate student salaries, equipment and other project-specific charges.  More importantly, the NIH also covers indirect costs, which are not specific to the project but involve administration and facility support. These are negotiated by each university, and they range from 25% to 100+% of direct costs.  If a principal investigator (or PI – the faculty member leading the project) gets a $1 million grant at a university with a 50% indirect cost rate, the university pockets $500,000.

How much money does the NIH spend on tobacco research?  I conducted a search of the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (here) for the word “tobacco”.  In 2014, the NIH (mainly the National Cancer, Heart Blood Lung, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Institutes) dispensed $623 million (total costs) in 1,300 grants to over 1,000 PIs at almost 300 universities, medical centers and other institutions.  That works out to about $600,000 for each investigator.  Few researchers will jeopardize grants of that size by doing or saying anything that conflicts with NIH dogma.

To explore the influence of NIH funding, start with members of the FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.  TPSAC advises the FDA about regulatory actions, including “any application submitted by a manufacturer for a modified risk tobacco product,” which is a vital part of tobacco harm reduction.

A federal judge ruled last year that members of TPSAC, including current chairman Jonathan Samet, had significant conflicts of interest in the form of funding from (1) pharmaceutical manufacturers who compete with tobacco companies for the nicotine market, and (2) lucrative contracts to testify in lawsuits against the very industry they judge.  He called TPSAC’s findings and recommendations “at a minimum, suspect, and, at worst, untrustworthy.” (here)

TPSAC members also have a conflict of interest with respect to NIH funding: In 2014, six of the nine current TPSAC members had grants totaling $28 million (Table 1).  Such outsized funding must be assumed to color decision-making, particularly on regulations as NIH-toxic as tobacco harm reduction.

 

Table 1. NIH Support in Fiscal Year 2014 for Tobacco Projects to Members of the FDA Tobacco Scientific Advisory Committee TPSAC Member University/Institution Total Support (million $) Jonathan Samet Southern California 8.00 Warren Bickel Virginia Tech 0.39 Thomas Eissenberg Virginia Commonwealth 3.91 Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin Yale 5.79 Richard O’Connor Roswell Park 0.47 Kurt Ribisl North Carolina 9.21 Total 27.77

 

Followers of this blog know that major health organizations aggressively oppose tobacco harm reduction; they also receive considerable NIH funds to pursue tobacco-related projects.  In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics received $406,000 in support of Adolescent Smoking Cessation in Pediatric Primary Care.  The American Cancer Society was awarded $343,000 for Building Research and Capacity on the Economic Policy-Tobacco Control Nexus (the title was truncated in the database).  The American Heart Association scored $7.5 million for its Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center and other projects.

Another big grantee last year was the American Legacy Foundation, recipient of $2.1 million for eight projects.  One of its employees, David Levy, obtained $703,000 via Georgetown University for Modeling the Policy Impact of Cigarette and Smokeless Tobacco Use on U.S. Mortality.  (I will be eager to see Dr. Levy’s mortality estimate from smokeless tobacco use, as my research indicates that it is close to zero.)

Individuals at the University of California San Francisco have engaged in an aggressive campaign against e-cigarettes (examples hereand here).  Table 2 shows that they were awarded $12.5 million in 2014, with over half going to PI Stanton Glantz.

 

Table 2. NIH Support in Fiscal Year 2014 for Tobacco Projects to Faculty at the University of California San Francisco Faculty Member Total Support (million $) Stanton Glantz 6.61 Pamela Ling 1.49 Ruth Malone 1.34 Lyudmilla Popova 1.09 Judith Prochaska* 1.05 Neal Benowitz 0.95 Margaret Walsh 0.53 Total 13.03

*Also affiliated with Stanford University

I have discussed in this blog distorted research results concerning smokeless tobacco and harm reduction from several investigators, including Gregory Connolly (here and here), Christopher Haddock (here), Stephen Hecht (here and here, Irina Stepanov (here) and Robert Klesges (here and here).  Together, they received $8.5 million for tobacco projects in 2014 (Table 3).  Haddock and Klesges continued work on tobacco use in the military: Haddock studied Barriers to Effective Tobacco Control Policy Implementation in the U.S. Military, while Klesges was PI on a project with a particularly intimidating title: Preventing Relapse Following InvoluntarySmoking Abstinence (my emphasis).

 

Table 3. NIH Support in Fiscal Year 2014 for Tobacco Projects to Individuals Aggressively Campaigning Against Smokeless Tobacco Faculty Member University/Institution Total Support (million $) Stephen Hecht Minnesota 4.49 Robert Klesges Tennessee 2.02 Irina Stepanov Minnesota 0.76 Gregory Connolly Harvard/Northeastern 0.70 Christopher Haddock National Development and Research 0.57 Total 8.54

The federal government, via the Department of Health and Human Services, is engaged in a coordinated, expensive campaign to create a tobacco-free society.  The NIH, which contributes annually $24 billion to the American research establishment and $623 million specifically for tobacco research, strongly influences some in the academic community to vigorously oppose – and many others to ignore – tobacco harm reduction.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Steven Titch: “net neutrality” plan would effectively break the Internet

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2015, 3:05 PM

In this episode of the ITTN podcast, Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway is joined by Heartland Institute telecom policy analyst Steven Titch.

A private information technology consultant and editor of multiple telecom trade magazines, Titch explains how the Internet really works, and how the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposed “net neutrality” plan would effectively break the Internet.

Titch says the FCC’s grab for regulatory power over such a large sector of the U.S. economy threatens the way the Internet has worked for years, as well as the stability of the rest of the economy.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Hating Humanity by Opposing Science

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2015, 2:22 PM

They don’t want to admit it, but we know it’s true. There are countless organizations that hate humanity enough to do everything in their power to put a stop to anything that might benefit it. Their focus is on the use of science to improve and protect our lives.

 A recent example is the discussion over the need to ensure youngsters are vaccinated against measles. When I was a child, the great fear parents had was polio and, when the vaccine was created against it, it ceased within my lifetime to be a major health threat. Measles, too, went from being a common disease in my youth to where it occurred rarely.

Even so, some idiots keep spreading the lie that vaccinations can cause autism. That was enough for some parents to fail to vaccinate their child. In other cases, children brought here from foreign nations where vaccination is not as widespread as here can and do cause outbreaks like the one at a California amusement park. It is occurring in other states as well. A disease like measles exists with a life force of its own to spread as widely and rapidly as possible.

 On February 14, the Wall Street Journal carried an article, “First Genetically Modified Apple Approved for Sale in U.S.” The previous day I received an email from Friends of the Earth (FOE) citing the apple and bewailing the fact that “Like other GMO’s, this apple won’t be labeled and regulators are relying on assurance from the company that made the apple that it’s safe for human consumption and the environment.”

 Why won’t it be labeled? Because it poses no harm to anyone’s health.
What FOE wants to do is create obstacles to genetically modified foods, but the World Health Organization is on record saying that “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

 Listen to what a farmer has to say about GMOs. Larry Cochran is the president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. “Most people don’t even know what GMO stands for, but for me as a farmer it’s just another way of speeding up the breeding process. I have a boss, Mother Nature, who does her own form of GMO breeding, whether it’s new races of disease or insects that have evolved. She’s always changing the rules. If we in agriculture want to be able to feed the world’s population, we have to be able to grow more food on less land, and I believe GMOs can help me do that.”

 In a December 31, 2014 commentary posted on the Daily Caller, Mischa Popoff, an expert on the organic food sector, the author of “Is it Organic?” and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, pointed out that “GMOs meanwhile have NEVER caused any health problem at any level.”

 Popoff’s book reveals what a scam organic farming is and, if you have had a choice between organic or not in the supermarket, you will instantly realize organic is much more expensive. Why? Because it does not use GMOs or other means to protect their crops against drought, weeds, or insect predation.

 “The real goal for organic activists,” says Popoff, “is to ban GMOs outright the way DDT was banned in 1972, a terrible move by these very same activists which resulted in more deaths from mosquito-borne malaria in the Third World than were cause by both world wars.”

 Fear of GMOs is spread monthly by countless articles condemning genetic modification. As Amy Paturel notes in an article on WebMD.com, “The World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all say these crops are safe as, and often safer than, foods changed the old-fashioned way, such as when a new plant is bred from two different types.”

 The irony of all the efforts to scare people in the fashion that the Friends of the Earth and comparable groups are trying to do—calling for labeling of GMO foods—is that the new apple has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The producer has voluntarily asked the Food and Drug Administration to likewise determine its safe consumption. What’s new about it? It does not turn brown after you cut it into slices by shutting off the enzyme that initiates the browning process. It also resists bruising. All good news for consumers.

 It is essential that companies that purchase large quantities of food products not fall prey to the anti-GMO lies. A biotech potato, Simplot, is also less susceptible to black spots from bruising and has lower levels of sugar and asparagine. Despite DOA approval, McDonald’s decided not to use it and it is a company that buys 3.4 billion pounds of potatoes a year.

 If farmers and ranchers are going to be able to feed the Earth’s human population of seven billion and growing, GMOs hold the key to avoiding widespread hunger while at the same time offering products like Golden Rice that would prevent a half million kids from going blind and dying every year due to Vitamin-A deficiency in the Third World.

 As Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace co-founder who left the organization when he realized it was operating from an anti-science, anti-capitalism agenda, warns, “There is now an anti-intellectual element that doesn’t care about people. There is no logic or science involved—only ideology and ignorance.”

 People live longer, healthier lives these days because of the discoveries of science. Genetic modification is just one of them. Vaccines are another. The Friends of the Earth and others who oppose such advances want you to die because they believe humans are a plague on the Earth.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Kays: Politicians Solidifying Their Stances on Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - February 16, 2015, 4:34 PM

Director of Communications Jim Lakely speaks with Managing editor of School Reform News Heather Kays about the latest Common Core news in today’s Heartland Daily Podcast.

In today’s podcast, Kays and Lakely talk about the developments in Common Core debate. They discuss the recent comments made by Governor Jeb Bush as well as the stances taken by Governors Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker. Kays also explains the core arguements against Common Core.

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

Categories: On the Blog

How School Choice Could Come Back To Bite Republicans In The Butt

Somewhat Reasonable - February 16, 2015, 1:06 AM

The new Republican-led Senate is moving extremely quickly to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, the nation’s most expensive and comprehensive K-12 education law. In fact, it appears there will be no more hearings on the proposal, and it will face a full House vote this month. The bill in play, sponsored by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), was released two weeks ago. So we’re getting six weeks between a release of a 400-page bill plus whatever amendments show up, and a final floor vote.

It’s not clear why Republicans are rushing to send President Obama a reauthorization, given that he far prefers ruling education with his phone and pen. Right now, Obama has granted himself dictatorial power over U.S. education by requiring states to submit to his policy preferences rather than the law Congress passed 14 years ago. He calls it “NCLB waivers” or “flexibility,” but the only entity who gets any flexibility out of this is Obama, which is why he’s partial to the situation.

If Obama does decide to restrict his own tyranny, anything he is likely to sign is likely to be a bad bill, given that his education priorities in the past six years have been 1) pushing states into Common Core 2) expanding federal data collection about individual children and removing requirements that their parents know what government agents collect and share about their kids 3) pushing states into teacher evaluations based on tests, which has not yet resulted in any measurable increase in student achievement or higher rates of bad-teacher dismissal, and 4) expanding the cradle-to-grave nanny state (e.g. more government daycare—euphemistically termed “preschool”—”free” community college, and a dramatic expansion in schools taking feeding and healthcare responsibilities from parents).

Loving School Choice to Death

Obama and Republicans have common ground on K-12 education in one major area: Charter schools. In this, Obama has long bucked the teachers union gorillas in the Democrat closet. And who can really rage against charter schools, given that high-quality studies keep showing these independent public schools educate children better and for less cost than traditional public schools? Unions can, but Obama occasionally ignores them, since they backed Hillary instead of him in 2008.

The problem with federal support for charter schools is the problem with federal support for a lot of things: Federal support usually means money with strings attached, which often ends up suffocating the thing you’re trying to inflate. Charter schools have flourished—exploded, even—with little federal interference. They are already a successful local- and state-driven experiment. Federal programs for regular schools have been notoriously ineffective. So how can anyone suppose that new federal programs for charter schools will be any better?

 [ABOVE: Nationwide Charter School Enrollment, 2000-2012. Source: Center for Education Reform.]

Alexander’s draft bill authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Education to carry out a “charter school program” that “conducts national activities to support…dissemination of best practices of charter schools for all schools,” and provides both states and charter networks grants for the start-up, replication, and expansion of “high-quality” charter schools.

Don’t Bully People’s Kids If You Want Their Votes

This is small potatoes, though, compared to a greater danger in federal meddling with private schools. The clued-in parents angry about Common Core are by now well-educated on the federal mechanisms Obama used to push it down states’ throats, and this politically influential demographic is paying attention to the NCLB rewrite. One of their major concerns is reflected in the growing national resistance to testing mandates. Parents are hearing two things from their schools, whether private, charter, or public: We have to do Common Core because we have to get the kids to pass Common Core tests. And, second, your child is absolutely required to take those tests or we may hold him back a grade.

I recently received an email from a high-school teacher, who forwarded a note from her school district, responding to growing inquiries from parents about excusing their children from these tests (which, by the way, is perfectly legal in almost every state). It said any teacher caught informing parents of their right to refuse tests would be disciplined or fired. The intimidation tactics are getting intense, and they are provoking the response you might expect. Many school districts force test resisters to sit in class during the test and stare at their paper or computer screen, doing nothing for the several hours it takes their classmates to complete the tests. They call this “sit and stare.” Imagine how moms and dads feel about that one, and how likely it is to intensify their opposition to testing mandates.

Essentially every standardized test in the country has become a one-way ratchet towards Common Core. The SAT and ACT are now Common Core-aligned tests, which matters to every parent whose child might attend college. Almost every state test is a Common Core test, which in states with voucher programs forces private schools into Common Core because they often have to administer these tests to admit voucher students. So much for school choice. Even the tests common to private schools, such as the Iowa Basics or Stanford Achievement Test, are all newly absorbed by the Common Core Borg (previous, non-Common Core versions of these tests are still available, FYI, but rarely used).

Mainstream Republicans have insisted that most voucher programs established to date force private schools to measure their curriculum according to state criteria by administering state tests, in the name of “accountability,” even though that same “accountability” applied to public schools has yielded essentially no statistical difference in the number of abysmally performing schools, which remain open decades after test-based “accountability” became the national policy. This is why Alexander’s current testing provisions, which would let states choose to either keep annual testing mandates or propose their own alternative, is a good step forward. Indeed, to avoid having conservative parents team up with teachers unions to kill off school-choice programs just as they’re getting a foothold, state lawmakers should lift testing mandates and other government intrusions on private schools pronto.

And Alexander’s bill needs some improvement, as Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman, both former USDOE officials, point out in the best analysis of the proposal I’ve seen yet:

We like the effort Alexander’s draft makes to prohibit the Secretary from meddling (whether controlling or just ‘incentivizing’) not only in state curriculum and assessment like before but also in state standards, cutting off the disingenuous excuse Secretary Duncan  used to dictate his preferred curriculum and assessment to states under the guise of peddling ‘only’ standards. We feel, however, that this prohibition is currently present in the draft in varying forms in different sections, potentially contributing to confusion. We believe that using a largely uniform prohibition language in different sections and—perhaps even better—also having a strong and detailed global prohibition on Secretary’s meddling in the General Provision (Title IX) of the bill, similarly to what the Roberts draft suggests, is a necessary improvement.

The danger in Alexander hurrying his bill through so quickly is that this major reset of federal K-12 policy will occur without sufficient time to discuss what will rule the nation’s schools for the next decade. Concerns such as those from Evers and Wurman should be heard, and senators should have the time to consider revisiting the A-PLUS proposal from previous congresses, which offers an even more appropriately limited federal role.

Federal education policy under Obama and former President George W. Bush has gone off the rails. Neither No Child Left Behind nor its regulatory rewrite from Obama, nor previous federal policies, have yielded anything but a drastic increase in taxpayer-employed paper-pushers and pronounced shift of power from parents and communities to Washington. It’s time to do a lot more than put this ravening monster on a slightly lower-calorie diet.

Photo Nationwide Charter School Enrollment, 2000-2012. Source: Center for Education Reform. Photo Source: Cato Institute. [First published at The Federalist.]
Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin #7, February 17, 2015

Somewhat Reasonable - February 15, 2015, 11:38 PM

Much of New England, especially Boston, has been slammed with severe cold and blizzard conditions approaching record proportions.

This past weekend’s blizzard in New England packed power of a category 2 hurricane resulting in the Northeast being predicted to suffer its lowest temperatures in 20 years.

With temperatures expected to remain well below normal in the coming days, it’s going to be difficult to dig out from the series of winter storms that slammed the Northeast resulting in Boston’s snowiest month in history. With 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow since late January Boston had already set a record for snow accumulations in a single week. Now Boston has set the record for its snowiest month since records have been kept, according to National Weather Service (NWS). Indeed, in the month-and-a-half since 2015 began, Boston has received more snow than it normally gets in two years.

Reuter’s reported “Blizzard conditions forced the cancellation of more than 1,800 U.S. airline flights, most of them into and out of airports in Boston and New York, where wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) were predicted.” [In addition,] temperatures are 25 to 30 degrees (14 to 17 degrees Celsius) below normal for the East Coast, with meteorologist Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service, saying region was in the grip of ‘a brutally cold air mass.'”

Other parts of Massachusetts and the Northeast also suffered. On Sunday alone 20 inches of snow was recorded in Ipswich, Massachusetts and in Alton, New Hampshire, wretched winter conditions forced the town to call off its annual ice carnival this past weekend.

In another ironic twist, the Yale Daily News reported winter conditions were so bad Fossil Free Yale, a group pushing the university to divest itself from fossil fuels, had to cancel its scheduled global warming protest.

Leave to the pointy-headed would-be intellectuals at Yale to schedule a global warming protest in the middle of winter.

Moving west, the Detroit News reported every region of Michigan was under some form of winter weather warning or advisory. Temperatures bottomed out at 8 below zero in Detroit on Sunday morning, while overnight lows in Flint were -11, in Alma -13 in Alma and in Ann Arbor -9. In Northern Michigan, it was even worse, with lows bottoming out at -28 in Newberry and -25 in Houghton. Several stretches of Interstate Highway were closed in Michigan due to weather related accidents involving dozens of cars and extreme weather.

Those who ventured out on the roads in frigid Chicago were also put at risk. Lake-effect snow and icy conditions contributed to a 40-vehicle chain reaction crash on the Kennedy Expressway.

America is not alone in suffering winter disasters, with The Guardian reporting the death rate in England and Wales is nearly third higher than normal for this time of year. As winter tightens its grip the UK, according to the Guardian, “About 28,800 deaths were registered in the fortnight ending 23 January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is 32% higher than the average for that period over the previous five years (21,859).”

These reports out of the UK highlight the fact colder temperatures are far more deadly than warmer temperatures. Death visits far more people in winter than summer, a point made time and again by climate realists like Bjorn Lomborg.

The cold and snow may not get climate alarmists to give up their pet theory, but at least it made them scramble for the bunkers at Yale. Weather: 1, Climate Alarmists: 0. As for the rest of us, a little warming might be welcome at this time.

 

 

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Who’ll Stop the Rain? Not Bill Nye

Somewhat Reasonable - February 15, 2015, 9:15 PM

The great John Fogerty classic was a testament to bad news and deception that seemed to be coming from all angles. It was truly a free-thinking song, ripping socialist agendas as enslaving (“Five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains”) and also a rallying point for those who questioned the Vietnam War.

I have no idea where Mr. Fogerty stands on any of the issues of the day, but to me this song has always represented a true free-thinking man’s challenge to authority in pursuit of the truth. That is how I view this art.

A song is valuable when both sides think it’s an anthem for them.

What I took from the song was that deception came in a form that seemed to have good intentions, but was trapping people and enslaving them. Taken to the limit, anything short of the truth is a lie, and lies are meant to do evil no matter how they appear.

I was asked several months ago by a close friend and advisor, “Joe, what do you want to be remembered for?” It was then I realized this global warming debate borders on insanity. My stand was and is principled, based on my need and love of climate to form a needed foundation to forecast. If a person said something you knew not to be true about someone you loved, how would you react? It’s that simple. I am this way because I have used climate to help me in what God made me to do. But the argument itself is getting progressively crazier to me.

Look at the distortion we have going on today. I was told I am not a “climate scientist” on national TV by a guy whose hands were shaking as he recited talking points and who said that a one in a hundred year synoptic-scale event – the Great Ohio Valley blizzard of 1978 – was lake effect snow. At the time, Lake Erie was frozen and a southwest wind was blowing over it.

Self-proclaimed climate expert.

 

So after 40 years of studying this and using it daily, I’m not a climate scientist, but one of the alarmists’ heroes, an engineer-turned-actor who bills himself a science guy, is?

That he had my kids thinking he was Santa Claus means he has a whole generation of people willing to buy what he says, no matter how inane. Perhaps if I lost three inches off my neck and stuck on a bow tie, it would give me more credibility.

Then there’s this headline from the London Telegraph: “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever.”

When I saw it, my first thought was: This is old news. And to guys like me, very old news. Perhaps the most newsworthy thing about it was that this is not mainstream and, therefore, the whole issue is settled.

Juxtapose the Telegraph with this from USA Today: “Buried in Boston? Blame it on climate change – maybe.”

Notice how the author in typical Utopian fashion takes no real stand: Blame it on climate change –maybe.

Let me take a stand and inform him of some facts he seems to not understand.

1. Boston averages close to 6.6 inches of precipitation in the months of January and February and 26 inches of snow. That means in any given 15-day period (roughly 25%) Boston would average about 1.6 inches of precipitation and about six inches of snow. How is it the city had twice the amount of precipitation (around 3.2 inches) – which really is not that big a deal since even back-to-back rainstorms can do that – and ten times the amount of snow (64 inches)? It’s not because it’s warm. It’s because it’s so cold. The frigid air masses have resulted in a high snow ratio. The storms did what most storms do – intensify – but it’s the cold that has lead to the very high snow-to-liquid ratios. In a normal temperature-structured storm, the same parameters would likely produce closer to the classic 10-1 ratio.

2. The author is also unaware of a sudden drop in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), something Weatherbell.com jumped on to warn people in the East that the period Jan. 26-Feb. 10 would be tough. I used the same method before the “Snowmageddon” siege in the winter of ‘09-‘10. It’s something you look for in seasons when there is a warm event in the tropical Pacific, which in this case is a weak Modoki El Nino. It’s not a question of if or when, but where you see that happen. In 2010, it was centered further southwest, so we knew well beforehand something was up.

By the way, just how does climate change know to blast Boston (last 15 days close to 10 degrees Fahrenheit below normal with 10x the normal snowfall) while leaving places like DC alone (near normal temperatures, little snow) at the same time? How did it know in 2010 to blast DC, but leave places in northern New England with normal temperatures and snow? Amazing how it can pick and choose like that on a local level, given its assigned global dominance.

3. The water is warm off the East Coast, but that’s because we are in the waning days of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) warm cycle. This is well known among meteorologists who have studied these periods. In fact, this winter is mimicking to a large extent the winter of 1957-1958, which was non-eventful until later January right through March! The AMO is falling and is below 0 now, much like Bill Gray of Colorado State said it would be by 2020, ending completely the warming observed when the Pacific and Atlantic warmed. This means the remaining warm water in the Atlantic basin is still in the Western Atlantic as the northern, eastern and southern areas cool, until the full flip takes place, still several years off. Guess what happens when there is change naturally?  There are places where there can be enhanced conflict in the weather.

Gee, imagine that. Clashes in the weather.

The term “climate change” is the biggest piece of deception one can use. Nobody denies the fluid back and forth on all time scales of the earth’s weather and climate patterns. It’s redundant and a sound bite that means nothing, except as something to smear people who bring countering points to light. When global warming was debunked by nature herself, alarmists adapted “climate change” and then blamed a perfectly natural occurrence on man. The “golden chain” is the wrapping of oneself in a mantle of “saving the planet climate heroism”; the enslavement is the diminishing of hope for billions of people yearning for more freedom.

So the question is: Who’ll stop the rain on this issue? Certainly not the people pushing it. But it is the tip of an iceberg that makes the ’60s look like child’s play. Think about what is going on here. You have what can be looked at as genocide occurring in the Middle East, and this is what passes for the most pressing problem?

“Climate Change”: Because they realized the global warming missive was too nonsensical.

Who’ll stop the rain? “It ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son.” We get the leaders we deserve.

[First published at Patriot Post.]

Categories: On the Blog
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