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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Minnesota Researchers’ #EpicFail – Trying for a Smokeless Tobacco/Cancer Link

February 06, 2015, 10:08 AM

Publishing a study of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in American smokeless tobacco products (abstracthere), Dorothy Hatsukami and colleagues at the University of Minnesota called for the FDA to issue “regulations…to reduce levels of…NNK and NNN in smokeless tobacco products to the lowest levels possible.”  The authors make illogical and unscientific claims in their article and media interviews (here).

Claim 1: “The majority of smokeless tobacco users in the United States are not aware of …the tremendous variability in the levels of these chemicals across brands sold in this country.” Tremendous variability?  Dr. Hatsukami reported that, with the exception of two products, the level of NNK+NNN varied from 0.64 microgram per gram of moist snuff to 3.89 micrograms (or, if you prefer, parts per million).

Claim 2: “The higher the level of exposure the greater the risk for cancer.”  This statement is meaningless, as exposure to these agents has not been linked directly to human cancer.  The studies cited in the article involve SMOKERS, who are exposed to thousands of other toxins.  This is like claiming that golfers have a high risk for concussion, based on data from the National Football League.

The authors fail in their effort to make a cancer connection with a rat study from 1986, conducted by Dr. Hatukami’s colleague and coauthor, Dr. Stephen Hecht (here).  He exposed the mouths of 10-week-old rats to enormous doses of NNN and NNK daily for over 131 weeks.  The experiment was so aggressive that 86% of the rats died by trial’s end.  Not surprisingly, Dr. Hecht produced more tumors in the rats getting high doses.  Another result was entirely unexpected: In rats given the same massive NNN and NNK doses in snuff extracts, tumor production virtually disappeared.

It appears that smokeless tobacco contains beneficial agents that virtually cancel out the negative effects of even massive doses of NNN and NNK.  That is probably happening with dippers and chewers, even though they are only exposed to minuscule levels of nitrosamines.

I recognized this important smokeless attribute a decade ago, when I published a research study showing that commercial tobacco products have moderate-to-high antioxidant properties, much like fruits and vegetables (discussedhere).

There is one bright spot in the Minnesota study. The authors acknowledge “The lack of association between snus use in Scandinavian countries to [sic] oral cancer.”  If only they and the broader scientific community would acknowledge that this profile also applies to modern American smokeless tobacco products.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

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

February 06, 2015, 9:31 AM

This is part 8 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.

The Meaning and Public Understanding of the Article V Convention Process During the Founding Era

States Can Lead

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the APPLICATION of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, SHALL CALL a CONVENTION for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as PART of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress

“Application” means a petition to Congress for specific relief, as evidenced by Founding-era usage, and such specific relief includes the designation of desired amendments, as evidenced by the Founders’ expressed understanding as shown in Exhibits A through G.

“Shall Call” imposed a “peremptory” or mandatory, ministerial duty on Congress to call the convention in response to the states’ application, which would imply granting the specific relief requested in the application triggering the call, i.e. calling a convention for the purposes set out in the application, including a convention limited to proposing a single specified amendment.

“Convention” means nothing more than an assembly, as evidenced by Founding-era usage, and it was publicly understood during such time as referring to an assembly of states, each represented equally, according to the custom and practice of the more than a dozen interstate conventions that preceded the ratification of the Constitution.

“Part” Underscores that Article V convention only generates amendments that are “part” of the Constitution, precluding any claim the convention possesses original sovereign authority.

The preceding Exhibits A through G (Parts 1 through 7 of this series) overwhelmingly establish the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach on advancing and ratifying a specific amendment is four-square what the Founders expected from Article V. Simply put, the Founders clearly meant for the Article V convention’s agenda to be set in fine detail by the state legislative application that triggers the convention call, including the amendment to be proposed. With its multiple safeguards, the Compact approach ensures this happens in the real world, not merely as a matter of legal theory.

Does that imply that other less-focused Article V approaches are not what the Founders wanted?

Yes and no. On one hand, there is no doubt that James Madison opposed a broad agenda for an Article V convention. Madison’s opposition was clearly expressed in response to the State of New York’s efforts to qualify its ratification of the Constitution and later advance an Article V application that sought a convention with an agenda that would include roughly two dozen amendment topics. On the other hand, there is little evidence that other Founders were similarly concerned about a broad agenda. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Founders believed the states could not apply for a convention with a broad agenda if they wanted to. Further, Madison’s opposition to a broad agenda Article V convention during the Founding Era, when he was trying to shore up support for the Constitution, is not necessarily evidence of where the Founders would stand today.

Today, there is a plausible argument that the federal government has gone so completely off the rails that no one amendment or set of amendments can fix the problem, and that you need to seek to organize an Article V convention both to draft a wide range of solutions for the magnitude of the problem and to build consensus around them simultaneously.

We at Compact for America respect this argument. But most of us are not persuaded.

Most of the Compact for America team sincerely doubt that a genuine and peaceful consensus can be reached on the full spectrum of constitutional reforms needed to fix every significant constitutional problem. Such doubt is based on the fact that our society is divided 51-49 on most of the biggest pressing issues of the day.

At the same time, most of us freely admit the possibility we could be wrong, which is reason-enough to support to some extent even Article V efforts that seek to organize a convention with a broad agenda that could tackle every major constitutional problem. After all, we have increasingly little to lose. A convention of the states with a broad agenda is unlikely to succeed in killing the Republic before Washington does. And the political class can only kill the Republic once. Most of the Compact for America team believes there is nothing wrong with keeping the push for a broader agenda convention alive so that we can reconsider the need for comprehensive reform when the culture is more receptive to completing the job.

Still, rather than tackling every major constitutional problem all at once, Compact for America believes the most prudent way for the Article V movement to proceed is to give top priority to the most impactful reforms that already command supermajority support.

We should tackle constitutional problems one-by-one, not all at once.

We should change the political culture incrementally, but significantly, by focusing on the biggest points of policy leverage.

That is the judgment and the strategy behind the laser focus of the Compact for a Balanced Budget and the future Article V compacts that will be advanced as part of the Compact for America Initiative.

We hope you would agree, but not to the total exclusion of other worthy efforts.

If you agree, please like and share. And don’t forget: CFAEF President Nick Dranias and Executive Vice President Jeff Utsch are presenting the case for the Compact with complementary cocktails on February 10 at 3:30 p.m. in Tucson, Arizona! Details here.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

VIDEO: Why Net Neutrality is a Terrible Idea

February 06, 2015, 9:00 AM

Network Neutrality is a metaphysically bad idea.

But it remains a Leftist wish list item. So Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Don Quixote – I mean Julius Genachowski – is set to ram it down our throats on December 21st, tilting at ideological windmills to the egregious detriment of the American people. And commandeering vast new unconstitutional authority over the Internet in a pathetically transparent attempt to justify Net Neutrality’s emplacement – a power grab to justify another power grab.

This is a last minute, behind closed doors, unreviewed, un-Public Commented upon, under cover of Christmas government takeover of 1/6 of our nation’s economy. The only portion of the economy that is actually still functioning in the midst of what is otherwise is a doldrum-laden Obama Recession.

Not coincidentally, the Internet remains perhaps the only major portion of the economy President Barack Obama has not yet assaulted with oppressive legislation and/or regulation. A fact that will remain true – for another eight days.

At which point three unelected Democrat FCC bureaucrats will vote themselves Internet Overlords – with no authority at all to do so. As so explained by 302 members of this (now-lame duck) Congressincluding 80+ Democrats – and a unanimous D.C. Circuit Court.

Chairman Genachowski and his fellow Leftists want Net Neutrality, and they will have it – the ends in their minds justifying any means necessary.

To best delineate why Net Neutrality is so terribly bad, behold the following video. In which is laid out the worst portions of Net Neutrality – and the Marxist reasons why the Left wants it done.

Please, enjoy – aside from the growing anger that will incept and ensue as you watch, I mean.

[Originally posted on]

Categories: On the Blog

Net Neutrality Bait And Switch To Title II

February 05, 2015, 8:44 AM

Net neutrality and Title II FCC Internet regulation are not the same.

Net neutrality is forward-looking, 21st century Internet freedom. Title II is backward-looking, 1934 government restrictions of a bygone telephone monopoly.

Net neutrality is all about protecting consumers’ Internet freedoms. Title II is all about politics, power and control.

Net neutrality freedoms ensure a decentralized consumer-driven Internet. Title II threatens a more centralized, politicized and government-controlled Internet.

Net neutrality is about keeping the Internet free speech we have long enjoyed. Title II is about enthroning the FCC to decide what “fair” speech is on the Internet.

Net neutrality is a universal principle. Title II is power exclusive to the FCC.

Net neutrality unites, FCC Title II divides.

They are not equivalent or interchangeable.

So what is really going on? Politics.

How do we know? We’re witnessing a classic bait and switch play out in public that anyone paying attention can see.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune have offered the FCC and congressional Democrats a draft legislative proposal that gives the FCC all the consumer protection authority it has publicly said it needs to enforce wired and wireless net neutrality, i.e., no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization and required transparency.

To prevent the kind of overreach that has led courts to overturn the FCC twice already, the Republican chairmen’s discussion draft would prohibit the FCC from reclassifying the Internet as a telephone regulated utility and limit the it’s Internet authority only to addressing the general problems that the agency has publicly identified over the last twenty years.

Unfortunately, to date, the FCC and the administration have rejected any congressional negotiations or compromise involving Title II, and lobbied furiously behind the scenes to ensure that no congressional Democrats would negotiate over Title II.

If this was truly about net neutrality and protecting consumers, the FCC and the administration would be negotiating earnestly to achieve a lasting legislative compromise solution, not playing politics.

Apparently, this is now about deceptively using the “bait” of net neutrality consensus to disguise the FCC’s “switch” to unilaterally asserting sweeping regulatory authority over the Internet, with no transparency about how the FCC plans to use this new sweeping power for regulatory purposes beyond net neutrality.

We will soon learn what other political plans the FCC has for its asserted Title II authority beyond net neutrality, when we learn which Title II regulations the FCC intends to keep and use.

To the extent that Title II is about politics, and also about ensuring all Internet traffic is treated equally, Title II regulation of Internet communications could devolve politically into a de facto FCC “Internet Fairness Doctrine,” where like the FCC’s 1949-1987 “Fairness Doctrine” for broadcasters, the FCC could regulate Internet political content under Title II to ensure all Internet speakers were treated equally.

If we are supposed to believe the FCC that broadband competitors have “gatekeeper” power to discriminate commercially, why wouldn’t the FCC have national regulatory “gatekeeper” power to discriminate politically in favor of providers, content and candidates who support expansive FCC power and control over the networks and content that comprise the Internet?

If this FCC’s expected assertion of Title II authority is driven by politics, why is it hard to imagine that an FCC majority would exercise its new power in accordance to politics and not the law?

Political regulatory power grabs could easily beget political regulation of political speech.

 [Originally posted at The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Minimum Wage Laws Claim Another Business

February 04, 2015, 1:23 PM

Be looking for more of this as minimum wage laws take effect in many cities.  In this iteration, the Daily Caller notes that a beloved San Francisco bookstore will have to close because minimum wage laws.

Back in November, residents of the city voted to increase the minimum wage gradually to $15 an hour over the course of three years. Though the wage hike was designed to help address income inequality, several businesses have already had to close. …

When it came time to break the news to his six employees, [Borderlands Books owner Alan] Beatts decided it was best to talk with each of them individually. He knew it would be tough because his employees love books, love the written word and to them, it was more than just a job.

“I spoke to each of my employees individually,” Beatts notes. “The typical reaction was shock and sadness.”

Michael Saltsman, the research director at the Employment Policies Institute, fears that more is to come as a result of the wage increase.

“We’re probably just seeing the beginning of this,” Saltsman told TheDCNF. “In a relatively short period of time it’s concerning we have a couple stories like these popup.”

“What we do know is San Francisco is an expensive place to do business,” Saltsman also noted. “It’s pretty clear that if this minimum wage didn’t go up, this business would still be open.”

Advocates of minimum wage laws argue that it is more humanitarian to force wage increases, but how humanitarian is it to cost someone their business or their job?  We should note that Borderlands closure is but one of several in San Francisco since the wage increase law passed.

Categories: On the Blog

Where’s “The Ticket” for School Choice in Illinois?

February 04, 2015, 11:35 AM

The Illinois Policy Institute, in partnership with National School Choice Week, held a reception on Wednesday, January 28 at the Icon Theater, 1011 S. Delano Court in Chicago. The reception was followed, at the same location, by a special screening of “The Ticket”, a film by Bob Bowdon that answers a fundamental question, “What is school choice?”

“The Ticket” takes viewers on a historic whistle stop train tour across the United States, showing different forms of school choice along the way and the children that they serve. In 2009, Bob Bowdon produced “The Cartel” which covers the failures of public education in the United States by focusing on New Jersey, his home state.

Movie maker Bob Bowdon is a longtime broadcast journalist who is executive director of ChoiceMedia.TV, an investigative video website devoted to education reform. Choicemedia.TV has become a national online hub for education news. Pertinent headlines are selected from coast-to-coast to provide real-time analysis of developing stories and to meet with those making waves in the educational field. Bowdon holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and an M.S. in industrial engineering from Stanford University.

What is school choice?

At a time when all across the nation parents are seeking solutions to the struggling education systems available to them, the question, “What is school choice?” is of great importance to parents who are dissatisfied with traditional brick and mortar schools.  It’s based on a simple premise:  No one educational model can possibly serve every kind of student, so parents and children deserve the freedom to choose the schools that work best for them.

“School choice,” as discussed by movie maker Bob Bowdon and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, is a label given to a wide array of programs offered to students and their families as alternatives to taxpayer-provided schools to which students are generally assigned by the location of their family residence. The list includes charter schools (including cyber charters), vouchers, educational savings accounts, magnet schools, education savings accounts, home schools, private and parochial schools as well as tax credits or deductions for educational expenses.

The school choice movement has become politically powerful and morally desirable throughout this nation.  Although charter schools are often accused of “cherry picking” their student population, this is not true.  Most charter schools have an anonymous lottery system, which is actually the reverse of cherry picking. Many parents want their children to attend charter schools because of bad experiences encountered in public schools.

Often heard is that alternative forms of education do not produce good results; however, there are many studies that prove otherwise. Right next to Illinois to the north is Wisconsin, where headquartered in Milwaukee is the home of the nation’s largest and oldest voucher program for low-income families.  School Choice Wisconsin also supports charter schools and innovative public-private partnerships.  Check School Choice Wisconsin to see the impact of school choice on Wisconsin’s families, communities and schools.

There are always alternative schools that fail, but then parents are free to remove their children from the failing schools to seek more suitable education venues. Just like cars, competition does work and is a positive for brick and mortar schools.  As an example, some years ago Japan was producing cars superior to American made cars.  It wasn’t long before American car manufacturers met foreign standards so American manufacturers could become competitive in their own market.

These schools, among others, were highlighted in Bob Bowdon’s, film, “The Ticket”, in its whistle stop train tour across America:

Cleveland, Ohio:  A Prospective Positive charter schools (Saint Martin).  Cleveland has had a voucher program since 1995 where the money follows the child.  At Saint Martin in Cleveland, although 86% of the high school aged students that attend are not Catholic, without a voucher program they would be stuck in failing schools.  They go to school four days a week, participating in real work experiences one day a week.

Erie, Pa.:  A 21st Century Cyber charter school, where online learning takes place. These schools are located in Pennsylvania. In these school settings, mastery of subject matter is important.  If students don’t do well in a subject, they can resubmit their work.  As such, individualized teaching can happen for each student. Not so in brick and mortar schools where one lesson plan fits all.

Rochester, N.Y.:  A private school where kids with special needs are enrolled (Susan B. Anthony Hope Hall).  Sister Diane Dolce was the founder.  Because the stress level of students is reduced, they look forward to coming to school, perhaps having been bullied when attending public schools.  Kids having minor problems are often mixed together with other students in the public schools. They could do much better, but with learning disabilities, in public schools, they were relegated to sit in a corner, so as not to bother the rest of the class.  This school accepts no government money, and operates only on tuition and donations.

This question was posed to Bob Bowdon and Ted Dabrowski:  How can the mold in Chicago be broken?  21,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools are attending schools that fail to prepare them for life.  Additionally, only 25% of students in Chicago’s lowest-performing elementary schools met state standards, while in Chicago’s lowest-performing high schools only 5% of students do.

Although charter schools do exist in Chicago, most have long waiting lists. The caps on charter schools must be lifted to create an environment where alternative forms of education can thrive.  Bowdon suggested writing letters to newspapers, blogging, ad campaigns and messaging through social media to get the message out.  When parents band together and show up at school board meetings to demand better educational choices for their children, changes happen.

Illinois Institute Project in Waukegan, IL

The Illinois Policy Institute has taken on a project in Waukegan, IL, which desperately needs school choice.  With a population of more than 90,000, Waukegan sits on the shores of Lake Michigan just minutes away from the prosperous communities of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, yet Waukegan is as different as night and day.

The collapse of manufacturing led to a massive shift in the city’s demographics.  As such, minority families have moved in. Hispanics now make up more than half of Waukegan’s total population, representing nearly 75% of students in Waukegan schools.  Because of the low performance of Waukegan schools, the Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, has put Waukegan Community Unit School District #60 on its target list of takeover districts and is seeking power to oust elected school boards that failed to meet accreditation standards and replace them with ISBE-picked independent authority.

Ted Dabrowski and his team are knocking on doors in Waukegan to educate residents about the difference charter schools, etc., could make in the education of their children.  Their message is being well received.

Shouldn’t private schools, religious schools, charter schools and schools that leverage online learning all be on the table for Waukeganites and in other communities and areas in Illinois with low performing schools?

The Illinois Policy Institute thinks so, and so does Ted Dabrowski.

Watch Bob Bowdon’s 38 minute long “The Ticket” online here.

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

I Come to Bury Renewable Fuel Standards

February 03, 2015, 11:33 AM

Not to praise ethanol mandates that kill jobs, raise food costs, and hurt poor families and wildlife

They say politics makes strange bedfellows. In a perfect example, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are cosponsoring the “Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act,” to abolish the corn ethanol Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires that increasing volumes of this biofuel be blended into gasoline. Let’s hope it passes, as an amendment or stand-alone bill.

The RFS was a mistake when enacted ten years ago. Since then, despite attempts to curtail it, the program has expanded and had more lives than Freddy Krueger. Perhaps the senators are now paraphrasing William Shakespeare and Marc Antony, saying “I come to bury the ethanol RFS, not to praise it.”

Renewable fuels advocates are predictably fighting back. They say ethanol is vital to agricultural sector jobs and revenues, “homegrown fuels” diversify our energy mix and reduce foreign imports, and biofuels help prevent “dangerous manmade climate change.” The claims do not withstand scrutiny.

Ethanol has already “hit the blend wall,” the senators point out. Even current ethanol production mandates result in more ethanol than can be used safely in gasoline. That and fewer miles driven of late means refinery “blend targets” have already been met for E10 (10% ethanol) gasoline. More ethanol would impair automotive engine systems and void warranties. All this results in surplus ethanol, increasing corn grower demands for E15 mandates or permits (15% ethanol), and worse market and ecological effects.

And still federal law requires that the ethanol mandate must keep rising: from 9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2008 to 14 billion now and 36 billion gallons by 2022. That would exacerbate all these problems.

America is already plowing an area larger than Iowa to grow corn for ethanol, and turning nearly 40% of all its corn into ethanol. The guaranteed income incentivizes farmers to take land out of wheat and rye, conservation easements, pasture land and wildlife habitat – and grow corn instead. Converting these vast fields of corn into ethanol requires enormous amounts of irrigation water, fertilizers, pesticides, and gasoline or diesel fuel to grow, harvest and ship the corn … and more gasoline, diesel and natural gas to produce and transport the ethanol.

Corn growers make money, since they are protected by annual ethanol blend mandates that guarantee a demand, market and high price for their output. But there is no comparable “renewable protein standard” to guarantee a market for statutorily mandated quantities of poultry, pork, beef, eggs and fish.

Thus U.S. corn prices skyrocketed from $1.96 per average bushel in 2005 to as much as $7.50 in autumn 2012 and $6.68 in June 2013, before dropping in 2014 due to record yields and lower demand for corn and ethanol. Since the RFS was implemented, feed costs for chicken, turkey, egg and hog farmers have been nearly $100 billion higher than they would have been in the absence of the RFS, National Chicken Council president Mike Brown estimates.

These protein farmers have been compelled to subsidize corn farmers by almost $1.35 per gallon of ethanol; beef and dairy farmers have been forced to pay similar subsidies. All these costs have been passed on to American families. Since 2007, high and volatile feed costs forced many meat and poultry producers to cut back or cease production, file for bankruptcy or sell their operations to other companies. Biofuel mandates also mean international aid agencies must pay more for corn and wheat, so more starving people remain malnourished longer

Energy per acre of corn is minuscule compared to what we get from oil and gas drilling, conventional and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) alike. Moreover, corn-based ethanol requires 2,500 to 29,000 gallons of freshwater per million Btu of energy, the US Department of Energy calculates; biodiesel from soybeans consumes an unsustainable 14,000 to 75,000 gallons of water per million Btu. By comparison, fracking requires just 0.6 to 6.0 gallons of fresh or brackish water per million Btu of energy produced.

New seismic, deepwater drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other technologies have led to discoveries of enormous new reserves of oil and natural gas – and enabled companies to extract far more petroleum from reservoirs once thought to have been depleted. All these newly abundant oil and gas supplies could easily replace ethanol and other biofuels, and slash U.S. oil imports even further.

This resurgence of hydrocarbons has obliterated the Club of Rome “peak oil” notion that we are rapidly exhausting the world’s petroleum, made Big Green environmentalists apoplectic, and caused resource depletion alarmists to make a 180-degree policy turn on natural gas. Just four years ago the Sierra Club used $75 million from Aubrey McClendon and Michael Bloomberg to finance an anti-coal campaign which insisted that coal-fired power plants could be replaced with natural gas facilities.

Now the Sierrans despise natural gas and want to totally ban the technology that created our newfound abundance of gas: hydraulic fracturing. They disregard the benefits of lower gas prices for families and factories, ignore the need for coal and natural gas-based electricity as backup power generation for wind and solar facilities, and concoct all kinds of fanciful “dangers” from fracking operations.

Meanwhile, the prominent environmental think tank World Resources Institute just issued a new report that concluded: turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that it is unlikely to supply a substantial fraction of the world’s energy demand – ever. Perhaps worse, spending countless more billions on this misguided strategy will result in more millions of valuable, fertile acres being devoted to “growing energy” instead of helping to feed malnourished and starving people.

Adding to the reasons the RFS deserves an F on its report card, ethanol gets 30% less mileage than gasoline, so motorists pay the same or more per tank but can drive fewer miles. It collects water, gunks up fuel lines, corrodes engine parts, and wreaks havoc on lawn mowers and other small engines.

Ethanol production also kills marine life. Much of the nitrogen fertilizers needed to grow all that corn gets washed off the land into waterways that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, where they cause enormous summertime algae blooms. When the algae die, their decomposition consumes oxygen in the water – creating enormous low-oxygen and zero-oxygen regions that suffocate marine life that cannot swim away.

Regarding jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines “green jobs” as any that make a company “more environmentally friendly.” The BLS even includes people who drive pilot natural gas, biofuel or hybrid buses. The Solar Energy Society includes accountants, lawyers and landscapers involved even part time with making or installing solar panels. One suspects that even burger flippers could qualify as having green jobs, anytime they sell a meal to a truck driver who happens to be hauling corn to an ethanol plant.

That brings us to “climate chaos” as a last-resort rationale for costly Renewable Fuel Standards. However, Climategate and other IPCC scandals clearly demonstrate that the “science” behind climate disaster claims is conjectural, manipulated and even fraudulent. And actual observations of temperatures, storms, droughts, sea levels and Arctic ice have refused to cooperate with computer models and Hansen-Gore-EPA-IPCC disaster hype and scenarios. The catechism of climate cataclysm – what blogger Jim Guirard calls the Branch Carbonian Cult – can no longer be allowed to justify misguided standards and subsidies.

About the only thing “green” about the ethanol RFS is the billions of dollars it takes from taxpayers and consumers – and funnels to politicians, who dole the cash out to crony corporatists, who then return some of it as campaign contributions, to get the politicians reelected, to perpetuate the gravy train.

It’s time to bury the RFS – and stop forcing motorists to buy gasoline that refiners are compelled to blend into motor fuels. Crony capitalist arrangements benefit too few at the expense of too many.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Michael LaFaive: Cigarette Excise Taxes

February 02, 2015, 10:00 AM

Michael LaFaive, director of the the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, joins Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about cigarette excise taxes and their effect on consumer behavior. With help from the Tax Foundation, LaFaive examined how states’ taxes drove consumers in all 50 states to purchase cigarettes on the black market.

According to LaFave, states seeking to reduce the size of black markets should not look to higher taxes or more police actions, but instead reduce the differential between their states’ excise taxes and the excise tax rates of neighboring states. Free markets, he says, are the key to reducing the economic impact of cigarette black markets, instead of more taxes or more government.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Shoveling Global Warming in Chicago

February 02, 2015, 1:49 AM

The elm tree that grows through a hole in my back deck is especially pretty during a big snow. Even the squirrels that run Oak Park, IL knew enough to climb up the “dry” side

The upper East Coast got sacked with a foot or so of snow last weekend, and are going to be hit with another foot or so this week. At least the folks in Boston won’t care as much, seeing the Patriots won the Super Bowl — which featured one of the biggest bone-headed play calls in history. That makes some three feet of snow in two weeks go down easier.

The second Blizzard of 2015 will have ended its pass through the Midwest by early in the morning on Groundhog Day. Chicago got hammered, proof below. I shoveled for nearly four hours Sunday, just to make progress on the seven inches that had fallen. I have another several hours of shoveling Monday to clear the other eight inches or so that awaits me.

Global warming strikes again!

What’s that you say, global warming alarmist readers? Weather is not climate? Yeah. I know that. But do you guys? To give but one example, alarmists such as the scientifically illiterate Robert F. Kennedy like to say every severe weather event is “proof” of a man-caused catastrophe that has irrevocably changed our climate. RFK Jr. wrote in a 2008 Los Angeles Times op-ed of his panic about a freak weather event at Cape Cod, and feared that his children and grandchildren would never again to sledding in Virginia. Not in the future, but right now.

Anyway, this post is about me complaining about shoveling. I will say this: Winter is beautiful … until you have to deal with it. Gotta get a snow blower one of these winters.

My front steps at about 10 a.m. February 1, when the blizzard was only getting going.


This is the “before” picture of my back-alley driveway. Figured at 1 p.m. on Sunday I’d shovel the seven inches that were there, so I wouldn’t have to shovel 16 whole inches on Monday.


This is the “after” picture of shoveling seven inches of wet snow on Sunday … and the snow and wind of the Chicago Blizzard really started to kick in when I was finishing up at about 2 p.m. Got another six inches at least to deal with soon.


Shovel planted in triumph! I cleared seven inches of snow away from the sidewalk and brick walkway to the house. By the time I was finished, nearly another inch had come down and covered what I started.

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin #6, February 2, 2015: Climate Cool-down Across America

February 01, 2015, 11:56 PM

MSN/Accuweather reports February will have a frigid start. Parts of New England still digging out from a blizzard last week are in the crosshairs again, as a new winter snowstorm slowly churning  through the Midwest heads East.

As blizzard conditions blanket Chicago, More than 2,000 flights were cancelled over the weekend, most of them departing from or scheduled to land in Chicago’s two airports. With wind gusts expected to top 40 mph in some places, the wind chills could be deadly.

In anticipation of the storm, Connecticut has delayed the opening of state offices, and York county Pennsylvania is bracing for possible record low temperatures of more than -6° below zero.

For the past week, much of the country experienced relatively mild temperatures with winter high temperature records set on some dates in locations as scattered as Billings, Montana and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. However, this respite will be short-lived as normal or below normal temperatures are expected to descend again this week.

Overnight lows this week will fall below zero in Detroit, Erie, and Buffalo, New York, by mid-week, and much of northern New England will experience temperatures closer to 20 degrees below zero.

Despite the cold, temperatures in the U.S. at present are closer to the normal Winter range than they were in 2014 during the depth of the polar vortex.

Big snow this week! Seems like a good time to protest global warming.

Categories: On the Blog

Jeb Bush’s Common Core Hedging Undermines Reform Efforts

January 31, 2015, 4:37 PM

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and prospective GOP presidential contender, was wrong to support Common Core. Now, on the campaign trail, he appears to be backtracking a bit. He should go all the way and admit he was wrong in the first place.

In a speech this past November, Bush said, “In my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher, be bolder, raise standards, and ask more of our students and the system.”

Clearly, he was suggesting states can and should do better than Common Core; though he still laughably and inconsistently referred to the “rigor” of these low-quality standards. Bush is obviously trying to have it both ways: supporting Common Core while endorsing states’ choice to implement better standards.

Bush then went on to defend state autonomy over schools, noting state governments “are ultimately accountable” for their schools. “So if the federal government wants to play a role in reform, it should stop tying every education dollar to a rule written in Washington, DC.”

Unfortunately, billions of federal dollars were tied to Common Core through the Race to the Top program. All but a handful of states were essentially bribed into adopting subpar standards. Many states had not even seen the final version before agreeing to adopt the K–12 math and English standards.

There is a definite inconsistency between Bush’s push for vouchers and school choice in Florida and his support for Common Core. Federally backed standards blatantly attack flexibility, autonomy, and state and local control of education.

Common Core is widely criticized for focusing on students using a particular (and not necessarily sensible) method of achieving an answer rather than focusing on whether the answer is right. Teachers such as Marsha Griffin of Jonesboro Elementary in Illinois are expressing frustration over this narrow-mindedness.

“I think students will be bogged down in process and possibly not know how to do anything. We are teaching to a test,” Griffin said.

Common Core proponents throw around buzzwords such as “internationally benchmarked,” “rigorous,” and “college and career ready,” but curriculum experts, child psychologists, and educators across the country denigrate the quality and appropriateness of the standards. “These standards have not been internationally benchmarked. They have not been researched. They are not evidence-based,” Griffin said. “We have no idea what we are doing to an entire generation of children.”

Common Core proponents try to dismiss these concerns by saying establishing standards is not the same as mandating a curriculum. However, standards ultimately define curriculum because achievement tests are based on them.

Susan Bowles, a kindergarten teacher at the Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville, Florida made headlines after refusing to administer standardized tests she felt did students more harm than good. After Bowles took her stand, officials reconsidered and changed the testing policy for the year. Since then there has been mounting criticism of Common Core and its related tests, both in Florida and nationally, but teachers like Bowles know they are fighting an uphill battle.

“I think there is a huge amount of resistance to the stance that there is too much testing and that the Common Core — or some slightly tweaked variation — has lots of problems,” Bowles said. “Companies like Pearson are making huge amounts of money by changing both the format and the difficulty of tests frequently, and then providing new curricula to support the testing that goes on. I have no doubt there are lobbyists and funds that have tainted the moral integrity of many politicians.”

Bowles continued, “I find it interesting that so few politicians have children in public schools. If they think their mandates for reform are so great, why don’t they trust our schools to educate their children?”

The debate over Common Core has divided school choice advocates, just as it seems to have divided Bush against himself. Instead of fighting for creation and expansion of choice programs or promoting concepts like student-based budgeting and parent trigger laws, choice advocates are arguing over whether to retain the federally backed standards.

It’s an unfortunate waste of time, energy, and money because the honest answer couldn’t be clearer. Scientific studies find no evidence national standards improve student achievement. In addition, education and curriculum are supposed to be handled on the state and local levels because they are not enumerated as federal powers in the Constitution.

An unfortunate number of academics and bureaucrats belittle the importance of local control and state autonomy. Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, refers to local control of education as “quaint” but unrealistic. What is really unrealistic is to think what is taught and how it is taught in Philadelphia should be exactly the same as the standards applied in a small town in Montana. Different students in different states and districts have different needs, which requires teachers and administrators to use different tactics and methodologies to address those needs.

If a school is teaching students 1+1=5, the state government has the power and authority to hold it accountable. National standards actually undermine that authority.

Bush ought to listen to former constituents such as Susan Bowles. He has clearly begun to backtrack on Common Core, but it will be hard to accept his newly found advocacy of state autonomy unless he admits it was a bad idea in the first place.

[Originally published at the American Thinker]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Tom Tanton: Renewable Portfolio Standards

January 30, 2015, 10:00 AM

Energy expert Tom Tanton discusses is Reason Foundation study, Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Renewable Portfolio Standards: A Guide for Policymakers, which found serious flaws federal energy laboratories analysis of the benefits and costs of state renewable energy mandates.

He found that the government report understates the costs, and overstates the benefits, while ignoring entirely a whole range of environmental harms wind and solar farms cause. Tanton concludes that each state should reexamine their Renewable Energy Portfolio laws and determine whether the results merit continuing the costly programs.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Testing the FCC’s Net Neutrality Political Calculus

January 30, 2015, 9:03 AM

A bird in the hand is still worth two in the bush.

This age old wisdom has survived to warn against human nature — to be overly confident of keeping what one has while risking everything when grasping for much more.

Currently the FCC and congressional Democrats are rejecting the proverbial “bird in the hand,” i.e. proposed net neutrality legislation that would provide the FCC with the legal authority it has sought for seven years, in order to go for the “two birds in the bush,” or maximal perceived authority via unilaterally reclassifying the Internet as a Title II telephone utility.

Such action could result in the FCC losing everything in court or in a change of administration.

Consider the very valuable “bird in the hand” that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune have offered the FCC and congressional Democrats.

The Republican chairmen’s discussion draft legislation gives the FCC all the consumer protection authority the FCC says it needs to enforce net neutrality: no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization, and required transparency.

The draft also would change existing law to enable these net neutrality authorities to also apply to wireless, not just wired — something the FCC does not have the authority to do given the plain reading of 1993 law passed by an all-Democrat government.

In return, the Republican chairmen’s discussion draft would prohibit the FCC from reclassifying the Internet as a telephone regulated utility and limit the FCC’s Internet authority only to addressing the problems the FCC has identified over the last twenty years.

And the chairmen have made clear it is a discussion draft subject to compromise and change to gain Democratic support.

The FCC and congressional Democrats have maximal negotiating leverage now. This leverage understandably would evaporate if the FCC were to reject any congressional resolution or bipartisanship, and unilaterally reclassify the regulatory status of the Internet.

In a nutshell, if the draft legislation became law, the FCC would have legal and political legitimacy in enforcing net neutrality going forward, and own authority that a court could not take away like the court did twice in 2010 and 2014.

Now consider the two different ways that the FCC can lose — both the legislatively offered “bird in the hand” and the coveted “two birds in the bush” of un-bounded FCC legal authority — in the 2016 election and in expected court challenges.

If the FCC assumes the commission has the legal latitude to politically reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications utility, future commissions also would enjoy the legal latitude to politically reclassify the Internet back to what it is today — a largely unregulated information service.

Two years out, it’s reasonably about 50-50 which party wins the 2016 presidential election.

Thus there is roughly a 50 percent risk that this FCC’s Title II reclassification is re-reclassified by the next FCC, because the FCC chose to gamble and throw away “the bird in the hand” of permanent legislated authority to legitimately enforce net neutrality.

As for an expected court challenge, the FCC is well aware that the two preceding chairmen, who were lawyers trained at the Harvard and Yale law schools respectively, were 0-2 in trying to persuade the courts that the FCC had existing statutory authority to enforce net neutrality in Comcast v. FCC and Verizon v. FCC.

What are the reasonable odds that current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who is not a lawyer, will fare better in making this inherently legal call and overseeing the necessary legal analysis, strategy, argumentation and precedential justification, to win when the first two attempts failed, and when the FCC is rejecting the court’s explicit Section 706 legal advice in Verizon v. FCC?

What are the reasonable odds that a vastly more complicated Title II court case, that requires repudiating FCC precedents, reversing FCC findings of facts, and implicates more serious constitutional issues than the first two administrative cases, somehow fares better in court than the previous two unsuccessful cases?

To be reasonable, assume the legal outcome is 50-50. Thus there is roughly a 50 percent chance the FCC’s reclassification will be overturned in court a third time.

Add the probabilities of these two gauntlets that this FCC Title II reclassification must survive — a 50-50 presidential election and a 50-50 court review — means a roughly a 25 percent probability that an FCC Title II reclassification would survive past the next few years.

So what does this mean for the FCC and congressional Democrats? Which will still be around and care about consumers, net neutrality and an open Internet in 2017 and beyond?

Do the FCC and congressional Democrats, all of whom enjoy maximal leverage at this point in time, reject “the bird in hand” of permanent legislation to enforce all currently known net neutrality violations, or do they risk the roughly 75 percent probability that they could lose all authority to enforce net neutrality after 2017?

Wouldn’t consumers want a “bird in hand,” bipartisan, legitimate, and permanent resolution that puts their interests and protection above “two birds in the bush” politics?

Categories: On the Blog

Thirty Years Promoting Freedom

January 29, 2015, 12:35 PM

This essay is based on remarks delivered at The Heartland Institute’s 30th anniversary benefit dinner on September 12, 2014. It originally appeared on the cover of the fourth quarter 2014 issue of QPR.

Very few organizations survive 30 years, and very few people work for the same organization for that long. That makes The Heartland Institute an exceptional organization, and it makes me a very lucky guy.

Ideas Matter

The Heartland Institute was founded in 1984 on the premise that ideas matter. In the history of nations, ideas have mattered a lot.

For thousands of years the condition of mankind was almost universally characterized by poverty, war, slavery, and tyranny. That some people could use force against others was accepted by the philosophers and religious leaders of the day. Slavery was “politically correct” in its day. So was monarchy and killing witches.

The idea that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, was revolutionary in 1776. It changed human history. It made possible the democracy, peace, freedom, and prosperity we all too often take for granted today.

The War of Ideas 

But even great ideas need champions able to defend them from competing ideas. The idea that some people are “more equal than others,” as George Orwell put it so well in 1984, is an ancient one.

It finds advocates among tyrants, obviously, but also among bureaucrats and elected officials, among academics who long to impose their vision of a better world on the rest of us, in industry among businessmen and -women who find it easier to please a government overseer than compete for customers in the marketplace, and among liberals and socialists who fear and misunderstand how a truly free society would look and operate.

While tyranny has many natural allies, freedom often wants for defenders. Its greatest defenders often end up martyrs, unpopular during their lifetimes and recognized for their achievements only after they have died. Many politicians give lip service to freedom but when it comes time to vote, they support legislation that restricts freedoms, redistributes wealth, or piles debt onto future generations.

Plenty of people say “freedom is good except for [fill in the blank].” Sometimes those exceptions are merited: Your freedom to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. But often those alleged exceptions to freedom are not warranted, and while each might seem to be small and minor, together they add up to big holes in freedom’s foundation. Freedom needs heros, not fair-weather friends.

Freedom also suffers from what economists call the “free rider problem.” People benefit from freedom even if they don’t invest in its preservation. Many of our neighbors are politically asleep, they don’t follow the issues, they don’t vote, they just don’t care. Because of our hard work, their freedoms are secure.

So the defenders of freedom are always and everywhere outnumbered by its foes.

The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute and scores of organizations like it were created to level the odds between the forces of freedom and tyranny, and to free as many people as possible from the tyranny of others. It’s a noble cause, perhaps the most noble cause anyone can pursue.

The Heartland Institute was started by Dave Padden and a group of small business owners in Chicago in 1984. They hired me, a young kid still in college with little experience but a lot of enthusiasm, to be its first executive director.

It grew slowly but steadily to become one of the country’s most influential think tanks. Today, it has 230 academics and economists serving on its board of policy advisors,160 elected officials serving on its legislative advisory board, a full-time staff of 31, more than 5,000 donors, and an annual budget of about $6 million.

In the overall scheme of things, we’re a small organization, but we’ve accomplished big things. We are the reason 26 states refused to create Obamacare state insurance exchanges, and why 24 states have declined to expand Medicaid.

We are why 21 states have voucher and tax-credit programs that allow 212,000 students to enroll in private schools. And why seven states have parent trigger laws that require schools be reorganized, turned into charters, or shut down if a majority of parents sign petitions demanding this.

We are why there is no carbon tax or carbon cap-and-trade program in the U.S., why the Kyoto Protocol was allowed to expire, and why no climate treaty with binding national targets will emerge from Paris in 2015.

Along the way, we have saved taxpayers billions of dollars a year by effectively opposing tax hikes, subsidies of all kinds, and unnecessary regulations.

Logic and Passion

We defend our vision of a free society with logic and passion, because neither one alone is sufficient to win the battles. We study social problems and discover solutions that rely on more freedom and less government. We show how these solutions are more efficient than relying on the government, and efficiency is important: without it, there is no prosperity. But we also appeal to fairness and morality, because they are what drive passion.

There is no justice without the rule of law. There is no morality without the freedom to act, wisely or unwisely, and bear the consequences. There is no meaning to life if we are not free to choose our own paths and to do it our own way.

We will continue to defend our vision of a free society no matter how politically incorrect it might be, and no matter what tactics our opponents use against us, because we were chosen by fate to defend freedom. It’s our privilege and duty to perform this important task.

Tonight, we recommit ourselves to this mission. If you are a donor to The Heartland Institute, thank you for your generosity, your concern for your country’s future, and your courage to stand up and be counted.

If you are not yet a donor, I hope you will join us. Become part of the solution; don’t let others carry your weight as well as their own. Make promoting freedom your favorite charity, because increased freedom will lift every other cause that might be important to you.

You can make freedom your legacy, something your children and grandchildren will remember and thank you for. Now is the right time to start. The Heartland Institute welcomes your support.

[Download PDF of Remarks here]
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather & Joy: Obama’s SOTU and Free Community College

January 29, 2015, 11:39 AM

School Reform News Managing Editor Heather Kays speaks to Joy Pullmann, managing editor at The Federalist about the president’s State of the Union address. Pullmann talks about a piece she wrote on President Barack Obama’s comments on childcare and how she thinks the government should not be involved in the way citizens run their families.

Kays and Pullman also discuss Obama’s “free” community college plan, which is anything but free and would accomplish little other than decreasing the value of degrees while increasing the burden on taxpayers.

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

Categories: On the Blog

‘Sons of Liberty': Historically Inaccurate, Surprisingly Relevant

January 29, 2015, 9:56 AM

The message of “Sons of Liberty” is perhaps more important than its historical accuraacy.

The American Revolution is hot. That’s the only conclusion one can justify in light of the numerous highly popular history books about the era in recent years, plus TV series such as Sleepy Hollow (FOX), Turn (AMC), and of course HBO’s John Adams.

It was thus inevitable that the History Channel would get into the game with a big, splashy, six-hour (including commercials) miniseries, Sons of Liberty, which premiered last night.

It was by no means inevitable, however, that the actual production would be so historically inaccurate as to make the paranormal fantasy Sleepy Hollow look like a docudrama by comparison. There is more to the series, however, than its historical inaccuracies, though the latter are substantial, and those dismayed by the recent decline of America’s fortunes may find the series to be of surprising interest.

As to the inaccuracies, Thomas Verenna documents them in great detail at the Journal of the American Revolution (h/t P. J. Gladnick of NewsBusters), observing,

While it plays well for those who are in on the secret [i.e., those who know the actual history of the era], if you’re looking for facts about the Sons of Liberty or information about the War for American Independence, don’t plan on discovering those facts in this miniseries; you won’t find them. Instead of portraying actual historical events and giving each character balance and depth, the writers and producers have gone with a standard archetype of good and evil—you can probably guess which side is good and which is evil

That was precisely what we saw in last night’s premiere episode. Yankees good, Brits evil. It was as simple, and simple-minded as that, and the production twisted the facts as needed in order to accomplish that straightforward dichotomy. The episode is at least as historically distorted as Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, but without that movie’s compelling personal story and resulting emotional power.

It also suffers from fashionably dark cinematography and the set designers’ false cliche that the world was always coated entirely by grime before the 1980s, even though the factories of the Industrial Revolution were still nearly a century in the future during the Revolutionary era.

You really should read Verenna’s article to appreciate the full panoply of historical distortions in the miniseries, but here’s just one section to give you an idea of the extent of it:

  • What British Soldiers Didn’t Do in Boston – Let’s just cover these now (thanks to J.L. Bell for parts of the list) because the show just depicts the British army in all the wrong and mythological ways it can.
    • Soldiers didn’t arrest patriot/populist leaders. No homes were stormed, family members seized, or fathers taken away from crying sons.
    • Soldiers didn’t shut down any patriot newspapers. The two of the most radical papers continued to publish until the printers left town just before the war broke out in April 1775.
    • Soldiers did not try to stop the Powder Alarm of 2 September 1774, the Worcester court uprising, any of the Massachusetts’s conventions, or meetings of the illegal Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
    • Soldiers did not retaliate against the 400 armed New England militiamen who stormed Fort William and Mary, assaulted five soldiers and an officer (who fired on the militia after demanding they stop several times), and stole all the gunpowder stores, weapons, and ammunition, in December 1774.
    • Soldiers were not quartered in unwilling civilians’ homes, despite the popular myth to the contrary. In 1774 and early 1775, the only British military men staying in civilian homes were officers renting rooms from willing hosts. Back in 1768 and after the war started, the British army did use some public buildings.
    • In 1774 the army didn’t use or confiscate public buildings as barracks. The troops were housed in tents on Boston Common. Eventually barracks were constructed from old warehouses and other unused buildings, all rented from their actual owners.
    • Soldiers did not use force to break up peaceful political demonstrations.
    • Soldiers did not issue or enforce warrants. Despite the show’s insistence that British Regulars entered homes and gave summonses to attend court hearings for missed payments, none of this happened.
    • Soldiers didn’t broadly shut down businesses owned and run by patriots. The troops came to Boston to help the Customs service enforce the Boston Port Bill, so in a sense they did shut down businesses that involved trade through the harbor.

The characterizations of some of the historical personages are also rather bizarre. Most notable is the portrayal of Samuel Adams as a thirtyish action hero born and raised in poverty. Actually, Adams was 43 years old in 1765, was married and gainfully employed (not a homeless bachelor as depicted in the show), was left substantial property by his father, was never in any danger of actual arrest in the matter of  £8,000 of uncollected taxes on his father’s estate, and was generally a sensible, contributing member of society.

He certainly was not a bitter firebrand who repeatedly cudgels a British soldier at the scene of the Boston Massacre in episode one, nor did he climb up walls and run across roofs to escape British troops. He was a leader and an intellectual, not a swashbuckling martial artist.

All of these changes seem to have one common purpose: to make these heroes of distant history more appealing to modern young people raised on video games and entirely uninterested in what happened five years ago, much less two and a half centuries in the past. But it appears to me that there is another impulse at work here: a strong sense of populist libertarianism.

The entire thrust of the first episode largely pits two types of people against each other: the wealthy and politically powerful and those who serve them, and the common people who want nothing more than an opportunity to earn a decent living and live a good life of peace and contentment. The British represent the former, of course, and the colonists the latter. The fact that this dichotomy was not historically true is what makes all the distortions necessary.

What we are left with, though, is a story that makes great fundamental sense to Americans today, despite its historical inaccuracy, as we contemplate a system in which political and economic power have consolidated in a system resulting in increasingly economic inequality and social unrest. Although the mainstream media relentlessly mock the Tea Party movement, Sons of Liberty suggests an affirmation of the impulse and its validity as a response to the present moment.

Sons of Liberty is by no means accurate in its account of what happened a quarter-millennium ago, but it’s surprisingly incisive regarding what is happening in this country today, with its sentiments clearly on the side of the citizenry against an overweeningly powerful government that has corrupted the nation’s wealth to serve its own designs. And maybe that’s more important, ultimately, than whether it correctly conveys Samuel Adams’s marital status, athletic ability, and fullness of pocketbook.

Part 1 ends on a down note with the Boston Massacre, but current-day Tea Party partisans may well take hope from the knowledge of where the real-life story went from there. Perhaps Sons of Liberty will prove not only accurate in the most important ways but also prescient about the nation’s future.

[First published by the Liberty21 Institute.]

Categories: On the Blog

Endlessly Slapped by ObamaCare

January 29, 2015, 9:30 AM

“I’m sorry sir,” the polite customer-service agent said. “There’s nothing I can do. You’re either going to have to enroll in Medicaid or you’re going to have to pay the full health-insurance rate.”

“The rate you quoted earlier?” I asked. “That’s nearly 30 percent higher than my current insurance bill, I just can’t afford it.”

“You’ll have to pay the full rate, yes,” the agent replied.

“I don’t understand,” I explained. “I have plenty of money to pay you a reasonable rate, but I can’t afford to pay the same rate a millionaire would be asked to pay. Why can’t I just receive a partial subsidy? I’m willing to pay more than what Medicaid offers.”

“Sir, that’s just not how the system works.”

Right. That’s not how ObamaCare works; it doesn’t work at all.

I was 26 when my graduate school informed me in 2013 that thanks to “usage rates of the plan, changing health-insurance regulations, and the administrative workload that is involved in managing a plan” after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, students could no longer buy health coverage through the school.

So much for President Obama’s promises of “if you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan.”

I had health insurance. I liked it. But that plan disappeared.

And college officials confirmed my suspicion that ObamaCare was the culprit. “It’s just too expensive to operate under the new health-care regulations,” I was told.

So there I was: A struggling grad student with no health insurance, and unable to afford unsubsidized ObamaCare plans I’d hardly, if ever, use.

But Uncle Sam was there on his white horse, ready to save my day with . . . Medicaid?

There’s nothing wrong with getting government help in a time of need, but I wasn’t in a time of need. I had some money from student loans, and no serious health concerns; my career was getting started and my wife was less than two years from graduating medical school.

Call me crazy, but in my book Medicaid is a last resort, not a first option.

Faced with the choice of either violating a strong conviction by going on Medicaid or signing up for ObamaCare insurance I couldn’t afford, I chose a third option: short-term insurance.

Unlike traditional health plans, short-term plans are generally available only to healthy buyers and last for a set period.

After that period ends, the insurer can choose not to renew, and often won’t if you’ve developed a serious or costly illness such as cancer.

That got me through 2014; for this year, I’ve signed up for an ObamaCare plan that costs roughly 30 percent more than that plan, though it has a similar deductible and coverage. I’m not happy about the increase in cost, but I’m more than willing to pay into the system now that I can afford it.

What is incredibly frustrating, however, is that I now have to pay ObamaCare’s tax (or is it a fine?) for last year, because my short-term plan (like most) doesn’t count as buying “adequate insurance” under ObamaCare’s mandates.

It doesn’t matter that my short-term plan was comparable to other “catastrophic” plans offered on the federal exchange. The ObamaCare law prohibits the overwhelming majority of short-term plans from qualifying as “quality” coverage.

The reason is obvious. If young, healthy people — the group that the American Enterprise Institute’s Scott Gottlieb and Kelly Funderburk say is being “ripped off” by ObamaCare rates — opt out of the ObamaCare exchanges, the exchanges will collapse in a “death spiral” because not enough healthy folks will be paying in to make up for the less-healthy ones, who need more care.

My experience perfectly highlights the insanity of the Affordable Care Act. It forced me — a paying, insured, well-educated, healthy American — out of the coverage I’d had, then tried to push me into Medicaid.

The program wouldn’t let me pay more when I offered to pay a higher rate to stay out of Medicaid, and it provided only one other option: paying the highest rate available for insurance I didn’t use once in 2014.

Rather than take the easy route and enroll in Medicaid, I paid my own way with a private plan of my choosing. Now, instead of being rewarded for saving taxpayer money, I’m being punished with a fine of at least $95. What a country!


[Originally published at the New York Post]

Categories: On the Blog

Memo Reveals Bogus EPA Climate Strategy

January 28, 2015, 3:26 PM

A memo released as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act request examining the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule-making has revealed the EPA using misleading claims to stoke fears of global warming. Big surprise, huh?

The March 2009 memo shows the EPA feared it was losing citizen support for its climate efforts because opinion polls consistently showed the public ranked fighting global warming very low on its list of priorities. According to polls, the public felt harms from global warming were exaggerated and had little bearing on people’s lives.

In response, the memo describes the EPA’s decision shift the debate from concerns about melting ice caps and declining caribou and polar bear populations, to promoting the idea global warming poses a direct threat to public health, especially children’s health, and air and water quality.

“Most American’s will never see a polar ice cap, nor will ever have a chance to see a polar bear in its natural habitat. Therefor it is easy to detach from the seriousness of the issue. Unfortunately, climate change in the abstract is an increasingly – and consistently – unpersuasive argument to make. However, if we shift from making this issue about polar caps and about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue home to many Americans.”

The problem for the EPA is, there has been no serious research linking global warming or greenhouse gas emissions to human health problems, or air or water pollution.

According to the memo an additional step the EPA took was to raise concerns about climate change among minority groups and women, using headline catching “hooks,” concerning social justice and children’s health.

The memo details ways to create a positive association in the public’s mind between concerns about the safety of the water they drink and the air they breathe, and the need to act on global warming. Per the memo, “We must begin to create a causal link between the worries of Americans and the proactive mission we’re pushing.”

Attorney and Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow, Chris Horner obtained the memo through a FOIA request. Concerning what he uncovered, Horner said, “This memo shows EPA’s recognition that the global warming case is “consistently — an unpersuasive argument to make”, and thus required a facelift, from a pro-scarcity movement of wealthy white elites to a racial and “social justice” issue.”

“This memo candidly affirms EPA’s conscious approach of yelling “clean air” and “children” at every turn in the push for an agenda that not long ago was about the end of the world in a climatic calamity, openly and rightly confident in getting a media assist,” said Horner.

John Dale Dunn, a physician and lawyer who has written on government and scientific corruption for more than 25 years saw problems recognized the shift in the EPA’s climate focus in 2009. Dunn stated, “The Children/baby risks panic strategy fit the EPA goals, according to secret strategy documents, when the cute Coca Cola polar bear cubs and mothers imagery failed to motivate public outrage.”

“The internal documents obtained under FOIA revealed the EPA and enviros were looking for a hook and decided the hook they were looking for was the health of children,” continued Dunn, “Why not? Nothing better to get politicians moving than marching and chanting women in matching t-shirts on a tear, worried about and advocating for their babies.”


EPA Strategic Communication’s Memo, March 2009.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jesse Hathaway: Taxpayers Lost Billions on Auto-Bailout

January 28, 2015, 2:47 PM

On January 6, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Jesse Hathaway joined Genesis Communications Network’s Charles Butler to talk about how taxpayers lost billions of dollars on the U.S. Treasury Department’s bailout of banks and automobile manufacturing companies several years ago.

In December 2014, the Treasury Department announced that Ally Financial – formerly known as GMAC – had repaid its bailout obligations, but taxpayers recouped less money from Chrysler Motors, General Motors, and GMAC than the government had ‘invested’ in the name of saving the economy.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Joins Coalition Opposing Federal Gas Tax Hike

January 28, 2015, 1:53 PM

The Heartland Institute has recently signed a coalition letter led by Americans for Prosperity urging Congress to oppose legislation that would hike the federal gasoline tax.

The plan was introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and proposes hiking the tax by 12 cents over two years and indexing it to inflation. USA Today reports Sens. John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) have also entertained the idea.

Naturally, such an idea gets floated around every time gas prices take a temporary dip, but the idea only gets worse each time it’s proposed, not better.

The reason is today’s vehicles are more efficient than they’ve ever been, which means a high tax on gasoline prices will disproportionately burden those with lower-incomes, who are more likely to own older, less fuel-efficient vehicles.

Secondly, in an economic environment that’s mostly experienced slow job growth and stagnating wages recently, AFP’s Brent Gardner wisely points out falling gas prices are the “first significant relief many Americans have experienced in years.” And it’d be foolish to think prices will stay low for very long. With crude oil prices in the forty dollar range – production can and likely will be cut. Meanwhile, consumption has been rising, according to the 2014 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. And consumption has been forecast to continue rising, according to the International Energy Agency. The whole history of oil is filled with supply/demand imbalances that have taken place only to correct itself a short while later. Congress should avoid increasing the federal gasoline tax and phase it out altogether instead.

Read more from AFP.

Read the letter here.

Categories: On the Blog