On the Blog

Kathleen Sebelius’s Resignation Hands Republicans A Golden Opportunity

Somewhat Reasonable - April 12, 2014, 8:55 PM

Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, and Rachel Maddow is right to not be happy about it, not one little bit. For once, I completely agree with Maddow’s analysis.

This surprise resignation presents Republicans with an unexpected opportunity to refocus the conversation on Obamacare’s negatives, offers a chance to force vulnerable Senate Democrats to take a hard vote on Obamacare six months before the midterms, and serves to disrupt what had been a positive few days of media spin for the health care law into another conversation about its many failings.

About a month ago, in a conversation with a Senate Democratic aide, the topic of Sebelius – “Auntie K” – came up. The assumption was shared that there was no way Sebelius would be leaving HHS prior to the November midterm elections – indeed, the aide claimed that her position was essentially unassailable given the negative attention her resignation or firing would draw. And besides, any nomination fight, no matter who the nominee is, would quickly become an opportunity for Republican Senators to pile on while Democratic Senators were put in an awkward position. No, the conventional wisdom said Sebelius would stay, at least til November 2014.

So much for the conventional wisdom. Reaching out tonight to the aforementioned aide, and to Republican aides as well, I found unanimous surprise at the step – they learned it from the media, not from trial balloons from the administration. Perhaps this move really was a surprise driven by an attempt on the part of the White House to avoid a Donald Rumsfeld situation, where the embattled Defense Secretary was given a presidential vote of confidence just days prior to the 2006 election, and then had his resignation accepted a week later. Interestingly enough, in Erroll Morris’s The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld himself says he wishes George W. Bush had accepted his resignation two years earlier, in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Perhaps President Obama is learning from his predecessors’ second midterm mistake, or attempting to?

In any case, it appears that this resignation presents Republicans with a golden opportunity to reignite their crusade against Obamacare with Sylvia Burwell’s nomination as a proxy for all the problems with the law.Burwell is a political loyalist and a veteran of the shutdown fight with no record on health care, and will likely be coached to avoid answering questions about specific challenges with implementation at HHS. Senate Republicans actually have an advantage here in the wake of the Nuclear Option’s implementation: they can easily come up with a list of facts they claim the administration has hidden, details kicked aside, statutes ignored, and a host of other challenging questions on accountability over the implementation (and non-implementation) of the law. A list of every question Sebelius has dodged over the past several years would suffice. By demanding answers before the HHS nomination moves forward and refusing to rubber stamp the president’s pick, Republicans could force more vulnerable Democrats to take a vote that ties them both to the Nuclear Option and Obamacare six months before a critical election.

And Democrats know this. Here’s Tom Daschle talking to The Daily Beast:

While the invocation of the “nuclear option” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last fall means that Burwell’s confirmation would only require 51 votes and not be subject to a filibuster, it doesn’t mean the process will be easy. Senate Republicans will surely use the process to push their message on Obamacare and to get more information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from the administration. Although Burwell was confirmed to head OMB by a vote of 96-0, Daschle cautioned that he thought she wouldn’t have an “easy ride.” As he noted because Obamacare “is such a contentious issue that will be reflected in the hearings.”

Other factions of the left are out there claiming that this resignation is a good thing – a sign of Sebelius’s huge success with Obamacare – not an acceptance of responsibility for Klendathu. But even if that’s what the White House thinks, Maddow’s frustration, in my view, is a wiser assessment of how this will play, and her description will be absolutely accurate if Republicans are smart enough to seize this opportunity. Maddow herself compared it to a sports team that “stops halfway through their victory lap to fire the coach” – no one thinks that’s the way it works. And given that Sebelius was just days ago committing to staying through November to see the next round of implementation through, only the most severe partisan is going to believe this wasn’t a step taken through the lens of 2014. Even the media frame on this from the New York Times, of all places, is “Sebelius Resigns After Troubles Over Health Site”.

A narrative this obvious writes itself. Anyone not interested in believing the lemon tree was haunted knows thinking otherwise is just pretending to enjoy a cool glass of turnip juice.

Follow Ben on Twitter.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is lying About Climate Change Okay?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 3:46 PM

Those of us who have chronicled the global warming hoax, now called “climate change”, know that it is based on decades of lies about carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gas” with predictions that the Earth will heat up and cause massive problems unless those emissions are drastically reduced by not using coal, oil and natural gas.

Two American think tanks, The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) have been among those exposing those lies for years. The lies have been generated and led by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Despite the panel’s insistence that the Earth is getting hotter, five different datasets show that there have been no observable warming for 17 and a half years even as carbon dioxide levels have risen 12%,” notes Christopher Monckton, a science advisor to Britain’s former Prime Minister Thatcher. “The discrepancy between prediction and observation continues to grow.”

Recently, two Chinese assistant professors of economics, Fuhai Hong and Xiaojian Zhao, were published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Their paper, “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements”, openly advocated lying about global warming/climate change in order to get nations to sign on to the International Environmental Agreement.

“It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations,” they noted, “have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. This article provides a rationale for this tendency.”

Craig Rucker, CFACT’s Executive Director, responded to the Chinese authors saying “They’re shameless.” Theirs and others ends-justify-the-means tactics reflects the attitudes and actions of environmental organizations and serves as a warning to never accept anything they say on any aspect of this huge hoax.

CFACT’s President and co-founder, David Rothbard, noted that “Global warming skeptics have long charged that alarmists are over-hyping the dangers of climate change.” How long? Back in 1989, the late Stanford University professor, Stephen Schneider, said, “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ which we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance between being effective and being honest.”

There is no “right balance” between telling lies and telling the truth when it comes to science or any other aspect of our lives. Suffice to say that thousands of scientists who participated in the IPCC reports over the years supported the lies, but many have since left and some have openly denounced the reports.

As the latest IPCC summary of its report has garnered the usual verbatim media coverage of its outlandish predictions, The Heartland Institute has released its own 1,062 page report from the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) called “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts. An 18-page summery is available at http://climatechangereconsidered.org.

Among its findings:

- Atmospheric carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

- There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

- Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life.

- A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events.
Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, the NIPCC report is free of the lies that are found in the IPCC report whose studies have been, at best, dubious, and at worst, deliberately deceptive.In light of the natural cooling cycle the Earth has been in that is good news and it will be even better news when the planet emerges from the cycle that reflects the lower levels of radiation from the Sun.

On March 31, CNS News reported that “The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report estimates it will cost developed nations an additional $100 billion each year to help poorer nations adapt to the devastating effects of ‘unequivocal’ global warming, including food shortages, infrastructure breakdown, and civil violence. But that figure was deleted from the report’s executive summary after industrial nations, including the United States, objected to the high price tag.”

The price tag reveals the IPCC’s real agenda, the transfer of funds from industrial nations to those less developed. It’s about the money and always has been. It’s not global warming the planet needs to survive, it is the costly lies about it.

[First published at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog

Wide Support for Internet Access Tax Moratorium

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 10:26 AM

The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 was designed to promote the growth of the Internet by placing a moratorium on state and local taxation of Internet access and the creation of discriminatory taxes on emails and other data. The moratorium is set to expire in 2014, but two proposals being considered in Congress, the Senate’s Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act and its companion bill in the House, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, would permanently extend the ban on Internet access taxes. Neither of the bills being considered or the moratorium exempts Internet sales from general state sales taxes. 

Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent is a necessary step in promoting wider access to the Internet while keeping the cost down and eliminating discriminatory taxes. As the Internet has become one of the driving forces behind economic growth across the United States, ensuring affordable access for businesses and consumers is crucial. An online petition sponsored by MyWireless.org calling on Congress to permanently ban taxes on Internet access has drawn over 44,000 signatures.

On April 10, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) Coalition, a group of communications and technology companies, business associations and consumer groups released a letter to Congress calling for legislators to support the current efforts to avoid a tax increase on Internet access. Lawmakers currently have until November 1, 2014, the end of the current moratorium to stop the new tax. Tom Schatz, President of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, a signatory of the letter noted that preserving the Internet moratorium is a rare issue that crosses the aisle. “It is not often that an issue receives bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., but the Internet tax moratorium is a rare area where both liberals and conservatives have found common ground,” said Schatz.

Annabelle Canning, executive director of the ITFA argued in a statement that the goal of mobilizing the Internet economy to promote economic growth would “be better achieved by ensuring all Americans have access to broadband Internet access, free from burdensome state and local taxation. Permanently extending ITFA would allow Americans to reap the benefits provided by broadband Internet access through increased access to job training, education, employment opportunities and government services without excess taxation.”

Supporters of both bills argue that increased Internet access taxes say allowing these taxes could quickly make ISP bills resemble phone bills, with more and more taxes added and more people being unable to afford Internet access. Wireless tax rates have reached all-time highs with almost half the states nationwide now impose a wireless tax above 10 percent, according to the Tax Foundation; the national average is more than 16.3 percent.

In the letter, Steve Pociask, President of The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI) argues Internet access must remain free if the digital economy is going to continue to grow. “While Congress and the President want consumer adoption, investment, deployment and innovation in broadband services, allowing the imposition of onerous taxes would nullify these goals. We need to not tax what we should encourage.”

The twin bills would also prevent state and local governments from imposing multiple taxes on digital goods, such as apps and music, as many governments have begun to do with wireless phone service. Under the moratorium, the digital economy for apps and digital music has boomed, according to the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, the lack of an Internet access tax has “enabled the app economy to create nearly 500,000 jobs, and digital music downloads from the iTunes store alone accounted for over 25 billion songs at this point.”

Internet access taxes place an unnecessary burden on consumers in order to do something the market is already handling quite effectively. Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent would help broadband access and development expand while reducing the need for government broadband spending.

Categories: On the Blog

Workplace Discrimination Is Everywhere! Bureau of Labor Statistics Proves It!

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 9:10 AM

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President Obama and many of his fellow Democrat politicians think they have identified a terrible injustice in the “gender pay gap.” But with almost no effort, anyone who can access the Internet can go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and find information showing a far greater injustice: the pay gap between young people and older workers.

Obama and company are scandalized that women are paid 77 percent of what men are paid. Yet I have heard them say nothing about BLS numbers showing 16- to 24-year olds are paid only 54 percent of what workers 25 and older are paid.

Sex discrimination in the workplace? Apparently it’s nothing compared to age discrimination in the workplace!

The BLS informs us: “Median weekly earnings were highest for women age 35 to 64 in 2012, with little difference in the earnings of 35- to 44-year-olds ($747), 45- to 54-year-olds ($746), and 55- to 64-year-olds ($766).” Women 16 to 24 years old were paid only $416 a week, according to the BLS.

“Among men,” the BLS tells us, “workers who were age 45 to 64 had the highest earnings, with 45- to 54-year-olds ($994) making about the same as 55- to 64-year-olds ($1,005).” Men 16 to 24 years old were paid only $468 a week, according to the BLS.

Outrageous! And the more we delve into the BLS report, the more discrimination we find! For instance:

“Asian women and men earned more than their White, Black, and Hispanic or Latino counterparts in 2012. Among women, Whites ($710) earned 92 percent as much as Asians ($770), while Blacks ($599) and Hispanics ($521) earned 78 percent and 68 percent as much as Asians, respectively. In comparison, White men ($879) earned 83 percent as much as Asian men ($1,055); Black men ($665) earned 63 percent as much as Asians; and Hispanic men ($592), 56 percent.”

It’s clear as crystal: Employers discriminate against Whites, Blacks and Hispanics of both sexes while favoring Asians of both sexes!

Oh, no. We read a little farther and find this: “Earnings growth has been largest for White women, outpacing that of their Black and Hispanic counterparts. Between 1979 and 2012, inflation-adjusted earnings (also called constant-dollar earnings) rose by 31 percent for White women, compared with an increase of 20 percent for Black women and 13 percent for Hispanic women. In contrast, earnings for White and Black men in 2012 showed little or no change from their 1979 constant-dollar levels, while Hispanic men’s earnings were down by 8 percent after adjusting for inflation. . . . Asians were not included in this analysis because comparable data for the group are not available until 2003.”

So, since 1979, in constant-dollar terms, employers have been discriminating against men, holding down their earnings while giving White, Black and Hispanic women double-digit increases in their earnings!

Oh, and it gets worse!

“At each level of education, women have fared better than men with respect to earnings growth. Although both women and men without a high school diploma have experienced declines in inflation-adjusted earnings since 1979, the drop for women was significantly less than that for men: a 14-percent decrease for women as opposed to a 32-percent decline for men. On an inflation-adjusted basis, earnings for women with a college degree have increased by 28 percent since 1979, while those of male college graduates have risen by 17 percent.”

So employers have gone more than 30 years discriminating against men regardless of education!

I can’t stand to read any further. Paragraph after paragraph of discrimination laid out for us by the government’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics! Read it all yourself, if you have the stomach for it.

President Obama has not been shy about wielding that famous pen of his to right all sorts of workplace wrongs. Recently he has decreed a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour for federal government contractors. On Tuesday he signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation. And he signed a Presidential Memorandum “instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race,” according to a White House press release.  “The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers.”

Equal pay laws? After reading the BLS report, it appears there is no such thing as equal pay. Discrimination is the only possible explanation for all these numbers! The mystery to me is why President Obama and other Democrat leaders have so narrowly focused their attention on the gender pay gap when the BLS has highlighted so many other egregious workplace injustices that scream to be righted.

Categories: On the Blog

Online Video Competition’s Tipping Point Just Tipped

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 8:49 AM

What do Amazon, Verizon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all have in common?

They’re all actively preparing to enter the over-the-top online video business with their own streaming service or proprietary online programming to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and facilities-based pay-TV providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T, Verizon, and others.

Why all this new competition now?

Several big recent changes have converged to create a tipping point for new broad scale, over-the-top (OTT) video competition.

The FCC made clear net neutrality does not apply to the Internet backbone market. Broadband providers are fiercely competing to offer plentiful wireless bandwidth for online video streaming. And several companies worth $1.5 trillion collectively have plans to compete as over-the-top online video streamers and programmers. Competition in this space is clearly intensifying.

First, in just the last three months, the U.S. regulatory environment has turned around 180 degrees in terms of facilitating market negotiations, economics and competition in the Internet backbone market. The removal of regulatory uncertainty has jumpstarted market negotiations between ISPs and multiple new competitive entrants seeking necessary quality of services guarantees for their planned OTT offerings.

Specifically, the D.C. Court of Appeals in its January Verizon v. FCC decision outlawed the FCC from regulating unregulated broadband ISPs as regulated common carriers. That means part of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet order that implicitly set a zero price for downstream Internet backbone traffic (i.e. video streaming) was illegal.

Since then the FCC has decided to not appeal, and hence live with that ruling as law. In addition, FCC Chairman Wheeler and the agency at large have publicly affirmed the FCC would not include new Internet backbone regulation in the FCC’s redo of the partially overturned Open Internet order.

Competitively this is a big deal. The FCC’s old net neutrality rules fostered huge uneconomic arbitrage, where perversely the biggest corporate users of Internet bandwidth contributed the least to the infrastructure upgrade costs necessary to keep pace with exploding bandwidth consumption.

Now market forces can naturally balance costs with prices. And importantly new OTT entrants can negotiate the specialized quality assurance guarantees necessary for a viable competitive offering. That’s why Netflix and Comcast recently completed a multi-year, Internet backbone interconnection deal.

This is a big deal for growth as well. This change enables the creation of an entirely new business-to-business marketplace of specialized services to meet the various and different needs for specialized speed, capacity and quality for OTT video, telemedicine, industrial operations, connected cars, and the Internet of things.

Second, in just the last year, broadband competition has spurred a game-changing amount of new Internet infrastructure investment that has created a competitive tipping point for new OTT video and other specialized services.

America now leads the world in wireless 4G-LTE infrastructure investment. This means by year’s end, America’s four national wireless broadband ISPs will be offering speeds capable of supporting new OTT video streaming services, nearly ubiquitously. And Dish has aggregated enough spectrum nationally to offer a fifth ubiquitous, MVNO wireless broadband service to enable OTT video services.

On top of that world-leading LTE investment, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the rest of the cable industry have been furiously adding more free WiFi hotspots to provide mobility to their wire line customers. Furthermore the FCC just freed-up another 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum for WiFi to enable even more capacity for mobile video streaming.

The advent of broad scale mobile OTT competition should be of no surprise. This is just a continuation of the long back-and-forth competition between wireless and wire line infrastructures. In the 1980s cable TV largely replaced free broadcast TV. In the 1990s and the aughts Direct Broadcast Satellite took a third of cable share.

And now America’s wireless broadband infrastructure has reached the tipping point of increasingly delivering the video streaming throughputs necessary to enable mobile OTT video competition.

Third, new competitive entrants grasp the new competitive opportunity created by the more growth-friendly regulatory environment and the higher-bandwidth wireless infrastructure.

News reports indicate that at least six new OTT video competitors worth over $1.5 trillion – Amazon, Verizon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – are all individually readying new competitive assaults.

If it was only one or two companies planning this new big effort, one could be skeptical that a tipping point had been reached. But when at least six companies of this size are targeting the same opportunity at the same time in very similar ways, something big is afoot.

The broadband and pay-TV businesses are facing a tipping point of new game-changing OTT competition, because three necessary competitive prerequisites have been met.

The court/FCC removed a big regulatory overhang from the business-to-business Internet backbone space, opening up a whole new growth marketplace for mass specialized services in need of special quality of service guarantees. This in turn opens up new economic arrangements like AT&T’s Sponsored Data offering where businesses can pay for their consumers’ bandwidth usage to attract customers.

Competitive forces have goaded multiple ISPs to invest big in upgrading infrastructure to enable mass mobile OTT services.

Several companies that already serve most Americans, and that have among the deepest pockets of any businesses in America, are hungrily eying the OTT marketplace for growth and expansion.

This is more than just a competitive tipping point – it’s a perfect storm of pro-competition developments.

 

[Originally published at Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Fox News: NIPCC report ‘Poking Very Large Holes’ in Climate Alarmist ‘Consensus’

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 10:31 PM

For the second night in a row, the new report from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was featured on “Special Report with Bret Baier” on the Fox News Channel. Baier’s show destroys its competition on cable news with about 1.7 million viewers each night.

FNC covered the press conference Heartland and NIPCC held Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It informed this fantastic report from Doug McKelway, who said the NIPCC report presents “a torrent of new data … poking very large holes in what the president has called the scientific consensus about global warming.”

Watch it below, and read the transcript below that, which I preserve for posterity. When a reporter on the most-watched nightly news show on cable states the following, it’s worth filing away: “Skeptics believe [alarmist] statements are demonstrably false. They point to observable data, not computer modeling, to prove their point.”

Baier: The earth may, or may not, be heating up. But there’s no debate that the fight over man-made climate change certainly is. Despite repeated proclamations that science comes down on one particular side, it turns out many scientists do not agree. Correspondent Doug McKelway reports tonight on the deepening divide over an issue that is part science and part politics.

[Clip: Barack Obama]: But the debate is settled. Climate Change is a fact.

McKelway: A torrent of new data is poking very large holes in what the president has called the scientific consensus about global warming.

Roger Pilon, Cato Institute: The dirty little secret is that we’re now at 17 years and 8 months of no global warming. Their models have failed, year in and year out.

McKelway: Backed by thousands of peer-reviewed papers, a study released today by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change contrasts starkly with the recently released UN report that finds severe impacts from global warming. The new report finds that warming from greenhouse gases will be so small as to be indiscernible from natural variability. The impact of modestly rising CO2 levels on plants, animals, and humans has been mostly positive. And the costs of trying to limit emissions vastly exceed the benefits. The report may only heighten debate over climate change, where both sides are armed with their own opinions and their own facts.

[Clip: Hillary Clinton]: Climate change is a national security problem, not just an environmental problem.

[Clip: John Kerry]: And all of the predictions of the scientists are not just being met, they are being exceeded.

McKelway: Skeptics believe those statements are demonstrably false. They point to observable data, not computer modeling, to prove their point.

Joseph Bast, president, Heartland Institute: Carbon dioxide has not caused weather to become more extreme. And it is not causing polar ice and sea ice to melt. It’s not causing sea-level rise to accelerate.

McKelway: All of which is leading Congressional doubters to further question EPA regulations.

[Clip: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)]: The sheer number of proposed rule-makings coupled with cost of compliance with a vast array of regulations already on the books and, what at times are the unreasonable consequences of their enforcement is very, very frustrating.

McKelway: Climate Change skeptic Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma introduced leg just last week that would tackle the administration’s regulatory end-run around Congress. It would prevent the EPA from issuing any final rule until it conducts an economic analysis as required under the Clean Air Act.

Catch up with the latest media reports, op-eds, podcasts, and videos about the NIPCC reports at ClimateChangeReconsidered.org.

Categories: On the Blog

When Governments Attack the Private Sector

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 12:55 PM

Your average government – anywhere in the world – has more resources at its disposal than just about any private company on the planet.

So when a government sets its sites on making a private company’s life miserable – it almost always can.  Because it can put the full weight of the Leviathan behind the push – and it is spending Other People’s Money to do it.

The private company is not only spending its own coin to fend off the attack, they are in many cases also helping to fund their attacker – with the copious taxes their attacker has conscripted.

Governments wield woefully huge bureaucratic apparatuses.  They have countless agencies, commissions, departments and boards – all of which can be brought to bear on their targets.

They can rain down a hurricane’s worth of regulations and unfavorable rulings.  And they can use their piles of confiscated cash to hire armadas of attorneys to litigate their opponents into oblivion.

To name but one notorious example of this obnoxiousness – there is our governments’ abuse ofeminent domain.  Remember Kelo v. New London?

It’s bad enough when government does this as Crony Socialism – at the money-backed behest of Big Companies looking to sic the Big Government attack dog on their competition.

It’s even worse when Big Government does it unilaterally – abusing its gi-normous power to benefit itself. Behold:

The Rise of State-Sponsored Patent Trolls

“Patent trolls are a hazard in the U.S. marketplacebuy(ing) up patents…and aggressively accus(ing) others of infringing them.”

Now let’s be abundantly clear.  If a patent claim is legitimate – the patent holder(s) absolutely should be paid.  Otherwise, we undermine private property rights – a free-society-foundational tenet.

Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like these patent claims are going to be anything but legitimate.

Recently, foreign governments have begun founding their own patent trolls. France Brevets, Intellectual Discovery in Korea, and Innovation Network Corp of Japan are examples of these troubling entities. China is headed toward similar “investment service platforms.”….

Foreign Governments Getting into Profitable US ‘Patent Troll’ Business

So-called “patent trolls” can earn millions of dollars by being a costly thorn in the side of companies.

“(P)atent trolls”…siphon money from large corporations…that sell products and services.

An intellectual property firm can accuse such companies of violating the patents they own, and can secure licensing deals or even file patent infringement lawsuits to obtain cash.

Ah yes – the “sue and settle” approach – so popular with the likes of our domestic Left-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cabal.

These governments aren’t doing it just to illicitly pocket coin – they will also use it as backdoor, pernicious protectionism for their domestic companies.

State-Sponsored Patent Trolls Signal New Form of Protectionism

There is the natural tendency to favor domestic industries over foreign ones. This natural tendency can develop into protectionist policies akin to the industrial policies of many 19th-century governments.

There is also an incentive for states to use the patents to defend key domestic companies by attacking foreign companies and raising their costs. This would encourage anti-competitive behavior in industries where technology is critical.

And of course there is an inherent conflict of interest when a government is charged with patent enforcement – while itself owning patents.  It’s like a baseball umpire owning one of the teams playing the game he’s umping.

Their attempted explanations for why they are doing this simply don’t wash:

The (South Korean) government-backed company has purchased more than 200 U.S. patents, and has said it plans to use those patents to protect other South Korean companies that might be targeted by a lawsuit.

There are legitimate reasons for foreign businesses to be concerned about patent litigation – and they should purchase the protective patents themselves.  Not have Government Warbucks buy them to play Crony Socialist protectionist favorites.

There is a Yellow Pages Rule: If you can find it in the Yellow Pages – the government shouldn’t do it.

If we want a legitimate, freer global marketplace – and the true private-property-protection legitimate patent enforcement provides – we need to have the world’s governments serve as cops non-prejudicially walking the beat.

Not setting up storefronts and manning the shops.  And then hiring slip-and-fall lawyers to harass their competitors.

You can have enforcement authority or skin in the game – not both.  These governments all have the former – they should absolutely stay out of the latter.

 

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Liberals focus on happy thoughts? Really?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 12:50 PM

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, whose writing I commend heartily to readers of Somewhat Reasonable, this morning called my attention to some fascinating research reported recently in Mother Jones. It is truly not every day that Kass cites Mother Jones, so I was intrigued.

In ”Can Conservatives be fixed scientifically?” Kass quotes an April 4 Mother Jones article – This Machine Can Tell Whether You’re Liberal or Conservative – as saying conservatives “go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening and disgusting stimuli.”

For reasons that won’t come as any surprise to readers of Somewhat Reasonable, my mind immediately turned to environmental issues, and climate change in particular. Surely Mother Jones and the researcher whose work it reports, University of Nebraska-Lincoln political scientist John Hibbing, would recognize environmental alarmism as a glaring exception to this notion that conservatives are the “negative” ones?

But alas, there’s no evidence Mother Jones or Hibbing recognize this gap in Hibbing’s theory.

Mother Jones reports: “Some of us are more hierarchical, as opposed to egalitarian; some of us prefer harsher punishments for rule breakers, whereas some of us would be more inclined to forgive; some of us find outsiders or out-groups intriguing and enticing, whereas others find them threatening.” (italics mine)

Hibbing and Mother Jones clearly want to conclude conservatives are the ones described by the phrases I’ve italicized. But on climate change and other environmental issues, that’s simply not true.

“Hierarchical” describes people who see the world as being “ranked,” with some groups of people higher than others. Think of the left’s obsession with “class warfare” and you’ll get some idea of where they’re coming from. People who are “more hierarchical” are likely to believe individuals can’t manage their own lives – they need the government to tell them what to do and how to do it. Granted, some conservatives are like that on some issues … but liberals are like that, big time, on energy and environment and climate change issues. It is the liberals, after all, who talk about “global” warming and think a “global” governing body – the United Nations – has all the answers on climate change.

And on climate change, clearly liberals are the ones who “prefer harsher punishments.” They call for Nuremberg trials and even the death penalty for climate change “deniers.”

(N.B.: The phrase “climate change deniers” is not something that would be used by “happy,” “positive” people. Nobody is denying climate change happens. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change notes in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, “Any human global climate signal is so small as to be nearly indiscernible against the background variability of the natural climate system. Climate change is always occurring.”)

Finally, it’s clearly the liberals who find “outsiders or out-groups” threatening. Why else would they label the scientists who disagree with them “deniers,” refuse to engage in civil debate or even speak at events to share their views in an open forum?

On energy, environment, and climate issues, it is the “conservatives and their rambunctious libertarian siblings,” as Kass calls us, who have a positive message to deliver: that global warming is not a crisis, the likely benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs, and mankind is not the scourge on Earth that liberals make us out to be.

Categories: On the Blog

F.H. Buckley Presents Dim View of America’s “Crown Government”

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 12:46 PM

On Thursday, April 3, The Heartland Institute’s Author Series featured F.H. Buckley, author and foundation professor at George Mason University School of Law with his eye-opening, recently published book titled, “The Once and Future King: The Rise and Fall of Crown Government.”  A citizen of Canada, Buckley will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen April 15.

Buckley didn’t mince words when he shattered just about every myth surrounding American government.  The Constitution, with its separation of powers, was not what the Founders had in mind. They instead envisioned a country in which Congress would dominate the government and in which the president would play a much smaller role.

Buckley offered a clarion warning about the alarming rise of one-man rule in the age of Obama, which he calls Crown government, and which one of our Founders (George Mason) called an “elective monarchy” that was worse than the real thing.

How did this nation arrive at its current state?

Although Buckley is not a Constitutional lawyer, he feels that as an outsider he has a better prospective of what led to American’s transformation to that of an “Imperial Presidency,” a term first coined by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in a book by the same name, who as an adviser to the Kennedy administration, later condemned Richard Nixon’s abuse of presidential power and accordingly called for a return of power to the congressional branch.

Foremost in Buckley’s presentation was how presidential regimes differ from parliamentary systems of government through his evaluation of both systems:

  • Most worrisome in a presidential system is that the head of government and the head of state are united as one, in contrast to a parliamentary system where control rests more in party leaders.
  • Presidents can hide behind lecterns, but not prime ministers who must respond to questions from the Opposition on a daily basis when Parliament is in session or when the prime minister is in the country. Obama wouldn’t last in a parliamentary form of government where he would have to answer every question directed to him by Republican leaders.
  • Presidents have a fixed term, while prime ministers may be ousted at any time by a majority in the House of Commons.  In 225 years no president has ever been removed from office through impeachment.  Nixon may have saved himself from this fate by resigning.  Clinton was able to slow walk the impeachment process long enough to place the blame on Ken Starr.  Andrew Johnson came close to impeachment but won by a single vote:  35 to convict; 19 to acquit. The “high crimes and misdemeanors” test of our Constitution requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. Rejected was what was first proposed by George Mason which called for impeachment based on a “maladministration” standard. Madison disagreed with the maladministration standard fearing that presidents under that standard could be removed for any reason.  Evident is that the Framers never anticipated that the presidency would emerge as the dominate branch of the government and that a broad impeachment power might be necessary to keep the executive branch in check.  As observed by Thomas Jefferson in his old age, a judgment seconded by Henry Adams, impeachment, as set forth in the Constitution, was not even a scarecrow!
  • The president is the only person elected by the entire country and has become the principal symbol of American democracy.  While Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution established that the president has the power to run the executive branch of the government, Article II, Section 2 was amended in 1804 through the 12th amendment which set up the Electoral College system which still governs modern presidential elections. This system of electing presidents has given way to the rise of a strong president, helped along by the sick adulation of the president by the media (far better when politicians are considered buffoons!), and a Supreme Court that serves at the whim of presidents.
  • The Electoral College system of electing presidents has ultimately produced a different kind of leader who is subject to public extremes of love and hatred, out of which has developed intense partisanship and gridlock. It hasn’t helped that the media has made rock stars out of the heads of government.
  • The loss of political freedom is associated with the concentration of power at the top in a president; hence, a “Reversibility” problem exists where people are stuck with bad laws and rulings, i.e., Obamacare.  With the power to issue Executive Orders, President Obama is putting in place policies that fit his own agenda if unable to legislate through Congress.
  • Presidential systems are difficult to export to other countries.  It didn’t work when exporting to South America. There are lots of presidents for life, but never a prime minister; however, in these modern times both presidents and prime ministers have gained increased power.

The issue of immigration was touched upon in the context of how population is renewed by birth and immigration.  The intake of immigration in the 1950′s looked like America with 70% from Europe and Asia.  The immigration intake now largely consist of those living south of the Rio Grande. They didn’t come here after reading the Federalist papers!  Many will latch on to the Democrat Party, being used to having power centered in a powerful president with government as their keeper.

Also of concern to Buckley is our criminal law system.  The scope of current law is so broad that its interpretation is often left open to the individual wishing to apply the law.  Buckley’s fear is that those having the incorrect political leaning could be arrested or penalized.

Despite the many drawback of our presidential system, what went so wrong that we now have an elected head of state and president who is behaving like an Imperial President?

As stated by F.H. Buckley, “We’ve had a wonderful run for 235 years.”  As to the age we are living in, we can no longer count on the courts to protect our constitutional liberties.

Unless there is an extremely egregious nominee, the Senate votes to uphold the nomination.  Despite the many scandals that have happened under the watch of Democrats, including Fast and Furious, Bengali, and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, because an ineffective Department of Justice and an Attorney General is in place who is tied to the president and not concerned about Constitutional principles, culpability is being denied and justice is not being served.

Then too there is the present Congress whose members are not willing to step up to the plate, but for a few, and take a united stand against Democrat proposals that are wrong for this nation.  Not only did wimpy and frightened Republican recently give in to Democrats while receiving nothing in return when they allowed the debt ceiling to be raised, but in dealing with the $862 billion Stimulus Bill passed in 2009, very little direction was given on how this tremendous amount of money should be spent.

It is easier to change course in a parliamentary regime than in one with an elected president.  For not only is it difficult to amend the Constitution, but a Supreme Court stacked with judges in sync with the views of a president and a media that fawns over the president create additional obstacles.

As the concentration of power becomes more in the hands of one instead of many, the deck becomes more and more stacked against effecting change in Congress through working within the system. An examples of when change happened from outside the system was the tea party’s show of election might when new comers were elected to Congress in 2010, all united on the pledge to shut down the earmark favor factory.

Also deserving of credit by Buckley was the “Republican Contract of America” written in part by Newt Gingrich and introduced six weeks before the1994 Congressional election.  Current Republican members of the House of Representatives and those citizens seeking to join that body, promised not just work to change its policies, but even more so to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.  The contract enabled New Gingrich to become the first Republican Speaker of the House of Representative in 40 years. The Contract included 8 proposals outlining legislature to get enacted by the House of Representative within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress (1995-96).  All parts of the Contract were passed by the House under the leadership of Speaker Gingrich.

After all the negative views presented, there was something positive news to grab on to.  Noted was that all good things seem to be happening on the Right, such as Students for Liberty, as the Left continues to digs its hole even deeper with policies that take this nation in the wrong direction.  National referendums could be useful but this would require that all legislators come together and speak about the same problem, hardly likely!  Being advocated by Mark Levin and others is a Constitutional Convention.   It was slipped into Article 5 of the Constitution by George Mason as an alternate way for amendments to be proposed which says, “If two-thirds of state legislatures demand a meeting, Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments.”

 

[Originall published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

NIPCC Gathers Attention Despite Mainstream Scorn

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 9:40 PM

Heartland Institute President Joe Bast moderating the climate panel at CPAC 2014.

The release of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has sparked a predictable backlash from the mainstream media and the scientific community. Yet it is a document that cannot be quashed with the usual dose of scorn; it’s far too well-researched for that!

In fact, the voluminous Climate Change Reconsidered has thrust the subject of anthropogenic climate change back into the spotlight. Heartland President Joseph Bast appeared in a Fox News special report today, in which he discussed the position of the NIPCC on the positive effects warming can have for humanity.

“Rising carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures have been shown to actually improve agricultural productivity,” Bast told the interviewer, “Billions of people are being fed today who would not have been fed.”

While it is unclear as yet whether this new report from the NIPCC will have the transformative effect on the public discourse surrounding climate change and global warming its authors hope for, it is clear that the debate it fosters has yielded significant returns in terms of both general public awareness of the continuing controversy, and of specific encouragement to move away from unquestioning acceptance of Establishment Science’s pronouncements.

During the Fox interview, Bast stated that, “Ethical standards have been lowered, peer-review has been corrupted, and we can’t trust what appears in our most prestigious journals anymore.” It is certainly true that the climate change debate, particularly in the wake of 2009′s Climate Gate scandal, has served not only to occasionally embarrass mainstream opponents, but also to enliven public scrutiny of the scientific research process.

Peer review is a system that often “rewards conformity” over unorthodox thinking, which can turn the journals and publications of record that are meant to be the keen spear-point of scientific progress into a blunt instrument for enforcing the status quo. The need to publish papers as the means of securing academic promotion reinforces the problem,  as repeating or defending the existing consensus is more likely to garner successful publication. The echo-chamber of academia thus drowns out dissenting voices.

Scientists ought to welcome challenges to the mainstream, even if they believe they are wholly wrong. The flaws in research papers that Climate Change Reconsidered shines a light on can now be better addressed by all scientists in future. True scientific progress is achieved through iconoclasm, not conservatism.

The debates that will spread in the coming months as Climate Change Reconsidered II is discussed in the media and academic circles can only make science better.

Categories: On the Blog

Energy Department Revives Stimulus Loans as Another Electric Vehicle Company Stalls

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 11:01 AM

As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced last week a renewed push to provide $16 billion in taxpayer-backed loans for “clean” technology vehicles, more bad news emerged from another stimulus-funded electric vehicle company over the weekend.

Smith Electric Vehicles, the truck company that was supposed to “make it” because electrification made so much sense for short, urban delivery routes, halted production at the end of 2013. A quarterly report at Recovery.gov attributed the stoppage to “the company’s tight cash flow situation.”

While not a beneficiary of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program that Moniz wants to revive, Smith Electric is another reason why subsidies of any type for this floundering pseudo-industry – loans, grants, tax breaks, etc. – are enormous wastes. In light of the hundreds of millions of dollars that other companies like Fisker AutomotiveEcotality and A123 Systems received, Smith’s $32 million in grants is comparatively modest. But perhaps no company was less deserving of the subsidies than the Kansas City-based truck maker.

Smith’s selling point was that delivery routes in urban areas did not require a long range between refueling (or, recharging). Frequent stops and short distances alleviated the “range anxiety” affixed to cars like theNissan LeafFrito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Staples were cited as early adopters of the truck demonstration project, which the grants were supposed to support.

But in reality, as NLPC reported in December 2011, Smith was already a failed company based in the United Kingdom – a division of a larger company called the Tanfield Group. Smith-U.S. established itself in Kansas City in January 2009, following a precipitous drop in Tanfield’s U.K. stock value in mid-2008. Financial analysts became troubled because claims the company made about matters such as vehicle orders could not be verified. The company was accused of exercising poor disclosure standards and weak financial controls, according to theLondon Telegraph. Tanfield’s cash evaporation led the company to lose 97 percent of its value in 2008, prompted inquiries by the London Stock Exchange and by the U.K. Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board.

Despite that track record, in August 2009 the Obama administrationannounced a $10 million award to Smith-U.S. – less than eight months old in America. The following March Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskillannounced the additional $22 million for Smith’s truck demonstration project. All this early taxpayer money didn’t just go to a company with no history, or an existing one with promise, but a foreign flop.

Still, the Obama administration and McCaskill did their best to inflate prospects for Smith, with both visiting the manufacturing facility and boasting of its promise. And every so often in the last couple years there would be a flurry of positive media coverage for which there was no justification: An empty promise to build a manufacturing facility in The Bronx, and another unfulfilled pledge to build a plant in Chicago. In reality the boasts never came to fruition because they were wholly dependent on state and local subsidies that never materialized. Bottom line: prospects for the business were not based on a vehicle that the market actually demanded, but instead upon government financial favors.

How do we know? Because fundamental math shows that Smith waspractically giving away their trucks for the demonstration project. A review of its grant on the Recovery.gov Web site indicates that users of Smith’s trucks under the demonstration project are only doing so at minimal cost to themselves. The most recent report (reflecting up until Dec. 31, 2013) under the $32 million grant shows that Smith delivered 439 of its vehicles, with $29,150,672 reimbursed to the company with government funds thus far. That calculates to a sizable $66,402 taxpayer subsidy per vehicle.

As the New York Times has reported, based upon information it received from a company representative, while the trucks range in price from $100,000 to $150,000, there were many other forms of grants and tax breaks to be had. Smith’s Web site revealed other clues about how much its clients benefit from government program subsidies. Among the incentives were: the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit (up to 30 percent of the vehicle’s cost); Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit (between $2,500 and $7,500 per truck); EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Grant (up to 25 percent of the total cost of a vehicle); Clean Cities Grant (up to 50 percent total cost of the vehicle); and Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality Funds. And then there are various state and local government support as well.

Alas, all that taxpayer dough still didn’t appear to be enough to make Smith viable. And at the current rate the Department of Energy has supported its trucks, there isn’t enough money left in the grant to reach the goal of 510 vehicles in the demonstration project – they will fall about $2 million short, assuming they have any money left at all. With 44 percent to 67 percent of the trucks’ cost subsidized just under the grant program – let alone all the other government incentives – Smith’s survival without training wheels looks virtually impossible.

According to the Kansas City Star, company officials aren’t talking, which also looks bad. An email from a DOE spokesperson said, “DOE continues to work with Smith Electric on the path forward for the remaining vehicle production.” Whether or not the company is making its lease payments to the city’s Aviation Department is going unanswered.

It’s more bad timing for Secretary Moniz to start making the case for more subsidies to electric vehicles, but then again, there is never a good time with this administration’s track record.

 

[Originally published at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

Is the Case for Liberty Too Extreme?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 11:00 AM

If there is one label more than any other that principled advocates of individual liberty are often stamped with it is that they are “extremists.” How can you be so extreme, it is said, what is wrong with a compromise between personal freedom and some “reasonable” degree of government regulation, welfare legislation, and social intervention?

The first question that should be asked back when confronted with such an accusation is, with what is the friend of liberty being asked to compromise? The real answer, of course, is that the friend of liberty is being asked to compromise with the use of coercive force in human relationships.

Freedom or Coercion in Human Affairs

The simple fact is that human association may be based on peaceful and mutually beneficial agreement and exchange, or it may be based on one party in this human relationship threatening or using force to make the other party do something that he would not willingly do if he were free from the danger of violence.

Freedom is important not because a person might want to say, “yes,” to an offer made to him, but because he might want to say, “no.” If an individual cannot say “no” without being threatened with some form of physical harm from the other person in the relationship, then that individual is not free.

Being a slave is to be required to do what someone else wants without one’s voluntary consent. It is to be coercively made the means to another’s ends or goals. That individual’s life is no longer his own. Instead, to the extent that he is made to serve the ends of another without his voluntary consent he is no longer a free man, but rather the property of another to be used as the slave-master wishes.

Often when the friend of freedom gives this reply he is accused, again, of going to extremes. But who, in this debate over freedom and coercion, is the actual extremist and who is the actual moderate? The advocate of state coercion in social affairs cannot stand the fact that people make choices, and undertake courses of action, of which he disapproves. He objects to the fact that people fail to follow the paths that his reason and values consider rational and good. Everything else is either chaotic or sinister.

The Social Engineer as Political Madman

In this sense, he is like the maniac of whom G.K. Chesterton speaks in his book, “Orthodoxy” (1908). The madman, Chesterton says, is the one “who has lost everything except his reason…. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb uncertainties of experience. The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory.” The madman has a “most sinister quality” of “connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze.”

The advocate of state coercion has, in this sense, been driven mad by the outcomes of a free society. If some men are poor while others are well to do, he cannot accept the idea that this is due to the natural scarcity of resources, or is merely as far as free market capitalism has yet been able to raise people’s standards of living in an on-going and time-consuming process of savings and investment. No, it must be because men have not submitted themselves to a plan — his plan — that his reason has given him, and not others, the superior wisdom and insight to see.

If some men receive lower pay than others, or do not have access to all the goods and services they desire, the advocate of state coercion — like the madman — often sees sinister motives and dark conspiracies. If some workers receive lower wages, it can’t be because of a lack of marketable skills or insufficient personal ambition to better themselves. No, it must be because of the businessman’s greed and unwillingness to pay “a fair wage,” or a plot among the employers to exploit their fellow human beings. The advocate of state coercion believes that he can see beneath the “charade “and he, of course, knows the regulation or intervention to put the conspirators in their place and remedy the problem.

The social madman has the answer and the solution for everything. He has no patience for ignorance, good intentions that go astray, or some natural scheme of things. And like the madman, he has no doubts about his knowledge, the goodness of his intentions and their outcome, or what the scheme of things should be turned into. Human freedom and its advocates are the irritants that he tolerates when he has to, but with which and with whom he never compromises. He has too much confidence in his own vision. In his mind, extremism in the defense of the state-molded “good society” is no vice.

Smoking and the Political Extremist

Let me try to explain this with two issues that have dominated social policy in the Western world over the last several years. The first one is the growing ban on smoking in virtually all public and private areas. In the “bad old days” it was taken to be common courtesy and good manners to ask others in an enclosed space if they minded if he, the smoker, wished to light up his cigar, cigarette, or pipe. If there were any objections, the smoker would either refrain or move to another place to enjoy his nicotine fix. Sometimes, non-smokers would be, in turn, well-mannered enough not to object if the smoke was not too much of a nuisance.

The antismoking advocate just cannot reconcile himself to the existence of others who gain pleasure from something of which he disapproves, and by people who weigh the enjoyment of the present more highly than the possible consequences of health problems in the future. Nor can he stand a world in which the market provides options to those with different preferences: restaurants, bars or other public places in which the proprietor may see the economic benefit of providing both smoking and non-smoking facilities, including ones in which some such places are completely smoke free while other places permit unrestricted smoking.

For the advocate of freedom, the market alternative is precisely the reasonable and moderate one. It recognizes and accepts the varieties and preferences among men and offers a compromise, a peaceful resolution, of the differences among them. And it leaves a wide avenue open for one group of men to reason and persuade another to modify their choices and forswear “a filthy and corrupting” habit.

Religious Tolerance vs. the Politically Closed Mind

Another example is religious tolerance. For centuries in Europe, kings and governments did not tolerate religious diversity. Those who dared to confess and practice a faith differing from that of the monarch or the political authority were threatened with imprisonment, exile, or even torture and death. It took hundreds of years and numerous religious wars before men where willing to leave religious faith, or no faith, to the conscience of each member of society.

In the liberal society that slowly evolved during the last few centuries in the West it came to be accepted that religion was a private matter and not “an affair of the state.” Debates, disputes, and even heated argument over religious matters were to be left to the marketplace of ideas. Conversions and “crusades” for the acceptance of the “true” faith were only to be fought on the battlefield of the mind and the spirit, and not at the end of the hangman’s rope.

But now there has arisen a new political intolerance against any public demonstration for or stated disagreement with a particular religious faith. Religious views are to be locked away in the believer’s mind, and any public expression of his faith is considered somehow to be imposing that belief on others. Thus, if a private business establishment chooses to exhibit a religious symbol on its own property, (even if many of his customers desire or agree with it), it is increasingly considered grounds for legal suit and legislative prohibition.

At the same time, if the proponent of one faith declares his disagreement or disapproval of another faith this, in turn, is considered an act of religious “intolerance” that is to be regulated or legislated against as a supposed “hate crime.” Thus, in the name of religious “tolerance” governments are increasingly becoming intolerant of any individuals or private groups that express their differences and disagreements with other belief systems in that marketplace of ideas. A new form of religious censorship is being imposed on people of every faith.

The New Religious Intolerance vs. the Marketplace of Ideas

A widely publicized instance of this new intolerance a few years ago was the firestorm of controversy that followed publication of the Danish newspaper cartoons, which portrayed Mohammed in an unflattering light. When some foreign governments and domestic pressure groups called for the censorship and punishment of those who published the cartoons, the liberal reply should have been that law and politics have not place in this matter. One might question and even personally challenge the good manners or polite taste of those who published them, but this is all part of the peaceful rivalry of ideas in which both the vulgar and the refined compete for the attention and acceptance of the reading and thinking public.

When I was a small boy I was taught that when someone said something rude or insulting to me the appropriate response was, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Now, of course, words can and do hurt, and precisely because of this decent men in a free society should show a reasonable moderation in what and how they say things. And, indeed, it used to be taken as more of a demonstration of the “crudity” and “ignorance” of the speaker that he should rise no higher than the gutter in what he said and how he acted toward another.

But, instead, the intolerant, political extremist wishes to ban what he considers the religiously “insensitive” and what he labels “word harms” and therefore crimes. Does this settle disputes among men about matters of religious faith (or any other idea or belief)? No, this new political extremist intolerance for private religious expressions of faith and differences of views in the public arena threatens to potentially make social tensions even worse over these issues.

It makes people fearful of speaking their minds, forces them into a public hypocrisy, and allows differences and disagreements to fester below the surface. By driving men’s thoughts “underground” it generates a “black market” place of ideas where the truly corrupt, vile, and dangerous can grow and mutate precisely because they are not challenged in the bright light of open and public discourse and debate.

The advocate of freedom, with his deep belief in the sanctity and uniqueness of the individual and his right to peacefully live his own life as chooses, has always been repelled by the idea of condemning or punishing people because of the values or beliefs that they may hold but which they do not attempt to forcibly impose on others.

The friend of liberty has believed that all ideas should be treated with respect and can only be discussed and challenged and possibly be shown to be right or wrong on the basis of reason, logic and evidence. Attempts to politically discriminate against or ban open and free discussion of any ideas are the only things that should to be viewed as unreasonable and intolerable in the free society.

Liberty and a Society of True Tolerance

The free society tries to avoid extremes through the diversity of free men that it both permits and fosters. It restrains the practice of “extreme” personal behavior because it imposes costs and consequences upon everyone who practices them, in the form of lost economic opportunity, and possibly social ostracism by those who are repelled by it.

It also teaches the advantages of moderation — courtesy, good manners, tolerance and “socially acceptable” conduct – in the competitive arena of intellectual pluralism where to win an argument the only medium of exchange is peaceful persuasion.

In other words, the free society nudges men toward better behavior and rational thought rather than tries to compel it. It teaches good and tolerant conduct through reason and example. It fosters compromise by demonstrating the personal costs of being too extreme in one’s words and actions. And it raises the ethical conduct of society by the discovered advantages of personal improvement through time.

Are the arguments for and the advocates of liberty too extreme? Quite to the contrary. Freedom is the epitome of moderation. And it is freedom’s moderation, its tolerance and diversity that drive some men mad. But madness, by definition, is not the normal condition of a healthy human being.

The history of Western civilization is the story of man’s slow escape from the madness of political and social extremism in the form of coercion and force in human relationships. Our dilemma and our challenge is that this sickness still controls the minds of too many of our fellow citizens, and is the guiding principle of those who use political power to get their way.

 

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

If the Goal is “Energy Independence,” What Issues Should be a Priority in America?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 10:00 AM

Recently the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out a “2014 Priority Issues Survey.” In addition to the obligatory Tea Party bashing: “help the Democrats protect the progress we have made from Tea Party radicals, deliver the positive changes America needs and help Democrats win a Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives!” and the fundraising requests to “help protect House Democrats against Republican attacks”—there is a section on energy.

Section VII, asks: “Which of the following will help America achieve energy independence?” It offers five options that do little to move America toward energy independence—which isn’t even a realistic goal given the fungible nature of liquid fuels. Additionally, most of the choices given on the DCCC survey actually increase energy costs for all Americans—serving as a hidden tax—but hurt those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale the most. The proposals hurt the very people the party purports to champion.

The survey asks respondents to “check all that apply.”

Raising gas mileage standards for all new cars and trucks

This choice presumes that making a law requiring something will make it happen. Sorry, not even the Democrats have that kind of power. Even the current Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standard of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025—finalized on August 28, 2012 and called “the largest mandatory fuel economy increase in history”—will be tough to hit.

The CAFE standards mean that a carmaker’s passenger vehicle fleet average must achieve 54.5 mpg. To meet that, and produce the big pick-up trucks and SUVsAmericans like to drive, the manufacturers must also produce the little itty-bitty cars with mpg above 60 and the more expensive hybrids (not one of which was on the top ten best-seller list for 2013)—or have a loss leader like the Chevy Volt to help bring down the average.

Suggesting a forced raising of gas mileage standards implies that auto manufacturers are in collusion with oil companies and are intentionally producing gas guzzlers to force Americans into buying lots of gasoline.

With the price of gasoline wavering between $3-4.00 a gallon, most people are very conscious of their fuel expenditures. If it were technologically possible to build a cost-effective truck or SUV that had the size and safety Americans want and that got 50 mpg, that manufacturer would have the car-buying public beating a path to its door. Every car company would love to be the one to corner that market—but it is not easy, it probably won’t be possible, and it surely won’t be cheap.

When the new standards were introduced in November 2011, Edmonds.com did an analysis of the potential impact: 6 Ways New CAFE Standards Could Affect You. The six points include cost and safety and highlights some concerns that are not obvious at first glance.

Achieving the higher mileage will require new technologies that include, according to Edmunds, “turbochargers and new generations of multispeed automatic transmissions to battery-electric powertrains.” The National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration and the Environmental Protection Agencyhave estimated that the average new car will cost $2,000 extra by 2025 because of the proposed new fuel-efficiency standards.

Additionally, new materials will have to be used, such as the proposed new Ford F-150 made with aluminum, which is predicted to add $1500 over steel to the cost of a new truck. Aluminum also complicates both the manufacturing and repair processes. Edmunds reports: “Insurance costs could rise, both because of the increased cost of cars and the anticipated hike in collision repair costs associated with the greater use of the plastics, lightweight alloys and aluminum necessary for lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. (Plastics, lightweight alloys and aluminum are all more difficult than steel to repair.)”

Another concern is safety. “The use of weight-saving materials will not only affect repair costs but could make newer vehicles more susceptible to damage in collisions with older, heavier vehicles, especially SUVs and pickups. Their occupants could be at a safety disadvantage.”

One of the subtle consequences of high mileage vehicles is the probable increase in taxes. Edmunds points out that lower driving cost may increase wear-and-tear on the nation’s highway system as consumers drive more freely. “Declining gas sales mean a further decrease in already inadequate fuel-tax revenue used to pay for road and infrastructure repair and improvement. … As more untaxed alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas and electricity are used for transportation, fuel tax revenue falls even farther. All of this is likely to lead to calls for a road tax based on miles driven and not the type of fuel used.”

Instead of increasing costs by forcing a higher mpg, a free-market encourages manufacturers to produce the cars the customers want. The Wall Street Journalstory on the Ford F-150s points out: “In 2004, as the auto market soared, Ford sold a record 939,511 F-series pickups. That amounted to 5.5% of the entire U.S. vehicle market. But four years later, gas prices rose above $4 a gallon, sales of pickups began tumbling.” Then, consumers wanted small cars with better mileage. I often quote an ad for Hyundai I once saw. As I recall, it said: “It’s not that complicated. If gas costs a lot of money, we’ll produce cars that use less of it.”

In response to an article in US News on the 5.45-mpg CAFE standard, a reader commented: “ALL CAFE regulations should be repealed. Let the market and fuel prices decide what vehicles are purchased. The federal government should not be forcing mileage standards down the throats of the automaker or the consumers. This is still America, right?”

Develop Renewable Energy Sources

There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea renewable energy. However, the cost factor is one of the biggest problems. When I do radio interviews, people often call in and point out Germany’s renewable energy success story: “The share of renewable electricity in Germany rose from 6% to nearly 25% in only ten years.” While that may be true, it doesn’t address the results: “Rising energy costs are becoming a problem for more and more citizens in Germany. Just from 2008 to 2011 the share of energy-poor households in the Federal Republic jumped from 13.8 to 17 percent.”

Germany has been faced with a potential exodus of industry as a result of its high energy costs. For example, in February, BASF, the world’s biggest chemical maker by sales, announced that for the first time, it “will make the most of its capital investments outside Europe.” According to the Financial Times, Kurt Bock, BASF chief executive explained: “In Europe we have the most expensive energy and we are not prepared to exploit the energy resources we have, such as shale gas.”

Throughout America people are beginning to feel the escalating costs of the forced renewable energy utility companies are required to add as a result of Renewable Portfolio Standards that more than half of the states passed nearly a decade ago.

But the cost is not where I take issue with the DCCC’s inclusion of “Developing renewable energy sources” in its survey. The survey question is about achieving “energy independence.”

In preparation for writing this column, I posted this question on my Facebook page: If the goal is “energy independence,” what issues should be a priority in America? The first answer posted was: “Smart grid and fast ramp natural gas turbines.” Another offered: “High efficiency appliances and lights. I am a LED FAN!” Yet, another: “Solar, tidal, water.” Bzzzzzzt, all wrong answers.

All of the above suggestions are about electricity. The U.S. is already electricity independent. We have enough coal and uranium under our soil to provide for our electrical needs for the next several centuries. Add to that America’s newfound abundance of natural gas and we are set indefinitely. By the time we might run out of fuel for electricity, new technologies will have been developed based on something totally different, and, I believe, something that no one is even thinking about today.

Developing more “solar, tidal, water” or wind energy won’t “help America achieve energy independence.” Nor will a smart grid or natural gas turbines. High efficiency appliances or LED light bulbs won’t either.

Encouraging consumer and industrial conservation

Consumers are already feeling the pinch of higher energy costs—both electricity and liquid fuels. When possible, people are restricting driving by taking a stay-cation rather than a traditional vacation. Many people who can afford the option are switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs.

As the BASF story above makes clear, most industry is energy intensive. In the story about the Ford F-150’s use of aluminum, the WSJ says that the new manufacturing process requires “powerful and electricity-hungry vacuums.” Industry cannot stay in business without profit. Therefore, in interest of preservation, energy conservation is virtually an instinct.

The cost of energy drives conservation.

Including this question in the survey is a red herring that would lead the respondent to think conservation is a big issue.

Investing in energy efficient technology

When the word “investing” is used in reference to a government document or program, it always means spending taxpayer dollars. In a time of ongoing economic stress, we don’t need to borrow more money to spend it on something of questionable impact on energy independence.

Remember, much of the “efficiency” numbers bandied about refer to electricity, which has nothing to do with energy independence. Energy.gov states: “Every year, much of the energy the U.S. consumes is wasted through transmission, heat loss and inefficient technology…Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to … improve the competitiveness of our businesses and reduce energy costs for consumers. The Department of Energy is working with universities, businesses and the National Labs to develop new, energy-efficient technologies while boosting the efficiency of current technologies on the market.” Among the “solutions” presented on the page are “developing a more efficient air conditioner” and “a new smart sensor developed by NREL researchers that could help commercial buildings save on lighting and ventilation costs.” Nothing is offered that will actually impact energy independence.

Increasing offshore drilling and oil exploration in wilderness areas

Respondents are discouraged from selecting the one item on the list that could actually lead to “energy independence” by the inclusion of the words “offshore” and “wilderness areas”—as if those are the only places drilling could take place.

Yes, we should increase exploration and drilling—and, while there are risks, it can be, and has been, done safely in offshore and wilderness areas. But there are vast resources available on federal lands that are either locked up or are under a de facto ban due to the slow-walking of drilling permits.

Instead of phrasing the choice “Increasing offshore drilling and oil exploration in wilderness areas,” if the goal is energy independence, the option should have read: “Release America’s vast energy resources by expediting permitting on federal lands.”

While the options on the DCCC survey, even if a respondent checked them all, will do little to “help America achieve energy independence,” the survey didn’t include any choices that could really make a difference in America’s reliance on oil from hostile sources.

Some selections that would indicate a true desire to see America freed from OPEC’s grip should include:

-Approving the Keystone pipeline;

-Revising the Endangered Species Act so that it isn’t used to block American Energy Development;

-Encouraging the use of Compressed Natural Gas as a transportation fuel in passenger vehicles and commercial trucks;

-Expediting permitting for exploration and drilling on federal lands;

-Opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and

-Cutting red tape and duplicative regulations to encourage development.

The fact that not one of these options that would truly make a difference was included belies the ideology of the Democrat Party. Its goals do not include energy independence. Instead it wants to continue the crony corruption that has become the hallmark of the Obama Administration as evidenced by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz’s April 2 announcement that: “the department would probably throw open the door for new applications for renewable energy project loan guarantees during the second quarter of this year.”

Like the Ukraine, until there is a change at the top, the U.S. will likely remain dependent on the whims of countries who want to use energy as a weapon of control. The goal should be energy freedom.

 

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Dates Back to the Marxist-Socialist Paradigm of UN Charter

Somewhat Reasonable - April 07, 2014, 10:32 AM

[This article is co-authored by Bonnie O'Neil]

The United Nations Agenda 21 has quietly changed the makeup of our cities and rural areas through highly questionable tactics, clothed in lofty adjectives such as ”smart growth” and “sustainability,” as we’ve written previously. Agenda 21 activists have quietly initiated laws that allowed the government to confiscate our land, water, private property, and wilderness areas. Their ultimate goal is to strip Americans of personal rights and freedoms, creating a socialist future and eventually a one-world government.  Not a pretty picture!

A necessary path to obtain those desired changes must include the indoctrination of children through education. That explains why our public schools have become increasingly liberal over the past couple of decades. Not enough citizens have challenged the progressive educators and their agenda, even though the changes were radical departures from what our Country had believed appropriate in the past.

A plan to indoctrinate our children with communist ideals has been in the works at least as far back as 1963, and probably longer. One of the first obvious steps was to take prayer and the 10 commandments out of all our public schools. Amazingly, there was little public outcry!  Next, traditional school plays suddenly forbade students to sing familiar, Christmas songs such as “Silent Night.” The cleansing of Christianity from schools escalated when any mention of Christianity by students was discouraged, and in some instances students who even mentioned the name of Jesus on school grounds were disciplined.

Following the absence of Christian values in classrooms, sex education classes became popular, complete with intimate graphics and condoms freely handed out to students.  Stimulated with sexual material, and free contraceptives, a clear message was sent to students that their school expected them to engage in sexual activities, but with instructions to be careful. Still, there was only a mild disapproval from the public.

With so little negative reaction, schools and the liberal movement became even bolder. They defied parental rights by taking under aged teens to abortion clinics, not only without their parents’ permission but without their knowledge as well. The schools had the approval of the state and judicial system to do so. A few young teens had serious problems after their abortions, but because the parents had no idea why they were ill, the young women did not get medical help until it was too late to save their lives. Still, no strong public outcry!

Apparently, the social issues aren’t important enough to energize people to object, but what about concern that many Communist goals have been quietly incorporated into mainstream America through our public schools? Especially guilty of this blatant indoctrination are the thousands of liberal professors in our nation’s colleges, where 63 percent of professors identify themselves as liberal, while only12 percent as conservatives.  Severely outnumbered, the conservatives remained pretty quiet, while the liberals often abuse their positions by forcing their political views on a captured classroom of vulnerable students.

We are reminded of the Communists’ expressed plan to use schools as transmission belts for socialism and Communist propaganda. To succeed they realized the importance of nationalizing our entire school system, allowing liberals to decide school curriculum, controlling the teacher associations, limiting parental involvement, and cleverly inserting the party platform in school textbooks.  We are now seeing many of those goals have been realized.  Recently, the current Administration hi-jacked our public school system and replaced it with the controversial and experimental Common Core system. You guessed it, many of the communist goals now exist in the Common Core curriculum.

How were the progressives able to insert Common Core into all our nation’s schools, when our forefathers wisely assigned the responsibility of education to the individual states?   Officials within the federal government cleverly and quietly side-stepped laws, and aggressively sold this new program to the states, with the help of hundreds of millions of dollars to promote it which came from people who stand to gain substantially from Common Core in time.  Bill Gates was one of the most prolific donors, and obviously he will profit greatly.  Schools will be buying his computers and accompanying products for most every student in America. One can only guess at the massive profit he will be experience.

The original idea for Common Core originated as part of UN Agenda 21, with ideas they borrowed from International Baccalaureate (IB); a group that was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 as a non-profit educational foundation.  IB World schools were also created here in the U.S.  The International Baccalaureate is recognized today as a globally oriented program and a UNESCO partnership program emphasizing sustainability teaching to children and collectivist, socialist indoctrination.  A network of their schools still exist in 147 countries including the U.S.

Aspects of the Common Core agenda has roots identified in the Center for Educational Renewal (CER) founded in part by John Goodlad in1985 within the College of Education, University of Washington, in Seattle.   Publication of an agenda in 1992 by John Goodlad entitled “Agenda for Education in a Democracy,” deviates greatly in its message from that which our Constitution guarantees to us.  A disturbing quote that verifies just how far this group had deviated can be seen in “Agenda for Education in a Democracy” and the following quote:

“Enlightened social engineering is required to face situations that demand global action now  . . . Parents and the general public must be reached also, otherwise, children and youth enrolled in globally oriented programs may find themselves in conflict with values assumed in the home.  And then the educational institution frequently comes under scrutiny and must pull back.”

Common Core is a direct result from U.N. Agenda 21, which is evidenced in Chapter 36 which deals with “Education, Public Awareness, and Training.”   It is one part of the comprehensive plan of action adopted and signed on to by more than 168 Governments  — G.H. Bush represented the United States in its signing, while Bill Clinton later embraced Agenda 21  — at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil  June 3 – 5, 1992. The Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December of 1992 to ensure effective follow-up.  Education is indispensable for the U.N. to get its agenda established.

Then too, consider the U.N. Constitution which is a Marxist socialist paradigm where world regionalism is spelled out clearly in Chapters 8 through 11.  Those chapters use  terms  such as “regional arrangements, intergovernmental agreements, and metropolitan areas.” The U.N. Charter became effective on June 25, 1945.  President Harry S. Truman signed the United Nations Charter on August 8, 1945, and with its signing the United States became the first nation to complete the ratification process to join the new international organization.

The goal then became how to insert a national liberal education program into America; one that was in tune with the New World Order expressed in the 1945 U.N. Charter.  First, needed was publicly proclaiming that our system was inferior. The government and our media began releasing reports that our school system needed to be vastly improved. Nobody has a problem with improving our school system. However, Common Core was not the solution, because it changed what did not need changing, while failed to address the known problems that still plague our school system.  Parents and educators complain Common core is proving detrimental in a variety of ways.  Sadly, bright, straight A students who once loved going to school, now dread their classes.  That is creating obvious tension within homes between parents and their children, as well as with teachers, some of whom are so disgusted they are resigning from their loved profession.

Common Core’s plan for our children is a topic of utmost concern, as it is engineering students into a progressive, socialist agenda.  Subsequent articles will explore how Common Core was covertly engineered at the federal level by a relatively small group of far left people, most of whom were not educators; and that the program was not adequately tested.  Our next article will reveal how those involved and associated Common Core stand to make huge profits.  Some believe federal laws have been broken, but at the very least the tradition and intent that the federal government not intrude into the states’ education responsibilities has been compromise.  A subsequent article will go into more depth as we explain how and why states accepted Common Core sight unseen, and who will stand to make huge profits.  Most importantly we will explain what some citizens are now doing to stop Common Core.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Perils of Commercial Beekeeping

Somewhat Reasonable - April 07, 2014, 10:13 AM

One of America’s earliest food crops – almonds – is also one of the most important for commercial beekeepers. Almonds depend on bees for pollination, but the explosive growth of this bumper crop taxes the very honeybees the industry needs to thrive.

California’s Central Valley produces over 80% of the world’s almonds, valued at over $4 billion in 2012. The boom is poised to continue, with new food products and expanding overseas markets increasing demand to the point that no young almond trees are available for purchase until 2016.

Demand for almonds translates into demand for pollination. So every year commercial beekeepers transport some 60% of all US honeybees to California’s almond groves in February and March, when it’s still winter in most other states. It’s one of their biggest challenges.

For one thing, bee colonies, especially those from northern states, lack sufficient time to emerge from their heat-conserving winter clusters. Some beekeepers thus maintain 20,000 to 30,000 hives. Each one requires careful inspection for diseases and parasites – a meticulous, Herculean task on such a scale.

Complicating the situation, beekeepers are trying to work within a large-scale agricultural system, using an insect whose husbandry practices have changed little since the nineteenth century. The larger the commercial beekeeper’s stock, the harder it can be to tend them and recover from financial setbacks in the form of lost bees.

Almond growers will need 1.5 million hives this year, estimates Colorado beekeeper Lyle Johnston. “It takes almost all the commercial bees in the United States,” to pollinate the almond crop, he says. The payoff can amount to half an individual keeper’s yearly profit.

However, bees can come back from California “loaded with mites and every other disease you can think of,” beekeeper Ed Colby explains. That can often mean bee colony deaths. Last year, US beekeepers experienced an average 30% overwinter bee loss; some lost 10% to 15% of their hives, while others lost much more. It’s a normal cost of doing business, but it can be painful.

Last year’s rate was higher than normal, and higher than any keeper would want. But it was not the “bee-pocalypse” that some news stories claimed. The real story is that efforts to identify a single unifying cause for higher-than-usual losses have failed. Scientists are discovering that multiple issues affect bee health.

Urban, suburban and agricultural “development has reduced natural habitats, clearing out thousands of acres of clover and natural flowers,” a 60 Minutesinvestigative report observed. “Instead, bees are spending week after week on the road, feeding on a single crop, undernourished and overworked.”

The migration itself is stressful, notes Glenwood Springs, Colorado Post-Independent reporter Marilyn Gleason. “First, there’s the road trip, which isn’t exactly natural for bees, and may include freezing cold or scorching heat. Bees ship out of Colorado before the coldest weather, and drivers may drench hot, thirsty bees with water at the truck wash.”

The convergence in almond groves of so many commercial bees from all over the country creates a hotbed of viruses and pathogens that can spread to many hives. The varroa destructor mite carries at least 19 different bee viruses and diseases, causing major impacts on bee colonies. Parasitic phorid flies are another problem, and highly contagious infections also pose significant threats. The intestinal fungus nosema ceranae, for example, prevents bees from absorbing nutrition, resulting in starvation.

The tobacco ringspot virus was likewise linked recently to the highly publicized problem known as “colony collapse disorder.” CCD occurs when bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind only a queen and a few workers. The term originally lumped together a variety of such “disappearing” disorders recorded in different locales across hundreds of years, as far back as 950 AD in Ireland. Thankfully, as during past episodes, these unexplained incidents have declined in recent years and, despite all these challenges, overall US honeybee populations and the number of managed colonies have held steady for nearly 20 years.

These days, perhaps the biggest existential threat to bees is campaigns purporting to save them. Extreme-green groups like the Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America are blaming an innovative new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids for both over-winter bee losses and CCD.

Allied with several outspoken beekeepers, the activists are pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency and government regulatory agencies to follow Europe’s lead – and ban neonics. Instead of protecting bees and beekeepers, however, their campaigns will likely cause greater harm – because they ignore the multiple threats that scientists have identified, and because a neonic ban will result in farmers using pesticides that are more toxic to bees.

The European Union’s political decision to suspend neonic use came because France’s new agriculture minister banned their use. That meant French farmers would be at a distinct disadvantage with the rest of Europe, if they were the only ones unable to use the pesticide, noted British environmental commentator Richard North. They could lose $278 million per season in lost yields and extra pesticide spraying.

So the French agricultural ministry sought an EU-wide ban on all neonicotinoids. After several votes and a misleading report on the science, the European Commission imposed a ban, over the objections of many other EU members, who note that the evidence clearly demonstrates the new pesticides are safe for bees.

Years-long field tests have found that real-world exposures have no observable effects on bee colonies. Other studies have highlighted other significant insect, fungal, human and other issues that, singly or collectively, could explain CCD. Having analyzed scores of 2007-2012 bee death incidents, Canadian bee experts concluded that “…very few of the serious bee kills involve neonicotinoid pesticides. Five times as many ‘major’ or ‘moderate’ pesticide-related bee kills were sourced to non-neonic chemicals.”

In Canada’s western provinces, almost 20 million acres of 100% neonic-treated canola is pollinated annually by honeybees and tiny alfalfa leaf-cutter bees. Both species thrive on the crop, demonstrating that neonics are not a problem. Large-scale field studies of honeybees at Canadian universities and a bumblebee field study by a UK government agency found no adverse effects on bees.

Last October, a team of industry scientists published a four-year study of the effects of repeated honeybee exposure to neonic-treated corn and rapeseed (canola) pollen and nectar under field conditions in several French provinces. The study found similar mortality, foraging behavior, colony strength and weight, brood development and food storage in colonies exposed to seed-treated crops and in unexposed control colonies. This also indicates low risk to bees.

At least two more major, recently completed university-run field research projects conducted under complex, costly scientific laboratory guidelines (“good lab practices”) are awaiting publication. All indications to date suggest that they too will find no observable adverse effects on bees at field-realistic exposures to neonicotinoids.

Meanwhile Project ApisM., a partnership of agro-businesses and beekeepers, has invested $2.5 million in research to enhance the health of honeybee colonies. Switzerland-based Syngenta has spent millions expanding bee habitats in Europe and North America, through Project Pollinator. Bayer has built bee health centers in Europe and the United States, and Monsanto’s Beeologics subsidiary is developing technology to fight varroa mites.

None of that matters to the anti-pesticide activists. They are using pressure tactics to make Canada and the United States copy the EU. That would be a huge mistake. Science, not politics, should prevail.

 

[Originally published at Townhall]
Categories: On the Blog

Special Report: 2013 Metropolitan Area Population Estimates

Somewhat Reasonable - April 07, 2014, 10:04 AM

The 2013 annual metropolitan area population estimates by the US Census Bureau indicate a continuing and persistent dominance of population growth and domestic migration by the South. Between 2010 and 2013, 51 percent of the population increase in the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population) was in the South. The West accounted for 30 percent of the increase, followed by the Northeast at 11 percent and eight percent in the North Central (Midwest).

Components of Population Change: Major Metropolitan Areas

The dominance of the South was even greater when we turn to net domestic migration between Census Bureau regions. Nearly 785,000 more people moved to the major metropolitan areas of the South from other parts of the country than left. A much smaller 170,000 net domestic migrants moved to major metropolitan areas in the West. At the same time the Northeast lost 485,000 net domestic migrants and the Midwest lost 280,000.

Perhaps even more remarkable, the South, long a laggard as an immigrant destination, even led in net international migration (666,000 for a 1.2 percent over three years), though the Northeast added 546,000, for a 1.0 percent rate). Net international migration to the West was about the same, some 454,000 for a 1.0 percent rate. The Midwest had the lowest net international migration in the country and well below any other region (280,000, for a 0.6 percent rate), as is indicated in Table 1.

There was a substantial gap in the natural increase (births minus deaths) between the regions as well. The West (2.1 percent relative to the 2010 population over the three years) lead the South (2.0 percent) slightly in rate. Both were well ahead of the Midwest at 1.5 percent and especially the Northeast, at 1.2 percent (Table 1).

 

 

Table 1 Components of Population Change by Region Major Metropolitan Areas Total Natural Growth (Births Minus Deaths) Net Domestic Migration Net International Migration Northeast              546,742              434,872             (434,029)              545,899 South           2,555,304           1,105,631              783,438              666,235 North Central              398,536              472,017             (280,022)              206,541 West           1,543,319              917,852              171,444              454,023 Change Compared to 2010 Population Northeast 1.5% 1.2% -1.2% 1.5% South 4.6% 2.0% 1.4% 1.2% North Central 1.2% 1.5% -0.9% 0.6% West 3.5% 2.1% 0.4% 1.0% From Census Bureau Data

 

Population Growth

The New York metropolitan area continues to hold the top position, having added nearly 400,000 residents since 2010 to rise to a population of 19,950,000 residents. At its current rate of growth, New York will exceed a population of 20 million in 2014. There was a time that many expected second-place Los Angeles to overtake New York. However, since 1990 the New York population advantage over Los Angeles has expanded from 6.1 million to 6.8 million, including a further 80,000 advantage built up since 2010 (present geographical definitions). Part of this because much of the growth has been pushed to the more distant Riverside-San Bernardino area.

Los Angeles and Chicago continued to retain the second and third positions, which they seem likely to maintain for decades. Population projections by the National Conference of Mayors indicates strong growth in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston over the next three decades could have them by pass Chicago by 2050. The challenge could be even more immediate, since Chicago’s growth rate over the first three years of the decade is approximately one half the annual rate projected by the US Conference of Mayors between 2012 and 2042.

Late in the last decade, Dallas-Fort Worth passed Philadelphia to become the fourth largest metropolitan area. Then, Philadelphia was passed by Houston in 2011. The result is that, for the first time since the nation’s founding, two of the five largest cities (which are functionally defined as metropolitan areas) are in a single state (Texas).

Philadelphia seems likely to fall further. The strong growth rate of seventh ranked Washington suggests that this nearby rival may also pass Philadelphia as early as 2015. Eighth ranked Miami is growing fast enough that it also could drop Philadelphia a position, to 8th place the 2020 census.

But Philadelphia is not the only metropolitan area in relative decline. Detroit started the decade as the nation’s 12th largest metropolitan area, but has since fallen to 14th. Detroit has been passed by both Riverside-San Bernardino and Phoenix. Phoenix rose 14th to 12th, passing Riverside-San Bernardino (which remained in 13th position) in the process.

Among the 52 major metropolitan areas, Austin has grown at the greatest percentage rate since 2010 with Raleigh was the second fastest growing. Houston was the third fastest growing major metropolitan area over the three year period. Orlando ranked 4th in growth from 2010, while San Antonio was the fifth. The top ten was rounded out by Denver, Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte and Oklahoma City. Thus, among the 10 fastest-growing major metropolitan areas, nine were in the South and one (Denver) was in the West (Table 2).

 

Table 2 Major Metropolitan Area Population: 2010, 2012 & 2013 Metropolitan Areas 2010 2012 2013 2010-13 2012-13 Atlanta, GA       5,304,197       5,454,429       5,522,942 4.12% 1.26% Austin, TX       1,727,784       1,835,110       1,883,051 8.99% 2.61% Baltimore, MD       2,715,312       2,753,922       2,770,738 2.04% 0.61% Birmingham, AL       1,129,096       1,134,915       1,140,300 0.99% 0.47% Boston, MA-NH       4,564,054       4,642,095       4,684,299 2.63% 0.91% Buffalo, NY       1,135,314       1,133,767       1,134,115 -0.11% 0.03% Charlotte, NC-SC       2,223,635       2,294,990       2,335,358 5.02% 1.76% Chicago, IL-IN-WI       9,470,335       9,514,059       9,537,289 0.71% 0.24% Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN       2,117,344       2,129,309       2,137,406 0.95% 0.38% Cleveland, OH       2,075,690       2,064,739       2,064,725 -0.53% 0.00% Columbus, OH       1,906,243       1,944,937       1,967,066 3.19% 1.14% Dallas-Fort Worth, TX       6,452,758       6,702,801       6,810,913 5.55% 1.61% Denver, CO       2,553,829       2,646,694       2,697,476 5.62% 1.92% Detroit,  MI       4,291,400       4,292,832       4,294,983 0.08% 0.05% Grand Rapids, MI          989,196       1,005,493       1,016,603 2.77% 1.10% Hartford, CT       1,214,014       1,214,503       1,215,211 0.10% 0.06% Houston, TX       5,948,689       6,175,466       6,313,158 6.13% 2.23% Indianapolis. IN       1,892,323       1,929,207       1,953,961 3.26% 1.28% Jacksonville, FL       1,349,095       1,378,040       1,394,624 3.37% 1.20% Kansas City, MO-KS       2,013,691       2,038,690       2,054,473 2.03% 0.77% Las Vegas, NV       1,953,106       1,997,659       2,027,868 3.83% 1.51% Los Angeles, CA     12,844,070     13,037,045     13,131,431 2.24% 0.72% Louisville, KY-IN       1,237,851       1,251,538       1,262,261 1.97% 0.86% Memphis, TN-MS-AR       1,326,595       1,340,739       1,341,746 1.14% 0.08% Miami, FL       5,581,524       5,763,282       5,828,191 4.42% 1.13% Milwaukee,WI       1,556,549       1,566,182       1,569,659 0.84% 0.22% Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI       3,355,167       3,422,417       3,459,146 3.10% 1.07% Nashville, TN       1,675,945       1,726,759       1,757,912 4.89% 1.80% New Orleans. LA       1,195,757       1,227,656       1,240,977 3.78% 1.09% New York, NY-NJ-PA     19,596,183     19,837,753     19,949,502 1.80% 0.56% Oklahoma City, OK       1,257,883       1,297,397       1,319,677 4.91% 1.72% Orlando, FL       2,139,372       2,223,456       2,267,846 6.01% 2.00% Philadelphia, PA-NJ-DE-MD       5,971,397       6,019,533       6,034,678 1.06% 0.25% Phoenix, AZ       4,208,770       4,327,632       4,398,762 4.51% 1.64% Pittsburgh, PA       2,356,658       2,360,989       2,360,867 0.18% -0.01% Portland, OR-WA       2,232,177       2,289,038       2,314,554 3.69% 1.11% Providence, RI-MA       1,601,798       1,601,160       1,604,291 0.16% 0.20% Raleigh, NC       1,137,351       1,188,504       1,214,516 6.78% 2.19% Richmond, VA       1,210,015       1,232,954       1,245,764 2.95% 1.04% Riverside-San Bernardino, CA       4,244,089       4,342,332       4,380,878 3.22% 0.89% Rochester, NY       1,080,081       1,082,375       1,083,278 0.30% 0.08% Sacramento, CA       2,154,417       2,193,927       2,215,770 2.85% 1.00% St. Louis,, MO-IL       2,789,893       2,796,506       2,801,056 0.40% 0.16% Salt Lake City, UT       1,091,452       1,123,943       1,140,483 4.49% 1.47% San Antonio, TX       2,153,288       2,234,494       2,277,550 5.77% 1.93% San Diego, CA       3,104,182       3,176,138       3,211,252 3.45% 1.11% San Francisco-Oakland, CA       4,344,584       4,454,159       4,516,276 3.95% 1.39% San Jose, CA       1,842,076       1,892,894       1,919,641 4.21% 1.41% Seattle, WA       3,448,425       3,552,591       3,610,105 4.69% 1.62% Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL       2,788,961       2,845,178       2,870,569 2.93% 0.89% Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC       1,680,120       1,698,410       1,707,369 1.62% 0.53% Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV       5,664,789       5,862,594       5,949,859 5.03% 1.49% Major Metropolitan Areas   169,898,524   173,253,232   174,942,425 2.97% 0.97% From Census Bureau Data

 

Domestic Migration

Net domestic migration is, not surprisingly, dominated by the major metropolitan areas of the South, especially Texas and Florida. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston led the nation with more than 100,000 net domestic migrants (Figure $$$). Austin placed third in San Antonio was sixth. Charlotte ranked seventh, while the Florida entries Orlando stood at eighth and Tampa-St. Petersburg at 10th. The West had three big domestic migration lures, Phoenix (4th), Denver (5th), and Seattle (9th).

Austin also led in the percentage of net domestic migration gain relative to its 2010 population. Again, nine of the top gainers were in the South, with one entry from the West, Denver (Figure 2).

The largest net domestic migration losses were more dispersed across the country, with metropolitan areas from every region represented. New York lost the most net domestic migrants (more than 300,000) and was joined by Philadelphia, Hartford, and Providence from the East. Chicago lost the second most domestic migrants (more than 150,000) and was joined by Detroit, St. Louis and Cleveland from the Midwest. Los Angeles ranked third in the bottom 10, losing more than 100,000 net domestic migrants, the only western metropolitan area to suffer a significant migration loss. The South’s only representative in the bottom 10 was Virginia Beach-Norfolk (Figure 3).

 

Table 3 Major Metropolitan Area Net Migration: 2010 to 2013 Metropolitan Areas Net Domestic Migration Change Relative to 2010 Population Net International Migration Change Relative to 2010 Population Atlanta, GA      44,433 0.84%         49,375 0.93% Austin, TX      87,189 5.05%         15,685 0.91% Baltimore, MD          (121) 0.00%         24,366 0.90% Birmingham, AL       (2,918) -0.26%           3,585 0.32% Boston, MA-NH           101 0.00%         70,356 1.54% Buffalo, NY       (7,774) -0.68%           7,341 0.65% Charlotte, NC-SC      56,478 2.54%         14,590 0.66% Chicago, IL-IN-WI   (161,558) -1.71%         69,041 0.73% Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN     (16,893) -0.80%           9,703 0.46% Cleveland, OH     (28,780) -1.39%         10,837 0.52% Columbus, OH      11,425 0.60%         13,752 0.72% Dallas-Fort Worth, TX    127,315 1.97%         57,403 0.89% Denver, CO      70,668 2.77%         14,160 0.55% Detroit,  MI     (58,343) -1.36%         30,281 0.71% Grand Rapids, MI        4,594 0.46%           3,290 0.33% Hartford, CT     (18,979) -1.56%         15,206 1.25% Houston, TX    116,956 1.97%         74,817 1.26% Indianapolis. IN      13,698 0.72%         12,031 0.64% Jacksonville, FL      16,932 1.26%           9,760 0.72% Kansas City, MO-KS       (3,738) -0.19%           9,162 0.45% Las Vegas, NV      17,419 0.89%         19,041 0.97% Los Angeles, CA   (125,037) -0.97%       145,101 1.13% Louisville, KY-IN        4,874 0.39%           6,530 0.53% Memphis, TN-MS-AR     (13,723) -1.03%           4,868 0.37% Miami, FL      31,750 0.57%       152,998 2.74% Milwaukee,WI     (14,282) -0.92%           6,547 0.42% Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI        2,664 0.08%         30,341 0.90% Nashville, TN      42,090 2.51%         10,201 0.61% New Orleans. LA      20,721 1.73%           8,727 0.73% New York, NY-NJ-PA   (336,566) -1.72%       372,651 1.90% Oklahoma City, OK      30,086 2.39%           6,759 0.54% Orlando, FL      49,244 2.30%         43,230 2.02% Philadelphia, PA-NJ-DE-MD     (49,564) -0.83%         51,244 0.86% Phoenix, AZ      72,985 1.73%         24,885 0.59% Pittsburgh, PA        7,564 0.32%           8,129 0.34% Portland, OR-WA      30,244 1.35%         15,350 0.69% Providence, RI-MA     (17,253) -1.08%         13,365 0.83% Raleigh, NC      38,088 3.35%         10,875 0.96% Richmond, VA      10,777 0.89%           9,542 0.79% Riverside-San Bernardino, CA      18,321 0.43%         14,997 0.35% Rochester, NY     (11,558) -1.07%           7,607 0.70% Sacramento, CA        6,922 0.32%         17,662 0.82% St. Louis,, MO-IL     (28,809) -1.03%         11,556 0.41% Salt Lake City, UT        3,367 0.31%           7,560 0.69% San Antonio, TX      63,391 2.94%         10,778 0.50% San Diego, CA           455 0.01%         35,199 1.13% San Francisco-Oakland, CA      37,157 0.86%         68,510 1.58% San Jose, CA       (6,245) -0.34%         41,207 2.24% Seattle, WA      45,188 1.31%         50,351 1.46% Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL      45,071 1.62%         28,621 1.03% Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC     (17,944) -1.07%         15,650 0.93% Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV      32,749 0.58%       107,875 1.90% Total    240,831 0.14%    1,872,698 1.10% From Census Bureau Data

 

Migration Gains in the Suburbs, Losses in the Core

This year was notable for the virtual absence of the customary “return to the city” stories. In recent years, historical core municipalities have done better in population growth than in the past. In previous decades, some lost large amounts of their population. However, an improving urban environment, not least because of better crime control, has led to something of a residential resurgence, especially in the immediate area of downtowns, though inner core populations (within five miles of City Hall) have continue to decline (see Flocking Elsewhere: The Downtown Growth Story).

Specious claims of a net suburban movement to the cores have been refuted by the domestic migration data. Net domestic migration is reported by the Census Bureau only at the county level. Thus, any analysis of domestic migration between the cores and the suburbs must be county-based. During the Great Recession, domestic migration declined substantially, as is to be expected when the economy is depressed.

Yet, in each of the three years of this decade, suburban counties have experienced net domestic migration gains and in each year have substantially led the core counties. In only one year, 2012, was there a net domestic migration gain in the core counties. The most recent 2013 data shows that core counties experienced a 70,000 net domestic migration loss, while the suburban counties gained 163,000 net domestic migrants. This difference of 233,000 was approximately four times the demographic gains made by the suburbs in both of the previous years Figure 4).

Returning to Normalcy?

With the economy still depressed, it would be premature to declare that the more typical results of the last year presage a return to normalcy. Any such reliable judgment must await restoration of broad-based, job and salary driven – as opposed to asset-based – economic growth. However, the trends of the last year indicate more than anything that the basic patterns of at least the past quarter century – with higher suburban growth and a shift towards the South – to be reasserting themselves.

 

[Originally published at New Geography]
Categories: On the Blog

Troubling Parallels: New Math De Ja Vu and the Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - April 07, 2014, 9:16 AM

Storm clouds have been gathering around the Common Core for some time. Until now, most of the critical attention has been on the political ramifications of the program, that it centralizes and federalizes teaching, diminishing the power of parents to participate in the educational process. When the criticism does turn to the content of the curriculum, it usually focuses on social studies, such as Joy Pullmann’s excellent account of the Common Core’s trashing of the Constitution and Founding Fathers. Yet the Common Core’s treatment of math is proving to be even more questionable.

Judging from sample questions, Common Core math tries to reinvent the wheel in terms of the process of teaching. It focuses less on the teaching of problem solving and more on trying to teach overarching concepts. The result is math problems that are startlingly complex.

Teaching complex problem solving may sound like great news at first. Who could object to educating our children to have a deep conceptual understanding of things? After all, we need to keep ahead in the information and technology race with the rest of the world, do we not? The problem with that way of thinking was dealt with succinctly by one parent shocked and frustrated by his child’s Common Core homework assignment:

The problem with the question is that it transforms a subtraction problem that takes a single step to answer using conventional methods into a multi-step problem that only cause confusion. In trying to explain the “deep concept” to a second-grader the problem can serves only to confuse and upset. It seems Common Core is trying a top-down redesign of the whole process of learning, a redesign the complexity of which does not help to educate childrem, but instead leaves them in confused ignorance.

Remarkably, this is not the first time the government has tried just such a redesign of math education. In the 1960s, the government rolled out a very similar curriculum called New Math. New Math was built around the application of Set Theory and employed non-standard numeral systems in the hopes of instilling in students a conceptual understanding of “number.” The idea was that by ingraining a deep conceptual understanding of math, more advanced math knowledge could be taught more widely.

The impetus for the change in math education was a perceived knowledge gap in the late 1950s in the hard sciences and engineering between the United States and the Soviet Union. With the launch of Sputnik, American politicians and civic leaders began to fret that the Soviets were overtaking America in technical proficiency and came to believe that this gap would lead to devastating consequences for America in the Cold War. New Math was meant to build up the knowledge base of the American youth in order to compete.

Common Core math has been rolled out under very similar circumstances. Again America is facing a rising geopolitical foe, this time in the shape of China, a country which is experiencing frighteningly swift economic and technological growth. Much as New Math was meant to transform the educational system in order to compete with the perceived superiority of the Soviet  system, so too is the Common Core meant to challenge the technical rise of China and other developing powers.

Yet New Math, somewhat unsurprisingly, failed miserably to catch on. It came under immediate criticism from educators, parents, and concerned citizens. Perhaps one of the most well remembered criticisms was delivered by the legendary mathematician and singer Tom Lehrer, whose song “New Math” was a raucous take-down of the absurdities of New Math (see video above).

One reason New Math failed to work was that teachers had to be entirely reeducated themselves in order to understand the complexity of the teaching methodology. Who would have thought that second-grade math teachers would not all have a working knowledge of Set Theory?

Another reason New Math failed was that the underlying premise, that broad-based high-level and practical mathematical knowledge could only be gained through deep conceptual understandings, was, and is, false. The parent who critiqued his child’s homework question understood this full well when he wrote, “In the real world, simplification is valued over complication.” This is the living truth of the technical engineering profession. Often trying to find simple mechanisms for how things work is much more effective and illuminating than is trying to find complex formulas for why they work. That certainly holds true in the early stages of education.

New Math failed and yet America was not buried under the tide of Communism. In fact, America’s technical edge only grew as the Cold War progressed. New Math failed, and Common Core math will fail, because the system they advocate does not take into account real world application and seeks to address a problem that does not exist. The problem of flagging math scores is not the methodology of teaching, but the entrenched power structures within the public education system.

The way to improve our country’s math scores is not to reinvent math, but to reform the teaching system at the administrative level. Tearing down corrosive traditions like tenure and seniority would go much farther to improve teaching than teaching Set Theory to elementary schoolers ever could.

Categories: On the Blog

Organic Activists Need GMOs Now More Than Ever

Somewhat Reasonable - April 07, 2014, 5:40 AM

[NOTE: Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, is the co-author of this post.]

“Once an activist, always an activist.”

– The Activist’s Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life, Revolutionary Books, 2012.

You can’t separate the organic movement from the anti-GMO movement. They are one and the same, existing in perfect anti-technological symbiosis. What’s bad for GMOs is good for organics and vice versa.

With GMO labeling initiatives underway in 26 out of 50 states, and a global campaign to stop life-saving GM Golden Rice from being approved, you’re supposed to believe the leaders of the multibillion-dollar organic industry are just watching innocently from the sidelines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once an activist, always an activist. And when Democratic State Senator Noreen Evans claims her GMO labeling bill – an idea that Californians already defeated once – is “agnostic on whether GMOs are good, or whether they are bad,” she’s lying. Since when do politicians label things for no reason?

The “GMO Free Mendocino” campaign was launched in Senator Evans’ district by Els Cooperrider, a founding member of the The Mendocino Organic Network, who succeeded in 2004 not merely in banning GMOs in Mendocino County, but in having all GMO crops destroyed by order of a federal judge. With the “organic” cause as the backbone of Cooperrider’s agricultural pogrom, Mendocino instantly became Grand Central for all subsequent anti-GMO movements.

Of course, organic activists like Cooperrider are opposed to a lot of things: synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, to name but a few. And yet, all these substances combined do not come close to the opposition reserved for GMOs.

And how exactly does one process Greenpeace’s campaign to abandon up to 500,000 children who go blind every year in the developing world from Vitamin-A deficiency? Only with vague arguments taken straight from Cooperrider’s manifesto, warning of as-yet unknown, unspecified risks to human health, the environment and organic farming. Greenpeace has succeeded in keeping GMO Vitamin-A enriched Golden Rice from being approved for humanitarian use in spite of support for this life-saving crop from the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and many other charitable organizations.

Still think Sen. Evans is agnostic on GMOs?

The science of genetic engineering gave diabetics synthetic human insulin which replaced insulin from slaughtered pigs. Try to imagine someone blocking genetically-synthesized human insulin, or labeling it to encourage use of the “organic” alternative. It’s unthinkable given the high rate of diabetes in North America and Europe.

Whether they seek to ban or label GMOs, organic activists are pretending to protect consumers for their own good even though no negative effect has ever been observed from any approved GM food. Meanwhile, these very same people insist only that synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics not be used on organic farms. They do not demand bans or labels on conventional crops grown with these approved substances.

But for all the half-baked arguments against Golden Rice along with demands for the useless labeling of foods that have contained GMO ingredients for close to 20 years now, the fact is that organic and Greenpeace activists actually need GMOs. They’re quite content to continue to “co-exist” right alongside their avowed arch nemesis because it provides a vital element to their continued existence as activists.

This is why labeling campaigns have all but replaced campaigns to ban GMOs just 10-short years after Cooperrider’s runaway “success.” It also explains, incidentally, why outwardly anti-GMO Europe routinely accepts huge shipments of GM crops from America for livestock feed. Banning GMOs is the last thing on organic politicians’ and activists’ minds. They just want to control GMOs, and to that end labeling provides the perfect balance.

GMOs will remain in circulation to scare consumers, while growth in the GMO sector is severely limited under a labeling regime, so much so that fewer and fewer corporations will develop new GMO crops, thus guaranteeing that this still untapped field of science never becomes fully accepted by the masses. Existing GMO crops will continue to either be highly restricted as in Europe, or labeled like a package of cigarettes here in America, while a new crop like Golden Rice is just best left on the back burner while every possible angle on its side-effects is studied to death… literally!

It’s like the joke about the drunk looking for a contact lens under a lamppost outside a bar one night. A passerby stops to lend a hand, and after 20 minutes finally asks, “Are you sure you lost it under this lamppost?” The drunk replies, “No… it was that one over there.” The passerby is stunned. “Then why are we looking under this lamppost?” To which the drunk replies, “Because the light’s better!”

Meanwhile, rather than test organic crops to ensure they’re free of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics, voluntary record-keeping and record-checking is relied upon to supposedly keep all those substances out of premium-priced organic food. Then, before anyone notices this is nothing more than a multibillion-dollar honor-based marketing scheme, the leaders of the organic industry move quickly to where the light is better, attacking GMOs as “Frankenfoods,” accompanied by constant chatter about GMOs contaminating organic crops. It turns out there’s no such thing as “contamination” of an organic crop by GMOs.

Such “contamination” – when it occurs at all – has always been well below one-one-hundredth of a percentage point. More to the point, if they were worried about GMOs “contaminating” organic fields, why didn’t anti-GMO organic activists say so in their own standards for organic production, standards which they quite literally wrote themselves!

Clearly, anti-GMO organic activists were utterly unconcerned with GMOs right from the get-go, only deciding it was expedient to feign concern over GMO “contamination” long after the rules were established, after billions of dollars in certified-organic royalties had been collected by these activists to fund their cause. Meanwhile, studies show pesticide contamination-levels in excess of 40 percent in certified-organic products. Maybe read that sentence again if you buy organic food.

Now you know why GMO labeling initiatives, along with Greenpeace’s campaign to keep Golden Rice from reaching some very needy people, always point to the harm GMOs supposedly inflict on organic farmers. Examples are never provided. How curious. Curiouser still that reporters never ask for examples. Why, it’s almost as if reporters have never bothered to read America’s organic standards. Maybe read this paragraph again if you’re a reporter.

Labeling, as opposed to banning, makes the light all the brighter under the anti-GMO organic lamppost. And with the exception of Golden Rice – the exception that proves the rule – organic activists will never again seek to have GMOs banned as they were in Mendocino. GMOs represent a highly effective straw man for organic activists, driving revenues for Greenpeace and the global organic movement to fund yet more misguided, tax-subsidized anti-GMO campaigns.

Organic activists need GMOs the same way the Soviets needed decadent America during the Cold War. Without something plausible, never mind credible, to stand opposed to, they would collapse under the unverifiable weight of their own propaganda. Of course, as with the Cold War, innocent civilians will be sacrificed on the road to Utopia. In this case, it’s a couple million people a year in the Third World dying from Vitamin-A deficiency, along with up to 500,000 kids going blind.

When warlords and organic-munching environmentalists conspire to commit genocide in far off lands, at least the warlords don’t pretend it’s for the good of the planet.

[First posted at the Daily Caller.]

Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare Shows America Suffers From A President Dangerously Disconnected From Reality

Somewhat Reasonable - April 06, 2014, 1:26 AM

The population of the U.S. is 314 million. On the day Obamacare was passed, the estimate of the uninsured was 60 million. So in this context, the supposed 7 million Americans signed up for insurance on the Obamacare Exchanges, even if that is a valid number, and all of those have actually started paying premiums, both of which are highly dubious, does not mean any significant success for Obamacare.

That is especially so since at least 6 million Americans have lost their health insurance due to Obamacare, so far, with more to come once the illegally and arbitrarily delayed employer mandate becomes effective, if it is ever allowed to do so. The estimate based on a new Rand Corporation study is that only 858,000 Americans signed up on the Obamacare Exchanges were previously uninsured. That is barely a dent of just over 1% in the original number of uninsured, from the historic Obamacare program that was supposed to provide “universal” coverage.

Yes, there are other sources of coverage under Obamacare. President Obama told us in his celebratory, hocus pocus, Obamacare address on April Fools’ Day that “more than 3 million young adults have gained insurance under this law by staying on their family’s plan.”

But that number is a publicly documented fabrication. It comes from a 2010 survey by the highly politicized Department of Health and Human Services estimating coverage for 19 to 25 year olds from all sources, including taxpayer financed Medicaid, and private insurance, which includes employer provided insurance and individually purchased plans, not just coverage from their parents’ health insurance, as David Hogberg explained at Spectator.org on April 2.

Moreover, that data is now outdated, as later HHS surveys show that health coverage for 18 to 25 year olds has since declined from 2010, Hogberg adds. That is why HHS has not released any new data on the point for almost two years now.

In addition, Hogberg further demonstrates based on 2012 data from the far less politicized Census Bureau, which breaks out data for Medicaid and employer provided health insurance, that the number of young adults gaining coverage on their parents’ health insurance under Obamacare totals at most 258,000.

In any event, the virtue of this young adult dependency on their parents’ health insurance is greatly exaggerated. That coverage is not free. The parents are paying more for it. Moreover, these young adults are not helpless, with no alternatives for health insurance. They can get their own jobs with employer provided health insurance. Or at least they could if Obama was not President. Or they could buy their own health insurance in the market, with help from their parents, if that is needed and desired. Young adults under 26 are the least in need of health insurance, and have the least trouble getting it. The healthiest population in America, they are targeted under Obamacare as lambs to be fleeced for funds to finance health care for others.

President Obama in his April Fools’ Day speech also cited “millions more who have gained access through Medicaid expansion.” But they cannot be included among the “millions of Americans [who] finally had the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care—and the peace of mind that comes with it—as everybody else.” That is because Medicaid is a taxpayer financed, welfare program, so those covered by it are not buying anything. Moreover, Medicaid does not provide “quality” health care, because it pays so little to the doctors and hospitals providing the actual health care for the poor, that many, especially the best, won’t take patients on Medicaid. Simply expanding Medicaid to cover ultimately 100 million Americans at taxpayer expense does not qualify as any sort of achievement.

But there were other howlers in Obama’s April Fools’ Day address. He told the American people that “Because of [Obamacare], 100 million Americans have gained free preventive care, like mammograms and contraceptive care, under their existing plans.” Here we have a President of the United States who does not understand that when the government requires health insurers to provide additional benefits, the cost of their health insurance has to go up, just to ensure the insurer has enough money to pay all the covered benefits. So there is nothing “free” about Obamacare’s required preventive care.

There are high school students who understand such basic economic reasoning better than the President. Of course, there are many adults who voted for him who cannot. Those are the people the President is counting on, and who are actually the ones who are most responsible for the long term, rapid decline America is now suffering.

Another more than dubious statement by the President on April Fools’ Day was that “a whole lot of families won’t be driven into bankruptcy by a serious illness, because [Obamacare] prevents your insurer from placing dollar limits on the coverage they provide.” A whole lot of families? Where is the documentation of that? I dispute that “a whole lot of families” were being driven into bankruptcy by the dollar limits on their health coverage before Obamacare.

Of course, again the President doesn’t understand that removing dollar limits on the coverage means the cost of that coverage must be higher. And that is the more so the more families were reaching those dollar limits before. The actual effect of the Obamacare dollar limit ban is that consumers are denied the freedom of making the choice themselves of whether they want to pay more for coverage without any dollar limit. That is because Obama and his “Progressives” are so certain that they know better than everyone else what that choice should be.

But the biggest howler in Obama’s April Fools’ Day speech was that, “Under [Obamacare], the share of Americans with health insurance is up and the growth of health costs is down.” Whether the ultimate effect of Obamacare will be to reduce or increase the uninsured is highly uncertain at this time. The employer mandate has been delayed until after the elections because the President knows the effect in terminating current coverage is going to be ugly. What is certain now is that Obamacare won’t get America anywhere near universal coverage, as Obama led the Left to believe was the whole point of the exercise.

But more obviously false is the notion that Obamacare has driven the growth of health costs down. As I explained in a previous column, the decline in the growth of health costs started in 2003, when Health Savings Accounts were enacted, and Obama was still an Illinois state senator. As the number of people with HSA plans rose to 30 million over the years, the decline in health cost growth became sharper. Obamacare just went into effect, and here is our President taking credit for a health cost trend that started over a decade ago.

Unlike Obamacare, HSAs provide proven market incentives to reduce health costs. The only effect of Obamacare on health costs so far has been to increase them, due to costly overregulation. And contra Obama, that is not good for the middle class, or our fiscal future. Unless Obamacare actually reduces overall health coverage by increasing the uninsured, and the deductibles most covered people face, that cost increasing effect will become more obvious over time. But Obama will be gone by then, virulently opposing any change in his brilliant law from the private sector.

But Obama doesn’t get it. He said further on April Fools’ Day, Obamacare is:

… helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which some critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law, or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand. I’ve got to admit, I don’t get it. Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?

Many readers are not going to understand this. But my job here is to tell the truth, not to play politically correct footsie with you. What our President is telling us here, actually, is that he has so carefully avoided hearing any of the debate on this issue, that he actually does not understand the issue, on which he imagines himself as the historic founding father of American health care.

The plan I support to replace Obamacare, root and branch, is the reform proposal developed by John Goodman, President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. That proposal, unlike Obamacare, actually would ensure universal health care. But it would do so at far less cost. It would do so, again unlike Obamacare, while actually reducing health costs. That proposal is actually far more plausible than Obamacare, which has already proven itself implausible in the real world. That is why Obama has already acted to change the enacted Obamacare law without the approval of Congress, in violation of the Constitution and his own oath of office.

But Obama continued, “Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels.” Mr. Obama, the death panel in the law is called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). You have carefully avoided appointing members to this board and making it operative, until after the mid-term elections.

He knows what he is doing here, but not what he is talking about. Obama added further:

And those who have based their entire political agenda on repealing it should have to explain why Jeane should go back to being uninsured. They should explain why Sean and his family should go back to paying thousands and thousands    of dollars more. They’ve got to explain why Marla doesn’t deserve to feel like she has value. They have to explain why we should go…back to the days when Americans with preexisting conditions were out of luck—they could be routinely denied the economic security of health insurance—because that is exactly what would happen if we repeal this law. Millions of people who now have health insurance would not have it.

But none of that would happen under the Goodman/NCPA reform plan I support. I explained that reform plan in a previous column. Look that up, or go to ncpa.org to find it. Again, what this demonstrates is that Obama, so carefully cloistered his whole life in his own ideological cell, is so disconnected from reality that he does not actually understand health policy issues.

But the harsh reality of how Obamacare works, or actually doesn’t work, is demonstrated by the story of Frank Alfisi, who died on January 14, 2014, at age 73, a victim of Obamacare, as explained by Jeffrey Lord at Spectator.org on April 1. Frank lived in a seniors’ apartment complex in Wantagh, Long Island, near the family of his daughter Amy.

While he was successfully treated with chemotherapy for 8 years for multiple myeloma, the chemo caused kidney failure. But Frank was fine as long as he could receive kidney dialysis three times a week. The problem began when he missed a dialysis appointment one day because he was ill with a stomach virus.

The next day, he was feeling very ill because of the toxin buildup in his body missing just one day without the scheduled dialysis. He called an ambulance, which took him to the nearby hospital to get his treatment. But under a new Medicare regulation, required by Obamacare, Frank could not receive the dialysis unless he was admitted as an inpatient for at least two days. Dialysis, however, does not require even one overnight stay. After the treatment, which takes a few hours, the patient can go home.

The doctors knew Frank could not go home without his dialysis. So they kept running tests on him to find some reason to admit him, under Medicare regulations. Around 8:30 that night, Frank’s blood pressure was so high because of the lack of dialysis that he had a seizure, still in the hospital emergency room, still not admitted, so he still could not receive the dialysis. Later that night he had a second seizure, and was unconscious for two days in the ER, still without any dialysis. His doctor told his daughter Amy, “You can thank Mr. Obama for this.”  The death by Obamacare has already begun.

After that second seizure, Frank was transferred for rehab in the hope he would recover well enough to get his dialysis, first to Gurwin Jewish medical center, and then to Parker Jewish. But Frank could never get his dialysis, and died while in that rehab. He was “covered,” by Medicare, but because of Obamacare, and its cuts to Medicare to finance Obamacare, Frank was denied the actual straightforward health care that would save his life. In my interpretation, Frank Alfisi was murdered by Obamacare. This was what Sarah Palin was talking about when she used the term “death panels.”

There are other examples of cancer patients losing their health insurance that was financing the doctors keeping them alive, because the insurance did not satisfy Obamacare requirements. Edie Littlefield Sundby had health insurance that spent $1.2 million on health care for her stage 4 gall bladder cancer, as she explained in the Wall Street Journal. That plan included first rate doctors from her hometown of San Diego, to Stanford University’s Cancer Institute, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, that kept her alive for 7 years. But that plan was cancelled under Obamacare, forcing her insurer United Healthcare out of California altogether. So much for President Obama’s promise, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”

Sundby and her health insurance consultants could not find another plan in the highly touted California Obamacare Exchange that includes those same doctors, at any price. So down went another Obamacare promise, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?” But Harry Reid tells us that all such examples of Obamacare failure are lies. Tell that to Frank’s daughter Amy. I dare you.

Further, similar examples have now been published as well. But the tragedy of Obamacare extends beyond health care.

Obamacare has been a major drag on the economy, preventing full recovery from the recession. Employers trying to avoid the costs of the employer mandate have reduced many full time jobs to part time jobs. Or they have frozen hiring, and the associated costs due to Obamacare. This is contributing to income stagnation and decline for the middle class, the working class, and the poor. And it is actually increasing inequality.

The new taxes of Obamacare are also deterring job creating investment, or capital investment that would increase worker productivity, and consequently wages and incomes. The costly regulatory burdens of Obamacare are increasing rather than reducing health insurance costs, which is a further drag on the economy.

The alternative, John Goodman, NCPA plan would achieve universal health care, with no employer mandate, no individual mandate, reduced taxes and spending, and sharply reduced regulatory burdens and costs as compared to Obamacare. All of that would be sharply pro-growth, and promote more jobs, and higher wages.

But Obama says that would not be a plausible alternative. The real problem is that he is not plausible as President. Only once he leaves the White House can the American economy be liberated to grow, and American health care be liberated to once again serve the sick, especially the most sick and in need of health care.

[First posted at Forbes.]

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