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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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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

Heartland Daily Podcast – Darcie Johnston: The Collapse of Vermont Single-Payer Healthcare

January 08, 2015, 2:01 PM

Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom discusses Governor Peter Shumlin’s recent announcement he would abandon plans to implement single-payer health care in Vermont. Shumlin has based his last three campaigns in large part on his single-payer advocacy, and he managed to get Vermont closer than probably any state has ever come to embracing fully government-run health care.

As Johnston explains, Shumlin had to abandon his plans once the details of the financing package became clear. Vermont would have needed a massive tax hike to pay for single-payer, including an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an income tax that would reach 9.5 percent for middle-income and up individuals and families.

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

Categories: On the Blog

How Many Of World’s Poor Will Climate Alarmists Let Die?

January 08, 2015, 10:05 AM

‘How many people do you want to kill or let die?” That’s how I’m going to respond from now on to anyone who argues we should end or sharply restrict fossil fuel use to prevent global warming.

Arguing the science has no effect on global warming alarmists. They are immune to facts and stick to models and fallacious arguments from biased, unscientific authorities.

Climate models say temperatures should climb right along with the rise in CO2 emissions, yet emissions rose from the 1940s through the 1970s, when scientists were warning of a coming ice age. And for the past two decades, CO2 emissions have continued to rise while temperatures have been in a holding pattern for the past 18 years.

Models say we should see more intense hurricanes, yet for nearly a decade the U.S. has experienced below-average hurricanes making landfall, and they have been no more powerful than previously experienced.

Sea-level rise has slowed, polar bear numbers have increased, the Antarctic ice sheet has set new records for expansion month after month and even the Arctic is back to average ice levels for the decade.

None of these trends is consistent with models’ predictions, yet alarmists ignore the facts because controlling human lives is their underlying goal, and their failed models are the only thing that enables them to claim disaster is in the offing if humans don’t change their ways.

Arguing economics is equally ineffective. Multiple analyses show the best economic response to the challenges posed by global warming is to use fossil fuels to grow peoples’ wealth globally and adapt to climate changes as they come — basically doing what humans have done throughout history.

In “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” author Alex Epstein makes a key point:

“Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … The popular climate discussion .. . 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.”

Humans have long fought a war with climate, and where we’ve won it has been through the use of technology, most recently including the use of fossil fuels.

Although there are many distinctions between developed economies and developing ones, a critical difference is the widespread availability and use of fossil fuels to improve living conditions.

People in countries using abundant fossil fuels live longer, have fewer infant deaths, are healthier, are more educated and are much wealthier on average than people who live without coal, oil and natural gas.

This is not a mere coincidence, as wealth, health, education and other living conditions remained virtually stagnant for most of human history until our discovery of the ability to transform coal, oil and gas into fuels that powered the Industrial Revolution.

In the West, fossil fuels light homes, making work and an active home life possible after dark without the use of dung, wood and tallow, thus preventing millions of unnecessary deaths from respiratory disease.

Conversely, lack of fossil fuels condemns millions to early deaths from diseases like those that they experience in underdeveloped parts of Africa and Asia. Children die in Africa from malnutrition or starvation because they lack access to the quality and quantities of food made available to the West through fossil-fuel-dependent industrial agriculture and transportation.

Lives are saved in modern hospitals thanks to fossil fuels, from the gasoline fueling emergency vehicles to the electricity keeping the lights, computers, climate controls and refrigeration on.

Electricity runs incubators that save premature babies’ lives and respirators that keep people breathing until they can breathe on their own. Electricity runs the machines sterilizing instruments and conducting MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and all the other tests and technologies that allow medical professionals to predict, diagnose, and treat the countless diseases and injuries humans suffer each year.

Electricity delivers safe drinking water and fossil fuels make the plastics that are used in hospital blood and medicine bags, tubes, wiring and even furniture.

Would you want to be treated at a hospital without these lifesaving technologies? If not, why should the billions of poor people around the world live without these modern wonders so you can pursue some ideal vision of the perfect climate?

That’s the real question about fossil fuels: How many people are climate alarmists willing to let die prematurely to satisfy their perverse desire to end the use of fossil fuels?

[Originally published at Investor’s Business Daily]

Categories: On the Blog

Reevaluating Eminent Domain’s Benefits Necessary for Economic Success

January 08, 2015, 9:08 AM

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires government to provide “just compensation” to private individuals in return for taking private property for public use. This doesn’t address whether it is it right to take private property for private benefit, however, or whether the economic benefits of eminent domain are all they’re cracked up to be.

A recent study of eminent domain takings and their associated state and local government tax revenues suggests buying grandma’s farmhouse to make room for a strip mall isn’t the automatic economic boon it’s claimed to be, leaving some wondering if the use of eminent domain as an economic booster is ethical.

In 2005, the Supreme Court determined the phrase “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”—the final clause in the Fifth Amendment—allows the transfer of private property to private individuals and corporations, such as land dealers.

New London, Conn. wanted Susette Kelo’s property to be part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” to help boost the local economy. Evicting homeowners and investing millions of dollars was predicted to lure pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to relocate its research campus to the scenic waterfront property.

Nearly a decade later, the real property taken from Susette Kelo in the name of community revitalization and job growth sits empty. Prior to the takings, the homeowners benefited from their private property, but now no one benefits from Kelo’s lot. So much for “the greater good.”

Florida Gulf Coast University economists Carrie Kerekes and Dean Stansel used data collected from multiple states to quantify the empirical effect of eminent domain on local economies. If, as it is often claimed, taking private property for public use is economically beneficial, tax revenue would correlate positively with increased eminent domain takings.

Kerekes and Stansel, however, found “virtually no evidence” of eminent domain’s economic benefit. The pair of professors also found “no statistically significant relationship between eminent domain activity and the level of government revenue.”

The search for empirical evidence regarding government takings and tax revenue did turn up something surprising: There appears to be “a negative relationship between eminent domain and revenue growth.” The researchers wrote, “a one standard deviation change in eminent domain activity is associated with” a 0.75 percent decline in the local economic rate of growth.

If taking private property in the name of the common good actually serves to retard economic growth, as the Kerekes and Stansel study suggests, the wisdom of using eminent domain as an economic stimulus becomes questionable.

Private property is a fundamental tenet of the free market system. When individuals are allowed to use their property in the manner they see fit, the most efficient use of property becomes a rational behavior. In turn, tax revenues are maximized as individuals benefit from the value of their property.

It may be too late for Susette Kelo and other homeowners displaced by New London’s “comprehensive redevelopment plan,” but it’s never too late for city councils and states to reevaluate ineffective policies like eminent domain takings in light of new data.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Isaac Orr and Nathan Makla: Energy and Environment Road-trip

January 07, 2015, 3:50 PM

While on an Energy policy road-trip, Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Nathan Makla take some time to discuss environmental issues in today’s podcast. Orr and Makla talk about some of the stops they have made so far during the tour and tackle a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding global warming.

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

Categories: On the Blog

In D.C., ‘Bipartisanship’ Has Become a Bad Thing – When It Isn’t, We Should Seize the Opportunity

January 07, 2015, 3:01 PM

Bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. has for the most part devolved into a pipe dream, a dirty word – or both.

A pipe dream because after decades of gerrymandering – partisanship is what you get.  Gerrymandering is elected officials choosing voters rather than the other way round.  Those already elected carve Congressional districts into bizarre shapes to – at the grainiest of micro-levels – decide which voters go where.  You can’t create a plethora of 60+% partisan districts – and then act surprised when the resulting elected officials are partisan.

Bipartisanship is now rightly a dirty word for conservatives – because in DC Speak it means “Capitulate in as many ways as possible to Leftists.”  The examples of this unbelievable double standard are without end.

From the just deceased Lame Duck Session – here is how two Senators were treated for their opposition to the absurd and awful, rushed and harried, bipartisan $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus.”

(Republican) Ted Cruz Just Did a Huge Favor for Democrats

Ted Cruz Gave Obama An Early Christmas Gift Over The Weekend

“Speaker Ted Cruz” is Back, Right on Schedule, to Make John Boehner’s Life a Nightmare

Versus…

(Democrat) Elizabeth Warren’s Quiet (But Huge) Win: Why Wall Street Lobbyists Really Hated Her “Cromnibus” Fight

Elizabeth Warren Is Right: The Cromnibus Aids Crony Capitalism

Elizabeth Warren is Catching Fire

Conservatives can thus certainly be forgiven for recoiling whenever they receive demands for “bipartisanship.”

But it ain’t always and forever terrible.  When the opportunity for positive-policy-bipartisanship presents itself – we should grab on with both hands.

“Bipartisanship” doesn’t have to be bad.  And we do not have to let the DC Speak Enforcers define it.

McConnell Says He and Obama Discussed Working on Trade, Taxes

Republican Mitch McConnell, in line to become U.S. Senate majority leader, said hell try to end Washington gridlock and that he and President Barack Obama spoke about working on a tax-law revision and trade agreements….

“I said send us trade agreements. Were anxious to take a look at them,” the senator said. “Well see whether we can work with the president. We hope so.”

Obama Sketches 2015 Agenda of Taxes, Trade; Meets McConnell

…Obama told the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of top U.S. businesses, that he would like to pursue corporate tax reform (and) free-trade deals….

“The good news, despite the fact that obviously the midterm elections did not turn out exactly as I had hoped, is that there remains enormous areas of potential bipartisan action and progress,” Obama said.

Of course, the DC Speak Enforcers don’t like bipartisanship unless it results in ever-larger government.

McConnell And Obama Are Already Planning To Undercut Liberal Democrats In Congress

President Obama’s Push for Trade Deal Angers Fellow Democrats

The outreach to Republicans, combined with Obama’s changed rhetoric on international trade, has frustrated Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio….

Wait – this Senator Brown?

Brown Says Bipartisanship Needed to Advance Economy

Removing government impediments to commerce certainly advances the economy.  Less government = more economic activity.  Precisely because of this government shrinkage – Senator Brown opposes the bipartisanship.

Then of course there’s….

Bernie Sanders’ Brutal Letter On Obama’s Trade Pact

Bernie Sanders Blows the Lid Off the Bipartisan Plan To Cut Taxes

Wait – that’s a whole lot of Socialist Senator Sanders opposition to bipartisanship.  Why?  Because these efforts make government smaller.  What kind of bipartisanship does he love?

Bernie Sanders: Scott Brown KILLED Bipartisan Energy Bill for Petty Politics

That “energy” bill was yet another government-money, Solyndra-stuffed, Crony Socialist nightmare mess.  It greatly grew government – so Senator Sanders was suddenly again bipartisan.

“Bipartisanship” doesn’t have to be bad.  And we do not have to let the DC Speak Enforcers define it.

Free trade and tax reform are bipartisan.  And they’re good.  Let us thus go forward – together.

 

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

Three Unelected Democrat Bureaucrats Are About to Overrule and Override November’s Election

January 07, 2015, 2:48 PM

The American people in November overwhelmingly, historically rebuked President Barack Obama, his policies and his unilateral practices.

The President his own self primed the pump for the election as a referendum – on him.

Obama: My ‘Policies Are On the Ballot. Every Single One of Them.’

President Obama has for years benefitted greatly from then-Senate Majority Leader (Democrat) Harry Reid serving as a preemptive veto of most things legislation.

Senate Sitting on 290 Bills Already Passed by House; Tension Mounts (2010)

Democrat Senate Blocks 340 House Bills (2014)

This Do-Nothing-Democrat-Senate allowed Democrats and the media (please pardon the redundancy) to foster a phony “Do Nothing Congress” storyline. Which the President gladly, disingenuously exploited:

Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act, I Will’

The President has acted unilaterally throughout – well beyond the Executive Branch bounds proscribed by the Constitution.

President Obama’s Unilateral Action on Immigration Has No Precedent

Obama’s Unilateral ObamaCare Changes

Obama Continues to Push Unilateral Action to Fight Climate Change

Castro on Obama’s Cuba Deal: ‘Now We’ve Really Won the War’

These Presidential fiats beget regulations. Lots and lots and LOTS of regulations.

21,000 Regulations So Far Under Obama – 2,375 Set for 2015

Obama Imposed 75,000 Pages of New Regulations in 2014

11,588,500 Words: Obamacare Regs 30x as Long as Law

New EPA Regs Issued Under Obama Are 43 Times as Long as Bible

All elections matter, but some matter more than others. A national election of historic proportions is about to be trumped by an obscure vote by three Democrat regulators. For whom none of us ever voted – and of whom most of us have never heard.
These regulations cost us money. Lots and lots and LOTS of money.

The Cost of Federal Regulation: $2.028 Trillion

This brings us to the Internet. Per law passed by Congress – the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – the Internet is a relatively regulation-free zone. Which is why it is a free speech-free market Xanadu – dynamically, constantly evolving into an ever more-perfect organism.

The 1996 Act classifies the Internet as a Title I thing – Title I being the light-touch portion of the law. Landline phones, on the other hand, are uber-over-regulated under Title II – which is why hardlines have for decades been basically innovation-free zones.

Which brings us to the Left’s fetish – and their current push for – Network Neutrality.

The Executive Branch’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already twice tried to impose Net Neutrality within the confines of law-proscribed Title I. And twice been unanimously rebuked by the D.C. Circuit Court – for lacking the authority to do so under Title I.

Does pro-Net Neutrality President Obama seek to have Congress rewrite the law to give the FCC the additional authority necessary to impose Net Neutrality? Of course not.

President Obama to FCC: Reclassify Broadband Service as Title II to Protect Net Neutrality

Behold – another Obama fiat. He wants his FCC to impersonate Congress and rewrite the law themselves.

Surely pro-Net Neutrality Democrats in Congress will protect their purview as legislators, right? Of course not.

(Democrat) Senators Urge Congress to Preserve Strong Net Neutrality Protections

“The FCC can and should take strong action… We would forcefully oppose any reforms that would undermine the FCC’s authority to act to adopt meaningful net neutrality rules to protect consumers.”

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

As recently as 2010, there were Democrats who were a little more appreciative of the gigs for which they ran. Oh – and the Constitution.

73 Democrats Tell FCC: Drop Net Neutrality Rules

A slew of House Democrats have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission warning the agency not to go forward with its plan to partially reclassify ISPs as common carriers, a move needed to impose net neutrality rules.

Meanwhile, when the FCC contemplates new regulations it is supposed to have a public Comment Period. To allow us to register our discontent – before they go ahead and power grab anyway.

Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last year proposed a third attempt at Net Neutrality imposition under Title I – and had two Comment Periods therefore.

The first was an ObamaCare-website-esque technological disaster.

Government Agency That Wants To Commandeer The Internet Just Had Their Website Crash – Twice

During which the FCC played favorites – helping the Left file their Comments when the website repeatedly went down.

MediaFreedom Asks FCC Inspector General to Look into ‘Unusual Collaboration’ of FCC Staff and Title II Activists

And the second Comment Period was overwhelmingly won by the proponents of Less Government.

Those Opposed to Internet Regulation Won FCC Comment Period by Landslide

During which the government’s alleged Web experts yet again couldn’t manage their website.

FCC Somehow ‘Lost’ Hundreds of Thousands of Net Neutrality Comments

That’s ok – Amazon loses hundreds of thousands of orders per month, right?

Since then, best guesses have Chairman Wheeler fundamentally altering the proposal on which we twice Commented. Dramatically expanding the power grab to a Title II reclassification unilateral law-rewrite – and scheduling a February internal FCC vote without any Comment Period on the new regulations.

The timing indicates Wheeler does not see the need for more public input on the benefits and drawbacks of using Title II, as earlier reports suggested.

So during Comment Period Round One the FCC aided and abetted the Left – because the government’s alleged technical experts repeatedly failed to keep their website up and running.

The Free Marketeers won Round Two going away – without any government assistance whatsoever. And it may have been an even bigger blowout – we don’t know because the government’s “experts” misplaced nearly a million Comments.

So while it’s obnoxious and maybe illegal to now blow us off without Comment, we can see why Chairman Wheeler doesn’t want to again open that can of worms. Because – transparency.

Oh – and the FCC’s unelected bureaucrat voting composition looks absolutely nothing like the newly minted Congress We the People just ensconced. There are five voting FCC Commissioners (one of whom also serves as Chairman). Three are of the President’s Party – two of the opposing Party. So right now the FCC is 3-2 Democrat.

I wonder how this Internet power grab vote is going to go?

All elections matter, but some matter more than others. A national election of historic proportions is about to be trumped by an obscure vote by three Democrat regulators. For whom none of us ever voted – and of whom most of us have never heard.

Yet another part of the President’s ongoing effort to fundamentally transform our once-representative republic.

 

[This first appeared on Red State]
Categories: On the Blog

Islam Kills Again

January 07, 2015, 1:16 PM

A victim of the shooting by Musilms seeking vengeance at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The news from Paris about the killing of twelve journalists highlights Islam’s war on the West that represents a fundamental truth about this cult of Mohammad.

Most are familiar with the Islamic schism between the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites. It dates back to the very earliest days of Islam when the two groups disagreed over who should be the successor to Mohammad.

There is a new schism in Islam these days and it is between a moderate interpretation of Islam and fundamentalism. We have all seen what fundamentalism produces.

The past year had dramatic and tragic slaughters by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Syrian-Iraqi area they control, the murder of more than 140 school children in Pakistan by the Taliban, and the kidnapping of 276 girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. These acts represent a strict interpretation of Shia law based on the Koran.

That is why an address by Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on New Year’s Day to clerics at Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry is particularly significant. As reported by Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum, Sisi “a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, made what must be his most forceful and impassioned plea to date.”

His speech was a warning that “the corpus of (Islamic) texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world.”

Referring to the 1.6 billion Muslims, Sisi said it is not possible that they “should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live.” Islam, said Sisi “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

I cannot recall any other Islamic leader saying anything this bold and this true. Directly addressing the clerics, Sisi said “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.” That is, of course, exactly what has been occurring.

Sisi called for “a religious revolution”, what Christians would call a reformation. “You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move…”

Based on negotiations led by the U.S., the world is waiting to see what Iran, the home of the Islamic Revolution—the name given to the ayatollah’s movement that overthrew the Shah in 1979—will do in the face of demands that it cease its quest to produce its own nuclear weapons.

You don’t have to be a U.S. diplomat to know the answer to that. As Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently wrote, for decades the Iranian leadership has referred to “American Islam”, a term that describes what Iran “perceives to be a depoliticized perversion of the true faith, devoid of the revolutionary sentiment that guides the Islamic Republic.” Calling it “American” demonstrates their contempt for everything American.

The Iranians even apply the term to Muslim nations “deemed pliant before the will of superpowers like the United States.” In their view, they are the champions of “the pure Islam of Mohammad.” The Iranians are Shiites. As such, they are a minority sect within Islam, though a large one by any standard.

Those U.S. diplomats negotiating to get Iran to agree to cease pursuing the ability to construct their own nuclear weapons should read the memoirs of Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator. As Taleblu notes, Zarif has a PhD from an American university, but he still wrote “We have a fundamental problem with the West and especially with America. This is because we are claimants of a mission, which has a global dimension.”

That mission is to impose Islam—their fundamental brand of it—on the entire world. That would get easier if they can threaten the world with nuclear weapons. Iran has been the leading sponsor of Islamic terror since its revolution in 1979.

The gap between Egyptian President Sisi’s concerns about the state of Islam today and the intention of fundamentalists like Zarif are a capsule version of what is occurring among Muslims throughout the world.

Islam is not inclined toward any form of modernity and most certainly not toward any form of personal freedom so the world has to remain watchful and, at this point, far less inclined to give its terrorists a pass with the claim they do not represent Islam.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Challenging Obama’s Alleged Powers

January 07, 2015, 1:07 PM

The good news as 2015 debuts is that President Obama has managed to very nearly decimate the Democratic Party, leaving it weaker in Congress and throughout the nation than it has been in memory. The bad news is that he has weakened the nation in the eyes of the world. He is not trusted by world leaders and his next two years in office will only encourage our enemies.

 “Checking Obama’s misuse of his foreign-affairs powers should be a top priority for the new Republican majorities in Congress,” urged John R. Bolton and John Yoo in the final issue of the National Review for 2014. Together they authored “Advice on ‘Advice and Consent.’” Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador and Yoo a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Both are affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute.

 At home Obama’s popularity, generally remaining between 45% and 50%, has got to be one of the great polling mysteries, but in all polls 30% of those responding are unregenerate liberals so the reality of his job approval ratings is likely far lower than reported. At the same time, though, Congress has even lower approval ratings and the huge shift in power that occurred in the midterm elections suggests that the voters want to see some real action taken to curb Obama.

 As Bolton and Yoo point out “These assertions of unilateral executive power raise constitutional conflicts of the first order. Congress must first ask whether any of Obama’s agreements include obligations sufficiently grave to amount to a treaty under the Constitution—or, alternatively, whether these potential deals flow from the President’s legitimate constitutional authority in foreign affairs, and thus need not be embodied in treaties.’

 This is not the kind of thing the average person thinks about, let alone has the knowledge of Constitutional issues to understand. What we do know, however, is that Obama has little regard for the Congress and even less for the Constitution. That’s why the issues Bolton and Yoo address are important.

 For example, “there are some reports…the administration has pledged not to use military force against Iran in exchange for a halt to its nuclear-weapons program.”  The negotiations with Iran have met with such resistance from Iran that the U.S. and others participating in them have twice agreed to extend them. Iran has never demonstrated any other objective than to have its own nuclear weapons.

 Bolton and Yoo say “Republicans and Democrats should agree on one thing when it comes to military force: An international agreement’s renunciation of the use of American force manifestly limits U.S. sovereignty, with enormous effects on national security. Obama’s move on Iran may well violate Article II of the Constitution.” Senate approval by a two-thirds supermajority would be needed for any such agreement with Iran. “White House claims that an Iran deal does not amount to a treaty ring false.”

 The claims by the White House are universally false. That is something that Americans have learned the hard way over the past six years. While Presidents have long made ‘sole executive agreements’, treaties require the Senate’s advice and consent and Obama knows he’s not likely to get that.

 It’s one thing for Obama to make a “climate change” deal with China—and a bad one at that—agreeing to cut U.S. “greenhouse gas” emissions, the fact remains that “The President cannot commit the nation to environmental standards on his own, because only Congress has the constitutional power to control interstate and international commerce (under which heading the federal government regulations the environment.)”

 The new Congress is not going to go along with Obama’s deal with China because Obama lacks the authority to enact it. “At the very least”, say Bolton and Yoo, “the China climate deal should be approved by majorities in both houses of Congress, if not by two-thirds of the Senate.”

 “Congress should use the tools that the Constitution provides to protect its political influence in foreign affairs,” say Bolton and Yoo, adding that “Congress can make clear that any agreement made by Obama alone binds only him.”

 Other than his power as President to veto legislation sent to him, Obama lacks any real power to effect his foreign affairs initiatives and, domestically, he is not going to achieve anything other than by mean of executive orders and the use of federal government agencies to produce regulations. Congress has oversight and it can restrain and overturn the actions of agencies if they are particularly egregious and it is beginning at least to use it more frequently.

 We are hoping that the new Congress is going to act on the voter’s expectation that it will restrain Obama’s efforts to push through programs that harm the best interests of the nation. In the long history of the nation, Congress has never encountered a President whose agenda is to do as much harm as possible.

 The next two years will likely see many Democratic members of Congress voting with Republicans. They will do so because Obama has wreaked so much damage to the Party and because they are looking at the national elections coming in 2016 and positioning themselves for them if they must run for office.

 Obama is not just the enemy of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He is the enemy of the people.

 

Categories: On the Blog

E-Cigarette Denial: It Just Doesn’t Work Anymore

January 07, 2015, 10:38 AM

Recently I attended a forum on e-cigarettes, sponsored by a political organization that wanted to educate its attendees about the devices.  During the discussion my opponent [from the prohibitionist American Legacy Foundation] repeated the baseless claim that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

I responded that there is clear evidence: several clinical studies demonstrate that e-cigs work – previously discussed in my blog (hereherehere and here).

The clinical trial evidence has reached a sufficient size that a meta-analysis has been conducted.  Circulation, the flagship journal of the American Heart Association, contained the abstract of such a review presented (here) by University of Melbourne (Australia) investigators at a recent meeting.  They found that “Use of…e-cigarettes was positively associated with smoking cessation …Nicotine filled e-cigarettes were more effective in achieving cessation compared to those without nicotine (pooled Risk Ratio 2.29, 95%CI 1.05-4.97). Use of e-cigarettes was also effective in reducing smokers’ daily cigarette consumption…In conclusion, available literature suggests that the use of e-cigarettes may be an effective alternate smoking cessation method.”

After my response one of the attendees at our forum stated that he had quit smoking using e-cigs, and he had also convinced two of his relatives to quit.  As he noted, “it may not be a clinical trial, but it is real evidence.”

This doesn’t happen just at every event I attend.  It happens at virtually every conversation I have.  Almost everybody now knows former smokers who credit e-cigarettes with life- and breath-saving benefits.  The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association maintains a webpage linking to over 2,000 testimonials from successful switchers (here).

Cartoonist Bill Watterson said: “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”  Anti-tobacco zealots who refuse to acknowledge the new reality of e-cigarettes also qualify for membership in The Flat Earth Society (join here).

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Andrew Cuomo’s Fracking Psuedo-Science

January 07, 2015, 10:32 AM

What do Bigfoot and New York’s ban on fracking ban have in common? The evidence supporting the existence of both is equally (un)credible.

Gov. Cuomo last month made history by making New York the first state in the nation with significant natural-gas deposits to ban hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.

It’s a process that uses a mixture consisting of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand, and 0.5 percent chemical additives to create tiny cracks in shale rock, releasing the oil and natural gas trapped within.

In announcing the ban, Cuomo pointed to a new report from the state Department of Health that claims there’s not enough evidence to prove that fracking is safe.

Yet many of the studies that the report points to raising safety doubts have been thoroughly discredited.

Meanwhile, many of the assertions made by Dr. Howard Zucker, Cuomo’s hand-picked acting state health commissioner, about “significant public health and environmental risks” are contradicted by the mounting evidence that shows fracking is done safely, protecting both public health and the environment, in many other states.

A major pillar of the DOH report’s claim of health risks is a highly problematic study by Dr. Lisa McKenzie of the Colorado School of Public Health.

Her work suggested a link between fracking and birth defects in Colorado. But she failed to implement even elementary controls to account for known causes of birth defects: Her researchers didn’t consider whether the pregnant mothers in the study drank alcohol or smoked tobacco; didn’t review the women’s access to prenatal care or possible genetic factors.

The study also ignored where the pregnant mothers lived during the first trimester of pregnancy, when most birth defects occur.

As a result, environmental factors such as living near large interstate highways — where air pollution includes benzene, which is known to cause birth defects — were not controlled for and may have influenced the results of the study.

This study is so problematic it prompted Dr. Larry Wolk, the chief medical officer for Colorado and director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to warn the public: “A reader of the study could be easily misled and become overly concerned.”

Wolk continued, “I would tell pregnant women and mothers who live, or who at-the-time-of-their-pregnancy lived, in proximity to a gas well not to rely on this study as an explanation of why one of their children might have had a birth defect.”

Then there’s the studies Cuomo’s people ignored — particularly on the high-profile charge that fracking contaminates water supplies.

In fact, evidence of that has proved to be as elusive as Bigfoot himself. Peer-reviewed scientific studies, including several done by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department, conclude that hydraulic fracturing fluids do not contaminate groundwater.

This is certainly not to say the practice is utterly risk-free, but merely that the risks are manageable by industry and competent regulators implementing reasonable safety standards far short of a total ban.

For example, a study published in the September Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found eight instances in which natural-gas development in Pennsylvania and Texas resulted in 133 drinking water wells becoming polluted.

But it also found that the problem was faulty well casings and/or poor cementing jobs, not the process of hydraulic fracturing itself, an important distinction.

Cuomo’s ban is a blow to many living in depressed Upstate. They view natural-gas development as a crucial way to stimulate their lackluster economy — as it has next door in Pennsylvania, where the energy industry directly employs 28,000 people at average yearly pay of $93,000.

The people of Upstate deserve better than to have the governor and state health officials deny them economic opportunities based on discredited science — and on ignoring more credible evidence demonstrating that hydraulic fracturing is safe.

The existence of Bigfoot remains unproven, but pseudoscience is alive and well in the Empire State.

[Originally published at the New York Post]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Touts 2014 Accomplishments — Fiction vs. Fact

January 06, 2015, 3:00 PM

How could it be that according to a new Gallup polling, President Obama’s approval rating is at its highest in over a year! This is less than two months after the November mid-term election when President Obama and the Democratic Party suffered a shellacking by Republicans over policies that did not set well with many voters.

The polling average from Dec. 27-29 has Obama’s approval at 48 percent, the highest it has been since August 2013. With Obama’s disapproval also at 48 percent, this marks the first time Obama’s disapproval has not been higher than his approval rate since September of 2013.

Gallup does point out that Obama’s action on immigration could be a factor in his rising approval standing. The president’s approval rate among Hispanics rose by 12 percentage points after his announcement of last month. Obama’s Cuba policy could also have led to Obama’s increased popularity.

Positive Obama commentaries for 2014

Jason Easley takes note of Obama’s approval ratings reaching a 20-month high in his article of Friday, December 26th, in which credit is given to a record decline in gas prices and an economy that has experienced its best quarter of growth since 2003.

In yet another year-end commentary of how this nation and its citizens are faring at the dawn of a new year, David Igwe, a contributor to bvinews.com, paints the following rosy picture of this nation:

The present US economic success is not chance. Post the Recession of 2007-09 the Feds and the Obama administration adopted a policy of economic stimulus.

From Quantitative easing and the keeping of bank base rates as low as 0%, to protecting public sector jobs, and adopting policy to better the lives of the poor and middle class, the US government has engineered the present boom.

The US middle class is feeling better these days. It is spending once more. Middle class demand is at the root of the present US economic resurgence. The poor and middle class are hopeful about the future.

Blacks, minorities, single women, Latinos, north eastern whites, and white liberals, feel justified in their backing of a liberal agenda and President Barack Obama. There is new hope manifested in growing consumer confidence and rising demand.

The present economic boom in the US is the result of the Obama Stimulus. It is also the result of a reduction in personal debt that has the US consumer feeling increasingly better off.

Strong US economic growth will become Barack Obama’s greatest legacy if sustained until 2016. It will pave the way for Democratic success in the 2016 US Presidential Elections.

Obama’s ‘breakthrough year for America”

During President Obama’s final news conference of 2014 before heading to off to Hawaii with his family vacation on Friday, Dec. 19, Obama called 2014 “a breakthrough year for America.”  This despite the fits and starts that occurred during the past 12 months. Obama focused on achievements on the economy and in other areas, as well as the prospect of compromise with his political foes who are taking control of Congress.  Obama declared himself energized.  Despite the November midterm elections that brought crushing loses to his party, he ticked off the year’s improvement citing lower unemployment, a rising number of Americans covered by health insurance and a historic diplomatic opening with Cuba. .

But are the 2014 accomplishments President Obama touted and bragged about fact or fiction?   Among them:

Best Job Growth since Clinton years: The percentage of the population working full time has never been lower except in the great depression. The jobs “created” are largely part-time jobs made necessary as employers try to stay under the hours worked requirements of Obama care. Creating two part time jobs is cheaper for an employer than one full time job. Most of the full time jobs created are government jobs supported by the astronomical growth in our national debt. The “jobless rate” is just the number a people actively seeking jobs. Obama has made welfare combined with other entitlement programs so abundant that many simply have stopped seeking employment where they would actually have to WORK to get the same benefits.

In Illinois the unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in November. Even so for the year Illinois ranked last in the Midwest and 47th nationally for payroll-jobs growth rate, according to the ZZZ.

Gas Heading to $2 a gallon: The cost of oil has declined as a direct result of the increased production from fracking and improved drilling techniques IN SPITE of Obama’s best efforts to reduce oil production in this country; no drilling allowed on federal lands; endless delays in licensing pipeline developments (NOT just the Keystone project); ridiculous environmental regulations; taxes and Obama care burdens.

DOW Jones 18000: The stock market has done well because: 1) Interest rates have been kept extremely artificially low to support the economy, so there is nowhere else to invest your money to get any rate of return; 2) Companies have gotten ever more efficient in reducing the costs of production (as in human evolution, adversity increases efficiency); 3) massive deficit spending has pumped trillions of $ into the market at the expense of future generations; 4) The DOW is just now getting back to previous levels! This has been by far the slowest recovery our economy has ever experienced; and 5) The socialist governments in Europe have driven those economies into bankruptcy (like the Democrats here are doing to our economy through massive deficit spending), so no one wants to invest in the European stock markets. They invest instead in ours (China is buying America through massive purchases of our stock).

Deficit Slashed:  A blatant lie!  The national debt has risen to over $18 trillion and increasing by $6 billion a day‼  It was under $6 trillion when Bush left office. Obama has increased it more than all of the previous presidents combined‼ The deficit spending remains outrageously high and any “reduction” is just a slightly less outrageous shortfall than last year, forced on the Democrats by the Republican Congress.

GDP growth at 4%: The economy has been showing signs of strength, including the news last week that the economy grew at 5 percent, its highest level in 11 years, from July to September, but this is by far the lowest rate of recovery from any past recession we have experienced in this country. Other recoveries have supported over twice that increase. Our VERY slow 6 year recovery has been due largely to Obama’s oppressive taxes/regulations/health care law and market distortion to placate interest groups (environmentalists, labor unions, etc.).

 

Rising number of Americans covered by health insurance:  Data released Thursday, December 18 from the National Center for Health Statistic’ National Health Interview Survey found that 11.3 % of American were without coverage in the second quarter of 2014, down from 12.1 % in the first quarter.  This represents the lowest levels ever recorded across the 50 years of data keeping. The White House, however, has hyped its year-end enrollment numbers and hid Obamacare imposed cancellations during 2014.  Has 2014 really been a good one for victims of Obamacare?  Although it might be good for many who enroll in Obamacare — nearly 90% of exchange enrollees receive public subsidies in order to pay their premiums, resulting in government redistributing the burden of footing the bill to taxpayers — more and more doctors are refusing Obamacare patients.

Furthermore, Obama’s medical-device tax has forced companies to cut back on research and development and has resulted in layoffs of at least 33,000 workers over the year. In order not to anger voters before the mid-terms elections Obama bureaucrats delayed payment deadlines, high-risk policy cancellations, and onerous meaningful use mandates on health providers grappling with Obamacare’s disastrous top-down electronic medical records rules. These surprises will come in 2015.  A bright spot: 16 senators who voted for the federal health care takeover either failed to win re-election or declined to run for re-election.  It is estimated that over the next decade Obamacare will cost taxpayers $2 trillion or more than $8,000 per household per year in indirect cost to the economy.

Historic diplomatic opening with Cuba:  In the aftermath of President Obama ordering a restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba on Wednesday, December 17, it is fallacy to believe that Cuba will reform and the Castro brothers will suddenly unclench their fists,  just because an American president opens his hands and declares this to be so. Regarding Cuba, it is close to complete economic meltdown.  It can no longer rely on Russia because it has its own economic problems. Cuba had been relying on Venezuela providing oil to just survive, but Venezuela’s economy is suffering due to the decrease in oil prices.

Even if money from tourists and exported goods should reach Cuba, the Castro brothers and their friends will become richer and more powerful while the Cuban workers would continue to be paid in cheap pesos. 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, but have any positive changes taken place? At the end of December the Cuban government chose to celebration the restored diplomatic relations with the U.S. by cracking down on free speech demonstrators. At least three leading dissidents were detained by the Cuban police ahead of a planned free-speech demonstration in the Plaza de la Revolución. Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on the Fox News Channel on Wednesday that Obama’s moves on Cuba constitute “appeasement” and are a “very, very bad signal of weakness and lack of resolve by the president of the United States.”

Looking Ahead to the 114th Congress

Although Obama has been a disaster on all fronts during 2014, with Obama determined to act when he sees a big problem within his lawful authority to do so — he also has the power of the pen — and with Republicans out to prove they can govern with majorities in both Houses of Congress, the resulting divided government over the next two years will most likely be filled with political unrest and maneuvering for power and votes by both parties. In that the mainstream media has pretty much protected Obama from any blame over either his policies or his Executive Orders since first elected in 2008, it is not unreasonable to believe that the press will continue to shield Obama and promote his progressive policies.

As noted previously, only six weeks after Republicans triumphed over Democrats during the mid-term elections, Obama’s popularity had climbed to 48%, the highest it had been since August, 2013.  Had the media called into question and evaluated the accomplishments noted by Obama at his final 2014 news conference, it could have easily been determined that Obama’s boastfulness was mostly fiction which many Americans then perceived as fact.

How much more fantasy (spin) can this nation withstand if it is to survive? Neither Republicans nor Democrats have the gumption to be honest with the American people about the almost   insurmountable problems facing this nation. Nothing positive can happen unless politicians realize the rapid path of this nation toward Socialism, and then set out to do the tough stuff that is required to right this nation. This requires an educated citizenry, many of whom have grown comfortable living in a nanny state.

Will Republicans meet the challenge in the 114th Congress. I hope so. But what about the media?  Unfortunately most of the media leans to the left, having been trained at universities and colleges (i.e., Columbia and Northwestern) that are progressive in nature and where the majority of professors are liberals.

It remains the task of millions of concerned citizens to make their voice heard through letter-writing and contacting their elected representatives to demand that our Constitution is honored and that freedom is not replaced by big government control of our lives.

[This first appeared at Illinois Review]
Categories: On the Blog

A New Year’s Resolution: Becoming a Light of Liberty

January 06, 2015, 10:30 AM

With the beginning of 2015, what might be a “New Year’s resolution” for a friend of freedom? I would suggest that one answer is for each of us to do our best to become “lights of liberty” that will attract others to the cause of freedom and the free society.

For five years, from 2003 to 2008, I had the opportunity and privilege to serve as the president of the Foundation for Economic Education. FEE, as it is also called, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read, with the precise goal of advancing an understanding of and the arguments for individual freedom, free markets, and constitutionally limited government.

One of the reasons that I accepted the position as president was that FEE had been influential in my own intellectual development in appreciating the meaning and importance of liberty from the time that I was a teenager, both through the pages of its monthly magazine, The Freeman and the books that it published and distributed at heavily discounted prices.

I wanted to assist in continuing the work that Leonard Read had begun at FEE, especially among the young whose ideas and actions would greatly influence the chances for liberty in the decades to come.

Self-Improvement as Lights of Liberty

In fact, it is now just over forty years ago, in June 1974 when I was in my mid-20s, that I first attended a weeklong FEE summer seminar at its, then, headquarters in a spacious and charming mansion building in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.

There were many impressive speakers at the seminar that week, including the famous free-market journalist, Henry Hazlitt, and the riveting Austrian School economist, Hans Sennholz.

But I must confess that I only recall the content of one of the lectures that week, delivered by Leonard Read, himself. He pointed out that many of us wish we could change the world in ways that we consider to be for the better. But changing the world can only happen through changes in the attitudes, ideas, and actions of the individual members of any society.

He asked, out of all the people in the world, over whom do you have the most influence? The answer, he said, is, obviously, yourself. Therefore, changing the world begins with improving one’s own understanding and ability to explain and persuasively articulate the case for freedom and free markets.

At one point in his talk he asked that the lights be turned off in the classroom. In the darkness he slowly started to turn up the light of an electric candle that he held in his hand, asking us to notice how all eyes were drawn to it, however dim the illumination.

As the candle brightened he pointed out that more and more of the darkness was pushed away into the corners, enabling us to see more clearly both the objects and the people in the room.

If each of us learned more about liberty, we would become ever-brighter lights in the surrounding collectivist darkness of the society in which we lived. Our individually growing enlightenment through self-education and self-improvement would slowly but surely draw others to us who might also learn the importance of freedom.

Through this process more and more human lights of freedom would sparkle in the dark until finally there would be enough of us to guide the way for others so that liberty would once again triumph. And collectivism would be pushed far back into the corners of society.

Anything That’s Peaceful and First Principles

Central to Read’s philosophy of freedom was a commitment to first principles as the Archimedean point from which the logic of liberty flows. As Read explained in his book Anything That’s Peaceful (1964):

“I mean let anyone do anything that he pleases that’s peaceful and creative; let there be no organized restraint against anything but fraud, violence, misrepresentation, predation; let anyone deliver the mail, or educate, or preach his religion or whatever, so long as it’s peaceful. Limit society’s agency of organized force – government – to juridical and policing functions . . . Let the government do this, and leave all else to the free, unfettered market!”

What are the “first principles” of liberty, and what do they imply?

Each Individual’s Right to His Own Life

Firstly, and most importantly, liberty means the right of the individual to live his own life for himself. The starting axiom of freedom is that right of the individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property.

Either the individual has “ownership” over himself, or it must be presumed that the collective, the tribe, the group has the authority to dispose of his life and the fruits of his mental and physical labors.

If he does not have a right to his own life, then he is at the mercy of the wishes, whims and coercive caprice of others who claim to speak and act in political authority in the name of “society.”

Only the individual knows what will bring happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, meaning and purpose to his own life. If this is taken away from him, then he is a slave to the purposes and brute power of others.

Respect for the Equal Rights of All

Secondly, liberty means for each of us to respect the equal right of every other individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. We cannot expect others to respect our own right to these things, if we do not, as a matter of principle, forswear any claim to their life and property.

To not recognize and abide by the reciprocity of respect for and defense of such unmolested individual rights is to abrogate any principle of human association other than force and plunder – the enslavement and spoliation by the intellectually manipulative and physically stronger over others in society.

On what basis or by what principle can we appeal not to be murdered, physically violated or robbed by others, if we do not declare and insist upon the right of each individual to his life, liberty and property, ours and everyone else’s, as a starting moral premise in society?

Voluntary Consent and Peaceful Agreement

Thirdly, this means that all human associations and relationships should be based on peaceful and voluntary consent and agreement. No one may be coerced or intimidated through the threat of force to act in any way other than he freely chooses to do.

Each of us only enters into those associations and exchanges from which we expect to be made better off, as we define and desire an improvement in our lives.

This does not mean that we often do not wish that the terms under which another is willing to trade with us would be more favorable to ourselves. But the fact that we may choose to exchange at some agreed terms that is minimally acceptable to ourselves as well as to the other person means that, all things considered, we anticipate that our circumstances will be better than if we passed up this trading opportunity.

The only time that it is clear that a trade or an association with others is not considered by us as a source of personal betterment is when we are forced or coerced into the relationship. Why would compulsion have to be used or threatened against us, if we did not view what we are being compelled to do is an action or a commitment that we evaluate as making us worse rather than better off?

 

The Mutual Respect of Private Property

Fourthly, liberty means that each individual’s honestly acquired property is respected as rightfully his, and may not be plundered or taxed away by others, even when majorities may think that some minority has not paid some supposed “fair share.”

What makes something the rightful property of an individual? When he has either appropriated unclaimed and previously unowned land and resources through their transformation in some manner through his mental and physical labor, or when he has acquired it through peaceful and non-fraudulent trade with another in exchange for something he has to offer in the form of a desired good or his labor services at voluntarily agreed-upon terms of trade.

The use of force by either private individuals or those in political authority to seize such rightful property or compel its use or sale on terms other than those freely chosen and agreed to by its owner is, therefore, unjust and indefensible in a free society.

A Free Market of Goods and Ideas

Fifthly, liberty means respect for the free, competitive interactions of people in the marketplace of goods and ideas, out of which comes the creative and innovative energy of mind and effort that bring about rising standards of living for all in society.

The free market is the arena of human association in which each individual is at liberty to make his own choices and decisions as both producer and consumer.

Yet, as has been understood since the time of Adam Smith in the eighteenth century, each individual, in his own self-interest, necessarily must apply his abilities in ways that take into consideration the circumstances and desires of others in society.

Since, in the society of liberty, no individual may acquire what he desires through murder, theft or fraud, he is left with only one avenue to obtain what others have that he wants. He must offer to those others something that he can produce or provide that those others value more highly than what they are asked to trade away to get it.

Thus, in the free market each receives in voluntary trade what they value more highly in exchange for what they value less highly. And each serves the interests of others as the means to his own end of the personal improvement of his self-defined circumstances.

Thus, the free market as a moral and starting principle eschews all forms of compelled self-sacrifice in the networks of human association.

Liberty and Limited Government

And, sixthly, a society of liberty means a limited government, a government whose purpose is to protect each individual in his freedom and peaceful market and social affairs, and is not to be an agency of political oppression or economic favoritism through special privileges and benefits that are given to some at the expense of others in society.

Compulsory redistribution of wealth and income, and regulatory coercions over the means and methods of production, and the peaceful buying and selling of goods and services are all inconsistent with the ideal of a society of free men and women, each secure in their individual rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property.

These are not easy rules and ideals to live by, but they are what America was founded upon and made it originally great as a land of liberty – a land of both wide individual freedom and rising prosperity.

Winning Others Over to Liberty, One Person at a Time

They are, also, ideas not always easy to get others around us to understand and appreciate the way we see them, ourselves. This gets us back to Leonard Read’s conception of self-improvement in our own understanding of what he called the “freedom philosophy.”

Our New Year’s resolution should be to do all that we individually can to better understand the principles of liberty, their logic, their moral rightness, and their convincing application to the political and economic issues of our day.

As we each become more enlightened and articulate spokespersons for freedom we widen the circle of people able to persuasively draw others into that illumination of liberty. And step-by-step, one person at a time, the supporters and advocates of collectivism will be reduced and the proponents and enthusiasts for freedom will be increased.

Make it your goal, therefore, to bring at least one person over to the cause of liberty in 2015, and if we all do this we will have, at a minimum, doubled the friends of freedom in this New Year. If we repeat this same process of reasoned persuasion in 2016, that larger number can and will be doubled again. And, then, again in 2017, and 2018, and . . .

Through this means of peaceful persuasion the friends of freedom can become the majority of Americans in our own lifetime. All it requires is enough of us willing to try.

 

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

 

Categories: On the Blog