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Chicago’s celebration of School Choice Week: Making the case for School Choice in Illinois

February 03, 2014, 4:24 PM

Last week was National School Choice Week.  Negative vibes and views about school choice whether achieved through vouchers, charter schools, Educational Savings Accounts, or by other means are quite common. Three years ago a study by Greg Forster, PhD used available empirical studies to show that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools in A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.

It’s easy to understand how participants would benefit by giving them more options, but schools likewise benefit as vouchers introduce healthy incentives for public schools to improve.  Forster’s 2011 report indicates how 11 out of the 12 gold-standard studies on school choice found that choice improves student outcomes; the other study found neither a negative nor positive impact (Friedman Foundation for Educational Excellence, April 2013).

Chicago’s celebration of School Choice Week was commemorated at a joint venture held by The Heartland Institute and the Illinois Policy Institute at an evening event on Thursday, January 30, at the headquarters of The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive #2740. Joe Bast is President and CEO of The Heartland Institute.  John Tillman heads the Illinois Policy Institute as its CEO.  Moderator was Bruno Behrend, Senior fellow for education policy, The Heartland Institute.  Members of the panel were Joseph Bast, Heartland’s president; Tom Morrison, Illinois State Representative (R-54); and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute.  All were credited as having expertise in education policy.

The discussion centered on how to improve our schools and give children a chance at a better future.  There was ample time provided for attendees to direct questions to the three panelists.  Free school choice educational materials was on hand to help spread the reform message, as was the book “What American Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries,” which presents a wealth of information and insights into how parents in many other countries have more freedom of choice in education than Americans do and without the financial penalty.

In his opening statement moderator Burno Behrend spoke of the need to transform instead of reform, questioning why school districts and administrators even have to exist.  The panelists were given a series of questions by Behrend for general response.  At other times a specific question was directed to only one of the panelists for his consideration.

The following article is worthy of consideration prior to the responses of the three panelists when quizzed by Burno Behrend about the use of technology to advance education.

Frederick Hess and Bror Saxberg in their joint article published in the SPRING 2014/ VOL. 14. NO 2 of Education Next, “Schooling Rebooted: Turning educators into learning engineers”, advances the understanding of technology as a tool rather than some kind of secret sauce. . . The most important thing is the vision of what you’re going to do.  Once you’ve got vision, there are various kinds of support that are needed in terms of curriculum and infrastructure.  Trying to backfill technology into existing systems can be difficult. 

 

All three panelists spoke favorably about the use of technology in education.  Ted Dabrowski is convinced that technology will break down the status quo in education, allowing for more innovation.  Tom Morrison spoke of the use of tablets enabling students to work at their own pace with a teacher available to check that students are doing their assignment, while Joe Bast believes that a technology revolution is already taking place outside of the school in virtual learning.

Selected statements made by Ted Dabrowski, Tom Morrison, and Joe Bast on a variety of subjects:

Ted Dabrowski -

  • Children who are forced to remain in failing schools must be turned into heroes and not the victims they are perceived to be by those resisting vouchers or school choice.
  • Four of 100 kids in Illinois’ worst schools won’t be college ready, meaning 96% aren’t going to make it.
  • Make the case for vouchers by 1) doing a better job of promoting the money case, 2) having an action plan when the anti-choice side fights back with massive amounts of money, and 3) thinking more of being in a constant campaign mode as is the practice of unions.
  • The pro school choice side is lousy at building coalitions.  We miss opportunities by not partnering with parents who have children in the worst schools or who do want a choice.  There are those even in suburban schools who would prefer to send their children to a private school. [Moderator Behrend raised the issue of how to overcome the stigma of poor kids attending mostly white suburban schools.]

Tom Morrison -                                                         

  • Taxpayers are no longer willing to keep paying higher tax rates even if guaranteed a better educational outcome, in a realization that throwing more money at education is not the answer.
  • The term “voucher” has gotten to be a bad word and doesn’t sell well with so-called soccer moms.  Might be better to call them “opportunity scholarships” instead, where the money follows the child.
  • In crafting a bill for Educational Savings Accounts, a family would receive the money and could choose how to spend it.  Shopping around is possible as there is no need to spend the money all at one place.  Any bill would need to stipulate non-means testing and a further requirement for qualification at 1-1/2 times the poverty level. Without these factors the legislation would be difficult to sell to legislators.
  • Raised the question of whether it’s fair to force kids in Chicago to attend faulty schools?

Joe Bast -

  • People in the front lines are the last ones to realize how much progress has taken place in school choice:  1.6 million children are attending charter schools. 250,000 are attending private school through vouchers.
  • The other side has lots of money.  We are outspent 100 to 1.  We must win the political argument and the rest will fall into place.
  • In answer to Ted Dabrowski who suggested that every child might be given the opportunity of school choice, Bast cited the lack of money and of political support for Ted’s universal proposal.
  • Teacher burn out does happen.  Burned out teachers who remain in the teaching profession, lured to stay by generous pension, do just as well as do younger and more enthusiastic teachers.  How so?  The really talented teacher leave the teaching profession to work in other fields, leaving in its wake the burned out teachers.
  • Believes the next governor will sign on to vouchers or choice legislation.  Illinois is way out of line with other states.

Question and Answer Highlights -

  • Jeff Berkowitz of Chicago Now spoke about the importance of keeping the message simple.  As related by Berkowitz, there are 15,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools.  Unless we get 30 senators to vote for voucher legislation it won’t happen.  At the end of the day it will be a pitchfork political battle with the fierce educational lobby.  Whether school vouchers or pension reform, it’s all about money which is the driving force.  When you can’t get the money, what do you do?  Said Berkowitz:  If the right message (public policy) is presented to get the people to move, the money will be found.  Legislators must then be convinced to vote the right way.  A better job of messaging is needed.
  • Education doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution because the Founders didn’t want the government to manipulate schools.
  • Common Core with its standards for each grade level might sound good to many.  This presents the opportunity to show how ineffective Common Core actually is with government centralization.  Common Core was referred to as “Obamacore.”
  • Schools are to serve the children; children are their customers.
  • The best schools in Chicago are charter schools.  Even when located in areas with the same demographics, children fare better than in a traditional school setting.
  • There is 60% support for school vouchers.  The pubic gets it.  It’s all about politics!
  • All total there are 6.3 million individuals in public school education.  Half of the system (3.2 million) is made up of pricy and often unnecessary administrators.

Moderator Behend’s closing thoughts:

The envelope must be pushed. Common Core was depicted as the “last gasp of centralized, top-down education.”  And why doesn’t centralization work?  Because one size fits all just doesn’t work.

Two dates to consider saving:

1.  Tuesday, February 11 – Tevi Troy will present a lecture on his book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted:  200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.  To register call 312/377-4000 or visit heartland.org.

2.  Friday, September 12 – Michelle Malkin has been engaged to be the Keynote Speaker at The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.  Visit:  benefit. Heartland.org or contact Gwendalyn Carver at gcarver@heartland.org or call 312/377-4000.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s State Of The Union Formula For Economic Stagnation

February 02, 2014, 6:06 AM

In a piece last month, I explained that President Obama’s presidency has been a complete failure by his own standards. He tells us that he is fighting for the middle class. But real middle class incomes have been declining steadily throughout his entire time in office, more since the recession than during the recession.

He tells us that countering increasing income inequality is the defining issue of our time. But income inequality has been accelerating throughout his entire presidency, with the real incomes of the top 20% rising, and the real incomes of everyone else, the bottom 80% — the middle class, the working class, and the poor – declining.

As a result, poverty has been soaring while he has been president, faster probably than even under Jimmy Carter, despite exploding welfare dependency. We need so-called liberals and so-called “progressives” for this?

President Obama has been promising us economic recovery, restored economic growth, and jobs, since before he was elected. He and his Democrats spent nearly a trillion dollars on so-called “stimulus” to deliver on those promises. But all that was stimulated was government spending, deficits and debt, with the worst recovery from a recession than under any other president since the Great Depression, and even before. Six years after the recession started, we still have not recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, while in all previous post Depression recessions all the jobs lost were recovered within 2 years on average. Obama’s strongest supporters, blacks, Hispanics, and the young, have been hurt the most, with the highest and longest unemployment

President Obama told us that Obamacare would provide universal health insurance for all. But after Obamacare was passed, CBO told us that 10 years after it was implemented, 30 million Americans would still be uninsured. Much worse, the only results so far have been to increase the number of uninsured, as more Americans have lost their health insurance than gained it under Obamacare.

The president told us that if you liked your health insurance, you could keep it. But it turned out that if he liked your health insurance, you could keep it, as millions of Americans found their health insurance cancelled by the new law, with probably tens of millions more to be cancelled once the delayed employer mandate becomes effective. He told us that if you liked your doctor, you could keep him, or her. But with your insurance probably goes your doctor, even for a deathly ill cancer patient being treated by the best in the world, keeping her alive beyond her life expectancy, as she explained in the Wall Street Journal.

President Obama told us that Obamacare would reduce health insurance costs by $2,500 per family. But health insurance costs have doubled or even tripled for millions of Americans under Obamacare.

So now let us judge President Obama’s State of the Union by his own standards as well. He told us near the start of his speech, “what I offer tonight is a set of concrete proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

His first concrete proposal was corporate tax reform. He said:

Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.

Corporate tax reform that closed crony capitalist loopholes in return for lowering the rates would lead to booming economic growth, jobs, rising wages and economic recovery. But that is not what Obama and his Democrats are supporting. They want corporate tax reform that would impose a net tax increase from the current corporate tax code with the highest marginal tax rates in the developed world. That tax increase would then be used to finance increased government spending, which is what President Obama thinks is the real root cause of economic growth and prosperity, a concept reflecting miseducation in my opinion. That is what Obama meant when he said in the State of the Union:

Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first class jobs gravitate to first class infrastructure.

But increasing taxes still more on corporate employers, drawing still more funds out of private business and industry, to increase government spending still more, is not going to produce jobs, rising wages, and economic recovery and growth. Those still higher taxes are just going to cause still more capital flight from the United States, which is going to mean still fewer jobs and still lower wages for middle class, working class, and poor working people.

Higher taxes to finance increased government spending at best adds nothing to the economy on net. Increasing government spending on “infrastructure” was the central strategy behind all that spending in the 2009 stimulus, which again stimulated nothing except government spending, deficits and debt. Moreover, Congress is already preparing to spend hundreds of billions more on such infrastructure in this year’s Transportation bill, and what Obama called the “Waterways” bill. What Obama is proposing is not a new, progressive idea, but outdated ideology from the New Deal almost a century ago.

Enough Congressional Democrats are ready to join with Republicans to pass pro-growth tax reform with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Reagan, or President Kennedy, both strong growth titans, would be able to get such bipartisan reform done. But not President Obama, which exactly contrary to the rhetoric he used to get elected, is such a hostile partisan, he has never been able to get anything done on a bipartisan basis.

But that was not the only tax increase Obama called for in his SOTU to finance still more spending. Obama added:

Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

But oil and natural gas producers taking deductions for the same costs of doing business that any other manufacturer takes is not “giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries.” What Obama cannot understand is that the federal government does not subsidize oil and gas companies. Oil and gas companies subsidize the federal government. Check out the federal taxes they pay, as compared to other businesses.

What the president is proposing here is increasing taxes still more on oil and gas companies producing low cost, reliable energy, to give crony capitalist handouts (more spending) to high cost, unreliable energy producers. That is not a concrete proposal to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. That is driving down the productive with higher taxes, to subsidize the unproductive, meaning less production, and more waste. Which translates into the economic stagnation of the Obama Democrat new normal.

The market chooses “fossil fuels” to power the world’s leading economy because the energy in “fossil fuels” is highly concentrated. So naturally by the laws of physics it costs less than solar power from sunlight, where the net usable energy is highly diffuse, and so naturally more expensive to collect and use.

President Obama’s next concrete proposal was to further increase regulatory burdens and barriers. He said:

But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.

The term “carbon pollution” further reflects miseducation, as the carbon dioxide targeted by the regulations is a natural substance in the environment essential to all life on the planet. The only documented effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so far is actually increased agricultural production, which greater atmospheric concentration of CO2 promotes. That increased production has been estimated by studies to be worth well over a trillion dollars.

But more directly pertinent, that increased regulation is not a concrete proposal to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, as Obama promised at the start of his speech. Increasing regulatory burdens and barriers to production of low cost, reliable energy is just going to increase the cost of energy, which is a dagger to the heart of the economy.

Still more increased regulation is Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage. If increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 is a good idea with no harmful effects, then why not increase it to $110.10? The drawbacks of the lower increase are just a difference of degree.

To the extent that wages are raised by legal decree, without a concomitant increase in productivity, fewer workers will be employed, as employers will use less of any factor whose costs are increasing. But when the legal minimum wage is increased, the least skilled and productive simply do not get employed at all, and so are effectively banned from the labor force, reducing economic supply to match the reduced demand at the higher price. Even worse than economic Darwinism, this is economic cannibalism.

One of the first things the new Democratic Congress entering office in 2007 did was increase the minimum wage. That played out with teenage unemployment ultimately soaring to over 25%. Even in December, teenage unemployment under Obama was still 20%. Black teenage unemployment ultimately well over 40% was still 35.5% in December. Hispanic teenage unemployment was still 22.3%.

Wages can be raised to the sky without limit as long as productivity increases at the same pace. And how is productivity raised? By capital investment, providing workers with more productive tools. But capital investment has to come from the rich, as by definition it is the rich who have the most capital. If federal income taxes are going to be so heavily skewed against the rich, however, with the top 1% of income earners earning 14.9% of before tax income, but paying 39% of personal income taxes, and 49.5% of corporate income taxes, as the CBO reported in December, the result is going to be the capital flight we have suffered.

That means the capital of the rich is creating jobs and raising wages in Brazil, or the Far East, or Eastern Europe. Overregulation further increasing business costs, and loose dollar monetary policies threatening the decline of the dollar, will only increase that capital flight further.

Another concrete proposal President Obama raised in the SOTU was “We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” Such expanded free trade would lead to booming economic growth, jobs, rising wages and economic recovery. But not if the trade legislation is burdened with poison pill requirements to increase environmental and labor regulatory costs on the economy.

Or with poison pill favors for Obama cronies, such as government authority to restrict access to the Internet by users merely accused of copyright infringements by copyright owners, with no right to judicial appeal, and even government authority to take down sites accused of repeated infringement. Hollywood has long been seeking such potentially abusive government power for the politically friendly Obama Administration. Last Fall, Wikileaks published a draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors for the public, but with access by Obama friendly corporate lobbyists. That draft agreement references precisely such potentially abusive government authority over the Internet.

That reflects growing Democrat partnership with Hollywood cronies. Congressional Democrats are supporting legislation that would impose so-called royalty taxes on radio stations for the free music they play on air, with half the funds going to the big record companies as an institutionalized corporate bailout. Those radio stations already pay the song authors or other copyright owners under long institutionalized arrangements. The record companies promote their songs to be played by the stations, like book or otherwise published authors seek interviews on free media, for which they are not paid. But the record companies, free to negotiate their own deals with radio stations, now want the government to force the stations to pay them.

But Obama and the Democrats don’t seem serious about these free trade deals. While Republicans embraced such pro-growth policy, if the deals are not vehicles for more costly regulation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly opposed any fast track trade authority. This was reminiscent of 2009-2010, when Obama posed publicly as a supporter of free trade, while hiding behind then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who killed any such deals, until Republicans took over the House in the 2010 elections.

So the pattern continues. President Obama paints pretty pictures with flowery pro-growth and populist rhetoric. But the results are consistently the opposite of his promises, whether due to duplicity or just incompetence.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Feds Spend Millions to Promote Common Core

February 02, 2014, 2:16 AM

The federal government is paying to promote controversial testing and curriculum mandates called Common Core, and so are a collection of big-name private foundations and states. They are employing a number of strategies, but topping the list is training pro-Common Core teachers to multiply their support and hiring professional communications teams.

The federal government has provided all the operating funds—$330 million total—for two groups that will roll out national tests in spring 2015. These are the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC). Together, the groups’ proposed budgets submitted to the federal government indicated they would spend almost $5.5 million in taxpayer dollars to convince taxpayers their money has been well spent and should continue once the federal funds dry up in September 2014. Later documents show PARCC and SBAC have upped that amount to at least $9.9 million.

Convincing the Public with Their Own Money
PARCC planned to spend $400,000 “for a retainer with a communications firm” to provide “public and targeted outreach materials tailored to Partnership state needs.” Such materials includes “toolkits” and “policy briefs.” It also budgeted $3,453,719 to “develop a leadership cadre of content experts.”

That cadre is now known in PARCC states across the country as the “PARCC Educator Leader Cadre” (PELC). Between 16 and 35 people are in each such group in the sixteen PARCC member states across the country. Here’s a list of Ohio’sOklahoma’s (before it withdrew from PARCC), Florida’s, and Illinois’. More than 1,000 teachers and education staff participate in the cadres, according to a PowerPoint from Lynn Brabender, a PARCC program associate.

SBAC budgeted $1.5 million “to work with an outside communications firm” to reach “key stakeholders and legislatures about the assessment system and for building support for the system from the public and those stakeholders.” A December 2013 request for proposals (RFP) from SBAC allows up to $5.2 million for a communications contract.

Spending on these projects doesn’t include other public relations activities, such as paying for testing representatives to deliver essentially marketing presentations to state officials. In fall 2013, for example, both PARCC and Smarter Balanced sent employees to the Indiana legislature in an attempt to convince them to keep Common Core and its national tests.

The testing organizations have increased their federally sponsored public relations push just as parents and teachers across the country have begun objecting to the national initiative and pressuring their state representatives to withdraw. It’s a crucial moment for the consortia, as their federal money runs out soon and must be replaced by state-collected tax dollars if they are to survive. The consortia have been using federal tax dollars to convince taxpayers and their elected representatives to continue ponying up. Meanwhile, Alaska, Kansas, and Utah have dropped out of SBAC and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania  have dropped out of PARCC.

How It Works
PARCC spends federal funds on two in-person meetings of PELC members per year, consortium documents say: “PARCC will cover travel and lodging costs for all participants. This includes airfare, meals, ground transportation and hotel room costs.” PARCC contracted with the National Math and Science Initiative to create and lead the cadres nationally. NMSI is a nonprofit that has also received donations from Common Core supporters, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, College Board, and Exxon-Mobil. NMSI has also received federal funds from the Department of Defense Education Activity, U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Naval Research.

PARCC actually gave NMSI more than it had budgeted for the cadre: The contract is worth $4.3 million in redirected federal funds.

Teachers, curriculum directors, and other administrators who participate in the cadres perform a variety of duties, including reviewing test items for PARCC, attending meetings and webinars, helping PARCC write curriculum, and training other teachers how to teach according to Common Core. Illinois PELC members have given workshops on Common Core and PARCC “in many venues,” and some sent a newsletter on those topics to all teachers in the state’s southern region, said Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for the Illinois board of education.

“They have also served as local liaisons for schools and districts for new standards and PARCC,” she said over email. A request for more information yielded this: “A liaison serves as a bridge, passing on the flow of information, resources, training opportunities around the standards and upcoming assessments. They may not always be the ones leading professional development but could be involved in the planning and support of PD sessions.”

School Reform News repeatedly contacted officials in five state departments of education for comment on PELCs. Some did not return calls, others promised to, but didn’t, and also ignored follow-up messages. SRN also contacted at least half a dozen cadre participants in several states. None would discuss the initiative.

For example: Char Shryock, a curriculum director and PELC member outside Cleveland, Ohio requested all SRN’s questions in writing, which were provided that afternoon and never answered, despite a follow-up phone call and email three weeks later. Most people contacted, however, simply didn’t respond.

PARCC’s spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment.

Getting to the Teachers
PELC members are also expected to promote Common Core to teachers and the public, say state and PARCC documents.

“The cadres are intended to be an integral part of each state’s strategy for engaging educators in the CCSS and PARCC,” state materials from Arizona’s education department.

Materials from Ohio’s education department describe PELC members as “Distributors/messengers/ambassadors” for Common Core and “strategists, editors, listeners, and messengers”: “Think of them as a focus group.”

“[C]adre members are in a great position to push out messages and materials and to ensure benefit from the widest possible circulation,” the document says. “At a minimum, they all have e-mail lists of colleagues and ideally are part of broader professional networks.”

PARCC recommended that states select cadre members “who have a broad professional network that can be leveraged to reach an ever expanding number of educators,” the Arizona document says.

Oklahoma has pulled out of PARCC, and state lawmakers are considering bills to repeal Common Core entirely. Meanwhile, the state department of education is still convening its former PARCC cadre, according to an employee there whose name is withheld because he was not cleared to speak on the topic.

“We’re still doing work with it here in Oklahoma,” he said. “We’re just doing it within our state, because we found it so beneficial.” Then he stopped talking and said he needed permission to speak with reporters and would call back if he got it. Two weeks later, he returned a follow-up call with a phone message, saying “I’m not really able to talk about the PARCC Educator Leader Cadres,” and directing questions to the department’s communications office. That office did not return repeated phone calls.

Leading from PARCC
State departments of education selected the PELC participants, but PARCC suggested how they should do so, its latest report to the federal government says: “The consortium provided recommendations indicating the qualifications states should look for in nominating individuals for Educator Leader Cadres, such as commitment to the work, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, team orientation, interest in pedagogical and curriculum development work, innovation and creativity, and facility with technology.”

That report says the cadres are a central component of PARCC’s communications strategy, which the consortium intends to expand in “scope and reach” in 2013-2014. The cadres “develop a group of educators who can serve as ambassadors for the consortium in their state. As… interest [in the Common Core tests] increases, the twice-annual convenings of the Cadre members and periodic webinars will be an important opportunity for these educators to become even more active in sharing information with their own communities.”

“A common characteristic among ELC members: They are passionate about the promise of the Common Core and PARCC and stand ready to help make the public case,” says a PARCC guide  to PELCs for policymakers.

The guide highlights the cadres in Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico, most of which have made dozens of presentations on Common Core to fellow teachers. It also says PELC members might be expected to advocate for Common Core to state lawmakers and local media, “Write op-ed columns for local newspapers and opinion blogs,” and “Present at informational briefings with community organizations and education-reform advocacy groups.”

What About SBAC?
It’s not just PARCC putting millions of federal dollars into public relations. In its latest report to the federal government, from May 2013, SBAC acknowledged “the consortium faced challenges” in communications.

“The Common Core State Standards, and the consortia building assessments aligned to those standards, have become objects of well-organized and effective political opposition,” SBAC’s December RFP says. It also expects “significant drops in proficiency rates” on the new tests and the difficulties of working with so many states on one project to be communications risks: “If not managed well, the public and political reaction to this change could endanger acceptance of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.”

It aims to remedy that with a full-court communications press as its tests roll out across the country this fall.

Its RFP seeks “a comprehensive Communication Plan to enable adoption and widespread acceptance of common college- and career-ready performance standards for the Smarter Balanced summative assessments across all member states.”

For $5.2 million, SBAC wants “compelling messages” aimed at education decision makers such as state superintendents, legislators, and state board of education members before key votes over SBAC’s cut scores, or the level kids are required to reach to pass the tests. It also wants materials aimed at “grasstop” people like the media and business leaders, and at “grassroots” people like parents and teachers. Other communications targets include governors, superintendents, teachers union leaders, college and university officials and faculty, and community leaders.

The organization that wins the contract must develop a communications plan that includes:

  • “background meetings with reporters, press releases and media advisories, press teleconferences, and on-the-record interviews”
  • “A rapid-response capacity to identify and respond to opposition when and where advantageous”
  • “Web and social-media strategies”
  • “Identification, training, and use of effective spokespeople”
  • “Turnkey resources for state use (presentations, sample web pages, op-eds, etc.)
  • And “Contingency planning for crisis communications.”

The many communications materials already available should be folded into SBAC’s messaging push, the RFP says. A plethora of private foundations and advocacy groups are continuing to prepare such materials, many of which focus, like PARCC, on raising the profile of supportive teachers.

“As educators, ELC members are credible voices in the reform conversation and can explain to key audiences—including teachers, parents, policymakers and the public—the rationale and value of new standards and assessments,” says PARCC’s policymaker guide. “Leveraging their leadership and expertise is critical to the success of the Common Core and PARCC.”

[First published at Human Events.]

Categories: On the Blog

A Trip Too Far: The Chris Turney Antarctic Expedition

February 02, 2014, 12:51 AM

Climate scientist Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales spent several years organizing an expedition to Antarctica to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition by Sir Douglas Mawson (1911-1913.) This expedition sailed into Commonwealth Bay directly below Australia and collected vast amounts of geographic and meteorological data. The courage and endurance of these Australians is an epic story that deserves reading by all interested in the history of the world’s true heroes. The name for the commemorative expedition is Australian Mawson Centenary Expedition of 2013-14.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interview November 25, 2013, claimed the expedition cost $1.5 million. The presenter for the interview, Emma Alberici, wrote, “A modern-day scientist adventurer is about to undertake one of the largest Australian science expeditions to the Antarctic. Professor Chris Turney from the University of New South Wales and an 85-person team will spend two months trying to answer questions about how climate change in the frozen continent might already be shifting weather patterns in Australia. The $1.5 million expedition is driven by a unique 100-year-old legacy, the largely forgotten scientific records taken by Australia’s heroic Antarctic explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.”

The interview said 86 individuals would go on the expedition; but this number had to be reduced to 54 due to the small Russian chartered Antarctic cruise ship, MV Akademik Shotkalskiy, having a capacity for only 54 passengers. Four passengers were members of the media — one from the BBC radio, two from The Guardian British news paper, and one from Radio New Zealand. The ship left New Zealand December 8, and traveled to within 60 kilometers of Commonwealth Bay due to the width of ice shelf off Antarctica at that time. The expedition carried vehicles that could travel over ice and visited the Mawson hut left over from the 1911 expedition. On December 24, wind-swept sea ice trapped the MV Akademik Shotkalskiy in a firm grip that required helicopter rescue of the 54 passengers ten days later.

Much world-wide media attention was given the ice-bound Russian ship and its 20 member crew and 54 passengers. Rescue attempts were made by the Chinese ice-breaker Xue Long to no avail. Attempts were made by the Australian ice-breaker Aurora Australis also to no avail. Rescue of the passengers was achieved on the tenth day by a helicopter from the Xue Long. The passengers were transferred to the Aurora Australis for transit back to Australia.

Chris Turney wrote an article during transit describing his trip “This was no Antarctic pleasure cruise,” published in Nature, vol. 505, January 2014, p. 133. As quoted in the article, Turney wrote:

The aim was to study various aspects of this vast, remote region to better understand its role in the Earth system, and communicate these results directly to the public. Yet most people only became aware of our work when we got stuck and had to be rescued.

Nowhere in Turney’s article was it mentioned global warming in the Antarctic was to be studied. No one seemed to pay attention to how Mawson sailed to shore at Commonwealth Bay in 1911, while sea ice prevented Turney from sailing closer than 60 kilometers of Commonwealth Bay shore in 2013. Is this a proof of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causing global warming?

An additional comment by Prof. Turney:

Never before has a science expedition reached out live to so many people from such a remote location. Public engagement was always a core theme.

Apparently Turney forgot moon landings were covered live on television decades earlier, The moon is quite a distance further from humans than Antarctica.

Australian writer Joanne Nova wrote a detailed description of the rescue attempts  of the ill-founded Australian Mawson Centenary Expedition to show global warming had changed the Antarctic climate. Due to the blow to the theory increased carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels the past 60 years has caused global warming, the reported story of the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy was changed from scientific expedition to tourist frolic. Of course, the media around the world failed to report the true story — which cost tax payers millions of dollars, mostly from Australia.

Jo Nova further reported the return of polar expedition members to Australia on January 21:

 The ABC PR machine covers for their embarrassment — lest anybody think that climate scientists might be clueless. In the ABC’s world an “Australian Research Team” with “60 scientists” left because “scientists believe there is evidence of climate change.” After they got stuck in ice they didn’t predict, and looked like partying fools on an ill-prepared junket, the magic wand of ABC-apologia stopped using the term “climate” and they underwent a magical transformation to become a “Russian Passenger Ship.”

Basically a ship full of climate scientists left NZ, got stuck and turned into a Russian cruise ship.

The Australian Mowsan Centenary Expedition may be compared to other events in history where adventurer’s goals went beyond their achievable distances. In September 1944, Field Marshal Bernhard Law Montgomery thought he could end World War II in Europe by a 65-mile dash over five bridges to the Dutch city Arnhem on the Rhine River and outflank German defenses. This would be followed by an advance on Berlin. The attack ended in failure due to advancing forces being unable to cross the fifth Rhine River bridge at Arnhem. The war was probably prolonged due to this failure because of the vast expenditures of men and material.

Historian Cornelius Ryan published the epic history of this battle in 1974 with the title “A Bridge Too Far.” This was followed by the movie with the same name. The title came from the unconfirmed report British Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning had told Field Marshal Montgomery before the attack, “I think we may be going a bridge too far.”

Possibly the failed Australian Mowsan Centenary Expedition can be called “A Trip Too Far.” Will there be writers and actors lined up to portray this 21st century epic warning the planet of the dangers of global warming?

Categories: On the Blog

Efforts to Cap CO2 Emissions Are Adverse to Human Health and Welfare

February 01, 2014, 8:26 AM

In his State of the Union address, President Obama advocated an energy policy aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which he claims are causing catastrophic changes to the earth’s climate and “harming western communities.”

In his policy prescription, the president advocates a combination of increased regulation of the energy and transportation industries and more government spending on research designed to bring low-carbon-emitting sources of energy, i.e., so-called renewables, to market. He considers those actions to be the only viable options “leading to a cleaner, safer planet.”

But the president’s concerns for the planet are based upon flawed and speculative science; and his policy prescription is a recipe for failure.

With respect to the science, Obama conveniently fails to disclose the fact 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 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 models’ credibility in predicting future climate, as well as the president’s assertion that debate on this topic is “settled.”

Numerous other problems with Obama’s model-based view of future climate have been filling up the pages of peer-reviewed science journals for many years now, as evidenced by the recent work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which published a 1,000-page report in September highlighting a large and well-substantiated alternative viewpoint that contends that rising atmospheric CO2emissions will have a much smaller, if not negligible, impact on future climate, while generating several biospheric benefits. (Read the report’s summary here, and the full report here.)

Concerning these benefits, atmospheric CO2 is the building block of plant life.  It is used by earth’s plants in the process of photosynthesis to construct their tissues and grow.  And as has been conclusively demonstrated in numerous scientific studies, the more CO2 we put into the air, the better plants grow.  Among other findings, they produce greater amounts of biomass, become more efficient at using water, and are better able to cope with environmental stresses such as pollution and high temperatures.

The implications of these benefits are enormous.  One recent study calculated that over the 50-year period ending in 2001, the direct monetary benefits conferred by the atmospheric CO2 enrichment of the Industrial Revolution on global crop production amounted to a staggering $3.2 trillion. And projecting this positive externality forward in time reveals it will likely bestow an additional $9.8 trillion in crop production benefits between now and 2050.

By ignoring these realities, Obama’s policy prescription is found to be erroneous.  The taxation or regulation of CO2 emissions is an unnecessary and detrimental policy option that should be shunned.  Why would any government advocate to increase regulations and raise energy prices based on flawed computer model projections of climate change that will never come to pass?  Why would any government advance policy that seeks to destroy jobs, rather than to promote them?  Why, in fact, would they actually “bite the hand that feeds them?”

We live in a time when half the global population experiences some sort of limitation in their access to energy, energy that is needed for the most basic of human needs, including the production of clean water, warmth, and light.  One-third of those thus impacted are children.  An even greater portion finds its ranks among the poor.

As a society, it is time to recognize and embrace the truth.  Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.  Its increasing concentration only minimally affects earth’s climate, while it offers tremendous benefits to the biosphere.  Efforts to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions will hurt far more than they will help.

[First published at The Hill.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is Your Child Being Dumbed Down Through an Experimental Educational Method?

January 31, 2014, 4:53 PM

Is your child really being dumbed down as Illinois continues with full implementation of nationalized Common Core standards?

There is a growing controversy throughout America.   Parents, teachers, state officials, and concerned citizens from most every state have become concerned about the new nationalized education system, known as Common Core. The professors who wrote the commentary “Common Core and Continued Prosperity” published in the O.C. Register (1-27), provided reasons for it being initiated and referred to specific expectations by its promoters, but then failed to adequately address opponents’ specific concerns

The above commentary provided Bonnie O’Neil and me with the impetus to delve into the nature of Common Core which both California and Illinois have endorsed wholeheartedly.  An Illinois Education Association (IEA) website explains Common Core Standards under the guise that the resources will provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn to ensure that all students achieve college and career readiness.

The public deserves to know why some states rejected it outright and why other states are now speaking out against it.  New York is an example.  Their schools incorporated Common Core and have since discovered a multitude of problems, including student test scores that plummeted 60%.  According to teachers and parents, even the best and brightest students are discouraged, losing confidence, and no longer enjoy school.  The New York State United Teachers Union recently announced they are rejecting Common Core and want to remove their State Education Chief, citing “a lack of confidence” in both.

Meanwhile Alaska, Kansas, and Utah have dropped out of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have dropped out of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  Both consortiums will be rolling out national tests based on Common Core in the spring of 2015.  Both have been using millions of federal tax dollars to promote the controversial testing and curriculum mandates of Common Core.

O’Neil and Thorner first became concerned about Common Core when they learned it was being initiated at a federal level, and fairly covertly at that. Who knew a small committee was working to change our entire education system?  Who knew about it being sold to the states?  Why did California, Illinois, and most other states agree to sign up for Common Core without any conclusive data proving its effectiveness?  There are still parents in O’Neill’s county of Orange in California, as in Thorner’s county of Lake in Illinois, who have no idea their child’s education program has radically changed.

Promises and Possibilities are not the same as proof and to have unleashed an unproven education system on most every school in America is simply irresponsible.  Shame on the State governors and legislators for agreeing to accept it sight unseen.   Was it revealed to state officials that a group of educators on the accreditation committee saw enough wrong with Common Core to refuse signing on to it?  Even more revealing is that two of those dissenters were so concerned, they became activists against Common Core, warning all who would listen about its innate problems.

While the Federal government did not force states to accept Common Core, they certainly sweetened the deal by offering federal funding and releasing states from their previous “No Child Left Behind” obligations.  Possibly the multi-billion dollar advertising campaign for Common Core helped as well.  If this new program was so good, why the need for “perks” and such an expensive advertising promotion?

It is important to emphasize how education is not the federal government’s role.  Our Constitution gives states that responsibility for good reasons.   The United States is large and varied, making a one-size-fits-all approach is difficult due to varying cultures and job opportunities that differ from state to state.  Accepting Common Core Standards means a state must adhere to 85% of it, without any changes or additions.   Most of us agree that local control is best and even essential, but Common Core limits what local school districts can now do.

O’Neil’s Orange County Board of Education, after much deliberating, signed a resolution outlining the concerns they have uncovered about Common Core.   Some of California’s legislators are also expressing a desire to revisit Common Core, due to their lack of information as to whether this education system is right for California.

In Illinois Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) introduced House Resolution 543 in August of 2013 to urge the Illinois State Board of Education to delay the implementation of the Common Core State Standards by filing a common core delay resolution until a fiscal study is done.  The resolution was co-sponsored by representatives Sanda Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn), Bill Mitchell (R-Decatur), Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), and David Leitch (R-Peoria).

What should concern parents here in Illinois is a report by Ben Velderman of students coping with Common Core stress by hiding out in bathrooms and nurse’s offices. Sources have told Velderman that “young students are finding Common Core math problems so confusing — and the amount of class time devoted to working on them so overwhelming — that they’re looking for ways to escape the classroom just to get a mental break. One elementary school teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said:

Educators are under so much pressure to prepare students for the upcoming Common core-aligned standardized tests in math and reading — known as the PARCC exam, debuting in 2015 — that they’re ramping up math and reading instruction and eliminating a number of other activities from the school day. 

Nobody has answered the question of what happens if this experimental, untested program proves to be a failure? Will a generation of school children be so negatively impacted, that they may never recover?  What is the back-up plan?  We don’t believe there is one!   It reminds us of the experimental Fuzzy Math and Whole language programs in schools in the late 70’s. They proved to be failures and disappeared, but not before damaging many students who suffered under them.

Authors of the Orange Register’s commentary, Professors Duncan and Murman, as referenced in paragraph one, stated how America’s education system has fallen behind other countries, and Common Core is the solution to regain our standing.   But if that is true, how can one explain our educational system produced a nation of people who have invented, created, and out-performed every other country in the World?   Maybe we should look for other reasons to explain the decline in student test scores?

Consider the fault may not lie in our education system, but instead in our declining culture.  Parent often rightly believe lower student test scores are linked to the difficulty of firing non-performing teachers and/or administrators, due to union contracts.  Instead of firing, which tenure makes almost impossible, inept teachers are often transferred to specific schools where parents are not as vocal about their ineffectiveness.  These parents are summarily convinced that the quality of a classroom teacher matters more than the system to help students succeed.

Educators blame lower test scores on the changing culture, and they offer examples which seem credible.   Test scores indicate 80 percent of white students taking the SAT completed the core curriculum, as did 73 percent of Asian students. However, only 69 percent of Latino and 65 percent of black students were able to do so.  Students with English as their second language will struggle no matter which teacher or education program they have.  Homes with little or no parental support hinder a child’s success.

Dan Proft, in an article posted at IllinoisOpportunity.org — The Death of Work and Education in Illinois — recently related this dismal story about education in Illinois:

66 is the percentage of Illinois 4th graders who do not read at 4th grade level, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.  61% of 4th graders cannot do 4th grade level math either, according to those same NAEP tests . . . K-12 education is not producing defensible results.  And remember, spending on K-12 education in Illinois has increased three-fold in the past two decades (in real terms). 

This experimental educational system will cost California taxpayers over $1.8 Billion dollars. The estimated cost for Illinois to adopt Common Core standards is $799 million.  With the federal grant money received to implement Common Core, Illinois’ share of the funding amounts to $733 million in a state already experiencing acute financial difficulty.  Why are we implementing a costly, unproven program, when we have not made a stronger effort to resolve the most obvious problems first?

Our children are too valuable and our country too vulnerable to be forced into accepting a national education program, based largely on hope and promises and with absolutely no guarantee of proven success!

As many states are finding out, Common Core standards will not succeed in promoting critical thinking, competency, or the marketable jobs skills so necessary in students to meet the challenges and succeed as adults in life.

Categories: On the Blog

Congratulations, Progressive Millennials: You’re The Cheapest Date In Town

January 31, 2014, 8:13 AM

In the two decades since the Washington Post described evangelical Christians as “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command,” we’ve seen sea changes take place within both political parties as certain parts of the base have been rewarded or denied the reins of power.

On the right, social conservatives have achieved significant victories on the abortion issue even as their stance on marriage has crumbled; fiscal conservatives found themselves embraced under Clinton, then ignored under Bush, then resurgent in reaction to Obama; and the rise of a populist and libertarian strain of new leaders and organizations has roiled the established order of things.

Even as the media has focused on these dramatic shifts, less attention has been paid to the incredible transition that has taken place on the left, where we’ve seen an equally dramatic change. Over the past two decades, the forces who favor technocratic corporatism have subjugated the ideological core of progressivism under a new strain of elitist authority-based transactional politics, built on false promises of systemic change and sustained by shallow appeals to hot button social issues.

Ever since the Nixon era, the Democratic Party has faced its own internal tug of war over fiscal matters, as the party has replaced white working-class voters in the South with upscale voters, especially in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, who are mainly drawn to the party’s social liberalism. This has placed political constituencies that desire more redistribution of wealth and view corporations and Wall Street with suspicion if not outright animus at odds with those who seek to protect their interests and use the levers of power to gain advantage – typically with the taxpayer paying the price for their cartel-like activity.

With the dominance of Bill Clinton’s post-1994 approach to triangulation and the pro-war, pro-surveillance push of the party after 9/11, the progressives have been shoved aside again and again – their positions ignored if not denigrated in matters foreign and domestic. This has continued and even expanded under Barack Obama, whose approach to fiscal and regulatory policy has led to an America where corporations thrive, wages stagnate, the surveillance state expands, Too Big To Fail lives on, and Wall Street grows fat and happy.

In this understanding of what’s taken place over the past twenty years, the Obama campaign of 2008 takes on a new and more tragic depiction. It reads as the death rattle of a political movement that traces its lineage to Robert La Follette, Samuel Gompers, and Ida Tarbell: a charismatic, appealing candidate who gives verbal endorsement to the frustrations of ill-treated progressives, promising a rejection of traditional political quid pro quo, the end of wars and privacy invasion and Gitmo and lobbyists in government, and a new aspirational and transparent communitarian approach to policies that achieve positive change… and then, once elected, reveals these to be words, just words.

Consider the health care issue alone as an example of where Obama’s progressive promise vanished once he got the White House. The inspired liberals who flocked to the Obama who rejected an individual mandate as the encroaching bailout it is – a requirement that makes it illegal not to buy a corporate product – now, with the dutiful nature of paid insurance representatives, defend the further bailout of insurance company “risk corridors” as companies fear the mandate will fall flat. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

The latest Battleground poll revealed the opposition to Obamacare for what it is: just 20% said the law took the right approach, while 49% said it went “too far”. What of the 23% who said it was “not far enough”? Who will that 23% look to for leadership in 2016, when Democratic candidates will promise to fix Obamacare’s failings and moderate it rather than pursue the single payer approach favored by the progressive base?

It won’t be someone building on Obama’s approach. Priorities USA, the biggest liberal super PAC, built to re-elect Obama and staffed by Obama and Clinton insiders, has already announced it’s backing Hillary to the hilt. Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, is co-chairing the group even as he remains chairman of Organizing for Action. For OFA, he’ll be sending out appeals based on hot-button issues to the small donors who gave Obama $26 million last year to push his agenda on gun control and the environment. For Priorities, Messina will be seeking big dollar checks – six and seven figures only, according to the New York Times – from people who want to get in early on a sure thing. Messina says the groups have the same priorities – but I wonder which constituency will get theirs noticed first?

The Elizabeth Warren strain of the Democratic Party may inspire plenty of articles, and support from true ideologues and union backers, but she is rejecting calls to challenge Hillary Clinton for the same reason others will as well: they recognize that the other side has won, that the Party’s views on drones and spying depend entirely on who’s issuing the orders, and that you can’t beat the firm grip of the corporatists on the money, power, and media that drives politics. And as a practical matter, the road to electoral success is only harder today for progressives – after winning his insurgent campaign, Obama and his allies changed the Democratic primary rules and process to make it harder for similar insurgents to pull off such upsets in the future. Bill de Blasio may inspire the left – but the Andrew Cuomos of the world are the ones who prevail.

A decade ago, Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas argued that it was heartland social conservatives who were being bilked by party elites to support policies against their own self-interest. For the progressives, the uncomfortable truth is that they’ve been the ones strung along by leader after leader within a party that pays lip service to their views on social issues – matters such as gay marriage, which are decided by the courts anyway – while largely ignoring their views on virtually every other area of policy.

Today, it’s clear progressives have turned out to be as easy to command as their caricatures of backwards evangelicals. Today, one out of three of Millennials aged 18-31, the young progressives who gave Obama’s campaign its inspirational heart and voted for him overwhelmingly, are living at home with their parents. They put their heart and soul into campaign after campaign, believing they could change the country and the planet. And after all their effort, what do they have to show for it? “Free” birth control that you have to pay for in higher premiums to big insurance? Talk about a cheap date.

Congratulations, progressive Millennials: you’re more like Jerry Falwell than you ever imagined.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Then They Came After Our Swimming Pools

January 31, 2014, 12:53 AM

Using the non-existent claim carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes catastrophic global warming, the environmental movement claims the right to control all activities in our lives. A new attempt following these remarks is a proposed ban on fossil-fueled swimming pool heaters. Georgia is one of the states targeted for the pool heater ban.

In Atlanta, Georgia, I have a natural gas-fueled pool heater for a 12,000-gallon pool that is kept at 88 degrees. The pool is used from April 15 until the end of October for one-hour daily exercises to relieves the aches and pains of old age. Taking the heated pool away will drastically reduce my quality of life.

As an engineer I considered solar swimming pool heaters and saw them impractical to achieve pool temperatures desired. A pool is a 100 percent efficient pool heater when the sun shines on its surface. I live in a heavily wooded section of Atlanta and the sun shines on the pool a couple hours per day. The same applies for solar swimming pool heaters. Would environmentalists want trees cut down to allow solar pool heaters?

If we go back in time four score years, public apathy allowed the Third Reich arise from a minor political party to governing Germany by 1933. At the end of the war, anti-Nazi survivor Pastor Martin Niemoller was asked how those past events could happen. He is reported to have responded with a verse that describe the rewards of complacency.

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

In our present times, Pastor Niemoller might have said the following about energy regulation rules:

First they closed the coal mines, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a miner.
Then they stopped oil and gas drilling, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t work in oil fields.
Then they shut down nuclear power plants, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t work in nuclear power.
Then they shut off all my lights and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Apparently these remarks can be amended to include: “Then they came after our heated swimming pools.” Allowing this type of tyranny to persist due to apathy will only lead to personal loss of all controls of energy sources.

Categories: On the Blog

The Case Against Early Voting

January 29, 2014, 1:05 PM

To the delight of anyone who’s ever waited in line to cast a vote, a bipartisan election commission convened by President Obama concluded last week that states across the country should increase their use of early voting.

As the Presidential Commission on Election Administration notes in its new report, “no excuse” early voting — meaning it is open even to those who don’t qualify for an absentee ballot — has grown rapidly in recent decades in what the commission called a “quiet revolution.” In the 2012 election, almost one-third of ballots were cast early — more than double those cast in 2000 — and 32 states now permit the practice, allowing citizens to vote an average of 19 days before Election Day.

The commission rightly notes that early voting has its advantages for individual voters — not just avoiding long lines, but in many cases also getting to vote on weekends without having to miss work or school. But early voting run amok is bad for democracy. The costs to collective self-governance — which the report refers to only in passing, in a single sentence — substantially outweigh the benefits. Instead of expanding the practice, we should use this moment as an opportunity to establish clear limits on it before it becomes the norm.

Why? For all its conveniences, early voting threatens the basic nature of citizen choice in democratic, republican government. In elections, candidates make competing appeals to the people and provide them with the information necessary to be able to make a choice. Citizens also engage with one another, debating and deliberating about the best options for the country. Especially in an age of so many nonpolitical distractions, it is important to preserve the space of a general election campaign — from the early kickoff rallies to the last debates in October — to allow voters to think through, together, the serious issues that face the nation.

The integrity of that space is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts. They may cast their ballots without the knowledge that comes from later candidate debates (think of the all-important Kennedy-Nixon debates, which ran from late September 1960 until late October); without further media scrutiny of candidates; or without seeing how they respond to unexpected national or international news events — the proverbial “October surprise.”

The 2008 election, for example, could have ended differently had many voters cast their ballots before the massive economic crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers that September. Similarly, candidates often seek to delay the release of embarrassing information, or the implementation of difficult policies, until after votes have been cast. A wave of votes starting months before the election date makes this easier.

Early voting not only limits the set of information available to voters; to the extent that it decreases the importance of debates, it might also systematically help incumbents and quasi-incumbents like vice presidents, who generally have the advantage of having been in the public eye longer.

More fundamentally, early voting changes what it means to vote. It is well known that voters can change their minds — polls always go up and down during a campaign season. A single Election Day creates a focal point that gives solemnity and relevance to the state of popular opinion at a particular moment in time; on a single day, we all have to come down on one side or the other. But if the word “election” comes to mean casting votes over a period of months, it will elide the difference between elections and polls. People will be able to vote when the mood strikes them — after seeing an inflammatory ad, for example. Voting then becomes an incoherent summing of how various individuals feel at a series of moments, not how the nation feels at a particular moment. This weakens civic cohesiveness, and it threatens to substitute raw preferences and momentary opinion for rational deliberation. Of course, those eager to cast early will be the most ideological — but these are precisely the voters who would benefit most from taking in the full back and forth of the campaign.

Moreover, there are other ways of achieving some of the benefits of early voting, such as old-fashioned absentee ballots or setting up more polling places. Even a limited few-days-early voting period could convey most of the advantages of the practice while limiting the most severe democratic costs.

Early voting is a matter of degree: Even Election “Day” lets people cast ballots at different times. But at the moment, there is no upper bound at all on the growing practice, and the president’s commission made no mention of such an option. With the group’s report opening a new round of discussion over voting policy, now is the time to consider whether the “quiet revolution” of early voting has gone too far.

[First posted at Politico; John McGinni is the co-author of this post.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts React to Obama’s State of the Union Address

January 28, 2014, 11:13 PM

Below you can read the reaction of staff, fellows, and policy advisors at The Heartland Institute to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. The comments may be used for attribution.

To book a Heartland expert on your program or for your story, please contact Heartland Institute Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org or text or call his cell at 312-731-9364. For more information about The Heartland Institute, a 30-year-old free-market think tank, visit its website.

“The president displayed a remarkable lack of gravitas in his State of the Union address. For a while, he was crouched over the lectern leaning on his elbows, like a college professor leading a discussion rather than the Leader of the Free World addressing the nation.

“There was so much else wrong with this speech. Taking credit for things he’s done so much to prevent (like rising oil production), the repetitive call-outs to sad sacks in the gallery in order to cite anecdotes instead of making credible arguments, the incredibly insulting and condescending notion that Congress should ‘give America a raise’ by raising the minimum wage. Do we all work for government? Would we not make more than $10 an hour unless government told our employers to pay us at least this much? That line – ‘give America a raise’ – should appear in dictionaries as part of the definition of ‘pandering.’

“His line about Obamacare – ‘come on guys, voting to repeal it 40 times is enough’ – trivialized an effort by a co-equal branch of government to keep promises its members made to voters back home, to repeal and replace legislation that was passed under false pretenses. He mocked his critics when he should have been apologizing for telling lies to the American people in order to get that legislation passed. The right thing to have said is: ‘I apologize for misleading members of Congress and the American people to get a piece of flawed legislation enacted. Let’s work together to repeal and replace it with something that can work.’”

Joseph Bast
President
The Heartland Institute
jbast@heartland.org

 

“The president continues to place his faith in government programs as a means to promote growth and prosperity. Economic history shows government efforts to direct and control the economy tend to detract from growth and impoverish people. America’s historical success is due to an alternative – faith in the freedom of individuals and markets.

“By replacing individual freedom with government control and direction, the president’s policies have produced the weakest recovery in over a century. Had our forefathers placed their faith in government instead of individuals, the U.S. today would be a third world nation. By moving to replace our precious individual freedoms with progressively more government control over the economy and markets, the president opts for policies that will continue to erode the living standards of most Americans.”

Robert Genetski
Policy Advisor, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
rgenetski@classicalprinciples.com

 

“The president says that the economy is improving substantially. Sadly, the average worker does not believe that. As President Barack Obama enters his sixth year in the White House, 68 percent of Americans say the country is either stagnant or worse off since he took office, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

“There is good reason for the pessimism. In 2007, 66 percent of Americans over age 16 either had a job or were looking for one. Today, that is down to 62.8 percent, the lowest labor-force participation rate since 1978.”

Ronald D. Rotunda
The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence
Chapman University
rrotunda@chapman.edu

 

“In his meandering mess of a speech, President Obama managed to completely gloss over the relevant facts regarding the failures of his signature health care law. Rather than admit the problems and apologize for them, the president chose to ignore the millions of Americans who’ve learned that even if they like their plan they can’t keep it, or even if they like their doctor they can’t keep him. Instead, he based his metric of success on the number of Americans signed up for Medicaid, an already overburdened and failing entitlement system which offers the false promise of care to millions of Americans.

“President Obama has made health care unaffordable for millions of citizens while needlessly disrupting our economy. At most, his health care exchanges are signing up 15 percent of the uninsured Americans they were supposed to enroll. And why? Because the American people are finding that the promises he made about bringing down the price of health insurance for individuals and families were complete and utter lies. If all the promises he’d made about Obamacare had come true, the president’s speech would’ve been a victory lap. Instead, it’s a grim insistence that his broken policy will endure, despite how much it has hurt Americans across the country.”

Benjamin Domenech
Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
The Heartland Institute
bdomenech@heartland.org

 

“President Obama dares to say ‘research shows government preschool is a great investment’ just a few months after yet another highest-quality study shows it’s fool’s gold. The president apparently prefers only the poor-quality research that supports his agenda of saddling kids with debt while failing to equip them to pay it off.

“The president is quite bold to claim his micromanaging, dictatorial education policies are already improving student achievement when the statistics show his penchant for making laws without Congress has slowed poor and minority kids’ achievement growth. The Common Core education standards and tests his administration has illegally pushed on schools still have no positive track record despite millions spent, and millions more to come.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News
jpullmann@heartland.org

 

“Claiming credit for Common Core by name is problematic for President Obama because many parents and teachers (including even the largest teachers’ union in New York State) are rebelling against this nationalized, cookie-cutter model of education. However, by boasting of his administration’s Race to the Top bribes to bring states on board – plus its funding of the linked national assessments and curricular materials – Obama implicitly took full ownership of Common Core last night. To call it ObamaCore is no exaggeration. Indeed, its implementation is proving to be every bit as productive for education as ObamaCare is for health care.”

Robert G. Holland
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute
rholland@heartland.org

 

“I sat down at my television set with a yellow legal pad and a mechanical pencil to take notes and jot down comments I’d like to make. My legal pad is blank. I fell asleep and might still be asleep if my daughter hadn’t nudged me awake. I’m not sure how long I was asleep, so maybe I missed something important but I doubt it. I didn’t hear anything inspiring, uplifting or amusing, aside from his quip about how mothers might appreciate a phone call from their kids to help them sign up for Obamacare.

“It seems to me if there was a theme that ran through his talk, it’s that executive orders will drop from his pen like leaves from trees on a breezy day in late fall. Congress should grow a spine and remind the president that its job is to make the laws, and the president’s job is to see that the laws are faithfully executed. That’s why Congress is called the legislative branch of government and the presidency is called the executive branch.”

Steve Stanek
Research Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor
Budget & Tax News
sstanek@heartland.org

 

“As a society, it is high time for us to recognize and embrace the truth. Contrary to President Obama’s misguided assertion, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Its increasing concentration only minimally affects earth’s climate, while it offers tremendous benefits to the biosphere. Efforts to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions are simply ludicrous. They will hurt far more than they will help.”

Craig D. Idso
Senior Fellow, Environment
The Heartland Institute
Co-editor, Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change
cidso@co2science.org

 

“The president said ‘climate change is a fact’ and vowed action via the Environmental Protection Agency in his State of Union Speech, but he did not ask for any new legislation such as the cap-and-trade bill he touted a year ago. As a scientist who knows without a doubt there is no significant man-made global warming, perhaps I should be pleased the president took a softer stance on the issue, But I am far from happy about the state of affairs on the issue.

“It has become purely a rock-solid, lock-step political position of the Democrat Party to believe in global warming, and of the Republican Party to disbelieve. I see no hint that the leadership in either party is truly interested in opening their minds to a scientific debate — to study the evidence and reach a reasoned non-politically motivated position and take actions accordingly.

“Science and politics do not match well. Science is not settled by a vote, and slogans and platform planks are not scientifically significant. It is my deepest regret this has become a political issue. I think we will make little progress in obtaining an open hearing from the public as long as the political leaders line up their followers on one side or the other.”

John Coleman
Meteorologist, KUSI-TV San Diego
Policy Advisor, Environment
The Heartland Institute
coleman@kusi.com

 

“President Obama seems to have toned down his climate rhetoric this year given the obvious reality of no rising global temperatures for 17-plus years and the current cold snap gripping the nation. Saying the phrase ‘climate change is a fact’ is meaningless.

“When our children look us in the eye, we want to tell them that our generation rejected the belief that regulating emissions alters our climate and weather. We want to tell our kids that we rejected the belief that acts of Congress or the U.N. or the EPA could alter storms or global climate. We want to say ‘Yes we did’ to our kids when they ask us if we stopped bureaucrats at the EPA and in our government from attempting to restrict our energy choices based on the belief politicians can change the weather.”

Marc Morano
Publisher
Climate Depot
morano@climatedepot.com

 

“Mr. Obama is fortunate to be president during America’s energy revolution. Extraction of oil and natural gas from dense shale is occurring with no help from the administration. It is occurring on private or state-controlled lands and driven by private initiatives. According to 2012 statistics compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the production of oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and coal from federal lands and waters all fell. The difference between what is occurring on non-federal lands and federal lands demonstrates the economically punitive policies of this administration.

“The president correctly stated that climate change is a fact. It has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years and there is little governments can do to stop it. The great fear of global warming was artificially contrived. For a president to declare that he will expand executive powers, without Congressional approval, to fight this non-threat is a drastic step towards authoritarian government. Already, the administration has contrived an artificial concept called the social cost of carbon. All life on the planet is carbon based. Is life a pollutant? Does life have a social cost? The concept is an insult to logic, language, and science.

“The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has produced reports reviewing appropriate scientific papers and concluded carbon dioxide emissions are not a major cause of global warming or climate change. Also, the reports cited thousands of studies in laboratories and in the field that demonstrate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide promotes growth of virtually all forms of green plants and is a tremendous boon to agriculture and the environment. Three decades of satellite observations confirm these findings.”

Kenneth Haapala
Executive Vice President
Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Ken@Haapala.com

 

“Last night’s State of the Union Address reminds me of the idiom ‘on one hand, on the other hand.’ On one hand, President Obama extolled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to ‘help America wean itself off foreign oil.’ He touted the new reality of ‘more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly 20 years.’ On the other hand, he promised to use his ‘authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations’ – which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.

“He took credit for his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which he claims has ‘moved America closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.’ And, regarding natural gas, Obama said he’ll ‘cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work.’ He also proclaimed: ‘I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.’ Yet, the Department of Energy has dozens of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities languishing on some bureaucrat’s desk. One of the few approved terminals – Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal Project in Cameron Parish, Louisiana – created more than 2,000 jobs in 2013 and looks to create another 2,000 jobs in 2014. Let’s get those permits issued.

“On one hand, the president says he wants to help. On the other hand, everything he does hinders.”

Marita Noon
Executive Director
Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy
marita@responsiblenergy.org

 

“In his State of the Union Address, President Obama asked whether we will leave our children’s children with a safer, more stable world with respect to the ‘settled’ issue of climate change. Why doesn’t Obama apply the same standard when it comes to government spending?

“Reckless overspending in Washington is creating an unsustainable mountain of debt that will be passed on to our children’s children. Yet throughout his speech, Obama outlined additional spending initiatives with no consideration of how they will be paid for. One such proposal would create a new ‘minimum wage’ for federal contractors. This gimmicky proposal will have little impact other than to force the federal government to pay more for goods and services – additional costs that will no doubt be passed on to future generations.

“If Obama is truly concerned about leaving our children’s children with a safer, more stable world, he should start by cutting government spending and reducing the tax burden on American workers so that the economy will finally begin to grow and the private sector will create jobs.”

Jonathan Steitz
Policy Advisor, Budgets and Taxes
The Heartland Institute
jonathan.steitz@gmail.com

 

“President Obama seems hell-bent on dismantling America and its system of government one day at a time. He continues, in my opinion, to cavalierly jettison the constitutional system of checks and balances which was the genius of the Founding Fathers. First came the unauthorized czars, and now we have the proclamation of anticipatory end runs around the legislative branch through executive fiat using the moniker of executive orders.

“These unilateral acts are those of a man who would be king, which he is not. As I recall we fired the king more than 200 years ago. Jefferson, Madison, and the legions who staked and gave their lives on creating this republic to operate as a democracy are surely turning in their graves.”

Kurtis B. Reeg
President/Managing Partner
Reeg Lawyers, LLC
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
kreeg@reeglawyers.com

 

“Apart from throwing a few crumbs to his base, President Obama produced nothing novel or interesting in his speech. But he did sadly reaffirm his commitment to a virtually Utopian society in which government takes the initiative on nearly all fronts. And that is plainly not in the spirit of what is distinctively American or just.

“I had hoped for some learning from the president – to the effect that the private sector is where solutions lie to nearly all our real problems. Government’s only role must be, as Jefferson said, to ‘secure [our] rights’ – not to train Americans for anything other than, perhaps, defending the country from potential aggressors. It is not the job of government to ‘give us a chance,’ since our form of government doesn’t include some monarch handing out favors to subjects.”

Tibor R. Machan
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Auburn University
R. C. Hoiles Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise
Argyros School of Business & Economics
Chapman University
tmachan@gmail.com

 

“From the SOTU, you’d never guess that we have a record low in number of people employed, record levels of debt, abysmal international standing in education, chaos in the Middle East, and millions losing their health insurance. But we’re going to the Olympics, finding natural gas (on private lands only), and planning (still) to close Gitmo (thereby upholding our constitutional ideals). Amanda in Arizona got health coverage, a small business opened in Detroit, and carbon emissions are way down (no attribution given to our dismal economy). All we need to do now is extend unemployment insurance, raise the minimum wage, and end gun violence. That last bit is one of a number of things Obama promises to do single handedly if Congress won’t cooperate.

“Now that ObamaCare has fixed health care, and reduced al Qaeda to a mere remnant, we can move on to fixing education.

“From the enthusiastic applause, it would appear that Congress is persuaded by this fantasy, though a few audience shots showed some dour-looking Republicans. They’re the ones getting blamed for ‘creating crises.’ Otherwise, all is well, and God bless America.

“How can anyone take this charade seriously?”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
janeorientmd@gmail.com

 

“What Obama delivered was a list of the same policies that have ill-served the nation. After five years, we know that what he cannot do is provide leadership sufficient to govern America. Foreign or domestic, his policies have been marked by failure.

“On the long roster of issues he addressed, he placed an emphasis on putting Americans to work again, but that remains a difficult goal to achieve when his administration is scaling new heights in the production of regulations that choke the nation’s business community, from large corporations to small businesses. There was no mention of the Keystone XL pipeline, which his own State Department estimated could produce 42,000 jobs.

“He advocated raising the minimum wage when all that will accomplish will be to reduce jobs and drive up costs to consumers.

“He dramatized Obamacare by using examples of people he said benefitted from it, but made no mention of the millions who have or will lose their health care plans and even their choice of a personal physician.”

Alan Caruba
Founder, The National Anxiety Center
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
acaruba@aol.com

 

“President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night was all about ‘micro-management.’ It was micro-management at one level since he realizes that a divided Congress will not pass any ‘grand’ legislation that he might try to submit. Thus, he proposed a series of small changes that he hopes that either Congress would go along with, or that he can try to impose through ‘executive order’ without Congressional approval.

“But the other level of his focus on micro-management highlights the inescapable political paternalistic mindset in which he thinks:

  • He knows what wage government contractors should pay their workers;
  • He knows how pre-kindergarten children should be taught;
  • He knows how businesses should organize their use of energy in their manufacturing of products;
  • He knows how long people should be financially able to be unemployed between jobs while looking for employment;
  • He knows how divergent income inequalities should or should not be in America;
  • He knows how to create career opportunities for young people and the type of education they should have available;
  • He knows the type and quality of health insurance and medical care people should receive.

“This is why he has faced much of the congressional opposition, over which he is clearly frustrated. Many people in the United States, and their elected representatives, believe that these are not matters for the government. These are matters that should be left up to the judgment, planning, and decisions of individuals, families, and voluntary agreements among people themselves in their communities and in the workplace.

“The president’s government-imposed ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions to what he considers to be America’s ‘problems’ are in stark contrast to the diversity of America, and the more reasonable and common-sensical view that people in their own circumstances and with their own knowledge can far better handle their own problems than someone in a far-away national capital with none of the real micro-knowledge of people’s lives. This partly explains the president’s low poll ratings. People come to resent the arrogant ‘do-gooder’ who presumes to know better how people should live than those people themselves.”

Dr. Richard Ebeling
Professor of Economics
Northwood University
ebelingr@northwood.edu

 

“President Obama mentioned his desire to see election reforms, including ‘reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.’ For all its conveniences, early voting threatens the basic nature of citizen choice in democratic, republican government.

“In elections, candidates make competing appeals to the people and provide them with the information necessary to be able to make a choice. Citizens also engage with one another, debating and deliberating about the best options for the country. Especially in an age of so many nonpolitical distractions, it is important to preserve the space of a general election campaign — from the early kickoff rallies to the last debates in October — to allow voters to think through, together, the serious issues that face the nation.

“The integrity of that space is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts.”

Eugene Kontorovich
Professor of Law, Northwestern University
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
e-kontorovich@law.northwestern.edu

 

“President Obama does not seem to grasp the fact that in a free-market economy an employee gets a raise by showing his or her employer that their value has increased through more training, skill acquisition, education, or productivity gains. Workers who are currently paid less than $10.10 are so because their contribution to total revenue is less than $10.10 per hour.”

Jack A. Chambless
Economics Professor
Valencia College
jchambless@valenciacollege.edu

 

“I fully support the president’s proposal to increase the minimum wage. However, if this will work as the president believes to increase employment and reduce income inequality in America, would it not do the same for other countries as well? Therefore, America should eliminate foreign aid and tell our former aid recipients to simply raise their minimum wage. If it works for us, it will work for them as well.

“Our aid recipients are likely more savvy than our president and I would expect few to accept the advice.”

Barry Keating
Professor, Mendoza College of Business
University of Notre Dame
barry.p.keating.1@nd.edu

Categories: On the Blog

No 1930s Regulations for the Internet – Let’s Modernize Instead

January 28, 2014, 1:03 PM

The D.C. Circuit Court recently threw out the Barack Obama Administration’s huge 2010 Internet power grab – the all-encompassing uber-regulation known as Network Neutrality.

The Left has since been giving birth to herds of live bovines.

The Internet is Dead !!!! Government Kills Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality Is Dead

Three judges in D.C. just killed Net Neutrality.  This could be the end of the Internet as we know it.

More than a little overwrought.  The ruling is now almost two weeks old – and the Internet is only better, stronger, faster.  Which is utterly unsurprising.  It’s been dazzling us for nearly thirty years without government-imposed Net Neutrality – we were only hobbled with it for three.

The first commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) emerged in the late 1980s.  Congress in 1996 last addressed Tech law with the Telecommunications Act - in which they said the Internet was so new and nascent, they would leave it alone.

Net Neutrality was created out of whole cloth in 2003 - when the private Web was already at least fifteen years old.  And had been all along growing exponentially.

And it continued throughout the 2000s to be an ever-expanding free speech-free market Xanadu – all without government-imposed Net Neutrality.

Did that stop the Left from all along the way freaking out?  Of course not.

Network Neutrality – Broadband Discrimination (2003)

Communications regulators over the next decade will spend increasing time on conflicts between the private interests of broadband providers and the publics interest in a competitive innovation environment centered on the Internet.

Google’s Comments on “Broadband Extortion” (2006) 

If comments like that don’t tell you why principles of net neutrality must be codified, then I don’t know what will. 

Net Neutrality: We’re Still Waiting (2010) 

“Its time for the FCC chairman to stop dithering….(T)he FCC must enact Net Neutrality rules that safeguard the open Internet for all users, no matter how they get online.”

Post-removal of government-imposed-Net-Neutrality, we will get even more of the same Internet extraordinariness we got pre-government-imposed-Net-Neutrality – the Left’s histrionics notwithstanding.

Only now they want the government to overreach further still

The Progressive response?  Go back in time to 1934 (and even before) – and impose landline telephone (Common Carrier) regulations on the Web.  The government regulates the daylights out of landlines – so Progressives want the government to jam the Web in there too.  Which would allegedly allow them to reimpose Net Neutrality – and tax the Net, and…. This move is called Reclassification.

The Left’s justifications for this are at best uber-flimsy.

ISPs still piggyback to a great extent on a government-built core infrastructure - thus the Common Carrier telephone regs should apply to the Internet.

A common carrier was when “Ma” Bell was a government-imposed landline phone monopoly, and everyone was forced to use them. Bell received a monopoly in exchange for adhering to the additional stifling regulations.

On the Web we have a free market-produced wide array of ISPs – myriad companies delivering service on multiple platforms (cable, wireless, satellite, etc).  No one is everyone’s “common carrier.”

ISPs have spent more than $1 trillion building the Web – they left “common carrier” regs in the dust hundreds of billions of dollars ago.

And the ISPs have over the years paid enough in taxes to buy outright a hundred (a thousand?) times over the government-funded infrastructure.

This would be like me saying I once lent Bill Gates $20, so I should have oversight over his entire fortune.

The industry is dominated by a few big companies, so oversight is needed to ensure that abuses are reduced.  

There are already laws to protect consumers from unfair Internet business practices – under the auspices of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and to a lesser extent (God help us currently) the Justice Department. Should an ISP block content, existing law would have the FTC and Justice raining down upon it.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Net Neutrality would be totally redundant – in addition to being destructively preemptive rather than reasonably responsive to problems as they arise.

Especially when only four such instances have arisen – ever.  All of which were resolved by the respective parties – without any government involvement whatsoever.

You know what protects us from private companies?  The freedom to choose. If Comcast is blocking you, you can fire them and hire Time Warner.  Or Cox.  Or Verizon. Or AT&T. Or Sprint. Or T-Mobile.  Which is why Comcast won’t block you.

The only monopoly in this discussion is – government.  See: schools, postal service, passenger trains,….  And how are those services doing?  Compared to how the Internet is doing inprivate hands?

And the Left wants to invite in the incompetent former to preemptively, prophylactically lord over the dazzling latter?  Thank you, no.

Instead of going back to the Great Depression and imposing those fabulous policies,…: 

Congressional Leaders Call for Communications Act Makeover

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) say its time to bring the 1996 law, which governs the nations communications networks, into the 21st century. 

We can write a new, updated, forward-looking, free market law – or Michael J. Fox our way back to the Depression and crush the Internet with a huge, antiquated, completely inapplicable regulatory superstructure.

Said new law would (amongst many other things) (hopefully) prevent any more absurd, obnoxious government overreach power grabs.

Like beginning to regulate (and tax) the Internet like we once did a rotary telephone – or the one Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor had to ask Sarah to dial for him

 

[Originally published on PJMedia]
Categories: On the Blog

NY Times Wrong About Rand Paul, Libertarianism Being on the ‘Fringe’

January 27, 2014, 5:40 PM

A lengthy January 25 The New York Times piece titled “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance“ stated this: “As Rand Paul test-markets a presidential candidacy and tries to broaden his appeal, he is also trying to take libertarianism, an ideology long on the fringes of American politics, into the mainstream.”

That is dead wrong. The fact is that libertarianism was the gist of the philosophical foundation of the American political system. Natural individual rights! Limited constitutional government! Free markets! Due process of law!

All these were there at the start, and today’s libertarians simply want to restore them to prominence. But of course The New York Times cares nothing for historical accuracy. It wishes, evidently, to demean the ideas that both the American founders and libertarianism’s most high-profile advocates champion. No wonder, since the Times loves big governmen and extensive interventionism, both domestic and international.

It is also quite evident that the Times has a very distorted view of its own readership, as if they had no other sources of historical information aside from that of the editors of the Times. What was central to the founders is, to the Times, fringe!

Shame on them.

Categories: On the Blog

The Endangered Animal Act of Futility

January 27, 2014, 5:24 PM

David W. Snook, 57, of Bridgewater, New Jersey died on January 15, when two deer leaped into the path of his Dodge Ram on Route 206. One of them was airborne when it smashed through the front windshield, striking him before exiting out the rear window. This caused the truck to veer into the guard rail and come to rest in a ravine.

In 2012, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection estimated that the Garden State was home to 110,000 deer. Each year about 35,000 are killed in hunts and those of us who live here owe the hunters a debt of gratitude. In my county of Essex, home to Newark, the freeholders regularly hire hunters to cull the herd that shares its home with one of the most densely populated counties in the state.

Need it be said that the animal rights crowd is always upset about this. New Jersey also has a fairly sizeable bear population and during the hunting season, between 250 and 450 are “harvested” as the Fish and Game agency calls it. They have been found in all 21 counties of the state. And state officials now estimate that there are more coyotes in New Jersey than bears.

Suffice to say New Jersey’s animals are not suffering from a decline in species, nor facing extinction any time soon. My guess—and it’s only a guess—is that this is true nationwide. However, to justify one of the dumbest laws ever passed, the Endangered Species Act, some 1,500 species are classified with fuzzy definitions of being “threatened”, “endangered” or “recovered.”

The Act was signed into law in 1973 by Richard Nixon, who also gifted us with the Environmental Protection Agency, currently doing everything in its power to destroy the coal industry and plants that use it to generate electricity. They claim that the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are a threat to the climate, but ignore the many other natural sources of CO2, including all seven billion humans that exhale six pounds of it a day. And that all species would die without CO2 maintaining all the vegetation on Earth.

What is never mentioned is that species extinction has been around as long as there have been species. It was not CO2 that killed the dinosaurs and 75% of other species that had dominated the Earth for 180 million years and there were no humans around to blame for the Great Permian Extinction when more than 90% of all life on Earth disappeared—animals, plants, trees, fish, and even algae. Most geological eras have come to a close with calamitous events.

In December 2013, the Obama administration granted industrial wind farm operators a 30-year permit to kill legally protected bald eagles and golden eagles without being subject to legal repercussions. Wind energy has killed 1.4 million birds and bats every year, including those regarded and protected as threatened such as California condors, bald eagles, and Indiana bats. Apparently, if you are producing 1% percent or so of electricity, it’s okay to kill these creatures. Meanwhile everyone else pays higher electricity bills.

The dirty little secret about the Endangered Species Act is that environmentalists have used it for years to deter all manner of economic development by claiming some fish or other creature was endangered if you built a hospital, new homes, or in the case of the dunes sagebrush lizard which lives in the West Texas and Southeast New Mexico Permian Basic when oil companies want to explore and extract this energy resource that will generate jobs and huge tax revenues to help reduce the national debt.

It is insanity to think humans can or should do anything to “save” various species. The most dramatic and tragic evidence of this has been the twenty-year effort to “save” the northern spotted owl. The result was to close millions of acres of federal forests in the Northwest from logging, devastating the once flourishing timber industry.

In July 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would permit the killing of barred owls believed to be killing the spotted owls. The sawmills that once thrived are mostly gone, along with their jobs, and revenue. The forests are overgrown and are immense fire traps. And the Fish and Wildlife Service thinks that spending $127 million might restore the spotted owl population over the next 30 years.

This kind of stupidity is criminal.

How effective has the Endangered Species Act been? As it enters its 41st year it has “recovered” less than 2% of the approximately 2,100 species listed as endangered or threatened since 1973. A December 17 Wall Street Journal article reported that “it has endangered the economic health of many communities and created a cottage industry of litigation that does more to enrich environmental activist groups” that pays their salaries.

The Endangered Species Act is a huge failure. It should be repealed, but don’t expect Congress to do anything that sensible.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Italian Climate Nut to Live on Iceberg to ‘Prove’ Global Warming

January 27, 2014, 12:15 AM

The face of global warming alarmism.

It looks like we’re going to get two stunts back to back that turn into disasters for the science-denying extremists who insist man is causing run-away, catastrophic global warming.

The first was around Christmas when University of New South Wales climate professor Chris Turney set sail on the Good Ship Global Warming (the Russian charter, Akademik Shokalskiy) to prove human activity was melting the East Antarctic ice sheet . . . only to get stuck in the ice, to the disappointment of all 51 of the leftist journalists and eco-tourists on board.

The next alarmist PR debacle will come from Italian adventurer Alex Bellini. He plans to live on an iceberg in a kevlar boat/shelter for eight to 12 months to “to demonstrate just how quickly things are changing” in the arctic. His plan is to park his boat/shelter on an iceberg off Greenland this spring, and float around for a while “documenting the melting process as [the iceberg] disappears completely.”

Bellini might be up there a while. Arctic sea ice levels are up 30 percent this winter, and ice levels at both poles combined is above the long-term average. But here’s the thing: Ice builds in the arctic every winter, then as spring and then summer comes, those icebergs melt. Bellini will only be dramatically “documenting” something that is entirely natural and happens every year.

Besides, an iceberg already in the ocean off Greenland — which is where Bellini will park his boat — does not increase sea leverl rise. Here’s an experiment you can do at home: Fill a glass with water and ice. Mark the level. Let it melt. Once melted, it will be a the same level.

Spending months all alone worrying about an increasing population of polar bears finding you easier prey than waiting for a seal to surface in an air hole sure seems a strange way to “prove” nothing. But I’m not a global warming nut, so whatever (eventually) floats Bellini’s boat.

(NOTE: If you’re interested in what is really happning to the climate — science based on observable data, rather than flawed climate models aimed at political ends — visit the  Climate Change Reconsidered by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and also check out Heartland’s eight international conferences on climate change where you can view more than 100 video presentations.)

[HT: Breitbart]
Categories: On the Blog

The Endless, Fruitless Search for Climate Refugees

January 26, 2014, 1:32 PM

The current cold covering a large portion of the country has, once again, brought out the climate change alarmists with claims of “serious threat.”

Due to his respected position, as climate scientist at the University of California, San Diego Institution of Oceanography, Richard C.J. Somerville’s recent “Cold comfort” column was published in newspapers throughout the country.

In it, he grouses that the public doesn’t take the “consequences” of climate change seriously—pointing out that they are “here and now.” He cites: “only 54 percent of the public sees it as a global threat to their countries—and only 40 percent of Americans do.”

Somerville suggests: “people either are scientifically illiterate or reject science when it conflicts with their core values or religious convictions.” He posits: “the medical profession and communication experts may have much to teach those climate scientists” because “Priming patients to appreciate the value of medical diagnostic tests has been shown to make them more likely to take these tests and then act on the results.”

What Somerville misses in the analogy is that the data backs up the medical case. For example, getting a mammogram catches breast cancer early and increases survival rates. The data has shown that medical science is correct.

On the contrary, the data doesn’t support the claims made by climate scientists — but they just keep making them. Apparently they believe the “big lie” propaganda technique used so effectively by Adolf Hitler.

In Somerville’s column, he offers several familiar, easily disproven statements:

  • “Low-lying areas are threatened by sea-level rise” which will result in “millions of environmental refugees,” and;
  • “Major threats to agricultural productivity as rainfall patterns change and as heat waves, floods, droughts and other weather extremes worsen.”

Because my expertise is in communications not climate, I reached out to someone who could help me: Robert Endlich — who does in fact have both the education and experience. Endlich, who served as a USAF weather officer for 21 years and holds a BS in geology and an MS in meteorology, offered me pages of data and documentation, which I’ve summarized for my readers.

Environmental Refugees

If the threat of “environmental refugees” sounds familiar, it should. The 2005 UN Environmental Program forecast 50 to 100 million climate refugees. A UN report by Norman Myers: “Environmental Refugees, an Emergent Security Issue,” presented at the 13th Economic Forum, in Prague, May 23-27, 2005 predicted: “The environmental refugees total could well double between 1995 and 2010,” and “When global warming takes hold, there could be as many as 200 million people overtaken by disruptions of monsoon systems and other rainfall regimes, by droughts of unprecedented severity and duration, and by sea-level rise and coastal flooding.” His report was accompanied by a map, indicating areas to be impacted by sea-level rise.

In early 2011, Gavin Atkins asked: “What happened to the climate refugees?” In his Asian Correspondent post, he used census records to show that the populations in the low-lying areas predicted to “flee a range of disasters including sea level rise” had actually grown—including no fewer than the top six of the very fastest growing cities in China.

Based on both in-person observation and historic evidence from Western Europe, Endlich has made a study of sea level rise. Citing geological features such as stream meanders upstream of Pisa on the Arno River and new shorelines on the coast of the Ligurian Sea, and history, he told me:

What may be news to many is that there is widespread evidence in the Mediterranean Basin and the English Channel coast that sea levels in Roman and Medieval periods were significantly higher than at present. The Roman port of Ostia Antica, the port at Ephesus, now in Turkey, and Pisa have histories showing the Mediterranean Seas significantly higher than today’s sea levels.

Endlich continued:

In 1066, William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Less well-known is when William landed, he first occupied an old Roman fort now known as Pevensey Castle, which at the time was located on a small island in a harbor on England’s south coast. A drawbridge connected castle to mainland. Pevensey is infamous because unfortunate prisoners were thrown out this ‘Sea Gate,’ so that their bodies would be washed away by the tide. Pevensey Castle is now a mile from the coast—further proof of higher sea levels fewer than 1000 years ago.

The glacial-interglacial temperature data from the past 400,000 years shows each of the previous four interglacials significantly warmer than at present. In fact, a careful analysis of the ice cores from East Antarctica, published as a letter in Nature, shows that maximum temperatures from previous interglacials were at least 6C/10F warmer than present-day temperatures, with CO2 values then about 280 PPM, and today’s values near 400 PPM. Leaving one to ask: “if CO2 is such a strong cause of warming, why is it so cold today?”

Worsening weather extremes

Somerville stated: “The consequences include major threats to agricultural productivity as rainfall patterns change and as heat waves, floods, droughts, and other weather extremes worsen.” Endlich shared the following with me:

Heat Waves: Dr. Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology offered Senate testimony on January 16, 2014. She showed an analysis of 982 stations from the U.S. Historical Climate Network for the 48 continental states with more than 80 years of record.  The data show a strong peak of record maximum daily temperatures occurred in the 1930s, with no increasing trend in the post-WWII years when CO2 started its modern increase.

Of the 50 states, the number of state maximum record temperatures obtained from NOAA’s National Climate Data Center, by decade, shows that in the 1930s, 23 states set their all-time high temperatures, by far the largest number of such record highs. There has not been a single state record maximum set in the 21st Century.

Droughts: The most-often used indicator of drought is the Palmer Drought Severity Index. Curry’s testimony included a PDSI chart, showing the most severe droughts in the 102-year record 1910-2012, were in the 1930s and a lesser maximum in the 1950s. Data show no indication that drought severity has increased as CO2 has increased.

Floods: Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., from the University of Colorado, testified to the Senate EPW Committee on July 18, 2013. With respect to floods, he provided data from the US Geological Survey, which show in the U.S., floods have not increased in frequency or intensity since at least 1950, and that flood losses, as a percentage of GDP have dropped by about 75% since 1940, based on data from NOAA’s Hydrologic Information Center.

Somerville says that increasing CO2 will harm plant productivity, but the opposite is true.  First, realize that both plants and animals, including humans, are carbon-based life forms. With increasing CO2, there is an incredible array of beneficial effects spelled out in the book, The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment, by Craig Idso and Sherman Idso. The benefits include: increasing water-use efficiency; increasing biomass in roots, stems, flowers and nectar; larger seeds; avoiding human starvation and plant and animal extinctions; stimulating early plant growth; and resistance to plant diseases. The carbohydrates we consume when we eat are derived directly from CO2 in the atmosphere; carbohydrates are the source of the energy we need to survive and thrive.

Climate scientists, such as Somerville, do have something to learn from the medical profession: if you want people to heed your warnings, they need to be backed up by the data.

Somerville’s climate refugees cannot be found. In the recent past, interglacial periods were at least 6C/10F warmer than the present with a lot less CO2 in the air; and the Minoan, Roman and Medieval Warm periods were significantly warmer than at present. By historic accounts, sea levels were many feet higher as recently as 1066 and 1300 AD. His claims of heat waves, floods, drought and agricultural disruption are easily disproven by looking at real-world data.

Somerville’s argument points out: “climate change does involve serious threats.” The serious threat is the Obama/Podesta partnership pushing the executive order pen to punish people with new policies that kill jobs and increase energy costs all in the name of supposedly saving the planet.

Categories: On the Blog

The Unceasing Political Thuggery of Obama’s Gangster Government

January 25, 2014, 3:45 AM

In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, President Obama urged Latinos to “punish our enemies” — meaning anyone who stands in opposition to his agenda. The Obama administration has done its part fulfill that promise, maybe the only promise this president will ever keep.

Thursday night, prominent conservative Dinesh D’Souza — author of The Roots of Obama’s Rage and producer of the documentary 2016: Obama’s Americawas arrested on felony charges of violating campaign finance law. Obama’s Department of Justice seeking a $1 million fine and seven years in prison. This hard approach to “justice” stands in stark contrast to the way Obama’s DOJ handled a prominent Democratic donor who got off with a misdeameanor, a nominal fine, and two months in jail for doing the exact same thing.

What did D’Souza do? He is charged with making “straw donations” by asking friends to give a total of $20,000 to a 2012 U.S. Senate camapign in New York and then reimbursing them. If proven true, that is a violation of America’s Byzantine campaign finance laws, and D’Souza must face the consequences. But this case stinks to high heaven of selective prosecution of the president’s “enemies” — a long-standing pattern of this administration, which Michael Barone aptly dubbed America’s first “gangster government.”

D’Souza was trying to help out an old college friend, Wendy Long, who ran on the Republican ticket against incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. Let’s be clear: Long’s campaign was nothing more than a ceremonial campaign so that someone represented the party on the ballot. She had no shot of taking out Gillibrand, who won with 72 percent of the vote to Long’s 27 percent. Furthermore, Gillibrand spent $14.2 million on her campaign to Long’s measly $742,000. Yet we’re supposed to believe that the feds caught D’Souza in their net after simply conducting “a routine review by the FBI of campaign filings with the FEC by various candidates after the 2012 election for United States Senator in New York.” And Gillibrand’s campaign — which collected and spent 1,800 percent more money — had zero sketchy contributions?

We are to believe that D’Souza’s status as one of the president’s sharpest and most-prominent critics had absolutely nothing to do with DOJ taking a sledgehammer to kill a gnat that over-contributed to a nuisance candidate an amount that probably matches the tip money for Gillibrand’s 2012 campaign luncheons? That is beyond absurd — especially in light of what the FBI and DOJ have found not worthy of any investigation, let alone indictment.

In 2012, the Obama re-election campaign’s online donation form did not require that the billing address match the card, or that the security code on the back be entered, or even that the state match the ZIP code. This allowed at least one British citizen to illegally contribute to Obama’s campaign, and likely many thousand more non-US citizens to do the same. (It is, again, an insult to our intelligence that the most tech-savvy campaign ever didn’t set up its donation page for that very purpose.)

In October 2012, the Federal Elections Commission announced that it identified more than $2 million in donations at Obama’s campaign website in which no ZIP codes were entered or the ZIP codes were incomplete — an error that requires the donation to be voided, and a feature that was in place on Romney’s campaign site. The FBI didn’t even have to do any “routine review” of the Obama campaign to take action on lawbreaking on a much greater scale than that alleged of D’Souza. Yet, it is merely a coincidence that no Obama campaign staffer or donor was investigated, let alone arrested?

Here are more coincidences we’re supposed to take at face value, and not as evidence of a corrupt Obama adminisration determined to “punish” the president’s “enemies”:

  • King Street Patriots founder Catherine Engelbrecht was investigated by the FBI, audited by the IRS, and also saw her spotless family business put under close scrutiny by the IRS, OSHA, and the ATF — all just months after she applied for nonprofit status for her “Truth the Vote” group to battle rampant election fraud. Among the information the IRS demanded was “every Facebook post and Tweet she had ever written,” detailed information about her family, and whether she or any of her relatives had ever run (or thought about running) for political office. Liberal members of Congress also publicly accused her of being part of a “criminal conspiracy” and demanded DOJ investigate.
  • The IRS systematically gave similar bureaucratic proctal exams to countless other Tea Party groups seeking nonprofit status — thus chilling the speech and political paticipation of right-leaning groups, but not those on the left.
  • The appointment by the Obama administration of a long-time campaign donor to “investigate” the IRS abuses, which resulted in an “investigation” that considered talking to the victims an afterthought.
  • An IRS, unchastened by the public exposure of its corruption, deciding to “legalize” its practice of chilling of non-leftist speech with a new rule that will establish a policy of harassing Tea Party groups while leaving unions and leftist outfits alone. According to this post at Examiner.com, not a single public comment about the rule (as of January 21) was in favor. I doubt something as insignificant to the IRS as the public will has a chance of stopping its plans.
  • The Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress sacrificing cherished spending priorities in 2014 to ensure the IRS could still institute its rule to put “Tea Party groups out of business” as the 2014 midterm elections approach.
  • An SWAT-team federal raid on Gibson Guitars — whose CEO is a Republican donor — for allegedly breaking the century-old and almost-never-enforced Lacey Act for using the same “illegal” wood its competitors use. (The executives of Gibson’s competitors, not subject to similar raids for that “crime,” happen to be big Democratic donors.)
  • Intense IRS scrutiny of the only  conservative organization in Hollywood, “Friends of Abe,” which included a demand for a complete donor list — something the IRS does not typically ask for in a “routine” audit. Leftist Hollywood nonprofits, such as Norman Lear’s People for the American Way, have never cited cause to complain about similar IRS harassment.
  • The auditing of James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas, which exposed the genuine abuse of nonprofit status by the leftist ACORN — a group Obama worked with closely before he ran for political office. Now, out of the blue, the New York State Department of Labor has demanded O’Keefe appear before them with all his papers in order on Tuesday — including all “copies of Social Security returns, unemployment insurance (state and federal), check stubs and canceled checks, and any other records pertaining to payments for services.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wasn’t kidding, it appears, when he said conservatives are not welcome in “his” state.
  • Billionaire Frank VanderSloot, a decades-long big Republican donor, getting audited by the Obama’s IRS for the first time in his life after giving generously to the “Super PAC” of the Mitt Romney campaign. The Obama Labor Department was kind enough to follow up with an audit of all the workers on VanderSloot’s Idaho cattle ranch. Billionaire leftist George Soros — the “Daddy Warbucks” for countless left-leaning groups, creator of his own leftist nonprofits, and big donor to Democratic campaigns — has never had reason to complain about such scrutiny.
  • Conservative journalist Wayne Allen Root being audited twice by Obama’s IRS, and reporting that he personally knows of at least 15 people who were subject to IRS audits within 90 days of writing big checks to the Mitt Romney campaign. (Chilling detail: Root says the IRS agent who called him said he knew who he was, and knew that he served as a guest host for a conservative radio show.)
  • And while we’re talking about politicized “justice,” I must mention the fact that Obama’s DOJ has still refused to pursue criminal charges against global warming activist Peter Gleick. He publicly admitted to impersonating a director of The Heartland Institute via email, stealing Heartland’s confidential and private property (its budget and planning documents), and distributing them to leftist allies for the purpose of harassing Heartland donors. He has not yet copped to creating his own version of a Heartland “planning document,” an obvious fake, intended to defame the organization and distort the purpose of its work in climate science. A criminal trial that is not likely to happen — despite the open-and-shut case laid out to federal prosecutors by Heartland, as well as Gleick’s public confession — would do a lot to clarify that point. [Full background here.]

Are those examples enough to establish a pattern? To establish that these are not mere coincidences or “bad luck” on the part of conservatives and right-leaning groups? That there are countless more examples that are not publicly known?

Never in the history of this country have we seen such a broad and coordinated abuse of the government’s power to threaten criminal prosecution and ruin the lives and livelihoods of people the president and his party see as political “enemies.” None of the victims above did anything that even smelled like a criminal act act (except, perhaps, D’Souza) before the state came crashing down with the inevitable and purposeful result of ruining their lives. Their only “offense” was publicly opposing the president’s agenda, and putting those dissenters through the goverment’s paces was the whole point.

As columnist Mark Steyn has often noted, the process is the punishment. Exercising your rights of free speech and free assembly will put you on “the list.” So think twice before daring to oppose the statist agenda. Don’t speak out. Obey … or else. The Obama administration’s intimination tactics are encouraging the president’s powerful allies in Congress to join in even more heartily. This week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered a despicable, un-American speech to the leftist nonprofit Center for American Progress. He urged the IRS to “redouble” its intimidation tactics against the Tea Party, and anyone else who dares to “attack government” through peaceful political outreach and speech.

This should be the political scandal of the century — if only we had an honorable and competent MSM press corps in this country. Alas, it is more interested in Justin Bieber’s arrest. If President Obama deigns to give the MSM an audience for questioning, we are treated to gems such as “What is your New Year’s Resolution?” (Obama’s answer: Be nicer to the White House Press Corps!)

When George W. Bush was president, Hillary Clinton famously shouted:

I’m sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we’re Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration.

But apparently not this administration. Hillary Clinton was right. But she and those who cheered her are nowhere to be found now that the sideshow of Dixie Chicks protests have been replaced by the infinitely more threatening governmental suppression of principled public dissent. Today, left-leaning America — as well as the constitutionally protected MSM — have no interest in standing up for the patriotic right to “debate and disagree” with the Chicago-style thuggery of the Obama administration. That is tragic for the cause of liberty, our politics, and our increasingly fragile republic.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA’s Agenda: Undermine Capitalism and America

January 24, 2014, 8:10 AM

The Environmental Protection Agency has been in a full assault on the U.S. economy since the 1980s when the global warming hoax was initiated. It has been assisted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

To put it in other terms, our own government has engaged in lying to Americans and the result has been the expenditure of billions of taxpayer dollars on something that was not happening and is not happening.

On January 22, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released the deposition transcript of former senior EPA official John Beale. After defrauding the agency of nearly $900,000 and spending months away from his office by claiming he was on assignment for the CIA, the transcript contained a bombshell.

Discussing his job, at the time as a close associate of Gina McCarthy, the new EPA administrator, Beale revealed that he was there to come up with “specific proposals that could have been proposed either legislatively or things which could have been done administratively to kind of modify the capitalist system. . . .”

Dan Kish, senior vice president of the Institute for Energy Research, responded to the revelation saying:

In his testimony under oath, Beale, perhaps unwittingly, has laid bare the administration’s end goal. The president’s policies are not about carbon, they are not about coal, and they are not even about energy and the environment. They are about fundamentally altering the DNA of the capitalist system. These policies are not about energy, but power.

When the new EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, in testimony before a congressional committee in mid-January, was asked by Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL-R) to confirm a statement made by President Obama last year that global temperatures were increasing faster in the last five or ten years than climate scientists had predicted.

She said: “I can’t answer that question.”

“You’re asking us to impose billions of dollars of cost on this economy and you won’t answer the simple question of whether (temperature around the world is increasing faster than predicted) is accurate or not?” Sessions responded.

“I just look at what the climate scientists tell me,” said McCarthy.

The Earth is in a cooling cycle that has lasted 17 years at this point, but the EPA administrator was not inclined to accept this fact, nor question the climate scientists who provided the data based on computer models that have been consistently wrong now for decades.

We owe The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, a debt of gratitude for the eight international conferences it has held to debunk global warming. Joseph Bast, its president and CEO, said in the organization’s petition to rein in the EPA:

The toll our EPA is taking on the country is staggering, putting hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work at a time when millions of people are unemployed and our reliance on foreign sources of energy threatens to compromise our nation’s security.

Heartland’s science director, Jay Lehr, points out that “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.” (Full disclosure: I serve as an advisor to Heartland.)

This is the same EPA that proposed restrictions for new wood stoves in early January. The reason given was to reduce the maximum amount of fine particulate emissions (soot) allowed for new stoves sold in 2015 and 2019. The soot is made up of solid particles and liquid droplets that measure 2.5 micrometers or less. The EPA claims, as it does for virtually all its regulations, that it is linked to heart attacks, decreased lung function, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease. This is worse than junk science. It represents no science whatever, being an invention of EPA employees who specialize in such nonsense. The Earth produces soot every day and circulates it globally.

The only way Americans will be protected against the EPA’s attack on our economy will be a Congress controlled by the Republican Party and a Republican president who will support the oversight that is needed and the reversal of its vast output of regulations. It will have to do this as well for NOAA, NASA, and other governmental departments and agencies that, until recently, spewed forth all manner of “data” supporting the global warming hoax.

At the heart of the global warming hoax, now called climate change, is the assertion that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other “greenhouse gases” have been dangerously warming the Earth by trapping heat, but you don’t have to be a scientist to know that the current cold spell, comparable to the 1500-1850 mini-ice age, is the result of lower solar emissions by a sun. CO2 is a minor (0.038) element of the Earth’s atmosphere, but the second most vital gas for all life on Earth because it is the “food” that maintains all vegetation.

Little wonder, during the government shutdown, more than 93% of EPA employees were furloughed when designated as “non-essential.” That was more than nine out of every ten employees!

In September 2013, the Republican members of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee issued a report that EPA officials had, from the beginning of President Obama’s tenure had “pursued a path of obfuscation, operating in the shadows, and out of the sunlight.” It detailed violations of the Freedom of Information Act and other federal laws and regulations intended to encourage transparency and accountability in the government.

In mid-January, the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute revealed that emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the EPA used official events to help environmental groups gather signatures for petitions on agency rulemaking. “The level of coordination in these documents is shocking” said an EELI spokesman. The EPA has a long history of this, including a policy of “sue and settle” working with environmental groups to bring a suit to advance regulations and settling the suit to enable it to implement those regulations.

In an April 2013 article in Investor’s Business Daily, John Merline reported that “Overall air pollution levels dropped 62% from 1990 to 2012, while GDP grew 69% and population climbed 26%.” The pollution the EPA keeps claiming is rising includes carbon monoxide, soot, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and others, all well below the EPA’s safety threshold. Water quality, too, has also improved over several decades.

In May 2013, Paul Driessen, a senior policy advisor for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) noted that the EPA, since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, had generated 1,920 new regulations. “The EPA’s actions are forcing us to expend vast financial, human and technological resources to achieve minimal or even zero health benefits,” he wrote.

This is the same EPA leading the effort to shut down coal-fired plants that produce electricity. It is the same EPA seeking to stop the Pebble Mine, described as “a natural resource project in Alaska that could yield more copper than has ever been found in one place anywhere in the world.”

The EPA is the instrument of those who want to undermine capitalism in any way it can. Only that can explain why entire books have been written about its impact on the economy of the nation and the deceptive way it has imposed regulations responsible for it.

President Obama called for “hope and change” when he first ran for office. We can only hope that a new Congress and President will bring about the change we need to shut down the EPA and return control over the nation’s environment to its 50 sovereign states.

[First posted at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

More on Why Preschool Vouchers Are a Bad Idea

January 23, 2014, 2:51 PM

Image by Harris County Public Library.

After sending out yesterday’s School Choice Weekly, in which I bashed the Indiana House for passing a preschool voucher pilot, I received a few thoughtful comments in my email box.

One was from Brandon Dutcher, senior vice president of the Oklahoma Council for Public Policy. He wanted my thoughts on whether a state that already has universal government preschool (like Oklahoma) would be better off if the preschool funds were vouchers. I said yes.

What’s the difference? Indiana currently has no statewide preschool program. Since research and experience consistently indicates these do not benefit children (sources in SCW), it would be foolish to start a new entitlement you know will be ineffective. But if your state already has an ineffective entitlement, it’s better to make the most of it if “inefficient entitlement” and “more efficient entitlement” are the only available alternatives (i.e., you can’t end the program outright and do something more likely to benefit poor kids). I do not agree with the people who would say “don’t make an entitlement better because then you perpetuate it,” because that only serves to increase the harm to entitlement recipients and taxpayers.

Another comment came from Patrick Herrera, a professor at Chapman University who has written for me on effective reading remediation. He writes:

Those who are creating legislation to expend a great deal of time and expense should consider the purpose for pre-school.  There are no statements of purpose.  There are no cohesive programs by any of the major publishers that address the existing need.  Simply putting children in pre-school does not create a benefit.  No mention is made of the curriculum needed, nor the training that teachers need to understand early language acquisition.  More important is training in the early acquisition of a second language when the learner has the additional burden of illiteracy.

Patrick brings up a good point, which is that we do know how to close achievement gaps between middle-class and poor children, which is the main goal (though unmet) of preschool programs. There are a number of effective strategies, including assigning lagging children to an excellent teacher four years in a row, and giving those children a content-rich curriculum. The problem is that very few preschool programs, and no large-scale ones, employ such strategies. It would be difficult for them to try just from a personnel point of view, as there are not enough people trained in these strategies to hire for a large program.

But we can also employ these strategies within the existing K-12 system and catch children up once they reach kindergarten, making preschool again an unnecessary tax expenditure.

Further, the reason government subsidizes education at all is to perpetuate a self-governing republic. One can make an argument that K-12 schooling accomplishes this. The arguments for governments subsidizing preschool, at the one end, and college, at the other, are far thinner, in my opinion, because both are more likely to be lifestyle choices than necessary for the basic grounding in academics it is more appropriate for taxpayers to subsidize.

Image by Harris County Public Library.

Categories: On the Blog

A Heartland Event: Charles Douglas Love on The Truth About Blacks and the GOP

January 23, 2014, 2:03 AM

On Janury 16, I attended a luncheon event at The Heartland Institute featuring author C. Douglas Love and his book, Logic: The Truth About Blacks and the Republican Party, And Why They Need To Work Together To Improve The Party, The Black Community, And the Country. [Watch the video below.] The subject piqued my curiosity in a big way.

The invitation about C. Douglas Love spoke of him as “an amateur polymath and avid reader with a keen interest in politics.” Describing himself as a conservative, Love said he strives to be a champion of the truth. He believes that both political parties do the country a disservice in their rhetoric.

Raised in Gary, Indiana, Love now lives in Chicago with his wife where he runsa political site and an organization — Think or Die — whose purpose is to galvanize conservatives and educate people on the conservative principles and the dangers of an overreaching government.

Given Love’s credentials and the intriguing and promising title of his book, I was all ears about what Mr. Love had to say as a black Republican and author. For it seems logical to believe that blacks, even though voting Democrat 95% to 5% in the last election cycle, might be receptive to the Republican message if Republicans knew how to reach blacks and didn’t tend to write off the black community.

This led me to consider the following question: Why then are Republican pundits and those in House leadership positions currently convinced that a larger slice of the Hispanic vote is essential to winning elections, and that working with the Senate to pass immigration reform (amnesty) will produce the means to win future elections? It seems evident that Republicans have no inkling that amnesty is not popular outside the beltway. In the hinterland of America, securing the border before all else is top priority. Granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is illogical, to say the least, and is not popular with the base of the Republican Party, given the millions of Americans unable to find jobs or who are underemployed

History does tell us that blacks and Republicans once had a strong relationship. From the creation of the Republican Party in 1856 to the election of Franklin Roosevelt, blacks voted exclusively for Republicans — for it was Lincoln as the first president to be elected under the Republican mantel who freed the slaves. As Love explains, while black allegiance started to shift during Roosevelt’s presidency with his “New Deal” programs, it was with the election of President Lyndon Johnson and his anti-poverty legislation that blacks went from voting exclusively for Republicans to voting exclusively for Democrats.

Love noted how the biggest shift of black allegiance from Republican to Democrat possibly took place when Barry Goldwater came on the scene with his book “The Conscience of a Conservative” in 1960. Goldwater’s book rubbed black people the wrong way, Love said. With the Barry Goldwater/LBJ presidential match-up four years later in 1964, blacks eagerly embraced Johnson and later on his War on Poverty.

Mr. Love’s remarks zeroed in on what many blacks believe about the Republican Party and the correlation those beliefs have on the way they vote. Love also had advice for Republicans in reaching out to black Americans for their votes.

Writing the book was not a sudden epiphany for Mr. Love. Like many black conservatives, Love said he started out as a Democrat. His transformation toward conservatism evolved over time. Love said blacks vote heavily Democratic because that’s the way their parents or family voted in the past. It is also more than likely, he said, that nasty remarks about Republicans are passed around within the black community that tend to forever poison the well for Republican candidates.

In explaining the nature of his book, Love noted how Logic differed in two essential ways from those written by other authors who have written about blacks and the GOP:

  • Logic’s goal is to abandon the use of labels and instead listen to what all have to say before forming opinions. (Arriving at personal conclusions is why Mr. Love chose Logic as the title of his book.)
  • Logic doesn’t address many issues, as its object isn’t directed at explicitly creating black Republicans. The use of logic, however, should result in a self-discovery (an awakening) by blacks to show that their former misconceptions are faulty and that being a Republican makes sense.

Love said he recalls often the experience of listening to people talk about the “angry responses” between John McCain and Obama in the 2008 election. The same tone of anger was heard four years later in the retorts exchanged between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 match up, which prompted Love to ask: “Why can’t people just disagree instead of calling each other names?”

Since those disagreeing most with Obama were Republicans, Love said, it came to be accepted as truth in the black community that all Republicans “must be racists” because they didn’t endorse Obama for president. Even after six years as president, it is pathetic that Obama is still using racism to explain why support for him and his programs aren’t more popular.

According to Mr. Love, this perceived racism toward Republicans among blacks developed at the time Barack Obama became the first back candidate to vie for the presidency. With the entrance of Obama on the national scene, many blacks at last took an interest in politics, with this one drawback: Any knowledge they gained was based solely on Obama’s candidacy and his subsequent election.

Overnight, Love said, blacks became experts on Obama — never questioning Obama’s policies or actions because they lacked prior political experiences to draw upon in order to evaluate or compare stated policies. Romney’s policies in 2012 would have been better economically for blacks, but lacking any background on which to base their votes, blacks voted for Obama’s wrong policies which sounded better to them, but which didn’t work.

Using logic, Mr. Love explained how to dispel the common notion in the black community that blacks can’t possibly be racists — as power and control must be present for racism to occur. Love asked: Is it really possible or logical to conclude that only Republicans can be racist and that Democrats are blameless? Is racism perceived to be present when a white candidate is selected over a less qualified black candidate? Or what if a more qualified black candidate is selected over a white candidate?

Other black misconceptions about whites, according to Love:

1. All white people are rich Republicans, which refutes logic as the wealthiest people in Congress are Democrats. Consider also that movie stars are wealthy and most often vote Democrat.

2. All whites love war and Bush was a war monger, when about an equal number of wars were started under presidents of both parties.

3. All whites are right-wing zealots, which comes into play because many blacks are one-issue voters (same as in many other ethnic groups). If a Democrat legislator is in sync with the views of a voters on a key issue — be it for gay rights, abortion, or immigration — voters must support that legislator. Yet not all Republicans are anti-gay, pro-life or for amnesty.

And what about the stigma placed upon black conservatives by other black Americans?  As blacks are expected to vote Democrat or they are “off the plantation,” black conservatives are accordingly racist. Not so says Mr. Love who didn’t grow up wealthy — but neither did Dr. Ben Carson who was targeted by the IRS in 2013 after daring to criticize Obama and his policies at the National Prayer Breakfast.

In the Q&A after his presentation, Love was asked: Will Republicans ever again be able to capture a goodly portion of the black vote? Love suggested that 30 percent of the black vote is about all Republicans could hope for in future elections. Even so, he asked, why do Republicans write off a good proportions of the voting population? While Democrats can count on Jews, women, and Hispanics for support, they continue to take the black vote for granted because of its huge readymade majority. Is this indifference by Democrats an opportunity for Republicans among black voters?

Love said that it is not enough for Republicans to just show up in black neighborhoods once every four years. They are seen as opportunists. Republicans need to court the black vote, Love said, because blacks live in mega cities like Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This is where the votes are. Blacks need the Republican Party, because Republican polices are better for blacks in the long run.

But Love asked: How does one break the chain of dependency that blacks have come to expect from Democratic politicians? Logic comes to the rescue. Has the leadership in your black community serve you well? What about the promises that were made over the years? Have they been kept? Are you better off since President Obama became president?

A brief discussion of Adam Smith’s book, The Invisible Hand, brought to a close the Heartland event. An black attendee noted how the “personal self-interest” of many black voters always comes into play. The result of voting for this “self-interest,” he said, has helped create the worst pathologies we see now in many black communities: poverty, unemployment, and crime.

Politicians would do well to remember: Good intent has consequences which should be based on results, not on interests.

I highly recommend you read Mr. Love’s book, Logic.

[END NOTE: I had one point of contention with Love, which riled me as a conservative Republican. It occurred when Love spoke about not being a fan of name-calling — specifically the use of the term RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) by conservative Republican and Tea Party members. As stated by Mr. Love: "Democrats don't call Democrats DINOS,” so why does the Tea Party ostracize “RINOs”? For conservatives like me and other Tea Party members, the good of the party does not rest with establishment Republicans in leadership positions. They are trying to silence conservatives and the Tea Party so they can continue to compromise with Democrats with an agenda that is Democrat-lite — bigger government and more massive spending.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Next Wave of Obamacare Cancellations

January 22, 2014, 9:09 PM

Employers are already starting to get the same cancellation letters that went to millions of people in the individual market late last year. The Washington Post reports that the big surge should take place in October, but it will happen all through the year as employer plans come up for renewal.

Contrary to many press reports this affects not just the small group market, but all fully-insured health plans. Very few meet the requirements of “essential benefits” of Obamacare, which include things like pediatric dental coverage.

The Washington Post article tried to minimize the effects, quoting Jonathan Gruber, one of Obamacare’s archictects:

We’re ending discrimination [against people who are sick, and as a result] the people who were previously benefiting may now suffer,” Gruber said. “That’s sad for them, but it does not mean we should continue discrimination.

He concludes that the number of losers will be “very, very small.” Right.

Writing in the New York Post, Betsy McCaughey does a pretty good job of rebutting Mr. Gruber. She estimates the number of people who will lose coverage is 25 million, which is the same estimate I’ve been using for some time now. But even she understates the problem by focusing entirely on the small group market.

The main difference between the small group market (50 or fewer employees) and the rest of the fully-insured employer market is that the former are exempt from the employer mandate to either provide coverage or pay a fine.

One other difference is that in some jurisdictions the local insurance department is requiring smaller employers to buy coverage through the exchanges. The Washington Post article notes that Vermont is requiring all employers with 50 or fewer employees to buy coverage exclusively through the exchange, while DC is applying the same requirement to groups of 100 employees. We don’t know if other states are doing the same.

In any case, virtually all fully-insured employers will be getting their current plans cancelled. Many will simply comply with the new requirements and pay more for coverage. Many others will make a different decision.

Some may decide to self-insure their coverage. Anecdotally, we hear of relatively small employers (under 100 employees) making that decision and becoming exempt from the Obamacare coverage mandates. There is no way of knowing how frequently this is happening, but it comes with significant risks. Yes, they may be able to access a reinsurance program to protect against a surge of large claims, but state regulators are already concerned about companies that do this to avoid state requirements. If it becomes common the insurance commissioners might prohibit such reinsurance in their states.

Large numbers of employers may decide they simply can’t afford to pay the additional premiums, especially now that the exchanges are operational. Plus, the exchanges offer a selection of health plans and subsidies that often are more generous than the employer can provide. Employers no longer have to feel guilty about sending their workers out into the individual market and the companies can relieve themselves of the enormous burden of selecting and administering a health insurance program. The savings in the Human Resources departments alone will be substantial.

This decision is a no-brainer for employers not subject to the employer mandate (under 50 workers), especially those with lower wage employees, but also makes sense for a whole lot of larger companies, too. Sure they may have to pay a fine, but that is small potatoes compared to the cost of providing coverage. I would expect the employers of some 50 million workers will make this decision — close to the 30% who told McKinsey three years ago that they would drop their coverage.

So, we may suddenly have 50 million people newly uninsured and looking for coverage. They will have more money in their pockets because their bosses gave them raises to compensate for the loss of coverage. The added income will make them less likely to qualify for subsidies on the exchanges.

Importantly these folks are significantly different than the people who lost their coverage in the individual market. The latter group universally thinks coverage is important and they universally are experienced at shopping and paying for health insurance. They have been doing it for years.

These newly uninsured workers have never done any of that. They have always been passive recipients of whatever the boss has provided. For them the enrollment process has been no more than checking a box and signing their name on a form the company provides. They’ve never had to arrange paying the insurance company; their share of the premium is automatically deducted from their paycheck. If they have a question about what is covered or how to file a claim, they pop into HR at lunchtime to get the answer. If they have a complaint about the services provided by the insurance company, they tell HR and the folks in that department follow-up.

Suddenly they will have to take the initiative to:

  • Go on the website and choose a plan.
  • Find a “Navigator” to answer any enrollment questions.
  • Understand what doctors they may see and what hospitals they may use.
  • Make arrangements for paying the premium.
  • Report to the exchange any change in income or living arrangements.

Many of them (my guess is half) simply won’t do it. They don’t value the coverage very much. They are actively at work, which means they are busy and healthy. They have other things to do with their time and their money. Even if the process worked will, it would be a hassle:

Where do you find a Navigator? Are they listed in the phone book? Do they really know what they’re talking about? Whaddya mean I can’t see the doctor I’ve used for years? Send me a bill, I’ll pay it when I have a chance. My transmission broke down, can I pay you half this month? My boyfriend moved out, I’m a little short on cash. I just got a raise, why should that change my premiums? I’m moving to Texas, but I’m not sure where I’ll be staying yet.

They ain’t gonna do it. Not going to happen. Welcome to the real world, Mr. President.

[First posted at the NCPA blog.]

Categories: On the Blog