By long-standing tradition, Groundhog Day comes every February 2. On that date, tradition holds, Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is wrested from his burrow and, if he sees his shadow, the people will have six more weeks of winter. (Punxsutawney must be a sunny place, for the official beginning of spring – March 21 or thereabouts – is always the same six or seven weeks from February 2.)
For some of us, however, Groundhog Day came last weekend, which is when most of the U. S. set its clocks ahead one hour in annual observance of “Daylight Savings Time.” And, just as in the Bill Murray movie of the same name, we are forced to relive what we just went through.
Begun in 1916 as an effort to conserve resources, Daylight Savings Time supposedly realigns the workers’ clock more closely with the longer daylight hours of the sun, which rises and sets higher in the northern hemisphere sky the closer to the summer solstice we get. This, in theory, should make workers happier and more efficient by giving them longer work daylight work hours – but does it really?
For many of us, tired from a long and dreary winter – and this past one has seemed longer and drearier than most – Daylight Savings Time throws us back on our heels. After three or four months of cold, depressing dark, we had finally reached the point at which – miracle of miracles! – our wakeup time was finally again coinciding with the sunrise. On all but the cloudiest and snowiest days we would get just a hint of brightness, and on cold and clear ones a nice, bright, sunny sky was a welcome invitation to the new day.
Now we are back in the darkness for another four to six weeks, just as Punxatawney Phil predicted.
Happy Goundhog Day indeed!
Democrats have decided to lean-in, not back-away, from so-called clean energy. Despite the embarrassing history of government-funded green-energy failures, “wealthy environmentalists are pushing Democrats to take bolder positions on climate change”—and global warming, as an issue, provides the impetus for more green-energy spending.
The Boston Globe reported on a recent “summit between Washington’s liberal elite and San Francisco’s climate intelligentsia” that included “Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, six other senators, and … Al Gore.” The Globe points to new efforts by Democrats to “make global warming a central issue during the midterms.”
Reid has, according to the Globe, “pledged to allot time to anyone who wants to discuss climate change at party lunches or on the Senate floor.” He needs to keep the ruse alive because he is connected to more than $3 billion in Energy Department green-energy deals that helped him get reelected in 2010—behavior that has earned him the moniker: “one of America’s most corrupt politicians.”
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), along with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), has planned an all-night talkathon on the subject that will take place on Monday, March 10—about which Boxer said: “So many Senators coming together for an all-night session shows our commitment to wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change.” According to a press release from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 28 Senators will be participating—slightly more than one quarter of the Senate.
Apparently they don’t want to miss out on the $100 million in campaign cash the “wealthy environmentalists” have committed to cooperative candidates—while also “threatening to withhold money from candidates in swing states who support the Keystone oil pipeline.”
The Globe quotes Wade Randlett, a renewable energy entrepreneur who co-hosted the San Francisco fundraiser, as saying: “What was really energizing is everyone understood clean energy would be at the forefront of the Senate agenda. It wasn’t back-away; it was clearly lean-in.”
So, who are these “wealthy environmentalists,” who are driving the agenda and making powerful U.S. Senators jump like an organ grinder’s monkey to do their bidding? The answer is found in Christine Lakatos’ newest report for the Green Corruption Files: The dark, driving force behind the president’s massive green-energy scheme.
Since 2012, Lakatos and I have partnered to expose Obama’s green-energy crony-corruption scandal. She does the research and writes the thorough exposé on the chosen topic and, based on her work, I write the overview report and link to the Green Corruption File for those who want the full story. Our collaborative efforts have been cited by prominent commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin, and referenced in many news stories.
Lakatos focuses on left-wing think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP) founded by John Podesta—who is now serving as White House counselor specializing in climate change issues. The Huffington Post (HP) says this about CAP and Podesta: “John Podesta probably is and has been the most important opinion leader for progressives in America in the last decade, certainly during the term of the Obama Administration, through his leadership of the Center for American Progress (CAP).” HP points out: CAP has “been a vocal voice for this president’s policies in the media and on the Hill. But their area of highest visibility is advocacy for a clean energy economy where John Podesta has personally led the effort.”
Podesta is the organ grinder from within the White House and progressive political platforms. Tom Steyer is now doing the same from outside Washington—leading “San Francisco’s climate intelligensia.”
Lakatos chronicles many key players with readily recognizable names who have connections to the Obama White House, CAP, and green energy projects. They include Lawrence Summers, Carol Browner, Steve Spinner, and Van Jones—as well as many others who have been heavily involved but have maintained a lower profile and corporate donors that are tied to tens of billions of green energy funds. However, in light of his recent political-influence reveal, Tom Steyer—CAP Board Member and donor, Obama bundler, and host of the recent “summit” (held on his 1800-acre ranch, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge)—is worthy of special attention.
Lakatos states: “Like most prominent Obama fundraisers, Steyer has enjoyed relatively easy access to the White House, and as of the summer of 2012, it was reported that he had met with senior White House officials in the West Wing on at least four occasions. Steyer was even handpicked to make a cameo appearance at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.”
Steyer founded and was the Senior Managing Member of Farallon Capital Management—until late 2012 when the firm’s partners bought out his “profit share.” His net worth is estimated to be $1.55 billion—some of which is reported to have been made through millions of dollars worth of shares his firm invested in big oil companies such as BP and pipeline company Kinder Morgan. Fox News reports: “He continues to have significant investments with Farallon, according to a spokesman, Steyer has directed the fund to ‘green’ his portfolio and divest him of all positions in oil and coal—including Kinder Morgan.”
Regarding his recent interest in California’s blooming green-technology industry, the New York Times (NYT) quoted Steyer as saying: “really what we’re fighting is self-interested dirty-energy companies.”
Having made billions through “dirty-energy companies,” Farallon Capital Management has been greening its portfolio. The NYT cites Steyer, when he was still with Farallon, as “the main financial backer of Greener Capital [now EFW Capital], a venture firm that invests in renewable energy start ups.” A 2012 Washington Free Beacon report points out some of Farallon’s other green-energy investments:
Farallon owns nearly $14 million worth of shares of Westport Innovations, the self-described “global leader in natural gas engines.” The Westport Carbon Project (WCP), according to its website, “was established to monetize the carbon emission reductions associated with the Westport HD engine, the Cummins Westport ISL G and other natural gas engines developed with our OEM partners. The WCP enables customers to earn annual carbon rebate cheques for the natural gas vehicles in their fleet as of January 1, 2010.”
Farallon also owns more than $8 million worth of shares of Fuel Systems Solutions, which according to its website “designs, manufactures and supplies proven, cost-effective alternative fuel components and systems for transportation and industrial applications. Its gaseous fuel technology for propane (LPG) and natural gas (CNG) generates savings, reduces emissions, and promotes energy independence.”
While a 2011 Forbes profile on Steyer quotes him as saying: “I am a true believer that we have to change the way we generate and consume energy in the United States,” it would also be easy to view his combined investment and politicking efforts as “self-interested,” as he does stand to profit from the polices he’s promoting.
Senator David Vitter (R-LA), in the Fox News story accuses Steyer of having financial interest in the death of a pipeline he opposes on environmental grounds. Vitter says: “I think it’s hypocrisy, quite frankly. Who knows when he’s going to divest of these investments … maybe in a few months when his helping kill Keystone will boost them up to top value. … Who knows?”
According to Steyer spokesman Chris LeHane, “This divestment has been taking place consistent with the applicable legal requirements.”
Steyer calling traditional energy companies “self-interested” is like the presumed morally superior pot calling the proven economically superior kettle black. Perhaps he really is a “true believer.” If so, he should remove himself from any form of financial gain he can reap from his political activism and donations. But maybe, like I do, those self-interested oil companies truly believe that developing our own resources to provide all Americans with energy that is efficient, effective and economical is in America’s best interest.
The 2014 elections give Americans the opportunity to decide whether they side with the 28 Democrat Senators at Monday night’s sleepover who are dancing at the behest of the organ grinders—or if we want to learn from the mistakes of their failed green-energy projects only profiting the wealthy while robbing taxpayers, raising electricity rates and hurting the poor.
Do we lean-in or back-away?[Originally posted at finance.townhall.com]
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast on Thursday moderated an excellent panel discussion about the current state of climate science at CPAC 2014. He was a great choice as moderator considering Heartland is known around the world (according to The Economist magazine) as “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”
The observable data continues to defy the climate models of the alarmist scientific community, while the “realist” scientists — who follow the data and adhere to the scientific method — are increasingly vindicated as the years pass.
That fact — and many others — are discussed by the distinguished CPAC panel:
- Steve Milloy, director of external policy and strategy for Murray Energy Corporation (and founder of JunkScience.com)
- Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot (and former staffer for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK)
- Dr. Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute
- George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom
- Shannon Smith, CEO of Abundant Power Group
Watch the discussion below … and watch this space for news about Heartland’s next international conference on climate change, coming July 7-9 in Las Vegas!
I could write every day about some new obscene Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effort to thwart energy the nation needs, forcing the shutdown more coal-fired plants and the mines that supply them. Goodbye thousands of jobs, goodbye electrical energy. The White House has delayed the construction of the Keystone Xl pipeline to transmit oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Do you wonder, still, why there are millions of Americans out of work or who have stopped looking because every effort to build the nation’s economy is attacked by some element of the Obama Administration.
We can now add another attack on natural resources because the EPA has announced its intention to restrict, if not prohibit, the development of Pebble Mine in Alaska. The mine could be one of the world’s largest sources of copper.
Beyond the economic benefits the mine would create, it would not only produce copper, but strategic metals like molybdenum and rhenium. Daniel McGroarty, the president of the American Resources Policy Network, noted in a July Wall Street Journal opinion that these two metals “are essential to countless American manufacturing, high-tech, and national security applications.”
Copper is one of the most important minerals used today because it is a good conductor of heat and electricity—second only to silver in electrical conductivity. It was discovered thousands of years ago in prehistoric times. Methods for refining copper from its ores were developed around 5,000 CE and, though too soft for many tools, when mixed with other metals, the resulting alloys were harder. The entire Bronze Age owes its name to the mixture of copper and tin. Brass is a mixture of copper and zinc.
McGroarty pointed out that “The irony here is that renewable-energy industries that environmentalists champion, like solar and wind, rely heavily on copper. More than three tons of it are needed for a single industrial wind turbine.” Solar panels depend on copper as well. And electric cables, usually made of copper, transmit the energy these two favored “renewable energy” sources. Together, though, they represent less than 3% of the electricity generated.
Expecting environmental groups to make any sense or even to tell the truth is a waste of time. The Pebble Mine is opposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks, and Trout Unlimited. The EPA claims to have researched the environmental impact of the Alaskan mine and concluded that it poses a serious risk to the salmon fisheries and native tribes in the Bristol Bay area.
EPA research is so wretchedly flawed that the Agency is still insisting that carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for “global warming” even though the Earth entered a new cooling cycle around 1996. None of the children born since then have ever spent a day experiencing a warming cycle.
The EPA has been engaged in its own interpretation of the Clean Air and Clear Water Acts. The Supreme Court, which erroneously ruled that CO2 was a “pollutant” in April 2007—it is vital to all life on Earth, providing for the growth of all vegetation—has just heard oral arguments for a case that could further ruin the nation’s economy. Environmental groups and the Obama administration argued that the EPA has the authority to require that power plants and other industrial facilities must get permits to emit carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases even though they have no effect at all on the Earth’s climate.
I often wonder why most Americans are so clueless about global warming. AKA climate change, and the rape of the nation’s economy by the EPA.
So we can anticipate that, when the partnership of those seeking to open the Pebble Mine does apply for a permit, we already know that the EPA will reject it. Gina McCarthy, the current EPA administrator, has made that clear. You can be sure that the EPA’s “research” has predetermined that outcome.
That’s not science. That’s just more environmental lies.
Those lies are a large component of why the nation is enduring an economic stalemate that is beginning to look like the next Great Depression. Those lies will try to stop the Pebble Mine and shut down more coal-fired plants. Those lies are the reason why so many potential new industrial and business enterprises are not being created.
As the dust has settled from the D.C. Circuit’s January 14th decision to vacate and remand the FCC Open Internet Order for another try, and from FCC Chairman Wheeler’s February 19th statement accepting the court’s invitation to propose open Internet rules that could pass court muster, what does it all this mean going forward?
First, we need to glean the key separate baseline takeaways from what the court ruled and also what Chairman Wheeler initially decided. Then we need to put them together to glean what the big going-forward takeaways are.
Court Decision Takeaways
A big takeaway is that this court majority went out of its way to help the FCC and affirm its “general authority to regulate in this arena.”
While most of the coverage and analysis rightfully focused on the Court’s important denial of the FCC’s attempt to de facto regulate broadband providers as common carriers, many underappreciated the majority’s strong affirmation of the FCC’s broad authority under Section 706. It found the FCC’s assertion of 706-authority reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. It also concluded the FCC is due considerable deference by the Court on section 706.
After this big give to the FCC it also took away. The court drew a bright line that under the law an information service provider cannot be treated as if it were a common carrier p. 53, 60. Simply the FCC cannot legally compel an ISP to do something generally for everyone. However even here, the majority remained friendly to the FCC’s enforcement authority by providing a veritable roadmap p. 61 for how the FCC could navigate the court’s limits to achieve much of its no blocking and no discrimination goals in a redo mirroring the Court’s Cellco decision, which upheld the FCC’s data roaming rules.
Senior Circuit Judge Silberman’s dissent spotlighted how friendly the majority was to the FCC in ways that could make the FCC’s newly-affirmed 706 regulatory authority vulnerable to further appeal in the future under administrative law. Judge Silberman’s dissent effectively suggests the FCC should create a better evidence record and also should incorporate more market power analysis and its anti-competitive exercise in the future.
The big top-line takeaway from this court’s decision is that freedom-defined net neutrality is legal, while common carrier-defined net neutrality for broadband information services is illegal.
FCC Chairman Wheeler Statement Takeaways
The FCC acknowledged that the Court removed any real uncertainty over whether “the FCC has the legal authority to issue enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness” – it clearly does under Section 706 for the foreseeable future.
The most important takeaway here is that when offered the opportunity by the Court to reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service, Chairman Wheeler rejected that option, essentially affirming Chairman Genachowski’s fundamental judgment that reclassification as a policy matter is not necessary, warranted, or best for preserving the Open Internet.
“Unfairly,” was the most important word that Chairman Wheeler used in his statement, because “unfairly” effectively qualifies much of what his new rules intend to accomplish.
See: “…innovators cannot be judged on their own merits if they are unfairly prevented from harnessing the full power of the Internet…” para 3 and “…we can ensure that edge providers are not unfairly blocked, explicitly or implicitly, from reaching consumers…” para 7. [Bold added]
Words matter. The big takeaway here is that this particular key qualifying word — unfairly” – matters a whole lot because it signals a more FTC-like unfair-competition standard for the Open Internet rather than the traditional FCC common carrier qualifying words of “unjust and unreasonable” of Title II.
Importantly, an “unfair” standard is generally employed after the fact upon a complaint, whereas the common carrier standard of no “unjust and unreasonable discrimination,” is generally prophylactic economic regulation. Most importantly, an “unfair” standard presumes normal commercial price discrimination based on economics of speed, usage, quality of service guarantees, etc. are ok.
The tricky part of crafting new rules for the FCC will be threading the needle the Cellco-way that the court suggested p. 61, and resisting the institution’s natural tendency to overreach like it did in both the original Comcast net neutrality enforcement decision and the original Open Internet Order.
Overall Combined Takeaways
There are two big combined economic takeaways from the Court and Chairman Wheeler’s guidance.
First, economics and normal “individualized bargaining and discrimination in terms,” p. 50 are “commercially reasonable,” p. 50 fair, and pro-competitive behaviors; they are neither per se illegal behaviors nor discrimination in violation of openness.
This is extremely important because common-carrier defined net neutrality proponents have long tried to define different speed tier prices, usage based pricing, usage caps, and two-sided markets as anti-Internet freedom and anti-Internet openness — and per se illegal discrimination. We now know they are legal and not generally considered an FCC violation of Internet openness.
What the FCC must figure out is when normal legal economic behavior in a competitive market, somehow crosses some provable, principled, predictable, anti-competitive line to become a violation of Internet freedom or openness. That would appear to be like an after-the-fact, antitrust-ish or FTC Section 5-like, enforcement standard against deceptive or unfair business practices.
Second, two-sided markets, like in the Internet backbone peering market where Google, Microsoft, Netflix etc. pay for the cost of their asymmetric traffic, are now presumptively legal and not a violation of Internet openness under the Court and FCC Chairman Wheeler’s mutually-reinforcing guidance.
Specifically, the FCC cannot compel information service providers to generally offer free or zero pricing to edge providers. See: p.60 “In requiring that all edge providers receive this minimum level of access for free, these rules would appear on their face to impose per se common carrier regulation.”
Thus the big takeaway here is that the practice of charging edge providers for their asymmetric Internet backbone traffic is not presumptively a net neutrality violation of Internet openness, but is a commercially reasonable practice. This clarity will further economically rationalize Internet prices with Internet costs and benefits over time.
In sum, there is a broad consensus and deep commitment in the broadband industry to abide by freedom-defined net neutrality adjudicated by the FCC that ensures a free and open Internet where users have the freedom to access the legal content and applications of their choice.
Now we also know that there is an unappealed court ruling that affirms the legality of freedom-defined net neutrality and the illegality of imposing common carrier-defined net neutrality on information services providers.
Los Angeles City Council Votes to Treat Much-Safer E-Cigarettes Just Like Dangerous Tobacco Cigarettes
In a closer vote than expected, the Los Angeles City Council today voted not to carve-out an exception for bars in that city’s new ban on public vaping (the use of e-cigarettes, which emit smokeless vapor).
National Center for Public Policy Research Risk Analysis Director Jeff Stier testified at the hearing, encouraging the council members not to vote to ban all public vaping in Los Angeles, including in bars, where children are banned.
“The ‘precautionary principle’ should be applied to regulations… regulations should be narrowly-tailored to achieve a public health goal, and they shouldn’t do more harm than good… The science is very well developed on the dangers of smoking [tobacco cigarettes],” said Stier, who says e-cigarettes have helped many nicotine-addicted adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.
“Let me tell you one very serious consequence of a regulation like this without having an exemption for bars,” said Stier, who went on to explain to the city council that smokers currently must leave bars to smoke outside. And if vapers, that is, e-cigarette users who are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, are forced by regulations to go outside with the tobacco smokers to appease their nicotine habit, they will be more tempted to resume smoking tobacco.
As a public health policy, said Stier, “That’s nonsense! If you put them outside, they’re going to go back to smoking.”
The Los Angeles City Council ultimately voted 8-6 to treat vaping just like smoking, and not to allow an exception for bars, but the vote was closer than anticipated.
“This ban will be directly responsible for some former smokers going back to smoking – all in the name of ‘public health,’” said Stier.
“E-cigarettes do not re-normalize smoking,” Stier concluded. “They normalize not smoking.”
A video of Stier’s testimony in Los Angeles today is available on YouTube athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIGnT6LOX4o .
Stier has testified before states and localities in recent months about the relative safety of e-cigarettes compared to tobacco cigarettes. He says, “The vast majority of those who purchase e-cigarettes are adult smokers trying to quit. So discouraging the use of e-cigarettes actually incentivizes smokers to continue smoking.”
Stier is hopeful that as more elected officials realize the public health benefits of allowing the use of e-cigarettes, the more they will oppose policies, including e-cigarette bans and high excise taxes on e-cigarettes, that discourage people from using them to quit smoking tobacco.
New York City-based Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Stier is a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. Stier’s National Center op-eds have been published in top outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, Newsday, Forbes, the Washington Examiner and National Review Online. He also frequently discusses risk issues on Twitter at@JeffaStier.
Stier has testified about e-cigarette regulation before the New York, Los Angeles and San Diego City Councils, submitted testimony to theOklahoma and Rhode Island legislatures has met with federal officials at the Office of Management and Budget and the Food and Drug Administration on the issue.
Stier previously worked in both the office of the mayor and in the corporation counsel’s office during the Giuliani administration in New York City. His responsibilities included planning environmental agency programs, legal analysis of proposed legislation, and health policy. Mr. Stier also is chairman of the board of the Jewish International Connection, NY. While earning his law degree at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he served two terms as editor-in-chief of the Cardozo Law Forum.[Originally posted at JeffStier.org]
A new effort by the Obama Administration to change the Medicare Part D prescription drug program by imposing new rules on how the plans are set up and managed risk undermining what has been one the government’s few health care success stories. The proposed rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would hinder the ability of Medicare beneficiaries to choose the kind of private plan that works best for them and limit access to the drugs they need. The proposed rules would limit the number of Part D plans that can be offered in a particular region, weaken the current guarantee that certain classes of medications must be fully available to patients with serious illnesses and places limits of health plans to negotiation with pharmacies to reduce drug costs.
The key to Medicare Part D is competition. Under the Part D model, private insurance plans compete against each other for the business of senior Medicare recipients, offering different benefits, costs and levels of coverage. The program empowers seniors to choose which plan works best for them and the government subsidizes the premiums. This competition leads to lower prices for seniors. Negotiation between the plan providers and pharmacies also reduces prescription costs.
The rules have drawn sharp criticism from consumer and free-market groups. In late February, a coalition of 283 organizations representing patients, seniors, employers disabled Americans sent a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner calling for the withdrawal of the new regulations that would undermine the many successes of Part D while having “unintended consequences for seniors and beneficiaries with disabilities.”
The Healthcare Leadership Council outlined several major problems with the proposed rules that were presented in the coalition letter:
The regulations would limit the number of Part D plans that could be offered to beneficiaries. “Millions of seniors and beneficiaries with disabilities would lose their current plan of choice or face changes in coverage,” they wrote.
Despite the clear intent of Congress that Medicare Part D should rely solely upon market-based pricing and private sector competition, the rules would “dramatically expand the federal government’s role in Medicare Part D despite the fact that there is no compelling reason for doing so. Reshaping Part D in this way will neither improve quality and affordability, nor incentivize plan innovation,” the letter said.
New cost burdens imposed as a result of the proposed regulations “will drive higher premiums for millions of beneficiaries and lead to higher costs for Medicare without tangible gains in service or quality for beneficiaries.”
CMS’ proposal would have a dramatic effect on the number of plans available for seniors. A study by Avalere Health found that the rule change limiting the number of prescription drug plans (PDPs) per region could end up forcing 39 percent of all enhanced plans to be eliminated in 2016. The Avalere study also estimated that the regional limit, which holds standalone PDP sponsors to one basic and one enhanced plan per region would require “214 of the current 552 enhanced PDPs to be terminated or consolidated with an existing plan.”
The new rules would also dramatically increase the cost of the program. The National Taxpayers Union points to a study from the Milliman actuarial firm that concluded that the cost of Medicare Part D would increase by an additional $1.6 billion per year if the rules are adopted.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Health, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the President of the American Action Forum argued that reforming Medicare Part D and limiting competition violates the intent of the Medicare Modernization Act and will increase cost and decrease drug access for seniors.
From Holtz-Eakin’s testimony:
- The Medicare Part D program is a proven success story of bipartisan Medicare reform, making affordable prescription drug coverage available to seniors and the disabled;
- The proposed new rule titled “Medicare Program; Contract Year 2015 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs” clearly violates the intent of Congress when it passed the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) and rests on a questionable legal foundation by interfering with the established negotiation processes;
- Policy analyses show the proposed rule is likely to raise costs for seniors, programs, and the federal taxpayers, unnecessarily harming the superb record that the competition-based design of Part D has built; and
- The rule imposes requirements that will decrease seniors’ access to vital prescription drugs.
Medicare Part D is not broken. Part D has proven that a modern, free-market model can replace a system of price controls and provide medications to the neediest of Americans, all at a lower cost than the old system. Instead of foisting unnecessary changes on an already successful program, legislators should be using the successful free market mechanisms at the heart of Part D as a model for other bidding processes within Medicare.
For more information on Medicare Part D and the misguided effort to reform the program, please visit the Heartland Institute’s website on the issue: http://savemedicarepartd.com/.
Scott Cleland, successful entrepreneur and former Deputy Coordinator for Communications and Information Policy for the George H.W. Bush administration, has released a new video detailing the pressing need in America for a new communications law. The woefully out of date laws currently on the books are in desperate need of a 21st century re-write. Watch the short video to see what needs to be done to keep American telecoms free and competitive.
On February 16, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a long speech in Jakarta, Indonesia before a group of Indonesian students, civic leaders, and government officials in a U. S. Embassy-run American Center in a shopping mall. The subject was on climate change policy and Secretary Kerry ripped into those who disagreed with his thinking. Secretary Kerry said, “We simply don’t have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation,” he said, referring to what he called “big companies” that “don’t want to change and spend a lot of money” to act to reduce the risks. “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts.” “Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.” “The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand,” Kerry said. “We don’t have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society.”
Secretary Kerry also said scientists claim climate changes are leading to drought, wildfires, rising sea levels, melting polar ice, plant and animal extinctions, and other extreme conditions. In addition, he pointed out recent weather disasters such as flooding and typhoons in Asia and their impacts on commerce, fishing, agriculture and daily living conditions for billions of people.
He added: “In a sense, climate change can now be considered the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” The solution, Kerry said, is a new global energy policy that shifts reliance from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies. He noted President Barack Obama is championing such a shift and encouraged others to appeal to their leaders to join.
Tens of millions of Americans take offense to an American Secretary of State on foreign soil labeling them “a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts.” There is no precedent for such actions.
Secretary Kerry always used the words climate change instead of global warming as buzz words for human-caused present and future disasters. Climate change has existed since the beginning of the planet 4.5 billion years ago. Debating climate change makes as much sense as debating the sun rises in the East each morning. Secretary Kerry, as well as President Obama, is arguing the hypothesis carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is causing global warming with catastrophic weather events. Tens of millions of thinking Americans, including tens of thousands of scientists, disagree with this hypothesis.
If Secretary Kerry and his compatriots would listen to the debate, they would learn the following answers to global warming questions: Is global warming taking place? Yes, for reasons explained later. Do human activity’s causing global warming? Yes, temperatures are increasing in large metropolitan areas where massive amounts of concrete and asphalt store the sun’s energy and increases local temperatures; particularly at night. This is called the Urban Heat Island Effect. Does carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels cause significant global warming? No, historical and scientific events show increasing carbon dioxide has an insignificant role in global warming.
Historical data covering almost one million years show no significant role of carbon dioxide changes on temperatures. Antarctic ice core data hundreds of thousands of years ago show temperature increases led carbon dioxide increases by 100 to 900 years. This indicates temperature drives carbon dioxide changes; not the other way. More recently the planet experienced periods of approximately 500-year duration in which the planet warmed and then cooled; while carbon dioxide levels remained constant. The periods have names–Roman Warming Period (100 BC-400 AD), Dark Ages (400 AD-900 AD), Medieval Warm Period (900 AD-1300 AD), Little Ice Age (1300 AD-1850 AD), and Current Warm Period (1850 AD-?). If history repeats itself the Current Warm Period will last until 2300 AD and then the planet’s climate will shift into another 500-year cold period. Temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period were warmer than today as shown by Greenland’s agricultural districts, wine produced in Scotland, sea levels being higher than today, and higher local temperature measurements at many locations.
Carbon dioxide is one of several greenhouse gases that absorbs and re-emits radiant heat emitted from the earth’s surface. This effect is thought to have warmed the earth by about 60 degrees F. above what would exist if this phenomenon did not occur.
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is a small portion of the carbon dioxide emitted annually into the atmosphere. At this time, natural emissions due to out-gassing from the oceans, plant and animal decay, volcanoes, etc. are about 800 billion tons per year. Current carbon dioxide emissions are about 36 billion tons per year. Current atmospheric carbon dioxide level is 400 parts per million (ppm); increasing at a rate of 2 ppm annually. For the past ten thousand years, carbon dioxide levels are thought to be 280 ppm until the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. From that time, carbon dioxide levels gradually increased to 310 ppm from 1750 to 1950. Since 1950, carbon dioxide levels increased 90 ppm to the 400 ppm level of 2014. It is this 64-year period from 1950 to present that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is alleged to contribute to global warming.
Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide due to its more complex molecular structure. On average water vapor exists on the planet at 10,000 ppm; forty times more prevalent than carbon dioxide. Water vapor accounts for most of the earth’s 60 degree temperature increase due to the greenhouse effect.
Examining global temperatures during the Current Warming Period shows a slight decline in temperatures from 1880 until 1910, a rise in temperatures from 1910 to 1940, a slight decline in temperatures from 1940 until 1975, a rise in temperatures from 1975 until 1998, and leveling(the pause) of temperatures from 1998 to present. Those debating the role of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels on global warming concede the influence is from 1950 to present. Prior to 1950, global warming is caused by natural events. During the 64-year period with a 90 ppm increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming occurred only 23 years. Those with good memories might recall in 1974 Newsweek and Time Magazine came out with issues of alarm about global cooling may usher in another Ice Age. The 15-year pause in global warming with the highest rate of annual carbon dioxide increases (32 ppm over 15 years) has led to consternation for many promoting catastrophic global warming. This is the reason Secretary Kerry and President Obama use the words climate change instead of global warming in their remarks slandering America’s citizens.
The scares about global warming (climate change) are due to a multitude of computer models that predict present and future global temperatures and events like sea level rise. All of these models are unable to predict the current pause and overestimate global temperatures when compared to current temperatures. Another factor frequently omitted in discussing the worth of computer models is all of them predict a “hot spot” in the upper atmosphere from latitudes 30 degrees South to 30 degrees North. The “hot spot” reaches from an altitude of 4 miles to 10 miles. Millions of radiosonde and satellite temperature measurements show no existence of the “hot spot”. The failure of computer models to predict actual events show they are not worthy of basing energy policy on their projections.
Secretary Kerry read off a list of events such as droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, sea level rise, and polar ice melting that have centuries of data showing their changes. All of these events occurred in the past when carbon dioxide levels were not increasing; surprisingly, many of these events are less frequent and powerful the last few decades. Secretary Kerry claimed a vast preponderance of scientists agree with him about the dangers of burning fossil fuels. One example of disagreement is the Oregon Petition during the late 1990s that had 31,487 scientists, including 9029 PhDs, who stated carbon dioxide increases are not worth considering for energy policy.
The preceding paragraphs cover a lot of climate science that is readily available on the Internet. They show most of Secretary Kerry’s statements involving global warming are false. I always urge individuals to be skeptical of everything and verify their beliefs. A good start is information from a group of scientists, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and their most recent report Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science . This report is on the Internet, over 1000 pages long, and with over 4000 references. Another excellent source of information is the Internet report by Popular Technology that lists 1350 + peer-reviewed papers challenging catastrophic global warming by categories such as Arctic, sea level rise, temperatures, etc.
Secretary Kerry’s remarks are political and attempting to convince American’s the nation should adopt policies to reduce fossil fuel use and lead the world on introducing a world-wide protocol, similar to the expired 1997 Kyoto Treaty, administered by the United Nations and consummated at the Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris November 30-December 10, 2015. In his speech, Secretary Kerry mentioned giving Indonesia $332 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation as part of the Green Prosperity program to help insure that nation’s cooperation in getting a new Kyoto Treaty passed. Statements by some of the people Secretary Kerry consorts with may give insight on what is in store for the United States.
”They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at. They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest. China is also able to implement policies because its political system avoids some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the U.S. Key policies, reforms and appointments are decided at plenums, or meeting of the governing Communist Party’s more than 200-strong Central Committee. The National People’s Congress, China’s unicameral legislature, largely enforces decisions made by the party and other executive organs. The political divide in the U.S. Congress has slowed efforts to pass climate legislation and is “very detrimental” to the fight against global warming, she remarked.”
Another player in the United Nations attempt at energy policy control, Ottmar Edenhofer is the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III, gave the following interview with Neue Zurcher Zeitung November 14, 2010 : “De facto, this means an expropriation of the countries with natural resources. This leads to a very different development from that which has been triggered by development policy.”
“First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.”
These individuals want a new world order where the United States cedes sovereignty to the demands of the United Nations.
Secretary Kerry said, “Climate change can now be considered the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Can his memory be so short not to remember over ten thousand have died due to the war on terror that stretches back to at least 1983 when 241 Marines were killed in a Lebanon barracks and trillions of tax dollars spent on a war that is not finished.
Fossil fuel use is the lifeblood of developed industrial nations. It has eliminated hunger, poverty, lack of shelter, drudgery, and provided healthier, more comfortable, and longer lifespans. The United States is blessed by having over one hundred years or more supply of inexpensive or moderate cost deposits of each of the fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas. Secretary Kerry, along with President Obama and his supporters, want to eliminate use of the nation’s abundant, reliable, and economical fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources–wind and solar–whose present state of technology make them expensive, unreliable, and impractical to scale up to the size of present fossil fuel capabilities. These policies will substantially lower the standard of living for Americans and condemn developing nations to perpetual poverty.
Secretary Kerry’s solutions to the non-existent global warming problem can be compared to the pre-20th century medical practice of bloodletting—patients are not cured and many die.
All of Secretary Kerry’s and President Obama’s plans to relieve “Climate Change” are a total waste of money. Society has used common sense to mitigate natural climate change for many thousands of years. The first use was called clothing–it was noticed clothing made people more comfortable in cold weather. Society has progressed ever since due to human actions that did not require government persuasion. Umbrellas were invented to make traveling more comfortable during rainfall. Secretary Kerry’s plans are similar to having government tell the public to open their umbrellas during rainfall. With the U. S. government sinking in debt $2 billion per day, do we need to waste tax dollars on agencies to tell us to do what we would naturally do?
Damage to the nation’s economy by climate change and energy policies of Secretary Kerry, President Obama, and their followers demand examination of their fitness to run this country. The public needs to thoroughly study these issues and make decisive votes in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
Students of 19th century American history may recall the great Nez Perce Chief Joseph who led his tribe on an epic 1500-mile trek in the Northwest trying to lead his people to freedom in Canada and was forced to surrender. After surrender he made the memorable statement, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” Due to sadness about perils facing our country, I make this statement, ”Where the sun now stands John Kerry is my Secretary of State no more forever.”
They use a (presumably) fictional patient to illustrate the problems with the current payment system: Mrs. T. is an 88-year-old woman who lives alone, has a history of congestive heart failure and osteoarthritis, and has traditional fee-for-service Medicare coverage. One day, she was found lethargic and sent to the emergency department, where she was discovered to be in renal failure and was admitted to the hospital for fluids and monitoring. Her hospitalist concluded that she had accidentally overdosed on Lasix (furosemide). On hospital day 2, Mrs. T. was having difficulty ambulating, although her cognition and renal function had improved and she felt “back to her old self” and was eager to go home.
What to do?
The hospitalist had two primary options. He could keep Mrs. T. in the hospital another night, although she was medically stable and had no further diagnostic or medical needs. That would cost the hospital money under Medicare’s system of fixed payments for diagnosis-related groups, but it would give Mrs. T. more time to recover her strength and extend her stay to the 3 days required to qualify her for a stay in a Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) if needed. The hospitalist believed this option was wasteful and potentially harmful, in that it placed Mrs. T. at further risk for hospital-acquired conditions. Equally important, it went against her wishes — particularly if the end result was a SNF stay.
Alternatively, the hospitalist could send Mrs. T. home, holding the Lasix to prevent a repetition of the cause of this admission and arranging for a follow-up evaluation by a visiting nurse. Home health agencies are expected to provide an admission visit within 48 hours after discharge, and they receive a fixed payment from Medicare for a 60-day episode of care — a policy that may neither match the needs of a patient requiring prompt, intensive short-term skilled care nor provide agencies with appropriate reimbursement for that intensive care. This option presented a higher risk of falls and further medication errors, but it served the hospital’s interest in limiting lengths of stay and Mrs. T.’s desire to return home.
But neither is very satisfactory. They are not tailored to her particular needs and would likely result in a re-admission to the hospital, according to the article. You see, “Patients’ discharge plans are often made for financial rather than clinical reasons, which contributes to the inefficient use of post-acute care and the high rate of readmissions.”
The authors recommend a bundled payment system in which, “hospitals and post-acute care providers are paid for a fixed “bundle” of services around a hospital episode, including post-hospitalization care.” But, alas, there are “substantial regulatory and operational barriers” that prevent such a system from being instituted.
But before we think about the barriers, perhaps we should take a moment to consider what has been said so far.
We have three conditions that profoundly affect this patient’s treatment –
- The decisions are being made by a “hospitalist.” This is a doctor who has never seen the patient before entering the hospital and knows nothing about her other than the medical data in her file. We are told she lives alone, but that tells us very little about what she will face when she is discharged. Does she have friends or family members living near by? Are there people who love her and will drop everything to provide care? Does she live in a third-floor walk-up apartment, or a single level home with easy mobility? Does she belong to a church whose members will gladly bring her meals and help her with medications? Is she poor or does she have means with which to hire caregivers? All of these considerations would make a difference in her ability to manage her condition at home, but the hospitalist doesn’t have a clue about any of it.
- We have a Medicare system that provides a fixed DRG payment for her condition. This is already a “bundled payment” but one that encourages discharge before the patient is ready.
- We also have a Medicare system that expects home health agencies to “provide an admission visit within 48 hours after discharge, and they receive a fixed payment from Medicare for a 60-day episode of care.” This, too, is already “bundled” into 60-day packages. Plus, what is Mrs. T supposed to do in the 48 hours while she is waiting for a visit?
The authors are correct that this is a messed up system that is unlikely to provide the patient with the care she needs. But it is messed up because of previous attempts to “fix” the system. We have already bundled payments into packages of care and introduced a whole new breed of “caregiver” to coordinate things ― the Hospitalist.
The result has been a clumsy, arbitrary payment system that is blind to the real needs of real life patients.
Before we move on to even greater swell ideas to fix things, perhaps we should consider why the previous swell ideas have failed so miserably.
[Originally published at National Center for Policy Analysis]
The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency. The case will determine how far EPA can extend its regulatory overreach, to control “climate changing” carbon dioxide from power plants and other facilities – by ignoring the Constitution’s “separation of powers” provisions, rewriting clear language in the Clean Air Act, and disregarding laws that require the agency to consider both the costs and benefits of its regulations and what it is regulating.
Put more bluntly, the Court will decide whether EPA may deceive and defraud the American people, by implementing regulations that have no basis in honest science and will be ruinous to our economy. It is the most important energy, economic and environmental case to come before the Court it in decades.
Suppose a used car dealership routinely rolled back speedometer mileage, deleted customer complaints from its website, posted fabricated compliments, and lied about defects and accidents, to sell more cars. Or a manufacturer misstated its sales and bottom line, failed to mention major safety violations and fines, and made false claims about new product lines, to attract investors and inflate stock prices?
Both would be indicted for fraud. Now apply the same standards to EPA, whose actions and regulations will affect far more people: virtually every family, facility, company and community in the United States. Jurors would likely rule that the agency is engaged in systematic, purposeful deceit, dishonesty and fraud.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insists there is “no more urgent threat to public health than climate change.” She is determined to impose President Obama’s anti-hydrocarbon agenda. “I just look at what the climate scientists tell me,” McCarthy told Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Translated, she means she talks only to those who advocate climate alarmism, and ignores all contrary scientists and evidence.
In fact, thousands of scientists and studies argue that there is no empirical, observational evidence to support any of her claims. Recent NOAA and NASA temperature data confirm that global warming ended in 1997 and continues today, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase steadily, improving plant growth worldwide. Seas are rising at barely seven inches per century, and there is no evidence that recent weather events are any more frequent, intense or “dangerous” than what mankind has dealt with forever.
There is no convincing evidence that carbon dioxide emissions have replaced the powerful, complex, interrelated natural forces that have always driven climate and weather changes. No evidence supports the notion that slashing CO2 emissions and trashing our economy will “stabilize” global temperatures and climate variations, or that developing countries will stop pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
EPA brushes all this aside, just as crooked car dealers and manufacturers obfuscate the truth to sell their shoddy products. The agency just assumes and asserts human causes and disastrous results, disregards any and all experts and evidence to the contrary, and ignores any and all costs imposed by its regulations.
It has also violated the Constitution, by rewriting specific Clean Air Act provisions that specify 250-ton-per-year emission limits, in sections that EPA is relying on for its climate rulemakings. To shut down coal-fired power plants, the agency illegally and arbitrarily raised the threshold to 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and ignored the fact that in 692 bills Congress never contemplated applying these sections to greenhouse gases. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, EPA will continue rewriting the law, gradually tightening its standards to control millions of natural gas generators, refineries, factories, paper mills, shopping malls, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools and even large homes.
EPA and other agencies have paid out billions in taxpayer dollars to finance and hype “research” making ludicrous claims that manmade global warming is hidden in really deep ocean waters or obscured by pine tree vapors; tens of thousands of offshore wind turbines could weaken hurricanes; and climate change will cause more rapes and murders. They have used “climate disruption” claims to justify giving eco-activist groups billions of taxpayer dollars to promote alarmist climate propaganda … spending tens of billions on crony-corporatist “green energy” and “climate resilience” programs … and forcing the United States and other nations to spend hundreds of billions on worthless climate change prevention capers.
EPA’s so-called “science” is intolerable “secret science.” The agency refuses to share it with outside experts or even members of Congress and businesses impacted by its regulations. The agency claims this taxpayer-funded information is somehow “proprietary,” even though it is being used to justify onerous regulations that dictate and impair our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans. EPA refuses to be transparent because it wants to prevent any examination of its internal machinations.
Just as bad, EPA routinely ignores its own scientific standards, and many climate reports it relies on come straight from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, as the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow observed in its amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in this case, the IPCC has been caught red-handed presenting student papers, activist press releases and emailed conjecture as “peer-reviewed expert reports.” It has been caught deleting graphs that clearly show its computer models were worthless, and employing junk models like the one that generated Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” to support assertions that it is 95% certain that humans are causing climate change chaos.
These computer models are built on unproven alarmist assumptions, have never been “validated” and are not merely “unverifiable.” They are flat-out contradicted by real-world evidence right outside the EPA windows, making their results worthless for sound, legitimate public policy. Any yet they drive policy.
In violation of federal laws and executive orders, EPA hypothesizes, concocts or exaggerates almost every conceivable carbon “cost” – to agriculture, forestry, water resources, coastal cities, human health and disease, ecosystems and wildlife. But it completely ignores even the most obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels and emitting plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide: affordable heat and electricity, jobs, transportation, better crop growth and nutrition, and improved living standards, health and welfare.
In reality, hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide benefits outweigh their alleged costs by as much as 500 to 1! That means EPA’s “climate change mitigation” rules impose costs on society that exceed even EPA’s exaggerated regulatory benefits by as much as 500 to 1. The EPA “cure” is far worse than the “disease.”
And let’s not forget that one of Ms. McCarthy’s senior advisors devising the agency’s climate change policies and regulations was none other than John Beale – the guy who bilked us taxpayers out of $1 million in salary and travel expenses for his mythical second job as a CIA agent. To suppose his fraudulent actions did not extend to his official EPA duties defies belief. And yet EPA has apparently taken no steps to reexamine Beale’s analyses or conclusions.
EPA has done all of this knowingly, deliberately, with full knowledge of the grossly deficient foundations of its pseudo-science and policies – to drive an anti-hydrocarbon agenda, without regard for the consequences that agenda will inflict on millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide.
This goes beyond mere sloppiness or incompetence. It is dishonest. It violates the law. According to standards applicable to every citizen and business in the land, it is fraudulent. And while ObamaCare affects one-sixth of economy, by controlling the energy that powers our homes, cars, businesses and nation, EPA’s carbon and carbon dioxide policies will control and impair 100% of our economy, wipe out tens of millions of jobs, and kill thousands of people – for no health or environmental benefits.
The real threat to public health and welfare is not climate change. It is EPA and what this rogue agency is doing in the name of preventing climate change. If the Supreme Court allows this, by giving carte blanche authority to EPA, the battle will rage on countless other fronts, because voters are sick and tired of being lied to, manipulated, defrauded, and forced to pay outrageous prices for oppressive regulations.
Democrats say they plan to use climate change to attack Republicans in 2014. I say, Bring it on!
Writing in the National Journal, Sam Baker tries his darnedest to minimize some of the effects of Obamacare.
He notes that some people are concerned about the limited networks offered by some of the plans on the Exchanges. In fact, he writes, “Republicans have pounced on the narrow networks, citing them as further proof that President Obama lied when he said the Affordable Care Act would not cost people their doctors.”
But Mr. Baker wants you to know that none of this is Obama’s fault (nothing ever is) — “…it’s a market dynamic that Obamacare really didn’t cause: It’s a business balance between price and quality that existed long before the law was created.”
He even quotes GW professor Sara Rosenbaum (who couldn’t possibly be biased) as saying, “The administration has shouldered the blame for things that are so vastly beyond its control, and has attempted valiantly to work these problems out.”
You see, it’s just that those mean old insurers have chosen narrow networks in order to lower premiums — Obamacare has nothing to do with that decision even though it is valiantly shouldering the blame. Not only that, but “it’s largely up to the states to determine whether an insurance plan’s network is adequate enough to actually make those benefits accessible.” So poor Obama is being blamed for things that are entirely the doing of insurance companies and state regulators.
But before you get out your hankies to weep for Obama’s victimhood let’s consider a couple of things:
- Maybe, just maybe, Obama did cause the premiums to be higher by requiring coverage for every little thing anyone could ever want, from free contraception to pediatric dental in case the contraceptives didn’t work.
- And maybe premiums are also higher because Obama requires insurers to accept everyone who applies without any difference in premiums due to their health status.
Maybe insurers are trying to do what they can to keep down costs despite those extraordinary requirements.
Mr. Baker also minimizes the effect of skinny networks by suggesting that the main consequence is that there are fewer providers available and that people who were previously uninsured didn’t have a doctor to lose, so wouldn’t be bothered. The problem with that line of thinking is that it isn’t just the number of providers, but the quality of those providers. If an insurance company reduces its payments by, say 40%, the best doctors and hospitals will decline to participate. They are in high demand and don’t need to cut their fees to attract new patients. That leaves the second-rate doctors in the network. The newly insured will be getting second-rate care. One might think even Democrats would be concerned about that.
Now, I wouldn’t let the insurers off the hook here, either. Reducing their networks is not the only way to hold down premium costs. They might, for instance, simply limit what they pay to a fixed amount regardless of who provides the service. They could agree to pay $65 for a doctor’s office visit — any doctor, anywhere. You might go to Dr. Jones who charges $65, while I much prefer Dr. Smith who charges $85. I am willing to pay the extra $20 to see the doctor I trust. The insurer is no worse of because Smith is not in the network. It pays the same $65 regardless.
This doesn’t have to be confined to physician visits. WellPoint in California has decided to pay a flat $30,000 for a joint replacement regardless of the hospital. John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis puts it like this:
Like other third-party payers, WellPoint discovered that the charges for hip and knee replacements in California were all over the map, ranging from $15,000 to $110,000. Yet there were 46 hospitals that routinely averaged $30,000 or less. So WellPoint entered an agreement with CalPERS (the health plan for California state employees, retirees and their families) to pay for these procedures in a different way.
The results were dramatic. Costs dropped by almost 20% in just a couple of years as facilities dropped their prices to attract CalPERS enrollees.
So, yes, insurers could get a lot more creative about how to lower costs, but it is beyond comprehension that Mr. Baker and other administration apologists are now claiming that Mr. Obama is somehow not responsible for the turmoil in the health insurance market. Will these people ever take responsibility for anything?
[Originally published at The Federalist]
If you’ve ever driven through the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park at sunset and seen the bison herds it’s a pretty amazing sight.
I currently serve as a Research Fellow at the Heartland Institute, but in my younger days, I was a maintenance crew worker in the Canyon district of Yellowstone and was fortunate enough to have many evenings in Hayden Valley. I even helped save a French tourist who had badly sprained her ankle while hiking on my day off, the picture above is proof!
Yellowstone is an amazing place, heck the park is a supervolcano, and there are a lot of critters there including elk, grizzly bears, black bears, and moose, but none were more prevalent or dangerous than the bison.
Having so many bison in the park brings its challenges. Bison like to lie on the road, and every year there is it seems like there is at least one rented RV that collides with a bison (they both lose, if you’re curious) and while the park is there for all the animals, it is there for people, too.
I remember a time when an elderly gentleman had a heart attack at the Canyon visitor’s center and needed to be rushed to the hospital immediately, but he had to be flown by helicopter the fifteen miles south to the hospital at Yellowstone Lake because of a bison jam that had made the trip nearly impossible by ambulance.
While some groups are upset by the herd management practices used by the National Park Service (NPS), it’s important to remember that the park and the surrounding areas have a variety of interests that need to be taken into consideration.
For instance, a study by NPS states that while the park could technically carry more bison than it does currently, a model predicted that the bison population would be under nutritional stress well below food-limited carrying capacity during winters with deep snowpacks that restricted bison access to forage. As a result, there would be considerable calf mortality and increased adult mortality due to starvation.
It is important that the bison population is managed in a sustainable way, that way, when I have a family, my kids will be able to experience the bison just like I was able to.
Twice now the D.C. Circuit Court has unanimously thrown out the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Net Neutrality power grab. Have said grabbers been at all chastened by these rebukes? Sadly, no.
Barely over a month after the FCC’s second rejection, we get this:
Likely forcing yet another company or two to waste millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours suing to – hopefully – fend off the Leviathan.
Meanwhile, it’s time for Congress to rein in this Administration’s unilateral authoritarianism. Cut the FCC’s budget – and refuse to restore funding until the FCC restores sanity and stops trying to illegally impose Net Neutrality.
After all, it is Congress’ job to pass Net Neutrality legislation – thereby creating the legal authority for the FCC to impose it. Otherwise known as the cart-after-the-horse approach.
Congress should at the very least be offended by the FCC usurping their jobs right out from under them.
We are drowning in Obama Administration illegal power grabs. Congress must finally do something to stop it. The FCC yet again assaulting with Net Neutrality about the only functional economic sector going is a great place to start.
Please Congress – throw us and the economy a lifeline. Cut some of the many FCC purse strings – until they cut this stuff out.
[First posted at PJ Media.]
If you look at the record of global temperature data, you will find that the late 20th Century period of global warming actually lasted about 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. Before that, the globe was dominated by about 30 years of global cooling, giving rise in the 1970s to media discussions of the return of the Little Ice Age (circa 1450 to 1850), or worse.
But the record of satellite measurements of global atmospheric temperatures now shows no warming for at least 17 years and 5 months, from September, 1996 to January, 2014. That is surely 17 years and 6 months now, accounting for February.
When the period of no global warming began, the alarmist global warming establishment responded that even several years of temperature data does not establish a climate trend. That takes much longer. But when the period of no global warming gets longer than the period of actual global warming, what is the climate trend then?
Even worse for the theory of catastrophic, anthropogenic (human caused), global warming is that during this now extended period of no global warming mankind’s emissions of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that are supposed to be predominant in causing global warming continued to explode, with one third of all CO2 added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution occurring during this period. The Economist magazine shocked the global warming establishment with an article in March, 2013 that began with this lede:
Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750.
That one quarter is actually now one third since the industrial revolution, which is now increasingly at stake in this debate. We are not going to be able to power anything remotely like the modern industrial revolution, which is actually straining even now to burst out of the “Progressive” bonds holding it back (at least in America), using the wind sources that powered the Roman economy, plus dancing on sunbeams.
Moreover, the now extended trend of no global warming is not turning around any time soon. That increasingly established trend is being produced by long term natural causes. Even rank amateurs among the general public can see that the sun is the dominant influence on the Earth’s temperatures. Even the most politicized scientists know that they cannot deny that solar activity such as sun spot cycles, and variations in solar magnetic fields or in the flux of cosmic rays, have contributed to major climate changes of the past, such as the Little Ice Age, particularly pronounced from roughly 1650 AD to 1850 AD, the Medieval Warm Period from about 950 AD to 1250 AD, during which global temperatures were higher than today, and the early 20th century Warming Period from 1910 to 1940 AD.
That solar activity, particularly sunspot cycles, is starting to mimic the same patterns that were seen during the Little Ice Age, as I discussed in a previous column. As a result, outside politically correct Western circles, where science today has been Lysenkoized on this issue, there is a burgeoning debate about how long of a cooling trend will result.
Britain’s Met Office, an international cheerleading headquarters for global warming hysteria, conceded in December, 2012 that there would be no further warming at least through 2017, which would make 21 years with no global warming. The German Herald reported on March 31, 2013 regarding Russian scientist Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, “Talking to German media the scientist who first made his prediction in 2005 said that after studying sunspots and their relationship with climate change on Earth, we are now on an ‘unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.’” His colleague Yuri Nagovitsyn is quoted in The Voice of Russia saying, “we could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200-250 years.” Skepticism over the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is increasingly embraced in China and elsewhere in Asia as well.
In addition, every 20 to 30 years, the much colder water near the bottom of the oceans cycles up to the top, where it has a slight cooling effect on global temperatures until the sun warms that water. That warmed water then contributes to slightly warmer global temperatures, until the next churning cycle. Known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), these natural causes are also contributing to the stabilized and now even slightly declining natural global temperature trends.
The foundation for the establishment argument for global warming are 73 climate models collected by the UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). But the problem is that the warming trends projected by these models are all diverging farther and farther from the real world trend of actual temperature observations discussed above, as I showed in a previous column, with another graphic. Because none of these models have been scientifically validated based on past temperature observations, they constitute a very weak scientific argument that does not remotely establish that the “science is settled,” and “global warming is a fact.” The current data discussed above establishes indisputably that global warming is not a fact today. The politicians seeking to browbeat down any continuing public debate are abusing their positions and authority with modern Lysenkoism, meaning “politically correct” science not established by the scientific method, but politically imposed.
The science behind all of this is thoroughly explained in the 1200 pages of Climate Change Reconsidered II, authored by 50 top scientists organized into the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and published by the Heartland Institute in Chicago. You will want to own this volume (or just the summary) if for no other reason than that it says here that future generations of scientists will look back and say this is the moment when we took the political out of the political science of “climate change,” and this is how we did it. Real scientists know that these 50 co-authors are real scientists. That is transparent from the tenor of the report itself.
The publication (PDF) is “double peer reviewed,” in that it discusses thousands of peer reviewed articles published in scientific journals, and is itself peer reviewed. That is in sharp contrast to President Obama’s own EPA, which issued its “endangerment finding” legally authorizing regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, without submitting the finding to its own peer review board, as required by federal law. What were they so afraid of if 97% of scientists supposedly agree with them?
The conclusion of the report is that the U.N.’s IPCC has exaggerated the amount of global warming likely to occur due to mankind’s emissions of CO2, and the warming that human civilization will cause as a result “is likely to be modest and cause no net harm to the global environment or to human well-being.” The primary, dominant cause of global climate change is natural causes, not human effects, the report concludes.
The fundamentals of the argument are that carbon dioxide is not some toxic industrial gas, but a natural, trace gas constituting just 0.038% of the atmosphere, or less than 4/100ths of one percent. The report states, “At the current level of 400 parts per million, we still live in a CO2-starved world. Atmospheric levels (of CO2) 15 times greater existed during the pre-Cambrian period (about 550 million years ago) without known adverse effects,” such as catastrophic global warming. Much was made of the total atmospheric concentration of CO2 growing past 400 parts per million. But one percent of the atmosphere would be 10,000 parts per million. Moreover, human emissions of CO2 are only 4% to 5% of total global emissions, counting natural causes.
In addition, CO2 is actually essential to all life on the planet. Plants need CO2 to grow and conduct photosynthesis, which is the natural process that creates food for animals and fish at the bottom of the food chain. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere that has occurred due to human emissions has actually increased agricultural growth and output as a result, causing actually an increased greening of the planet. So has any warming caused by such human emissions, as minor warming increases agricultural growth. The report states, “CO2 is a vital nutrient used by plants in photosynthesis. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere ‘greens’ the planet and helps feed the growing human population.”
Furthermore, the temperature impact of increased concentrations of CO2 declines logarithmically. Or as the report says, “Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)…exerts a diminishing warming effect as its concentration increases.” That means there is a natural limit to how much increased CO2 can effectively warm the planet, as the effect of more and more CO2 ultimately becomes negligible as CO2 concentration grows. Maybe that is why even with many times more CO2 in the atmosphere in the deep past, there was no catastrophic global warming.
The Obama Administration is busily at work on a project to define what it is calling “the social cost of carbon.” But the only documented effect of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide so far is the resulting increased agricultural output, valued in one study at $1.3 trillion. The Obama Administration is effectively conducting a cost-benefit analysis with no consideration of the benefits. Note that this project is being conducted on a planet populated by what is known as “carbon-based” life forms. That includes plants, animals, and marine life.
The biggest problem with the catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming fantasy is that it is very costly for the economy. It is already delaying the Keystone Pipeline, which is privately financed infrastructure that would produce thousands of good paying jobs. Should be a no-brainer. The Administration’s policies are also sharply restricting the production of oil and gas on federally controlled lands. Then there is the Administration’s War on Coal, which threatens thousands of more jobs.
Perhaps most importantly, reliable supplies of low cost energy powerfully promote economic growth. Already burgeoning supplies of inexpensive natural gas resulting from the fracking revolution on state and private lands are stimulating a budding revival of American manufacturing. But the whole point of the EPA’s global warming regulation would be to impose a cost wedge on the traditional carbon based energy sources that have powered the industrial revolution – coal, oil and natural gas.
Alternative energy from wind, solar, even biofuels is inherently more costly because the energy in wind, sunrays, corn, etc. is much more diffuse, so more expensive to collect in usable form. Moreover, these alternative energy sources are inherently unreliable, because sometimes the wind does not blow, and the sun does not shine. So back up traditional fossil fuel sources are still needed, which further adds to the costs. This will all result in higher costs for electricity, the fundamental power source for the modern, consumer based economy.
The science of global warming as discussed above does not justify these costs for the economy.
[First published at Forbes.]
President Obama famously has a pen and a phone. And if he had the same powers that Hugo Chavez had, that would be all he would need to impose Hugo Chavez’s programs on America, unilaterally by decree.
President Obama is telling us by his words, and his actions, that he thinks he has at least some of those powers. He is telling us by his words and his actions that he will not obey the law, and follow the Constitution he is sworn to uphold by his Presidential Oath of Office. That is the Constitutional Crisis presently facing America.
Let me give you some concrete examples.
President Obama has made close to 20 changes by now in his own Obamacare law passed exclusively by his own Democrats in Congress. He has done that by decree, without any authorization in the law, and in violation of the Constitution. The Constitution requires him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, which means the laws as passed by Congress, and as he himself has signed into law.
The law as passed mandates both employers and workers to buy health insurance (workers when their employers don’t). The law as enacted says those mandates both become effective as of January 1, 2014.
But last year, President Obama decreed that the employer mandate, but not the worker mandate, would be delayed by one year. Then last week, he rewrote the employer mandate again. The employer mandate as enacted into law requires all businesses with 50 or more full time employees, defined as those working 30 hours a week or more, to buy the statutorily defined health insurance coverage for those workers.
But President Obama by press release last week created a new category of businesses not mentioned in the law, those employing less than 100 workers. For those employers, Obama’s press release specified that the employer mandate is now pushed back another year, until 2016. Moreover, for all businesses with 100 or more employees, the employer mandate for 2015 will now require them to buy the statutorily specified health insurance for 70% of their workers, rather than for 100% as the law that was actually passed requires.
The Constitution provides that Congress has the legislative power to write the laws. The President has the power to either veto them or sign them. But once he signs them, those laws become the “law of the land,” as Obama himself has also famously said regarding Obamacare. Those laws then apply to the President just as much as to everyone else. In America, unlike in Third World banana republics, the President is not above the law.
The Constitution further provides that once a law is duly enacted, by both Houses of Congress passing it and the President signing it, the President’s duty is to take care that the law is “faithfully executed.” That is why the Constitution calls the President’s Administration the “Executive Branch.”
For the President to rewrite the law as passed by Congress, rather than faithfully executing it, is consequently a violation of the Constitution, and the law. The American Constitution is carefully designed based on the Separation of Powers. The Congress is granted the “Legislative Power” to write the laws, and the President is granted the “Executive Power” to carry them out as Congress provides. That was done to create a system of “checks and balances” so that each branch can check and balance the power of the others. That was done to prevent the tyranny of governmental powers concentrated in one branch of government. That is one reason why the American government has never lapsed into autocratic tyranny, unlike Third World banana republics sometimes do.
For the President to usurp the legislative power of Congress by rewriting the law, rather than following it and executing it as passed, is a fundamental violation of the Constitution’s Separation of Powers, and “checks and balances.” Such Presidential action not only violates the law, like a thief holding you up at gunpoint and taking your wallet, it involves a tendency towards tyranny. It nullifies the basic concept of the rule of law that is supposed to be governing America. It is fundamentally transforming America into a Third World banana republic.
President Obama’s actions in regard to Obamacare do not involve the use of an “Executive Order,” which is within the President’s powers. For an Executive Order to be legal, it must involve an exercise of a Presidential power granted by some other provision of law, either a federal statute or the Constitution. Executive Orders are used by a President to exercise his discretion granted by these other provisions of law.
For example, early in his Administration, President Reagan issued a famous Executive Order regarding federalism. That order involved him instructing the millions of federal employees who worked for him to follow the original Constitutional doctrine of federalism in developing and carrying out their policies under the law within their respective federal agencies. That meant that federal employees carrying out their duties under the law should respect and uphold the authority of the states under the Constitution, and where possible under the law delegate authority to the states to design and implement policies best suited to their respective jurisdictions. Under that Executive Order, President Reagan was telling federal workers who work for him how he wanted them to do their jobs, an authority all Presidents have under the Constitution.
But such an Executive Order authority cannot be used to rewrite a duly enacted federal statute that states plainly that a legal requirement becomes effective on January 1, 2014, to provide that the legal requirement shall become effective instead in 2015, or 2016. Nor can the authority be used to change the legal requirement to 70% from 100%, or to companies of 100 workers or more rather than 50 workers or more. That would be just like a future Republican President trying to use an Executive Order to cut the capital gains tax rate back down to 15%, without Congressional action to provide for that.
Moreover, President Obama’s numerous Obamacare rewrites do not involve the use of regulatory discretion to interpret and implement the law. All federal regulations as well must be based on authority granted by some other provision of law, either a federal statute or the Constitution. For example, the EPA’s regulations regarding emissions of carbon dioxide and other supposed “greenhouse” gases are based on the legal authority of the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court, in fact, has already ruled that the EPA has the authority under that Act to issue regulations to counter what it may see as the threat of global warming to the public.
That pains me to concede because I think the regulations the EPA is developing and implementing in that regard are bad policy choices, based, in my considered opinion, on dishonest and manipulative supposed “science.” But such regulations, and any Presidential orders to the EPA to proceed with them, do not violate the law and the Constitution.
But no legal regulation can “interpret” January 1, 2014 to mean 2015 or 2016. Nor can it interpret 100% to mean 70%, or less than 50 workers to mean less than 100 workers. Any President authorizing or ordering that would be breaking the law and violating the Constitution.
The reason for Obama’s rewriting of his own law regarding the employer mandate is that he knows that when it goes into effect, millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, exactly contrary to one of the key promises he made to America to get Obamacare passed. That is because the insurance that so many workers have does not fit all the Obamacare requirements regarding what insurance they must have to satisfy the employer mandate. So employers will have to cancel the insurance for millions of workers, and many will not replace that insurance with the costly insurance Obamacare requires. What this means is that his promise that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it,” has turned out to be that if Obama likes your insurance, as specified under the Obamacare law, you can keep it. Many Americans will feel they were lied to in this regard when they find this out, by personal experience. Certainly that is how people felt when millions lost their health insurance when the individual mandate went into effect over the last several months, due to this exact same effect.
Moreover, millions of Americans will probably not only lose their health insurance, but their jobs as well, or at least their full time jobs, as they are reduced to part time to evade the costly employer mandate requirements. So the whole reason for Obama breaking the law in this way, and violating the Constitution, is the unseemly motivation to hide from the American people the effects of his law, at least until after the next elections.
Obama apologists like Juan Williams of Fox News try to tell us this is nothing new. The same thing happened at the beginning with Social Security and Medicare, they claim. But that is a completely false, Orwellian rewrite of history. There were no violations of law and the Constitution to get those programs enacted and implemented. Nor were the politics of the enactment of Social Security and Medicare at all similar to the enactment of Obamacare, contrary to Obama’s Orwellian newspeak.
Obama’s violations of the law explained above would be corrected in the courts. But President Obama very slyly knows what he is doing when it comes to abuse of authority (as opposed to promoting economic growth, jobs and prosperity, if he is really for those things). A consistent theme of his violations of law is that they are usually carefully crafted to avoid conferring “standing” on anyone to go into court and challenge him.
To confer standing on any such challenges, the violation of law must impose a concrete burden on a party that can sue. That would arise when the violation imposes a new regulatory or financial burden on the party. But delaying or even waiving a statutory requirement does not involve imposing such a burden, and so does not confer standing to sue.
For example, President Obama abused his authority, and violated the law and Constitution, when he tried to appoint “recess” appointees to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate was not in recess, and even officially said so. Those appointees went on to issue rulings that did impose financial penalties and regulatory burdens on parties, which did confer standing on them to sue. And federal courts have ruled that such supposed “recess” appointments did violate the Constitution, and so their appointments, and all actions they have taken, are inoperative, invalidating the financial and regulatory burdens.
But President Obama and his NLRB are avoiding complying with those federal court decisions. This is a variant on President Obama’s violation of law strategy we can call “Sue Me.” He pursues that when he thinks the matter is important enough to take action even when the action can reasonably be expected to be struck down in the courts, such as implementing a union takeover of the NLRB, where as much mischief and mayhem as possible can be implemented before the courts shut it down. With a little luck, such abuse of authority can continue for years, maybe even the rest of Obama’s term, with all of the resulting mischief and mayhem never caught up with and completely reversed.
As this NLRB case shows, the Obamacare rewrites are not Obama’s only violations of law and the Constitution. In 2012, the President implemented the so-called DREAM Act by decree, after Congress had considered it, but refused to enact it, providing for new benefits for illegal immigrants brought to America as children. Before that, the President had ruled by decree that Governors could apply for waivers from the welfare reform work requirements adopted in 1996 under President Clinton, even though the 1996 law expressly anticipated and banned any such change in the requirements.
In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder, acting under President Obama’s authority and with his consent, ordered all U.S. attorneys to stop prosecutions of all nonviolent, non-gang-related, drug crime defendants subject to mandatory minimum sentences. The law requires such mandatory minimum sentences. The Obama Administration is just refusing to follow and enforce the law. President Obama has also ordered suspensions of deportation of certain categories of illegal aliens. His Administration has also refused to follow some court rulings, as in the NLRB case, or the federal rulings that the President’s extended moratorium on Gulf oil drilling after the British Petroleum oil leak were illegal under the law.
One of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon was that he used the IRS for special audits and investigations of his political opponents. Under Obama, we all know now that the IRS has done the same thing.
Whole books have been written explaining and documenting such illegal, unconstitutional actions by President Obama. Those are books calling for his impeachment as a result. You and many others may support substantively some of the policy changes above that President Obama has implemented illegally by unconstitutional decree. But the point is those changes have to be adopted through legal, Constitutional procedures, if we are to be a nation governed by the rule of law, and the democratic process.
All this Presidential lawlessness is further bad news for the economy. It creates a nascent “political risk” for investment in America, for the first time since the Civil War. Once the President crosses the boundary of the law, there is no certainty as to how far he would go. That reduces the security of property, investment and all business in America. That is further exacerbated by the rhetoric of the President and his political allies against all those with money to invest and build businesses and enterprise. At the margin, all of this discourages investment, job creation, entrepreneurship, and business creation and expansion in America, which means less growth in the economy, wages and incomes.
The Constitution provides the check and balance of impeachment when the President becomes a reckless lawbreaker, vowing to rule by decree with his pen and his phone rather than in accordance with the law and the Constitution. That is how the Constitution ensures that America does not slide into a third world banana republic, like Argentina or Venezuela, at one time both rising, increasingly prosperous countries.
But the Democratic Party in Washington at least is in full support of their President’s lawbreaking. Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove a President from office. With a Senate Democrat majority still in lock step with the President Obama’s march to the far left, there is no prospect of that. For the House GOP majority to vote for impeachment, forcing a vote in the Senate with no prayer of success, would just invite political backlash.
Consequently, it falls to the voters themselves to rescue the rule of law and the Constitution from the President’s lawlessness. The Democrats as a party today defend, support and stand for what Obama is doing. Ruling by decree, rewriting the law rather than faithfully executing it as enacted in accordance with the democratic process. Usurping the legislative authority of the Congress, and the Constitution’s Separation of Powers. Veering towards Third World banana republic autocracy, rather than standing for the rule of law.
Voters have the opportunity in this fall’s Congressional elections to hold Democrats accountable for this slide from the standards of governance of Western Civilization. If Republicans are swept into the majority in the Senate, after 8 years of Democrat Senate majorities, and Obama handmaiden Harry Reid is replaced as Senate Majority Leader, where he himself has ruled as a petty tyrant, that alone would chasten Obama that he cannot get away with any Hugo Chavez/Juan Peron style autocracy in America. The voters themselves would then have resolved the Constitutional crisis, as the last line of defense for American democracy.
[First published at Forbes.]
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the polar vortex and severe weather that is supposed to be as a result of global warming — particularly because of what Jennifer A. Francis and Stephen J. Vavrus contend is the result of “arctic amplification” or the greater warming rate of the arctic vs. the mid latitudes that occurred between 1977-1998. (Read their paper in Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 39 from March 17, 2012.)
Francis and Vavrus are claiming that this arctic amplification has lead to the presence of increased long waves (big loops in the jet stream) that become stationary — thus persistent at mid latitudes and are causing more severe weather in the USA and other mid latitude locations. The authors invoke the Rossby wave theory to conclude what they did in their peer reviewed paper by the Geophysical Research Letters.
The problem is that their claims actually contradict the theory of Rossby waves as derived in the literature by Rossby himself. In their paper, Francis and Vavrus claim that because there was arctic warming that occurred at a faster rate than the mid latitudes from 1977-1998, that this warming weakened the jet stream winds at high latitudes. Thus, according to Rossby wave theory, this has allowed these waves to amplify and become more persistent around the earth as full latitude waves — creating bigger storms and more severe weather at mid latitudes. The implication is that severe snowstorms, thunderstorms, and tornadoes are a result of this arctic amplification.
The problem is, again, that this contradicts the physics of Rossby waves — as every meteorologist is required to understand — because the waves actually do the opposite of what is claimed in their paper. If it is true that the jet stream winds have decreased as claimed by the “reanalysis” of the upper level winds, it is also true that as you move to higher latitude, Rosssby waves can develop with a lessened wind speed and achieve a standing or stationary status. But this is less than half of the physics involved. The problem is that this is not true to obtain full latitude waves as discussed in their paper. For that to happen, winds must increase — as the amplitude of these waves is dependent upon the speed of the jet stream winds which must increase at lower latitudes, consistent with a greater difference in temperature across the latitude lines. This is the opposite of what they claim in their paper.
It is not possible for full latitude waves to develop based upon a weakening westerly jet stream as they claim. If their claims were true, the correct Rossby wave physics tells us that such waves would shorten in both amplitude and wave length and migrate further north — thus not affecting mid latitude locations in the USA as claimed that produce severe weather.
The fact that we have had persistent long waves this winter causing severe snow and cold in the USA is actually an indication of the opposite of what the authors claim. It is a fact that the North American continent has cooled over the last 10 years, while the global oceans have retained a lot of their heat energy as the higher specific heats have allowed thermal inertia to be a factor in global ocean temperatures with the declining solar magnetic. In terms of the near future, this could easily spell trouble for the USA’s Midwestern states this spring — as the severe cold and deep snow in the north will cause a slower warming rate of these areas vs. the more rapid warming of the southern latitudes that is always associated with the climbing sun angle of late winter and spring.
It is the difference in temperature across the latitude lines that liberates potential energy and creates storms and because there is no global warming present yet the likelihood that these temperature gradients will develop at mid latitudes during the next 4 months and be greater than average, that the severe weather season at mid latitude and in particular in the Midwest USA has the potential to be bad this year with a lot of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Francis and Vavrus claim the severe weather is caused by arctic warming, but this contradicts all of the founding literature in atmospheric science as I pointed out to these authors including their claims about Rossby waves. Neither author has answered my concerns and questions.
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On Thursday, The Heartlander published my blog post headlined, “Cop Candor: ‘At Least We Didn’t Rape Her’.” I wrote about the Austin, Texas, police chief who recently made light of several of his cops being caught on video roughly treating a young woman jogger who allegedly jaywalked. He said:
Cops are actually committing sexual assaults on duty so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas.
I used his remarks as the jumping-off point to write about the many crimes police are committing and often getting away with, often because other cops – and many times prosecutors – cover up for them. I encountered this problem decades ago as a young reporter but am convinced things are worse now.
It seems since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it’s become open season on Americans. Because of my job as a managing editor and research fellow here at The Heartland Institute, every day I look at newspapers around the country and many blogs. Not a day goes by when I don’t see a story about a police or prosecutorial outrage.
Today in the Chicago Sun-Times there is an outstanding editorial that touches on this subject. It goes perfectly with the outstanding work the Sun-Times has done to try to bring some semblance of justice to the family and friends of David Koschman, a young man who was killed by Richard J. Vanecko, a nephew of Chicago’s former powerhouse mayor, Richard M. Daley. Only now – nearly 10 years later – has anything happened to Vanecko. He’s serving 60 days in jail. If not for dogged reporting by Tim Novak and Chris Fusco in the Sun-Times, this sorry episode would still be buried.
Please do read the whole Sun-Times editorial. To whet your appetite, some excerpts follow. But before we get to the excerpts, let me mention the following:
Some people have contacted me to try to explain away the police abuses I cited in my first Cop Candor column. The gist of the argument seems to be if those people had merely stood still and put up no argument or struggle, they would not have been beaten up or shot (or at least not as much). I, for one, don’t think human beings should have to act like sheep to stay safe. I’m told we’re supposed to respect cops. Aren’t cops supposed to respect us?
And I wonder what these people would say to Darren Manning, a 16-year-old boy from Philadelphia. He’s a straight-A student who attends one of that city’s best schools. The school’s principal and teachers describe him as a “model student.”
Last month Manning and other members of his high school basketball team got off the subway dressed in their uniforms to go to basketball practice. Police stopped them because, on this bitterly cold day, they were wearing scarves and hats that partially covered their faces. Apparently this a threat to Philadelphia cops.
The cops stared down the kids, scaring them, and they started running but Manning stopped. Now Manning might never be able to have children because a police officer – a female police officer – crushed Manning’s testicles in her hands while he was handcuffed. Surgeons had to repair the damage and say he might be sterile as a result of the injuries the cops inflicted on him. By the way, this model straight-A student who has never been in trouble and who voluntarily stopped running to allow the cops to catch him is now charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer and reckless endangerment.
If anyone knows how Americans can fight back against these police outrages without getting ourselves beaten up or killed, please let me know.
Now for the excerpts from the Feb. 27 Sun-Times editorial:
Sometimes it’s a video that surfaces in a criminal case, clearly contradicting how a police officer under oath described a scene.
Sometimes it’s a document that is uncovered late in the game, showing how a law officer’s story has changed 180 degrees.
Sometimes it’s a new DNA test that shows how an official version of events, accepted for years, couldn’t possibly be true.
Too often, in too many courtrooms, people entrusted with assuring justice instead shade the facts to strengthen cases against people they believe to be guilty. Or maybe they’re just covering up for each other. Either way, innocent people caught up in such machinations never know what hit them. . . .
The cops in the Koschman case apparently cooked up a self-defense theory to protect Richard J. Vanecko, former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew. Police reports in the case said Koschman’s friends described him as aggressive, yelling and lunging in a 2004 encounter with Vanecko outside a Near North Side bar, an encounter that left Koschman dead 11 days later. But the friends told the Chicago Sun-Times, Webb and a grand jury that they never said that. How did that get into the police reports?
Moreover, after a second investigation in 2011, a police report stated that Koschman yelled, ‘F— you! I’ll kick your ass.’ Where did that come from? Not one witness claimed to have heard that. . . .”
The whole history of the former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge saga, in which police tortured suspects into confessing and then lied about the torture, shows how innocent people got swept up along with the guilty, with no recourse.
Another example was the 2007 case of Anthony Abbate, a police officer who beat a female bartender. Police conveniently forget to write in their report his name, that he was a police officer and that there was video of the attack. Does anyone believe that was an oversight? . . .”
The real painful story of the David Koschman scandal, sadly, may be that this stuff happens all the time.
In this Huffington Post piece, Bill Shireman of Future 500 means well — or at least he means to mean well — with his attempt to nurture a middle ground in the “climate wars.” He’s a left-leaning writer, so I give him credit for trying to spray pox upon both the “warmist” and “skeptic” houses instead of just the the “skeptics,” which is the usual HuffPost angle.
The Heartland Institute is chiefly featured in Shireman’s piece — which is a tribute to the hard work of an organization that has had enormous impact on the debate while enjoying just a tiny fraction of the funding of our prominent peers in on the “other side.” (One demerit for Shireman, however: Heartland never compared “climate advocates” to Nazis.)
That aside, Shireman’s theme is that “both sides” are to blame for the caustic state of the climate debate in this country. The left has wrongly cast the Koch Brothers as “demons,” he writes, while “anti-climate” forces on the right have vaguely done the same. OK. The world knows the former is true of the left, but what is his example of the same from the right? Apparently, The Heartland Institute is to blame for shaping “the climate-policy prescriptions of its chief rhetorical nemesis, Naomi Klein.”
Some background: In 2011, Klein attended Heartland’s sixth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC6) in Washington. For a yet-to-be-released documentary on climate change, she interviewed many of the scientists Heartland invited. I happily arranged all those interviews, and sat in on most of them. Klein is one of the most prominent and articulate leftists in America, and she came prepared with very challenging questions — which her subjects addressed with honesty and expertise.
But according to Shireman, Klein wasn’t an informed leftist journalist and intellectual. She was merely an empty vessel into which Heartland poured its viewpoint of the leftst climate position:
For example, the Heartland Institute, which prides itself on being the premier climate-change-denying [sic] NGO, directly shaped the climate-policy prescriptions of its chief rhetorical nemesis, Naomi Klein. They crafted her positions to directly match their caricatures of the anti-freedom environmental extremist.
I hope Klein is as insulted by that telling as we are surprised. Shireman would have his readers believe that what Klein subsequently wrote in The Nation was not her own observations, but “extremist” views planted in her brain by Heartland and the scientists who attended our conference.
Shireman quotes a bit from Klein long piece on the conference in The Nation:
The deniers [sic] did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system.
So, let’s see if I have this straight. Naomi Klein — a proud, educated, and informed leftist who writes for a staunch socialist publication — attends ICCC6 in 2011. Klein hears presenters state plainly the aims and methods of the left when it comes to the political ends of the climate change agenda. Klein does not dismiss the statements she hears at Heartland’s conference as some wild conspiracy or a “covert socialist plot,” but affirms that it is what leftists must publicly admit needs to be done.
Yes. She did that. From later in her piece at The Nation:
Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.
This is clearly what Klein believes, and has always believed. But, according to Shireman, Klein’s beliefs — “a top-10 list of libertarians’ worst nightmares” — have been “framed” and planted in her mind by Heartland.
We wish moving the public debate was so easy.
In the Obama administration’s effort to talk about anything other than Obamacare and Obama’s near-jobless recovery, the president flew across the country to find the one part of the United States which is having a warm, dry spell. The other 90+ percent of the nation’s landmass has been suffering through a terribly cold and expensive winter.
A meteorologist at the National Weather Service created a “winter extremity index” — which some are calling a “winter misery index” — that, as the Associated Press reports, “confirms what many Americans in the Midwest and East know in their all-too-chilled bones: This has been one of the harshest winters of our lifetimes.”
Where’s Algore when you need him? One thing is for sure: He isn’t in England.
In November, the British Met Office, the analog to our National Weather Service, predicted that the December – February period would be “drier than usual.” Instead, as the Met Office themselves pointed out on Twitter last week, “Early statistics show it has been the wettest winter in the UK in records going back to 1910.”
Is it any wonder that the American public and the British public are getting increasingly skeptical about man-made climate change as well as souring on the left’s “renewable energy” religion?
One wonders whether members of that particular cult, especially those in the public eye, will ever recognize that they damage what little credibility they have left with performances like this.
[First published at the American Spectator.]