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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Heartland Daily Podcast – Joy Pullmann: 2014 Education In Review and Looking Forward to 2015

January 14, 2015, 1:47 PM

Joy Pullmann, managing editor at The Federalist and education research fellow at the Heartland Institute discusses some of the top education policy stories of 2014 with Heather Kays, managing editor of School Reform News. Pullmann and Kays also discuss what’s to come in 2015.

The issues Pullmann and Kays talk about include teacher tenure, the midterm elections, Common Core, the impact of teachers unions, and school choice. Pullmann outlines causes for concern as well as reasons to be hopeful in regards to education policy.

 

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 3 of 8)

January 14, 2015, 12:58 PM

This is part 3 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit C-James Madison in Federalist No. 43

In Federalist No. 43, James Madison emphasized that Article V: “equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

The most plausible way Article V could be viewed as “equally” enabling the “State Governments to originate the amendment of errors” as with the general government, or Congress, is if the Application of two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, which triggers the convention call, could also direct the Article V convention to propose desired amendments.

If you agree, like and share! And consider a tax deductible donation to our “Balance the Budget Now!” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 2 of 8)

January 14, 2015, 12:10 PM

This is part 2 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

“Exhibit B” linked below is strikingly powerful. It is a huge brick in the wall of proof that the Article V convention was meant and publicly understood at the time of the Founding Era to be an instrumentality of the states and subject to the states’ direction and control—as illustrated by the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

Exhibit B-Tench Coxe

“If two thirds of those legislatures require it, Congress must call a general convention, even though they dislike the proposed amendments, and if three fourths of the state legislatures or conventions approve such proposed amendments, they become an actual and binding part of the constitution, without any possible interference of Congress.” Coxe further explained, “[t]hree fourths of the states concurring will ensure any amendments, after the adoption of nine or more.”

These statements were made during the Constitution’s ratification era and constitute clear evidence of the public understanding of the function of the state legislative application in the Article V amendment process. Notice that these statements clearly indicate that two-thirds of the states would specify and agree on the desired amendments in their Article V application before any convention was called. If you find this evidence to be as powerful as we do, please like and share this blog. Also, consider a donation to our “Balance the Budget Now!” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Requiem for a Failed Socialist State

January 14, 2015, 10:58 AM

No folks, it’s not Bernie Sanders’ Vermont nor Jerry Brown’s California Democratic Republic that’s about to get flushed down the economic toilet. We are talking about Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela that he inherited from his predecessor Hugo Chavez. With the recent collapse in crude oil prices that account for roughly 95% of the country’s export revenues, the red lights are flashing that the country is once again on the cusp of widespread civil unrest with the additional prospect of a possible overthrow of the socialist government. From a fiscal standpoint, the country is also only a few steps away from defaulting on its debt. The country’s current plight is a culmination of fifteen years of profligate spending on all manner of social programs and subsidies while failing to reinvest in PDVSA’s oil production and refining operations and to set aside adequate cash reserves for potential downturns in the commodity cycle.

The seeds of the failure of the Bolivarian state were sewn throughout the period of Hugo Chavez’s dictatorship. From the time he took office in 1999, plans were implemented to dramatically transform the country’s economy. Over time, private property was confiscated, the entrepreneur class of the population was largely stripped of its wealth and oil revenues were funneled increasingly into constructing a welfare state. Along the way, in 2002, the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, went on strike with the end result that thousands of trained engineers were fired from their positions and replaced by Chavez party loyalists. PDVSA soon became just another cog in the country’s cultural metamorphosis, increasingly taking on the role of provider of funds for Chavez’s socialist revolution. Thus, the oil company took on a greater role of passing along cash flows to social programs while investing less in maintaining the refining infrastructure and the exploration and production activities of its oil operations. A Reuters article in April of 2013 noted that in 2012 PDVSA contributed $44 billion to spending on social programs. While the spending level for these programs has largely been maintained, PDVSA currently generates only roughly $32 billion of crude oil revenues with oil now trading at $50 per barrel. At the same time, the underinvestment in the company’s oil business has had a pernicious effect on operations. The lack of spending on oil infrastructure was a likely contributor to the massive explosion and fire at the 645,000 barrel a day Amuay refinery that killed 48 in 2012 and for ongoing operational problems that have kept the company’s Isla refinery operating at half of capacity for the last few years. Likewise, despite investment from the Chinese and other foreign players, PDVSA’S upstream division has lacked the attention it needs to attain production goals.

In evaluating Venezuela’s options, none of the country’s courses of action appear to be without great risk. Reduced spending on social welfare programs and reduced subsidies for gasoline (currently at $.18 per gallon at a cost of $22 billion per year) runs the risk of stoking civil unrest and creating further disenchantment with a Maduro administration that currently has only a 22% approval rating. The second option involving further currency devaluations is likely to lead to further inflation problems, creating greater financial hardship among the general population. Venezuela also could try to restructure its debt with the Chinese, having already sold a great deal of future production to the country in exchange for loans. The Chinese, however, appear to be increasingly wary of loans to Maduro’s regime and are likely to make the terms of any future loans more stringent. In light of its financial predicament, the country’s CCC-rated sovereign bonds currently sell for around $.44 on the dollar, are yielding around 22% and the credit default swaps that serve as a barometer of the bonds’ quality suggest a greater than 90% chance of default.

Combined with an inflation rate approaching 60%, ongoing currency devaluations, widespread scarcity of basic consumer goods and an extremely high crime rate, the country indeed appears on the cusp of some type of major upheaval. As the tenuous situation looks to become more dire, an overthrow of the current regime looks increasingly possible as the country’s inhabitants reconcile themselves with the idea that socialism, once again, has proven to be a failed experiment.

Categories: On the Blog

Government + Phony Science + $$$$ = Waste

January 13, 2015, 1:13 PM

The obvious successes of past technologies have made politicians and environmentalists eager to be in the forefront of promoting futuristic schemes for their goals. Everyone wants to be on the side of the next Great Idea. All too often these futuristic fantasies are sold to a gullible public, as well as fellow politicians and the news media, with impressive but scientifically-flawed arguments that bump up against harsh physical realities that are immutable. These cannot be changed by any amount of laws, government spending or propagandizing. Solar power and wind power are examples. So is global warming.

SOLAR

Sunlight, despite being plentiful all over the earth, is inherently dilute. It arrives at a rate of 1 kilowatt per square meter (about 11 square feet) when the sun shines unobstructed directly overhead. That rate can never be increased. It imposes an inefficiency that can never be overcome. As Dr. Petr Beckmann, a professor of electrical energy, explained:

“No amount of technology, no amount of money, no genius of human inventiveness can ever change it….The effort of concentrating it, either by accumulation in time or by funneling it in space, is so vast that nothing as puny as man has been able to achieve it; only Nature herself has the gigantic resources in space, time and energy to do the job.

“To get an idea of how concentrated the energy is in coal, and how dilute sunshine is, consider a lump of coal needed to make 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity. It weighs under a pound…its shadow would measure perhaps 15 square inches. How long would the sun have to shine on those 15 square inches to bring in 1 kilowatt hour of energy? For 1,000 hours of pure sunshine. In the Arizona desert, where the sun is out about 12 hours a day, almost three months. For the average location in the U.S., our little lump of coal would have to be out for almost half a year to be struck by a total energy of 1 kWh. But only struck by it; if we wanted to get 1kWh out from that sunbeam, we would have to divide by the conversion factor….That is how concentrated the energy is in coal, and how dilute it is in sunshine.” And the energy in coal is available almost immediately.

WIND

Power from wind energy also bumps up against immutable physical realities. One is the fact that the wind doesn’t blow all the time. That can never be changed. Another is that 25 to 60 percent of the time the wind is blowing, it is at a rate less than the maximum efficiency for the turbine. As a result, windmills operate at only around 33 to 40 percent of maximum production level, compared to 90 percent for coal and 95% for nuclear power. Turbines start producing power with winds at 8 mph, operate most efficiently at 29-31 mph winds, and must be shut down at 56 mph winds (though the highest winds have the most energy to be collected) to avoid potential damage, such as rotor blades flying off or “cause vibration that can shake the turbine into pieces.”

Wind turbines are—and will always be—unable to achieve high efficiency even under the most favorable conditions. To attain 100 percent efficiency would mean the blades would stop rotating. The best efficiency achieved is about 47 percent, which is about as good as it can get because of a physical law known as the Betz Limit. This has been known for a hundred years. It was independently discovered by three scientists in three different countries: Albert Betz (1919) in Germany, Frederck Lanchester (1915) in Great Britain, and Nicolay Zhukowsky (1920 in Russia. Their discovery applies to all Newtonian fluids and identifies the maximum amount of kinetic energy that can be captured by windmills as 59.3 percent. But the advocates of wind power are either ignorant of this or willfully ignore it to make wind power seem feasible for achieving their goals. Wind turbines may be useful in remote locations with adequate winds where more efficient energy sources are unavailable, but they will never achieve widespread displacement of more economic energy without the waste from government subsidies and/or artificially high electricity rates for consumers.

ETHANOL

The government’s taxpayer support for industry to produce ethanol—for which both republicans and democrats received huge campaign donations—and the requirement that consumers buy it at gas pumps are further examples of forcing us to pay wastefully higher prices for an inferior fuel. Ethanol has only two-thirds the energy of gasoline, meaning it will take a car only two-thirds as far as a gallon of gas without ethanol would take it. And the amount of energy in ethanol cannot be changed; you cannot get more energy out of ethanol than is in it. No amount of laws, government spending or research is going to change that. Ethanol corrodes rubber, aluminum and steel, imposing costs on the design and construction of surfaces with which it comes in contact. US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory warns against the use of zinc with ethanol. (Carburetors are made from alloys of zinc and aluminum.) Because ethanol attracts water, including moisture from the air, it cannot be shipped by pipeline—the cheapest method of transport—and must be distributed by truck.

There have been several studies of the economics of ethanol. The most thorough was done by Cornell University Professor David Pimmentel, who also chaired a U.S. Department of Energy panel to investigate the energetics of ethanol production. Pimmentel and his associates found that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than you can get out of it. They found that “131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU….a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs [per gallon].” Pimmentel adds, “That helps to explain why fossil fuels—not ethanol—are used to produce ethanol.”

A study by Hosein Shapouri is championed by pro-ethanol advocates because it disputes Pimmentel’s finding and instead claims a modestly positive net energy balance. But Howard Hayden, a Professor Emeritus of Physics from the University of Connecticut and Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Colorado, notes that Shapouri et al “use the most optimistic figures: the best corn yield, the least energy used for fertilizer, the least energy required for farming, the most efficient distillation techniques, the most residual energy (in the form of mash); and in general the most favorable (but still credible) values for any and all aspects of [ethanol] production.” Even so, Hayden says that, using Shapouri’s numbers, the net average power available from the ethanol of one acre of corn would be enough only to keep one 60-watt light bulb burning continuously for one month. To keep that bulb burning for a year would require 12 acres of corn. (An acre is 43,560 square feet.)

Pimmentel vigorously defends his study and launches a formidable criticism of Shapouri’s report. He gives this explanation for their differences:

“Pro-ethanol people make [ethanol] out to be positive by omitting many of the inputs that go into corn production. For example, they omit the farm labor — I’m not talking about the farm family, I’m talking about the farm labor. They omit the farm machinery. They omit the energy to produce the hybrid corn. They omit the irrigation. I could go on and on. Anyway, if I did all of those manipulations, I could achieve also a positive return.

“However, that’s not the way these assessments are made. You can go check the noted agricultural economists who have looked at corn as well as other crops, and they do include the labor, they include the farm machinery, they include repair of the farm machinery, and so forth and so on. And so, those are all inputs that the ag economists include. Why are the pro-ethanol people leaving them out?”

One aspect of the dispute between Pimmental and Shapouri involves credit for distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol fermentation that is used as animal feed. Pimmental says Shapouri uses an extravagant credit to make ethanol look good, while Shapouri say Pimmental doesn’t account for the credit. Pimmental’s response:

“We do account for it. Distillers grains, incidentally, are being used as a substitute for soybean meal. So we went back to the soybean meal, and examined how it’s produced, and the energy that is required to produce it. Instead of giving [distillers grains] a 40 to 60 percent credit as the pro-ethanol people do, we found that the credit should be more like 9 percent. They [pro-ethanol researchers] are manipulating the data again.”

How can the correct numbers for all the inputs be determined? How can each be given an appropriate weighting in the total picture? How can we be sure that no inputs are left out? Or manipulated? The free market automatically does this through the mechanism of prices. It is a further waste of resources to employ hordes of government regulators and researchers to determine that which the market can automatically do more thoroughly and accurately. If the inputs for ethanol, or anything else, add up to a profitable price for demand of a given commodity, it will be produced voluntarily in the market. If it is not profitable, laws and regulations on producers and consumers will not make it so. They will merely translate the losses (waste) into higher prices for consumers or taxpayers or to future generations in the form of depreciating dollars and a growing national debt.

Other biofuels—which futuristic fantasists acclaim is the next Great Idea in energy—are worse than corn-based ethanol. They all bump up against the limits of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy, but solar energy is dilute to begin with and plants, on average, collect only one-tenth of one percent of the solar energy available. If corn-based ethanol were to replace all the oil used in the U.S. for transportation, 700 million acres of corn would be required, compared to 408 million acres currently used for all types of crop production. If soy biodiesel were the substitute, it would require 3.2 billion acres of soybeans—one billion more acres than the entire U.S. including Alaska. Nevertheless, in 2013 the Obama administration announced contracts for $16 million to 3 biofuel plants in Illinois, Nebraska and California.

ENVIRONMENT

It has long been argued that solar and wind must be the energy sources of the future, regardless of cost, because the world will run out of petroleum in a few centuries. But that argument has been destroyed in recent years by new drilling techniques, the invention of fracking to extract oil and gas, and the discovery of hundreds of new oil and gas fields all over the world—even at extreme depths under the oceans—all of which mean the world will not exhaust petroleum resources for many thousands of years, if ever.

The environmentalists preach that the extractive industries which produce fossil fuels rape the landscape, pollute the air and water, and consume resources that should be left in their natural state. They worship the primitive. Their ideal is a pristine state of nature uncontaminated by civilization. So they favor renewable energies as being less damaging to the environment. But they ignore the environmental consequence of the consumption of energy and other resources that solar and wind utilization requires, which are greater than the traditional energy industries they deplore.

Like the pro-ethanol advocates, the advocates of solar and wind energy fail to consider all the inputs in the claims they are economic. The construction of a 1,000 MW solar plant requires 35,000 tons of aluminum, 2 million tons of concrete, 7,500 tons of copper, 600,000 tons of steel, 75,000 tons of glass, and 1,500 tons of chromium and titanium and other materials. These amounts are about 1,000 times greater than what’s needed to construct a coal-fired or nuclear plant producing the same power. Nuclear plants require enormous amounts of concrete for the massive containment structure, but a solar plant of equal capacity requires 500 times as much..

Those massive material requirements also consume massive amounts of energy in their manufacture. These include: 75 million BTU per ton of aluminum, 56 million BTU per ton of steel, 18 million BTU per ton of glass, and 12 million BTU per ton of concrete. And the manufacturing processes emit pollution of various sorts, some toxic, along with other wastes, for which disposal sites must be provided at further cost.

Solar and wind generating plants require vast land areas, with the most favorable areas being distant from the urban populations that require electrical power. This means further cost and energy requirements for establishing a power distribution network.

GLOBAL WARMING

Though it is no longer believable that the world is going to run out of petroleum, there is another scare tactic that demands we must use renewable fuels even if they are uneconomic. That is the threat of global warming ruining the planet. Isn’t saving the world more important than saving money? But once again, just as in the foregoing examples, inputs have been left out resulting in a false conclusion.

What has been left out? Temperature records were discontinued or no longer included in the data base in certain cold regions of the world, thus showing an elevated global temperature record. New measuring stations were added in warm areas, with the same result. Data was manipulated, falsifying records. There is no recognition of, or explanation for, the earth being warmer 1,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago, when there were no factories or automobiles. Also omitted is that 10,000 years ago when the carbon dioxide level was about the same as today, the climate rose as much as 6 degrees Celsius in a decade—a hundred times faster than the rate we are supposed to regard as troubling—yet without the catastrophic consequences now predicted for global warming. Also omitted is incontrovertible evidence that rising temperatures produce rising carbon dioxide levels—not the other way around. Also omitted are 90,000 measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide made between the years 1812 and 1961 and published in 175 technical papers that give lie to the claim industrialization has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Those measurements were made by top scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners, using techniques that are standard textbook procedures; they show an average of 440 ppm carbon dioxide in 1820 and 1940. Also, ice cores show over 400 ppm carbon dioxide in 1700 A.D. and 200 A.D., as well as 10,000 years ago. Samples from Camp Century (Greenland) and Byrd Camp (Antarctica) range from 250 to nearly 500 ppm over the last 10,000 years. These make a lie out of the claim in 2013 that the recent atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 400 ppm is the highest in 3 million years. I explained these issues in previous postings on this blog so will not repeat them here. What else has been left out? Almost 5,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers in professional journals, identified by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, showing the claim that carbon dioxide causes dangerous global warming is baseless.

One doesn’t need to be aware of all those shortcomings to realize the falsity of the global warming propaganda. It was sold to the public on grounds that the computer models on which it was based represented the real world. Reality has shown they do not. That is all you need to know. Eighteen years of no global warming—in the face of enormous increases in carbon dioxide emission—invalidate the global warming hypothesis. The U.S. government alone has wasted more than $165 billion since 1993 to combat global warming from carbon dioxide and caused many billions of dollars more to be wasted by the private sector.

One other item missing from the anti-global warming campaign is the role of the sun. It determines not only the earth’s climate but the carbon dioxide content of its atmosphere!

The sun’s radiation is varied by “sunspot cycles,” disturbances on the surface of the sun. Magnetic fields rip through the sun’s surface, producing holes in the sun’s corona, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and changes in the “solar wind,” the stream of charged particles emanating from the sun. The solar wind, by modulating the galactic cosmic rays which reach the earth, determines both the formation of clouds and  the carbon dioxide level in the earth’s atmosphere. Sunspot cycles cause only slight changes in the sun’s radiation, but these changes are amplified many fold by interaction 1) with ozone in the upper stratosphere, and 2) with clouds in the lower troposphere. Clouds have a hundred times greater impact on climate and temperature than CO2.

“Cosmic radiation comes to the earth from the depths of the universe, ionizing atoms and molecules in the troposphere, and thus enabling cloud formation. When the sun’s activity is stronger, the solar magnetic field drives a part of cosmic radiation away from the earth, fewer clouds are formed in the troposphere, and the earth becomes warmer,” wrote N.D. Marsh and H. Svensmark, pioneers in this issue. The process was explained with eloquent simplicity by Theodore Landsheidt of Canada’s Schroeder Institute: “When the solar wind is strong and cosmic rays are weak, the global cloud cover shrinks. It expands when cosmic rays are strong because the solar wind is weak. This effect [is] attributed to cloud seeding by ionized secondary particles.” Or, as Zbigniew Jaworowski put it more poetically, “The sun opens and closes a climate-controlling umbrella of clouds over our heads.”

The sun also sets the carbon dioxide level in the earth’s atmosphere by the same process. Nigel Calder explains: “The sun sets the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere by the cumulative effect of variations in the galactic cosmic rays reaching the earth, as modulated by the solar wind. My results leave no room for CO2 levels due to man-made CO2….nothing to do with emissions from factories or cars (emphasis added.)”

After about 210 years, sunspot cycles “crash” or almost entirely die out, and the earth can cool dramatically. These unusually cold periods last several decades. Of greatest concern to us is the Maunder Minimum, which ran from 1645 to 1715. (See It’s the Sun,Stupid for graphs and explanation.) Some years had no sunspots at all. The astronomer Sporer reported only 50 sunspots during a 30-year period, compared to 40,000, to 50,000 typical for that length of time.

In the year 2008 there were no sunspots at all on 266 days, an ominous indication of extreme cold weather for several decades despite all the BS about carbon dioxide.  While the believers in anthropological global warming usually try to make their case on a basis of a century or less of data covering the rise of industrialization (and fail), a prominent Russian solar physicist was looking elsewhere. Looking at 7,500 years of Maunder-type deep temperature drops, Habibullo Abdussamatov predicted a slow decline in temperatures would begin as early as 2012-2015 and lead to a deep freeze in 2050-2060 that will last about fifty years. In October 2013 he updated his earlier warning: “We are now on an unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.”

Everyone knows the sun’s heating of the earth and atmosphere is uneven. We have all witnessed changes in the sun’s heat we receive throughout the day, that it is warmest in midday when the sun is directly overhead; and as the sun moves across the sky, new volumes of air are exposed to its heating while others are left behind. This uneven heating is the basis for wind currents. A similar process takes place in the oceans, creating ocean currents. According to NASA, “uneven heating from the sun drives the air and ocean currents that produce the Earth’s climate” (italics added)

While others were studying and propagandizing about carbon dioxide, Don Easterbrook, a geology professor and climate scientist, noticed a recurring pattern in an ocean cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation going back to 1480. Every 25-30 years there was an alternation of warm and cool ocean cycles. In 2000 he concluded “the PDO said we’re due for a change,” and that happened. No global warming now for 18 years.

Nitrogen, oxygen and argon comprise more than 99 percent of our atmosphere. Water vapor and carbon dioxide are the next most abundant gases. Carbon Dioxide comprises 0.04 percent and is a weak greenhouse gas; water vapor, a strong one. Joseph D’Aleo, first direct of meteorology, the Weather Channel, offers this perspective, “If the atmosphere was a 100-story building, our annual anthropogenic (man-made) contribution today would be equivalent to the linoleum on the first floor.”

Meteorologist Joe Bastardi says only 1/50,000 of the air is man-made and carbon dioxide is “too trivial of a factor” to be of concern regarding global warming, that the whole argument is “tiresome and absurd…Warmists are living in a fantasy world.

“To those who say there is…a gas (which is only 1/2500th of an atmosphere in which the most prominent GHG [Greenhouse gas] is water vapor, and with oceans that have 1,000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere) is somehow controlling all this (recall that we once had an ice age at 7,000 ppm CO2), you live in a fantasy world.

“Then again, men who have the fantasy of saving the planet by controlling others are indeed in their own world. It’s up to those grappling with the real facts to make sure that the world we live in is one that promotes freedom and the betterment of mankind, and not one controlled by those who believe they are superior to everyone else. This is where the real battle is, and not with a trace gas that has little if anything to do with the climate of a planet created and designed the way it was.”

We close with a quote from Reid Bryson, founding chairman of the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin: “You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as a doubling of carbon dioxide.”

Categories: On the Blog

In 2010, Seventy-Four House Dems Opposed Obama’s Internet Power Grab. Now? Not So Much

January 13, 2015, 10:30 AM

November’s election was an overwhelming, historic rebuke of what President Barack Obama and his Democrats are doing – and how they’re doing it.

But if you think the newly-minted major Republican majorities should serve as a roadblock to the Democrat agenda – well, that’s yet another thing you don’t have in common with the Democrat Party.

President Obama has been unilaterally rewriting law in Executive-Order-fiat-fashion since about fifty-seven seconds into his Administration.  Last November’s election launched him into power grab overdrive.

Are Congressional Democrats protecting their purview?  And asking – nay demanding – President Obama leave the law writing to the lawmakers?  Of course not.

Sheila Jackson Lee: Writing Executive Orders for Obama to Sign ‘Our Number One Agenda’

Why would Democrats do their jobs – where they’ll have to deal with all those pesky Republicans the American people keep electing in ever-greater numbers?

Better to help President Obama render Congress ever more irrelevant.  Democrats get the undiluted-by-compromise Huge Government they want – and invited to all the President’s fancy Fiat Signing Ceremonies.

President Obama has nearly unlimited flexibility now that there are no more elections between him and the end of his regime.  But the clock is ticking – so he is really moving.

Just after the election he basically demanded that the allegedly independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

(R)eclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act….

The President wants his FCC to pretend to be Congress.  To yank the Internet out of 1996 law – and shove it into 1934 law.  He wants the omni-dynamic World Wide Web to be over-regulated like a Depression-era land line telephone.

Shocker – it looks like Obama-campaign-cash-bundling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is going to give the President what he wants.

Because this is the Democrat Party.  

As much government as possible – 

by any means necessary.

Meanwhile, Republicans still cling to the quaint Constitutional notion that elected legislators should be the ones legislating.

Republicans in Congress appear likely to introduce legislation next month aimed at preventing Internet providers from speeding up some Web sites over others.…

But those new powers would come with a trade-off… (T)he FCC would refrain from regulating net neutrality using Title II of the Communications Act….

Congressional Democrats?

“The FCC can and should take strong action… We would forcefully oppose any (Congressional) reforms that would undermine the FCCs authority….”

Get that? Democrats say Congress shouldn’t do Congress’ job – because that would prohibit the FCC from illegally doing Congress’ job.

Remember – the FCC doesn’t have any authority over anything unless and until Congress first writes law giving it to them.  (I’m reminding Democrats – not you, Gentle Readers.)

In 2010, many Democrats were singing a very different tune.  (Brace yourselves – else you might get whiplash.):

74 House Democrats Not Happy With FCC Broadband Plan Either

The lawmakers signed (Rep. Gene Green of Texas’) letter…expressing their opposition to the FCC’s…plan to reclassify broadband from a Type I information service to a Type II telecom service….

“The significant regulatory impact of reclassifying broadband services is not something that should be taken lightly and should not be done without additional direction from Congress.”…

Green said “This letter clearly shows it is not a partisan issue.….”

And now?

Congressman Gene Green and 19 other Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC)…in response to recent reports that the FCC will consider regulating broadband Internet as a Title II, common carrier service under the Communications Act of 1934….

“A strict, utility-type regulation under Title II-created to regulate telephone services in the 1930s-simply wont work for this new, innovative, ever-evolving technology.”

74 dwindles to 20.  Profiles in Discouraging.  What happened to the rest?  Some lost intervening elections.  Some returned to the Democrat Huge Government fold.

Rep. Peters Flips for Net Neutrality

Back in 2010, Michigan Rep. Gary Peters was one of 73 House Democrats who signed fellow Rep. Gene Greens letter urging the FCC not to adopt strong Net Neutrality rules….

This week Peters, whos running for Senate, wrote a letter pushing the agency to protect the open Internet in the best way possible: by reclassifying Internet service providers as common carriers.

He’s now Senator Peters.  He was running for a promotion as a lawmaker – in part on refusing to make law. And was apparently unhindered by his newfound preference for unilateral government power grabs and his own irrelevancy.

Because this is the Democrat Party.  As much government as possible – by any means necessary.

Categories: On the Blog

Lessons for Winning Liberty in a World of Statism

January 13, 2015, 2:39 AM

Friends of freedom often become despondent when it seems that every day brings another growth and intrusion of government over people’s lives. But there is no reason to be disheartened, because there are lessons for winning liberty – from the opponents of freedom.

 Beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century, through most of the twentieth century and into our own time, all ideological, political and economic trends have been in the direction of various forms of collectivism. How did this come about, and what might friends of freedom learn from it?

Let’s take the case of socialism. On March 14, 1883, a German philosopher living in exile in London passed away. When he was buried three days later in a modest grave where his wife had been laid to rest two years earlier, fewer than ten people were present, half of them family members.

His closest friend spoke at the gravesite and said, “Soon the world will feel the void left by the passing of this Titan.” But there was, in fact, little reason to think that the deceased man or his long, turgid, and often obscure writings would leave any lasting impression on the world of ideas or on the course of human events.

That man was Karl Marx.

Socialism Did Not Always Seem “Inevitable”

Advocates of liberty often suffer bouts of despair. How can the cause of freedom ever triumph in a world so dominated by interventionist and welfare-statist ideas? Governments often give lip service to the benefits of free markets and the sanctity of personal and civil liberties. In practice, however, those same governments continue to encroach on individual freedom, restrict and regulate the world of commerce and industry, and redistribute the wealth of society to those with political power and influence. The cause of freedom seems to be a lost cause, with merely temporary rear-guard successes against the continuing growth of government.

What friends of freedom need to remember is that trends can change, that they have in the past and will again in the future. If this seems far-fetched, place yourself in the position of a socialist at the time that Karl Marx died in 1883, and imagine that you are an honest and sincere – if naïve – advocate of socialism.

As a socialist, you live in a world that is still predominately classical liberal and free market, with governments in general only intervening in relatively minimal ways in commercial affairs. Most people – including those in the “working class” – believe that it is not really the responsibility of the state to redistribute wealth or nationalize industry and agriculture, and are suspicious of most forms of government paternalism.

How could socialism ever be victorious in such a world so fully dominated by the “capitalist” mindset? Even “the workers” don’t understand the evils of capitalism and the benefits of a socialist future! Such a sincere socialist could only hope that Marx was right and that socialism would have to come – someday – due to inescapable “laws of history.”

Yet within 30 years the socialist idea came to dominate the world. By the time of the First World War the notion of paternalistic government had captured the minds of intellectuals and was gaining increasing support among the general population. Welfare-statist interventionism was replacing the earlier relatively free-market environment.

The socialist ideal of government planning was put into effect as part of the wartime policies of the belligerent powers beginning in 1914, and also lead to the communist revolution in Russia in 1917, the rise to power of fascism in Italy in 1922, the triumph of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany in 1933, and the implementation of FDR’s New Deal policies in 1933, as well.

Collectivists Triumphed Based on Individualist Methods

Socialism triumphed during that earlier period of the last decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries because while socialists advocated an ideology of collectivism, they practiced a politics of individualism. They understood that “history” would not move in their direction unless they changed popular opinion. And implicitly they understood that this meant changing the minds of millions of individual people.

So they went out and spoke and debated with their friends and neighbors. They contributed to public lectures and the publishing of pamphlets and books. They founded newspapers and magazines, and distributed them to anyone who would be willing to read them. They understood that the world ultimately changes one mind at a time – in spite of their emphasis on “social classes,” group interests, and national conflicts

They overcame the prevailing public opinion, defeated powerful special interests, and never lost sight of their long-term goal of the socialist society to come, which was the motivation and the compass for all their actions.

 

Lesson One: Confidence in the Moral Rightness of Liberty

What do friends of freedom have to learn from the successes of our socialist opponents? First, we must fully believe in the moral and practical superiority of freedom and the free market over all forms of collectivism. We must be neither embarrassed nor intimidated by the arguments of the collectivists, interventionists, and welfare statists. Once any compromise is made in the case for freedom, the opponents of liberty will have attained the high ground and will set the terms of the debate.

Freedom advocate, Leonard E. Read, once warned of sinking in a sea of “buts.” I believe in freedom and self-responsibility, “but” we need some minimum government social “safety net.” I believe in the free market, “but” we need some limited regulation for the “public good.” I believe in free trade, “but” we should have some form of protectionism for “essential” industries and jobs. Before you know it, Read warned, the case for freedom has been submerged in an ocean of exceptions.

Each of us, given the constraints on his time, must try to become as informed as possible about the case for freedom. Here, again, Leonard Read pointed out the importance of self-education and self-improvement. The more knowledgeable and articulate we each become in explaining the benefits of the free society and the harm from all forms of collectivism, the more we will have the ability to attract people who may want to hear what we have to say.

Lesson Two: Focusing on the Long Run, Not Short Run Turns

Another lesson to be learned from the earlier generation of socialists is not to be disheartened by the apparent continuing political climate that surrounds us. We must have confidence in the truth of what we say, to know in our minds and hearts that freedom can and will win in the battle of ideas.

We must focus on that point on the horizon that represents the ideal of individual liberty and the free society, regardless of how many twists and turns everyday political currents seem to be following. National, state, and local elections merely reflect prevailing political attitudes and beliefs. Our task is to influence the future and not allow ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by who gets elected today and on what policy platform.

As Austrian economist, F.A. Hayek, emphasized, current policy directions are the product of ideological and political trends from thirty or forty years ago. In other words government policies today are the lagged effect of political-philosophical and ideological trends of earlier decades. To change tomorrow’s policies, our focus today must be on influencing the “climate of opinion” reflected in people’s minds that, then, will determine how people in the future view issues such as the role of government in society based on their notion of the nature and rights of individuals.

Lesson Three: Knowing that Only Freedom Works

Let us remember that over the last hundred years virtually every form of collectivism has been tried—socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism, interventionism, welfare statism—and each has failed. There are very few today who wax with sincere enthusiasm that government is some great secular god that can solve all of mankind’s problems – at least not many outside of those currently employed in the White House!

 

Statist policies and attitudes continue to prevail because of institutional and special interest inertia; they no longer possess the political, philosophical, and ideological fervor that brought them to power in earlier times.

Political collectivism resulted in terrible and brutal tyrannies around the world. Government central planning created economic stagnation and chaos wherever tried. Interventionist-welfare statist policies have generated spider’s webs of special interest politics, intergenerational redistributive dependency, and perverse incentives and barriers to opportunity and prosperity.

There is, in fact, only one “ism” left to fill this vacuum in the face of collectivism’s failures in all its forms. It is classical liberalism, with its conception of the free man in the free society and the free market, soundly grounded in the ideas of each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property in a social setting of peaceful association and voluntary cooperation and trade.

If we keep the classical liberal ideal of individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism before us, we can and will win liberty in our time – for our children and ourselves.

Categories: On the Blog

Castro’s Message to Cubans Contradicts Obama’s Stated Reforms

January 12, 2015, 7:17 PM

It was on Wednesday, December 17, that President Obama instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba to ease the U.S. trade embargo and move toward full diplomatic relations, with the possibility of re-establishing an embassy in Havana. Following Obama’s announcement the Vatican issued its own same day statement expressing Pope Francis’ “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations.”

The White House credits Pope Francis with being an important catalyst to the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States. While the eighteen month negotiations took place primarily in Canada, the final deal was worked out at the Vatican and personally attended to by the first Latin American, pope, Pope Francis. Obama said during his fifteen minute speech: “His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me and to Cuba’s president, Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case and to address Cuba’s interests in the release of three Cuban agents, who’ve been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.”  Cited by the White House is how the Pope raised the issue repeatedly with Obama when the two men met at the Vatican in March of 2014.

Following Obama’s December 17th statement, the Vatican issued its own same day statement expressing Pope Francis’ “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations.” The statement also confirmed that in recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to both Castro and Obama, and “invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties.”

Raul Castro’s Victory Lap Speech contradicts Obama’s message

What the Cuban people heard were not the reforms in diplomacy as delivered by President Obama. Instead, they heard Raul Castro’s Embargo in his Victory Lap Speech as he spoke simultaneously to the Cuban people as President Obama delivered his remarks.  Castro explained the release of both USAID worker Alan Gross (who had been subjected to various abuses in Cuban prison for attempting to connect Cuban Jews to the Internet) and the three Cuban spies convicted of crimes in the United States, as a promise kept by “Comrade Fidel.”

Raul Castro further noted how the new diplomatic relations were a sign that Cuba can “resolve differences through negotiations without renouncing to even one of our principles,” going on to applaud  “the heroic Cuban people” for “remaining loyal to our ideals of independence and social justice.”  And in a definite swipe against President Obama, Castro touted how the new reforms would help in “the actualization of our economic model to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism.” Although Castro did note that the decision by President Obama deserved the respect and recognition of the Cuban people, he placed blame on President Obama’s shoulders and called for Obama to lift the embargo entirely through executive action.

Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on the Fox News Channel on the day of Obama’s announcement (December 17) that Obama’s move constituted “appeasement” and is a “very, very bad signal of weakness and lack of resolve by the president of the United States.

Anger and condemnation was the prevailing GOP reaction to Obama’s announcement of a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called Obama’s action “appeasement of a dictatorship.”  House Speaker John Boehner remarked how it “emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism. But not so with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who not only said Obama had made the correct decision to allow more trade with Cuba as it will lead to a freer Cuba, but that the president had also acted within his executive authority to do so.

Republicans who like Ran Paul support Obama’s new Cuba policy (including Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Representatives Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Mark Sanford Mark of South Carolina), all have in common the fact that they were born after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The same describes younger Cuban-Americans who are skeptical of the sanctions against their ancestral homeland and don’t subscribe to the hardline Cold War rhetoric that accompanied the 196l embargo.

Were Senator Ron Paul and others favoring Obama’s decision aware of the measure the Cuban government declared a day before Obama announced his thawing of U.S.-Cuba relation? The mainstream media was certainly nowhere to be found.

In an official announcement in state newspaper Granma, just one day before President Obama announced sweeping changes that would allow potential American investment in Cuba on Tuesday, December 16, the Cuban government announced a new measure that would allow Cubans who work for foreign companies to keep only 8% of their salaries. In other words, even if a foreign company has the means to pay more than a Cuban company, the worker will receive the same salary as if he were working for a Cuban company, and the government will pocket the rest, 92%!  In addition to the 92% of salaries being pocketed by the Cuban government, Cuban government employment offices will charge 20% of the salary of each worker they connect to the corporation for the service of finding said corporation employees. Employees will also lose 9.09% of their salaries for “vacation time.”

Given this new government measure, American companies who might like to do work in Cuba would be keeping very little of the money they invested and earned in business, but instead would line the pockets of the communist government. As Raúl Castro noted in his speech, the Cuban government made no concessions in this recent negotiation with the United States, save the freedom of Gross and one other American agent whom President Obama did not name, which leaves it open to sanctioning American companies who dare attempt to do business on the island as they see fit.

Account of one who escaped from Castro’s Cuba as a teenager

Below are excerpts from an article, “Obama, Castro and the Pope,” by Elvira Fernandez Hasty, my friend and collaborator a devout life-long Catholic.  It was first published on December 18 at Canada Free Press. Elvira Hasty knows firsthand of what she speaks and doesn’t mince words. Soon after Fidel Castro came to Cuba there were rumors of the government takeover of private schools. Elvira was sent as a young teen to the USA via the Pedro Pan program to live with cousins of her mother in Tampa, Florida.  It was to be a temporary situation, just until the government in Cuba changed to a democracy, but after all these years Cuba is still a communist country.  It is the USA that has changed.

The Obama promise of “a radical transformation of America” is being accomplished in a blatant disregard for our constitution and our laws, and no one seems to do anything about it.  Apparently not being called racist by the liberal press is more important to our elites in government and society than to save our country.

Not only it is the USA becoming a Marxist tyranny under President Obama, but even the Catholic Church leader, Pope Francis, is helping out in achieving it.  What makes this Pope think he can meddle in the politics of an independent country?  And this from a person who has no idea of economics, history, and what communism has done to humanity. Does he not understand that being a “do-gooder” without knowledge always ends up in disaster for those they wish to help?  Father Jonathan of Fox News is happy for the Cuban people——really?  For what?  Nothing will change for them.  There is no embargo.  This is another scam perpetrated by the Marxist media and the billionaire thugs, just like Global Warming.  Cuba has been for years able to trade freely with every other country in the world.  In addition, the USA trades with Cuba, but on a limited basis.  The problem has always been credit the Cuban government demands when trading.  Just ask those countries that have traded with Cuba and never got paid. Obama will now have the funds to help out the communist Cuban government. 

And help it is!  Cuba is close to complete economic meltdown.  It can no longer rely on Russia because it has its own economic problems.  And Venezuela’s economy is suffering due to the decrease in oil prices.  Cuba had been relying on Venezuela providing oil to just survive.  Not to worry, Castro boys; Obama comes to the rescue!  He will never let down one of his own comrades. After all, too few communist countries are left and Obama needs friends.  In addition, the Chamber of Commerce can never turn down a good scam, just like with illegal aliens.  As money from tourists and exported goods reach Cuba, the Castro brothers and their friends will become richer and more powerful while the Cuban workers will continue to be paid in cheap pesos. 

To the Americans who so much desire to travel to Cuba, my sincere prayers that you would realize what your money would do to your country before you start packing that suitcase.  Life is really not about pleasure, but about love & sacrifice for your fellow human beings in this world.

To the Catholic leaders who wish to help the Cuban people, my prayers, too, that you would realize the evil that has descended upon our country and the Church.  Your purpose is to save souls, not to be used as pawns for the Devil.

Postlude

The outgoing head of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the son of Cuban immigrants, noted on a Jan. 4th Sunday morning news program that he knew nothing about the eighteen month Cuba deal to normalize relations with Cuba.  Furthermore, Senator Bob Menendez was not at all pleased that this nation got nothing for giving up all the Castro regime wanted to see and had lobbied for.

In so far as President Obama stated in his Dec.17th announcement that the change in U.S.-Cuban relations came about because isolation hadn’t worked, further stating that Cubans should not face harassment or arrest for expressing their views, Obama then promised to monitor human rights violations.   President Obama didn’t have long to wait when only two weeks after his announcement human rights activists and political dissidents were arrested.  Signaling that Cuba will continue to suppress dissent, Cuban’s President Raul Castro detained more than 50 activists on Tuesday, December 30, in what was reported a move to squelch a planned gathering in Havana’s Revolution Square on New Year’s Day. Also of concern is that although the U.S.-Cuba deal called for the release of 53 political prisoners held by the Castro regime, so far the prisoners have not been released or even identified.

In spite of the harsh response to the crackdown by the Obama administration and the State Department, the Obama administration has been stung by Cuba’s crackdown on dissidents. Little seems to have changed in Havana despite President Obama’s diplomatic outreach.  What are the odds of the Obama administration taking any action other than its rhetorical protests against human rights abuses in Havana? Did President Obama just give the Castro regime in Cuba an unwarranted bailout?  For more than a half century there was the bi-partisan consensus of 10 presidents with a consistent policy toward Cuba.  It never occurred to any of them to surrender to Cuba.

Obama seems to relish trading Americans who hate America for foreign terrorists and murderers who also hate America, i.e., the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban’s high command.  Obama also seems to hold deep affection for hardline Islamic states, so anything could happen in the next two years.  Iran might even be looked on favorably by the Obama administration and given an Embassy, so desperate is Obama to sign a nuclear deal which wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on!

[First published at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Congress Doesn’t Create Free Markets—It Only Destroys Them

January 12, 2015, 3:15 PM

When people clamor for Congress to pass a “free-market health plan,” they are forgetting two things: Congress only does laws, which restrict freedom. We need fewer laws, not more. And the free market is by nature not a plan.

Big laws like ObamaCare are designed by special-interest groups, such as the “insurance” (managed care) cartel, Big Hospitals, Big Pharma, and influential groups that want their benefits (abortion, contraception, drug and alcohol rehab, AIDS therapy, etc.) paid for by people who would never use them.

There are good ideas circulating, such as health status insurance, expanded health savings accounts, and critical illness insurance. How good? We won’t know without trying them. The free market—voluntary decisions by free individuals—picks the winners and losers, and allows options that work for some but not others. The free market cannot achieve the utopian state in which everybody gets optimum care, paid for by everybody else. Neither can government. The government can only force everybody (except of course for the elite) into equally shabby care, paid for by extortionate taxes with huge losses to corruption and incompetence.

Obviously, government does not actually provide medical care. It just sets up the conditions under which doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, and others do that. Congressionally mandated conditions are making it more and more difficult for medical professionals to do their work.

The only thing government can do to create a free market is to get out of the way. Laws that constrain people’s ability to innovate or to do their best need to be repealed—and many of these date back to the New Deal.

The key change is to restore the liberty of the people to make enforceable contracts—which the Roosevelt Supreme Court destroyed. Specifically, this would mean:

  • Prices would be set by agreement of buyer and seller. Over forty centuries, price controls have always and everywhere had the same results: shortages, misallocation of resources, corruption, and misery, whether imposed by Roman Emperor Diocletian, Hitler, Roosevelt, Nixon, or Medicare/Medicaid.
  • People could agree to limits on liability. Doctors should not have to risk impoverishment every time they try to help someone.
  • People could buy insurance at an actuarially fair price with the coverage they desire—or refrain from buying it at all. If federal mandates and impediments were repealed, it would just take one state to allow marketing of insurance to out-of-state residents to start a marketplace for people in states where the price of individual insurance is prohibitive owing to state mandates.

We can’t just wipe out programs that people are dependent upon—although they are headed to inevitable bankruptcy. But why not let people turn down the benefits and “protections” if they choose to do so? That way we could relieve pressure on the programs, while finding out how the way of freedom is better.

Here are some things that some people would like to do without:

  • Medicare. Really. Some seniors even sued for the right to forgo Part A without paying back all their Social Security. Why? As a colleague wrote me, “You ought to see how academic centers don’t want to take care of old people or high-risk people.”
  • FDA restrictions on “unproved therapies.” People who are facing certain death or disability want the right to try treatments that haven’t been through years and $2.6 billion in testing to satisfy the FDA—or to have to first “fail” on approved but painful, toxic, minimally effective treatment first. Why not fail on the new treatment first and fall back on the old?
  • Electronic medical records. People want to have their doctor’s undivided attention, and they don’t want their life story in a government database. They can keep track of the important facts themselves, thank you very much.
  • The third-party system of scribes, coders, claims filers, preauthorizations (or denials), compliance monitors, managers, auditors, “re-pricers,” etc. This probably skims off 40 percent of the “healthcare” dollar while providing nothing that resembles medical goods or services.

If some people like their government healthcare, let them keep it. But let the people go if they prefer freedom.

Categories: On the Blog

Wind Energy’s Bluster Peters Out

January 12, 2015, 1:15 PM

Touted as “America’s first offshore wind project,” Cape Wind became one of America’s most high-profile and most controversial wind-energy projects. Fourteen years in the making, estimated at $2.6 billion for 130 turbines, covering 25 square miles in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project has yet to install one turbine—let alone produce any electricity. Now, it may be “dead in the water.”

On January 6, the two power companies, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, that had agreed to purchase most of the electricity Cape Wind was to generate, terminated their contracts with the developers due to missed milestones. Under the terms of the contracts, Cape Wind had to secure financing and give notices to proceed to its suppliers to start work by December 31, 2014. Neither happened and both companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements. “The project is in cardiac arrest,” according to Amy Grace, a wind-industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Cape Wind has faced stiff opposition since it was first proposed in 2001. Senator Edward Kennedy’s efforts, and those of his wealthy friends, to fight Cape Wind have been the most publicized, but Native Americans, fishermen, and local communities have also battled the industrialization of Nantucket Sound. The town of Barnstable has been particularly active in the fight. The Cape Cod Times reports that Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, said: “The town’s concerns include the possibility that a collision between a boat and the large electric service platform the project requires could spill thousands of gallons of oil into the sound.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) positioned Cape Wind as the centerpiece of his renewable energy goals and invested significant political capital backing the proposal—including tying the NStar power purchase agreement to approval of the NStar and Northeast Utilities merger (given the unfavorable terms of the agreements, the companies may have been looking for any exit ramp). Yet, Ian Bowles, Patrick’s first energy and environment chief who, according to the Boston Globe, “helped shepherd the offshore project,” acknowledges that the loss of the power purchase agreements “may have spelled the end for Cape Wind.”

The announcement came two days before Patrick left office. While he claims: “We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines,” Patrick concedes it is now “up to the market.” According to the Cape Cod Times, the former governor doesn’t know “if the project could survive without the contracts in place.”

Even the Department of Energy (DOE), which seems to indiscriminately throw money at any politically favored green-energy project, was tepid in its support for Cape Wind. DOE’s loan guarantees generally average about 60 percent of the project’s costs, but the $150 million offered to Cape Wind made up a mere 6 percent—and that, only after the project received commitments for about half of its financing. In most cases, the government guarantee comes before the private financing and signals a go-ahead for investors.

While both supporters and detractors believe the project is in jeopardy, environmentalists and Cape Wind Associates LLC have not yet waved the white flag. According to Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources research : “Cape Wind may be down, but it is not out.” The Boston Globe reports that Cape Wind’s president, James Gordon, believes the perpetual litigation “triggered a clause in the contracts that allows for more latitude in Cape Wind’s ability to meet the deadlines.” However, after the company already spent $50 to $70 million on the project, the fact that Gordon opted not to pay the utilities the mere $2 million needed for a six-month extension signals that he doesn’t have confidence that they can continue.

Additionally, the political winds have shifted. While Governor Patrick championed Cape Wind, Massachusetts’ new governor, Charlie Baker (R) is on record as being staunchly opposed to it—even calling it Patrick’s “personal pet project.” While campaigning, Baker “dropped his opposition to Cape Wind” because he believed it was a “done deal.” Now that the deal may well be undone, Baker says he “will not try to influence the outcome of the legal process surrounding the Cape Wind project.”

The cancellation of the contracts is “a near fatal blow” to Cape Wind according to Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Cod based group which has led the fight against cape wind.

Wind energy’s future faces problems beyond Massachusetts.

While Massachusetts’ utility companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements, two Minnesota wind farms, operating as Minwind Companies, were filed for bankruptcy because the eleven turbines needed extensive repairs and the 360 farmers and landowners who invested in the projects can’t afford the maintenance. Minwind CEO Mark Willers explained: “Minwind Companies have enjoyed relative prosperity in recent years, but the April ice storm last year took a toll on equipment—and on the budget.” At a December 17 meeting, he told shareholders: “We were 200 to 300 percent over budget to make those repairs.”

Minwind’s nine separate limited-liability companies allowed investors to take advantage of federal wind-energy credits, USDA grants, and the now-discontinued state assistance program for small wind projects. The Star Tribune reports: “The owners stand to lose their investment, and the wind farms eventually may have to shut down.”

On the national level, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has continued to lobby for a retroactive extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy that expired at the end of 2013. Disappointing AWEA, the lame-duck Congress did approve a ninth extension—but just through the end of 2014. AWEA’s CEO Tim Kiernan groused: “Unfortunately, the extension to the end of 2014 will only allow minimal new wind development and it will have expired again by the time the new Congress convenes.” In response to the “bare-minimum extension,” Luke Lewandowsi, Make Consulting research manager, said it “casts doubt on the willingness or ability of Congress to revisit the PTC in 2015.”

Adding insult to industrial wind’s injury, wind turbine installation placed number three in the list of 10 dying U.S. industries—following only computer and recordable media manufacturing.

All of this news doesn’t bode well for the wind energy business, but for ratepayers and those who believe in the free market and who believe that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, current wind conditions are a breath of fresh air. Governments, both state and federal, have given wind energy every advantage, to quote Governor Patrick: “It’s now up to the market”—and even Warren Buffet admits the tax credits are the only reason to build wind farms.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

January 12, 2015, 11:54 AM

Alex Epstein, author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change in July 2014.

“Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits.”

In his new book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein makes one of the most compelling arguments for the moral value of fossil fuels and the need to increase their use that we have ever read. Although virtually everyone battling the anthropogenic global warming delusion takes a defensive position with regard to the world’s use of coal, natural gas, and oil, our so-called fossil fuels, Epstein recognizes that, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense.

Written in a conversational style that is easy to read and understand, this book can serve as a layman’s guide, refuting the absurd claims that man controls the climate, while explaining why the current abundance of oil and gas due to hydraulic fracturing will leave all efforts to impose wind and solar energy in our rear-view mirrors.

For Epstein, human life, well-being, and flourishing are the standard of value public policy should maximize. He calls this position ethical humanism, a theory that goes back to the ancient Greeks, if not before, and was virtually unchallenged as a basis for judging right and wrong until recently. He examines fossil fuels strictly in relation to their ability to enhance or constrain human well-being.

Unfortunately, many prominent environmental writers have rejected humanism, instead embracing a bio-centric philosophy that views human changes to the environment as intrinsically bad and takes minimizing human impacts on the environment as the prime moral goal. As such, bio-centrism is a prescription for human poverty, disease, starvation, and premature death—in other words, an endorsement of the world as experienced by all but the wealthiest individuals for the vast majority of human history.

Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits. Epstein makes short shrift of the fear-mongering that focuses on catastrophic depletion of our fossil fuels rather than on the human ingenuity that always finds replacements for all our resources before they run out.

Fossil Fuels Power Progress and Well-being

Fossil fuel use has dramatically increased human life expectancy and reduced infant mortality in the developed world. Thanks to fossil fuels, “millions of individuals in industrializing countries have gotten their first light bulb, their first refrigerator, their first decent paying job, their first year with clean drinking water or a full stomach,” Epstein writes. Ultimately, the moral case for fossil fuels is not about fossil fuels; it is the moral case for using cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to amplify our abilities to make the world a better place for human beings.

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

Epstein builds on Milton Friedman’s explanations in his Free to Choose TV series where he explains that the rich do not benefit so much as others do from advances in energy, as they have always had servants to fetch, entertain, make clothes and the like. The achievement of inexpensive energy, Friedman remarks, “has made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.”

Problems with Other Energy Sources

The book also briefly but effectively skewers all standard forms of renewable energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels (but not hydropower), explaining they are useful for niche applications but utterly unable to supplement fossil fuels in the electric grid or for transportation.

And yet our political leaders propose massive restrictions on fossil fuels with the promise that these inferior technologies will replace them. This reflects either an ignorance of (perhaps willful) or indifference to the need for efficient, cheap, reliable energy for 1.3 billion people without electricity and more than 3 billion who do not have adequate electricity. For everyone “to have as much access to energy as the average American, the world’s energy production would have to quadruple,” Epstein writes.

Seeing the Big Picture

Epstein’s assumption that human welfare and flourishing are the primary moral standard leads to a couple of important conclusions. One, we should look at the big picture when determining the value of using fossil fuels. That means we must examine not just the costs or potential harms to humans from fossil fuel use but also all the virtues and benefits it provides and the harms that would occur if fossil fuels are abandoned as a source of energy. If one has an open mind, it is apparent fossil fuels provide unique and tremendous benefits to humankind, unmatched by any other fuel source at current prices with current technology, benefits far outweighing the harmful by-products resulting from their use, even if one believes their use contributes to global warming.

Second, Epstein writes:

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

Restricting or ending fossil fuel use, not climate change, is the real recipe for disaster, Epstein argues. It would set human civilization back centuries, ringing a true death knell for present and future generations.

Epstein sums up much of his moral argument in his final chapter, “Winning the Future,” with this excellent statement: “We don’t want to save the planet from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings. We need to say this loudly and proudly. We need to say that human life is our one and only standard of value. And we need to say that the transformation of our environment, the essence of our survival, is a supreme virtue. We need to recognize that to the extent we deny either, we are willing to harm real, flesh and blood human beings for some antihuman dogma.”

This is a great book for all your open-minded friends willing to spend a few hours expanding their understanding beyond the myopic delusion purveyed by the contemporary mainstream media.

———————————

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is science director, and H. Sterling Burnett is a research fellow, at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Chicago, Illinois.

Categories: On the Blog

The FCC Is Unnecessarily Undermining its Legitimacy

January 12, 2015, 10:27 AM

In directing the Wireless bureau to make two substantial, Commission-level decisions today, without the full Commission vote that was requested by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, (concerning the release of the annual wireless competition report and regulating cellular data roaming rates), the FCC Chairman unnecessarily undermined the legitimacy of the FCC at a critical time the FCC needs all the actual and perceived legitimacy it can get.

The FCC’s legitimacy comes from the authority of law written by a duly-elected Congress under the U.S. Constitution, and from the official votes from duly-appointed FCC commissioners, who in turn abide by: the powers vested in the Commission by the Communications Act; due process; and the Administrative Procedures Act.

Process matters.

Making rate regulation without an official vote of the Commission can create the public perception that a majority of the Commission may not support some, or all of the new rate regulation.

At this particular time in the FCC’s history, when the FCC is potentially poised to reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service to impose rate regulation for downstream Internet traffic, (which also could involve some forbearance from other rate regulations via the official forbearance process), the perception of the reliability of the FCC in respecting its own processes and procedures is especially important.

If FCC commissioners cannot predict or count on being included in rate regulation decisions by the FCC under normal expected processes and procedures, what confidence can affected parties have that the FCC will follow the law and the FCC’s process and procedures on other matters that affect their interests?

What confidence could affected parties have that the process and procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act will be legally respected in building the necessary record for the pending Open Internet Order, or for its complex implementation?

It does not advance the current or long-term legitimacy of the FCC, if Congress and the public have a perception that the FCC may be operating in an arbitrary or capricious manner, by unnecessarily bypassing normal expected process and procedures.

If the FCC wants affected parties to respect their rules, processes and procedures, shouldn’t the FCC lead by example and be extra careful to respect their own rules, processes, and procedures?

Simply, legitimate authority and process beget legitimate outcomes.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – H. Leighton Steward

January 12, 2015, 10:00 AM

Geologists H. Leighton Steward is chairman of Plants Need CO2.  He is a New York Times best-selling author and  Chairman of the Board of The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at SMU, most recently Steward worked with a team of former NASA scientists known as “The Right Climate Stuff.” The NASA team includes scientists with expertise in physics, chemistry, geology, climatology, engineering, biology, and other fields.

After carefully analyzing the evidence for global warming they concluded that there is no evidence of catastrophic global warming.  They determined that current models are unvalidated and clearly deficient for climate forecasting, Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 is much less than commonly claimed, empirical evidence does not support a catastrophic warming scenario, calling CO2 a “pollutant” is scientifically embarrassing and we should not be spending huge sums to reduce CO2 in light of the above.

In fact, the team leader projects a maximum of one degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century based on a look back at empirical evidence.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Dr. Death: Ezekiel Emanuel

January 12, 2015, 2:06 AM

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of Obamacare, suggests skipping your annual check ups.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is the brother of the current mayor of Chicago and, like MIT’s Johnathan Gruber, an architect of Obamacare, which proponents prefer to call “the Affordable Care Act.”  It turns out one of the ways the good Dr. Emanuel wants to help make health care affordable is to dissuade patients from using it.

Emanuel has already made news by saying that he doesn’t see much use in living past age 75.  That’s when, for many people, the body and the mind begin breaking down in ways that are essentially irreversible.  Beside, says Dr. Zeke, most people past the age of 75 don’t accomplish much of anything worthwhile, and so are of little use to society.  (To be brutal, most of us of any age don’t accomplish much that’s truly transformative.)   And if life’s not worth living past 75, don’t expect the administrators of Obamacare to see that you get much health care after that age.

Exceptions abound, of course, from Supreme Court Justices to active centenarians.  But they are exceptions, and Dr. Zeke does not bet on exceptions.

That’s why, for example, Dr. Zeke recently announced on The New York Times op-ed page that he’s given up his annual physical and that you should, too.  (“Skip Your Annual Physical,” January 9, 2015.)  For an estimated 45 million of us, according to Dr. Zeke, the annual physical has been a part of our well-being check:  a reminder that we are another year older, to watch our weight, to get enough sleep and exercise, and to cut back on our bad health habits like excesssive drinking, smoking, or sniffing glue.  (Sorry, you had to watch Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane.”)

An annual physical also serves as a way to stay in touch with medical care-givers; to monitor year-to-year changes in blood pressure, weight, cholesterol level, and blood sugar on a systematic basis; and to notice unusual changes like precancerous moles or emerging cataracts.  A clean bill of health following an annual physical also puts most of us in a better psychological state, which indisputably enhances our happiness, productivity, and overall well-being.

But what are such well-known practical and intangible benefits in the face of hard scientific evidence, especially as wielded by experts like Dr. Zeke and Mr. Gruber?

For according to the impressively and alliteratively named “Cochrane Collaboration,” which sounds like the next Bourne Identity novel but which Dr. Zeke redundantly informs us is an “international group of medical researchers who systematically review the world’s biomedical research,” annual physicals are “unlikely to be beneficial.”  And that must be true; after all, these are medical researchers who review medical research.

According to Dr. Zeke, the Cochrane Collaboration’s fourteen “randomized controlled trials with over 182,000 people followed for a median of nine years” –very scientific-sounding – showed that annual physicals from 1963 to 1999 “did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease.”  Well, duh!

One reason, Dr. Zeke concedes, has nothing to do with annual physicals:  unintentional injuries and suicides are the fourth and tenth leading causes of death among Americans.  Physicals do nothing to detect or relieve the former, although they may actually help reduce chances of the latter; perhaps that’s partly why suicides come in tenth instead of fifth or sixth.

But a second, more obvious, reason that physicals may not reduce “overall mortality” is – get this – just like in most operas, everybody dies in the end.  Or as Bob Dylan put it many years ago, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Of course an annual physical is not going to keep people from dying, nor can it prevent cancer or heart disease.  But for all the reasons cited above, it can help people lead longer, healthier, more productive, more satisfying lives.

Dr. Emanuel’s real reason for discouraging annual physicals seems to be his expert-driven insistence on making Obamacare work despite the odds.  In essence, the Affordable Care Act is yet another wealth transfer scheme, from the healthy to the sickly, from the middle class to the lower class.  In systems of government-rationed care like Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA health system, some people must be denied care in order to provide it to others.

“Not having my annual physical,” admits Dr. Emanuel, “is one small way I can help reduce health care costs … ” If others will but follow his example, then “[t]hat will free up countless hours of doctors’ time for patients who really do have a medical problem, helping to ensure there is no doctor shortage as more Americans get health insurance.”

Or we could let Americans voluntarily pick their own health care plans and decide for themselves if an annual physical is worth their own time and money.

Categories: On the Blog

On Climate Change, the Pope Could Use a Lesson in Science

January 11, 2015, 10:30 AM

Pope Francis recently made headlines engaging in non-theological matters such as the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba and income inequality. Taking positions on these controversial topics has made Francis both a hero and a villain (depending on whom you ask), but few of his past positions inspired the sort of ire Francis is sure to receive should he decide to engage in the hotly contested global warming debate.

It doesn’t appear as though the pope is worried about making friends.

According to the Guardian, in 2015 Francis will deliver a message condemning man-made climate change to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and will address the General Assembly of the United Nations, where he is expected to call upon world leaders to reduce carbon dioxide production to halt the deadly and immediate effects of global warming.

Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, says Francis hopes his efforts to combat climate change will directly contribute to action by governments at the global climate meeting to be held in Paris in December 2015.

The pope should be commended for actively working to make the world a better place and for promoting the long-term sustainability of Earth, but his big climate-change push fails to recognize the overwhelming evidence suggesting immediate catastrophic global warming is not occurring.

For more than 18 consecutive years, global temperature data show no warming. Roughly 95 percent of all climate models predicting the course of global warming have been proven wrong.

There has been no long-term trend of rising global sea levels.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index, which attempts to measure the duration and intensity of long-term drought-inducing circulation patterns, shows no trend since 1895.

According to Heartland Institute policy analyst Taylor Smith, the so-called extreme weather of the past two decades is nonexistent. For instance, the number of wildfires has been in decline since at least the 1960s, when wildfires occurred twice as often as they did in 2013. Similarly, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season witnessed the fewest hurricanes since 1982, and no major hurricanes — Category 3 or higher — have made landfall in the continental United States in nine years.

Even claims that sea ice is vanishing are overblown. The Southern Hemisphere’s polar ice cap “surpassed its greatest April extent in recorded history” in 2014.

The reality is that man-made climate change is simply not the immediate threat Francis seems to believe it is. Before choosing to hitch himself to this horseless wagon, he should consider the detrimental effects climate policies have on poor and developing nations — those whom the pope has consistently tried to help and defend.

Pope Francis is right to be concerned about protecting the environment, and there is solid evidence to suggest that man-made global climate change could present some challenges in the distant future. But the sort of policies the United Nations and like-minded alarmist nations and organizations have proposed will cause far more harm than good, and they almost always ignore evidence that clearly shows imminent catastrophic man-made climate change is not happening.

[Originally published at the Washington Examiner]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Netflix More Valuable Than Cable and Broadcast Among Millennials, Study Finds

January 10, 2015, 12:53 PM

In an observation that should surprise no one except a few cave-dwellers, a new study from NATPE/Content First and the Consumer Electronics Association has found that millennials find Netflix subscriptions more valuable than broadcast and cable subscriptions. There are, however, some useful insights to be gleaned if we look a little deeper.

The study found that “51 percent of millennials consider Netflix subscriptions very valuable, compared to 42 percent for broadcast channels and 36 percent for cable subscriptions. Young people are also more likely to stream a full-length TV program than watch it live on TV during its original air time or time-delayed on a DVR,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story goes on to note that not many millennials (people of ages 13 through 34) have given up on TV—in fact, the proportion is only five percentage points higher than among other age groups:

The study also found that 90 percent of viewers say they watch television programming on a TV set compared to 85 percent of millennials who count a TV as their preferred screen for viewing that content. That’s still a relatively high figure but is likely to shrink given that the study also found that only 55 percent of millennials prefer to watch television on a TV set.

The NAPTE representative also noted more than 70 percent of viewers in households with broadband have streamed full-length TV programs in the past six months. That seems to mark a significant movement, but this too is a trend we have been seeing for some time.

The study pointed out that millennials like streaming because it is more mobile than watching on a TV set (again, obviously), and that 28 percent of the age group watch television on a tablet. The announcement, given on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, did not specify precisely how much television millennials watch on tablets, or what proportion of their television they watch on them, but presumably that information will be made available when the full study is released at the end of this month.

The essence appears to be that the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to watch TV on a mobile device. I suspect that there are a couple of factors at play here in addition to the belief that young people are more open to new technologies than their elders.

One, my personal observation has been that young people are doing much more of their viewing on smartphones than ever before, which is something older people with less visual acuity will have difficulty adopting in any great numbers. This should accelerate as phone screens increase in size. Two, although TVs are relatively cheap, rental of cable and satellite set-top boxes is not, meaning that young people are surely less likely than their elders to have regular control over a full-size TV set than a phone or tablet.

Hence it seems clear that young people’s migration to broadband is a matter of both convenience and necessity.

The Hollywood Reporter story observes that TV providers must and will adapt to this mobile revolution, quoting CEA chief executive Gary Shapiro as saying, “This has profound implications for the way CE manufacturers market their products as they try to reach diverse markets.”

The article then notes some of these efforts: “Dish announced during CES that it would go after that audience with Sling TV, an over-the-top streaming service that it wants to be the third subscription for a millennial alongside Netflix and Hulu. Meanwhile, CBS recently launched OTT offering CBS All Access and HBO has announced plans for a standalone streaming service.”

I’ve reported on the CBS and HBO services earlier, and the Sling TV announcement is certainly the next step in the process. For $20 a month, the individual will receive, over the internet, 25 to 30 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and the Disney Channel. Additional bundles, such as news and children’s programming, will be made available for an extra $5 per month apiece.

You may have noticed that I wrote “an individual” above, and that’s the catch: the service can’t be viewed on multiple TVs or devices simultaneously. Hence it’s not for families but for individuals who probably would not be able to afford cable or satellite TV anyway. Although some people may use it to “cut the cord” (by substituting another, ironically), it’s unlikely to replace cable and satellite subscriptions altogether. Everybody wins.

Thus, as I’ve noted earlier, even though market forces and new technology are changing the nation’s viewing habits, the only thing that can cause a serious and unnecessary dislocation of the nation’s television distribution system is government, and the Obama administration is on a quest to do just that.

While providers are busy creating cheaper and more convenient ways to get video-based news and entertainment, and consumers are eagerly taking advantage of every opportunity, the national government is doing all it can to suppress this salutary revolution while claiming it is doing so in order to promote competition. Here’s a great way to do that, Mr. President: get out of the damn way.

[Originally published at Liberty21]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 1 in a Series of 8)

January 10, 2015, 12:33 PM

This is part 1 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit A-The Drafting History

Original text of Article V:

“The Congress… on the Application of two thirds of the Legislatures of the several States shall propose amendments…”

-The Application Would Specify The Amendment(s) To Be Proposed

Final Text of Article V:

“The Congress… on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…”

-Nothing Indicates “Application” Changed Meaning.

Just as Congress was expected to propose the amendments specified by the states in their Article V Application in the first draft of Article V, so was it expected that the Convention would propose the amendments specified by the states in their Article V Application in the final draft of Article V.

That’s what the Compact for America approach does.

Please support the “Balance the Budget Now” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Je Suis Charlie, Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

January 09, 2015, 10:47 PM

Parisians rally in support of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The vile scum who murdered 13 people on the staff of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, and four others in a Paris grocery store today, are now rotting in Hell. If their death at the hands of French police was quick, it was too merciful.

Do not let anyone call the horror in Paris a “tragedy.” It was cold-blooded murder — and the latest of a string of attacks on the liberal civilization of the West that has been raging for ages, most acutely in our time beginning on September 11, 2001. The violence in France appears to be at an end, for now. But the enemies of liberty will be back with more guns, more bombs, and more shouts of “Allahu Akbar!”

The Wall Street Journal today published an op-ed by French intellectual and author Bernard-Henri Lévy titled “A France United Against Radical Islam: It’s time to break, finally, from Leninist reasoning about the sociology of poverty and frustration behind terrorism.” We can only hope he is right. An excerpt:

Twelve faces. Twelve names, some of which the killers specifically called out, as the name of a condemned prisoner is called out before his execution. Twelve symbols mourned around the globe, symbols of the assassination of freedom of laughter and of thought. The least that we owe to these dozen dead is to rise to their level of commitment and courage—and, today, to prove worthy of their legacy.

It is incumbent upon the leaders of France, of the West, and of the world to take the measure of a war they did not want to see, one in which the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, its writers and caricaturists, long ago put themselves on the front line. They were war reporters of a sort, as we now know, Robert Capas with a sketch pad and pencil.

This is the Churchillian moment of France’s Fifth Republic, the moment to face the implacable truth about a test that promises to be long and trying.

It is time for us to break, once and for all, with the Leninist reasoning that has been served up for so long by the useful idiots of a radical Islam immersed in the sociology of poverty and frustration. And most of all it is the moment, now or never, for a calm resolve among all believers in democracy to look evil in the face without losing ourselves in the catastrophic measures of a state of emergency. France can and must erect dikes—but not the walls of a besieged fortress.

Do read the whole thing (subscription may be required).

Charlie Hebdo is not everyone’s idea of smart satire. The magazine has long gone far out of its way to be as offensive as possible, especially towards religion and religious figures. Enlightened Westerners must tolerate such “low” and “offensive” exercises of free speech as a trivial cost of living in liberty. But as we saw this week, the unenlightened can enter our sphere and collect a terrible price for such “offenses.”

Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier stands defiantly before the ruins of the Charlie Hebdo office in 2011.

Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the publisher of Charlie Hebdo, said in 2012 about the paper’s office being firebombed by Islamic fascists the previous year: “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

He meant it, and he lived it, courageously. He and his colleagues died for it. They are all heroes of liberty.

For the enemies of the modern world – those who hate the very notion that one is free to ignore, or even insult, Islam – this is just the beginning. The slaughter at Charlie Hebdo is meant to frighten you and to silence you – to get you to surrender your liberty at the threat of death.

But if freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press are surrendered — even quietly, passively — there is little left at all of our liberty. We let the tyrants become our masters. That is why it was so heartening to hear millions shouting to the world this week “Je suis Charlie! Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!” (I am Charlie!). The title of this post adds “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!” (We are all Charlie!) It will take courage to mean it, to live it, and we must. We cannot be afraid.

Mark Steyn, who knows a thing or two about standing up for freedom of speech, has a lot of important things to say about this. I recommend this, and this, and this and this. In fact, you should just go ahead and bookmark his excellent website for regular reading.

Over at National Review, there is the usual excellent thought and writing from Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Charles C.W. Cooke, and a video of Charles Krauthammer suggesting this is the beginning of the “Third Stage of Jihadist War” on the West. I highly recommend you read it all.

Our friends over at PJMedia have been so kind as to post a clearinghouse of “offensive” images and cartoons of Mohammed. Please give it a look, share with friends, and bookmark for future reference. I have a feeling it will come in handy again before too long.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Common Core and Parent Trigger Pilot Program

January 09, 2015, 12:27 PM

Paul Molloy host of Freedom Works, The Paul Molloy Show on Tantalk1340 in Florida interviewed School Reform News Managing Editor Heather Kays. Molloy and Kays discuss possible presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s defense of Common Core and the many problems related to the Common Core standards. Kays addresses criticism against politicians who have changed their minds regarding the standards.

Molloy and Kays also discuss a pilot program for a parent trigger law in Columbus, Ohio. Kays said according to Greg Harris of StudentsFirst that the state and school district have done very little to inform parents that they have the opportunity to petition the state to make changes to their children’s low-performing schools.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Isaac Orr Discusses NY Fracking Ban on Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio

January 08, 2015, 3:05 PM

On January 2, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr was on Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio with Dave Williams to discuss the New York Fracking ban. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated the ban on hydraulic fracturing in December. While the ban is considered to be a political success for Governor Cuomo, Orr explains how the state is going to miss out on economic opportunities and tax revenue.

During the interview, Orr states that the decision was based on bad data. He says the studies on health effects have been widely discredited. Supporting the ban is the state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Dr. Zucker was concerned about potential “significant public health and environmental risks.” However, it has been show in other states that fracking can be done safely with little or no harm to public health or the environment.

Host Dave Williams frequently covers topics relating to agriculture, farming, food and nutrition; he also discusses subjects that have a local impact. Listen in as he talks to Isaac Orr about the latest news regarding the New York Fracking ban.

Categories: On the Blog