On the Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Loving School Choice to Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weather Bulletin #7, February 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Who’ll Stop the Rain? Not Bill Nye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-proclaimed climate expert.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gee, imagine that. Clashes in the weather.

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

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

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

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

[First published at Patriot Post.]

Categories: On the Blog

John Kitzhaber: Good Riddance to a Bad Apple

Somewhat Reasonable - February 15, 2015, 4:17 PM

I come not to praise but to bury scandal plagued Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was forced to resign amidst the growing weight of public scandals, ethics investigations and criminal proceedings concerning political payoffs related to various green energy schemes and the governor ha pushed.

I don’t know if Kitzhaber’s support for energy efficiency, low-carbon energy standards, carbon-dioxide limits and renewable electricity was strictly driven by the quest for filthy lucre for his friends or if Kitzhaber was a blind true-believer in the green energy schemes he supported. I suspect the later, which makes his resignation even better in my opinion.

After all, a corrupt politician usually stops pushing bad policies when he/she stops receiving payoffs to support them whereas a true believer will push them regardless of the harm done in the belief that despite harming the people they are supposed to serve, “its the right thing to do.”

I suspect the jobs for is fiancé and green energy cronies were just added benefits received in the pursuit of environmental boondoggles that the Governor deep-down believed in.

The Oregonian, the Daily Caller and The Heartlander have all covered this scandal in detail.

My suspicion is that not all governors who support unreliable, expensive, environmentally harmfully green energy schemes are true believers. Regardless, it might be fruitful for muckraking purposes or from the perspective of legitimate investigative journalism to  examine the books of green energy companies, and the governors, political advisors and gubernatorial appointees doing business in states at the forefront of the highly subsidized green energy revolution and attacks on reliable, relatively inexpensive fossil fuels that consumers, voting with their dollars, indicate they truly love.

Could other green governors be tied to similar scandals? As one who despises paternalistic intervention in individuals’ lives and the effect crony capitalism has on the economy, I hope so!

Categories: On the Blog

What to Call a New York Times Reporter of Climate Science?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2015, 7:22 PM

Photo: Roy Spencer’s blog.

The title of Justin Gillis’ recent NYT article is an excellent tip-off of how bad environmental reporting has gotten: “What to Call a Doubter of Climate Change?

Now, as a skeptical Ph.D. climate scientist who has been working and publishing in the climate field for over a quarter century, I can tell you I don’t know of any other skeptics who even “doubt climate change”.

The mere existence of climate change says nothing about causation. The climate system is always changing, and always will change. Most skeptics believe humans have at least some small role in that change, but tend to believe it might well be more natural than SUV-caused.

So, the title of the NYT article immediately betrays a bias in reporting which has become all too common. “He who frames the question wins the debate.”

What we skeptics are skeptical about is that the science has demonstrated with any level of certainty: (1) how much of recent warming has been manmade versus natural, or (2) whether any observed change in storms/droughts/floods is outside the realm of natural variability, that is, whether it too can be blamed on human activities.

But reporters routinely try to reframe the debate, telling us skeptics what webelieve. Actually reporting in an accurate manner what we really believe does not suit their purpose. So (for example) Mr. Gillis did not use any quotes from Dr. John Christy in the above article, even though he was interviewed.

Mr. Gillis instead seems intent on making a story out of whether skeptical climate scientists should be even afforded the dignity of being called a “skeptic”, when what we really should be called is “deniers”.

You know — as evil as those who deny the Holocaust. (Yeah, we get the implication.)

He then goes on to malign the scientific character of Dr. Richard Lindzen (a Jew who is not entirely pleased with misplaced Holocaust imagery) because the majority of scientific opinion runs contrary to Dr. Lindzen, who is also a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Do I need to remind Mr. Gillis that the cause(s) of climate change are much more difficult to establish than, say, the cause of stomach ulcers? There is only one climate system (patient) to study, but many millions of ulcer sufferers walking around.

And yet the medical research community was almost unanimous in their years of condemnation of Marshall and Warren, two Australian researchers who finally received the 2005 Nobel Prize in medicine for establishing the bacterial basis for peptic ulcers, one of the most common diseases in the world.

Does Mr. Gillis really want to be a journalist? Or just impress his NYC friends?

The idea that the causes of climate change are now just as well established as gravity or the non-flatness of the Earth (or that ulcers are caused by too much stress and spicy food, too?) is so ridiculous that only young school children could be indoctrinated with such silly tripe.

Which, I fear, is just what is happening.

[First published at Roy Spencer’s blog.]

Categories: On the Blog

Brian Williams’ Tall Tales vs. Embellished Global Warming Personalities

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2015, 4:07 PM

What made Brian Williams inject himself into an Iraq war incident? Perhaps the reason is as simple as a juvenile desire to remain in the center of adoring attention. When prominent personalities in the global warming issue say things about themselves that isn’t accurate, that’s a whole other ballgame.

This isn’t about science details, either, which are subject to interpretation that’s best left to experts. But we don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a climatologist to spot faulty personal embellishments. All it takes is basic level fact-checking.

Many will remember how Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 – one man and one organization. However, that apparently didn’t stop various IPCC participant scientists from claiming they individually won a Nobel Prize. This became enough of a problem in 2012 that the IPCC had to issue a formal instruction (as reported at Anthony Watts’ WUWT blog) that,

The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.

This is an ongoing problem, so much so that book author/blogger Donna Laframboise created a site dedicated to exposing it, FakeNobelLaureates.com. One of my own recently added tips there concerned Camille Parmesan, a professor of Integrative Biology having a Ph.D. in Zoology. At her UK Plymouth University web page, now you see her Nobel Prize winning designation (circa last October, anyway, three lines down in the purple box), and now you don’t at the current page, a change that happened just a couple of weeks after I alerted Prof Parmesan to that problem.

Some embellishments are heaped onto others perhaps with the people not being aware of it. Naomi Oreskes, a science historian with a soon-to-be-released movie based on her “Merchants of Smear” book, was described in the 2010 Climate Cover-Up book as an “outspoken scientist.”  Many others make thissame error, one site going so far as to elevate her to “climate scientist”.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of IPCC, was described in global warming crusader Bill McKibben’s350.org web site as “Nobel Prize winner and Indian climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri”, no less. At least they got his country origin correct. Prominent global warming book author / critic of skeptic climate scientists Ross Gelbspan described Pachauri in a 2007 Grist.com article as a ‘leading scientist‘, The easily found fact is that Pachauri only has a Master’s and a PhD degree in Industrial Engineering.

But then we have Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Ross Gelbspan, widely described as such, among those being Al Gore’s description of him in the companion book for “An Inconvenient Truth.” In a nutshell, Gelbspan is a hero to the enviro-activist community for supposedly exposing a conspiracy of industry-funded corruption of skeptic climate scientists. Problem is, Gelbspan didn’t win a Pulitzer, by his own admission he was not a working journalist at the time of his ‘funding corruption discovery’, and he apparently did no investigation of skeptic scientists’ funding in any way that suggests he had evidence proving skeptic climate scientists were paid industry money to lie to the public  – the latter being what I dissect in detail in my GelbspanFiles.com blog. Instead, careful and in-depth scrutiny of Gelbspan’s claims reveals how they all fall apart. It’s a time consuming process comparing one narrative against another, but in the end, it becomes quite obvious how inconsistent his and others’ accusations are about ‘industry-corrupted skeptics’. People label me as an investigative journalist for my work, but I protested that label.

There’s one big difference between what Brian Williams probably did and what Gelbspan and other prominent personalities in the global warming issue do. Pro-global warming people seem to embellish themselves or the people they support in order to create an appearance of unquestionable authority, so that the ponzi scheme of man-caused global warming — constantly infused with questionable science reports  and character assassination of skeptics — stays alive in the eyes of the public. If the public loses faith in the promoters of global warming the same way they lost faith in Brian Williams, the issue is toast.

[Originally published at RedState

 

Categories: On the Blog

First Graders Do Not Need To Visit Colleges Or Fill Out Applications

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2015, 2:37 PM

In some ways, our culture idolizes childhood, but in others, it utterly destroys it. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand. The New York Times asked recently, “Is Your First Grader College Ready?” It details classes full of elementary students going on college visits and filling out mock applications. At some colleges, the wait list for elementary-school tours is so long, they offer virtual campus visits. But that’s not all. Oh, no, that is not all.

When her boys join the science club, volunteer at the food bank, even serve on the elementary school safety patrol, Ms. Meyer said, she can’t help but view it as a steppingstone to college. ‘You have to have this resume built or your kids will not even be looked at.’

Thousands of schools are buying software that shows kids the trajectory for which specific colleges they’ll be on for picking certain middle-school classes. A companion article shows kindergartners journaling their SAT “words of the week.” The number of eighth and ninth graders taking the PSAT (a sort of preliminary test that predicts SAT performance and can earn one scholarships) has increased by a factor of 10 since it was introduced in 2000.

The demand that high school now prepare every graduate for entrance into college with no remedial coursework is now a national requirement, thanks to Common Core, the “college- and career-ready pathway.” It is a dramatic increase in the expectations for high schools, or a dramatic decrease in the expectations for colleges, or both. But it’s not entirely Common Core’s fault the college frenzy has reached six-year-olds (or, rather, the parents and teachers of six-year-olds). It’s the culture of the people who produce and enforce Common Core and things like it. The Washington Post regularly publishes stories about the haggard, henpecked children of DC-area politicos, who forego sleep, internal dialogue, and all personal space to load their resumes with things like “lacrosse team captain” and “debate society president” while taking 27 Advanced Placement classes each semester. In seventh grade. While going on repeated service trips to third-world countries.
Creating Box-Checkers, Not Box Smashers

Parents like this are the forerunners of the lifestyle now reaching into the middle class: Register your child for the “best” “infant learning center” as soon as you know you’re pregnant, and plan to dump him in there as soon as you hit your sixth week of maternity leave. Concurrently check out the “best” “preschools” that are proven feeders for the “best” elementary schools that in turn feed the “best” middle and high school and colleges and jobs. Because if he doesn’t get into an Ivy he’ll never get into Goldman Sachs or the Justice Department or whatever is the raging parent status symbol of the day.
They really cared about their child they’d have considered arranging their lives so they would spend more than 20 minutes a day face-to-face with him.

Notice this is a parent thing, not a child thing. We have no proof that a child herded into Goldman Sachs as he has been everywhere else will be happy there, or if he might have been happier developing his own interests, loves, and personality. The parents tell themselves they do all this for their child, but if they really cared about their child they’d have considered arranging their lives so they would spend more than 20 minutes a day face-to-face with him (checking email on their smartphones nearby doesn’t count). And they feel that guilt, unconsciously, so to compensate they prove they love their kid by buying him advantages instead of developing them, in person, over the years, together. It seems kind of like the table salads my garden-center-owning uncle says fly off the shelves to his yuppie clientele. He charges $20 for a cute little multi-lettuce arrangement that would have cost customers about $3 to make themselves. It rivals the cost of prewashed, precut lettuce from the store. Salad, just add water.

But kids are not a salad arrangement. You can’t just “add activities” or “burnish resumes.” They’re people. People need mentoring. They need relationships. They need discipleship. They need more than an endless cycle of paid caretakers. They need to be more than stimulation whores or bores. They are more than that. They can be more than that. But they need someone to show them how.

Do parents have no other goals for their children besides locking them into a career treadmill paved with cash? Perhaps they have no knowledge of finer milestones, a more meaningful way to approach life, so grasp at the only measurement of goodness they know. Remember, folks: The same greed turned King Midas’s daughter into a lifeless golden statue. Our country is populated with thousands of little statues like her.
Don’t Make Kids Live Like a Refugee

We have good and growing evidence that loading so much onto children’s lives and minds overwhelms them. So while having the nanny drag Johnny to every extracurricular known to man may reduce a mother’s guilt, making her feel like she’s doing right by her kids, it actually makes Johnny feel like a refugee. Not kidding:

Kim John Payne has traveled the world and spent time treating children in refugee camps. While running a private practice in England, he was shocked to see so many similarities between the children there and the refugee children. Over many years, it became increasingly clear that certain kids from affluent families – living perfectly safe, privileged lives – were behaving in a manner similar to children halfway around the globe near war zones.

The refugee children were living out the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. As Payne describes: ‘They were jumpy, nervous, and hypervigilant, wary of anything novel or new. Many had adopted elaborate little rituals around everyday tasks, such as very specific, complicated ways of navigating the maze of the camp, which they imagined would somehow keep them safe. They were distrustful of new relationships, whether with adults or their own peers, and quite a few had hair-trigger tempers.’

He says the main distinction between the two groups was that the privileged children in England were physically safe. But mentally, they too were living in a sort of war zone where they needed coping strategies to feel safe.

Payne cites a recent study about child sports. It found that participating in organized sports reduced a child’s creativity and initiative. But participating in unorganized sports—spontaneous, child-organized play—significantly improved a child’s creativity. In 2012, a researcher from the College of William and Mary found that American kids’ scores on a well-known creativity measure have dropped substantially since the 1980s. The particular test he used to measure seems to be “seems to be the best predictor of lifetime achievement that has yet been invented. It is a better predictor than IQ, high-school grades, or peer judgments of who will achieve the most,” says Boston College professor Peter Gray.

That should make status-anxious parents sit up. Not incidentally, top corporate recruiters say creativity is one of their priorities when headhunting. We’ve all heard about Google and Apple and other hot companies’ odd hiring tests, designed to measure this very thing because GPA and SAT scores don’t. How ironic—and tragic—that the same activities parents push on their children in an effort to get places like this actually handicaps them.

[This first appeared in The Federalists]
Categories: On the Blog

Isaac Orr “Will Fracking Make My Water Catch On Fire?”

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2015, 12:40 PM

Isaac Orr, a Research Fellow for energy and environmental policy gave a talk on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and frac sand mining in Appleton, Wisconsin as part of the Fox Valley Conservative Forum series.

Isaac addresses one of the main questions everyone seems to ask when they talk about fracking “Will fracking make my water catch on fire?” and discusses the economic benefits, as well as the environmental protections put in place to minimize the effect of oil and natural gas development.

Categories: On the Blog

UN promotes Global Warming Consistent with Agenda 21

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2015, 8:50 AM

What should citizens do when confronted with an intrusive, all encompassing government agenda that will eventually affect every aspect of their lives? That is the question we need to be addressing, because United Nations Agenda 21 is a reality, and it already has many countries, including the United States, complying with its mandates.

 

Information about U.N. Agenda 21 has not been widely published, but neither is it a secret. One only needs to do a minimum amount of research to discover the many tentacles of Agenda 21 and realize it has infiltrated into many of our cities and certainly our country, with the full cooperation of those in our highest positions of authority.

The following is Part 2, of a series to educate more people about the facets of the agenda, including the plan to scare the public into accepting changes in their life style through threats; the main one being man-made Global warming.  For people to make a lifestyle change, those developing the plan needed a tangible, threatening reason to entice the public to quietly comply.  The information below provides facts that should make readers more aware of the changes the “elites” in our world are planning for our future.

In November of 2013, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its “Synthesis Report,” which completed its Fifth Assessment evaluation (AR5) on the Earth’s climate.  IPCC is the pathway through which the environmental proposals of Agenda 21 are being carried out, such as designing compact cities without cars under the guise of sustainability. The IPCC report claims “Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed on all continents”  However, there is a growing number of critics who will no longer remain or be silenced on this issue.  They deserve to be heard.

Known the world over as a skeptic of man-made Global Warming, The Heartland Institute in Chicago had the fortitude and the courage to publish its own report to counter the U.N.’s AR5 report, using its affiliation with The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change or NIPCC to do so. NIPCC is an international panel of non-government scientists and scholars who have come together to present a comprehensive, authoritative, and realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming.  Because NIPCC is not a government agency, and because its members are not predisposed to believe climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, it is able to offer an independent second opinion of the evidence reviewed, or not reviewed, by the United Nation’s IPCC on the issue of global warming. Find here the independent Heartland NIPCC report published to counter the U.N.’s 2013 AR5 report.  Read here comments made by 10 Heartland experts about the conclusions reached by AR5.   Check here for another report that takes the U.N.s AR5 report to task.

Obama administration equates global warming with the threat of terrorism

The Obama administration has accepted the dogma put out by scientists who concocted the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in close proximity with Agenda 21, while further endorsing the propaganda as the main cause of Global Warming and linking CO2 to Global Warming.  Just last week President Obama’s new national-security strategy ranked combating climate change as a top priority, and astonishingly claimed it to be at the same level of threat as terrorism, biological emergencies, and nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states.  A subsequent White House report indicated that the President is committed to confronting the urgent crisis of climate change, largely through national emission reductions, international diplomacy, and commitment to the Green Climate Fund. Rational people continue to demand the subject be given a fair and balanced investigation of all the facts, not the one-sided approach it has been given.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) was not at all pleased with the President’s new assessment of priorities and national-security strategy, as reflected in this response:

“I doubt [the Islamic State], the Iranian mullahs, or [Russian President] Vladmir Putin will be intimidated by President Obama’s strategy of ‘strategic patience,'” Mr. Graham said. “From their point of view, the more ‘patience’ President Obama practices, the stronger they become.

The Obama Doctrine, or “strategic patience,” has led to a world in chaos. So, while President Obama pursues the debatable man-made global warming fear mongering, the known and highly critical problems affecting national security are given less attention.

MIT Professor Emeritus Richard Lindzen contradicts Global-Warming Alarmists

A recent report by MIT Professor emeritus Richard Lindzen, dismisses global-warming alarmists as a discredited “cult” whose members are becoming more hysterical as emerging evidence continues to contradict their beliefs.  In discussing the cultish nature of the movement,

Professor Lindzen had this to say:

“As with any cult, once the mythology of the cult begins falling apart, instead of saying, oh, we were wrong, they get more and more fanatical. I think that’s what is happening here. Think about it, he said. “You’ve led an unpleasant life, you haven’t led a very virtuous life, but now you’re told, you get absolution if you watch your carbon footprint. It’s salvation!”

Professor Lindzen scoffed accordingly at a New York Times report that acknowledged there is only a 38 percent chance that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and if it was, it was only by two-100ths of a degree:

“Seventy percent of the earth is oceans, we can’t measure those temperatures very well. They can be off a half a degree, a quarter of a degree. Even two-10ths of a degree of change would be tiny but two-100ths is ludicrous. Anyone who starts crowing about those numbers shows that they’re putting spin on nothing.”

In reference to CO2, Lindzen said that until recently, periods of greater warmth were referred to as “climate optimum”; optimum being derived from a Latin word meaning “best.”  Throughout history there have been natural cooling and warming periods.  Climate changes have occurred throughout our planet’s history.

Lord Mockton and others react negatively to Al Gore’s award-winning Oscar documentary of 2006 – “Inconvenient Truth”

The concept of Global Warming, and the idea that CO2 is the main culprit to what is perceived by some as man-made Global Warming, reached the public’s attention with the release of Al Gore’s award-winning Oscar documentary of 2006, “An Inconvenient Truth.”  Gore’s movie should have been called “Al’s Science Fiction Movie” or “Seriously Inconvenient Truths About Global Warming”, because after its release many of what he claimed to be facts, were proven to be false.

Lord Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley and political adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had many negative comments about Gore’s award-winning documentary, which, amazingly, is still considered by global warming enthusiasts as the gospel truth.  Mockton announced in a more recent article in September of last year on ClimateDepot.com that his scientific satellite data shows the temperatures have remained fairly stable between October 1966 and August 2014, despite a rise in greenhouse gas emissions.  Calling it the “Great Pause,” Monckton wrote, “It is becoming harder and harder to maintain that we face a ‘climate crisis’ caused by our past and present sins of emission.”

Of concern is that much of the false information in Gore’s movie are now being taught as fact in classrooms across this nation, planted within the controversial Common Core curriculum. This recent article (February 5, 2015) by Alex Nussbaum, “Temperatures Rise as Climate Critics Take Aim at U.S. Classrooms”, relates the frustration of those who doubt that humanity is indeed baking the planet.  Roy White, a Texan and retired fighter pilot, shared in Nussbaum’s article how climate change is being presented from only one side in classrooms across this nation, and that Al Gore’s promoting the  statement that “Global warming is an established fact and the debate has ended”, is neither factual or the truth, as more and more scientific evidence emerges proving man-caused global warming to be a myth.

Another excellent critique of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” appeared in New Scientist in October of 2007 and can be read here.

Epilogue:  Wisdom and Truth

Friedrich  August von Hayek (1899-1992) Nobel Laureate of Economic Sciences, left this warning for humanity:

“Ever since the beginning of modern science, the best minds have recognized that “the range of acknowledged ignorance will grow with the advance of science.” Unfortunately, the popular effect of this scientific advance has been a belief, seemingly shared by many scientists, that the range of our ignorance is steadily diminishing and that we can therefore aim at more comprehensive and deliberate control of all human activities. It is for this reason that those intoxicated by the advance of knowledge so often become the enemies of freedom.”

As more American city, county, and state governments are duped by the global warming fanatics (alarmists) into initiating new harsh laws and removing individual freedoms, the public can no longer afford to yawn and ignore U.N. Agenda 21 and all its tentacles into our lives. We must remind ourselves of Thomas Jefferson’s warning:   “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.  I do not add “within the limits of the law”, because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

 

Categories: On the Blog

Fox News All-Star Panel Rips Jeb Bush on Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2015, 4:18 PM

On Tuesday, February 10, a segment of the always-good All-star panel on “Special Report with Bret Baier” broke down presumptive presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s stance on Common Core. Bush said having a “baseline” of federal accountability matters, and insisted that could exist simultaneously with complete local and state control over education policy.

The panel didn’t buy it. Even the liberal Powers didn’t accept Jeb’s premise, and gave him points for standing up for his principle of more federal control of education policy via Common Core.

Both George Will and Charles Krauthammer’s points were excellent, but Will had the luck to go first and make this excellent point:

The problem on Common Core is his critics are talking past one another. He thinks people are objecting primarily to the contents of the standards. There is some of that. But most people feel as I do who oppose Common Core. I don’t care if the standards are written by Aristotle, perfected by Shakespeare, approved by Newton, and endorsed by Jefferson. They are wrong because they are the thin end of an enormous federal wedge that will inevitably give you a standard to cause the textbooks to be aligned with the exams, and you will get a national curriculum which is forbidden by law that will come in by stealth and indirection.

Bingo. Watch the video below. It’s well worth four minutes of your time.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Categories: On the Blog

When Governments Start Meddling, They Simply Can Not Stop Themselves

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2015, 12:46 PM

For governments everywhere, taxes and regulations are like Lays Potato Chips – no one can eat just one.

In part, of course, because governments’ appetite for taking our money and controlling our lives is insatiable.  It’s their nature.

And because government intervention just about always makes things worse.

ObamaCare Makes Things Worse

 Damaging Dodd-Frank is Making Things Worse

 Obama’s ($787 Billion) Stimulus Plan Made Crisis Worse

Which makes predictions like this not exactly Nostradamus-esque:

The Trojan Horse: Net Neutrality As Obama Defines It Will Make Things Worse on the Internet – Less Free, Less Open, Slower

Perversely and manipulatively, governments use the damage they do – to justify more government.

(ObamaCare author Jonathan) Gruber said if ObamaCare was not successful at controlling costs, “we’ll have to revisit single-payer” – i.e. government-only health care.

 Obama: Wall Street Reform is Unfinished Business

 Bill Clinton: Stimulus Wasn’t Big Enough

Governments even manage to give themselves phony props – as their policies do real damage.

Unemployment Rate Drops as More Americans Give Up Looking for Work

Get the heads-governments-win-tails-we-lose nature of all that?

This is absolutely not U.S. government-specific.

Brazil Sugar Industry Receives Massive Government Subsidies

Think of this as a permanent government stimulus.  Doing all the damage of our domestic stimulus – over, and over, and….

Which inexorably leads to things like:

Brazil to Raise Ethanol Blend in Gasoline to 27 Pct on Feb 15

 Brazil’s struggling sugar and ethanol mills got more good news on Monday after the government granted an expected increase in the national blend of the biofuel in gasoline to 27 percent on Feb. 15 from the current 25 percent, industry officials said.

 The higher blend is the latest of several measures taken by the government expected to have a positive effect on the industry’s bottom line going forward.

I’m not expecting it to have a positive effect?  Are you?

 

 

Brazil’s mills get massive government subsidies and Crony Socialist assistance – how on Utopia are they struggling?

Yet somehow Brazil’s answer to too much government is – more government.  That’s what passes for “good news” in Huge Government Land.

Again, we incessantly suffer the same warped thinking here.

Why More Financial Aid Raises College Tuition Costs

 Proof Perfect That The Minimum Wage Costs Jobs

Let’s just mandate a unicorn in every garage.

Back to Brazil’s poor policies and thinking:

In the past years, local firms such as Raizen , Biosev, Bunge, Sao Martinho and Guarani have struggled to post consistent and robust profits.…

Again, how on Utopia are they not posting consistent and robust profits – what with the consistent and robust government money and Crony Socialist assistance?

Also improving the outlook for mills was the government’s January decision to raise taxes on gasoline starting on Feb. 1, allowing ethanol mills to raise prices in tandem and recover profit margins.

All of these new taxes and higher prices are fabulous news for Brazil’s government and its pet industry.  They’ll each be getting a whole lot more money.

It’s abysmal for Brazil’s people – and their wallets.  For whom – we’re told by Huge Government proponents – all this Huge Government is created and grown.  You know – to ‘help” them.

Government-Uber-Alles proponents are utterly engrossed with their own navels.  “Save the Government Programs” becomes an all-encompassing fetish – no matter how grievous the damage done to everyone and everything else.

(See also: Trying to keep together the utterly unrealistic, hurtling apart European Union.)

So – Huge Government Brazil has entered into another round of Huge Government.  Doing Huge Government damage to even more economic sectors – to try to save a sector utterly corrupted by Huge Government.

Anyone else notice a pattern here?

Categories: On the Blog

Memo to the CDC: Tell the WHOLE Truth About E-Cigarettes

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2015, 10:17 AM

The contrast between the spin put on youth e-cigarette use data last Fall and the story told by the actual data, released last month, is startling but not surprising, given the U.S. government’s over-zealous tobacco prohibition posture.

Last November, the Centers for Disease Control released selective information from the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey.  A resulting New York Times headline was typical: “E-Cigarettes Gain Among High School Students” (here).

The CDC withheld the survey data until a couple weeks ago; now the rates of e-cigarette use can be viewed in context with cigarette smoking.  The chart at left shows the real story, and it’s stunning.  Past 30-day cigarette use (the CDC definition of current smoking) among high school students was 9.7%, a whopping 34% decline from 2011.

E-cigarette use increased, as did dual use, but in no way does the data suggest that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking among teens.  In fact, this chart, along with the Monitoring the Future study I discussed previously (here), indicates that e-cigarettes may be driving teenage smoking down.

Jacob Sullum at Reason got it right: “Vaping Rises to Record Highs, Smoking Falls to Record Lows, and Activists Insist ‘E-Cigarettes Are a Gateway to Smoking’” (here)

The CDC regularly misrepresents e-cigarette statistics (herehere, and here).  The agency cherry-picks information from restricted federal datasets; the media amplifies the CDC’s spin; and the story cannot be challenged until months or years later when the agency provides access to the underlying data.  The public should not tolerate such misfeasance from taxpayer-funded public health agencies.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Vilifying Realist Science – and Scientists

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2015, 9:02 AM

Things are not going well for Climate Chaos, Inc. The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing its carbon dioxide regulations, and President Obama wants to make more Alaska oil and gas prospects off limits. But elsewhere the climate alarm industry is under siege – and rightfully so.

Shortly after Mr. Obama warned him of imminent climate doom, Prime Minister Modi announced that India would double coal production, to bring electricity to 300 million more people. Hydraulic fracturing has launched a new era of petroleum abundance, making it harder to justify renewable energy subsidies.

Global warming predictions have become increasingly amusing, bizarre and disconnected from real-world climate and weather. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confessed that its true goal is transforming the world’s economy and redistributing its wealth. More people are realizing that the actual problem is not climate change, which has been ongoing throughout history; it is costly policies imposed in the name of preventing change: policies that too often destroy jobs, perpetuate poverty and kill people.

Those perceptions are reinforced by recent studies that found climate researchers have systematically revised actual measured temperatures upward to fit a global warming narrative for Australia, Paraguay, the Arctic and elsewhere. Another study, “Why models run hot: Results from an irreducibly simple climate model,” concluded that, once discrepancies in IPCC computer models are taken into account, the impact of CO2-driven manmade global warming over the next century (and beyond) is likely to be “no more than one-third to one-half of the IPCC’s current projections” – that is, just 1-2 degrees C (2-4 deg F) by 2100! That’s akin to the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods and would be beneficial, not harmful.

Written by Christopher Monckton, Willie Soon, David Legates and William Briggs, the study was published in the January 2015 Science Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Incredibly, it has already received over 10,000 views – thousands more than most scientific papers ever receive.

Instead of critiquing the paper, climate alarmists attacked its authors. Climate Investigations Center executive director (and former top Greenpeace official) Kert Davies told the Boston Globe it “simply cannot be true” that the authors have no conflict of interest over their study, considering their alleged industry funding sources and outside consulting fees. Davies singled out Dr. Willie Soon, saying the Harvard researcher received more than $1 million from companies that support studies critical of manmade climate change claims. An allied group launched a petition drive to have Dr. Soon fired.

Davies’ libelous assertions have no basis in fact. Not one of these four authors received a dime in grants or other payments for researching and writing their climate models paper. Every one of them did the work on his own time. The only money contributed to the Science Bulletin effort went to paying the “public access” fees, so that people could read their study for free.

I know these men and their work. Their integrity and devotion to the scientific method are beyond reproach. They go where their research takes them and refuse to bend their science or conclusions to secure grants, toe a particular line on global warming, or fit industry, government or other viewpoints.

Regarding Dr. Soon’s supposed “track record of accepting energy-industry grants,” the $1 million over a period of years went to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which took around 40% of the total off the top, for “overhead.” The details are all open public records. Not a dime went to this paper.

But since Davies raised the issues of money, conflicts of interest, failures to disclose financing, and how money supposedly influences science – let us explore those topics from the other side of the fence.

Climate Crisis, Inc. has a huge vested interest in climate alarmism – not merely part of $1 million over a ten-year span, but hundreds of billions of dollars in government, industry, foundation and other money during the past couple decades. Some of it is open and transparent, but much is hidden and suspect.

Between 2003 and 2010, the US government alone spent over $105 billion in taxpayer funds on climate and renewable energy projects. The European Union and other entities spent billions more. Most of the money went to modelers, scientists, other researchers and their agencies and universities; to renewable energy companies for subsidies and loan guarantees on projects that receive exemptions from endangered species and human health laws and penalties that apply to fossil fuel companies; and even to environmental pressure groups that applaud these actions, demand more and drive public policies.

Billions more went to government regulators, who coordinate many of these activities and develop regulations that are often based on secretive, deceptive pre-ordained “science,” sue-and-settle lawsuits devised by con artist John Beale, and other tactics. Politicians receive millions in campaign cash and in-kind help from these organizations and their unions, to keep them in office and the gravy train on track.

The American Lung Association supports EPA climate policies – but never mentions its $25 million in EPA grants over the past 15 years. Overall, during this time, the ALA received 591 federal grants totaling $43 million, Big Green foundations bankrolled it with an additional $76 million, and EPA paid $181 million to 15 of its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee members who regularly vote with it.

Far-left donors like the David and Lucille Packard Foundation (computers), Schmidt Family Foundation (Google), Rockefeller Brothers Fund (oil), Marisla Foundation (oil) and Wallace Global Fund II (farming) support Greenpeace and other groups that use climate change to justify anti-energy, anti-people policies. A gas company CEO and New York mayor gave Sierra Club $76 million for its anti-coal campaign.

 

For years, Greenpeace has used Desmogblog, ExxonSecrets, Polluterwatch and other front-group websites to attack scientists and others who challenge its tactics and policies. Greenpeace USA alone had income totaling $32,791,149 in 2012, Ron Arnold and I note in Cracking Big Green.

Other U.S. environmental pressure groups driving anti-job, anti-people climate policies also had fat-cat 2012 incomes: Environmental Defense Fund ($111,915,138); Natural Resources Defense Council ($98,701,707); Sierra Club ($97,757,678); National Audubon Society ($96,206,883); Wilderness Society ($24,862,909); and Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection ($19,150,215). All told, more than 16,000 American environmental groups collect total annual revenues of over $13.4 billion (2009 figures). Only a small part of that comes from membership dues and individual contributions.

As Richard Rahn and Ron Arnold point out, another major source of their cash is Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A well-documented new Environmental Policy Alliance report shows how tens of millions of dollars from Russian interests apparently flowed from Bermuda-based Wakefield Quinn through environmental bundlers, including the Sea Change Foundation, into major eco-pressure groups like the Sierra Club, NRDC and League of Conservation Voters. Former White House counsel John Podesta’s Center for American Progress also took millions from Sea Change.

It gets even more outrageous. One of the websites attacking Dr. Soon is funded by George Soros; it works hard to gag meteorologists who disagree with climate alarmists. And to top it off, Davies filed a FOIA request against Dr. Soon and six other climate scientists, demanding that they release all their emails and financial records. But meanwhile he keeps his Climate Investigations Center funding top secret (the website is registered to Greenpeace and the Center is known to be a Rainbow Warriors front group) – and the scientists getting all our taxpayer money claim their raw data, computer codes and CO2-driven algorithms are private property, and exempt from FOIA and even U.S. Congress requests.

By all means, let’s have honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability – in our climate science and government regulatory processes. Let’s end the conflicts of interest, have robust debates, and ensure that sound science (rather than government, foundation or Russian cash) drives our public laws and policies.

And let’s begin where the real money and power are found.

Categories: On the Blog

Patent Trolls Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2015, 8:25 AM

Mythological trolls — described as old and ugly creatures living under bridges or in caves — are known for one central feature: generally troublesome and injurious to human enterprise. Much of the same can be said for today’s patent troll — the dubious business entity again drawing the ire of Congress that exists solely to acquire patents and make claims of infringement in court.

Thankfully key congressional leaders, including Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Partick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., andDarrell Issa, R-Calif., say that legislation broadly supported by the executive branch will soon move its way through Congress.

These trolls, often called “non-practicing entities,” acquire and stockpile patents, watch the industry for vulnerable and cash-strapped entrepreneurs that have developed a similar idea, and then attack with an infringement claim. Often similarities with the patented material are marginal and the claims frivolous, but the defendant lacks the resources to mount a usually costly defense.

Legislation, such as the America Invents Act of 2011, and a series of White House executive orders to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, has provided patent defendants with additional weapons and tools to battle trolls. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court, in hearing appeals in two patent infringement cases, cited vague language and lack of specificity in plaintiff patent documents in overruling decisions that favored trolls.

Patent reform advocates believe this trend will continue in 2015 with the new Congress. Many anticipate the revival of the Innovation Act, which would require plaintiffs to be more specific in their patent claims. This would give litigious trolls pause while protecting patent holders with legitimate complaints and we have every indication that this issue will be addressed in Congress this month.

Even so, there is room for patent reform that goes beyond addressing traditional NPEs.

For example, foreign governments such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, France and China have formed state-sponsored organizations bent on acquiring all the patents possible, regardless of where the patent is filed or who the filer is, to extract settlements from alleged infringers. Intellectual Discovery, an entity backed by the South Korean government, has acquired more than 200 patents, including one for retinal eye scan technology from Singaporean chipmaker Avago Technologies Ltd. Elsewhere, the Chinese government reportedly has backed China’s Ruichuan IPR Funds with $50 billion to acquire patents to be used in actions against U.S. companies.

Congressional leaders must be weary of such blatant free market abuses and work to address foreign trolling during trade negotiations, since many of these entities are operated by allies with whom we trade frequently. These issues can have far reaching impact and when domestic companies are put at a disadvantage, consumers of their products are left picking up the tab.

As I address in “Why Patent Reforms Are Needed: Intellectual Property Abuses Threaten Innovation and Cost Consumers Billions,” released by the Heartland Institute, the consumer impact of patent assertion can perhaps be felt most poignantly by consumers through abuses of bad acting patent “pools.” Pools are designed to streamline research and development investment by allowing innovators to collectively license complimentary patents.

The actions of bad acting patent pools, however, increasingly resemble those of trolls, especially when equipped with government-granted exclusivity for licensing a technology. The for-profit company MPEG LA originated as a patent pool for a relatively small group of patents that comprised the MPEG-2 standard for encoding video signals. Today, the company manages thousands of patents and — critics say — leverages that power by charging high-licensing fees for pools that contain a near preponderance of expired patents.

Digital TV and cable box manufacturers say MPEG LA is exploiting its exclusive licensing of a pool that conforms to government-mandated standards, such the ATSC digital broadcast TV standard, which the Federal Communications Commission requires every television, DVR and cable box sold in the U.S. to conform to. According to the Coalition United to Terminate Financial Abuses of the Television Transition, U.S. consumers pay about $20 to $30 more per digital set than consumers in other countries because manufacturers are being overcharged to use the required intellectual property.

Though legislation may not sufficiently remedy all intellectual property issues, public discourse benefits the process. I applaud policy makers for making patent reform a priority. Sound legislative action will benefit U.S. consumers and the businesses on which our economy relies.

 

[Originally published at Roll Call]

Categories: On the Blog

If Obamacare Is Saving the Impoverished, Why Are So Few Signing Up?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2015, 5:48 PM

From its inception, the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—popularly called Obamacare— has been touted as the necessary fix for the nation’s health care system needed prior to its passage.

Yes, it’s going to cost nearly $2 trillion over the next decade that the nation doesn’t have. Yes, it’s going to radically transform the entire health care marketplace and lead to significant cost increases for families and taxpayers. But no matter what the costs, the Obama administration told us, Obamacare is necessary because there were roughly 49 million Americans without health insurance in 2010, and something had to be done about it.

Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates between 9 and 10 million people have enrolled through health care exchanges so far in 2015, President Barack Obama still refuses to release or is unable to calculate the number of people who did not have health insurance prior to the passage of the ACA who are now covered.

For all the praises heaped on Obama for his signature program’s alleged success, no one outside of a select few in Washington, D.C. has any clue whether the ACA is actually helping large numbers of impoverished Americans.

Although hard data is not available to the public–which is odd if Obamacare really is the wild success so many of its proponents claim–new clues released by the Treasury Department suggest the ACA has been a massive failure at helping the poor attain health insurance.

According to a top federal tax official, 36 million Americans failed to purchase health insurance in 2014. Interestingly, an estimated 30 million of those people qualified for a penalty exemption under the ACA despite not having a qualified health insurance plan.

According to healthcare.gov, the primary exemptions for avoiding the Obamacare tax penalty are incarceration, living abroad for particular lengths of time, membership in a federally recognized Native American tribe, select religious affiliations, if the lowest-priced coverage available through the exchange would cost more than 8 percent of household income, membership in a health care sharing ministry, and financial hardship.

By examining data we do have about those groups and comparing it to the number of people the Treasury Department says will be eligible for an exemption, it’s easy to see that impoverished citizens are deliberately choosing not to sign up for Obamacare even though the primary purpose of the law was to help this very demographic.

Data shows there are about 6 million incarcerated Americans, about 1 million Native Americans living on tribal lands, and likely less than 1 million who would qualify for religious exemptions, assuming the largest groups are the Amish and Mennonites. If we add another 4 million people to the total to account for Americans living abroad, a figure that gives Obama the benefit of the doubt, there are roughly 18 million Americans remaining who can’t afford Obamacare, believe the cost to be too prohibitive, or are members of a health care sharing ministry because the insurance offered is more affordable.

No matter how the Obama administration wants to spin it, there are more than 15 million Americans—far more than the number who actually enrolled through an exchange—who have decided against Obamacare despite qualifying for some sort of financial exemption.

If Obamacare, with all of its costs, regulations, and mandates, is necessary to help the tens of millions of Americans who did not have health insurance prior to the passage of the ACA, why have so many people who are poor enough to qualify for an Obamacare tax exemption found the exchanges to be anything but affordable?

[Originally published on Breitbart.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Falling Unemployment Rate Is More Than A Little Misleading

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2015, 5:42 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its January 2015 report this morning, and on the surface the situation looks good for the Obama administration: 257,000 jobs were added in January, wages improved, and the number of full-time workers increased. The unemployment rate did go up by 0.1 percentage point, to 5.7 percent, but analysts agree this is the result of more Americans looking for jobs, not a slowing economy.

Although the BLS report presents multiple positive economic indicators, the truth is that all of them, especially the unemployment rate, mask serious concerns about U.S. economic growth. When more precisely analyzed, it’s clear the economy is not improving nearly as quickly as President Barack Obama would have the nation believe.

One of the best indicators of this is the labor force participation rate (LFPR) — the percentage of the available population considered to be working or looking for work. One of the primary reasons the unemployment rate dropped so significantly from the 10 percent mark it reached at the height of the recession in 2010 is that the percentage of the population considered to be in the labor pool declined greatly.

The LFPR for January was 62.9 percent, the lowest participation rate for the month of January since 1978, and the number of Americans not in the labor force reached 93 million for the first time ever. Incredibly, there are now 12 million more people not in the U.S. labor force compared to when Obama first took office in 2009.

The mass exodus of Americans out of the workforce has undoubtedly helped improve unemployment figures, explaining why they show significant growth contrary to other economic indicators.

Average U.S. wages are another important sign the economy is not improving nearly as quickly as many of Obama’s supporters say. Since January 2009, average private hourly wages have increased from $22.00 to $24.22, just a little more than what was needed to match inflation over that period.

The 41 cent increase in wages from January 2014 to December 2014 was much less than what was needed to keep up with higher costs for consumers. According to the BLS consumer price index, “food at home” prices increased by 3.7 percent; the cost of gas services at home rose by 5.8 percent; electricity costs moved up by 3.1 percent; and the cost of medical care services increased by 2.4 percent.

All of these figures help explain why the U-6 unemployment rate — which measures “the total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force” — remains above 11 percent nationally.

In a February opinion piece posted on Gallup’s website, titled “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment,” Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton wrote, “There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.”

Clifton is 100 percent correct. Although the slightly improving unemployment rates mean very little, media outlets and politicians continue using and abusing them, hoping the lie will stick. So far, they’ve been successful — unlike the millions of people who have given up looking for work and are being ignored by the official unemployment rate and the media.

[Originally published at The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Economy Continues to Struggle Despite Unemployment Report

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2015, 5:32 PM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its January 2015 report on Friday, and the Obama administration is sure to be happy with its findings.

According to the report, the U.S. economy added 257,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate moved up slightly to 5.7 percent. The number of full-time workers also increased, along with a slight improvement in wages.

But despite all of the seemingly positive news, key economic indicators still suggest the economy has improved little over President Barack Obama’s time in office. Many Americans are actually worse off than they were at the start of 2014.

Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the unemployment drop is that it fails to take the labor force participation rate—the number of people considered to be working or actively looking for work—into account when presenting unemployment data. This is especially important because since Oct. 2009, when the U.S. unemployment rate hit 10 percent, the number of workers considered to be a part of the workforce relative to the size of the population plummeted.

In Oct. 2009, the labor force participation rate was 65 percent, according to the BLS. The most recent available data indicate that although the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent in Oct. 2009 to 5.7 percent in Jan. 2015, the participation rate has significantly dropped to 62.9 percent.

The data show that one of the key reasons the unemployment has fallen is there are less people in the available labor pool relative to the population, not because the economy is growing at a rapid rate. If today’s labor participation rate existed back in Oct. 2009, the unemployment rate would have been 6.5 percent, not 10 percent. This means that since 2009, relatively speaking, the U.S. unemployment rate has improved by less than 1 percentage point.

The reason unemployment appears to be progressing at such a significant rate since the height of the recession is because the Obama administration’s employment data are wildly misleading the American public; the so-called improvement is truly unimpressive when all the relevant factors are taken into consideration.

Another important economic indicator to consider is the quality of the work available. While it’s true average private hourly earnings improved to $24.63 in Dec. 2014 from $24.22 in Jan. 2014, this increase was just barely enough to keep up with inflation, and the wage increase is not enough to match the rising cost of food, electricity, gas, and medical care commodities and services, according to the BLS consumer price index for all urban consumers.

No reasonable person will argue the economy is worse off than it was at the height of the 2008 economic crash, but those who claim America’s economic outlook has dramatically improved over the past two years are simply not paying attention to myriad data that prove the opposite to be true.

The unemployment rate remains one of the go-to signals of economic improvement or decline for many pundits and media outlets, but those who are serious about studying the state of the U.S. economy know the unemployment rate has transformed into nothing more than a political tool for presidential administrations, both past and present, to use at their leisure to mislead Americans into believing the economic climate is better or worse than it actually is.

[Originally published at Breitbart.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Free-Tuition Plan Already Exists, and You’re Paying for It!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2015, 5:25 PM

One of the most hotly contested proposals put forward by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address is the president’s free-tuition plan for students attending two-year community colleges. Called the “America’s College Promise” proposal by the Obama administration, the plan promises to cover tuition for qualifying community college programs for students who maintain a GPA of 2.5. The White House says the plan is expected to cost $80 billion over the next 10 years.

Obama administration spokesperson Eric Schultz said although the proposal is a “significant investment… it’s one the president believes is worthwhile because we need to make sure that America’s young people are getting the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

Pundits on both sides of the aisle have already lined up to praise the president’s plan or to denounce it as another costly government social program the nation cannot afford.

What the White House isn’t telling you and what many political talking heads fail to realize is that the free-tuition plan is really just a political ploy that does nothing to help students because existing programs, already in place, largely cover the cost of two-year community college programs at taxpayers’ expense.

According to the College Board, the same organization that runs the SAT exams, the published tuition and fee price at public two-year community colleges is $3,350. This figure is more than $2,000 less than the $5,500 nearly all students attending college can receive in guaranteed federal student loans and about $150 less than the subsidized loans most students are eligible for.

The president’s argument that a free-tuition program is necessary to help give all Americans access to quality education is simply not true; the federal government already provides access through its loan programs.

Some suggest that a free-tuition program is necessary despite the available federal loan offerings because too many students are stuck with massive tuition bills when they graduate college. While this is certainly a problem­—one that has only grown since the federal government has become more involved in the student loan industry under Obama­—the reality is that federal tax exemptions and existing grants already offset the entire cost of community college for many students.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit, for instance, provides a tax credit for up to $2,500 of the cost of attendance at any college for up to four years. Amazingly, up to $1,000 of the credit is refundable, which means students or their parents are eligible to receive it in most situations even if no other taxes are owed. This means that a student can loan out the cost of his or her tuition at a two-year college using federal loans subsidized by taxpayers and then receive a tax refund check of as much as $1,000, all without having to pay a single penny out of pocket.

Other federal programs also exist to help students who come from low-income households. Pell grants, perhaps the most famous of these programs, offers a maximum of $5,730 for college expenses, far more than the average cost of tuition at two-year community colleges, and the grants do not need to be repaid.

The mythology fabricated by the Obama administration surrounding access to higher education claims students are in desperate need of government assistance to stay competitive in the global marketplace, but the truth is that the government is already aiding these students much or more than Obama’s State of the Union proposal.

The president’s America’s College Promise plan is nothing more than political theater designed to win political favor with an American public still enduring a sluggish economic recovery. The only people this program will help are those who live and work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

[Originally published at Breitbart.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – John Eick: What is ALEC?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2015, 1:50 PM

In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily podcast, Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett talks with John Eick. Eick is the Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.

In that role, John works with state legislators and private sector members, including think tanks like Heartland, and companies to develop model legislation that can be adopted by the states to improve their environmental quality while expanding their economic growth.

ALEC also does research at the request of state legislators concerning pressing environment, energy and natural resource matters. ALEC promotes a more appropriate balance between the responsibilities and authority of state governments and the federal government, which has in recent years become ever larger, arguable illegitimate and unconstitutional role in managing energy development and environmental protection in the state.

Eick discussed some model environment resolutions and bills that passed ALEC at its recent summit in Washington D.C. He also talks about research examining the cost of the onslaught of federal regulations from the Obama administration’s EPA on the nation and individual states.

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

Categories: On the Blog
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