Shared posts

17 Oct 01:00

Finally! A Practical Use for Chainsaws!

by Harvey

[Chainsaw vs. 5 Beers at once!] (Viewer #48,813)

UPDATE: The original video was deleted, but I found another version of the same video.

You can’t stop the signal…

UPDATE: OK, you CAN stop the signal… BUT… I found the original version of the video, so this one will actually work and stay around for a while.

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17 Oct 14:06

Man charged with trapping, eating raccoons in apartment complex...


Animal control was probably upset that he was cutting in on their business.

Man charged with trapping, eating raccoons in apartment complex...

(Second column, 11th story, link)

16 Oct 21:04

The Pompous Prognostications Of "Permanently High Plateau" Prophets

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

The talking heads will be rolled out on CNBC to assure the masses that all is well. The economy is strong. Corporate profits are awesome. The stock market will go higher. Op-eds will be written by Wall Street CEOs telling you it’s the best time to invest. Federal Reserve presidents will give speeches saying there are clear skies ahead. Obama will hold a press conference to tell you how many jobs he’s added and how low the budget deficit has gone.

We couldn’t possibly be entering phase two of our Greater Depression after a temporary lull provided by the $8 trillion pumped into the veins of Wall Street by the Fed and Obama. Could we?

1927-1933 Chart of Pompous Prognosticators
Colin J. Seymour



Chart locations are an approximate indication only

1. “We will not have any more crashes in our time.”
- John Maynard Keynes in 1927

2. “I cannot help but raise a dissenting voice to statements that we are living in a fool’s paradise, and that prosperity in this country must necessarily diminish and recede in the near future.”
- E. H. H. Simmons, President, New York Stock Exchange, January 12, 1928

“There will be no interruption of our permanent prosperity.”
- Myron E. Forbes, President, Pierce Arrow Motor Car Co., January 12, 1928

3. “No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time. In the domestic field there is tranquility and contentment…and the highest record of years of prosperity. In the foreign field there is peace, the goodwill which comes from mutual understanding.”
- Calvin Coolidge December 4, 1928

4. “There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash.”
- Irving Fisher, leading U.S. economist , New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929

5. “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months.”
- Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in economics, Oct. 17, 1929

“This crash is not going to have much effect on business.”
- Arthur Reynolds, Chairman of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago, October 24, 1929

“There will be no repetition of the break of yesterday… I have no fear of another comparable decline.”
- Arthur W. Loasby (President of the Equitable Trust Company), quoted in NYT, Friday, October 25, 1929

“We feel that fundamentally Wall Street is sound, and that for people who can afford to pay for them outright, good stocks are cheap at these prices.”
- Goodbody and Company market-letter quoted in The New York Times, Friday, October 25, 1929

6. “This is the time to buy stocks. This is the time to recall the words of the late J. P. Morgan… that any man who is bearish on America will go broke. Within a few days there is likely to be a bear panic rather than a bull panic. Many of the low prices as a result of this hysterical selling are not likely to be reached again in many years.”
- R. W. McNeel, market analyst, as quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929

“Buying of sound, seasoned issues now will not be regretted”
- E. A. Pearce market letter quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929

“Some pretty intelligent people are now buying stocks… Unless we are to have a panic — which no one seriously believes, stocks have hit bottom.”
- R. W. McNeal, financial analyst in October 1929

7. “The decline is in paper values, not in tangible goods and services…America is now in the eighth year of prosperity as commercially defined. The former great periods of prosperity in America averaged eleven years. On this basis we now have three more years to go before the tailspin.”
- Stuart Chase (American economist and author), NY Herald Tribune, November 1, 1929

“Hysteria has now disappeared from Wall Street.”
- The Times of London, November 2, 1929

“The Wall Street crash doesn’t mean that there will be any general or serious business depression… For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game… Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before.”
- Business Week, November 2, 1929

“…despite its severity, we believe that the slump in stock prices will prove an intermediate movement and not the precursor of a business depression such as would entail prolonged further liquidation…”
- Harvard Economic Society (HES), November 2, 1929

8. “… a serious depression seems improbable; [we expect] recovery of business next spring, with further improvement in the fall.”
- HES, November 10, 1929

“The end of the decline of the Stock Market will probably not be long, only a few more days at most.”
- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics at Yale University, November 14, 1929

“In most of the cities and towns of this country, this Wall Street panic will have no effect.”
- Paul Block (President of the Block newspaper chain), editorial, November 15, 1929

“Financial storm definitely passed.”
- Bernard Baruch, cablegram to Winston Churchill, November 15, 1929

9. “I see nothing in the present situation that is either menacing or warrants pessimism… I have every confidence that there will be a revival of activity in the spring, and that during this coming year the country will make steady progress.”
- Andrew W. Mellon, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury December 31, 1929

“I am convinced that through these measures we have reestablished confidence.”
- Herbert Hoover, December 1929

“[1930 will be] a splendid employment year.”
- U.S. Dept. of Labor, New Year’s Forecast, December 1929

10. “For the immediate future, at least, the outlook (stocks) is bright.”
- Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in Economics, in early 1930

11. “…there are indications that the severest phase of the recession is over…”
- Harvard Economic Society (HES) Jan 18, 1930

12. “There is nothing in the situation to be disturbed about.”
- Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, Feb 1930

13. “The spring of 1930 marks the end of a period of grave concern… American business is steadily coming back to a normal level of prosperity.”
- Julius Barnes, head of Hoover’s National Business Survey Conference, Mar 16, 1930

“… the outlook continues favorable…”
- HES Mar 29, 1930

14. “… the outlook is favorable…”
- HES Apr 19, 1930

15. “While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst — and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us.”
- Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, May 1, 1930

“…by May or June the spring recovery forecast in our letters of last December and November should clearly be apparent…”
- HES May 17, 1930

“Gentleman, you have come sixty days too late. The depression is over.”
- Herbert Hoover, responding to a delegation requesting a public works program to help speed the recovery, June 1930

16. “… irregular and conflicting movements of business should soon give way to a sustained recovery…”
- HES June 28, 1930

17. “… the present depression has about spent its force…”
- HES, Aug 30, 1930

18. “We are now near the end of the declining phase of the depression.”
- HES Nov 15, 1930

19. “Stabilization at [present] levels is clearly possible.”
- HES Oct 31, 1931

20. “All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed… and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S.”
- President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

16 Oct 21:15

Dems Represent Wealthiest House Districts...

Dems Represent Wealthiest House Districts...

(Second column, 6th story, link)

16 Oct 16:08

How Does This Still Happen? Southern Oregon U. Students Not Allowed to Distribute Constitutions

by Robby Soave

SOUSouthern Oregon University administrators told students that they couldn't freely distribute copies of the Constitution out in the open, on public university property. Officials tried to usher the students indoors, to the preposterously unconstitutional "free speech zone" where political activity is deemed permissible.

The students, who wish to start a Students for Concealed Carry chapter at the university, recorded their interactions with various officials. The footage was published by Campus Reform. One telling exchange with an administrator who defended the free speech zone:

"Clearly there is a number of reasons why [the free speech zone] exists. I think we need to look at all those, good, bad, and indifferent. It's not just abut the free speech of students. When you open it up to free speech that means anyone, anywhere can come on and do that and that might create some other challenges for this campus that we are not prepared to manage."

My goodness, what is he afraid of? It's a public university: Anyone, anywhere should be able to walk onto the campus and express opinions!

The students wisely asserted their First Amendment right to canvass wherever they want. The administrators, on the other hand, seemingly made an effort not to address the fundamental free speech argument—and have decided not to take any disciplinary action against the students—which leads me to believe that they were well aware they would lose. Is the point of college merely to trick teenagers into thinking their rights are nonexistent?

A reminder: When colleges push this, the Foundation for Individual Rights eviscerates them.

Hat tip: Fox News

15 Oct 17:19

How ObamaCare's Victories Count Against It In Sissel v. HHS

by Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon

Randy Barnett has an excellent post at the Volokh Conspiracy about his recent amicus brief requesting the D.C. Circuit grant en banc review of Sissel v. HHS. (Sound familiar?Sissel challenges the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s individual mandate – which the Supreme Court ruled could only be constitutional if imposed under Congress’ taxing power – on the grounds that this, ahem, tax originated in the Senate rather than the House, as the Constitution’s Origination Clause requires.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled against Sissel. The panel’s rationale was that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was not the sort of “Bill[] for raising revenue” that is subject to the Origination Clause, because the purpose of the PPACA is to expand health insurance coverage, not to raise revenue. Barnett explains why this reasoning is nutty. Under the Sissel panel’s ruling, no bills would ever be considered revenue measures because all revenue measures ultimately serve some other purpose.  The panel’s interpretation would therefore effectively write the Origination Clause out of the Constitution. Barnett argues instead that the courts must recognize the PPACA as a revenue measure subject to the Origination Clause because the Supreme Court held the taxing power is the only way Congress could have constitutionally enacted that law’s individual mandate.

A shorter way to describe Barnett’s argument is that he turns ObamaCare supporters’ own victory against them: “You say the individual mandate is constitutional only as a tax? Fine. Then it’s subject to the Origination Clause.”

Barnett again corners the D.C. Circuit with another sauce-for-the-gander argument on the procedural question of whether that court should grant en banc review of its panel decision in Sissel:

Of course, en banc review is rarely granted by the DC Circuit, but given that it recently granted the government’s motion for en banc review of the statutory interpretation case of Halbig v. Burwell presumably because of the importance of the ACA, the case for correcting a mistaken constitutional interpretation is even more important, especially as the panel’s reasoning has the effect of completely gutting the Origination Clause from the Constitution…

Or, the shorter version: “You guys think Halbig is worthy of en banc review? Fine. If the Sissel panel erred, the downside is even greater.”

We’ll see whether the D.C. Circuit thinks the Constitution is as worthy of its protection as ObamaCare.

(Cross-posted at my comment-friendly blog, Darwin’s Fool.)

15 Oct 19:52

5 US Bills Straight Out Of Atlas Shrugged

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Simon Black via Sovereign Man blog,

“John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains—and he withdrew his fire—until the day when men withdraw their vultures.”

Sick of the overbearing regulation, taxation, and entitlement mentality in society—in the book Atlas Shrugged, John Galt went to one entrepreneur after another to convince them that they just didn’t need to put up with it anymore.

They didn’t need to keep propping up a system that was trying to destroy them. Where’s the point in continuing to feed a parasitic system?

So one by one, these innovators and producers simply closed up shop, deciding to just “shrug” and abandon what they were providing thanklessly to the looters.

Today many companies are doing the same. They may not be abandoning their businesses altogether, but they are moving them out of the hands of the parasites by moving their tax bases abroad.

In Ayn Rand’s book, the Economic Planning Bureau dealt with this by legislating that no businesses could leave: “[a]ll the manufacturing establishments of the country, of any size and nature, were forbidden to move from their present locations, except when granted a special permission to do so.”

In real life today, we have a string of policies being proposed to similarly discourage companies from leaving, or failing that, to try to claw as much money as possible from them first.

First, take the H.R. 5278: No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act, which bars federal contracts for American companies that have gone overseas for tax purposes.

Then take the H.R. 5549: Pay What You Owe Before You Go Act, which seeks the seizure of unrepatriated corporate revenue.

Even the language used by these bill’s supporters is eerily similar to the novel, as politicians call for corporations to pay their “fair share” and bemoan that Americans have to “pick up the tax burden inverted companies shrug off.”

At the time, Rand might have thought that she was writing about an extreme, fictional society. But it seems that the Land of the Free is eager to exceed even her worst expectations.

When she wrote about the “Economic Emergency Law”, which forbade any discrimination “for any reason whatever against any person in any matter involving his livelihood”, she was likely thinking about criteria such as race, gender, and age.

She might have even considered they would try to prevent employers from making judgments based on a person’s ability, though I’m sure she would not have even imagined what politicians have actually come up with in the US.

Try the S. 1972/ H.R. 3972: Fair Employment Opportunity Act that proposed to prohibit discrimination according to a person’s history of unemployment.

Or even worse, the S. 1837: Equal Employment for All Act that would have prohibited employers from even looking at prospective employee’s credit ratings.

The literary similarities don’t just stop with corporations either. Compare the fictional Project Soybean, designed to “recondition” people’s dietary habits to the actual H.R. 4904: Vegetables Are Really Important Eating Tools for You (VARIETY).

Tell me, which one sounds more ludicrous to you?

With each new piece of legislation being proposed in the Land of the Free, Atlas Shrugged seems to be ever more prophetic.

While even the most terrifying elements of the book are coming true, so are the reactions.

People and companies are leaving, refusing the put up with the looting of their efforts any longer.

Despite politicians’ desperate attempts to stop it, Atlas is already shrugging.

15 Oct 16:22

Obama Administration Has Put Media Leakers In Jail For Nearly 50 Times As Long As All Other Administrations In History

by Mike Masnick
We've been among those who have pointed out that the "most transparent administration in history," the Obama administration, has prosecuted media leakers more than all other Presidents in history combined (eight prosecutions in this administration, compared to three total in all previous administrations). Gabe Rottman, over at the ACLU, decided to dig into another stat: how much time has the Obama administration been able to lock up media leakers in jail compared to all other administrations. The answer? The Obama administration has put folks who leaked info to the media in jail for 526 months as compared to 24 months for all other Presidents combined. Admittedly, 420 of those months went to Chelsea Manning, but even if you take that out, we're still talking 106 months for other leakers in cases from this one administration vs. 24 months for all other administrations.

It once again has to make you wonder why the Obama Administration is so focused on punishing anyone who leaks information to the media (even as it likes to "unofficially" leak information all the time). In the end, I keep going back to the speculation I heard from Daniel Ellsberg nearly four years ago (which is also where I first heard the stat about the number of Obama prosecutions against leakers -- at that time, it was just five prosecutions, rather than eight).

Ellsberg's theory was that while President Bush abused the power of the Presidency in the surveillance realm, he was actually proud of it. And while people were upset about secrets leaking, they didn't find it embarrassing. President Obama, on the other hand, came into office claiming to be different -- arguing against those kinds of abuses and promising changes and protections for civil rights. Instead, it appears that the process started under President Bush continued and expanded under President Obama and -- Ellsberg speculated years ago -- the President is somewhat embarrassed by this, leading him and his administration to react negatively to the leaks. Not because of any legitimate security concern, but to try to silence those who seek to reveal that the administration and the President have not come close to living up to their ideals but rather went the other way entirely.

Putting those who leaked info to the media in jail for 526 months -- nearly 44 years -- says a lot about the way the administration truly views whistleblowing, and it's not a saying anything good.

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15 Oct 16:30

Obama cancels fundraising trip...



15 Oct 14:00

You Ought to Have a Look: The Best of the Science Blogs, with an Emphasis on Climate Change

by Patrick J. Michaels, Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

You Ought to Have a Look is a recurring feature from the Cato’s Center for the Study of Science that briefly highlights a few interesting blog posts from around the web that are comments on subject areas we are currently emphasizing. Climate change issues currently top the list. Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary. This is the first installment of You Ought to Have a Look

We start off with the estimable Judith Curry, former chairwoman of the highly regarded School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology (aka “Georgia Tech”).  Her musings, published every few days on her blog “Climate Etc.” have a wide following amongst climate geeks (like us), while oftentimes her postings should be of interest to a wider, more general audience. 

Judith scored big last week with an excellent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In her subsequent blog post “My WSJ op-ed: Global warming statistical meltdown,” she takes you through the version that appeared in print as well as some of the earlier drafts of it highlighting lessons she learned along the way. The article focuses on her recent blockbuster publication in which she and co-researcher Nic Lewis peg the earth’s climate sensitivity—how much warming will occur as a result of a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide—at a value about one-half that which is produced by the collection of “state-of-the-art” climate models used by the UN and the Obama Administration to underpin their calls to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from the production of energy.

And nearly every Friday, she posts her “Week in Review” where she highlights things that have recently caught her eye or events that she was involved in. In the current issue, she describes her recent travels which included a trip to Ohio’s Oberlin College where she “debated” me (PJM).  As she describes it:

The debate went fine, we each had 10 minutes to make opening statements on the science, and then an additional 10 minutes to discuss broader implications. I used my time to discuss the values issues and decision making under deep uncertainties. PJM discussed the increasingly perverse incentives in academia and government funded science, see [link] for some of his recent writing on this topic. He definitely makes some valid points.

Next, you might want to check out the witty Matt Briggs (“Statistician to the Stars”) post on “Don’t Say ‘Hiatus’” in which he takes us (and virtually everyone else) to task for using the terms “pause” and/or “hiatus” to refer to the past 18 years or so of no statistically significant overall change in the earth’s average surface temperature. Briggs’ main point is that since climate change models are so bad (unskillful), there is no reason for a priori expectations of the temperature behavior one way or the other. In other words, a “pause” from what?

Be aware that Briggs is a very twisty writer, often leading the reader down a path that takes a sharp turn further down his somewhat detailed essays. But there is always some gem to find at the end!

Briggs is an interesting character.  He is associated with Cornell, where he teaches on advanced statistics course.  He was an editor of Journal of Climate, the American Meteorological Society’s flagship climate journal, but he quit after getting tired of the terrible manuscripts that were sent in (and often published).

It’s hard not to like Matt’s style, and you will be seeing a lot of his work highlighted here.

Finally, our friend Roy Spencer’s wide ranging (usually on things atmospheric, but sometimes otherwise) has an interesting article pointing out that size matters when it comes to climate change. In his post “Climate Change: A Meaningless Artifact of Technology?,” Roy notes that if you can’t distinguish the signal of climate change from the noise of natural variability (or even if you can, if it is exceedingly tiny), then there is really nothing worth getting worked up about. Roy worries:

“This seems to be the fate of our advanced society — we must find increasingly obscure things to fret over as we solve our major problems…hunger, disease, water-borne illness, infant mortality. But with real problems now appearing – renewed terrorist threats, Ebola — I fear we are straining gnats as we swallow camels.”

In a case of good timing, Roy followed-up that post with one illustrating a prime example of all this from Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently said something along the lines of “Life as you know it on Earth ends if climate change skeptics are wrong.”  In his post “Life as You Know It Will End if John Kerry is Wrong…OR Right,” Roy demonstrates that, given the catastrophically high cost of converting even half of our fossil-fuel based energy to renewables, most of us will be living in poverty if Kerry’s solutions are implemented. Roy includes a video in which he and other energy policy experts discuss how the premature push toward renewable energy on a large scale will increase human suffering. It is well worth watching.

Stay tuned to our You Ought to Have a Look series for more blog highlights like these in the days ahead!

15 Oct 12:44

Supreme Court Declines to Review Another Important Case

by Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

It’s not just high-profile culture-war issues like same-sex marriage and the right to bear arms that the Supreme Court is avoiding like the plague. On issues ranging from federalism to property rights to criminal law, the justices increasingly decline to hear any case they don’t absolutely have to – no matter how important the issues presented – especially if there’s a threat of an irreconcilable split. Such is the brave new world of John Roberts’s minimalism/unanimity.

The latest such example came yesterday morning, in a criminal procedure case called Jones v. United States, in which Cato filed an amicus brief that I previously blogged about. The issue here is whether, pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, a judge can base a sentence on facts that the jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt. (The Court ruled in a 2000 case called Apprendi v. New Jersey that judges can’t enhance sentences beyond statutory maximums based on facts, other than prior convictions, not decided by the jury – but in Jones the sentences in question, while seemingly harsh and unreasonable, were still within the sentencing guidelines.)

While normally we don’t know what the justices are thinking when they deny a cert petition, or even how the vote went (four votes are needed to grant), but in the Jones denial, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a rare dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here’s the salient bit:

The Sixth Amendment, together with the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, “requires that each element of a crime” be either admitted by the defendant, or “proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.” Any fact that increases the penalty to which a defendant is exposed constitutes an element of a crime, and “must be found by a jury, not a judge.” We have held that a substantively unreasonable penalty is illegal and must be set aside. It unavoidably follows that any fact necessary to prevent a sentence from being substantively unreasonable—thereby exposing the defendant to the longer sentence—is an element that must be either admitted by the defendant or found by the jury. It may not be found by a judge. [emphasis original; internal citations omitted.]

And so the petitioners came one vote short. The three dissenters may seem like an unusual grouping, but actually these justices are often together on issues relating criminal defendants’ jury-trial rights. (It’s sort of the left/right versus the center, or the principled versus the pragmatic.) They were in the Apprendi majority, for example, as well as in the majority for the case that struck down the mandatory nature of the sentencing guidelines, United States v. Booker (2005), and recent cases involving the right to confront witnesses against you. Alas, they were joined in those cases by Justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter, who have since been replaced by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, respectively. It’s not a big surprise that Kagan seems to have joined the “prgamatic” bloc for these purposes, but Sotomayor’s vote is disappointing. Some commentators point to her background as a prosecutor to explain such deference, but Justice Sotomayor is one of the most pro-defendant votes on Fourth Amendment and habeas corpus cases.

In any event, whatever the reason for the lack of a crucial fourth vote to grant, this was another opportunity lost by the Court, another responsibility shirked. For more commentary, see here, here, here, and here.

14 Oct 20:01

Requiring YouTubers To Give Positive Reviews For Access To Games Can't Work As A Long Term Strategy

by Timothy Geigner

We've written before about the recent trend among video game publishers in trading access for YouTube personalities to their games and positive coverage. Nintendo had been the most notable example of this to date, but they certainly aren't alone. This most recent example concerns Warner Bros.' Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and the deals the publisher struck with YouTubers, which are far more restrictive than those we've seen previously.

"Videos will promote positive sentiment about the game. Videos must not show bugs or glitches that may exist. Maximize awareness for the Shadow of Mordor video game during the 'Week of Vengeance' through gameplay content, key brand messaging, and information and talent usage on Twitch channels. Persuade viewers to purchase game, catch the attention of casual and core gamers who already know and love Middle-earth. Requirements involve one livestream, one YouTube video, and one Facebook post/tweet in support of the videos. Videos will have a strong verbal call to action, a clickable link in the description box for the viewer to go to the game's website to learn more about the game [and] to learn how to register and play the game. Twitch stream videos will have five calls to action. Videos will be of sufficient length to feature gameplay and build excitement."

"Videos must include discussion of the Nemesis System. This really should take up the bulk of the focus, such as how different the orcs are, how vivid their personality and dialogue are, gathering intel and domination abilities, exploiting their strengths and weaknesses. Videos must include discussion of the action and combat that takes place within the game, such as brutal finishers, execution moves, and wraith powers. The company has final approval on the YouTube video… at least 48 hours before any video goes live."
Now, look, there's been a great deal of discussion as of late about the evils of the current gaming journalism scene, yet here's the shining example of corruption and nobody's up in arms. I can't quite figure that out. What these publishers are doing is creating a sub-section of the YouTuber ecosystem that will be first to market with reviews of gaming products but also in chorus with one another in heaping praise as a contractual obligation. Delightful. The Kotaku article says that this is an uncomfortable, systemic, and long-term problem. It isn't, and here's why: it can only work for a tiny period of time.

And that period of time is coming to an end. Now that these deals are coming into the light with more regular frequency, they are only serving to condition the public to one thing: not trusting positive reviews of games. It's the inevitable result of this sort of thing. If the gaming public knows that you have these deals, they'll almost certainly decide not to trust positive YouTuber reviews of games. The negative reviews, on the other hand, certainly will be trustworthy. So, in the end, gamers will only have negative reviews to base decisions on when it comes to the games they buy. That ain't no way to run an industry.

It's time the major publishers wised up to this sort of thing. Any short-term benefit is going to be far outweighed by the long-term distrust they're sowing.

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14 Oct 20:48

Fail To Show Up at Traffic Court? Risk Dying at Orleans Parish Prison

by Lauren Galik


The day after Oscar Fueselier was arrested and taken to Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), he was brain-dead, comatose, and handcuffed to a hospital bed. The 57-year-old Vietnam War vet with a history of mental health issues was being held in the jail for missing traffic court. His cellmate, 18-year-old Richard Jackson, was there on armed robbery charges. After complaining Fueslier smelled like urine, Jackson stomped on his head.

Fueselier was immediately taken to the jail’s hospital and held there for three days, brain-dead and unresponsive. On his third day in the hospital, the office of New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman released Fueselier from custody, and he was transferred to a hospice. One week later, Fueselier died, and the official cause of death was listed as lung cancer. Because he was released from custody before he died, Fueselier’s death was never investigated by the sheriff’s office, and an official autopsy was never conducted.

According to a new multi-part investigative series published by Louisiana’s Times-Picayune called “Dying at OPP,” Fueselier was one of seven inmates who were released from custody shortly before they died. Because their deaths occurred after they were released, they don’t appear on any official count of the jail’s inmate fatalities. This, the Times-Picayune reports, is “a practice that critics say is an intentional circumvention of the public reporting requirements for in-custody deaths.”

Beyond not officially reporting these seven deaths, Times-Picayune found that OPP failed to notify the families of several inmates who died while in custody. In some cases, families weren’t notified until days or weeks after their relative had died.

In one case, the wife of an inmate was told her husband had been released when she called every day for two weeks; he had actually been dead the entire time. He died two days after he was brought to OPP on charges of domestic battery. In another case, the father of an inmate wasn’t told that a guard had critically injured his son—who had been brought in two days earlier on charges of public drunkenness—until after he had been taken off life support. In a third case, the sister of an inmate was told she had been released when she had actually been declared brain dead, two days after being charged with biting a security officer. In all three cases, lawsuits have been filed alleging that mistreatment by OPP guards contributed to these inmates’ deaths. The sheriff’s office is fighting these claims.

Since 2006, a total of 44 inmates at OPP have died, including seven the sheriff’s office did not report. According to the Times-Picayune, OPP's inmate death rate exceeded state and national averages “in all but one year from 2006 to 2011.”

As one of the country’s most notoriously awful jails, abuse, negligence, and incompetence have run rampant at Orleans Parish Prison for years. Things have gotten so bad that the jail was put under a federal consent decree in 2013 to improve conditions for inmates. In his opinion, Federal Judge Lance Africk wrote that the decree “is the only way to overcome the years of stagnation that have permitted OPP to remain an indelible stain on the community, and it will ensure that OPP inmates are treated in a manner that does not offend contemporary notions of human decency.” (Emphasis mine)

The court ordered OPP to make several improvements, including reporting inmate deaths to a federal monitor who would then notify the U.S. Department of Justice. Despite these mandated changes, there are still no independent investigations after an inmate dies at the facility. Instead, New Orleans Parish sheriff deputies carry out inmate death investigations. 

For now, families of inmates who have died at OPP have little consolation. Five lawsuits in total have been brought against the New Orleans Sheriff’s Department over inmate deaths, but sheriff’s lawyers are fighting them all.

13 Oct 19:22

Americans Distrust Government Too Much to Answer Census Questions, So Let's Threaten 'Em, Says Official

by J.D. Tuccille

Among the problems the Census Bureau faces in getting Americans to answer questions, complained an official in a presentation last week, is that Americans consider nosy questions a threat to their privacy, especially when posed by a government they distrust. The solution? Favor the "stick" above "carrot" when mailing out questionnaires for the American Community Survey. Specifically, the official recommended emphasizing legal consequences for people who don't cough up desired data.

Tasha Boone, Assistant Division Chief for the American Community Survey, made her points on October 9 to the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, one of several Census Advisory Committees. That "perceptions of 'irrelevant' and 'unnecessary' questions raise concerns about privacy" and that "distrust of government is pervasive" were among several hurdles she noted to gathering information from the public.

Jst a thought, but a bit of self-awareness might be lacking in the preference she expressed, among three mail designs for the American Community Survey, for the existing one that threatens in bold, capital letters, "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW."

That should settle those privacy and trust issues.

But if Tasha Boone is unclear on the concept of unproductive approaches, she's correct that "distrust of government is pervasive."

When Gallup asks, "How much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington?" when it comes to handling domestic problems, 59 percent say "not very much" or "none at all"—an all-time high since the question was first asked in 1972. Fifty-five percent give the same answer with regard to international problems.

Likewise, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press finds near continous decline in public trust of government since the question was first asked—from 78 percent who trusted "the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time" in 1958 to 19 percent last year.

Abuse of powerWhy, to quote Tasha Boone, is it that "distrust of government is pervasive" in modern America? What took the shine off the governmental apple?

Well, when the Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey asked Americans earlier this year what they thought of their elected officials, respondents estimated that 70 percent of public officials abuse their power to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

So of course you'd want to surrender your personal and sensitive information to them. And threats of legal consequences will definitely allay concerns over abuse.


13 Oct 16:48

Soros to Host Funder for 'Independent' Kansas Senate Candidate...

Soros to Host Funder for 'Independent' Kansas Senate Candidate...

(First column, 6th story, link)
Related stories:
13 Oct 12:00

Testimonial: Paleo Fixed My Family

by Squatchy

Testimonial written by: Damien


Almost two years ago, I wrote to you the email below to express my gratitude for all the good things you brought into my life via your book and the Paleo Solution podcast. I was also very happy to receive few words from you afterward.

Once again, it is time for me to take the time and thank you for all the things you taught me and many other people during those two years via the podcasts the Paleo Solution, the Controversial Truth (and the apparitions you did on other shows – loved the Rogan one), I am still listening to them weekly. Let’s not forget the links and other interesting (or funny) things on your Facebook pages.

Two years ago I was living in Australia, and I was trying to convince my parents via Skype to give a shot at the Paleo diet for 3 weeks since my dad was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and my mom from insomnia. As you can imagine, asking a couple of French 50+ year old’s to stop eating bread just didn’t work out… But there’s a happy ending to that story.

After living abroad for 10 years, spending most of those 10 years in front of computers (for my studies and job), hearing about Paleo diets and cavemen and so on, I decided it was time for a change. So I thought about it long and hard (for the majority of a year) and decided to quit my job in IT for Investment banks and come back home to see how  the situation was here. It was bad.

My father’s RA had become way worse than when I left Europe 2 years ago. But of course no one would tell me over Skype. My mum had put on weight and my sister too after her 2nd child. Being 17kg heavier than she used to be, she started getting clinically depressed.

As soon as I came back, I started going to all my dad’s appointments with the doctors and the unemployment office – because of course, he’d lost his job in the meantime. His company went bankrupt, and having been a builder for almost 40 years, being 55 with RA, he won’t be able to find another job. Thank God this is happening in France. Even though I think things have been pretty sh*t for a long time in this country, the medical system is partly taking care of him financially.

The whole situation looked pretty bad but still, I managed to change the eating habits of those 3 people. The gatekeeper was my sister.

I asked her if she wanted me to create a diet and training program for her to lose weight. Her answer: “Yes, I need help. I don’t know what to do, and I hate running!” – “No problems, what about weightlifting? Just 3 sessions a week and a nice 30 minutes walk every day?” – “Err, I don’t want to look like you!” (Since starting Paleo and lifting weights twice per week as S&C for my Muay-Thai, I’d put on 7kg in 2 years) – “You’re a girl, not enough testosterone, don’t worry”. 12 weeks later she’s lost 6.5kg and has a pretty decent deadlift.

Seeing that my sister managed to survive on a meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and the occasional dark chocolate diet, seeing she didn’t feel the need or craving for bread and cheese – and maybe fed-up of hearing me begging him to try – my dad gave it a go.

I pulled up the autoimmune protocol from your book and added some supplements like glucosamine, chrondotoin, etc. I asked him every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner how strong his joints pain were from 0 to 10 (once he told me that 10 meant he couldn’t walk). We started at an average of 8. Two weeks later, he’s around 3-4. It’s been a complete game changer for him. Where before he was relying only on what the doctors had said: “You can eat whatever you want, you have RA, food isn’t going to change anything, you have to live with it”. I was in the room when his doc said that (because I’d ask about food causing inflammation such as gluten and dairy) and I was fuming inside. But I didn’t say anything, after hearing how useless it was to argue with doctors.

At this point I had convinced 2 people out of 3. My dad was now thinking more about his diet and the pain “It’s painful today, oh yeah, we had some heavy cream with the fish at your uncle’s last night, I’ll avoid it next time” – I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. And my sister was losing bodyfat while getting stronger at the same time, she just wouldn’t stop smiling and laughing, all the opposite of when I came back. But my mum… she just wouldn’t try. I tried to talk to her, and she wouldn’t even consider it: “I NEED bread to get through the day”. So knowing her I waited.

And she took the bait. My dad had lost 2kg and my sister another dress size. Mum: “If I do your lifting thing, will I lose my belly fat? I just want to lose my belly fat.” – “Mum, 80% of the progress is the diet”. – “What’s the point of starting the diet? I’m going on holidays in 2 weeks.” – “Great, then, try it for 2 weeks, if you’re happy with those 2 weeks then we continue afterward, if you’re not, then you haven’t had bread and dairy for 2 weeks and you can have a feast on holidays. Deal?” – “Ok”. In 2 weeks, she lost 2 kg and slept like a baby: no more insomnia. She went on holidays for 12 days with my dad (during which I took care of the “farm”: rabbits, ducks, chicken and a huge garden) and they both came straight back to Paleo.

After 3 months on the lifestyle change, my dad’s RA pain has gone to 2 now. He’d started at 8. He doesn’t clench his hands anymore, doesn’t have cramps in his fingers either and almost doesn’t limp anymore (his right wrist and left foot have been deformed by the RA).

Right now I am thinking into getting him to lift weights twice a week. I’m looking around the internet to see if it is a wise thing or not due to his condition. I am aware that what I am doing now with Paleo and weightlifting sounds like “when the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” – and by being conscious of it I try I always ask myself if my approach is the right one – but he has lost 14kg in the last 5 years since the RA started. The guy was a builder, short and strong, you could say he used to look like one of the dwarves in the Lord of the Ring movies!

Anyway, hopefully I should be able to put some muscles back on him and also to get the RA pain down to 0 so he can slowly try to get off the antibiotics and Enbrel.

So that’s it. That’s the happy ending Robb, and it’s thanks to you. I used all your advice, all the experiences you shared with us, your greasy salesman pitch and so on. I had never been much of a family man, but now at the age of 29 I can finally enjoy spending time, sharing and teachings things to them. I can finally help them. We always used to fight with my sister and it was nasty, now we’re making up for this wasted time. My dad was never a big talker, now he opens up more because he sees I care about him and try harder than the doctors to “fix” him. And I can now spend some one on one time with my mum during our morning walks. I’m confident that one day my brother will give it a go too, and my nieces are having a better start in life now since my sister gives bacon and eggs to her 2 year old’s instead of cereals and biscuits for breakfast.

I know this whole story sounds a bit mental: “Paleo fixed my family”, but it kinda did. And I have to say it is thanks to you Robb. Like I said two years ago, “You are one of the few people I admire and consider a role model in this world.” And I still think so.

Many times you asked on the podcast why people where still listening to the show when you felt you had answered all the questions. It’s going to be weird again, but hearing your voice is comforting, because it feels like sh*t hits the fan everywhere, in every part of the world, it’s all doom and gloom but when I listen to the podcast it reminds me that there are few guys like you who haven’t given up on doing the right thing, doesn’t matter what, and it gives me hope. That’s what I think anyway.

Right, this is getting a bit long, and I don’t want to waste too much of your precious time. So thank you for all you do, thank you for the positive impact you had on me and my family.

I want to be like you when I grow up! Man… you look better at 42 than me at 29! Congratulations on your second child, you and Nicky have a great Wolf pack :) I wish you all the best, you deserve to be happy and have a great life Mr. Robb Wolf.

Much Love – but not gay Love! (You look great but I still prefer girls – petite, blond, blue/green eyes so you’re not my type, haha).

One last time: merci, sincérement.


Before : December 2011, 6 months before going Paleo, 77kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 bodyweight conditionning sessions per week.

Damien before : December 2011, 6 months before going Paleo, 77kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 bodyweight conditionning sessions per week.

After: March 2014, almost 2 years on the Paleo diet, 84kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 weightlifting sessions per week (following Robb & Greg's advices on the podcast to include some barbell traning).

Damien after: March 2014, almost 2 years on the Paleo diet, 84kg, 3 Muay-Thai sessions per week + 2 weightlifting sessions per week (following Robb & Greg’s advices on the podcast to include some barbell traning).

10 Oct 19:17

Remember, Law and Order Folk: A Prison Sentence is a Very Serious Thing

by Brian Doherty

Reminder for those who like to pat themselves on the back for how much more civilized we are what with our modern prison-based penology over, say, a few hours in the public stockades, out of Florida, where inmate Latandra Ellington died this week in Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala.

This was a few weeks after warning her family that a guard had threatened to kill her, and 24 hours after her family had called the prison to warn them about the threats.

Her family's lawyers are seeking federal investigation, Flagerlive reports:

Benjamin Crump and Darryl Parks, lawyers representing Ellington’s aunt Algerene Jennings, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday that a private autopsy by a doctor hired by the family “revealed hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma consistent with kicking or punches to the lower abdomen.”

The state medical examiner contradicts that report, saying that 

 “that there was no identifiable trauma anywhere in the body,” [Department of Corrections Secretary Mike] Crews said. Toxicology reports have not yet been completed and a cause of death has not yet been determined, he said.

“At this point, that’s all we know. So right now what we have is conflicting information between the medical examiner and whoever this physician is or doctor is that the family decided to hire,” Crews said.

FreeThoughtProject reports that:

According to family members, Latandra may have been planning to speak out about rampant sexual abuse that the correctional officers at the prison have been inflicting on the inmates.

For what crime was Ellington segregated from decent society in a form of modern, sophisticated punishment that turned out to be a death sentence?

Fraud charges for filing fake tax returns.

I wrote on a similar theme in June, involving a woman who died in prison (at least not murdered) because of not paying fines for her kids being truant, and last July about a kid beaten in prison for making obvious ridiculous threats in the context of online gaming.

As I wrote then:

This is worth contemplating and thinking more about: being behind bars in America is a goddamn serious thing with goddamn serious consequences, and it's horrible to be used as a quick general interest problem-solving tool.

10 Oct 13:21

US destroys $500 million planes for 6 cent scrap...

US destroys $500 million planes for 6 cent scrap...

(First column, 6th story, link)

10 Oct 12:27

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from pages 27-28 of James Piereson’s 2014 monograph, The Inequality Hoax:

Piketty implies that reductions in taxes over the past three decades have allowed the rich to accumulate money while avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As income taxes and capital-gains taxes were reduced in the United States beginning in the 1980s, the share of federal taxes paid by “the rich” steadily went up.  From 1980 to 2010, as the top 1 percent increased their share of before-tax income from 9 percent to 15 percent, their share of the individual income tax soared from 17 percent to 39 percent of the total paid.  Their share of total federal taxes more than doubled during a period when the highest marginal tax rate was cut in half, from 70 percent to 35.5 percent.  The wealthy, in short, are already paying more than their fair share of taxes, and the growth in their wealth and incomes has had nothing to do with tax avoidance or deflecting the tax burden to the middle class.

08 Oct 17:30

Awesome Asset Forfeiture Story

by admin

09 Oct 17:22

60 People Locked In Building After 4 Suspected Ebola Cases Near Paris

by Tyler Durden

Following news of the death of a British man in Macedonia from Ebola, RTL reports that 60 people are locked inside a Department of Medical and Social Coordination (DASS) building in Cergy-Pontoise (on the northeast edge of Paris) following Ebola-like symptoms in 4 people.


INFO RTL - Les locaux de la DDASS à Cergy-Pontoise bouclés, un cas d'Ebola suspecté >

— RTL France (@RTLFrance) October 9, 2014



As RTL reports,

The premises of the DASS in Cergy-Pontoise (Val-d'Oise) is currently curly. Authorities suspect an Ebola case and locked sixty people.


An attending physician on the premises has been warning noting troubling symptoms in four people who had returned from Guinea.


Specific first aid arrived on the scene there for over an hour, a perimeter was set up and a crisis enabled prefecture.


Workforce of UAS equipped accordingly are expected on site a moment's notice.

As Le Figaro confirms,

A building of the DASS of Cergy -Pontoise , near Paris , was cordoned off tonight after the unrest in the premises of a person who may be from Guinea and features similar to those of Ebola like symptoms, a- was learned from sources.


The building, owned by the General Council , was completed " to carry out checks ," said the prefect of the Val- d'Oise , Jean -Luc Nevache . Besides the person who feels unwell a second person had flu-like symptoms , said Dr. Nevache , evoking a simple measure of "precaution" .


According to RTL , the authorities shut sixty in total. A security perimeter has been established .

  *  *

It appears the reach of this deadly disease is growing..


*  *  *

And then there's this...

BREAKING: British man suspected of contracting #Ebola dies in Macedonia - reports

— RT (@RT_com) October 9, 2014

09 Oct 17:04

Devaluing Free Speech Will Always Backfire

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

I've got a new piece up at The Week imploring progressives to think about what they're really risking when they rush to criminalize free expression. Some of the social justice left seem to believe that people "hide behind the First Amendment" because they love gay slurs and upskirt photos. Even more astonishingly, they think that broad laws criminalizing speech and expression could never be used in ways they don't intend. 

The shortsightedness with which the social-justice left embraces hate speech laws and other restrictions on free expression can only be chalked up to an extreme hubris, a belief that not only are they on the right side of history culturally and morally but that politically, things will never change either. Which seems unlikely. Ten years ago Karl Rove envisioned — and people (my young self included) legitimately feared — a "permanent Republican majority" built largely on socially-conservative concerns like opposition to same-sex marriage. LOL. Now even Michele Bachmann finds fighting marriage equality "boring" and the most compelling conservative candidate is the one calling for criminal justice reform instead of "traditional marriage."

Some see the takeaway here as progressivism having "won." But I think it's more realistically illustrative of the fickle nature of public opinion and party platforms. No, I don't see U.S. society going backward on things like gay rights. But look at the anti-abortion movement. Feminists thought they had abortion access locked in — and in fact, the country continues to trend in favor of abortion rights — but a loud, persistent, and passionate anti-abortion minority has managed to get more laws restricting abortion passed in the past few years than in the decades before.

When you're winning the culture wars, it tends to radicalize and mobilize the opposition. Even if U.S. society as a whole continues to become more liberal or libertarian, we'll still face folks who believe in the need for more authoritarianism, less gender equality, and less tolerance. Some of them will inevitably go into politics, law enforcement, and education. Some will become legislators. Prosecutors. Judges. City council members. School administrators. Police officers. Professors. And some will inevitably have wildly different conceptions of what constitutes "hate" or "obscenity" or "civility" than you or I may.

(...) It's not just a formal deference or fetishistic attachment to the Constitution that leads libertarians to push for very narrowly-written and interpreted speech restrictions. It's because this framework provides a means for free speech to be meaningful without regard to fickle cultural norms or prevailing political power.

Read the whole thing here. But might I suggest not reading the comments? 

09 Oct 13:40

Do U.S. Ebola Patients Have a Constitutional Right to Try Experimental Drugs?

by Damon Root

Assume the following dire scenario: You become infected with Ebola and are quarantined by U.S. medical officials. A promising new experimental drug is in the works, but it hasn't yet received final approval. You want to try the drug but the authorities won't let you. Do you have a constitutional right to try to preserve your life by taking the experimental drug? Most Americans would probably say yes. But according to a prominent federal court, the answer is no.

In 2007 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against a group of terminally ill cancer patients who were suing the FDA in order to gain access to experimental drugs that had the potential to save their lives. According to the D.C. Circuit's ruling in Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. Eschenbach, however, nothing in the Constitution protects "a fundamental right of access for the terminally ill to experimental drugs."

Writing in dissent, Judge Judith Ann Rogers, joined by Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg, attacked the majority’s "startling" decision and its "stunning misunderstanding of the stakes" involved for the terminally ill. "To deny the constitutional importance of the right to life and to attempt to preserve life is to move from judicial modesty to judicial abdication, as well as confusion," Rogers and Ginsburg declared.

Despite the strength of that dissent and the many failings of the majority opinion, however, the Supreme Court refused to take the case on appeal. The D.C. Circuit's ruling remains on the books.

For Reason's ongoing coverage of the Ebola outbreak, see here.

09 Oct 14:20

Warrantless Raid on the Wrong People Costs Denver Cops $1.8 Million

by J.D. Tuccille

Daniel MartinezOn January 27, 2009, Denver cops pounded on the door of a home that used to be a drug den and brothel. Not having kept their information current, the cops didn't know the house was now occupied by Daniel Martinez Jr. (pictured) and his family. They also "had no warrant, no application for a warrant, nothing," as the family's attorney later described the scene. The officers rushed inside and roughed up the residents, including shoving a 16-year-old boy's head through a window and and dealing out a generous dollop of beatings and bodyslamming.

Then they realized they'd fucked up. So they trumped up charges against the family.

Fortunately, a jury saw through the cops' bullshit and found Nathan Martinez and Daniel Martinez III not guilty of misdemeanor assault charges. Subsequently, the district attorney saw the light and abandoned the case against Daniel Martinez Jr. and Jonathan Martinez.

Now the Martinez family is getting some payback after suing the cops and their employers.

From Kirk Mitchell at The Denver Post:

A Denver jury on Friday awarded $1.8 million to a family after a wrongful prosecution case in which police officers executed a warrantless raid on a home previously occupied by drug dealers and prostitutes.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011 against the city and county of Denver and four police officers. Claims against the city later were dropped in a summary judgment.

A jury of 10 awarded various amounts to the four family members based on different amounts of damages attributed to the four officers. The jury awarded a total of $1.25 million of punitive damages collectively to the family.

The family also alleged excessive force, but the jury in the lawsuit couldn't come to a decision on that allegation. The ultimate payout, if it survives the officers' promised appeals, could add up to $3 million including interest and attorney's fee.

08 Oct 23:46

America Really Needs One Of These

by Tyler Durden

Perhaps, in the interests of keeping its population satisfied that government is busy and working hard for the nation's good, India has unveiled a real-time dashboard to monitor how many government workers are in attendance at any moment...

click image for fully real-time-updating version...


One question - if India can do this, why can't America?

08 Oct 17:17

School Sics Cops, K-9 Unit on Old Man Looking for Dandelions

by Lenore Skenazy

DandelionDanger! Danger! Man with a weapon spotted near school!

According to, the Oakville, Canada, man was armed with a kitchen knife and on the hunt—for dandelions:

A 65-year-old in search of dandelions for a recipe caused an Oakville public school to be put in a hold and secure late Monday afternoon.

The incident occurred shortly before 3 p.m. when the male was spotted walking with a small kitchen knife along the Pilgrim Wood Public School fence line, near Third Line and Upper Middle Road West.

The dogs were called out to search for this galumphing gourmet, and because no threat is too small to be treated like a nuclear attack, the schools remained "in a hold and secure" till 3:45 p.m. Buses were also temporarily suspended.

Afterward, the salad hunter (perhaps he's even a salad shooter!) was advised by the police on the "optics" of "walking around with a weapon in public."

free-range-kidsIf a "small kitchen knife" is that terrifying, imagine seeing someone walking around with a ladle (you could get beaned). Or a large spatula. Wielding a spatula in public is akin to threatening children with being lifted off the sidewalk and flipped head first into the street.

No one is safe when senior citizens start wandering around in search of free greens. No one.

08 Oct 17:34

Unsettling Cotton Settlement at the WTO

by Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

Last week the U.S. government settled a long-running trade dispute with Brazil, winning taxpayers the privilege of continuing to subsidize America’s wealthy cotton farmers in exchange for our commitment to subsidize Brazilian cotton farmers, as well. That’s right! We get to pay U.S. cotton farming businesses to overproduce, export, and suppress global prices to the detriment of Brazilian (and other countries’) cotton farmers provided that we compensate the Brazilians to the tune of $300 million.

Some background. Ten years ago, in a case brought by Brazil, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body ruled that the United States was exceeding its subsidy allowances for domestic cotton farmers and that it should bring its practices into compliance with the relevant WTO agreements. After delays and half-baked U.S. efforts to comply, Brazil sought and received permission from the WTO to retaliate (or, in WTO parlance, to “withdraw concessions” because opening one’s own market in a world of mercantilist reciprocity is, perversely, considered a cost or concession). Under the threat of such retaliation, instead of bringing its cotton subsidies into WTO compliance, the U.S. government agreed to pay $147 million per year to Brazilian farmers so that it could continue subsidizing U.S. farmers beyond agreed limits. That arrangement prevailed for a few years until the funds were cut during the budget sequester earlier this year – an event that triggered a renewed threat of retaliation from Brazil, which now has been averted on account of last week’s $300 million settlement.

The Peterson Institute’s Gary Hufbauer characterized the agreement as a “good deal” because it ends the specter of soured bilateral relations, which $800 million of targeted retaliation against U.S. exporters and intellectual property holders would likely produce, for a reasonable price of $300 million “spread widely across the US population, around 90 cents a person.” In Hufbauer’s opinion:

Money damages, paid in this way, are much fairer, and do not destroy the benefits of international commerce, unlike concentrated retaliation against firms that had nothing to do with the original dispute. The WTO system is only designed to authorize such retaliation, but the US-Brazil settlement points the way towards a better way of satisfying breaches of WTO obligations.

While I share Hufbauer’s desire to avoid retaliation and soured relations, his rationale for endorsing the settlement seems a bit strained. If the settlement is justifiable because the costs are spread across 300-plus million Americans, then Hufbauer can probably lend his support to most subsidies, tariffs, and other forms of protectionism, which endure because the concentrated benefits accruing to the favor-seekers are paid through costs imposed, often imperceptibly, on a diffuse base of unorganized consumers or taxpayers. Does the smallness or the imperceptibility of the costs make it right? No, but it makes it easy to get away with, which is why I think it’s pennywise and pound foolish to endorse such outcomes. There are all sorts of federal subsidies to industries and tariffs on goods that may be small or imperceptible as a cost on a standalone basis at the individual level.  But when aggregated across programs, the costs to individuals become more significant. It’s death by 10,000 cuts.

Hufbauer implies that $0.90 per American is not an unreasonable amount.  Does he have a threshold per-person cost above which he would consider the burden unjustified? As it stands now, the cost to taxpayers is well in excess of the $0.90 – a figure that accounts only for the subsidies to the Brazilians.  We know that the U.S. subsidies are approximately $800 million in excess of allowance, which means that the violating portion of taxpayer subsidies to cotton producers amounts to $2.40 per American.  For the “right” to spend that $2.40 per American, each American must spend $0.90 for a total of $3.30 each.  So, instead of saving $2.40 per American by bringing subsidies into compliance, taxpayers are in the red by $3.30 each – a $5.70 reversal. But, of course, the real cost to Americans is not the excess subsidies plus the cost of subsidizing Brazilians, but the overall cost of cotton subsidies, which were close to $2 billion per year for the period 1995-2012, or over $6.00 per American per year during that period. But why should Americans be forced to support wealthy U.S. cotton farmers in the first place?

Hufbauer’s point is that money damages spread over a broad base of payers is more fair than targeted retaliation, which would impose those costs on a few innocent U.S. industries and IP holders, and he writes that “the WTO system is only designed to authorize” such retaliation.  But I think Hufbauer is selling the system short. Compliance with the rules is preferable to both targeted retaliation and damages spread across a broad base, and the WTO system is designed to encourage such compliance without imposing on national sovereignty.

First of all, retaliatory trade measures are something most governments prefer to avoid because trade restrictions hurt businesses and consumers in the country imposing them. But the purpose of permitting a WTO member to withdraw concessions in response to another Member’s violations and persistent non-compliance is, ultimately, to encourage compliance by bringing otherwise dormant domestic pressures to bear on the offending government. The threat of retaliation along with publication of a target list essentially broadens the dispute by creating more stakeholders – specifically, domestic stakeholders with an interest in compliance.  In 2002, when the United States imposed restrictions on steel imports from most countries, which were found to violate the WTO Safeguards Agreement, the EU’s retaliation list included products known to be important to organized lobbies or states with particular relevance to congressional and presidential electoral outcomes – products such as citrus, textiles, and motorcycles. The credible threat of retaliation against these and other industries created a powerful political constituency encouraging compliance with the WTO ruling by ending the steel restrictions, which also brought U.S. producers and consumers the benefits of lower steel prices.

In the cotton case, instead of achieving compliance and reducing burdens on U.S. taxpayers, the targets of Brazilian retaliation managed to get themselves out of harm’s way, but at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. Any leverage to compel the U.S. government to do the right thing and rein in the cotton subsidies has been spent. Hufbauer’s outlook differs:

Brazil’s agreement to drop its WTO case against US cotton subsidies (specifically an export credit program known as GSM-102) and not to launch a new case expires at the same time that the US Agricultural Act of 2014 expires in 2018. What this means is that the US Congress in 2018 will face pressure not to renew a subsidy program that enriches a few already rich American farmers.

The problem with that logic is that the same “pressure” existed this year, before Congress passed the farm bill.  Yet, the Agricultural Act of 2014 includes the same offensive provisions for cotton.  Moreover, what incentives exist for Congress “not to renew a subsidy program that enriches a few already rich American farmers” if the price of buying four more years of peace is a comparably reasonable $0.90 per person?”

Settlements like these may appease the primary governments involved in the dispute, but they leave unresolved the original sins, which impose a lot of collateral damage on a variety of interests.  In that regard, settlements are failures.

Finally, if the cotton settlement and the tobacco settlement (the latter is described by Bill Watson here today) – which both, essentially, release the United States from its WTO commitments in exchange for some form of payment to the complainant – are portrayed as trade policy successes, it will be just a matter of time before WTO adjudication devolves into a claims court before descending into irrelevance.

08 Oct 13:47

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 38 of Steve Landsburg’s insightful 1997 book, Fair Play (original emphasis; link added):

A few years ago I published a book called The Armchair Economist in which I argued that bipartisanship in Congress should be treated as a violation of antitrust law.  We don’t allow the presidents of United and American Airlines to conspire against the public; why should we allow the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties to conspire?  I got a note back from a copy editor asking whether there wasn’t actually a key difference, in the sense that the airline presidents are conspiring to break laws, while the politicians are conspiring to make laws.  I wrote back, asking if he had any historical evidence as to which of these activities was more likely to be harmful.  My guess is that making laws is on average worse than breaking them.

(Of course, by “laws” Steve here means “legislation” – for the state makes, not law, but legislation.)

08 Oct 08:00

Moral Panics Of 1878: NY Times Warns People About The Evils Of Thomas Edison's Aerophone

by Mike Masnick
We discuss moral panics, past and present, pretty frequently to make a key point: for all the fears you hear about today's technologies, there were similar (almost always unfounded) fears for new technologies in the past. And, in retrospect, almost all of them look silly. Among my favorites were when chess or the waltz were going to undermine society. However, the NY Times' archivist, Evan Sandhaus has an amusing example (via Mathew Ingram) concerning that time, back in 1878, when the NY Times editorialized against Thomas Edison's phonograph and aereophone, for the fact that they could destroy everyone's privacy. Here's just the beginning: You can read the rest at the link above or embedded below (oh yeah: and this was written in 1878, so contrary to the NY Times' totally bogus copyright claim on the PDF below, the content is public domain). The whole thing is hilarious, first railing against Edison (who has apparently "invented too many things") and then against the phonograph for destroying privacy and making it impossible for anyone to talk to anyone any more:

Something ought to be done to Mr. EDISON, and there is a growing conviction that it had better be done with a hemp rope. Mr. EDISON has invented too many things, and almost without exception they are things of the most deleterious character. He has been addicted to electricity for many years, and it is not very long ago that he became notorious for having discovered a new force, though he has since kept it care- fully concealed, either upon his person or elsewhere. Recently he invented the phone- graph, a machine that catches the lightest whisper of conversation and stores it up, so that at any future time it can be brought out, to the confusion of the original speaker. This machine will eventually destroy all confidence between man and man, and render more dangerous than ever woman's want of confidence in woman. No man can feel sure that wherever he may be there is not a concealed phonograph remorseless gathering up his remarks and ready to reproduce them at some future date. Who will be willing, even in the bosom of his family, to express any but most innocuous and colorless views and what woman when calling on a female friend, and waiting for the latter to make her appearance in the drawing-room, will dare to express her opinion of the wretched taste displayed in the furniture, or the hideous appearance of the family photographs ? In the days of persecution and it was said, though with poetical exaggeration, that the walls had ears.

Thanks to Mr. Edison's perverted ingenuity, this has not only become a literal truth, but every shelf, closet, or floor may now have its concealed phonographic ears. No young man will venture to carry on a private conversation with a young lady, lest he should be filling a secret phonograph with evidence that, in a breach of promise suit, would secure an immediate verdict against him, and our very small-boys will fear to express themselves with childish freedom, lest the phonograph should report them as having used the name of "gosh," or as having to "bust the snoot" of the long-suffering governess. The phonograph was, at the time of its invention, the most terrible example of depraved ingenuity which the world had seen; but Mr. EDISON has since reached a still more conspicuous peak of scientific infamy by inventing the aerophone--an instrument far more devastating in its effects and fraught with the destruction of human society.
Yes, now we move on to the aerophone. The true worry of the moralists at the NY Times. For the aerophone, you see, can make voices louder. Fear the innovation:
The aerophone is apparently a modification of the phonograph. In fact, it is a phonograph which converts whispers into roars. If, for example, you mention, within hearing of the aerophone, that you regard Mr. HAYES as the; greatest and best man that America has yet produced, that atrocious instrument may overwhelm you with shame by repeating your remark in a tone that can be heard no less than four miles. Mr. EDISON, with characteristic effrontery, represents this as a useful and beneficent invention. He says that an aerophone can be attached to a locomotive, and that with its aid the engineer can request persons to "look out for the locomotive" who are nearing a railway crossing four miles distant from the train. He also boasts that he will attach an aerophone to the gigantic statue of "Liberty." Which France is to present to this country, provided we will raise money enough to pay for it, and that the statue will thus be able to welcome incoming vessels in the Lower Bay, and to warn them not to come up to the City in case Mr. STANLEY MATTHEWS is delivering an oration on the currency, or Mr. Cox is making a comic speech at Tammany Hall. Were the aerophone to be confined strictly to these uses, it prove a comparatively unobjectionable intstrument; but no man can loose a whirlwind and guarantee that its ravages shall be confined to Chicago, or to some other place where it may do positive good.
There is some talk about the threat of this horrible invention on "dumb wives" and "dumb husbands" which we will skip over here, and then it gets to the next fear: the public being overwhelmed with everyone blasting their speech for four miles with aerophones. Oh the cacophony.
Our present vocal powers are always used to their full capacity. Everybody talks with about the same volume of voice, and when the aerophone comes into use, people will universally talk as loudly as the instrument will permit. When ninety-nine people out of a hundred converse with the aerophone, there will be such a roar of conversation that the hundredth person, who may speak in his natural voice, cannot be heard. We can only faintly imagine the horrible results of the general introduction of the aerophone. Wives residing in suburban Jersey villages will call to their'husbands at their places of business in the City, and require information as to subjects of purely domestic interest. Mothers whose children have wandered out of sight will howl over a four-mile tract of country direful threats as to the flaying alive which awaits James Henry and Ann Eliza unless they instantly come home. From morning till midnight our ears will be tortured with the uproar of aerophonic talk, and deaf men will be looked upon as the favored few to whom nature has made life tolerable.
I love the fear of having to hear talk of "purely domestic interest." And, in the end, could anything less that the entire destruction of society follow as a result?
The result will be the complete disorganization of society. Men and women will flee from civilization and seek in the silence of the forest relief from the roar of count- less aerophones. Business, marriage, and all social amusements will be thrown aside, except by totally deaf men, and America will retrogade to the Stone Age with frightful rapidity. Better is a dinner of raw turnips in a damp cave than a banquet at DELMONICO'S within hearing of ten thousand aerophones. Far better is it to starve in solitude than to possess all the luxuries of civilization at the price of hearing every remark that is made within a radius of four miles. It may be too late to suppress the aerophone now, but at least there is time to visit upon the head of its inventor the just indignation of his fellow-countrymen.
Frankly, the whole thing is so over the top and outrageous that it almost feels like parody of similar moral panics, but it does seem to be legit. Consider this when comparing it to today's moral panics, like Google Glass, mobile phones in general, autonomous cars, personal drones and a variety of other technologies. Perhaps one day we'll learn not to pre-freak out, but it doesn't appear to be happening just yet.

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07 Oct 21:56

Who’d a-Thunk It?

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Government officials violate the public trust – in this case by, well, let the New York Times tell the tale of how the ballyhooed-at-its-birth 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement isn’t quite working out as planned:

Only a small fraction of the money has gone to tobacco prevention. Instead, the states have used the windfall for various and unrelated expenditures. In Alaska, $3.5 million in settlement money was spent on shipping docks. In Niagara County, N.Y., $700,000 went for a public golf course’s sprinkler system, and $24 million for a county jail and an office building. And in North Carolina, in the ultimate irony, $42 million of the settlement funds actually went to tobacco farmers for modernization and marketing.

But that’s not all: Nine states — Alaska, California, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia — and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam decided to get as much of those annual payments as fast as they could by mortgaging any future payments as collateral and issuing bonds. They traded their future lifetime income for cash today — at only pennies on the dollar.

Shocker.  Fine pronouncements and loud boasts from 16 years ago about irresponsible tobacco companies finally being held accountable by responsible (!) government officials are proven false – all up in smoke – and in ways that yet further reveal the explanatory power of public-choice economics.  Isn’t the miracle in the government-intervention formula supposed to prevent such shenanigans?  Maybe next time the miracle will finally work!  Or is government incurably cancerous?

(I thank Peter Minowitz for the pointer to this NYT report.)