On the Blog

Why Bundled Payments Aren’t Working

Somewhat Reasonable - March 04, 2014, 10:29 AM

The New England Journal of Medicine recently ran an article by Clay Ackerly, MD, and David Grabowski, PhD, calling for “Post-Acute Care Reform.”

They use a (presumably) fictional patient to illustrate the problems with the current payment system: Mrs. T. is an 88-year-old woman who lives alone, has a history of congestive heart failure and osteoarthritis, and has traditional fee-for-service Medicare coverage. One day, she was found lethargic and sent to the emergency department, where she was discovered to be in renal failure and was admitted to the hospital for fluids and monitoring. Her hospitalist concluded that she had accidentally overdosed on Lasix (furosemide). On hospital day 2, Mrs. T. was having difficulty ambulating, although her cognition and renal function had improved and she felt “back to her old self” and was eager to go home.

What to do?

The hospitalist had two primary options. He could keep Mrs. T. in the hospital another night, although she was medically stable and had no further diagnostic or medical needs. That would cost the hospital money under Medicare’s system of fixed payments for diagnosis-related groups, but it would give Mrs. T. more time to recover her strength and extend her stay to the 3 days required to qualify her for a stay in a Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) if needed. The hospitalist believed this option was wasteful and potentially harmful, in that it placed Mrs. T. at further risk for hospital-acquired conditions. Equally important, it went against her wishes — particularly if the end result was a SNF stay.

Alternatively, the hospitalist could send Mrs. T. home, holding the Lasix to prevent a repetition of the cause of this admission and arranging for a follow-up evaluation by a visiting nurse. Home health agencies are expected to provide an admission visit within 48 hours after discharge, and they receive a fixed payment from Medicare for a 60-day episode of care — a policy that may neither match the needs of a patient requiring prompt, intensive short-term skilled care nor provide agencies with appropriate reimbursement for that intensive care. This option presented a higher risk of falls and further medication errors, but it served the hospital’s interest in limiting lengths of stay and Mrs. T.’s desire to return home.

But neither is very satisfactory. They are not tailored to her particular needs and would likely result in a re-admission to the hospital, according to the article. You see, “Patients’ discharge plans are often made for financial rather than clinical reasons, which contributes to the inefficient use of post-acute care and the high rate of readmissions.”

The authors recommend a bundled payment system in which, “hospitals and post-acute care providers are paid for a fixed “bundle” of services around a hospital episode, including post-hospitalization care.” But, alas, there are “substantial regulatory and operational barriers” that prevent such a system from being instituted.

But before we think about the barriers, perhaps we should take a moment to consider what has been said so far.

We have three conditions that profoundly affect this patient’s treatment –

  1. The decisions are being made by a “hospitalist.” This is a doctor who has never seen the patient before entering the hospital and knows nothing about her other than the medical data in her file. We are told she lives alone, but that tells us very little about what she will face when she is discharged. Does she have friends or family members living near by? Are there people who love her and will drop everything to provide care? Does she live in a third-floor walk-up apartment, or a single level home with easy mobility? Does she belong to a church whose members will gladly bring her meals and help her with medications? Is she poor or does she have means with which to hire caregivers? All of these considerations would make a difference in her ability to manage her condition at home, but the hospitalist doesn’t have a clue about any of it.
  2. We have a Medicare system that provides a fixed DRG payment for her condition. This is already a “bundled payment” but one that encourages discharge before the patient is ready.
  3. We also have a Medicare system that expects home health agencies to “provide an admission visit within 48 hours after discharge, and they receive a fixed payment from Medicare for a 60-day episode of care.” This, too, is already “bundled” into 60-day packages. Plus, what is Mrs. T supposed to do in the 48 hours while she is waiting for a visit?

The authors are correct that this is a messed up system that is unlikely to provide the patient with the care she needs. But it is messed up because of previous attempts to “fix” the system. We have already bundled payments into packages of care and introduced a whole new breed of “caregiver” to coordinate things ― the Hospitalist.

The result has been a clumsy, arbitrary payment system that is blind to the real needs of real life patients.

Before we move on to even greater swell ideas to fix things, perhaps we should consider why the previous swell ideas have failed so miserably.

[Originally published at National Center for Policy Analysis]

Categories: On the Blog

Will the Supreme Court Permit EPA Climate Fraud?

Somewhat Reasonable - March 03, 2014, 3:46 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency. The case will determine how far EPA can extend its regulatory overreach, to control “climate changing” carbon dioxide from power plants and other facilities – by ignoring the Constitution’s “separation of powers” provisions, rewriting clear language in the Clean Air Act, and disregarding laws that require the agency to consider both the costs and benefits of its regulations and what it is regulating.

Put more bluntly, the Court will decide whether EPA may deceive and defraud the American people, by implementing regulations that have no basis in honest science and will be ruinous to our economy. It is the most important energy, economic and environmental case to come before the Court it in decades.

Suppose a used car dealership routinely rolled back speedometer mileage, deleted customer complaints from its website, posted fabricated compliments, and lied about defects and accidents, to sell more cars. Or a manufacturer misstated its sales and bottom line, failed to mention major safety violations and fines, and made false claims about new product lines, to attract investors and inflate stock prices?

Both would be indicted for fraud. Now apply the same standards to EPA, whose actions and regulations will affect far more people: virtually every family, facility, company and community in the United States. Jurors would likely rule that the agency is engaged in systematic, purposeful deceit, dishonesty and fraud.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insists there is “no more urgent threat to public health than climate change.” She is determined to impose President Obama’s anti-hydrocarbon agenda. “I just look at what the climate scientists tell me,”  McCarthy told Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Translated, she means she talks only to those who advocate climate alarmism, and ignores all contrary scientists and evidence.

In fact, thousands of scientists and studies argue that there is no empirical, observational evidence to support any of her claims. Recent NOAA and NASA temperature data confirm that global warming ended in 1997 and continues today, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase steadily, improving plant growth worldwide. Seas are rising at barely seven inches per century, and there is no evidence that recent weather events are any more frequent, intense or “dangerous” than what mankind has dealt with forever.

There is no convincing evidence that carbon dioxide emissions have replaced the powerful, complex, interrelated natural forces that have always driven climate and weather changes. No evidence supports the notion that slashing CO2 emissions and trashing our economy will “stabilize” global temperatures and climate variations, or that developing countries will stop pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

EPA brushes all this aside, just as crooked car dealers and manufacturers obfuscate the truth to sell their shoddy products. The agency just assumes and asserts human causes and disastrous results, disregards any and all experts and evidence to the contrary, and ignores any and all costs imposed by its regulations.

It has also violated the Constitution, by rewriting specific Clean Air Act provisions that specify 250-ton-per-year emission limits, in sections that EPA is relying on for its climate rulemakings. To shut down coal-fired power plants, the agency illegally and arbitrarily raised the threshold to 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and ignored the fact that in 692 bills Congress never contemplated applying these sections to greenhouse gases. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, EPA will continue rewriting the law, gradually tightening its standards to control millions of natural gas generators, refineries, factories, paper mills, shopping malls, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools and even large homes.

EPA and other agencies have paid out billions in taxpayer dollars to finance and hype “research” making ludicrous claims that manmade global warming is hidden in really deep ocean waters or obscured by pine tree vapors; tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines could weaken hurricanes; and climate change will cause more rapes and murders. They have used “climate disruption” claims to justify giving eco-activist groups billions of taxpayer dollars to promote alarmist climate propaganda … spending tens of billions on crony-corporatist “green energy” and “climate resilience”  programs … and forcing the United States and other nations to spend hundreds of billions on worthless climate change prevention capers.

EPA’s so-called “science” is intolerable “secret science.” The agency refuses to share it with outside experts or even members of Congress and businesses impacted by its regulations. The agency claims this taxpayer-funded information is somehow “proprietary,” even though it is being used to justify onerous regulations that dictate and impair our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans. EPA refuses to be transparent because it wants to prevent any examination of its internal machinations.

Just as bad, EPA routinely ignores its own scientific standards, and many climate reports it relies on come straight from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, as the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow observed in its amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in this case, the IPCC has been caught red-handed presenting student papers, activist press releases and emailed conjecture as “peer-reviewed expert reports.” It has been caught deleting graphs that clearly show its computer models were worthless, and employing junk models like the one that generated Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” to support assertions that it is 95% certain that humans are causing climate change chaos.

These computer models are built on unproven alarmist assumptions, have never been “validated” and are not merely “unverifiable.” They are flat-out contradicted by real-world evidence right outside the EPA windows, making their results worthless for sound, legitimate public policy. Any yet they drive policy.

In violation of federal laws and executive orders, EPA hypothesizes, concocts or exaggerates almost every conceivable carbon “cost” – to agriculture, forestry, water resources, coastal cities, human health and disease, ecosystems and wildlife. But it completely ignores even the most obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels and emitting plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide: affordable heat and electricity, jobs, transportation, better crop growth and nutrition, and improved living standards, health and welfare.

In reality, hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide benefits outweigh their alleged costs by as much as 500 to 1! That means EPA’s “climate change mitigation” rules impose costs on society that exceed even EPA’s exaggerated regulatory benefits by as much as 500 to 1. The EPA “cure” is far worse than the “disease.”

And let’s not forget that one of Ms. McCarthy’s senior advisors devising the agency’s climate change policies and regulations was none other than John Beale – the guy who bilked us taxpayers out of $1 million in salary and travel expenses for his mythical second job as a CIA agent. To suppose his fraudulent actions did not extend to his official EPA duties defies belief. And yet EPA has apparently taken no steps to reexamine Beale’s analyses or conclusions.

EPA has done all of this knowingly, deliberately, with full knowledge of the grossly deficient foundations of its pseudo-science and policies – to drive an anti-hydrocarbon agenda, without regard for the consequences that agenda will inflict on millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide.

This goes beyond mere sloppiness or incompetence. It is dishonest. It violates the law. According to standards applicable to every citizen and business in the land, it is fraudulent. And while ObamaCare affects one-sixth of economy, by controlling the energy that powers our homes, cars, businesses and nation, EPA’s carbon and carbon dioxide policies will control and impair 100% of our economy, wipe out tens of millions of jobs, and kill thousands of people – for no health or environmental benefits.

The real threat to public health and welfare is not climate change. It is EPA and what this rogue agency is doing in the name of preventing climate change. If the Supreme Court allows this, by giving carte blanche authority to EPA, the battle will rage on countless other fronts, because voters are sick and tired of being lied to, manipulated, defrauded, and forced to pay outrageous prices for oppressive regulations.

Democrats say they plan to use climate change to attack Republicans in 2014. I say, Bring it on!

Categories: On the Blog

The Buck Stops – Where?

Somewhat Reasonable - March 03, 2014, 3:18 PM

Writing in the National Journal,  Sam Baker tries his darnedest to minimize some of the effects of Obamacare.

He notes that some people are concerned about the limited networks offered by some of the plans on the Exchanges. In fact, he writes, “Republicans have pounced on the narrow networks, citing them as further proof that President Obama lied when he said the Affordable Care Act would not cost people their doctors.”

But Mr. Baker wants you to know that none of this is Obama’s fault (nothing ever is) — “…it’s a market dynamic that Obamacare really didn’t cause: It’s a business balance between price and quality that existed long before the law was created.”

He even quotes GW professor Sara Rosenbaum (who couldn’t possibly be biased) as saying, “The administration has shouldered the blame for things that are so vastly beyond its control, and has attempted valiantly to work these problems out.”

You see, it’s just that those mean old insurers have chosen narrow networks in order to lower premiums — Obamacare has nothing to do with that decision even though it is valiantly shouldering the blame. Not only that, but “it’s largely up to the states to determine whether an insurance plan’s network is adequate enough to actually make those benefits accessible.”  So poor Obama is being blamed for things that are entirely the doing of insurance companies and state regulators.

But before you get out your hankies to weep for Obama’s victimhood let’s consider a couple of things:

  1. Maybe, just maybe, Obama did cause the premiums to be higher by requiring coverage for every little thing anyone could ever want, from free contraception to pediatric dental in case the contraceptives didn’t work.
  2. And maybe premiums are also higher because Obama requires insurers to accept everyone who applies without any difference in premiums due to their health status.

Maybe insurers are trying to do what they can to keep down costs despite those extraordinary requirements.

Mr. Baker also minimizes the effect of skinny networks by suggesting that the main consequence is that there are fewer providers available and that people who were previously uninsured didn’t have a doctor to lose, so wouldn’t be bothered. The problem with that line of thinking is that it isn’t just the number of providers, but the quality of those providers. If an insurance company reduces its payments by, say 40%, the best doctors and hospitals will decline to participate. They are in high demand and don’t need to cut their fees to attract new patients. That leaves the second-rate doctors in the network. The newly insured will be getting second-rate care. One might think even Democrats would be concerned about that.

Now, I wouldn’t let the insurers off the hook here, either. Reducing their networks is not the only way to hold down premium costs. They might, for instance, simply limit what they pay to a fixed amount regardless of who provides the service. They could agree to pay $65 for a doctor’s office visit — any doctor, anywhere. You might go to Dr. Jones who charges $65, while I much prefer Dr. Smith who charges $85. I am willing to pay the extra $20 to see the doctor I trust. The insurer is no worse of because Smith is not in the network. It pays the same $65 regardless.

This doesn’t have to be confined to physician visits. WellPoint in California has decided to pay a flat $30,000 for a joint replacement regardless of the hospital. John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis puts it like this:

Like other third-party payers, WellPoint discovered that the charges for hip and knee replacements in California were all over the map, ranging from $15,000 to $110,000. Yet there were 46 hospitals that routinely averaged $30,000 or less. So WellPoint entered an agreement with CalPERS (the health plan for California state employees, retirees and their families) to pay for these procedures in a different way.

The results were dramatic. Costs dropped by almost 20% in just a couple of years as facilities dropped their prices to attract CalPERS enrollees.

So, yes, insurers could get a lot more creative about how to lower costs, but it is beyond comprehension that Mr. Baker and other administration apologists are now claiming that Mr. Obama is somehow not responsible for the turmoil in the health insurance market. Will these people ever take responsibility for anything?

 

[Originally published at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Yellowstone’s Bison and Sustainable Management

Somewhat Reasonable - March 03, 2014, 6:20 AM

Research Fellow Isaac Orr (bottom right) helps carry an injured French tourist out of the backcountry while hiking on his day off from working in Yellowstone National Park.

If you’ve ever driven through the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park at sunset and seen the bison herds it’s a pretty amazing sight.

I currently serve as a Research Fellow at the Heartland Institute, but in my younger days, I was a maintenance crew worker in the Canyon district of Yellowstone and was fortunate enough to have many evenings in Hayden Valley. I even helped save a French tourist who had badly sprained her ankle while hiking on my day off, the picture above is proof!

Yellowstone is an amazing place, heck the park is a supervolcano, and there are a lot of critters there including elk, grizzly bears, black bears, and moose, but none were more prevalent or dangerous than the bison.

Having so many bison in the park brings its challenges. Bison like to lie on the road, and every year there is it seems like there is at least one rented RV that collides with a bison (they both lose, if you’re curious) and while the park is there for all the animals, it is there for people, too.

I remember a time when an elderly gentleman had a heart attack at the Canyon visitor’s center and needed to be rushed to the hospital immediately, but he had to be flown by helicopter the fifteen miles south to the hospital at Yellowstone Lake because of a bison jam that had made the trip nearly impossible by ambulance.

While some groups are upset by the herd management practices used by the National Park Service (NPS), it’s important to remember that the park and the surrounding areas have a variety of interests that need to be taken into consideration.

For instance, a study by NPS states that while the park could technically carry more bison than it does currently, a model predicted that the bison population would be under nutritional stress well below food-limited carrying capacity during winters with deep snowpacks that restricted bison access to forage. As a result, there would be considerable calf mortality and increased adult mortality due to starvation.

It is important that the bison population is managed in a sustainable way, that way, when I have a family, my kids will be able to experience the bison just like I was able to.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Can’t the Government Take No for an Answer on Net Neutrality?

Somewhat Reasonable - March 02, 2014, 9:31 AM

Network Neutrality is sadly, yet again back from the dead.  Because the Barack Obama Administration keeps insisting on resurrecting it.

Twice now the D.C. Circuit Court has unanimously thrown out the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Net Neutrality power grab.  Have said grabbers been at all chastened by these rebukes?  Sadly, no.

Barely over a month after the FCC’s second rejection, we get this:

FCC Plans to Issue New ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules

Likely forcing yet another company or two to waste millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours suing to – hopefully – fend off the Leviathan.

Meanwhile, it’s time for Congress to rein in this Administration’s unilateral authoritarianism.  Cut the FCC’s budget – and refuse to restore funding until the FCC restores sanity and stops trying to illegally impose Net Neutrality.

After all, it is Congress’ job to pass Net Neutrality legislation – thereby creating the legal authority for the FCC to impose it.  Otherwise known as the cart-after-the-horse approach.

Congress should at the very least be offended by the FCC usurping their jobs right out from under them.

We are drowning in Obama Administration illegal power grabs.  Congress must finally do something to stop it. The FCC yet again assaulting with Net Neutrality about the only functional economic sector going is a great place to start.

Please Congress – throw us and the economy a lifeline.  Cut some of the many FCC purse strings – until they cut this stuff out.

[First posted at PJ Media.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Period Of No Global Warming Will Soon Be Longer Than the Period of Actual Global Warming

Somewhat Reasonable - March 01, 2014, 1:09 AM

If you look at the record of global temperature data, you will find that the late 20th Century period of global warming actually lasted about 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. Before that, the globe was dominated by about 30 years of global cooling, giving rise in the 1970s to media discussions of the return of the Little Ice Age (circa 1450 to 1850), or worse.

But the record of satellite measurements of global atmospheric temperatures now shows no warming for at least 17 years and 5 months, from September, 1996 to January, 2014. That is surely 17 years and 6 months now, accounting for February.

When the period of no global warming began, the alarmist global warming establishment responded that even several years of temperature data does not establish a climate trend. That takes much longer. But when the period of no global warming gets longer than the period of actual global warming, what is the climate trend then?

Even worse for the theory of catastrophic, anthropogenic (human caused), global warming is that during this now extended period of no global warming mankind’s emissions of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that are supposed to be predominant in causing global warming continued to explode, with one third of all CO2 added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution occurring during this period. The Economist magazine shocked the global warming establishment with an article in March, 2013 that began with this lede:

Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750.

That one quarter is actually now one third since the industrial revolution, which is now increasingly at stake in this debate. We are not going to be able to power anything remotely like the modern industrial revolution, which is actually straining even now to burst out of the “Progressive” bonds holding it back (at least in America), using the wind sources that powered the Roman economy, plus dancing on sunbeams.

Moreover, the now extended trend of no global warming is not turning around any time soon. That increasingly established trend is being produced by long term natural causes. Even rank amateurs among the general public can see that the sun is the dominant influence on the Earth’s temperatures. Even the most politicized scientists know that they cannot deny that solar activity such as sun spot cycles, and variations in solar magnetic fields or in the flux of cosmic rays, have contributed to major climate changes of the past, such as the Little Ice Age, particularly pronounced from roughly 1650 AD to 1850 AD, the Medieval Warm Period from about 950 AD to 1250 AD, during which global temperatures were higher than today, and the early 20th century Warming Period from 1910 to 1940 AD.

That solar activity, particularly sunspot cycles, is starting to mimic the same patterns that were seen during the Little Ice Age, as I discussed in a previous column. As a result, outside politically correct Western circles, where science today has been Lysenkoized on this issue, there is a burgeoning debate about how long of a cooling trend will result.

Britain’s Met Office, an international cheerleading headquarters for global warming hysteria, conceded in December, 2012 that there would be no further warming at least through 2017, which would make 21 years with no global warming. The German Herald reported on March 31, 2013 regarding Russian scientist Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, “Talking to German media the scientist who first made his prediction in 2005 said that after studying sunspots and their relationship with climate change on Earth, we are now on an ‘unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.’” His colleague Yuri Nagovitsyn is quoted in The Voice of Russia saying, “we could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200-250 years.” Skepticism over the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is increasingly embraced in China and elsewhere in Asia as well.

In addition, every 20 to 30 years, the much colder water near the bottom of the oceans cycles up to the top, where it has a slight cooling effect on global temperatures until the sun warms that water. That warmed water then contributes to slightly warmer global temperatures, until the next churning cycle. Known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), these natural causes are also contributing to the stabilized and now even slightly declining natural global temperature trends.

The foundation for the establishment argument for global warming are 73 climate models collected by the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). But the problem is that the warming trends projected by these models are all diverging farther and farther from the real world trend of actual temperature observations discussed above, as I showed in a previous column, with another graphic. Because none of these models have been scientifically validated based on past temperature observations, they constitute a very weak scientific argument that does not remotely establish that the “science is settled,” and “global warming is a fact.” The current data discussed above establishes indisputably that global warming is not a fact today. The politicians seeking to browbeat down any continuing public debate are abusing their positions and authority with modern Lysenkoism, meaning “politically correct” science not established by the scientific method, but politically imposed.

The science behind all of this is thoroughly explained in the 1200 pages of Climate Change Reconsidered II, authored by 50 top scientists organized into the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and published by the Heartland Institute in Chicago. You will want to own this volume (or just the summary) if for no other reason than that it says here that future generations of scientists will look back and say this is the moment when we took the political out of the political science of “climate change,” and this is how we did it. Real scientists know that these 50 co-authors are real scientists. That is transparent from the tenor of the report itself.

The publication (PDF) is “double peer reviewed,” in that it discusses thousands of peer reviewed articles published in scientific journals, and is itself peer reviewed. That is in sharp contrast to President Obama’s own EPA, which issued its “endangerment finding” legally authorizing regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, without submitting the finding to its own peer review board, as required by federal law. What were they so afraid of if 97% of scientists supposedly agree with them?

The conclusion of the report is that the U.N.’s IPCC has exaggerated the amount of global warming likely to occur due to mankind’s emissions of CO2, and the warming that human civilization will cause as a result “is likely to be modest and cause no net harm to the global environment or to human well-being.” The primary, dominant cause of global climate change is natural causes, not human effects, the report concludes.

The fundamentals of the argument are that carbon dioxide is not some toxic industrial gas, but a natural, trace gas constituting just 0.038% of the atmosphere, or less than 4/100ths of one percent. The report states, “At the current level of 400 parts per million, we still live in a CO2-starved world. Atmospheric levels (of CO2) 15 times greater existed during the pre-Cambrian period (about 550 million years ago) without known adverse effects,” such as catastrophic global warming. Much was made of the total atmospheric concentration of CO2 growing past 400 parts per million. But one percent of the atmosphere would be 10,000 parts per million. Moreover, human emissions of CO2 are only 4% to 5% of total global emissions, counting natural causes.

In addition, CO2 is actually essential to all life on the planet. Plants need CO2 to grow and conduct photosynthesis, which is the natural process that creates food for animals and fish at the bottom of the food chain. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere that has occurred due to human emissions has actually increased agricultural growth and output as a result, causing actually an increased greening of the planet. So has any warming caused by such human emissions, as minor warming increases agricultural growth. The report states, “CO2 is a vital nutrient used by plants in photosynthesis. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere ‘greens’ the planet and helps feed the growing human population.”

Furthermore, the temperature impact of increased concentrations of CO2 declines logarithmically. Or as the report says, “Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)…exerts a diminishing warming effect as its concentration increases.” That means there is a natural limit to how much increased CO2 can effectively warm the planet, as the effect of more and more CO2 ultimately becomes negligible as CO2 concentration grows. Maybe that is why even with many times more CO2 in the atmosphere in the deep past, there was no catastrophic global warming.

The Obama Administration is busily at work on a project to define what it is calling “the social cost of carbon.” But the only documented effect of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide so far is the resulting increased agricultural output, valued in one study at $1.3 trillion. The Obama Administration is effectively conducting a cost-benefit analysis with no consideration of the benefits. Note that this project is being conducted on a planet populated by what is known as “carbon-based” life forms. That includes plants, animals, and marine life.

The biggest problem with the catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming fantasy is that it is very costly for the economy. It is already delaying the Keystone Pipeline, which is privately financed infrastructure that would produce thousands of good paying jobs. Should be a no-brainer. The Administration’s policies are also sharply restricting the production of oil and gas on federally controlled lands. Then there is the Administration’s War on Coal, which threatens thousands of more jobs.

Perhaps most importantly, reliable supplies of low cost energy powerfully promote economic growth. Already burgeoning supplies of inexpensive natural gas resulting from the fracking revolution on state and private lands are stimulating a budding revival of American manufacturing. But the whole point of the EPA’s global warming regulation would be to impose a cost wedge on the traditional carbon based energy sources that have powered the industrial revolution – coal, oil and natural gas.

Alternative energy from wind, solar, even biofuels is inherently more costly because the energy in wind, sunrays, corn, etc. is much more diffuse, so more expensive to collect in usable form. Moreover, these alternative energy sources are inherently unreliable, because sometimes the wind does not blow, and the sun does not shine. So back up traditional fossil fuel sources are still needed, which further adds to the costs. This will all result in higher costs for electricity, the fundamental power source for the modern, consumer based economy.

The science of global warming as discussed above does not justify these costs for the economy.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Constitutional Crisis

Somewhat Reasonable - February 28, 2014, 11:00 PM

President Obama famously has a pen and a phone. And if he had the same powers that Hugo Chavez had, that would be all he would need to impose Hugo Chavez’s programs on America, unilaterally by decree.

President Obama is telling us by his words, and his actions, that he thinks he has at least some of those powers. He is telling us by his words and his actions that he will not obey the law, and follow the Constitution he is sworn to uphold by his Presidential Oath of Office. That is the Constitutional Crisis presently facing America.

Let me give you some concrete examples.

President Obama has made close to 20 changes by now in his own Obamacare law passed exclusively by his own Democrats in Congress. He has done that by decree, without any authorization in the law, and in violation of the Constitution. The Constitution requires him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, which means the laws as passed by Congress, and as he himself has signed into law.

The law as passed mandates both employers and workers to buy health insurance (workers when their employers don’t). The law as enacted says those mandates both become effective as of January 1, 2014.

But last year, President Obama decreed that the employer mandate, but not the worker mandate, would be delayed by one year. Then last week, he rewrote the employer mandate again. The employer mandate as enacted into law requires all businesses with 50 or more full time employees, defined as those working 30 hours a week or more, to buy the statutorily defined health insurance coverage for those workers.

But President Obama by press release last week created a new category of businesses not mentioned in the law, those employing less than 100 workers. For those employers, Obama’s press release specified that the employer mandate is now pushed back another year, until 2016. Moreover, for all businesses with 100 or more employees, the employer mandate for 2015 will now require them to buy the statutorily specified health insurance for 70% of their workers, rather than for 100% as the law that was actually passed requires.

The Constitution provides that Congress has the legislative power to write the laws. The President has the power to either veto them or sign them. But once he signs them, those laws become the “law of the land,” as Obama himself has also famously said regarding Obamacare. Those laws then apply to the President just as much as to everyone else. In America, unlike in Third World banana republics, the President is not above the law.

The Constitution further provides that once a law is duly enacted, by both Houses of Congress passing it and the President signing it, the President’s duty is to take care that the law is “faithfully executed.” That is why the Constitution calls the President’s Administration the “Executive Branch.”

For the President to rewrite the law as passed by Congress, rather than faithfully executing it, is consequently a violation of the Constitution, and the law. The American Constitution is carefully designed based on the Separation of Powers. The Congress is granted the “Legislative Power” to write the laws, and the President is granted the “Executive Power” to carry them out as Congress provides. That was done to create a system of “checks and balances” so that each branch can check and balance the power of the others. That was done to prevent the tyranny of governmental powers concentrated in one branch of government. That is one reason why the American government has never lapsed into autocratic tyranny, unlike Third World banana republics sometimes do.

For the President to usurp the legislative power of Congress by rewriting the law, rather than following it and executing it as passed, is a fundamental violation of the Constitution’s Separation of Powers, and “checks and balances.” Such Presidential action not only violates the law, like a thief holding you up at gunpoint and taking your wallet, it involves a tendency towards tyranny. It nullifies the basic concept of the rule of law that is supposed to be governing America. It is fundamentally transforming America into a Third World banana republic.

President Obama’s actions in regard to Obamacare do not involve the use of an “Executive Order,” which is within the President’s powers. For an Executive Order to be legal, it must involve an exercise of a Presidential power granted by some other provision of law, either a federal statute or the Constitution. Executive Orders are used by a President to exercise his discretion granted by these other provisions of law.

For example, early in his Administration, President Reagan issued a famous Executive Order regarding federalism. That order involved him instructing the millions of federal employees who worked for him to follow the original Constitutional doctrine of federalism in developing and carrying out their policies under the law within their respective federal agencies. That meant that federal employees carrying out their duties under the law should respect and uphold the authority of the states under the Constitution, and where possible under the law delegate authority to the states to design and implement policies best suited to their respective jurisdictions. Under that Executive Order, President Reagan was telling federal workers who work for him how he wanted them to do their jobs, an authority all Presidents have under the Constitution.

But such an Executive Order authority cannot be used to rewrite a duly enacted federal statute that states plainly that a legal requirement becomes effective on January 1, 2014, to provide that the legal requirement shall become effective instead in 2015, or 2016. Nor can the authority be used to change the legal requirement to 70% from 100%, or to companies of 100 workers or more rather than 50 workers or more. That would be just like a future Republican President trying to use an Executive Order to cut the capital gains tax rate back down to 15%, without Congressional action to provide for that.

Moreover, President Obama’s numerous Obamacare rewrites do not involve the use of regulatory discretion to interpret and implement the law. All federal regulations as well must be based on authority granted by some other provision of law, either a federal statute or the Constitution. For example, the EPA’s regulations regarding emissions of carbon dioxide and other supposed “greenhouse” gases are based on the legal authority of the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court, in fact, has already ruled that the EPA has the authority under that Act to issue regulations to counter what it may see as the threat of global warming to the public.

That pains me to concede because I think the regulations the EPA is developing and implementing in that regard are bad policy choices, based, in my considered opinion, on dishonest and manipulative supposed “science.” But such regulations, and any Presidential orders to the EPA to proceed with them, do not violate the law and the Constitution.

But no legal regulation can “interpret” January 1, 2014 to mean 2015 or 2016. Nor can it interpret 100% to mean 70%, or less than 50 workers to mean less than 100 workers. Any President authorizing or ordering that would be breaking the law and violating the Constitution.

The reason for Obama’s rewriting of his own law regarding the employer mandate is that he knows that when it goes into effect, millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, exactly contrary to one of the key promises he made to America to get Obamacare passed. That is because the insurance that so many workers have does not fit all the Obamacare requirements regarding what insurance they must have to satisfy the employer mandate. So employers will have to cancel the insurance for millions of workers, and many will not replace that insurance with the costly insurance Obamacare requires. What this means is that his promise that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it,” has turned out to be that if Obama likes your insurance, as specified under the Obamacare law, you can keep it. Many Americans will feel they were lied to in this regard when they find this out, by personal experience. Certainly that is how people felt when millions lost their health insurance when the individual mandate went into effect over the last several months, due to this exact same effect.

Moreover, millions of Americans will probably not only lose their health insurance, but their jobs as well, or at least their full time jobs, as they are reduced to part time to evade the costly employer mandate requirements. So the whole reason for Obama breaking the law in this way, and violating the Constitution, is the unseemly motivation to hide from the American people the effects of his law, at least until after the next elections.

Obama apologists like Juan Williams of Fox News try to tell us this is nothing new. The same thing happened at the beginning with Social Security and Medicare, they claim. But that is a completely false, Orwellian rewrite of history. There were no violations of law and the Constitution to get those programs enacted and implemented. Nor were the politics of the enactment of Social Security and Medicare at all similar to the enactment of Obamacare, contrary to Obama’s Orwellian newspeak.

Obama’s violations of the law explained above would be corrected in the courts. But President Obama very slyly knows what he is doing when it comes to abuse of authority (as opposed to promoting economic growth, jobs and prosperity, if he is really for those things). A consistent theme of his violations of law is that they are usually carefully crafted to avoid conferring “standing” on anyone to go into court and challenge him.

To confer standing on any such challenges, the violation of law must impose a concrete burden on a party that can sue. That would arise when the violation imposes a new regulatory or financial burden on the party. But delaying or even waiving a statutory requirement does not involve imposing such a burden, and so does not confer standing to sue.

For example, President Obama abused his authority, and violated the law and Constitution, when he tried to appoint “recess” appointees to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not in recess, and even officially said so. Those appointees went on to issue rulings that did impose financial penalties and regulatory burdens on parties, which did confer standing on them to sue. And federal courts have ruled that such supposed “recess” appointments did violate the Constitution, and so their appointments, and all actions they have taken, are inoperative, invalidating the financial and regulatory burdens.

But President Obama and his NLRB are avoiding complying with those federal court decisions. This is a variant on President Obama’s violation of law strategy we can call “Sue Me.” He pursues that when he thinks the matter is important enough to take action even when the action can reasonably be expected to be struck down in the courts, such as implementing a union takeover of the NLRB, where as much mischief and mayhem as possible can be implemented before the courts shut it down. With a little luck, such abuse of authority can continue for years, maybe even the rest of Obama’s term, with all of the resulting mischief and mayhem never caught up with and completely reversed.

As this NLRB case shows, the Obamacare rewrites are not Obama’s only violations of law and the Constitution. In 2012, the President implemented the so-called DREAM Act by decree, after Congress had considered it, but refused to enact it, providing for new benefits for illegal immigrants brought to America as children. Before that, the President had ruled by decree that Governors could apply for waivers from the welfare reform work requirements adopted in 1996 under President Clinton, even though the 1996 law expressly anticipated and banned any such change in the requirements.

In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder, acting under President Obama’s authority and with his consent, ordered all U.S. attorneys to stop prosecutions of all nonviolent, non-gang-related, drug crime defendants subject to mandatory minimum sentences. The law requires such mandatory minimum sentences. The Obama Administration is just refusing to follow and enforce the law. President Obama has also ordered suspensions of deportation of certain categories of illegal aliens. His Administration has also refused to follow some court rulings, as in the NLRB case, or the federal rulings that the President’s extended moratorium on Gulf oil drilling after the British Petroleum oil leak were illegal under the law.

One of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon was that he used the IRS for special audits and investigations of his political opponents. Under Obama, we all know now that the IRS has done the same thing.

Whole books have been written explaining and documenting such illegal, unconstitutional actions by President Obama. Those are books calling for his impeachment as a result. You and many others may support substantively some of the policy changes above that President Obama has implemented illegally by unconstitutional decree. But the point is those changes have to be adopted through legal, Constitutional procedures, if we are to be a nation governed by the rule of law, and the democratic process.

All this Presidential lawlessness is further bad news for the economy. It creates a nascent “political risk” for investment in America, for the first time since the Civil War. Once the President crosses the boundary of the law, there is no certainty as to how far he would go. That reduces the security of property, investment and all business in America. That is further exacerbated by the rhetoric of the President and his political allies against all those with money to invest and build businesses and enterprise. At the margin, all of this discourages investment, job creation, entrepreneurship, and business creation and expansion in America, which means less growth in the economy, wages and incomes.

The Constitution provides the check and balance of impeachment when the President becomes a reckless lawbreaker, vowing to rule by decree with his pen and his phone rather than in accordance with the law and the Constitution. That is how the Constitution ensures that America does not slide into a third world banana republic, like Argentina or Venezuela, at one time both rising, increasingly prosperous countries.

But the Democratic Party in Washington at least is in full support of their President’s lawbreaking. Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove a President from office. With a Senate Democrat majority still in lock step with the President Obama’s march to the far left, there is no prospect of that. For the House GOP majority to vote for impeachment, forcing a vote in the Senate with no prayer of success, would just invite political backlash.

Consequently, it falls to the voters themselves to rescue the rule of law and the Constitution from the President’s lawlessness. The Democrats as a party today defend, support and stand for what Obama is doing. Ruling by decree, rewriting the law rather than faithfully executing it as enacted in accordance with the democratic process. Usurping the legislative authority of the Congress, and the Constitution’s Separation of Powers. Veering towards Third World banana republic autocracy, rather than standing for the rule of law.

Voters have the opportunity in this fall’s Congressional elections to hold Democrats accountable for this slide from the standards of governance of Western Civilization. If Republicans are swept into the majority in the Senate, after 8 years of Democrat Senate majorities, and Obama handmaiden Harry Reid is replaced as Senate Majority Leader, where he himself has ruled as a petty tyrant, that alone would chasten Obama that he cannot get away with any Hugo Chavez/Juan Peron style autocracy in America. The voters themselves would then have resolved the Constitutional crisis, as the last line of defense for American democracy.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

About that Persistent Polar Vortex

Somewhat Reasonable - February 28, 2014, 10:27 PM

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the polar vortex and severe weather that is supposed to be as a result of global warming — particularly because of what Jennifer A. Francis and Stephen J. Vavrus contend is the result of “arctic amplification” or the greater warming rate of the arctic vs. the mid latitudes that occurred between 1977-1998. (Read their paper in Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 39 from March 17, 2012.)

Francis and Vavrus are claiming that this arctic amplification has lead to the presence of increased long waves (big loops in the jet stream) that become stationary — thus persistent at mid latitudes and are causing more severe weather in the USA and other mid latitude locations. The authors invoke the Rossby wave theory to conclude what they did in their peer reviewed paper by the Geophysical Research Letters.

The problem is that their claims actually contradict the theory of Rossby waves as derived in the literature by Rossby himself. In their paper, Francis and Vavrus claim that because there was arctic warming that occurred at a faster rate than the mid latitudes from 1977-1998, that this warming weakened the jet stream winds at high latitudes. Thus, according to Rossby wave theory, this has allowed these waves to amplify and become more persistent around the earth as full latitude waves — creating bigger storms and more severe weather at mid latitudes. The implication is that severe snowstorms, thunderstorms, and tornadoes are a result of this arctic amplification.

The problem is, again, that this contradicts the physics of Rossby waves — as every meteorologist is required to understand — because the waves actually do the opposite of what is claimed in their paper. If it is true that the jet stream winds have decreased as claimed by the “reanalysis” of the upper level winds, it is also true that as you move to higher latitude, Rosssby waves can develop with a lessened wind speed and achieve a standing or stationary status. But this is less than half of the physics involved. The problem is that this is not true to obtain full latitude waves as discussed in their paper. For that to happen, winds must increase — as the amplitude of these waves is dependent upon the speed of the jet stream winds which must increase at lower latitudes, consistent with a greater difference in temperature across the latitude lines. This is the opposite of what they claim in their paper.

It is not possible for full latitude waves to develop based upon a weakening westerly jet stream as they claim. If their claims were true, the correct Rossby wave physics tells us that such waves would shorten in both amplitude and wave length and migrate further north — thus not affecting mid latitude locations in the USA as claimed that produce severe weather.

The fact that we have had persistent long waves this winter causing severe snow and cold in the USA is actually an indication of the opposite of what the authors claim. It is a fact that the North American continent has cooled over the last 10 years, while the global oceans have retained a lot of their heat energy as the higher specific heats have allowed thermal inertia to be a factor in global ocean temperatures with the declining solar magnetic. In terms of the near future, this could easily spell trouble for the USA’s Midwestern states this spring — as the severe cold and deep snow in the north will cause a slower warming rate of these areas vs. the more rapid warming of the southern latitudes that is always associated with the climbing sun angle of late winter and spring.

It is the difference in temperature across the latitude lines that liberates potential energy and creates storms and because there is no global warming present yet the likelihood that these temperature gradients will develop at mid latitudes during the next 4 months and be greater than average, that the severe weather season at mid latitude and in particular in the Midwest USA has the potential to be bad this year with a lot of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Francis and Vavrus claim the severe weather is caused by arctic warming, but this contradicts all of the founding literature in atmospheric science as I pointed out to these authors including their claims about Rossby waves. Neither author has answered my concerns and questions.

Categories: On the Blog

Cop Candor, Part II: ‘Too Often, In Too Many Courtrooms . . .’

Somewhat Reasonable - February 28, 2014, 9:15 PM

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Darren Manning, a model high school student athlete, was a victim of police brutality in Philadelphia.

On Thursday, The Heartlander published my blog post headlined, “Cop Candor: ‘At Least We Didn’t Rape Her’.” I wrote about the Austin, Texas, police chief who recently made light of several of his cops being caught on video roughly treating a young woman jogger who allegedly jaywalked. He said:

Cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas.

I used his remarks as the jumping-off point to write about the many crimes police are committing and often getting away with, often because other cops – and many times prosecutors – cover up for them. I encountered this problem decades ago as a young reporter but am convinced things are worse now.

It seems since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it’s become open season on Americans. Because of my job as a managing editor and research fellow here at The Heartland Institute, every day I look at newspapers around the country and many blogs. Not a day goes by when I don’t see a story about a police or prosecutorial outrage.

Today in the Chicago Sun-Times there is an outstanding editorial that touches on this subject. It goes perfectly with the outstanding work the Sun-Times has done to try to bring some semblance of justice to the family and friends of David Koschman, a young man who was killed by Richard J. Vanecko, a nephew of Chicago’s former powerhouse mayor, Richard M. Daley. Only now – nearly 10 years later – has anything happened to Vanecko. He’s serving 60 days in jail. If not for dogged reporting by Tim Novak and Chris Fusco in the Sun-Times, this sorry episode would still be buried.

Please do read the whole Sun-Times editorial. To whet your appetite, some excerpts follow. But before we get to the excerpts, let me mention the following:

Some people have contacted me to try to explain away the police abuses I cited in my first Cop Candor column. The gist of the argument seems to be if those people had merely stood still and put up no argument or struggle, they would not have been beaten up or shot (or at least not as much). I, for one, don’t think human beings should have to act like sheep to stay safe. I’m told we’re supposed to respect cops. Aren’t cops supposed to respect us?

And I wonder what these people would say to Darren Manning, a 16-year-old boy from Philadelphia. He’s a straight-A student who attends one of that city’s best schools. The school’s principal and teachers describe him as a “model student.”

Last month Manning and other members of his high school basketball team got off the subway dressed in their uniforms to go to basketball practice. Police stopped them because, on this bitterly cold day, they were wearing scarves and hats that partially covered their faces. Apparently this a threat to Philadelphia cops.

The cops stared down the kids, scaring them, and they started running but Manning stopped. Now Manning might never be able to have children because a police officer – a female police officer – crushed Manning’s testicles in her hands while he was handcuffed. Surgeons had to repair the damage and say he might be sterile as a result of the injuries the cops inflicted on him. By the way, this model straight-A student who has never been in trouble and who voluntarily stopped running to allow the cops to catch him is now charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer and reckless endangerment.

If anyone knows how Americans can fight back against these police outrages without getting ourselves beaten up or killed, please let me know.

 Now for the excerpts from the Feb. 27 Sun-Times editorial:

Sometimes it’s a video that surfaces in a criminal case, clearly contradicting how a police officer under oath described a scene.

Sometimes it’s a document that is uncovered late in the game, showing how a law officer’s story has changed 180 degrees.

Sometimes it’s a new DNA test that shows how an official version of events, accepted for years, couldn’t possibly be true.

 Too often, in too many courtrooms, people entrusted with assuring justice instead shade the facts to strengthen cases against people they believe to be guilty. Or maybe they’re just covering up for each other. Either way, innocent people caught up in such machinations never know what hit them. . . .

The cops in the Koschman case apparently cooked up a self-defense theory to protect Richard J. Vanecko, former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew. Police reports in the case said Koschman’s friends described him as aggressive, yelling and lunging in a 2004 encounter with Vanecko outside a Near North Side bar, an encounter that left Koschman dead 11 days later. But the friends told the Chicago Sun-Times, Webb and a grand jury that they never said that. How did that get into the police reports?

Moreover, after a second investigation in 2011, a police report stated that Koschman yelled, ‘F— you! I’ll kick your ass.’ Where did that come from? Not one witness claimed to have heard that. . . .”

The whole history of the former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge saga, in which police tortured suspects into confessing and then lied about the torture, shows how innocent people got swept up along with the guilty, with no recourse.

Another example was the 2007 case of Anthony Abbate, a police officer who beat a female bartender. Police conveniently forget to write in their report his name, that he was a police officer and that there was video of the attack. Does anyone believe that was an oversight? . . .”

The real painful story of the David Koschman scandal, sadly, may be that this stuff happens all the time.

Categories: On the Blog

Huffington Post Means Well, but Insults Naomi Klein, Gives Heartland Too Much Credit

Somewhat Reasonable - February 27, 2014, 11:12 AM

In this Huffington Post piece, Bill Shireman of Future 500 means well — or at least he means to mean well — with his attempt to nurture a middle ground in the “climate wars.” He’s a left-leaning writer, so I give him credit for trying to spray pox upon both the “warmist” and “skeptic” houses instead of just the the “skeptics,” which is the usual HuffPost angle.

The Heartland Institute is chiefly featured in Shireman’s piece — which is a tribute to the hard work of an organization that has had enormous impact on the debate while enjoying just a tiny fraction of the funding of our prominent peers in on the “other side.” (One demerit for Shireman, however: Heartland never compared “climate advocates” to Nazis.)

That aside, Shireman’s theme is that “both sides” are to blame for the caustic state of the climate debate in this country. The left has wrongly cast the Koch Brothers as “demons,” he writes, while “anti-climate” forces on the right have vaguely done the same. OK. The world knows the former is true of the left, but what is his example of the same from the right? Apparently, The Heartland Institute is to blame for shaping “the climate-policy prescriptions of its chief rhetorical nemesis, Naomi Klein.”

Some background: In 2011, Klein attended Heartland’s sixth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC6) in Washington. For a yet-to-be-released documentary on climate change, she interviewed many of the scientists Heartland invited. I happily arranged all those interviews, and sat in on most of them. Klein is one of the most prominent and articulate leftists in America, and she came prepared with very challenging questions — which her subjects addressed with honesty and expertise.

But according to Shireman, Klein wasn’t an informed leftist journalist and intellectual. She was merely an empty vessel into which Heartland poured its viewpoint of the leftst climate position:

For example, the Heartland Institute, which prides itself on being the premier climate-change-denying [sic] NGO, directly shaped the climate-policy prescriptions of its chief rhetorical nemesis, Naomi Klein. They crafted her positions to directly match their caricatures of the anti-freedom environmental extremist.

I hope Klein is as insulted by that telling as we are surprised. Shireman would have his readers believe that what Klein subsequently wrote in The Nation was not her own observations, but “extremist” views planted in her brain by Heartland and the scientists who attended our conference.

Shireman quotes a bit from Klein long piece on the conference in The Nation:

The deniers [sic] did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system.

So, let’s see if I have this straight. Naomi Klein — a proud, educated, and informed leftist who writes for a staunch socialist publication — attends ICCC6 in 2011. Klein hears presenters state plainly the aims and methods of the left when it comes to the political ends of the climate change agenda. Klein does not dismiss the statements she hears at Heartland’s conference as some wild conspiracy or a “covert socialist plot,” but affirms that it is what leftists must publicly admit needs to be done.

Yes. She did that. From later in her piece at The Nation:

Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.

This is clearly what Klein believes, and has always believed. But, according to Shireman, Klein’s beliefs — “a top-10 list of libertarians’ worst nightmares” — have been “framed” and planted in her mind by Heartland.

We wish moving the public debate was so easy.

Categories: On the Blog

Why It’s So Hard to Sell Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - February 27, 2014, 1:06 AM

In the Obama administration’s effort to talk about anything other than Obamacare and Obama’s near-jobless recovery, the president flew across the country to find the one part of the United States which is having a warm, dry spell. The other 90+ percent of the nation’s landmass has been suffering through a terribly cold and expensive winter.

A meteorologist at the National Weather Service created a “winter extremity index” — which some are calling a “winter misery index” — that, as the Associated Press reports, “confirms what many Americans in the Midwest and East know in their all-too-chilled bones: This has been one of the harshest winters of our lifetimes.”

Where’s Algore when you need him? One thing is for sure: He isn’t in England.

In November, the British Met Office, the analog to our National Weather Service, predicted that the December – February period would be “drier than usual.” Instead, as the Met Office themselves pointed out on Twitter last week, “Early statistics show it has been the wettest winter in the UK in records going back to 1910.”

Is it any wonder that the American public and the British public are getting increasingly skeptical about man-made climate change as well as souring on the left’s “renewable energy” religion?

One wonders whether members of that particular cult, especially those in the public eye, will ever recognize that they damage what little credibility they have left with performances like this.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog

Cop Candor: ‘At Least We Didn’t Rape Her’

Somewhat Reasonable - February 27, 2014, 12:51 AM

Rarely do I sing the praises of cops but today I do. Let us all applaud Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo for telling Americans what police work in this nation has become.

After several of his department’s finest were caught on video roughing up a young woman jogger who was wearing earbuds and therefore could not hear an order to stop running, Acevedo said at least his cops didn’t rape her as cops in other towns might have done.

Here are his exact words:

Cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas.

Let that sink in a moment . . .

A police chief in a major city says people should be happy his cops did not rape a young woman whom they stopped for jaywalking. Doesn’t that speak volumes about the nation’s police?

Cops are also committing many other crimes on duty, including murder, and often getting away with it. Just last month, two Fullerton, Calif., cops were acquitted of beating to death a homeless man in a crowded commuter parking lot. Dozens of people witnessed the savage attack and recorded it. But in rock-ribbed Republican and law-and-order Orange County, Calif., juries apparently believe people who are mentally ill and wandering through a commuter parking lot should be summarily beaten to death if they don’t obey a police order.

Remember when nearly every cop car had the words “To Protect and to Serve” emblazoned on it? We don’t see that so much anymore. I think it’s because cops do little to serve but a lot to harass, bully and intimidate. If they protect anyone, it’s themselves.

Just ask Jonathan Ferrell. Oh, wait, we can’t because he’s dead. Last fall the former Florida A&M football player, just 24 years old, was shot 10 times and killed by an apparently panic-stricken cop near Charlotte, N.C. Ferrell had been in a late-night car crash and walked to a nearby house to ask for help. The woman who answered the door feared a break-in and called police.

A few minutes later police arrived at the house. Instead of helping Ferrell, one of them fired 12 shots, striking him 10 times. Toxicology reports showed Ferrell had no drugs or alcohol in his system, and he had no weapons. Here’s the latest development on this case.

We could ask Jonathan Meister about the protection and service police provided him, but we’d need to know sign language. Meister is profoundly deaf. About two weeks ago he filed a lawsuit against the City of Hawthorne, Calif., and the city’s police department. Here’s why:

A former roommate of his told him he could go into his yard and remove some snowboarding gear. Neighbors saw Meister, thought he might be stealing the things, and called police. Meister started using sign language to explain to the police that he is deaf. The cops thought the gestures were threats. They grabbed his hands.

We’ll let Jean Trinh of laist.com pick up the story from here:

Things escalated from that point. The lawsuit says:

According to the officers’ reports, Officer Salmon tried to put a potentially lethal carotid choke hold around Mr. Meister’s neck, and after being unable to do so, kneed him twice in the abdomen.

Then things got worse:

At some point, HPD officers Erica Bristow and Mark Hultgren joined the beating of Mr. Meister. After being unable to pull Mr. Meister to the ground (Mr. Meister played club rugby at Ohio State and instinctively tries to stay on his feet when being tackled), Office Tysl punched him in the face repeatedly while Officer Salmon shot darts from a TASER Model X26 electrical control device into Mr. Meister’s left side, causing five seconds of rapidly pulsing electrical shocks. Officer Salmon reported that the X26 current had the desired result and Mr. Meister fell face down. … The officers allegedly kicked, elbowed and Tasered Meister multiple times before he was taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries.

All because cops were too stupid to recognize sign language when they saw it. Read the whole thing for yourself. And also this article, posted yesterday, shows how incidents like these have become routine.

I was raised by authoritarian parents who, naturally, taught me to respect, submit to and obey authority — particularly authority wielded by cops, because they serve the most authoritarian institution of all, government. So I grew up fearing cops while at the same time believing they could be trusted. After a few years as a newspaper reporter who covered cops and courts, I became convinced the fear of cops was correct but the trust was wrong.

I wrote about one cop who got his own 15-year-old daughter pregnant. During the trial it was revealed he had been offering pelvic exams to his daughter’s friends. I wrote about another who helped cover up his kid’s bicycle theft ring.

I wrote about others who had the mysterious ability to get into bar fights while off duty and never be charged with a crime. In every instance, the victims of the numerous attacks by these off-duty cops were charged.

I wrote about a man who was wrongly charged with and convicted of murdering both his parents and sentenced to death. Nearly four years later, he was cleared after the FBI — by pure dumb luck in a totally unrelated investigation — recorded the actual killers talking about their crime and how the poor schmuck son would die for it. When the FBI presented the indisputable evidence to the local cops and prosecutors, they changed their story.

From the first day, and all the years until then, cops and prosecutors had said the son committed the murders by himself in a drug-induced blackout rage – even though they had no physical evidence against him. They they said he was the mastermind of a criminal plot to have others commit the murders. The Illinois Appellate Court saw through their pathetic attempt to cover up their incompetence and immorality.

Since 2010, in the county next to the one in which I live (the county line is just three miles from my house) five people convicted of murder have been freed after the courts were confronted with DNA or other indisputable evidence showing the convicted persons could not possibly have committed the crimes. Here’s the most recent release.

These people were wrongly convicted of murder because cops or prosecutors (or both) made up evidence, missed evidence, withheld evidence, suborned perjury, or engaged in other acts that would have been considered negligent or criminal if you or I or anyone else not a cop or prosecutor would have committed them.

In instance after instance — no matter how outrageous their conduct has been — police and prosecutors have tried to defend, downplay, and explain away their actions.

Now comes Austin Police Chief Acevedo, who has told America we should be thankful his cops did not rape a female jaywalker. Applaud him, Dear Reader, applaud him. We need more candor like this from America’s police chiefs.

Categories: On the Blog

San Jose Mercury News Hangs Peter Gleick’s ‘Crimes’ Around His Neck

Somewhat Reasonable - February 25, 2014, 3:42 PM

Peter Gleick may like this photo, but he won’t be framing the SJ Mercury News story on his office wall.

A story in the Feb. 24 edition of the San Jose Mercury News noted that the drought in California has raised the profile of Peter Gleick and his Pacific Institute.

But in what certainly came as a shock to Gleick, the liberal Bay Area paper dedicated one-quarter of its 775-word story outlining his admitted identity theft and fraud against The Heartland Institute — the scandal known as Fakegate.

The story accurately quoted me about Gleick’s admitted crimes, and how Gleick’s years of advocacy about global warming have “actually decreased the public’s understanding of the climate”:

But Gleick, 57, got tripped up in heated climate politics in 2012 when he admitted to using a fake name to obtain internal documents from the libertarian Heartland Institute, an anti-regulation group that works to minimize or refute global warming. He took a four-month leave of absence and was reinstated after the Pacific Institute cleared him of wrongdoing. The incident gained national attention, and Gleick was forced to resign from the chairmanship of the American Geophysical Union’s ethics committee.

The Heartland Institute continues to push for criminal charges.

Gleick proved he “has no moral qualms about committing serious crimes to advance an ideological agenda,” said Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely. No one “should take seriously anything he has to say about the climate. To the extent he’s shaped public opinion, he’s actually decreased the public’s understanding of the climate.”

Frankly, that’s more than I expected from a MSM outlet, but I’m grateful. And it’s gotta smart Gleick — and Michael Mann (also quoted in this story), and every alarmsit who is used to glowing coverage in the MSM to see those quotes in print. At the end of this post are the questions asked of me by the reporter and my emailed responses in full.

When asked about his crimes by the San Jose Mercury News, Gleick said he “is not remorseful”:

“The science of climate change is incredibly strong,” Gleick said. “There is a remaining small group of deniers who try to misuse the science but I think are really afraid of the policy debate about what to do about climate change. Like the tobacco industry, I think history will show them for what they are.”

One does not have to wait for history to see Peter Gleick’s legacy. The San Jose Mercury News helped its readers show Gleick for what he is now. And it’s quite rich for Gleick to suggest the scientists and policy experts Heartland works with are “really afraid of the policy debate.” Gleick began the crime spree that ruined his reputation shortly after he was invited to debate those he calls “deniers” at a Heartland Institute event. We offered to donate $5,000 to the charity of his choice. Gleick chose, instead, to commit a crime.

For the record, here’s a taste of the “horror” Gleick had in store: A cordial and informative debate between a “warmist” and a “skeptic” at one of one of Heartland’s eight international conferences on climate change. The “warmist” (for lack of a better term, to his dismay) is Scott Denning, Ph.D., the Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and an editor of Journal of Climate who has given two other presentaions at Heartland’s climate conferences. The “skeptic” is Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D., principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

I’ve embedded at the end of this post the impromptu tribute the charming Scott Denning gave to Heartland and the scientists we assembled at the end of our fourth conference in Chicago in May 2010. Denning’s testimony of how welcome he felt and how intellectually stimulating he found the conference speaks for itself. (SPOILER: Denning said it was “really too bad” more of his colleagues didn’t have the good sense to attend. They’d have learned a lot, as he did. “We need public policy that’s based on facts,” Denning said, “rather than ‘facts’ that are based on a policy agenda.” BTW: Heartland is planning a ninth international conference on climate change this year … stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, click around at Fakegate.org to get the full story of Gleick’s crimes — including a plethora of independent media analysis of his pathetic, fumbled caper. (Be sure not to miss this devastating piece of sleuthing by Megan McArdle, as well as this one by her — both published before Gleick confessed). You can also see the criminal case The Heartland Institute presented to federal prosecutors. The case is still open, because the crimes still stand.

———————–

My email correspondence with reporter Heather Somerville:

Q: How did Peter’s fraudulent actions against Heartland impact the scientific community, in the context of credibility and trust? Have you seen any long-term impacts?

A: Gleick’s fraud damaged the climate alarmists in the scientific community — especially because many of his colleagues applauded him for his crimes. The observable climate data of about the last two decades has served to disprove the computer-modeled hypothesis of man-caused global warming. That true data is what Heartland and the scientists we work with have published in two volumes of research and eight international climate conferences.

Gleick was apparently so frustrated by the inconvenient truth that he sought to take down a small, but influential organization through criminal activity. The actual effect was to generate more attention to, and more funding, for our work. Gleick damaged his side of the climate debate, not ours.

Q: How did Peter’s fraudulent actions impact his own reputation, in your view?

A: Gleick seriously harmed his reputation through his criminal actions. No serious scientist, reporter, or the public should take seriously anything he has to say about the climate.

Q: Is Heartland still seeking criminal prosecution?

A: Yes.

Q: What has been Peter’s and the Pacific Institute’s contribution to the scientific community?

A: Gleick’s greatest contribution to the scientific community is showing the world that global warming alarmists have no moral qualms about committing serious crimes to advance an ideological agenda. The Pacific Institute has also ruined its own reputation by conducting a sham investigation, reinstating Gleick as president, and not addressing any of the questions Heartland posed to them in two open letters.

Q: How do you believe his work has shaped the public’s understanding of climate and water issues?

A: Gleick is not a climate scientist. His expertise is in hydrology. To the extent he’s shaped public opinion, he’s actually decreased the public’s understanding of the climate by falsely claiming there is a man-caused crisis.

Q: What scientific research and data does Heartland draw on to formulate it’s position on climate change? (just a few examples, please)

A: Heartland has a global network of hundreds of climate scientists who write for us, participate in peer review, and speak at our international conferences. We support the efforts of more climate scientists than any other free-market think tank in the world.

The best and most comprehensive examples of their work are the “Climate Change Reconsidered” reports by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, or NIPCC. These volumes, including a new one coming out in March, amount to more than 3,000 pages of research taken from the peer-reviewed literature that suggest the conclusions of the United Nations’ IPCC are wildly off the mark. The “Climate Change Reconsidered”series looks at the data first, then draws conclusions, rather than the other way around. The volumes have been reviewed by scores of scientists from around the world under the leadership of three main editors: Dr. S. Fred Singer, Dr. Craig Idso, and Dr. Robert Carter. More info about the series of reports can be found at the link above.

Heartland has also hosted eight International Conferences on Climate Change, with work already begun on hosting a ninth. The eight ICCCs so far have featured 350 presentations from 187 scientists, economists, and other public policy experts. Many of the hundreds of scientists that Heartland works with have presented at those conferences.

Q: Does Heartland offer any alternative solutions to the drought crisis in California, that either are similar or dissimilar to recommendations made by the Pacific institute?

A: I’m not familiar with what the Pacific Institute recommends to help alleviate the drought crisis in California. But activists like Gleick were at the forefront of the push to stop the flow of water from the Sacramento Delta to the farm country in the Central Valley in the service of “protecting” a small bait fish. Tens of billions of gallons of fresh water were instead diverted into the sea. The drought in California is as much the fault of senseless decisions by man as it is of Mother Nature.

———————–

The Scott Denning video:

 

Categories: On the Blog

Democrats’ Climate Change Emphasis is Hurting Their Own

Somewhat Reasonable - February 24, 2014, 4:53 PM

The Democrats think that climate change is a winning issue for them in 2014—and, if they handle it correctly, this could be a winning issue for the Republicans.

Nothing comes out of the Obama White House by mistake—so you know the recent flurry of noise on climate change is not an accident.

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration announced the creation of 7 “climate hubs” with the stated goal: “to help farmers and rural communities respond to the risks of climate change, including drought, invasive pests, fires and floods.”

Then on February 14, President Obama announced a new $1 billion “climate resilience fund” that “would go to research on the projected impacts of climate change, help communities prepare for climate change’s effects and fund ‘breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure.’

Secretary of State John Kerry has received a lot of attention for his February 16 fear-mongering comments in Indonesia, during which he called climate change a “weapon of mass destruction”—the “world’s most fearsome.” He said: “Because of climate change, it’s no secret that today Indonesia is…one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the entire way of life that you live and love is at risk.”

On February 17, the New York Times (NYT) reported that billionaire Obama donor Tom Steyer plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election cycle to “pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.” Steyer has been critical of Democrats who waver on climate issues. The NYT reports that Steyer’s new fundraising push “signals a shift within the environmental movement, as donors—frustrated that neither Democratic nor Republican officials are willing to prioritize climate change measures—shift their money from philanthropy and education into campaign vehicles designed to win elections.”

However, I see all of this Democratic emphasis on climate change as an opportunity for Republicans—if they realize it as a gift.

The January electricity price index was just released and revealed that the cost of electricity has hit a new high—which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year. CNSNews.com reports: “During the year, the price of a KWH of electricity usually rises in the spring, peaks in summer, declines in fall, and is at its lowest point in winter.”

True to the law of supply and demand, rising electricity prices in the U.S. have not been inevitable. According to CNSNews.com, following WWII, the U.S. was rapidly increasing its electricity generation capacity. In the 1950s and 60s the price remained relatively stable. However, since 2007, the U.S. has decreased its electricity production; while the population has increased by more than 14 million people—almost all with multiple electronic gadgets running simultaneously.

The 2007 benchmark is important because 2006/2007 is when the global-warming scare began to influence public energy policy—this is the time frame when states passed laws requiring more-expensive renewable energy to be part of the total energy portfolio (laws that set up the rationale for the $150 billion of taxpayer dollars being spent on green energy projects). It is when the war on coal began.

The CNSNews.com report states: “The Monthly Energy Review also indicates that a large part of the decline in U.S. electricity generation has come from a decrease in the electricity produced by coal—which has not been replaced by a commensurate increase in the electricity produced by natural gas or the ‘renewable’ sources of wind and solar.”

The decline in electricity production—slightly supplemented by more expensive renewables—has directly caused the price spike. And Obama’s climate change policies are shuttering more and more coal-fueled power plants—even after they’ve spent millions on pollution controls. We can expect continuing higher electricity costs heading into the 2014 election.

Recently, I received a phone call from an irate woman. She told me she’d been searching the Internet for someone who could help her and found me. She explained that she was an unemployed, single mom living in an 800-square-foot apartment. She said she didn’t turn on her heat because she couldn’t afford it. When she got her electric bill, she noticed that it had a line item: $1.63 for green energy—about which she declared: “I don’t give a *!%# about green energy! I am so mad at PNM for making me pay for green energy that I don’t want!”

I explained that it wasn’t the utility company’s fault. They are just following the law by incorporating renewables into the portfolio. It is the lawmakers who deserve her wrath—from the local and state representatives all the way up to the president.

I do not know if this woman is a Democrat or a Republican. But I do know she represents the exact type of voter Obama claims to champion—the exact type of voter his climate-change policies are hurting. These voters “don’t give a *!%# about green energy”—they care about the rising cost of electricity.

The Democrats own “climate change.” The Democrats are hurting their own.

If the Republicans are smart enough to capture the anger of voters—like the woman who called me—and feature it in television ads, the Democrats’ climate-change emphasis will be a winning issue for Republicans. (BTW, Karl Rove, I have the caller’s phone number. Maybe you could feature her in an ad.)

Categories: On the Blog

Those GHG Reduction Deniers…

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2014, 10:41 PM

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Let’s see if a couple of global warming advocates have the courage of their convictions. I’m not a Twitterer (being unable to say anything in 140 characters or less), but hopefully some kind reader will bring this particular issue to the attention of Chicago Tribune columnist Stephen Chapman and popular TV personality Bill Nye “The Science Guy”.

Let’s start here. There are two parts to the global warming (a.k.a.: “climate change”) issue as it relates to the US of A. Part one can be roughly defined as: “mankind has a significant, disproportionate effect on the earth’s climate, chiefly through the combustion of fossil fuels”. I don’t happen to agree with that proposition, but I don’t make any claims to infallibility either. So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the combustion of fossil fuels significantly affects the planet’s climate. That leads us to part two of this issue: is America reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to solve this supposed problem?

There are plenty of people who insist that people like me who happen to disagree with proposition #1 are – at best – dirty rotten liars who have sold our souls to evil energy conglomerates. “Deniers” is the popular term applied to us. So be it. Yet, if people like me are supposedly “denying” that human activity is causing massive changes in the global climate, what should we say about those folks who continue to demand that the United States take action to combat “climate change” who remain willfully ignorant of all the time and treasure that has been expended to accomplish that very goal? In practical terms, they are the real “deniers”. The very actions they have demanded have been, and will continue to be, implemented.  But they pay no attention to this demonstrable fact. It’s the Stephen Champmans, the Bill Nyes, etc. of the world who have truly earned the title of “deniers”. They claim to be so very concerned about Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG emissions), but they don’t pay any actual attention to the sources of those emissions.

In a recent debate with US Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, engineer Bill Nye said that he wanted “…the U.S. to lead the world in this”, referring to GHG emissions reductions. Good news for ya Bill – you’ve gotten your wish! Nobody in the industrial world has done more to reduce GHG emissions that the USA, and nobody is on track to do more. If you believe this is such a vitally important issue Billy boy, why in the heck aren’t you keeping track of GHG emissions? Last time I checked, science depends on data. How about doing your homework? Among other things, you can check out the following: USEPA reports regarding ever-decreasing national GHG reductions, state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program reports that have and will continue to reduce GHG emissions, more stringent CAFÉ standards that will continue to reduce GHG emissions from mobile sources, more stringent coal boiler standards that force power production toward less GHG intensive sources, new EPA efficiency power production standards that require more GHG reductions, and new federal permitting requirements that demand new large projects be as minimally GHG intensive as possible. These things are all happening, have been happening and will continue to happen. Those who choose to ignore the demonstrable, verifiable fact the United States has gone through great pains to reduce emissions of fossil fuel generated emissions of carbon dioxide are the ultimate “deniers”.

In that vein, Chicago Tribune columnist Stephen Chapman wrote a piece a few years ago in which he upbraided conservatives for not getting on board with the climate change crowd. I penned Stephen a response, believing that he was an honest libertarian expressing a honest opinion, rather than an ideologue. Stephen wrote me back defending his position (as explained below). I stored his response in the memory file, with the intent of revisiting the issue after a few years had passed. A few years have now passed and I sent Stephen the e-mail pasted in below. I’ve had no response from him as of yet. So how about it Stephen (and how about it Bill Nye?) – any response?

 My e-mail to Stephen Chapman:

 Dear Stephen,

 A few years ago, you wrote a column upbraiding Republicans for not getting on board with legislation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US. Having long respected you as a honest libertarian (and seeing as how I have been intimately involved in the environmental world throughout my career) , I dropped you a line to let you know that no further action was needed in the US. A combination of anti-coal regulations, energy efficiency standards, state Renewable Portfolio Standards and regional efforts had combined – and would continue to combine – to reduce US GHG emissions. You kindly replied, stating that your sources indicated that the declines in GHG emissions were “short term” and would not continue in the future.

 I hope you will appreciate an update. According to USEPA data, the nation has continued to steadily reduce GHG emissions. One can “write off” 2009 emission levels as an aberration associated with the onset of the Great Recession, but the steady decline has continued since then. Here’s the latest trend data from USEPA. (Unfortunately it’s from 2011, but bureaucratic wheels turn oh-so-slowly…)

As you can see, the US was down to sub-1996 GHG emissions levels in 2011, making the nation – as Exxon-Mobil correctly  asserts – the world leader in reducing those emissions.

 Here’s another look at the same data set from USEPA:

 

Since 2011, there have been more coal plant shutdowns, more renewable power installations and more energy efficiency initiative implementations. The reductions in GHG emissions for 2012 and 2013 will – and you can quote me – be even more dramatic than what we have seen so far. This curve will continue to head steadily downwards, no matter what Messr. Hawthorne and his pals say to the contrary.

 So my problem is this: the Tribune has joined the chorus that proclaims that man-made “climate change” is, if not the most important issue of our times, damn near the top of the list. As a scientist who has spent his career immersed in air quality, I don’t happen to agree, but I don’t make any claims of infallibility either. But, if the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune sincerely believes that GHG emissions are a threat to human existence, why does your paper consistently ignore the massive – and expensive – efforts that have been successfully implanted in the United States to reduce those emissions? It’s like you’re covering a four alarm fire and choose to completely ignore the fact that firefighters responded to the call. Identifying GHG emissions as a threat and then dispassionately transmitting the nation’s efforts to reduce such emissions would seem to meet the definition of “journalism”, as least as I understand it. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. Identifying GHG emissions as a threat and then completely ignoring the verifiable fact that the nation has been reducing such emissions appears to fall under the heading of “advocacy”. Perhaps that’s what modern journalism has become, but I would hope the venerable old (used to be) Trib would at least be a bit more honest about this issue.

Best Regards,

Rich

Still waiting for a response.

Not holding my breath…

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Wants to Waste a Billion on Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - February 19, 2014, 11:09 AM

Barack Obama will be remembered for many things during his two terms in office, but high on the list, right after lying to everyone about everything, will be his determination to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on every Green scheme from solar and wind energy to electric cars, and now on “climate change.”

He is calling for a billion-dollar climate change fund in his forthcoming budget, due out next month. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the fund “would be spent on researching the projected effects of climate change and helping Americans prepare for them, including with new technology and infrastructure, according to the White House.

We don’t need any research and we don’t need any new technology. The National Weather Service has hugely expensive computers that enable it to predict what the weather will be anywhere in the U.S. with some measure of accuracy for up to three or four days. After that, it gets fuzzy. What will the weather be next week? Well, maybe a bit warmer or a bit colder.

As for the effects of weather events, we have centuries of knowledge regarding this. We know what happens after a blizzard or a hurricane, a drought or a flood.

When a huge storm like Sandy hit the East Coast, we had FEMA that was supposed to come in and help the victims. The federal government also came up with a couple of million for the States most affected, but it is still a problem that local first responders and utilities have to address most directly.

Obama was out in California to show his concern for the drought-stricken farmers and the administration is speeding delivery of $100 million of aid to livestock farmers, $15 million for areas hit hardest, and $60 million for California food banks to help the poor. Rep. Kevin McCarthy(R-CA) pointed out that the drought has been “exacerbated by federal and state regulations” including an environmental rule that placed “the well-being of fish…ahead of the well-being” of communities.

Like Rep. McCarthy, those on the scene point out that the drought is in part the result of the failure to restore the water flow from California’s water-heavy north to farmers in the central and south. House Bill 3964 does that, but only if the Senate will stop holding it up. Rep. McCarthy is joined by Rep. Devin Nunes explaining that California’s system of aqueducts and storage tanks was designed long ago to take advantage of rain and mountain runoff from wet years and store it for use in dry years.

As Investors Business Daily pointed out, “Environmental special interests managed to dismantle the system by diverting water meant for farms to pet projects, such as saving delta smelt, a baitfish. That move forced the flushing of three million acre-feet of water originally slated for the Central Valley into the ocean over the past five years.”

Obama made no mention of that, but it is an example of how, in the name of climate change billions are wasted or lost, such as when the outcry over Spotted Owls caused a vast portion of the Northwest’s timber industry was decimated by the false claim that they were “endangered.”

All this traces back to the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program. The IPCC was given a formal blessing by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 43/53.

And what has the IPCC done? It has championed the utterly false claim that carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for warming the Earth and that all the industries and other human activities that create CO2 emissions had to reduce them in order to save the Earth. In 2007 the IPCC and Al Gore would share a Nobel Peace Prize. As an organization and as an individual these two have proved to be the among the greatest liars on planet Earth.

Dr. Craig D. Idso, PhD, is the founder and chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. He is an advisor to The Heartland Institute and, with Dr. Robert M. Carter and Dr. S. Fred Singer, authored the 2011 study, “Climate Change Reconsidered”, for the entertainingly named NIPCC—Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Published by The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank that has led the effort to expose the IPCC since 2009, sponsoring eight international conferences, the report was updated in 2013 and a new update is due in March.

Writing in The Hill on January 30, Dr. Idso said “the President’s concerns for the planet are based upon flawed and speculative science; and his policy prescription is a recipe for failure” noting that “literally thousands of scientific studies have produced findings that run counter to his view of future climate”:

As just one example, and a damning one at that, all of the computer models upon which his vision is based failed to predict the current plateau (the cooling cycle) in global temperature that has continued for the past 16 years. That the Earth has not warmed significantly during this period, despite an 8 percent increase in atmospheric CO2, is a major indictment of the model’s credibility in predicting future climate, as well as the President’s assertion that debate on this topic is ‘settled’.

“The taxation or regulation of CO2 emissions is an unnecessary and detrimental policy option that should be shunned,” said Dr. Idso. Unfortunately for Americans, that is precisely the policy being driven by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Department of the Interior and other elements of the government.

So the trip to California with its promise of more million spent when, in fact, the Green policies of that State have caused the loss of the Central lands that produce a major portion of the nation’s food stocks, reveals how utterly corrupt Obama’s climate-related policies have been since he took office in 2009.

Billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered by the crony capitalism that is the driving force behind the IPCC’s and U.S. demands for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

There is climate change and it has been going on for 4.5 billion years on planet Earth. It has everything to do with the Sun, the oceans, volcanic activity and other natural factors. It has nothing to do with the planet’s human population.

What is profoundly disturbing is the deliberate political agenda behind the President’s lies and Secretary of State John Kerry’s irrational belief that climate change is the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Other Union Ruining Schools

Somewhat Reasonable - February 18, 2014, 6:01 PM

David Horowitz has a new campaign in which he points out rotten schools thrive in Democrat-controlled inner cities and predominantly hurt poor, minority children. His new one-minute ad dramatically makes that point, calling the situation an “atrocity” and pointing a finger at teachers unions as the cause.

“One out of three children in America’s inner cities fails to graduate,” the clip’s narrator says. “Half of those who do are functionally illiterate.”

The problem, she says, is adults who oppose reform: Democrats and unions.

Teachers unions do block reforms that would benefit kids. Policies they favor degrade education, such as firing and hiring teachers according only to how long they’ve been in a particular school rather than their quality or area of expertise.

As President Franklin Roosevelt noted, government employee labor unions also are a scam against taxpayers because they let unions elect the officials they’ll bargain with, effectively directing tax money to political activism and ensuring no taxpayer or child advocate sits at the bargaining table.

Unions are certainly among those responsible for the 702 percent increase in school staff since 1950, while student enrollment increased only 96 percent. Public schools have gotten approximately 300 percent more expensive but hardly a whit better since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson has documented. That’s a disgrace.

Although it’s fair to blame the unions for many ills besetting the nation’s schools, unions are by no means the only big problem affecting education.

I’ve talked to many teachers whose jobs were threatened when they exercised free speech, and often the local union was their only protection. Unions occasionally meet real needs in a school teaching market monopolized in each locality by a single player — the government.

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute also discusses some freedoms school leaders don’t realize they have, partly because of union-blaming.

“The problem is not just the very real statutory, regulatory, and contractual barriers, but also the ‘culture of can’t,’ a culture in which even surmountable impediments or ankle-high obstacles are treated as absolute prohibitions,” he said.

Horowitz’s ad risks oversimplifying the problems with public education and overpromising success. Probably the biggest reason for the inner-city atrocity this ad targets is not teachers unions or the “culture of can’t” but the lack of another kind of union: marriages.

Family structure is the single largest predictor of economic mobility, a new Harvard University study found. It’s also a predictor of education success. Children raised by both biological parents have higher graduation rates, math and reading test scores, college-going and completion rates, fewer behavior problems and other family-generated riches.

Combine this with the dismal statistics that 7-in-10 African-American children and 1-in-2 Hispanic children are born to unmarried mothers. That fact alone clouds their life prospects.

It’s easier — and fairer — to beat up on a big, bad labor union boss than a struggling single mom. But we can and should beat up on deadbeat dads, as Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute has suggested, and without involving government.

We could start with positive public education campaigns, touting the benefits of stable, married parents for all children. It is a scandal the way the media ignores this huge and growing social, educational and economic problem. Pretending it is the teachers unions who deserve blame, without mentioning the failures of parents’ unions, will only perpetuate kids’ failure and suffering.

[First published by Watchdog.org]

Categories: On the Blog

A Brutal Chicago Winter, Global Warming, and Just Weather

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2014, 3:20 PM

I moved to Chicago in 2010 after five years of living in perfect Pasadena, California — where I looked at the sun setting on the beautiful San Gabriel Mountians every day during what for East Coasters and Midwesterners can be a miserable train commute home.

Sure, sometimes the mountains were on fire, but I wasn’t too concerned. The view was still beautiful to a man raised in Pittsburgh. Hell, I played softball in the shadow of the historic Rose Bowl —  at night in December and January. How could one find something to complain about weather wise? As far was I as concerned, Pasadena in winter was the definition of Lower 48 paradise.

But for most of my life I’ve known what “real winter” is like. I hate it, but I can endure it. My blood didn’t get “vampire thin” during my interregnum from actual weather for five years in SoCal. And I enjoyed the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011. It was a great one day reminder of what winter really is like for most of the country.

But this year has been brutal — as if I moved to Winnipeg, not Chicago. As you’re reading this on the morning of February 17, 2014, Chicago is getting another six inches of snow. That wouldn’t be so bad except for the 60 inches of snow that has already fallen. That’s about 250 percent more snow at this date than has usually fallen in a typical Chicago winter. We have had almost no days to melt it off all year — this being the coldest winter in Chicago in generations — and we still have about six weeks of winter left to go. This is already the snowiest winter in 34 years in Chicago. And if we get one more significant storm after this one, Chicago could see its snowiest winter EVER since records began in 1884.

So why is the title of this post, “A Brutal Chicago Winter, Global Warming, and Just Weather”? Well, these things happen. I feel bad for the residents of Chicago from 1977 to 1979. They averaged almost 90 inches of snow each of those winters. Less than a handful of times in the intervening years has the snowfall been even half that amount.

Back in the late ’70s, talk of an approaching ice age was all the rage. And in the ’90s and ’00s, man-caused “global warming” caused by man was the fashion. Even Robert Kennedy Jr. talked of his kids never enjoying a skiing or a sled ride.

But I’m not so vain to believe this season’s anomalies in Chicago and elsewhere prove a given climate theory. Weather does not equal climate — though that is what the alarmists always say.

This year has just given Chicago a winter that makes me angry. It will pass. Spring will come. And the real data about what is happening to our climate will endure.

Categories: On the Blog

Carbon Benefits Exceed Costs by up to 500:1

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2014, 2:49 PM

[Ed: Dr. Roger Bezdek is the co-author of this post.] 

The Environmental Protection Agency, other government agencies and various scientists contend that fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming and climate change. They use this claim to justify repressive regulations for automobiles, coal-fired power plants and other facilities powered by hydrocarbon energy.

Because these rules are costing millions of jobs and billions of dollars, a federal Interagency Working Group (IWG) devised the “social cost of carbon” concept (SCC) – which attaches arbitrary monetary values to the alleged impacts of using hydrocarbons and emitting carbon dioxide. SCC estimates represent the supposed monetized damages associated with incremental increases in “carbon pollution” in a given year.

With little publicity, debate or public input, in 2010 the IWG set the cost at $22 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Then, in 2013 (again with little notice), it arbitrarily increased the SCC to $36/ton, enabling agencies to proclaim massive, unacceptable damages from “carbon,” and enormous benefits from their regulations. Recently, the Department of Energy used the $36 formula to justify proposed standards for microwave ovens, cell phone chargers and laptops!

The SCC allows unelected bureaucrats to wildly amplify the alleged impacts of theoretical manmade climate disasters, exaggerate the supposed benefits of rules, minimize their costs, and ignore the value to society of the facility, activity or product they want to regulate. That is exactly what is happening.

Fundamental flaws in the SCC concept and process make the agencies’ analyses – and proposed rulemakings – questionable, improper, and even fraudulent and illegal. A new Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI) analysis examines this in detail.

1) Executive Order 12866 requires that federal agencies “assess both the costs and the benefits of the intended regulation and, recognizing that some costs and benefits are difficult to quantify, propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits of the intended regulation justify its costs.” (EO 12866 was issued by President Clinton in 1993.) A recent Office of Management and Budget statement notes that careful consideration of both costs and benefits is important in determining whether a regulation is worth implementing at all. Indeed, any valid and honest benefit-cost (B-C) analysis likewise requires that agencies consider both the benefits and the costs of carbon-based fuels and carbon dioxide emissions.

Thus far, the EPA and other government agency analyses, press releases and regulatory proposals have highlighted only the alleged costs of carbon-based fuels and their supposed effects on climate change. They have never even mentioned the many clear benefits associated with those fuels and emissions.

2) EPA claims the government is “committed to updating the current estimates, as the science and economic understanding of climate change and its impacts on society improve over time.” Given the Obama Administration’s history and agenda, it is highly likely that SCC values will only increase in forthcoming updates – with literally trillions of dollars at stake.

3) The IWG methodology for developing SCC estimates is so infinitely flexible, so devoid of any rigorous standards, that it could produce almost any estimates that any agency might desire. For example, its computer models are supposed to combine climate processes, economic growth, and feedbacks between the climate and the global economy, into a single modeling framework.

However, only limited research links climate impacts to economic damages, and much of it is speculative, at best. Even the IWG admits that the exercise is subject to “simplifying assumptions and judgments, reflecting the various modelers’ best attempts to synthesize the available scientific and economic research characterizing these relationships.” [emphasis added] Each model uses a different approach to translate global warming into damages; transforming economic damages over time into a single value requires “judgments” about how to discount them; and federal officials have been highly selective in choosing which “available scientific and economic research” they will utilize. As objective outside analysts have concluded, this process is “close to useless.”

4) The differences in the 2010 and 2013 SCC estimates are so large, and of such immense potential significance, as to raise serious questions regarding their integrity and validity – especially since, prior to 2010, the “official” government estimate for carbon costs was zero!

Finally, and most importantly, the agencies hypothesize almost every conceivable carbon “cost” – to agriculture, forestry, water resources, “forced migration” of people and wildlife, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. But they completely ignore every one of the obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels … and of emitting carbon dioxide! Just as incredibly, they have done this in complete disregard of EO 12866 … and the OMB ruling that careful consideration of both costs and benefits is important in determining whether a regulation is worth implementing at all.  Had they followed the law and B-C rules, they would have found that:

Hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide benefits outweigh the cost by as much as 500 to 1!

In other words, the costs of EPA and other restrictions on fossil fuel use exceed their benefits by 50:1 (using the 2013 SCC of $36/ton of CO2) or even 500:1 (using the 2010 SCC of $22/ton). The entire process is obviously detrimental to American lives, jobs, living standards, health and welfare. Yet it is being imposed in the name of preventing highly speculative “dangerous manmade climate change.”

The successful development and utilization of fossil fuels facilitated successive industrial revolutions, launched the modern world, created advanced technological societies, and enabled the high quality of life that many now take for granted. Over the past 200 years, primarily because of hydrocarbon energy, people’s health and living standards soared, global life expec­tancy more than doubled, human population increased eight-fold, and average incomes increased eleven-fold, economist Indur Goklany calculates.

Comparing world GDP and CO2 emissions over the past century shows a strong and undeniable relationship between world GDP and the CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.  In fact, the fossil fuels that provide the vast bulk of the world’s total energy needs – and from which CO2 is an essential byproduct – are creating $60 trillion to $70 trillion per year in world GDP! That relationship will almost certainly continue for the foreseeable future. Today, 81% of the world’s energy is from fossil fuels. For at least the next several decades, fossil fuels will continue to supply 75-80% of global energy.

That means any reductions in United States fossil fuel use or carbon dioxide emissions will be almost imperceptible amidst the world’s huge and rapidly increasing levels of both. In fact, the World Resources Institute says 59 nations are already planning to build more than 1,200 new coal-fired power plants – on top of what those nations and Germany, Poland and other developed nations are already building

However, hydrocarbon use has also helped raise atmospheric concentrations from about 320 ppm carbon dioxide to nearly 400 ppm (from 0.032% of the atmosphere to 0.040%). The Obama Administration (wrongly) regards this slight increase as “dangerous.” That is an erroneous, shortsighted perception that improperly ignores the enormous benefits of this increase in plant-fertilizing CO2.

Carbon dioxide truly is “the gas of life,” the basis of all life on Earth. It spurs plant growth, and enhances agricultural productivity.  Plants use it to produce the organic matter out of which they construct their tissues, which subsequently become sources of fiber, building materials and food for humans and animals.

Carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by humans 1961-2011 increased global crop production by some $3.5 trillion, plant biologist and CO2 expert Craig Idso calculates. Human CO2 emissions will likely add $11.6 trillion in additional benefits between 2013 and 2050 – based on actual measurements of CO2-induced plant growth and crop production, not on computer models, Idso estimates.

Carbon dioxide benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the SCC – no matter which government reports are used. In fact, any estimate for “social costs of carbon” is hidden amid the statistical noise of CO2 benefits.

Prodigious amounts of fossil fuels are required to sustain future economic growth, especially in developing countries. If the world is serious about increasing economic growth, reducing energy deprivation, and increasing or maintaining living standards, fossil fuels are absolutely essential. Their benefits far outweigh any conceivable costs, and will continue to do so for decades to come.

These undeniable facts must form the foundation for energy, environmental and regulatory policies. Otherwise, regulations will be far worse than the harms they supposedly redress.

——————

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. Dr. Roger Bezdek is an internationally recognized energy analyst and president of Management Information Services, Inc., in Washington, DC.

Categories: On the Blog

Presidents Day and ‘The Decline of the Republican Spirit’

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2014, 2:38 PM
When then-candidate Barack Obama was running for president on a platform of hope and change, most Americans probably didn’t think he had in mind the loss of individual freedoms and the steady slide of the United States toward becoming just another European-style social democracy.    When almost President-elect Obama, just before his 2008 election night victory, triumphantly crowed that “we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” most Americans probably didn’t think he meant ignoring the Bill of Rights in favor of government by an increasingly powerful and intrusive ruling class of experts.    Yet five years into the Obama Presidency, as the nation pauses to observe “President’s Day,” some people have begun to wonder.    Speaking at the Union League Club of Chicago’s 126th annual George Washington’s Birthday Gala on Valentine’s Day Friday, February 14, U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a packed audience in response to a question following his speech that what most worries him at the age of 77, after nearly 28 years on the nation’s highest court, is “the decline of the republican spirit.”   “It doesn’t exist in our people with a vigor that used to exist,” he told his audience as quoted in the Chicago Tribune.  “That’s what I’m most worried about, that we’re going to become just another … undemocratic politician-run state.  Which our framers would never have supported.”   Scalia may have ample cause to worry.    Sadly, it seems that the Senate no longer understands that the Constitution provides that revenue bills must originate in the House or Representatives, which is closest to the people from whom all government revenue comes; the House believes it must pass bills to find out what is in them rather than thoroughly reading and vigorously debating them first; and the President believes that it is up to him and his Attorney General to decide which laws – once passed and signed – to enforce, which to waive or to delay, and which to ignore completely.   Justice Scalia’s own Court is not without blame. The Chief Justice apparently doesn’t know a penalty from a tax, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg isn’t sure she would advise another country to look to the United States Constitution as a model.  Excepting Justice Thomas, many of the rest ruminate occasionally about whether the government can or should order citizens to eat broccoli while debating how many multicultural angels can dance on the head of a pin in the public square without offending anyone.    The American people, meanwhile, stagger under a crushing economy while politicians carry on like the crown princes of Europe. The Secretary of State hectors the public about global warming while crisscrossing the planet on a fossil fuel-burning jet; with fully one-sixth of men of working age having dropped out of the labor force for want of meaningful work, the President plays a lot of golf.    Voters nonetheless sit blithely by while the Congress digs the country ever deeper into debt, magically hoping their pennies will grow into dollars instead of the other way around.  Somehow many still believe that they will actually find themselves “socially secure” in their dotages after the nanny state has already exhausted its resources raising their children, putting food on their tables and cell phones in their hands, and providing them with “free” health care and birth control.    The government insists that opening the borders to low-skilled undocumented immigrants who are nonetheless willing to work and giving them a path to citizenship and the right to vote will postpone the inevitable, while a metaphorical fence is being built around us and the gates are beginning to close.    Although he declined to opine that the country has passed a “tipping point” beyond which total decline is inevitable, Justice Scalia noted that the framers didn’t expect our democracy to last forever and said he doesn’t think “we can be too cocky about America always being America.  It’s going to change unless the people have the same determination to preserve liberty that the framers had.”    The United States Constitution is only 225 years old, and Justice Scalia has been around for over a third of them.  His are words to ponder on this 2014 President’s Day.
Categories: On the Blog
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