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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Jessica Sena: Sierra Club’s most deceptive videos ever made on Fracking

December 17, 2014, 10:23 AM

The Sierra Club was founded in the hope that preserving the natural environment could coexist with the responsible development of the natural resources our society relies on everyday. However, despite the intentions of the groups founders, the Sierra Club has turned into an environmental activist group that is less concerned with conservation efforts than they are with promoting their agenda. This fact is made readily apparent by the recent video “Fracking 101″ released by the organization, which by many accounts is one of the most deceptive videos ever made on the topic.

Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Jessica Sena debunk the claims made by this video in a 30 minute podcast. Among the inaccurate claims debunked are: the world is running out of fossil fuels, fracking is more dangerous than traditional oil and natural gas production, hydraulic fracturing creates more greenhouse gasses than other forms of energy, fracking will contaminate our water, and that the world could be powered on 100 percent renewable energy.

Categories: On the Blog

Want a Balanced Budget Amendment that’s Flexible Enough to Handle Genuine Crises Without Loopholes? Join Compact for America

December 16, 2014, 4:19 PM

The Balanced Budget Amendment at the heart of the Compact for a Balanced Budget contains no exceptions for war or natural disaster, but it remains the only practical solution to our runaway federal debt. The reason is two-fold.

First of all, the Compact’s Balanced Budget Amendment is flexible enough to handle genuine crises. The initial debt limit it enforces can be lifted for any reason that can command the support and approval of 26 state legislatures–including war or natural disaster. The initial debt limit is set at 105% of the outstanding federal debt at ratification. This gives Congress upwards of $600 billion cushion of additional debt spending–enough for about a year of borrowing under current spending trajectories before the initial debt limit kicks in.

Keep in mind, cash flow from taxes will continue during all but the most devastating crises and it can be prioritized to address immediate exigencies (if a crisis were so devastating that tax revenue ceases, it is unlikely markets would exist to purchase public debt either, so an exception for borrowing during such crises would be meaningless). During that time, Congress has the power to seek state legislative approval to raise the debt limit either based on a persuasive budget or based on a clearly defined crisis contingency–like war or natural disaster.

If the states nevertheless refuse such approval, that would mean that a wide national consensus does not support additional federal debt under the circumstances proffered by Congress, which would be reason enough to disapprove the request. Military adventures and pork barrel spending disguised as crises will have a hard time getting financing. But the practical reality, as evidenced by Pearl Harbor and 9-11, is that our Nation has always risen to the occasion when challenged by a genuine crisis.

Secondly, the problem with writing in an exception to balancing the budget is that it will become a loophole when interpreted by Washington. Congress and the President clearly have an addiction to unsustainable debt spending. The temptation to interpret a crisis exception to allow needless borrowing is too great. It is like telling an alcoholic to avoid liquor except for medicinal purposes.

Giving Washington the opportunity to borrow through exceptions that Washington alone would interpret would defeat the purpose of the Balanced Budget Amendment, which is to divide the otherwise unlimited power of borrowing between Washington and state legislatures acting as a fiscal control board. State legislatures–not Washington–need to be the ultimate judge about the legitimacy of any request to lift the federal debt limit because an addict cannot be trusted.

[First posted at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: Power to the People: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with Patient Power

December 16, 2014, 4:18 PM

Heartland Institute Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy Peter Ferrera joints The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Policy Brief published by the Heartland Institute, “Power to the People: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with Patient Power.”

Ferrera explains how repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) with universal health insurance tax credits and state Medicaid block grants would give Americans more control over health care decisions, by allowing the power of the free market to deliver superior health care outcomes for people.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Senator Coburn’s Farewell Address

December 16, 2014, 3:42 PM

On December 11th 2014, Senator Tom Coburn gave an emotional farewell address on the Senate floor. In his speech, Coburn reflected on his time as a congressman, explained his worldview, gave advice to colleagues and gave thanks to those that helped and supported him.

Coburn, a three term Representative, was elected to the Senate in 2004 and then re-elected in 2010. However, at the beginning of 2014, he announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. His farewell address on Thursday would be his last speech on the Senate floor.

The speech started off with a sentimental thank you list to many of his staff members. Occasionally unable to hold back his emotion, Coburn thanked his staff members and his chief of staff saying, “We’re only able to function because of all the people who enable us to do it.”

He then began to reflect on his time in Congress. “To those of you, through the years, who I have offended,” Corburn said, “I truly apologize.” He mentioned that no offense was intended; it was merely the result of his worldview that placed liberty and the constitution above all else.

“I believe our founders were absolutely brilliant. Far smarter than us,” Coburn explained. He said we would not begin to solve our country’s problems until we once again accept the instruction of the constitution and restore individual liberty to everyone. “But I don’t believe we can if we continue to ignore the wisdom of our founding documents,” said Coburn.

Today, the state of the country is in bad shape, according to Coburn. He said the struggling economy and loss of freedom has created a country that his father would not recognize. Corburn attributes these problems to a centralized government that is too involved in decision-making instead of leaving it to the power of the free market.

He stops short of blaming his colleagues of opposition though when he said their intentions were not bad. “The intentions are great. The motivations of the people in this body are wonderful. But the perspective of how we do it, and what the long-term consequences of how we do it really do matter,” said Coburn. These intentions don’t prevent unintended consequences, however.

To prevent the occurrence of these unintended consequences, Coburn stands by specific principles. When reading legislation, Coburn determines if it may negatively impact life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He then makes sure the bill is consistent with the oath congressmen take when sworn into office.

While giving words of advice to his colleagues, the Senator took the time to read the oath in full. “Your state is not mentioned one time in that oath,” Coburn said to his fellow Senators. He told them their goal was to defend liberty and the constitution, not to pursue benefits for your individual state.

At the closing of his speech, Coburn began giving thanks again. He thanked his family for their sacrifice and he thanked his staff. He then gave thanks to his fellow Senators, who he said were “working for a better country for us all.” The Senator then yielded the floor to a standing ovation.

Categories: On the Blog

Germany’s “Energy Transformation:” Unsustainable Subsidies and an Unstable System

December 16, 2014, 1:00 PM

Perhaps when Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was a child, she attended a party and was the only one who came without a present, or was wearing inappropriate attire—and the embarrassment she felt haunts her to this day. That’s how psychodynamic psychology (Freud) might explain her December 3 decision to spend more money on Germany’s failing energy experiment to avoid, as Reuters puts it: “the embarrassment of missing her government’s goal of a 40 percent reduction of emissions by 2020.”

As Europe’s biggest economy, Germany has also embraced the biggest carbon dioxide reductions through a program known as “Energiewende”—or, in English, also called energy change, shift, or transformation. Energiewende was launched in 2000 under Merkel’s predecessor, who offered subsidies for any company that produced green energy.

While the European Union (E.U.) has committed to carbon dioxide cuts of 40 percent by 2030, Germany’s national goal aims to get there a decade sooner—which may have seemed achievable early in the program. After the 1990 reunification of Germany, the modernization of East Germany brought rapidly reduced emissions. However, the program’s overall result has raised costs and the emissions the expensive programs were designed to cut.

A few months ago, Bloomberg reported that due to increased coal consumption: “Germany’s emissions rose even as its production of intermittent wind and solar power climbed fivefold in the past decade”—hence Merkel’s potential embarrassment on the global stage where she’s put herself in the spotlight as a leader in reducing emissions.

On December 3, while 190 governments were meeting for two weeks of climate change talks in Lima, Peru (which, after 30 hours of overtime, produced a compromise deal that environmental groups see “went from weak to weaker to weakest”), Merkel’s cabinet agreed to a package that continues Germany’s optimistic—though unrealistic—goal and increases subsidies for measures designed to cut emissions. Regarding Germany’s “climate protection package,” Barbara Hendricks, Environment Minister, admitted: “if no additional steps were taken, Germany … would miss its targets by between five to eight percentage points.”

The results of the German agreement will require operators of coal-fueled power plants to reduce emissions by at least 22 million tons—the equivalent of closing eight of them. The Financial Times (FT) believes the plan will “lead to brownouts in German homes.”

With the goal of generating 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, Germany has aggressively pursued a green dream with unsustainable subsidies that have produced an unstable system described by FT, on November 25, as: “a lesson in doing too much too quickly on energy policy.”

So, what are the lessons? What should the U.S., and other countries, learn from Germany’s generous subsidy programs and rapid, large-scale deployment and integration of renewable energy into the power system? These are the questions U.S. legislators should be asking themselves as they argue over a tax extender package that includes a retroactive extension for the now-expired Production Tax Credit for wind energy.

Fortunately, the answers are easy to determine. Finadvice, a Switzerland based advisor to the utility and renewable industry, did an exhaustive study: “Development and Integration of Renewable Energy—Lessons Learned from Germany.” The introductory comments of the resulting report, includes the following statement: “The authors of this white paper would like to state that they fully support renewables as a part of the power portfolio.  …a couple [of the authors] have direct equity interests in renewable projects.” The authors’ viewpoint is an important consideration, especially in light of their findings. They wanted Germany’s experiment to work; yet they begin the Executive Summary with these words:

“Over the last decade, well-intentioned policymakers in Germany and other European countries created renewable energy policies with generous subsidies that have slowly revealed themselves to be unsustainable, resulting in profound, unintended consequences for all industry stakeholders. While these policies have created an impressive roll-out of renewable energy resources, they have also clearly generated disequilibrium in the power markets, resulting in significant increases in energy prices to most users, as well as value destruction for all stakeholders: consumers, renewable companies, electric utilities, financial institutions, and investors.” 

After reading the entire 80-page white paper, I was struck with three distinct observations. The German experiment has raised energy costs to households and business, the subsidies are unsustainable, and, as a result, without intervention, the energy supply is unstable.

Anyone who reads “Development and Integration of Renewable Energy” will conclude that there is far more to providing energy that is efficient, effective and economical than the renewable fairytale storytellers want consumers to believe. Putting a solar panel on your roof is more involved than just installation. The German experiment proves that butterflies, rainbows and pixie dust won’t power the world after all—coal, natural gas, and nuclear power are all important parts of the power portfolio.

Why, then, did Merkel continue Germany commitment to an energy and economic suicide? It is all part of the global shaming that takes place at the climate change meetings like the one that just concluded in Lima, Peru.

If only U.S. legislators would read “Development and Integration of Renewable Energy” before they vote for more subsidies for renewable energy, but, heck, they don’t even read the bill—which is why calls from educated constituents are so important. I am optimistic. Maybe we could learn from Germany’s experience what they haven’t yet learned themselves.

Categories: On the Blog

Cromnibus: Some Good, Some Bad

December 16, 2014, 1:08 AM

They , whoever they is, say you’ve got to take the good with the bad. In my opinion, most laws are almost all bad despite the often good intentions of their authors and sponsors.  They routinely violate the constitution and beyond that, after they go through the legislative meat-grinder, result more havoc and unintended harms than fixes for the problems they were meant to correct.

And end all, be all budget bills, where you’ve got to fund the entire government with one big package rather than examining the merits of each line item as an independent measure, are usually the worst kind of wrong, with present and future taxpayers paying billions in welfare to the well-to-do as industry after industry and special interest after special interest gets their own bit of graft.

The so-called Cromnibus passed last weekend was no exception. Still, while limiting myself to environmental provisions in the bill, rather than focusing entirely on the bad provisions, I want to also extoll the merits of the good parts of the final law.

First, on the negative side of the ledger, the Cromnibus resurrected the wind industry’s primary giveaway, the Production Tax Credit.  This boondoggle gives billions of dollars away to wealthy wind developers each year. They are paid not for the electric power actually produced, but rather by the amount of power the wind farms could theoretically deliver in a year.  Wind power wouldn’t survive without subsidies. Despite decades of federal largesse, wind has never been able to compete with coal or more recently natural gas on the basis of either reliability or price. House Republicans fought the PTC for years and were finally successful in preventing it from being renewed in the budget last year.  I’m just flummoxed, as to why, they would pull the stake out and let this vampire rise from the grave to suck more blood from taxpayers. Especially when they will have an even larger majority in the house and control of the Senate next year.

In addition, most of the EPA’s recent regulatory actions and proposals were funded, including the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emission.  This in itself is a huge blow to the economy since regulations of the EPA are a growing as a share of regulatory costs to the economy and studies show that, relative to other agencies, EPA regulations are more cost more per benefit delivered (e.g. lives saved, jobs created, illness prevented) than regulations from almost any other agency. And with the EPA’s carbon and ozone rules promise to be two of the most costly, least beneficial regulations of all time.

There are other provisions that merit thorough critiques, but frankly I’m getting depressed and want to point out some of the nice surprises found in the law.

First, idiotic biofuels programs, experienced a minor cut in funding — $18 million was cut from $694 million in mandatory spending in the 2014 budget bills. Every little bit helps!  Better still, the EPA’s budget was cut by $60 million from its 2014 levels and staffing at the agency could reach a 25-year low next year.  Budget and the staffing numbers are going in the right direction, at least if you subscribe to my view that fewer people and less funding means less mischief.  Also, the law blocks President Obama’s $3 billion pledge to the UN climate fund. I can already see climate treaty’s unraveling.  Going further on the climate front, one provision in the Cromnibus blocks the Export-Import bank from denying financing to coal-fired power plants in developing countries. The Obama administration had been denying such funding as a way to prevent poor countries from using greenhouse gas emitting, but life saving coal powered electricity.

In addition, the cromnibus has provisions that: prevent the the administration listing two types of sage grouse, that live smack dab in the middle of oil and gas country, as endangered species; delay the phase out of traditional incandescent light bulbs; block the EPA from regulation methane emissions from livestock and from farm manure management systems; prevent the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineer’s from issuing new Waters of the Untied States regulations that would have restricted certain agricultural practices and allowed the regulation farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.

In an attempt to end costly lawsuits filed by environmental and anti-gun extremists, the cromnibus blocks the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing lures – something the EPA has repeatedly and correctly asserted it had no power to do. Still that hasn’t stopped environmentalist from filing costly lawsuits; perhaps this provision will.

There is much to bemoan within the environmental portions of the bill and certainly in the more than 1,600 page monstrosity as a whole.  Others will no doubt point out these flaws better than I in the coming days, still to prevent those who like me, care about both a healthy, biodiverse environment and individual freedom and economic prosperity, from pulling out all of their hair or opening a vein, I thought it important to point out at least some of the positive aspects of the bill.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Think Three Unelected Bureaucrats Should Raise Taxes Whenever They Want?

December 15, 2014, 1:03 PM

That’s what Title II Reclassification of the Internet means.  And that’s what President Barack Obama wants – so as to then impose Network Neutrality.  Last month, President Obama said:

I believe the (Federal Communications Commission) FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act….

Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the FCC is supposed to be an independent agency – removed from the influence of politicians and political pressure.  President Obama dropping this bomb is a nigh unprecedented overt effort to exert influence on the Commission’s allegedly non-partisan, fact-based deliberations.

Let’s ignore the fact that Congress passed law – signed by then-President Bill Clinton – that classified the Internet the way it is currently classified.  Thus only Congress can Re-classify it.  This would be yet another unilateral Obama Administration fiat.

Let’s ignore the fact that how Congress classified the Internet has already been adjudicated up to and through the Supreme Court – and the Court ruled it’s classified as it’s classified.

Let’s ignore the fact that the FCC has already twice imposed Net Neutrality – and twice been unanimously told by the D.C. Circuit Court that they don’t have the authority to do so.

Let’s ignore the fact that being twice with unanimity rebuked for overreaching on Net Neutrality and then going for Title II Reclassification is responding to being twice rebuked for a power grab – with an exponentially larger power grab.  Like being twice told you can’t have a piece of pie – and your responding by taking the entire pie.

 

 

Let’s ignore the fact that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler – a President Obama campaign-coin-bundling appointee – is often developing policies, including his looming prospective Title II-Net Neutrality power grab, while completely cutting out of the process the two Commission Republicans (Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly).  And that Commissioners Pai and O’Reilly are routinely delivered hundreds of pages on which they’re supposed to vote – just a scant few hours before they are supposed to vote.  If all of this sounds like, well, most of Congress – it’s only because it should.

The FCC is made up of five voting Commissioners – one of whom also serves as Chairman.  Three are of the President’s Party – two of the opposition Party.  So right now it’s 3-2 Democrat – and Democrat Chairman Wheeler is more and more pressing his partisan advantage.

Let’s ignore all of that.  Let’s instead focus on this.

Should Chairman Wheeler and his two fellow unelected FCC Democrats behave like President Obama, their fellow Donkeys and their ideological brethren want them to and Reclassify the Internet – any three unelected FCC bureaucrats will from then on be able to raise taxes on the Internet whenever they want.

How do we know this?  Phones are regulated under Title II – and this just happened.

FCC Agrees to Raise Taxes on Phones

Except the FCC didn’t.  Three unelected Democrat FCC Commissioners did.  By an additional 17.2%.  Without their two Republican Commission-mates – and without Congress.

The FCC votes on these sorts of items every month.  Which means they could raise taxes on phones every month.  And – post-Reclassification – the Internet.  This phone tax increase will also serve as a preemptive Net tax increase.

And all of this is on top of the gi-normous phone taxes baseline that will immediately apply to the post-Reclassification Web.  This 17.2% hike is a Universal Service Fund (USF) tax increase.  That tax was already absurdly high – a pre-hoist 16.1% of our phone bill.  And even without an FCC vote it goes up every quarter – automatically.

Do we want three unelected FCC Democrat bureaucrats to unilaterally grant themselves the power to tax the Internet at this ridiculous level? And have these tax rates increase automatically – and whenever three unelected bureaucrats want besides?

I didn’t think so.

Categories: On the Blog

We’re Number Two

December 15, 2014, 12:44 PM

The U.S. was the world’s number one economy prior to World War II, but it took off bigtime after the war and there has not been a day of my long life in which we were not number one—until now.

 The International Monetary Fund recently released its calculations regarding the world’s economy and concluded that China is the number one economy, producing $17.6 trillion in terms of goods and services, as compared with the U.S. producing $17.4 trillion. It’s not an overwhelming gap, but it is a warning that our economy is going in the wrong direction and has been before and since the financial crisis of 2008.

 Writing in Market Watch, Brett Arends, put it succinctly. “As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.”

 As discomforting as the IMF news is, the worst news has been significantly under-reported in the nation’s media. The U.S. is now $18 TRILLION in debt.

 In February of 2014, CNS News reported that “The debt of the U.S. government has increased $6,666 trillion since President Barack Obama took office on January 20, 2009, according to the latest numbers released by the Treasury Department.”

 President Obama has been responsible for more debt over the course of his two terms to date than all previous U.S. Presidents in the first 227 years combined.

 Writing in the Daily Caller, Tracy Miller, an associate professor at Grove City College, noted that “Over the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew more slowly than during any five-year period since just after the end of World War II, averaging less than 1.3 percent per year. If we leave out the sharp recession of 1945-46 following World War II, Obama looks even worse, ranking dead last among all Presidents since 1932.”

 Why was this man reelected in 2012? One is inclined to find common ground with ObamaCare “architect”, Jonathan Gruber, who called voters “stupid.” 

 I prefer to believe, however, that the voters have been subjected to a non-stop campaign in the national media to get the first black American elected President and then to ignore some truly horrible facts about his two terms in office thus far.

 The voters are not stupid, but they have been deliberately misled by the careful exclusion of news about the actual state of the economy.

Reality caught up with Obama in the two midterm elections of 2012 and 2014. The voters shifted power in Congress to the Republican Party. In the most recent midterms thirteen of the Senators who had voted for ObamaCare were defeated.

As December began, CNS News reported that “The labor force participation rate remained at a 36-year low of 62.8 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

 The BLS measures the percentage of “non-institutional population” in the labor force, those 16 years or older who were not in the military or working in a governmental job, i.e. the private sector.  In September, the rate was the lowest since February 1978!

 To put this in perspective, by November, the number of beneficiaries on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—food stamps—had topped 46,000,000 for 36 straight months according to data released by the Department of Agriculture. The Census Bureau reports that there are 115,048,000 households in the nation as of August 2014. That means the number of households on food stamps equaled 19.75% of all the households in the nation; one out of five. Those on this program outnumber the entire populations of nations such as Poland or Argentina.

 It doesn’t stop there. On December 3 CNS News reported “The total number of people in the United States now receiving federal disability benefits hit a record 10,982,920 in November, up from the previous record set in May, according to newly released data from the Social Security Administration.”

 How bad is the U.S. economy? In August, CNS News’ Terence P. Jeffrey reported that “109,631,000 Americans lived in households that received benefits from one or more federally funded ‘means-tested programs’—also known as welfare—as of the fourth quarter of 2012.” The data came from the Census Bureau. That was the same year Obama was reelected and it represented 35.4% of the entire U.S. population at the time. By the end of 2012, it had increased to 49.5%!

 Means-tested government programs include Social Security, Medicare, railroad retirement, unemployed compensation, worker’s compensation, Veteran’s compensation and Veteran’s educational assistance. The largest of these programs are Social Security and Medicare.

 Why does the U.S. have an $18 TRILLION dollar debt?

 Consider that, in fiscal year 2013, the federal government paid out more than $2 TRILLION in benefits and entitlements according to data from the Bureau of the Fiscal Services’ Monthly Treasury Statement. You don’t have to be a mathematician to conclude that, if more Americans were working, there would be less need for many of the benefits programs and the largest among them would be more financially sound.

 News of new jobs is always welcome, but it hides the deeper problem of too many unemployed and while Congress continues to debate what to do about Obama’s effort to give work permits to illegal aliens and protect them from deportation, the Center for Immigration Studies announced in June that “Since the year 2000 all of the net increase in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal).” Should the U.S. make five million or more illegal aliens eligible to compete for jobs with its native-born and naturalized population?

 The U.S. must pay billions in interest on its debt. The failure of Congress to address the need to reform the tax code, reduce the deluge of regulations negatively affecting the business and industrial sector, and get control over spending has dug the nation a very deep and dangerous hole.

 Statistics can be daunting, but we all can feel that something is terribly wrong with the economy despite the news about a vigorous Wall Street. The fact remains that Main Street is in trouble.  The nation requires an economy in which new businesses are created and existing ones can afford to expand. That is not happening.

 That is why we are Number Two.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Rising Seas are Nothing New

December 15, 2014, 10:31 AM

The most careful analysis of world sea levels suggests they are rising at between zero and 2mm per year.

Sea levels are never still, but with global temperatures flat and snow cover and polar ice steady, sea levels are probably as stable today as they ever get.

However, we still have climatists creating computer models that predict dangerously rising seas to justify their goal to ban coastal development and to revive their failing war on carbon.

Alarmists should study earth history.

At the depth of our most recent ice age, just 16,000 years ago, a thick sheet of ice covered much of North America and Northern Europe. So much water was locked up in ice that humans could walk on dry land from London to Paris, from Siberia to Alaska and from New Guinea to Australia.

There was no Great Barrier Reef as Queensland’s continental shelf was part of the coastal plain, and rivers like the Burdekin met the ocean about 160 km east of its current mouth.

Then, about 13,000 years ago, with no help from man-made engines burning hydrocarbons, the Earth began warming. This was probably caused by natural cycles affecting our sun and the solar system, aided by volcanic heat along Earth’s Rings of Fire under the oceans.

The great ice sheets melted, sea levels rapidly rose some 130m and coastal settlements and ancient port cities were drowned. Without zoning laws to guide them, our smart ancestors moved ahead of the rising waters and adapted happily to the warmer climate with less snow, more rain, more carbon dioxide plant food and more ice-free land.

This warming phase peaked in the Medieval Warm Era about 1,000 years ago, when sea levels also peaked. They fell during the Little Ice Age, rose slightly during the Modern Warm Era, and are relatively stable now.

Rising seas are never a lethal threat to life on Earth. The danger sign is falling sea levels caused by return of the great ice sheets. This would quickly put high-latitude farming into the deep freezer, thus creating widespread starvation. Trying to grow crops on emerging salty mudflats in an icy climate will give future farmers a real climate concern.

And despite World Heritage listing, when the next ice age comes, the skeletons of the stranded Great Barrier Reef will become bleached limestone deposits on the coastal plain. The indestructible coral populations will abandon their marooned homes and build new reefs further out under the retreating seas.

Categories: On the Blog

Still More Politicized Pseudo-Science? The Neonics and Honeybees Saga Takes Interesting, Potentially Fraudulent Turn

December 15, 2014, 10:26 AM

Widening efforts to blame neonicotinoid pesticides for honeybee “colony collapse disorder” and other “beepocalypse” problems have taken a fascinating turn.

Insisting that scientific evidence shows a clear link between neonics and honeybee population declines, EU anti-insecticide campaigners persuaded the European Union to impose a two-year ban on using the chemicals. Farm organizations and the Union’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department unsuccessfully opposed the ban, arguing that evidence for a link is not persuasive, and actual field studies in Canada and elsewhere have found little risk to bees from the pesticides.

Then this year’s canola (rapeseed) crop suffered serious losses of 30-50 percent, due to rampaging flea beetles. Over 44,000 acres (18,000 hectares) were declared a total loss. Euro farmers blamed the ban.

Now it appears that the campaign against these newer, safer pesticides – and the scientific papers that supposedly justify the ban – were all part of a rigged, carefully orchestrated environmentalist strategy.

A recently leaked memorandum, dated June 14, 2010, summarizes a discussion earlier that month among four European scientists who wanted to block neonic use. The memo says the four agreed to find prominent authors who could write scientific papers and coordinate their publication in respected journals, so as to “obtain the necessary policy change to have these pesticides banned.”

“If we are successful in getting these two papers published,” the memo continues, “there will be enormous impact, and a campaign led by WWF etc could be launched right away. It will be much harder for politicians to ignore a research paper and a policy forum paper” in a major scientific journal. Initial papers would demonstrate that neonics adversely affect bees, other insects, birds and other species; they would be written by a carefully selected primary author and a team of scientists from around the world. Additional papers would be posted online to support these documents – and a separate paper would simultaneously call for a ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoids.

(The WWF is the activist group World Wildlife Fund or World Wide Fund for Nature.)

One meeting attendee was Piet Wit, chairman of the ecosystems management commission of the environmentalist organization International Union for Conservation of Nature. Another was Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond, who became chairman of the IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which was inaugurated in March 2011, just after the European Union agreed to finance the Task Force to the tune of €431,337 ($540,000). Vouching for the Task Force as an “independent and unbiased” scientific “advisory” group was the same Dr. Maarten Bijleveld, who is also a founding member of the WWF’s Netherlands branch and an executive officer of the IUCN’s environmental committee.

Further underscoring the “independent” nature of these organizations, the EU awarded the IUCN €24,014,125 ($30,000,000) between 2007 and 2013. Moreover, IUCN task force membership is by invitation only – making it easier to implement the Systemic Pesticides Task Force’s stated purpose: to “bring together the scientific evidence needed to underpin action on neonicotinoid pesticides.”

The entire operation is odorously reminiscent of ClimateGate orchestration of alarmist research and banning of studies questioning “dangerous manmade climate change” assertions, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1972 DDT ban, regarding which then-EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus later admitted that he had not attended a single minute of his own task force’s lengthy hearings or read a single page of its findings, which concluded that the insecticide was not dangerous to humans or most wildlife.

The IUCN/WWF campaign also recalls the equally well coordinated effort by Fenton Communications, CBS “60 Minutes” and the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban Alar (a chemical used to keep apples ripening longer on trees), in a way that would channel millions of dollars to the NRDC. It reminds me of former Environmental Defense Fund senior scientist Charles Wurster’s assertion that, “If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they never had before.”

Never mind that the Alar scam sent many family apple orchards into bankruptcy – or that millions of African and Asian parents and children have died from malaria because radical greens have made DDT largely unavailable even for disease control. For them, humanitarian concerns rarely enter the discussion.

As science writer Hank Campbell observes, all these campaigns reflect proven strategies “to manipulate science to achieve a political goal.” They follow the Saul Alinsky/Big Green script summarized by Madeleine Cosman: Select and vilify a target. Devise a “scientific study” that predicts a public health disaster. Release it to the media, before legitimate scientists can analyze and criticize it. Generate emotional headlines and public reactions. Develop a government “solution,” and intimidate legislatures or government regulators to impose it. Coerce manufacturers to stop making and selling the product.

Environmental pressure groups have repeatedly and successfully employed these steps.

In a recent speech, Harvard School of Public Health Professor Chensheng Lu claimed that his “Harvard Study” clearly demonstrated that neonics “are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder.” However, pesticide expert and professional pest exterminator Rich Kozlovich says the vast majority of scientists who study bees for a living vigorously disagree. They cite multiple problems, including the fact that small bee populations were fed “astronomical” levels of insecticide-laced corn syrup, and the colonies examined for Lu’s paper did not even exhibit CCD symptoms.

President Obama has nevertheless relied heavily on all this pseudo-science, to support his June 2014 memorandum instructing relevant U.S. agencies “to develop a plan for protecting pollinators such as honey bees …in response to mounting concerns about [their] dwindling populations on American crops.” The “serious” problem, Mr. Obama insists, “requires immediate attention.”

He is playing his role in the Big Green script but, as my previous articles have noted (here, here and here), nothing in honest, actual science supports his call for yet another Executive Branch end-run around the Legislative Branch and a proper vetting of what we do know about neonics and honeybee problems.

Neonics are vital for numerous crops: canola, soybeans, wheat, winter squash, citrus groves and others.

Derived from a synthetic form of nicotine and often applied to seeds, “neonicotinoids” are incorporated into plants to defend them against pests. This allows growers to be much more targeted in killing crop-threatening insects: only those that actually feed on the plants are affected. This approach (or spraying) also means growers can successfully grow crops with far fewer large-scale insecticide applications, and dramatically reduce reliance on more toxic pesticides that do harm wildlife, including bees. Real-world field studies have shown that bees collecting pollen from plants treated with neonics are not harmed.

Other research has identified serious problems that truly are afflicting bees in Canada, the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Varroa mites carry at least 19 bee viruses and diseases – and parasitic phorid flies, Nosema intestinal fungi and the tobacco ringspot virus also cause significant colony losses. Beekeepers have accidentally killed entire hives, while trying to address such problems.

Colony Collapse Disorder has shown up from time to time for centuries. A hundred years ago it was called the “disappearing disease.” It now seems to be ebbing, and bee and beehive numbers are climbing.

We need to let real science do its job, and stop jumping to conclusions or short-circuiting the process with politicized papers, anti-neonic campaigns and presidential memorandums. We need answers, not scapegoats. Otherwise, bee mortality problems are likely to spread, go untreated and get even worse, while neonic bans cause widespread crop failures and huge financial losses for farmers.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Alex Epstein – The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

December 15, 2014, 10:24 AM

Alex Epstein makes one of the most compelling arguments for the moral value of fossil fuels and the need to increase their use I have ever read.

Epstein points out the development and use of fossil fuels has benefitted the poor far more than the rich, making available to the person of average means, food, goods and services which even the rulers of old could hardly dream of. Fossil fuels grant freedom and free up time.

Chapter by chapter, through clear and concise analysis, Epstein demonstrates why fossil fuels are the greatest energy technology of all time; why renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are in no position to replace them; why concerns about global warming are overstated and largely misplaced; how fossil fuel use actually improves environmental quality; and why, with more than 1.3 billion people in the world today without access to electricity and the labor and life-saving bounty it makes available, it would be immoral to artificially restrict growth in the use of fossil fuels to prevent climate change.

Epstein’s key point is:

“Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are “fighting” climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.”

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

Categories: On the Blog

Stop the outrageous spending

December 14, 2014, 4:25 PM

At some point between Thanksgiving and December 1, the federal government made history, as the value of outstanding U.S. Treasury securities exceeded $18 trillion—that’s an 18 with 12 trailing zeroes. At some point, such numbers begin to lose their meaning because the amounts exceed most people’s ability to comprehend.

The abstraction of such numbers, in turn, makes it difficult to understand just how gigantic a problem the national debt is. However, using tangible objects to represent the magnitude of the debt can help solve that problem.

Divided equally, each American household’s share of the national debt is roughly $153,846—about enough money to buy a two-story house with four bedrooms in Jacksonville, Florida. Breaking it down further, each American adult’s share of the debt is about $74,074, or the price tag on a real, working, back-mounted personal jetpack.

However, imagining not having an additional Florida home or back-mounted jetpacks may still be a bit too abstract. So try this: Imagine a single 100 dollar bill. For most Americans, that is enough money to fund a really good night out on the town.

Now visualize a pallet of those Benjamins. An ISO-standard pallet of hundreds, wrapped in bundles and stacked on top of one another, is equivalent to $100 million.

Imagine having 10 of these pallets of money, which amounts to $1 billion. Assuming a daily spending rate of $10,000—over $400 per hour—the average individual would require nearly three centuries to spend it all.

On the other hand, the federal government spends at an average rate of roughly $399,315,459 per hour, every hour of every day. In other words, while our hypothetical individual billionaire needs multiple lifetimes to make it rain with such volume, our real-life government spends 10 pallets of one-hundred dollar bills in less than three hours.

As documented by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) this fall, the federal government is very adept at spending money it expects to collect from the taxpayers of tomorrow in order to fund the things it wants today.

For example, 11 federal agencies spent a combined $50 million, amounting to half a pallet of hundreds, on paid administrative leave—or, perhaps more accurately, paid vacations—for public servants accused of bad behavior such as viewing pornography at work or drunk driving.

The U.S. State Department spent nearly a full pallet, $90 million, to promote “cultural exchange programs,” including the rap stylings of Arkansas Bo and Big Piph. Bo and Piph’s message transcends national and cultural barriers, asking the eternal question of “y’all got some ass though … If you don’t want me looking, what the hell you wear ‘em for?”

Another example of the government’s aptitude for spending astronomical amounts of money is literally astronomical. The national government burned through 30 pallets of money, or $3 billion, testing the performance of golf clubs at the International Space Station in 2013. Since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mothballed the American space program in 2011, every visit to space costs the taxpayers roughly a pallet and a half of c-notes, payable to the Russian government.

Frivolous spending in the federal government abounds, trading tomorrow’s expected wealth for today’s desires. To many people, the problem seems insurmountable, but the first step to take when stuck at the bottom of a hole is simple: stop digging!

[Originally published at the Washington Times]
Categories: On the Blog

The Expert’s Cloudy Crystal Balls

December 13, 2014, 1:12 PM

In late October I wrote a commentary “Is America in Decline?” based on a book by James MacDonald, “When Globalism Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana”, due for sale in January from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Within days I received “The Accidental Super Power: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and The Coming Global Disorder” by Peter Zeihan. Both authors have good credentials, but the former concludes our position as a super power will recede in the decades ahead and the latter says we will be the only one left as the rest of the world runs into problems that the U.S. will be able to ignore.

Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst, offers the scenario of an America, blessed by its location and ability to provide its own energy and agriculture, that will be largely untouched by a future in which most other nations will suffer various unpleasant levels of decline.

Both Zeihan and MacDonald see the U.S. abandoning its role since the end of World War II in 1945 as the generator and protector of free trade. Our naval capability has kept the world’s sea lanes open and free of predators, a boon to all nations. A system for free trade set up at Breton Woods in 1944 has served the world well, including former enemies, Germany and Japan. Other nations, depending on their location, resources, and population, have had varying degrees of success.

“The conventional wisdom that the United States’ best days are behind it” says Zeihan, “isn’t simply wrong. It’s laughably so. In 2014 we’re not witnessing the beginning of the end of American power, but the end of the beginning. In fact, we’re on the cusp of a shift in the international order just as profound as those delegates back in 1944 experienced.”

While MacDonald sees the role of the U.S. as Pax Americana waning, Zeihan sees a national withdrawal from the international scene based on the wealth the shale oil and natural gas technology is generating and the productivity of our huge agricultural sector to keep us fed while other nations struggle to grow and find food sources.I disagree with Zeihan. Americans don’t like having to be involved in the problems that other nations create, but they also see themselves as the solution whether it is deterring rogue nations that threaten their neighbors or aiding when a natural disaster occurs.Zeihan focuses on the role of maritime power on the oceans that gave rise to Great Britain and other nations that could field a navy that could trade at great distances from their homelands. The history of colonization reflects that power. Internally, he points out how blessed the U.S. has been with a waterway system of numerous navigable rivers that made it possible, for example, to grow wheat in the midland but ship it anywhere. This ability to transport food crops as well as people opened America to fairly rapid expansion and growth.

Unlike other nations, its population came from everywhere and reproduced at rates to meet its need for labor, while its free market system, along with the industrial revolution, stimulated innovation and growth. The oldest constitutional government in the world generated confidence in an “idea” called freedom and liberty instead of relying on blind nationalism.

While I may disagree with some of Zeihan’s predictions about the future, his book provides a wealth of information about the individual advantages and disadvantages of the nations whom we regard as either friendly toward or threatening our nation. Their locations are critical to their future and always have been. Their ability to transport people and goods within and beyond those locations are also critical factors.

Overlaying that is demographics, the statistics of population, identifying which nations whose people are “getting older” and which have enough younger people to generate wealth while the older generation retires and lives off their own savings and/or government programs such as our Social Security and Medicare.

Zeihan points out that “The United States is far and away the world’s largest consumer market and has been since shortly after the Civil War. As of 2014, that consumer base amounts to roughly $1.5 trillion. That’s triple anyone else, larger than the consumer bases of the next six countries—Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, China and Italy—combined, and double that of the combined BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).”

 

Zeihan believes that “the free trade era is closing (and) demography tell us that the era of consumption-driven growth that has been the economic norm for seventy years is coming to an unceremonious end.” He believes that the “global financial wave will crest at some point between 2020 and 2024” and predicts that “Poland and Russia will be among the nations whose populations will not keep up with their need for labor.”

“Between 2020 and 2024, thirteen of the world’s top twenty-five economies will be in the ranks of the financially distressed. The new arrivals will include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and of course the United States. With 90 percent of the developed world in that unfortunate basket, the availability of capital and credit for all will plummet.”

That Ziehan’s scenario and he blames it on “aging demographies”, but he does not factor in the ability for various elements of the world’s population, the younger ones in particular, to move around the planet and respond to occupational opportunities. A current example is the exodus from Mexico and some Latin American nations to the United States for jobs and better lives. Can we absorb the current numbers of illegal aliens? I think yes and I also believe being able to impose “security” along a two thousand mile southern border is probably a fantasy. If we actually enforced our immigration laws this problem would be reduced.

Mexico is our third largest trading partner. To the north Canada ranks second. Together we make up a continent, as Zeihan predicts, that will not be negatively affected as other nations.

So, while we worry about Russia, Zeihan sees it in rapid decline. While pundits tell us of China’s rise to financial preeminence, he reminds us that we felt the same about Japan not that long ago. And China has massive demographic problems, not the least of which is an aging population. He doesn’t hold out much hope for the European Union. Et cetera.

I do not possess Zeihan’s or MacDonald’s credentials, but my instinct tells me that a sudden, rapid international decline is unlikely to occur. It’s a different world in which we all live and far more connected in many ways. Adjustments and changes will be made as they always have, but we are not likely to see a century like the last one that was dominated by wars. They are just too expensive.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Jeff Anderson – The 2017 Project Plan to Replace Obamacare

December 11, 2014, 3:44 PM

Research Fellow Sean Parnell talks with Jeff Anderson, Executive Director of the 2017 Project. The two discuss Anderson’s organization’s plan for replacing Obamacare with a more market-friendly system. The 2017 project is based on a combination of tax credits, reform of the individual insurance market, and high-risk pools.

Among other topics, Parnell and Anderson talk about the details of the proposed plan and how it could replace Obamacare. How politically feasible is the plan? and how would it address the common concerns of American citizens?

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

Categories: On the Blog

The New Congress Must Save the USA from the EPA

December 11, 2014, 12:45 PM

When the Republican Party takes over majority control of Congress in January, it will face a number of battles that must be fought with the Obama administration ranging from its amnesty intentions to the repeal of ObamaCare, but high among the battles is the need to rein in the metastasizing power of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In many ways, it is the most essential battle because it involves the provision of sufficient electrical energy to the nation to keep its lights on. EPA “interpretations” of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have become an outrageous usurpation of power that the Constitution says belongs exclusively to the Congress.

As a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, I recall how in 2012 its president, Joe Bast, submitted 16,000 signed petitions to Congress calling on it to “rein in the EPA.” At the time he noted that “Today’s EPA spends billions of dollars (approximately $9 billion in 2012) imposing senseless regulations. Compliance with its unnecessary rules costs hundreds of billions of dollars more.”

Heartland’s Science Director, Dr. Jay Lehr, said “EPA’s budget could safely be cut by 80 percent or more without endangering the environment or human health. Most of what EPA does today could be done better by state government agencies, many of which didn’t exist or had much less expertise back in 1970 when EPA was created.”

The EPA has declared virtually everything a pollutant including the carbon dioxide (CO2) that 320 million Americans exhale with every breath. It has pursued President Obama’s “war on coal” for six years with a disastrous effect on coal miners, those who work for coal-fired plants that produce electricity, and on consumers who are seeing their energy bills soar.

As Edwin D. Hill, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, noted in August, “The EPA’s plan, according to its own estimates, will require closing coal-fired plants over the next five years that generate between 41 and 49 gigawatts (49,000 megawatts) of electricity” and its plan would “result in the loss of some 52,000 permanent direct jobs in utilities, mining and rail, and at least another 100,000 jobs in related industries. High skill, middle-class jobs would be lost, falling heavily in rural communities that have few comparable employment opportunities.”

“The United States cannot lose more than 100 gigawatts of power in five years without severely compromising the reliability and safety of the electrical grid,” warned Hill.

In October the Institute for Energy Research criticized the EPA’s war on coal based on its Mercury and Air Toxics Rule and its Cross State Air Pollution Rule, noting that 72.7 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity have already, or are scheduled to retire. “That’s enough to reliably power 44.7 million homes, or every home in every state west of the Mississippi river, excluding Texas.” How widespread are the closures? There are now 37 states with projected power plant closures, up from 30 in 2011. The five hardest hit states are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and Georgia.

If a foreign nation had attacked the U.S. in this fashion, we would be at war with it.

The EPA is engaged in a full-scale war on the U.S. economy as it ruthlessly forces coal-fired plants out of operation. This form of electricity production has been around since the industry began to serve the public in 1882 when Edison installed the world’s first generating plants on Pearl Street in New York City’s financial district. Moreover, the U.S. has huge reserves of coal making it an extremely affordable source of energy, available for centuries to come.

The EPA’s actions have been criticized by one of the nation’s leading liberal attorneys, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who has joined with Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, to criticize the “executive overreach” of the EPA’s proposed rule to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. He accused the agency of abusing statutory law, violating the Constitution’s Article I, Article II, the separations of powers, the Tenth and Fifth Amendments, and the agency’s general contempt for the law.

It is this contempt that can be found in virtually all of its efforts to exert power over every aspect of life in America from the air we breathe, the water we use, property rights, all forms of manufacturing, and, in general, everything that contributes to the economic security and strength of the nation.

That contempt is also revealed in the way the EPA spends its taxpayer funding. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released a report, “The Science of Splurging”, on December 2 in which he pointed to the $1,100,000 spent to pay the salaries of eight employees who were not working due to being placed on administrative leave, the $3,500,000 spent to fund “Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health” workshops around the nation, $1,500,000 annually to store out-of-date and unwanted publicans at an Ohio warehouse, and $700,000 to attempt to reduce methane emitted from pig flatulence in Thailand! “After years of handing out blank checks in the form of omnibus appropriations bills and continuing resolutions,” said Sen. Flake, “it’s time for Congress to return to regular order and restore accountability at the EPA.”

Whether it is its alleged protection of the air or water, the only limits that have been placed on the EPA have been by the courts. Time and again the EPA has been admonished for over-stating or deliberately falsifying its justification to control every aspect of life in the nation, often in league with the Army Corps of Engineers.

If the Republican controlled Congress does not launch legislative action to control the EPA the consequences for Americans will continue to mount, putting them at risk of losing electricity, being deprived of implicit property rights, and driving up the cost of transportation by demanding auto manufacturers increase miles-per-gallon requirements at a time when there is now a worldwide glut of oil and the price of gasoline is dropping.

The United States has plenty of enemies in the world that want it to fail. It is insane that we harbor one as a federal agency.

Categories: On the Blog

Government Pummels Farmers Into Oblivion – Then Subsidizes the Wreckage

December 11, 2014, 9:07 AM

The late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan provided expert analysis of the ridiculous Push-Pull damage wrought by government.

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

Government Pushes you into arrest – and then Pulls you in with money.  From enemy of the state – to serf thereof.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an all-encompassing part of the Push portion of the program.  The EPA is an activity-seeking missile – that aims to end all activity.  It was created to be a weapon against any and all private sector endeavor.

As you can probably guess, government assaulting the private sector isn’t a great idea.

EPA Costs (2012) US Economy $353 Billion Per Year

Complying with EPA regulations costs the U.S. economy $353 billion per year – more than 30 times its budget – according to the best available estimate. By way of comparison, that is more than the entire 2011 national GDPs of Denmark ($332 billion) and Thailand ($345 billion).

The EPA is far too busy pummeling us for self-reflection – the last time it analyzed the exorbitant costs it inflicts was 1990.  Transparency.

American farmers are absolutely amongst the EPAs victims.

A Wake-Up Call For U.S. Farmers: The EPA Is Trying To Put You Out of Business

Strong signals from regulators suggest they are about to severely restrict or completely eliminate some of the most important tools in the farmers toolkit….

EPAs Biological and Economic Analysis Division recently issued a report proclaiming that seed-coating applications of neonicotinoid pesticides–the most popular and widely used insecticide in the world today–“provide negligible overall benefits” in growing soy crops….

Government uber-regulates farmers – and the price of food skyward.  Government then sets a price for food – and subsidizes farmers when the crops government made way too expensive to produce don’t meet the government-set price.

The EPA is here soy-specific – but the assault on farmers is all-encompassing and worldwide.  They are proactively targeting “the most popular and widely used insecticide in the world today”  – that’s fairly far-ranging.  I would imagine that if it’s the most popular and widely used – it’s probably a little more effective than the EPA is letting on.

The EPA issued this “report”…

…without talking to a single farmer–and after conducting a rushed review of a small, cherry-picked sampling of efficacy studies, a few articles, and 21 responses to a questionnaire.…

Why would the EPA talk to farmers about farming?  With whom was it speaking?

(I)t makes EPA an active accomplice in a years-long campaign by radical environmentalists to ban neonicotinoids.…

Because environmentalists – and the EPA – have the farmers’ best interests at heart.

Ranchers, Farmers Fear Eco-Terrorists After EPA Releases Private Info

The Environmental Protection Agency has told farmers and ranchers it is sorry for handing private information about them over to environmental groups….

(T)he federal agency released information on up to 100,000 agriculture industry workers, including their home address and phone numbers, GPS coordinates and even personal medical histories.  The agency later acknowledged much of the information should never have been provided, and even asked the recipients to give it back.

The EPA specifically – and government generally – exponentially increase the cost of our food.  And they constantly continue to look for new ways to crank the ratchet upward.

You’ve heard of the war on coal? Get ready for the war on farming….

The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States regulation….

“The EPA and Corps of Engineers do not need to be coming on to our farmers’ private property unless there is a specific grievance that would harm other citizens,” (Kentucky Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson) Spann said.

“The agencies could essentially expand oversight to isolated ponds, puddles, or ditches, areas that may hold water only for a short time following rain events.”

Simultaneous with this incessant governmental assault on farmers – is the government subsidization of farmers.  Behold the Farm Bill.  Government regulates farmers beyond any hope of crop profit – then give them money predicated upon their not turning a crop profit.

2014 Farm Bill – Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Program

Under the PLC program, payments are issued when prices for covered commodities fall below the reference prices. This is similar to the old Counter Cyclical payments that were in effect during the last Farm Bill….These prices are set for the life of the Farm Bill.

Government uber-regulates farmers – and the price of food skyward.  Government then sets a price for food – and subsidizes farmers when the crops government made way too expensive to produce don’t meet the government-set price.

This is absolutely insane.  It certainly isn’t anywhere close to a free market.

[This first appeared at Human Events]
Categories: On the Blog

Exposed: The Merchants of Smear, Climate Edition

December 11, 2014, 1:01 AM

YOU can surrender more of your liberty for my enrichment in service to a phony man-caused climate crisis.

For about two decades we’ve been told the science behind human-caused global warming is settled, and to ignore skeptic scientists because they’ve been paid by industry to manufacture doubt about the issue. The truth, however, has every appearance of being exactly the opposite: A clumsy effort to manufacture doubt about the credibility of skeptical climate scientists arose in 1991 with roots in Al Gore’s Senate office.

The Merchants of Smear, such as Al Gore, gained effectiveness and media traction after Ozone Action took over the effort and drew attention to the “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” memo phrase (which they never showed in its full context). The effort achieved its highest success after being heavily promoted by the “Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter” Ross Gelbspan, who never won a Pulitzer, never displayed any investigative prowess in this matter, and never proved that any skeptic climate scientist had ever knowingly lied as a result of being paid illicit money.

These efforts to portray skeptic scientists as corrupt are swamped with additional credibility problems, far more than can be described in this Policy Brief. Plain presentations of science studies contradicting reports from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have no chance of vindicating skeptic scientists in the face of such viral anti-skeptic rhetoric, as long as the mainstream media and majority of Internet sites remain gatekeepers preventing the release of accurate science information.

This gatekeeping indicates a much larger problem concerning the issue: The evidence presented in this Policy Brief is something any unqualified, disinterested bystander could find and ask about. Indeed, believers in the theory of human-caused global warming could have explored the problems presented in my brief with each other in order to find out whether their accusation about industry corruption of skeptics survives serious scrutiny.

Instead, this accusation has been unquestioningly accepted since 1991 by the mainstream news media and by officials who want to implement greenhouse gas mitigation regulations. During this time, skeptic scientists and other well-informed experts have revealed devastating problems with IPCC climate assessments. It has been shown time and again that the corruption accusation was riddled with obvious holes from the start. No matter.

The main pillar of support for the notion that humans are causing a dangerous warming of the climate has been the notion of “settled science.” That notion has long been questioned by skeptic scientists. The secondary pillar of support for the alarmist global warming theory has been the notion that industry-corrupted skeptics are unworthy of public consideration. This accusation could easily have been investigated and refuted long ago. That never happened, because of the third pillar: Journalists should not give equal time to skeptic scientists.

We are overdue for the biggest ideology collapse in history, begging for an investigation into why the mainstream media and influential politicians apparently never checked the veracity of claims about “settled science” and “corrupt skeptics.”

Read and share my Heartland Institute Policy Brief as widely as you can. And learm more about the myth that man-caused climate skeptics are funded by “Big Oil” at Gelbspanfiles.com.

Categories: On the Blog

How Dangerous Is Snus? Don’t Ask New York Times Editors

December 10, 2014, 2:51 PM

The New York Times has added more fuel to the anti-tobacco-harm-reduction fire with a December 4 editorial (here) rehashing the somewhat slanted reporting that appeared in the paper’s news pages on November 30.  In two stories that day, the Times explored issues surrounding Swedish Match’s FDA application to change the warnings on its snus products.  As I noted (here), “The Times and their quoted experts did a major disservice to their audience; they failed to report the simple truth, that mouth cancer risk for Swedish snus is next to nil.”

The original warning labels that Congress ordered for tobacco product packages in 1986 were factually wrong and fatally misleading to smokers, chewers and dippers.  Congress didn’t make the warnings more accurate when  it ordered the FDA to regulate tobacco in 2009, it just made them cover more of the package – an action it didn’t take with cigarettes.

The Times editorial acknowledged that snus is “is less harmful than smoking tobacco,” but it painted Swedish Match’s application as a marketing ploy.  That ignores the critical need to terminate government’s lie about products’ health risks.

The editors echoed tobacco prohibitionists in denying that snus played a role in the Swedish experience.  Said the Times, “reduced smoking rates and lower rates of tobacco-related diseases such as lung and oral cancer” in Sweden since the 1970s “is debatable,” attributing the successes to “various bans, restrictions and public health campaigns.”  The editors failed to consider that the reductions are exclusively seen in men – who use snus and have the lowest lung cancer rate in Europe – not in women, who rank fifth in Europe for lung cancer.

The Times acknowledged that their reporters had “cited independent experts who found that snus is not nearly as lethal as cigarettes,” but it added the qualifier “[snus] is not risk-free either, especially for users who also smoke.”  It is patently obvious that smoking is risky for anyone, including snus users.  It should also be obvious that a smokeless tobacco can labeled “this product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes” encourages smokers to stick with their habit.

The Times editors revisit the discredited gateway theory (“the danger is that snus might lead some nonsmokers and former smokers to…progress on to cigarette smoking”), but they ignore substantial evidence that this has not happened in Sweden (here) or in the U.S. (here).

Summing up, the Times observes: “abstention would be the safest approach.”  That might work in Neverland, but in the U.S., abstention was impossible for the 8 million smokers who died in the 20 years since I first described our government’s warnings as bogus.  That is no one’s definition of safe.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Confiscation Without Representation: Government Seizes First, Asks Questions Never

December 10, 2014, 12:39 PM

Yet another ongoing government authoritarian problem is the rampant abuse of civil forfeiture.  Which is where federal, state and local Leviathans seize personal property of all sorts.  Often when someone is merely suspected of – not charged with – a crime.  Often when the tie between the property and any criminal activity is at best tangential.

These people often never get their property back – even if charges are never filed.  Because the laws are written by government to rig the system – for government.  In a criminal case, you are innocent until proven guilty.  In a civil forfeiture case, this fundamental freedom tenet is turned on its head.  The burden of proof is on the property owner – they must convince the government that they obtained the government-seized property lawfully.  And often even that isn’t enough.  From 1998:

 Police stopped 49-year-old Ethel Hylton at Houstons Hobby Airport and told her she was under arrest because a drug dog had scratched at her luggage. Agents searched her bags and strip-searched her, but they found no drugs.

 They did find $39,110 in cash, money she had received from an insurance settlement and her life savings; accumulated through over 20 years of work as a hotel housekeeper and hospital janitor.

 Ethel Hylton completely documented where she got the money and was never charged with a crime. But the police kept her money anyway. Nearly four years later, she is still trying to get her money back.

Trying to get your property back often costs a lot of money – going to court ain’t cheap.  And you’re handicapped – because a lot of what you have is being held by government.  And you’re going up against an over-funded entity that doesn’t care about the cost of defending its seizure.  Because it isn’t spending its money – it’s spending ours.  If it loses, no big deal.  If it wins – it profits off your property. Heads it wins – tails we lose.

And property seizure is big money for government.  Let’s look at just the federal Justice Department – and its Audit of the Assets Forfeiture Fund and Seized  Asset Deposit Fund Annual  Financial Statements Fiscal Year 2013.

Total assets, which present as of a specific time the amounts of future economic benefits owned or managed by the AFF/SADF, increased in FY 2013 to $6,388.0 million from $5,970.3 million in FY 2012, an increase of 7.0 percent. If seized assets, which are not yet owned by the government, are not included, the adjusted assets of the Fund increased to $4,952.7 million FY 2013 from $4,433.8 million in FY 2012, an increase of 11.7 percent.

 This is attributable to realizing a stable level of forfeited assets in FY 2013 from FY 2012, thus indicating a strong current and future potential stream of assets flowing into the AFF.

“$6,388.0 million” is $6.388 billion.  That’s a lot of coin.  And did you get that last sentence?  Seized property has become a budget line item.  Revenue on which the government is counting going forward – regardless of what actual future crimes will actually yield in future takings.  That’s a dangerous prescription – for more and more at-best-questionable seizures.

Like the one which Texas’ Jerry Shults is currently suffering.  Shults is a Vietnam veteran – and a very successful entrepreneur.  With interests in real estate management, rental hunting-fishing lodges, a Fort Worth theater – and ownership of thirteen Gas Pipe smoke shops.

In a complaint filed in federal court… prosecutors say employees of ShultsGas Pipe on Maple Avenue in Dallas began manufacturing substances known as K2 and Spice in a room there by early 2014….

K2 and Spice were legal.  Gas Pipe sold them as “herbal incense.”  But in 2012, President Barack Obama signed a law designating them synthetic cannabis – and outlawing them.  Shults’ store was allegedly breaking this new federal law.

Want real weed?  Which has been breaking federal law for decades?  Head to Colorado.  Or Washington state.  Or Washington, D.C.  Or….  These states (and the District) recently legalized it – and the Feds aren’t bothering them.

Shults opened his first Gas Pipe in 1970.  Gas Pipe has for for forty-four years sold LOTS of stuff – most of which has absolutely nothing to do with any of this.  Shults has spent the last half century earning and accruing assets and capital – much of it with other businesses that have nothing to do with Gas Pipe.

So how is this cavalcade of property seizures even remotely justified?  Shults is out around $16 million – including about $3 million in pension funds for Gas Pipe employees, millions more in decades-old corporate investments, personal savings and retirement accounts and personal automobiles.

The Feds even took four commercial aircraft and a fishing boat Shults has for his rental hunting-fishing lodges – in Alaska.  Taking the fruit-from-an-allegedly-poison-tree argument to absurd geographical lengths. And the Feds have placed liens on all eleven Texas Gas Pipes (the two in New Mexico were spared).

Taking a half century’s worth of stuff – because one part of a broad portfolio was allegedly doing something the government just two years ago deemed illegal – is overkill on stilts.  Even taller stilts – this massive government grab took place in June, and as of this writing the government hasn’t yet actually charged Shults with anything.  They just still have all his stuff.

Look, I’m a retired musician – but I’ve never done any drugs.  I actually don’t think pot should be legalized (decriminalized, perhaps).

This isn’t about my thoughts on fake weed.  Or real weed.  Or incense.  This is about the egregious property seizure overreaches we’ve seen – with Shults, and for decades prior.

In defense of free speech – ensconced in our First Amendment – Voltaire said:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

I may not be overly fond of some items Mr. Shults sells (I really don’t like incense) – but I will certainly stand up against the incredible government abuses he is currently having to endure.

We all should.

Categories: On the Blog

Welcome to the O-Zone—Where Economic Development is a Zero-sum Game

December 09, 2014, 1:33 PM

Late on Thanksgiving eve, when no one was paying attention, the Obama administration released its regulatory roadmap of thousands of regulations being finalized in 2015. Within the bundle of more than 3000 regulations lies a rule on ozone that President Obama himself, in 2011, “put on ice” in effort to reduce “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.” Regarding the 2011 decision that shocked environmental groups, the New York Times (NYT) recently stated: “At the time, Mr. Obama said the regulation would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.”

So why is the rule back? First, Obama isn’t facing an election—which, while the White House denied it, most believe to be the reason for the 2011 about-face. More importantly, however, is that, following the 2011 decision that struck down the proposed ozone rule, environmental groups sued the Obama administration. The resulting court order required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release the proposed rule by December 1, with finalization by October 2015.

Once again, environmental groups—who, on September 21, came out of the closet and revealed that their true intention is system change (“capitalism is the disease, socialism is the cure”)—are in charge of America’s energy, and, therefore, economic policy. They have systematically chipped away America’s sources of economic strength: cost-effective energy. And we’ve let them.

What they are doing is reminiscent of this classic poem

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

First, they came after coal at a time when natural gas was cheap and touted as the “bridge fuel” to the future. No one much spoke out. Some in the natural gas business even encouraged the war on coal, as it benefitted them. When I first heard that then-Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McLendon gave the Sierra Club $25 million to fight coal (it is reported that the Sierra Club turned down an additional $30 million), I remember yelling at the TV. “You fool!” I shouted. “You will be next!”

Within months, the Sierra Club launched its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign that claims: “Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy and harms human health and the environment in places where production occurs.” A headline on the Beyond Natural Gas webpage states that natural gas is: “Dirty, dangerous, and run amok.” Shortly thereafter, McLendon “agreed to retire.”

The oil industry didn’t make much noise about the Sierra Club campaign—after all natural gas prices were low and oil, high. While environmental groups generally oppose all fossil fuels, the oil industry has been hurt the least. Jobs in the oil sector of the energy industry have been the lone bright spot in the economy and increased U.S. production has cut our reliance on Middle Eastern crude to the lowest levels in three decades. Even as recently as November 5, President Obama bragged about decreased dependence on imported oil.

Now, they are coming for oil-and-gas development and manufacturing through the just-announced 626-page ozone regulation that will require states to dramatically reduce ozone emissions from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65 to 70ppb—though environmental groups want a 60ppb standard, which may be the final rule. While a 5-15ppb reduction doesn’t sound like much, it is important to realize that many areas of the U.S. are already out of compliance—including most of California—with the 75ppb level. The new regulations will mean that, depending on the final rule, 76-96 percent of the country—including some national parks where the natural background levels are 65-67ppb—will be out of compliance.

Despite the negative economic impact of the expensive rule—with figures ranging from $19 billion to $270 billion—environmental groups believe Obama will follow through this time because, as National Journal states: “the rule fits with the rest of Obama’s climate change agenda and they’d expect it to move forward even on the tighter end.” The Sierra Club’s Washington representative on smog pollution, Terry McGuire, believes: “The administration is emboldened to do that.”

While environmental groups and the Obama administration maybe feel, “emboldened,” more regulation—especially that which “would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments”—is not what the American people want or need.

“The president said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.”

It is time for capitalist, free-marketers to speak out.

It is time for trade unionists to speak out.

It is time for families, workers, and businesses to speak out.

It is time for the all of the energy producers—coal, natural gas, and oil—to speak out with one voice.

Because, if we don’t, there will be no one left to speak for us.

Categories: On the Blog