Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cast Down Your Bucket


It boils down to this a question. 

Do you think it is more likely that:
TM, who fancied himself a fighter, got annoyed w GZ and confronted him, punched him in the nose (breaking the nose), tackled him, and continued a violent assault on him, until GZ stopped the assault by shooting TM.

Or, TM was afraid of GZ, and tried to evade him, but GZ ran him down, got close enough to him to stick a gun in his ribs and shoot him point blank.  Then, since GZ knew what he did was criminal, he smashed his own nose and bashed the back of his own head in order to back up his falsified story of the TM attack, and he did so incredibly fast, before the first witnesses to the aftermath arrived.

Emotions are running high.  Some of us see an issue of justice - how can a child be killed, and the killer go un-prosecuted?
Some of us see an man who may be tried and convicted by a bunch of dirty rotten politicians over a political furor.

Legally, the prosecution's conduct has been horrifying.  You should hate what they are doing no matter what your beliefs about TM and GZ.

In my view, it would take a very, very smart and incredibly intent person to create a lie that isn't obvious to police, and to do so in a way that would require him to smash his own nose and the back of his skull.  He would have to construct and execute such a plan without knowing that the young man he just shot was proud of his own prowess as a fighter.  I ask you - could you smash your own nose?  I don't think I could.  If I had to invent a story, I would use what little brains I have to make sure that I was not required to smash any part of myself in order for my story to be squared away.

In other words, the "he faked the injuries" narrative holds two contradictory assumptions - GZ is a brilliant liar and made a plan based on the necessity that he injure himself.  I'll grant there are a few people who could do such a thing but there's ample reason to believe that GZ is no such crazed genius.
"Counselor, a wise man told me once, in any crime there are 1000 ways to fuck it up, and if you are a genius, you can think of 500 of them."  Roughly quoted from the movie, Body Heat

GZ not only had no time to concoct a story, he did not ask for a lawyer, and he did what anyone familiar with self defense would recommend against (because the stresses of such a situation make it likely you will say things that may be twisted to mean something they do not) - he not only told the police what happened, he did a video taped walk through of what happened for the police, twice.  AND took two voice stress analysis test ("lie detector tests").  If he did all that in the seconds he had after the shooting and did not contradict himself in the story he "made up", he is a flat out freaking genius.  

I remember being 17, and looking at adults but thinking I could "take them."  I remember standing up to much bigger, stronger and faster men with the naïve belief that I would be able to beat them if I had to.  It is the nature of young men to think this way.  TM's experience, based on admittedly few of his texts I've seen, was that he could win fights, and his experience about fighting was to fight classmates, who were unarmed (at least, because they were fighting in/around school one might presume they did not have a gun/knife).  In other words, he thought about fighting what I used to think about it - you may get hit or it may hurt, but it's no big thing.  "It's not a matter of life and death." 

TM was a kid who may well have been spoiling for a fight, perhaps like I would have been, and whether or not that perception is real, it appears that he chose to attack GZ.  The color photos of Zimmerman show just how potent the attack was.  In Florida law, the standard for self defense is much lower than "having a person sit on you and punch you repeatedly."

I don't think there's a boogie man here, aside from the ones we already know - the government is making a mess of this.  The President acted with what has become an expectedly low level of judgment for a man with his responsibility (playing to political winds when he could have chosen to lead). The news/entertainment industry is doing what it does best - enrage.  And the race pimps, who derive their power from the perception of racial injustice, have hurt us all by enraging a few. 

I don't know what to say about TM's mom and dad, except to say they were not victims.  TM was a struggling young man, using drugs, not finding his way, and doing what young men do - making poor  choices.  Bad luck and poor choices are a deadly brew and by the strangeness of the day, many are paying for the mistakes of these few.

Progressives Don't Like Progress

For anyone other than a "social justice" demagogue, the Supreme Court's Shelby decision, striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), is cause for celebration. In real life, this is a success story: A society that overcomes ingrained, systematic racial discrimination - and does it during a 40-year span while, in parts of the world the Left somehow prefers to America, discrimination endures and becomes even more lethal. But the Left does not live in a real nation; it lives in a false narrative: The United States is the villain that can never be redeemed, and racism is not just its original but its indelible sin.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lying Liars and the Lies That Get Them Elected

Ellsberg shopped the classified report around town, including to eventual 1972 Democratic Party presidential nominee George McGovern, but found no takers in government. Neil Sheehan, a former UPI war correspondent who covered defense and diplomacy for the New York Times, was another matter. Sheehan knew a good story when he saw one. So did his editors, and Sunday morning, June 13, 1971, the paper began publishing excerpts. Soon, the Washington Post would join the Times.

Among other things, the Pentagon Papers, as they came to be known, showed that the shock professed by the Kennedy administration regarding the overthrow of South Vietnam's President Diem was more than disingenuous: a top secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge suggested that the administration was behind Diem's assassination.

As for LBJ, the papers revealed that even while deriding 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater as a warmonger for advocating a greater U.S. military presence in Vietnam, the Johnson administration was already deeply into planning for a vast escalation.

From the letter below by Carl Cannon of RCP.  We should be surprised at anyone who does not realize by now that the only way to be elected is to say what you think they want to hear, when that's convenient, and then do what you always intended, when that's possible.

Good morning, it's Thursday, June 13, 2013. Back at the White House after Wednesday's fundraising marathon (trips to Boston and Miami in the same day), President Obama's published schedule is a light one:

He will host Rep. John Dingell, the longest serving House member in U.S. history, at the White House; later the president will welcome gay rights activists in an East Room ceremony honoring LGBT Pride Month.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate continues debating immigration legislation. On the House floor the discussion will mainly concern the Defense Authorization Act, while the House Intelligence Committee will (behind closed doors, natch) get a briefing on the NSA spying program. This afternoon, both chambers will honor John Dingell in Statuary Hall.

As a menacing storm from the Midwest bears down on the nation's capital today, we're reminded of June 13, 1972. On that date, competing weather systems converged in the Yucatan peninsula, forming a tropical depression that soon acquired a deadly name: Hurricane Agnes.

Exactly one year earlier, on June 13, 1971, the New York Times began publication of the Pentagon Papers - an event with even more resonance today. I'll have a further word on the ramifications of that episode in a moment. First, I'd point you to our front page <> , which aggregates, as it does each day, an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum.

We also offer a nice complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors today, highlighted after a word from today's sponsor, UnitedHealthcare:

At UnitedHealthcare, we're using our experience and access to vast health care information to make health care simpler and more responsive. That's Health in Numbers. Learn more at <>

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Supreme Court Bingo: How Rulings Might Play Out. Sean Trende speculates <> on which justices could be writing opinions for the 22 cases outstanding in the soon-to-end term.

Asia's New Power Brokers. In RealClearWorld, Robert Kaplan writes <> that Asian nations are forging robust relationships with each other, providing a new security dynamic to go alongside the U.S.-China rivalry.

My Fifth Grade Economic Stimulus Plan. In RealClearMarkets, Charlie Musick recalls <> a silly proposal that, unfortunately, might sound familiar these days.

Superman vs. Secularism. RealClearReligion editor Nicholas Hahn sees <> a powerful theology underpinning "The Man of Steel."

The Whittaker Chambers Haters. RealClearBooks columnist Mark Judge weighs in <> on a revised edition of "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case."

The Risks of In-Car Infotainment Systems. RealClearTechnology editor Greg Scoblete reports <> on a new study showing that voice-activated features are more distracting than talking on a cellphone while driving.

* * *

What came to be known as "The Pentagon Papers" began in June 1967, when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned a secret study of the history of the Vietnam War. McNamara had been one of the war's architects, but this project showed that he had second thoughts fairly early in the game.

In his memoirs, McNamara claimed dubiously that his motivation was to help historians, and that it was never really that big a secret. But McNamara never mentioned the project to President Johnson or Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and he conspicuously went outside normal Pentagon channels to produce it, tapping into a vein of sympathetic scholars, many of them Harvard men.

When the report came to light, Johnson and Rusk - both out of office by then -- figured that McNamara's original intention had been to give it to Robert Kennedy for use against Johnson in the 1968 primaries. That race never materialized, but the 7,000-page report survived. It was officially called "US-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: History of US Decision Making Process on Vietnam Policy."

One of the former Harvard PhDs who worked on it was Daniel Ellsberg, who by 1971 had completed his metamorphosis from DOD analyst to anti-war activist. Only 15 copies of the report had been made, but Ellsberg obtained access to one of them - it was in the custody of the RAND Corp., a private contractor with many defense contracts - and he surreptitiously copied the entire report and snuck it out of RAND.

Ellsberg shopped the classified report around town, including to eventual 1972 Democratic Party presidential nominee George McGovern, but found no takers in government. Neil Sheehan, a former UPI war correspondent who covered defense and diplomacy for the New York Times, was another matter. Sheehan knew a good story when he saw one. So did his editors, and Sunday morning, June 13, 1971, the paper began publishing excerpts. Soon, the Washington Post would join the Times.

Among other things, the Pentagon Papers, as they came to be known, showed that the shock professed by the Kennedy administration regarding the overthrow of South Vietnam's President Diem was more than disingenuous: a top secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge suggested that the administration was behind Diem's assassination.

As for LBJ, the papers revealed that even while deriding 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater as a warmonger for advocating a greater U.S. military presence in Vietnam, the Johnson administration was already deeply into planning for a vast escalation.

At the White House, the initial instinct of the wily Richard Nixon was to downplay the significance of the Pentagon Papers. After all, they mostly cast the spotlight on his predecessors' perfidy, not his own. But on that fateful Sunday, Henry Kissinger forcefully argued the opposite, railing against "this wholesale theft and unauthorized disclosure."

Unfortunately for Nixon's legacy, Kissinger's argument prevailed over the president's gut feeling. The administration became obsessed with the leak and went to court to try and stop publication. When he lost in the Supreme Court, Nixon directed the men around him to find extra-judicial ways to stop leaks.

"The Plumbers" were born, along with the seeds of Watergate.

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Editor
Twitter: @CarlCannon <>


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Fed - 100% Failure Rate

It's heady stuff, it explains with great ease why Ben Bernanke so publicly lusted to fill Alan Greenspan's chair, but it also speaks volumes about why our economy remains rather limp. Indeed, the allocation of global capital hinges on the thoughts and actions of people who are regularly wrong. By definition.

As the Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath and Phil Izzo noted on Monday, "In every year of the economic recovery, the Federal Reserve has overestimated how fast the economy would grow." Some might respond that Hilsenrath and Izzo are nitpicking, that the world's foremost central bankers are being judged on a small sampling of numbers, but then John Allison was Chairman of BB&T Bank for 20 years up to 2009. Writing about the Fed in his essential book, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure, Allison observed that "In my career, the Fed has a 100 percent error rate in predicting and reacting to important economic turns."

The fatal conceit - that so few are willing to admit that even the gods of Wall Street don't know what the frock they are doing.


The Center for Constitutional Rights and lawyers from the elite law firm of Covington Burling, however, charge in Floyd that such proactive tactics are discriminatory, since blacks and Hispanics make up the large majority of individuals stopped and questioned by NYPD cops. The claim ignores the reality that the preponderance of crime perpetrators, and victims, in New York are also minorities. Blacks, for example, constituted 78% of shooting suspects and 74% of all shooting victims in 2012, even though they are less than 23% of the city's population.

Whites, by contrast, committed just over 2% of shootings and were under 3% of shooting victims in 2012, though they are 35% of the populace. Young black men in New York are 36 times more likely to be murdered than young white men-and their assailants are virtually always other black (or Hispanic) males.

It will be interesting to see what happens if NYPD has to stop their "stop, question and frisk" practice. If crime goes back up, and people are killed who otherwise wouldn't have been - what will happen next? On the other hand, if crime levels do not rise, we'd know something quite valuable.
Minority on minority murders - heart breaking.
Is the focus on gun violence a way that minority leaders can take the focus off of minority on minority violence?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No "Corporate" Taxes

To my mind, this is why we should get rid of the corporate income tax--and the charitable tax deduction as well. Companies spend an enormous amount of time and money trying to structure their activity to get favorable tax treatment. Non-profits and labor unions engage in elaborate games to push as far as possible without actually breaking the law. And unelected bureaucrats are given enormous power to tell people what is and is not allowed--decisions that may have more to do with their personal feelings about the activity than the actual law. Then we all spend more time and money going into court to fight about it.

When government has power, it will be abused. Sometimes that's the unavoidable side effect of something we need to do. But this isn't. It's time to junk the entire elaborate system.

No corporate income would be best.

"Corporate income taxes" don't tax corporations, they tax the people that buy stuff from corporations. They also create mal-incentives that make every corporation less efficient - cost of avoiding tax consequences and costs of not bringing a product to market that might otherwise be marketable but for the tax consequences - and thus harm all consumers.

In addition, there are the perversions of govt power that result whenever politicians put tax deductions and exclusions up for auction.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Intentions, Competence, Accountability

But the GAO found that HHS has barely begun testing the hub with the eight federal agencies from which it needs to pull data, and is behind on just getting data-sharing arrangements set up with those agencies.

HHS has also missed its deadlines on setting up the so-called Navigators program to guide customers through the ObamaCare sign-up maze.

And states trying to set up their own exchanges aren't faring any better. Despite $4 billion in HHS grants, the 17 states undertaking this task on their own are behind schedule on 44% of key pieces of their exchanges that were supposed to be finished in March.

If these bureaucrats can't even get the exchanges built - despite having 3-1/2 years to do so - why should anyone believe they are qualified to run the entire health care system

Read More At Investor's Business Daily:

It seems that the question is not "will the rollout be ugly."  The question is only how long it will take until it serves someone, anyone well.  Who will be punished for the mis-spent millions?  Ha ha, what a funny thought!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

AGW Wishing, and Steyn

The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.

The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.
***In other words, if you have a conjecture, one that is cherished and embraced by the masses, that does not accurately predict, one has to believe either: The conjecture is not correct, or the conjecture is not correct but that can't be, so it is not really incorrect, which will undoubtedly be proved in the near future.***

But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.
***Gee, wasn't the science settled?***

As you might imagine, those dismissive of climate-change concerns have made much of this warming plateau. They typically argue that "global warming stopped 15 years ago" or some similar statement, and then assert that this disproves the whole notion that greenhouse gases are causing warming.

***Get ready, here comes a straw man ... ***
Rarely do they mention that most of the warmest years in the historical record have occurred recently. Moreover, their claim depends on careful selection of the starting and ending points. The starting point is almost always 1998, a particularly warm year because of a strong El Niño weather pattern.

Somebody who wanted to sell you gold coins as an investment could make the same kind of argument about the futility of putting your retirement funds into the stock market. If he picked the start date and the end date carefully enough, the gold salesman could make it look like the stock market did not go up for a decade or longer.

***Get ready, here comes the destruction of the straw man.***
But that does not really tell you what your retirement money is going to do in the market over 30 or 40 years. It does not even tell you how you would have done over the cherry-picked decade, which would have depended on exactly when you got in and out of the market.

Scientists and statisticians reject this sort of selective use of numbers, and when they calculate the long-term temperature trends for the earth, they conclude that it continues to warm through time. Despite the recent lull, it is an open question whether the pace of that warming has undergone any lasting shift.
***Oh darn, another dead straw man. Sigh.***

What to make of it all?

We certainly cannot conclude, as some people want to, that carbon dioxide is not actually a greenhouse gas. More than a century of research thoroughly disproves that claim.
***Well of course we can't conclude THAT! Who could think such a thing just because CO2 levels are rising rapidly but temperatures are not - such unsophisticated thought would be so embarrassing to admit to!***

In fact, scientists can calculate how much extra heat should be accumulating from the human-caused increases in greenhouse gases, and the energies involved are staggering. By a conservative estimate, current concentrations are trapping an extra amount of energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding across the face of the earth every day.
***This sentence is too funny - "In fact, scientists can calculate what should be happening (IF their assumptions are correct)" - but I don't think TF gets the joke. Of course we can make assumptions and calculations based on assumptions. The point is, if we predict based on assumptions and the prediction is not born out, that's proof against the assumptions. Some folks call that logic.***

So the real question is where all that heat is going, if not to warm the surface. And a prime suspect is the deep ocean. Our measurements there are not good enough to confirm it absolutely, but a growing body of research suggests this may be an important part of the answer.
***Great point - we really need to know where all of the theoretical heat is theoretically going.

Exactly why the ocean would have started to draw down extra heat in recent years is a mystery, and one we badly need to understand. But the main ideas have to do with possible shifts in winds and currents that are causing surface heat to be pulled down faster than before.
The deep-ocean theory is one of a half-dozen explanations that have been proffered for the warming plateau. Perhaps the answer will turn out to be some mix of all of them. And in any event, computer forecasts of climate change suggest that pauses in warming lasting a couple of decades should not surprise us.
***Holy smokes and I thought the science was settled.***

Now, here is a crucial piece of background: It turns out we had an earlier plateau in global warming, from roughly the 1950s to the 1970s, and scientists do not fully understand that one either. A lot of evidence suggests that sunlight-blocking pollution from dirty factories may have played a role, as did natural variability in ocean circulation. The pollution was ultimately reduced by stronger clean-air laws in the West.
***IOW, they never knew what the hell was going on, but they sure wanted to think they did, and they weren't shy in telling us that they did.

Today, factory pollution from China and other developing countries could be playing a similar role in blocking some sunlight. We will not know for sure until we send up satellites that can make better measurements of particles in the air.

What happened when the mid-20th-century lull came to an end? You guessed it: an extremely rapid warming of the planet.

So, if past is prologue, this current plateau will end at some point, too, and a new era of rapid global warming will begin. That will put extra energy and moisture into the atmosphere that can fuel weather extremes, like heat waves and torrential rains.
***Translation: we are really sure about this doomsday scenario, in spite of our inability to explain it, so you should be afraid, VERY AFRAID.

We might one day find ourselves looking back on the crazy weather of the 2010s with a deep yearning for those halcyon days.
***Let's hope we all live that long and if we do, I'll say "You told me so." But we may all die tomorrow, or we may discover the key to endless lives. We may also find that our chicken little style pseudo-science was as wrong as most immature sciences are. But thank goodness it appears that we are not on the verge of passing economy and liberty killing, government empowering and life ending legislation based on the rantings of one whack job ex-VP.

From Mark Steyn:
As readers may know, National Review and I have an impending court date in Washington with Dr Michael E Mann, creator of the global-warming "hockey stick" and self-proclaimed Nobel laureate, for the hitherto unknown crime of "defamation of a Nobel prize recipient". 
(You can contribute to our legal defense fund here; also, the TV rights to my forthcoming white Bronco chase are still available – we'll be using a hybrid, of course).

Forced by circumstance to take an interest in the latest developments on the climate-change "consensus", I was interested to see this story, in which The New York Times belatedly acknowledges that for the last 15 years it's been all quiet on the warming front

Read on to get Mark's full commentary on the article above:

The NSA Is Spying On Us? duh

Repeat after me: Government is power. Government is not to be trusted. Ever. Even if you believe that some government is and will always be necessary, that 'necessary' piece of government should always be regarded as a prudent lion tamer regards the big carnivorous cats that are 'necessary' for him to make a living. To imagine that seemingly subdued purring lions can be trusted to be dealt with in any ways that do not include the use of strong cages, leashes, ceaseless and deep suspicion, and escape hatches is the height of romantic absurdity - wishful thinking of the most extreme and inexcusable sort. Government is by its very nature a dangerous, untrustworthy, dishonest, arrogant, slippery entity - characteristics that are by no means reduced anywhere near to insignificance by a wide franchise, regular elections, and sturdy ink-on-parchment documents called "constitutions."

Unless you are a high-ranking government official, government - no government - is ever "Us." It is always "Them." And They are not to be trusted. Ever.

Dr. B says it like few or none can.

Will's Contempt For Obama

Before Berlin, Obama set his steep downward trajectory by squandering the most precious post-election months on gun-control futilities and by a subsequent storm of scandals that have made his unvarying project - ever bigger, more expansive, more intrusive and more coercive government - more repulsive. Then came Wednesday's pratfall in Berlin.
There he vowed energetic measures against global warming ("the global threat of our time"). The 16-year pause of this warming was not predicted by, and is not explained by, the climate models for which, in his strange understanding of respect for science, he has forsworn skepticism.

My goal is to avoid experiencing contempt for anyone, but Mr. Will has a different perspective. What we both see clearly, though, is the absurdity of an ever expanding, ever incompetent federal apparatus that is unresponsive to anything but political expediency, unaccountable, and does so many things (for inexplicable reasons like those that drive AGW hysteria) it does none of them well.

What's a Tea Party?

The Tea Party seems to oppose the Senate Gang of Eight's legislation with the same vehemence that it directed at the Affordable Care Act. Now, it's important to bear in mind that generalizing about the Tea Party is incredibly fraught, given the movement's size, amorphousness, and ideological diversity. But I asked a number of tea-party leaders if it was appropriate to say "the Tea Party opposes the Senate Gang of Eight immigration proposal," and consistently heard that it was.
I wonder what the GOP would have to do to establish credibility with the Tea Party folks - they've not come close yet.

I deeply appreciate the author's comments concerning tea party generalizations.

Detroit - What Lessons?

"When people ask me why I moved from liberal to conservative, I have a one-word answer: Detroit."
"To get a feel for what this particular hell is like, you should read Charlie LeDuff's Detroit: An American Autopsy. LeDuff is a reporter who left the New York Times for the Detroit News and left the News when an editor took all the good stuff out of a story on a local judge. He's now a reporter for Fox 2 and you can get an idea of his personal style by watching his clips on YouTube. Detroit is a personal story for him: he grew up in the not-affluent suburb of Westland (named after a shopping center, as he notes) with a divorced mother who ran a florist shop on the east side of Detroit but who couldn't keep her children from dire fates. A daughter who became a streetwalker and died violently left behind her own daughter who would overdose on heroin. Three of LeDuff's brothers are working at just-above-minimum-wage jobs or not working at all (one pulled out a tooth with pliers). Charlie was lucky. He went into "the most natural thing for a man with no real talent. Journalism.""

As I read this summary, I see how it illustrates everything forecast by "The Road to Serfdom." Central governments are unaccountable, don't have the information needed to apply tyranny to create good, and thus result in nightmare that is a city like Detroit.
But why didn't these things happen in every big city with too much government? Perhaps I could figure that out if I read the referenced book, which I may - though the prospect horrifies me.
My leading theory for now is that Detroit was built on a model of union tyranny that doomed the manufacturers to waste their time fighting unions when they could have been making better, less expensive cars that would have left them less vulnerable to competition from those world wide auto makers who understood what quality was.
One can also see how power corrupted, and how the poor pay more than the rich when politicians misbehave - the politicians all the while escaping blame for those who they've killed by their pretense of competence and compassion.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Idiocy of Politicians that Passes All Understanding

WASHINGTON - With broad support from Republicans and Democrats, a House committee Wednesday approved legislation to tackle the growing problem of sexual assault in the armed forces by taking away the power of military commanders to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases.

The bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee also requires that anyone found guilty of a sex-related crime receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.

"The word should go out clearly and strongly that if you commit a sexual assault in the military, you are out," said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio. Turner and Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., wrote many of the provisions in the House bill.

This sure sounds great, doesn't it?  But the practical impact will be that folks will be less likely to be charged or to be convicted on these charges.  Besides, the result is little different than now.  In any felony level conviction, service members will be involuntarily separated.

But I guess our legislators will be oh so proud they did something, eh?

SS Crashing

To really understand the crisis this program faces, the Trustees should be comparing the $55 billion in asset growth to the exploding growth in its unfunded obligations, which increased by $1 trillion during 2012. This also happened in 2011 when increased obligations of $2.1 trillion far outstripped the $69 billion increase in the program's Treasury security holdings.

The program's total unfunded obligations over the next 75 years has now grown to $9.6 trillion, more than one-half as large as the outstanding gross federal debt of $17 trillion.

In other words, this is how the politics of SS distorts what the SS reports say

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why Federal Unions Have to Go

Finally, it's important to focus on the political stew that many IRS employees marinate in as members of the National Treasury Employees Union, which is headed by Colleen Kelley. Ms. Kelley has publicly vilified "extreme Tea Party elements," portraying their agenda as a threat to the IRS workers her union represents. In 2011, Ms. Kelley mobilized IRS employees to "lean on" members of Congress against tea-party-backed spending cuts, boasting that "anywhere there's an IRS service center, we have four to eight thousand" union members. When you have a union boss who demonizes private citizens and conscripts front-line IRS employees as boots-on-the-ground activists, you've got toxic culture from the ground up.

Way too many conflicts of interest, for starters.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just Another Infuriating Abusive Intrusion on Liberty

Government at its worst ...

For those of you interested in food freedom, Vernon Hershberger, an Amish father of ten children, is currently being tried for producing and distributing raw milk in Wisconsin, and could face up to $10,000 in fines and three years of jail time. My understanding is that he worked out an arrangement with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) in 2003 where the agency ruled that it would be legal for him to distribute raw milk through means of a private contract with consumers. He established a farm store that was open only to those who signed the contract, and sold raw milk there. In 2009, the agency made an about-face (perhaps because of pressure from the FDA?), raided his farm, destroyed 300 gallons of his milk, and began militantly persecuting him.

The prosecution is charging him with operating a "retail establishment" without a license, and its strategy is to disallow him from presenting evidence that 1) he is not operating a retail establishment, 2) he didn't need a license, 3) he couldn't have gotten a license anyway because he was selling raw milk, and 4) he is being pursued by the Wisconsin DATCP because he was producing and distributing raw milk. The judge has mostly enabled the prosecution thus far. In fact, he has so stringently forbidden any mention of raw milk at the trial that he forbid Mark McAfee, attending the trial as a member of the public, from wearing a "got raw milk?" shirt, which the judge declared was "heinous nonsense." Another woman attending the trial as a member of the public was forbidden from wearing a shirt that read "got initiative?" because the judge ruled it was an "implied reference to raw milk."

If you'd like to keep up with the trial, here are some useful links:

* VernonHershberger.Com and the links therein
* David Gumpert's blog, The Complete Patient: The Business of Your Health
* David Gumpert's Facebook page

Here's to day when the citizenry demands that governments defend liberty.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Who Chooses?

But this little scene -- lobbying for the right to medical treatment -- will play out so many more thousands of times in the future thanks to ObamaCare.

Ultimately, they'll start deciding who should live and who should die not merely on medical grounds, but on political ones -- not just expected life chances, but whether you're living a life they really want to save.

And for anyone who doesn't think that will happen, I have three words for you: I.R.S.

Who get's to choose in these example of essentially nationalized health care?  The bureaucrats, of course.

Skillfully Killing the Straw Man

At that point, the freedom-crushing regulatory burdens of Obamacare may turn into a blessing. And this, of course, is the entire concept of insurance. Insurance is the spreading of risk. What distinguishes health insurance from insurance against, say, fire, is that insurers can make a much better guess which customer is likely to need medical care than which is likely to have their house burn down. Some people are bad actuarial health risks, and some people are good actuarial health risks.

That's the whole dysfunction of our horrendous health-insurance system. The individual health insurance market is a tragic mess: People who need insurance the most can't buy it, while the only people who can afford insurance don't need it. That's the reason for health-care reform.

The objections to health-care reform present themselves as if they've uncovered some kind of nightmarish bureaucratic inefficiency. What they've actually discovered, to the extent that they aren't simply misleading people, is that a functioning insurance system takes money away from people who are healthy. Likewise, fire insurance screws people whose houses will never burn down.

It sure is easy to kill a straw man.

In this case, the straw man is the concept of health insurance being an example of market failure.  In contrast, is was a market long "mal-nipulated" by the government.  At this point it is becoming illegal to buy a policy that insures one against catastrophic disease, and instead we are forced to buy pre-paid service plans.  We don't buy those for our cars because they are too expensive!

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Like We Said All Along ..."

"The rates are going to fall."
"The rates will fall like we've been saying."
"Like we've said all along, rates will go up but the reason is folks will be buying better coverage."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Uh, If It's Hard Fewer Folks Do It?

As an academic, I'm just an amateur capitalist. Still, over the past 15 years I've started small ventures in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the process I've learned something surprising: It's much easier to do in the U.K. There seemed to be much more regulation in the U.S., not least the headache of sorting out health insurance for my few employees. And there were certainly more billable hours from lawyers.

By the Numbers

  • 433: Total number of days it takes in the U.S. to start a business, register a property, pay taxes, get an import and export license and enforce a contract
  • 368: Total number of days it took to do the same in 2006
  • 7: U.S. ranking, out of 144 countries, on the World Economic Forum's 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Index
  • 1: U.S. ranking on the 2008-2009 Global Competitiveness Index
  • 33: U.S. ranking for its legal system and property rights in 2010 on the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom index, out of 144 countries
  • 9: U.S. ranking for its legal system and property rights in 2000
Sources: 'Doing Business'; World Economic Forum; Fraser Institute
This set me thinking. We are assured by vociferous economists that economic growth would be higher in the U.S. and unemployment lower if only the government would run even bigger deficits and/or the Fed would print even more money. But what if the difficulty lies elsewhere, in problems that no amount of fiscal or monetary stimulus can overcome?
Nearly all development economists agree that good institutions—legislatures, courts, administrative agencies—are crucial. When poor countries improve their institutions, economic growth soon accelerates. But what about rich countries? If poor countries can get rich by improving their institutions, is it not possible that rich countries can get poor by allowing their institutions to degenerate? I want to suggest that it is.

Stalin, No Wonder They Love Him

During the years of his absolute rule over the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1953, Stalin was responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million people. They included victims of state-engineered famines, particularly in Ukraine, intended to starve the peasantry into submission to collective farming; people from all walks of life shot on trumped-up charges of subversive activities; and others sent to the Siberian labor camps known as the gulag, never to return. Untold millions who survived lost years of their lives to the gulag. (Among the latter were my own paternal grandparents, who were arrested in 1947 and released after Stalin's death; ironically, unlike most of their fellow prisoners, they were actually guilty as charged -- of "betraying the motherland" by trying to escape the Soviet Union and go to Palestine.)

If there was ever a true devil in the flesh, Stalin was one of the prime candidates for the title. A tyrant with a deeply sadistic streak, he reportedly howled with laughter when told about the final moments of a former associate who had been promised clemency in exchange for a false confession and vainly begged his executioners to "please call Comrade Stalin" and clear up the misunderstanding. He jailed the wives of several men in his inner circle, presumably just for the pleasure of seeing his underlings squirm and showing them who's boss.

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"That's All I Have To Say About That"

Cafe Hayek on "Fair Trade"

Here's a letter to the Washington Post:

Harold Meyerson dislikes foreign trade, in part because it destroys some American jobs ("Go slower on free trade," June 4). And so Mr. Meyerson favorably quotes one of Congress's staunchest protectionists, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): "A trade deal, says Brown, 'should both protect workers and small businesses and better prepare them for globalization.'"

Let's make a deal. Government will agree to protect only those American workers and small-business owners who in return agree to stop buying foreign-made products.

For example, American steel workers will get protection from steel imports only if they, in exchange, agree to stop buying the likes of Toyota cars, Samsung televisions, Ryobi hand tools, Ikea furniture, Shell gasoline, Amstel beer, vacations to Cancun, and musical recordings by foreign artists such as the Beatles, Elton John, and k.d. Lang. They must also promise to stop buying the likes of bananas, cinnamon, and vanilla and, indeed, even American-made food items if these are shipped to their favorite restaurants and supermarkets in foreign-made trucks - or in trucks equipped with tires made by Michelin, Bridgestone, or some other job-destroying foreign company. These workers would be permitted to drink only Hawaiian coffee; they must quit drinking the Colombian, Guatemalan, and Ethiopian coffees that they've become accustomed to drink. Oh, and absolutely no diamond jewelry, as those gems come from Africa. (Sorry, ladies.)

Small-business owners likewise will get such protection, but only in return for their agreement not only to stop consuming foreign-made products, but also to never sell their outputs to non-Americans. These businesses must, in addition, promise to use in their operations only American-made inputs - such as aluminum, wood, chemicals, and insurance services - even when foreign-made substitutes are available at lower prices or in higher qualities.


Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Bonus points to readers who can explain why it would be economically incorrect to point out, in response to my letter, the correct fact that no bananas, vanilla, or cinnamon - or even diamonds - are currently produced in the United States.

What Is "Equality"?

The women's movement has made invaluable progress in lifting the stigma of rape and reforming sexist laws-ones that, as recently as the 1970s, required women to fight back to prove rape and instructed juries that an accuser's unchaste morals could detract from her credibility. The fact that today, a rape case can be successfully prosecuted even when the victim was drunk and flirtatious, or engaged in consensual intimacies before the attack, is a victory for justice as well as women's rights. Yet the fact remains that charges of sexual assault involving people who know each other in a "he said/she said" situation are very difficult to prove in court-not because of "rape culture," but because of the presumption of innocence. Gender equality requires equal concern for the rights of accused men.

Let us, by all means, confront ugly, sexist, victim-blaming attitudes when we see them. But this can be done without promoting sexist attitudes in feminist clothing: that a woman's word automatically deserves more weight than a man's; that all men bear responsibility for rape and "normal" men need to be taught not to rape; or that a woman who is inebriated but fully conscious is not responsible for her actions while an equally inebriated man is.

Human sexuality and alcohol or mental illness is an ugly brew.  Describing the culture as a rape culture isn't helping.  I can do nothing to stop the pain this issue causes except - can I teach my daughter to take care of herself?  Can I teach my sons how wrong this is an how to stay out of the situations that lead to these issues?

I'll know that equality has arrived in our country when women are as dismayed to drunken flirtatious women who then claim victimization as some men are.

Why Was Is Necessary?

During Reconstruction, blacks in New Orleans had full civil rights, but beginning in the 1880s, a spate of statutes reasserting white supremacy began being enacted in legislatures across the South, prohibiting interracial marriage, interracial mingling, and other basic rights. In 1890, Louisiana passed a law requiring train companies to provide separate railway carriages for whites and blacks.

For business considerations, if not altruism, the railroads opposed this law: it meant buying more train cars. Freed blacks in Louisiana resented it for a more personal reason. They saw it as a way of consigning blacks to a station in society they believed the Civil War had been fought to contravene. In New Orleans, a civil rights group called Comité des Citoyens (Citizens Committee) prepared a legal challenge.

Homer Plessy, a Treme shoemaker, was chosen both because he was gutsy and because he was mostly white—he could "pass" in the parlance of the day—meaning that his very appearance exposed the underlying irrationality of racism.

The case didn't quite go the way the civil rights lawyers hoped. The trial judge was an Orleans Parish criminal courts magistrate named John Howard Ferguson. A Massachusetts native, Ferguson was thought to be sympathetic to blacks because he'd been an abolitionist before the Civil War, and he'd thrown out a previous test case involving interstate travel.

What I notice about these kinds of cases now is that they were necessary.  That is to say, social proscription was no longer enough to suppress minorities, so the dominant class used the government's coercive monopoly on power to do what could no longer be done by informal means of oppression.

From an email by:
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Editor
Twitter: @CarlCannon <

Friday, June 7, 2013

Power Grabbing

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court rejected the government's tortured logic on the grounds that what matters isn't a foreign government's characterization of a tax but how the tax applies and whether it would be an income tax if enacted in the U.S.

These cases have nothing in common, other than the government's view that federal power is virtually unlimited: Citizens must subsume their liberty to whatever the experts in a given field determine the best or most useful policy to be.

If the government can't get even one of the liberal justices to agree with it on any of these unrelated cases, it should realize there's something seriously wrong with its constitutional vision.

(Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review.)

Thank goodness that he has at least lost some.