Shared posts

07 Oct 19:12

4-Year-Old Thinks Heroin is Candy, Distributes Hundreds of Packets at School...


4-Year-Old Thinks Heroin is Candy, Distributes Hundreds of Packets at School...


(Third column, 24th story, link)
Related stories:
07 Oct 17:15

Journalist Enters Closed Public Park, Finds Self in Federal Court, Ends Up Scrubbing Toilets

by Zenon Evans

Here's a story to really make you question where "criminal" and "justice" fit into the criminal justice system. Zach Bowman is an editor at RoadandTrack.com, an automotive magazine. Last October, he decided to ride a motorcycle in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was closed due to the federal government shutdown. This year, he almost went to jail for it.

Bowman makes light of the situation in an Esquire article last week, but he chronicles an uncomfortable instance of law enforcement going overboard on victimless crime, seemingly just to make an example of someone. He writes:

Rangers don't take kindly to publicly mocking the government shutdown by riding a motorcycle through a closed national park. That's especially true when you write a piece about it. I'd netted three citations for my efforts, including traveling the wrong way on a one-way road, ignoring a public closure, and operating a motor vehicle off of designated trails.

He wasn't putting any lives at risk, since not even the rangers were there. They only found out about Bowman's stunt after he published his article about it. Two weeks passed before the citations came in the mail:

Combined, these were good for up to 18 months of incarceration or $15,000 in fines. To make matters more endearing, the offenses occurred on federal land, which meant each was a genuine misdemeanor, the kind that go in the box under "HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A MISDEMEANOR" on job applications and unpleasant conversations with in-laws.

His lawyer worked a deal by which he did community service. "I swapped 40 hours of my life, plus 10 hours of commuting, for two perfect hours in a park I've loved all my life." Those 40 hours were spent scrubbing park bathrooms, among other dirty jobs.

Bowman figures that "everyone should have to deep clean a public toilet at least once, just to get a first-hand feel for how horrible humanity is as a species."

It's great that he documented the shitty experience, but I think he missed the point (and a great metaphor for dealing with government); No one "should have to" do manual labor just because lawmakers couldn't agree on a budget and a few park rangers couldn't take a joke.

Bowman's an entertaining writer nonetheless. Read his full account here, and his other writing here.

07 Oct 15:27

The U.S. Fall in Economic Freedom and the Rule of Law

by Ian Vásquez

Ian Vásquez

The United States is the 12th  freest economy in the world according to the new Economic Freedom of the World report. Co-published today by Cato and the Fraser Institute, it finds a strong relationship between economic freedom and human well-being.

The U.S. ranking is part of a worrisome decline in economic freedom that began more than a decade ago. For decades, the United States ranked in second or third place on the index. In 2000 it was #2, yet by 2005 it ranked 8 and it continued its precipitous fall until recently. On a 0-10 scale, the U.S. rating is now 7.81 compared to 7.74 last year, a slight improvement. The level of economic freedom in the United States is lower today than it was in 1980. Since 2005, Canada has ranked higher than the United States.

The authors of the report note that the United States has fallen in all five areas that they measure: size of government; legal system and property rights; sound money; freedom to trade; and regulation. But the rule-of-law indicator (legal system and property rights) has seen the biggest decline and, as the graph shows, it has been enormous.

The U.S. Decline

The measured deterioration in the rule of law is consistent with scholarship in that field and, according to the report, is a result of “increased use of eminent domain to transfer property to powerful political interests, the ramifications of the wars on terrorism and drugs,” and other property rights violations. Because the rule of law is of course a cornerstone not just of economic freedom but of all freedoms, and because there is a strong relationship between economic freedom and other liberties (civil and political), all Americans should be concerned with the findings of the report.

A deterioration in the rule of law should also be of special concern to Hong Kong, the top ranked territory in the index, where recent protests highlight the danger that Beijing’s interference in its legal system, including the perception of such, poses to the overall freedoms and economic success of Hong Kong.

06 Oct 16:23

Picturing Venezuela's Surreal Prices

by Tyler Durden

Via Avax News,

Venezuela's economic crisis has led to some shocking and surreal price distortions that hit people's buying power dramatically. While the government of President Nicolas Maduro calls the country's minimum wage of Bs. 4,252 the highest in the region when converted to $675 using the official exchange rate, the galloping black market for currency considers it as just $42.50 when converted at the street rate of Bs. 100 per US dollar, the rate which many importers and retail outlets must use to acquire hard currency. Venezuela's annual inflation rate of more than 63 percent is the highest in the Americas, according to official statistics.

A box of 36 coloured pencils as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $115 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 725 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. Venezuela's economic crisis has led to some shocking and surreal price distortions that hit people's buying power dramatically. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A box of 36 coloured pencils as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $115 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 725 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014.  (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A Goodyear brand automobile tyre as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $753 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 4,750 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A Goodyear brand automobile tyre as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $753 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 4,750 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

An aluminium pressure cooker as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $507 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 3,200 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

An aluminium pressure cooker as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $507 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 3,200 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A five-gallon bucket of house paint as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $528 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 3,329 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A five-gallon bucket of house paint as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $528 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 3,329 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A can of Coca-Cola as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $5.56 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 35 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A can of Coca-Cola as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $5.56 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 35 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A pair of Stanley brand household pliers as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $121 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 765 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A pair of Stanley brand household pliers as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $121 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 765 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A Samsung 32" plasma TV as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $5,476 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 34,500 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A Samsung 32" plasma TV as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $5,476 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 34,500 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A kilogram (2.2 lbs) of raw carrots as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $19.05 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 120 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A kilogram (2.2 lbs) of raw carrots as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $19.05 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 120 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

An Adidas Adipure Crazy running shoe as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $1,198 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 7,547 (bolivars) a pair of them costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

An Adidas Adipure Crazy running shoe as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $1,198 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 7,547 (bolivars) a pair of them costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A Big Mac as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $14.60 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 92 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A Big Mac as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $14.60 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 92 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A locally produced bath towel as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $136 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 859 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A locally produced bath towel as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $136 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 859 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A hair dryer as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $697 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 4,392 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A hair dryer as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $697 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 4,392 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A Barbie doll as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $194 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 1,226 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A Barbie doll as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $194 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 1,226 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A household broom as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $24.60 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 155 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A household broom as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $24.60 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 155 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A 50 lb. (22.7 kg) bag of Purina Dog Chow as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $272 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 1,716 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A 50 lb. (22.7 kg) bag of Purina Dog Chow as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $272 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 1,716 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 

A 75-watt incandescent light bulb as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $13.51 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 85.12 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

A 75-watt incandescent light bulb as photographed in a studio with an illustrative price tag of $13.51 (US dollars), equivalent to the Bs. 85.12 (bolivars) that it costs on average to purchase in Caracas at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar, in Caracas September 29, 2014. (Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

*  *  *

Coming to America near you sooner than you think...as we noted previously, "the road to poverty is paved with small inflations."

06 Oct 01:18

'FACE THE NATION' Edits Out Criticism of Obama...


'FACE THE NATION' Edits Out Criticism of Obama...


(Third column, 17th story, link)
Related stories:
03 Oct 18:52

CIA Inspector General Can't Find A Single Example Of CIA Overclassification

by Mike Masnick
A few days ago, we wrote about the CIA redacting information regarding the price it paid for a single Amiga computer back in 1987. After such news reports came out, the CIA admitted that this was an error and shouldn't have been redacted. Of course, the only reason the documents with that information came out in the first place was because of the efforts of former CIA agent Jeffrey Scudder, who had come across a bunch of classified documents internally that he realized should no longer be classified. Based on that, he filed a FOIA request for those documents -- leading the FBI to come after him and end his CIA career (despite his actions being entirely legal).

It's hard not to see all of that as evidence that the CIA has a pretty serious overclassification problem. But don't tell that to the CIA. A newly (yes) declassified report from the CIA's Inspector General reveals that they could not find a single example of overclassification by the CIA. None. Nada. The CIA has a perfect score, apparently. They do admit to finding errors in how some information was recorded, but not a single case of overclassification: If you can't see the image, the key part is:
We found no instance of over-classification in the sample of [REDACTED] finished intelligence reports that we reviewed
Admittedly, the number of reports reviewed is classified here, so perhaps the Inspector General just reviewed one. Or zero. But, uh, wait a second... why is the number of reports reviewed classified in the first place? The number is listed as (b)(3) exemption, which tells you basically nothing. It just incorporates things exempted by other statutes. Basically, it's saying there's some law out there that forbids us from revealing this. Of course, one could argue that this seems like a case of overclassification... in the report that insists that the Inspector General couldn't find any examples of overclassification.

Still, it seems like it should raise some alarm bells when they can't find a single example. It's like cheating students, with poor test-taking history, who suddenly get all the answers correct. It should make the teacher more skeptical. Cheating students often know to at least get one or two answers wrong on purpose, and it's fairly amazing that the CIA couldn't find any examples of overclassification just to keep the red flags from being raised. But, then again, who are we kidding? This is the CIA and it's never been concerned with red flags. It throws them up left and right and no one seems to care.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story







03 Oct 18:07

Why America's Not Ready For An Ebola Outbreak (In 1 Photo)

by Tyler Durden

Because nothing says "safety precautions" like rolled-up sleeves on a HazMat suit...

 

 

h/t Kirk B

*  *  *

And here is a gentleman jet-washing the puke from the pavement outside the Texas Ebola victim's apartment building...

 

HD Chopper 8 caught crews cleaning the sidewalk outside the Ivy Apartments where the #Ebola patient stayed. pic.twitter.com/Tl7CVVzVvH

— WFAA TV (@wfaachannel8) October 2, 2014

03 Oct 15:19

Almost No One Wants To Host The Olympics, Because It's A Costly, Corrupt Mess

by Mike Masnick
For many years, we've written about questionable activities by the Olympics, usually focusing on the organization's insanely aggressive approach to intellectual property, which could be summed up as "we own and control everything." Yes, the Olympics requires countries to pass special laws that protect its trademarks and copyrights beyond what standard laws allow. Of course, this is really much more about control and money. It's simply shining a light on just how corrupt the whole Olympic setup is. For decades, the Olympics has tried to hide this basic truth, and it has always been able to get various cities and countries to actively compete to suffer through the Olympics requirements, often with promises of big money in tourism and local business as a result. But it looks like jig may be up.

As Dan Wetzel notes, it appears that almost no one has any interest in hosting the 2022 Olympics. The only active attempts are Beijing (which is 120 miles from a mountain suitable for skiing) and Almaty Kazakhstan. All the other credible players have bailed out:

Certainly not Oslo, Norway, not even at the bargain rate of an estimated $5.4 billion in a nation of just five million people. It once wanted desperately to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and its bid was so perfect that it was considered the favorite to win. Then the country held a vote earlier this year and 55.9 percent of Norwegians opposed.

Wednesday the Norwegian government effectively pulled the bid. Norwegians are known for the ability to cross country ski really fast and being so friendly they beg visitors to come experience their picturesque nation. Since this involved the IOC however, they decided against having visitors come experience their picturesque nation to watch them cross country ski really fast.

They aren't alone. Previous finalist Krakow, Poland, saw 70 percent voter opposition and pulled its application. A majority felt the same way in Germany and Switzerland, killing bids in Munich and St. Moritz respectively. In Sweden the majority party rejected funding the proposed games in Stockholm.

Plenty of other countries didn't even bother thinking about it. As Wetzel points out, basically the only two countries interested are authoritarian regimes:
Essentially the only places interested in hosting the 2022 games are countries where actual citizens aren't allowed a real say in things – communist China and Kazakhstan, a presidential republic that coincidentally has only had one president since it split from the old USSR in 1989.
To sum it up:
Essentially the entire world has told the IOC it's a corrupt joke.
Don't hold back:
The IOC has billions of dollars laying around and billions more coming because to most people the Olympics is just a television show and the ratings are so high that the broadcast rights will never go down. The IOC doesn't pay the athletes. It doesn't share revenue with host countries. It doesn't pay for countries to send their athletes. It doesn't lay out any construction or capital costs. It doesn't pay taxes.

It basically holds caviar rich meetings in five star hotels in the Alps before calling it a day. That and conduct weak investigations into corruption charges of the bidding process, of course. "No evidence uncovered" is on a win streak.

It's a heck of a racket.
Except now the racket may be ending. Except for China and Kazakhstan. Wetzel's conclusion is spot on:
So China or Kazakhstan it is, the last two suckers on earth willing to step up to this carnival barker.

One lucky nation will win. The other will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The Olympics are from another era -- one of top down, "we control and own everything while paying none" variety. We've seen those types of businesses failing in lots of other arenas -- and now it may be happening to the Olympics as well.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story







03 Oct 02:07

Quotation of the day….

by Mark J. Perry

… is from George Gerbner:

Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures….They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities.

02 Oct 18:09

Another City Dodges the Olympic Bullet

by Zenon Evans

Breaking news: Some politicians do understand budgets and respect their constituents wishes. Yesterday the Norwegian government voted against guaranteeing finances for the 2022 Winter Olympics, thereby ensuring the capital of Oslo would have to back out of the bidding process. Five other cities already jumped ship, leaving Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan the only two in the running.

Deadspin notes that "in a non-binding referendum in February, 55.9 percent of Norwegians said they didn't want the Games." The site also highlights some of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ridiculous, costly demands, like a cocktail party on the king's dime:

  • Cars and drivers for IOC members, with special dedicated highway lanes
  • Street lights synchronized to prioritize IOC traffic
  • Separate airport entrance for IOC members
  • Hotel mini-bars must have only Coca-Cola products
  • Samsung phones for all IOC members
  • All meeting rooms must be kept at exactly 68 degrees.
  • All furniture must have "Olympic appearance."
  • "IOC members will be received with a smile on arrival at hotel"

"The overall price tag was put at $51 billion, scaring off politicians and taxpayers and leaving the International Olympic Committee with a major image crisis," reports the Associated Press. Who could blame those Norwegians? The IOC, apparently. The committee shot back with this zinger: "Senior politicians in Norway appear not to have been properly briefed on the process and were left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies."

Seriously? Just look at Russia which this past winter hosted the most expensive games to date, or Greece which hosted the then-most expensive games 10 years ago. The Olympic stadiums are in ruins, the former country is on the brink of recession, and the latter still has one of the world's stinkiest debt problems. They aren't outliers and this ain't a new phenomenon.

Explains Yahoo:

Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system.

It's a recurring problem with big events that require big stadiums and promise big money, and America isn't immune. In the bankrupt city of Detroit, political leaders are still pushing for a taxpayer subsidized hockey stadium that simply cannot bring in the revenue the politicians promise.

Even when money isn't the primary issue, the process reeks of bad juju: Orlando only recently decided to drop an eminent domain case against a family-owned church that the city hoped to pave over for a Major League Soccer stadium.

In the National Football League (NFL), the teams of which are owned mostly by billionaires who are good at twisting the arms of legislators: eighty-seven percent of stadium capital financing comes out of taxpayer dollars, according to ESPN columnist Gregg Easterbrook. While the NFL promises Super Bowl host cities will make $500 to 600 million from all the tourism, sports economist Robert Baade figures "$50 to $60 million would be a generous appraisal."

No smart city should want an NFL team, explains Reason TV's Alexis Garcia. The same applies for the Olympics:

02 Oct 09:06

Meanwhile In Hong Kong "Tonight Is Going To Get Messy"

by Tyler Durden

While overnight the massive student protest crowd swelled to as much as 200,000 according to eyewitnesses as today's deadline for their demands that HK Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying resign arrives, the gathering was surprisingly peaceful. That may change at any moment.

BREAKING: Hong Kong police warn of serious consequences if protesters charge government buildings

— The Associated Press (@AP) October 2, 2014

As Bloomberg reports, student leaders yesterday said they would escalate the protests and may surround Leung’s residence, which overlooks Central, if he didn’t resign today. This morning, about 100 police officers guarded the road outside the office, a rectangular low-rise block that’s part of the government headquarters complex in Admiralty, facing about 200 protesters wearing black T-shirts.

AP adds that the Hong Kong police have warned of "serious consequences" if pro-democracy protesters try to charge or surround government buildings.

Police spokesman Steve Hui said Thursday that authorities would not tolerate any illegal surrounding of government buildings. He urged the protesters, who want top leader Leung Chun-ying to resign, to remain calm and restrained.

 

The protesters gave a midnight Thursday deadline for Leung to resign and for the government to respond to their demands for a change in political reform plans devised by Beijing.

And according to one SCMP reporter, today's escalation may have already begun, and "tonight is going to get messy":

Tensions rising as a stream of police stream into Tamar with riot gear. Crowds jeering and chanting "shame on you!"

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

Police entering through a very narrow between a stone wall and a wall of protesters. Getting intense. Police recording everything.

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

Crowds pin police against wall, shouting "you can not enter". Police shuttling in huge wooden crates. More gas tonight?!

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

Wow, crowds surging. Police trying to maintain supply line. Protesters are gearing up for gas - goggles are being passed around.

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

Police are carrying a boxes labelled "batons" and metal "flammable" tins. Tonight is going to get messy.

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

Hundreds of police entering Tamar. Crowds now screaming at cops. Student leader had the mike: "the police are liars" he screams.

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

 

"Police, you are CYs condom," screams one student in English. Huge jeering of officers. Few gweilo cops around. Scuffles!

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

And the punchline:

The wall the police are sandwiched against belongs to PLA barracks btw. They're looking down at the crowds.

— Bryan Harris (@bryanhimself) October 2, 2014

Should the protest turn violent again, with tear gas and/or water cannon, keep a close eye on what the PLA will do: so far they have stayed out of it, but if the Police start losing control of the situation, things may escalate very quickly.

01 Oct 20:08

Iowa Troopers Steal $100,000 in Poker Winnings From Two Players Driving Through the State

by Jacob Sullum

The Des Moines Register highlights an Iowa forfeiture case, the subject of a federal lawsuit filed this week, in which state troopers took $100,000 in winnings from two California poker players traveling through the state on their way back from a World Series of Poker event in Joliet, Illinois. The case illustrates several of the themes I discussed in a recent column explaining how cops became highway robbers:

Cops can always find an excuse to stop you. On the morning of April 15, 2013, Trooper Justin Simmons, who is part of an "interdiction team" that looks for contraband and money to seize, pulled over William Davis and John Newmer­zhycky, who were traveling west on Interstate 80 in a rental car, a red Nissan Altima. Simmons later said he had received a vague tip from "an Illinois law enforcement officer" to be on the lookout for a red car, but he did not know why. Obviously that did not rise to the level of reasonable suspicion, which Simmons needed to stop the car. So instead he claimed that he pulled Davis and Newmer­zhycky over because Newmer­zhycky, who was driving, failed to signal as he passed a black SUV. But as can be seen in the video recorded by Simmons' dashcam (starting around the 00:28 mark), Newmer­zhycky did signal. In the absence of such contrary evidence, cops are free to invent minor traffic infractions to justify a stop they want to conduct for other reasons. Although it does not condone such prevarication, the Supreme Court has said any valid legal reason makes a stop constitutional, even if it's a pretext for a more ambitious investigation. The Register reports that its "review of 22,000 warnings and citations given by the [interdiction] teams from 2008 to 2012 showed that 86 percent went to non-Iowans." Because Iowans are much better drivers, of course.

Cops can extend a traffic stop after issuing a citation or a warning, provided the motorist "consents." Around the 1:27 mark in the video at the top of the Register's story, after Simmons has ostensibly concluded his business and sent Newmerzhycky on his way, he pulls a Columbo, engaging Newmerzhycky in a conversation-cum-interrogation about the real object of the stop. "Hey, John?" he says as Newmerzhycky starts returning to his car. "Do you have time for a couple of questions? Do you have something illegal in the car?" Things quickly go downhill from there. Newmerzhycky denies having drugs or large amounts of cash. Simmons asks for permission to search the car. Newmerzhycky says no. Simmons asks if it's OK to bring a police dog by for a sniff. "I'd prefer to be on my way," Newmerzhycky says. Simmons asks again. "Do I have the right to say no to that?" Newmerzhycky asks. He does, since he is officially free to go at this point. Simmons answers the legal question honestly, and Newmerzhycky reiterates his desire to be on his way.

A dog sniff is not a search, but it can justify a search. Refusing to take no for an answer, Simmons says Newmerzhycky seems nervous (who wouldn't be in these circumstances?), and he uses that observation as justification for calling Trooper Eric VanderWiel, a K-9 officer with a drug-detecting dog. That move is highly suspect, since the Supreme Court has said police may not forcibly extend a routine traffic stop merely to wait for a drug-sniffing dog. At the same time, the Court says an olfactory inspection by a canine is not a search and can be conducted at will, without any evidence of criminal activity, provided a traffic stop is not "unnecessarily prolonged." VanderWiel's dog supposedly alerted to the back of the car, at a point where the dog was conveniently hidden from the dashcam. In practice, such an assertion gives cops a license to search any car they want, since "a court can presume" a police dog's alert by itself provides probable cause unless the defendant proves the animal is unreliable.

Cash is inherently suspicious. The troopers found $85,000 inside Davis' locked briefcase, plus another $15,000 in Newmerzhycky's computer bag, where they also found a grinder with bits of marijuana in it, which resulted in a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia—the only Iowa charge brought against either man. (Both bags were in the trunk, so maybe the dog really did smell contraband—or maybe she is trained to smell cash.) Naturally, Newmerzhycky's denial that he was carrying a lot of currency counted as evidence that he was up to no good, although it is not hard to see why an innocent person might lie in this situation, especially given how things turned out. But the truth is that police automatically assume large sums of cash must be related to drug trafficking or other criminal activity. They have a strong incentive to do so, since they get to keep the money. In Iowa law enforcement agencies receive 100 percent of the proceeds from civil forfeitures they initiate. From 2011 through 2013, the Register reports, Iowa's interdiction teams seized about $7 million in cash from motorists.

"There is absolutely nothing illegal or uncommon about people driving through the United States with out-of-state plates...and carrying amounts of cash," the lawyer who filed Davis and Newmerzhycky's lawsuit tells the Register. "There's nothing illegal about carrying cash, and yet law enforcement begins to treat individuals who are carrying cash as if they are criminals." Ultimately the state agreed to return $90,000 of the two men's money, a third of which was consumed by legal fees.

That was not the end of their trouble. "Both of their California homes were searched the next day by law enforcement based on a tip from an Iowa agent," the Register notes. Although both men have state-issued cards identifying them as patients allowed to use cannabis for symptom relief, the paper says, they still faced "felony drug charges" because of the marijuana found in their homes. According to Davis and Newmerzhycky's California lawyer, prosecutors dropped those charges after watching the video of the traffic stop.  

In their lawsuit, Davis and Newmerzhycky argue that the stop, the search, and the seizure were unconstitutional. They want the rest of their money back, plus compensation for their ensuing troubles, including a stroke that Newmerzhycky attributes to the stress caused by the criminal charges.

[Thanks to Joe Kristan for the tip.]

01 Oct 15:17

How Bad Could It Get? US Government Order Of 160,000 HazMat Suits Gives A Clue

by Tyler Durden

Now that Ebola is officially in the US on an uncontrolled basis, the two questions on everyone's lips are i) who will get sick next and ii) how bad could it get?

We don't know the answer to question #1 just yet, but when it comes to the second one, a press release three weeks ago from Lakeland Industries, a manufacturer and seller of a "comprehensive line of safety garments and accessories for the industrial protective clothing market" may provide some insight into just how bad the US State Department thinks it may get. Because when the US government buys 160,000 hazmat suits specifically designed against Ebola, just ahead of the worst Ebola epidemic in history making US landfall, one wonders: what do they know the we don't?

From Lakeland Industries:

Lakeland Industries, Inc. (LAKE), a leading global manufacturer of industrial protective clothing for industry, municipalities, healthcare and to first responders on the federal, state and local levels, today announced the global availability of its protective apparel for use in handling the Ebola virus.  In response to the increasing demand for specialty protective suits to be worm by healthcare workers and others being exposed to Ebola, Lakeland is increasing its manufacturing capacity for these garments and includes proprietary processes for specialized seam sealing, a far superior technology for protecting against viral hazards than non-sealed products.

 

"Lakeland stands ready to join the fight against the spread of Ebola," said Christopher J. Ryan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lakeland Industries.  "We understand the difficulty of getting appropriate products through a procurement system that in times of crisis favors availability over specification, and we hope our added capacity will help alleviate that problem.  With the U.S. State Department alone putting out a bid for 160,000 suits, we encourage all protective apparel companies to increase their manufacturing capacity for sealed seam garments so that our industry can do its part in addressing this threat to global health.

Of course, purchases by the US government are bought and paid for by taxpayers. For everyone else there's $1200 mail-order delivery:

 

That said... 160,000 HazMats for a disease that is supposedly not airborne? Mmmk.

01 Oct 06:00

Your Personal Ghosts

My childhood wasn't the good kind. I had a medical problem that kept me in intestinal agony every hour I was awake from the time I was a toddler until I was eighteen. I learned to mask my pain from others, and extreme discomfort simply became my normal. Even my siblings will be reading about it here for the first time. Only my late parents and our family doctor knew.

My grandmother was my parents' babysitter of choice. She was an obese, superstitious, angry woman who hadn't finished grade school. She believed that any unwanted behavior in a child could be corrected with a sufficient application of mental or physical punishment. Pain was her only childrearing tool. This wasn't unusual in her day. The problem in my case is that she interpreted my medical problems as behavior problems and she made it her mission to fix me. She used pain to try to fix my pain.

I'll spare you the details from those years because I wouldn't wish them to be in your head. But just to size it, she would be in jail if she got caught doing any of it in 2014. And had she survived until my adulthood I would have been tempted to kill her just to keep her away from other children.

I didn't tell anyone about my experience because I couldn't make my mouth form the words. And I mean that literally; it is like a frozen mouth experience.  I still can't talk about the details.

I'm not looking for sympathy because everyone has their own ghosts. And I have no reason to believe my ghosts are worse than yours. We live in a fucked-up world. But what might differ is our interpretation of our experiences.

My interpretation of my childhood is that it conferred on me a sort of superpower. Unlike some of you, I know how far I can go without breaking. That means I only have to ask myself one question about any potential path: Do I want it enough to pay the price?

I never worry that I am embarking on a path that will be too hard. I know what hard looks like and I know it didn't break me even as a kid. That doesn't mean I'm tough; I am far from it. But I do have the advantage of knowing how far I can bend without breaking. If you don't have that knowledge, you can never feel safe choosing a path with a lot of bending ahead.

Everyone has ghosts. You can let them haunt you forever or you can make them your bitches. Consider the latter.

--------------------------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 


 

01 Oct 11:00

Feds Whack Map Apps

by Katherine Mangu-Ward

The Obama administration wants to cripple the navigation and traffic reporting apps on your smartphone-in the name of safety, of course.

Provisions in the proposed transportation bill would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the power to regulate apps like Google Maps and Waze, the crowd- sourced traffic reporting tool. Congress passed stopgap transportation funding for the next 10 months in July, but more significant reforms are still under debate.

Regulators plan to start with automobiles' built-in navigation devices, since regulatory authority is clearer there. Possible "features" include limiting inputs when the car is in motion or making users click a button declaring themselves passengers.

But useless onboard navigation systems mean drivers will turn to their smartphones, so the feds are looking to slap some new rules on those too. The impulse to make rules against distracted driving has a long and not terribly glorious pedigree, dating back to efforts to stop fiddling with the dial when radios first started appearing in cars. In recent years, talking and texting bans have become increasingly popular, but have failed to show clear positive results and may even cause harm. (See "Text Ban Fail," below.)

In related news, a group beholden to Congress and run by a former top transportation bureaucrat strongly believes that the government should act. "We absolutely need to be looking at these nomadic devices," Deborah A.P. Hersman-president of the congressionally chartered nonprofit the National Safety Council, and a former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board-told The New York Times in June.

01 Oct 12:51

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 109 of Michael Huemer’s insightful and powerful 2013 book, The Problem of Political Authority:

Respect for authority was Hitler’s key weapon.  The same is true of all the greatest man-made evils.  No one has ever managed, working alone, to kill over a million people.  Nor has anyone ever arranged such an evil by appealing to the profit motive, pure self-interest, or moral suasion to secure the cooperation of others – except by relying on institutions of political authority.  With the help of such institutions, many such crimes have been carried out, accounting for tens of millions of deaths, along with many more ruined lives.

30 Sep 21:06

First diagnosis in USA...

30 Sep 14:31

Town Wants to Ban Cameras After Cop’s Obama Rant Goes Viral

by Ted Balaker

Nanny of the Month turns five years old this month, and after all these years busybodies still delight in making it it their business to mind your business. Back in September 2009, control freaks put everything from shark tours to apple pie on their hit list. How about this month?

Careful where you toss those table scraps, because Seattle has given garbage collectors the power to fine residents who aren't all in on composting.

A Minnesota pol is going Four Loko over the latest alcohol innovation. The manufacturer of Palcohol says its powdered alcohol will will be a hit with everyone from airlines to backpackers (astronauts?). But if state Rep. Joe Atkins (D) has his way, Gopher State backpackers will be banned from pairing their campfire fried eggs with a freeze-dried Bloody Mary. (The feds now say they approved Palcohol by mistake.)

But on this very special episode, Nanny of the Month zeros in the Garden State.

Remember Richard Recine, the (now former) Helmetta, New Jersey, special officer caught on video declaring that he does not have to abide by the Constitution since "Obama decimated the friggin' Constitution"?

Helmetta officials were plenty embarrassed when the video went viral, and yet they chose to honor the spirit of Recine's rant by pushing for a ban on photography and video in public buildings.

Under the proposed ordinance, citizens would need a permit to capture such moments of candor in the future, although public meetings would be exempt from the requirement.

The ACLU says the ordinance may be unconstitutional. However, violators would still face up to $2,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail. But it's OK, because officials are cracking down on photography for the sake of the children.

About two minutes.

Follow Nanny of the Month on Twitter (@NannyoftheMonth) and submit your nominees for next month!

Nanny of the Month is written Ted Balaker (@tedbalaker) and produced by Balaker and Matt Edwards (@MattChrisEd). Edited by Edwards. Opening graphics by Meredith Bragg.

To watch previous episodes, go here.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for notifications when new material goes live.

29 Sep 23:39

When we consider all US CEOs and all US workers, the ‘CEO-to-worker pay ratio’ falls from 331:1 to below 4:1

by Mark J. Perry

minwageHere are some questionable statistics about CEO pay that we learn about from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch webpage:

1. In 2013 the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 331:1 and the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio was 774:1. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, a country where hard work and playing by the rules would provide working families a middle-class standard of living. But in recent decades, corporate CEOs have been taking a greater share of the economic pie while wages have stagnated and unemployment remains high.

2. Highly paid CEOs of low-wage employers are fueling this growing economic inequality. In 2013, CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies received, on average, $11.7 million in total compensation, according to the AFL-CIO’s analysis of available data from 350 companies.

3. It doesn’t have to be this way. Politicians should raise the minimum wage. Corporations should pay their employees a living wage. And workers should have a collective voice on the job to demand their fair share.

MP: As I pointed out in a post earlier today on CD, this frequently cited AFL-CIO analysis of CEO pay is an example of “statistical bait-and-switch.” Or call it a “statistical canard” or a “statistical fallacy.” Here’s why:

The AFL-CIO is comparing: a) the average salary of a small sample (350) of the highest paid US CEOs, out of a total CEO population in 2013 of 248,760 CEOs, according to BLS data here, and b) the average worker pay for production and nonsupervisory workers, which represents only 8.5 million factory workers out of a total of 136.3 million payroll employees nationwide. In other words, the AFL-CIO’s reported “CEO-to-worker pay ratio” of 331:1 is calculated by ignoring 99.9% of all US CEOs and 93.8% of all US workers. A more accurate description would be to call it a ratio of the pay for 350 of the highest-paid US CEOs to the pay of only 6.2% of the American labor force, or a ratio of an unrepresentative, infinitesimally small, and statistically insignificant group of CEOs to a small minority and unrepresentative group of US factory workers. It’s a completely bogus and meaningless comparison.

The top chart above shows a more statistically valid comparison of CEO pay to average worker in the US pay by considering: a) the average annual pay of all US CEOs in every year from 2002 to 2013 (data here) and b) the average annual pay of all US workers in a comprehensive, national BLS dataset that includes workers in 22 major occupational groups, 94 minor occupational groups, 458 broad occupations, and 821 detailed occupations (132.6 million workers for 2013). Based on those data, the average CEO earned $178,400 last year, the average worker earned $46,440, and the “CEO-to-worker pay ratio” was 3.84:1, and that’s a LOT different from the AFL-CIO’s ratio of 331:1 by a factor of more than 86 times! Call it a “statistical falsehood-to-truth ratio” of 86:1 for the AFL-CIO’s exaggerated, bogus ratio. The chart also shows that the real CEO-to-worker pay ratio has not been increasing as is frequently reported, but instead has been remarkably constant over the last 12 years, averaging 3.8:1 in a tight range between a maximum of 3.89:1 in 2004 and a minimum of 3.69:1 in both 2005 and 2006. The ratio of 3.84:1 in the most recent year (2013) was actually slightly lower than the ratios in 2004 (3.89:1) and in all years between 2009 and 2012.

Likewise, the bottom chart displays a more statistically valid comparison of average CEO pay to the annual pay of a full-time minimum wage worker. In 2013, a full-time minimum wage worker earned $14,500, and therefore the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio was only 12.3:1 compared to the grossly inflated 774:1 ratio reported by the AFL-CIO. That’s a “statistical falsehood-to-truth ratio” of 63:1 for the AFL-CIO’s exaggerated ratio. Because of the recent increases in the minimum wage between 2007-2009, the CEO-to-minimum-wage-worker pay ratio in recent years has been lower than the most recent 12-year average of 12.76:1.

Bottom Line: Do a Google search of the phrase “CEO to worker pay” and you’ll find 150,000 links to reports and articles that almost exclusively compare the salaries of a very small, statistically insignificant group of S&P500 or Fortune 500 CEOs to average worker pay. I’m suggesting that those comparisons are statistically invalid and meaningless. A comprehensive and statistically valid comparison of the average pay of all US CEOs to the average pay of all US workers reveals a much different story than the frequently reported narrative of a 300:1 (or higher) and rising CEO-to-worker pay ratio in the US. The reality is that the annual salary of the average US CEO pay is less than four times the annual pay of the average worker, and that ratio has been remarkably stable for more than a decade. 

29 Sep 21:00

Wisdom of the Day: Screenwriters Rich Journalism

by Frank J.

say what you will about silent films, it was a Golden Era for screenwriters who wanted to name their characters The Girl and Man With Hat

— Mallory Ortberg (@mallelis) September 26, 2014

poor person: These are my daughters Mercedes and Porsche rich person: There are my sons Ford and Chevy

— dan mentos (@DanMentos) September 26, 2014

Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.

— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) September 26, 2014

Send to Kindle
29 Sep 12:09

Very Dry Water, Hard-Frozen Fire, and the Ostentatious Invisible Rich

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

In his New York Times blog on Wednesday - in a post entitled “Having It and Flaunting It” – Paul Krugman complained that America’s rich are obsessed with exhibiting their wealth in the form of “ostentatious” consumption.  Indeed, Mr. Krugman asserted that “for many of the rich flaunting is what it’s all about….  [I]t’s largely about display.”  And this display, Mr. Krugman alleged, “imposes negative externalities on the rest of the population.”

A mere five days later, in his New York Times column today - a column entitled “Our Invisible Rich” – Mr. Krugman gripes that the reason more Americans aren’t infuriated by today’s great income inequality is that “the truly rich are so removed from ordinary people’s lives that we never see what they have.”

Mr. Krugman is here ostentatiously inconsistent!

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

29 Sep 12:00

Testimonial – Paleo Remission Of Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis

by Squatchy

I was diagnosed with RA in 2002. I am a second generation RA sufferer so I looked to my mother for guidance. She had advanced RA (which means that her joints had twisted) within 4 years of onset and traditional treatment by a Rheumatologist. In desperation she had researched the new internet and found the Minocin treatment. This protocol had finally put her in remission. So following her advice, I started Minocin right after my initial diagnosis. I saw moderate success in slowing the progression and controlling the symptoms – and was still considered ’early stage’ (which means some joint erosion apparent in xrays but no twisting) as of the summer of 2009.

Around Thanksgiving of 2009, my pharmacist and the insurance company (via major hiking of copays for name brand meds) convinced me to go generic minocin. By Christmas of that year I was bedridden and unable to even dress myself. 90% of my joints were swollen to twice their size and not even hydrocodones controlled the agony. At this time I finally went to a Rheumatologist.

Although he pressured me to take methotrexate – I refused, knowing in my heart that I just had to make it until the generic minocin prescription ran out and I could get back on name brand. So we agreed on a prednisone treatment plan. I noticed steady improvement again as I took the name brand minocin – but the ’super flare’ had taken out my muscle tone and the continued use of both prednisone and Nexium (I had developed IBS and Acid reflux from all the painkillers) were slowly depleting my bones and causing a massive weight gain.

By the fall of 2012, I was obese and miserable. The RA was controlled to the point I could finally get off prednisone. But the tight tendons and weak muscles made it hard to work 60 hours a week. I knew I had to change!

January 1st, 2013 – I joined the workplace biggest loser contest, started the paleo diet and started walking at night. Within three days I suffered my first (of 3 that year) stress fracture. The doctor recommended to only exercise in a pool. So I joined a small local gym. By Feb 1st, 2013 – I noticed that I had absolutely NO RA pain! I quit taking those meds. By March 1st, 2013 – I realized my Acid reflux and IBS symptoms had disappeared. So the Nexium prescription went unfilled forever more.

I was in 100% natural remission (no drugs) until July 2013. I also lost 10 dress sizes and stabilized at a size 6. I began to re-introduce food groups at that time and began having RA flares again. Through comparing food journals and symptom journals I began to identify the foods that caused my RA. From Chocolate, Cheese, & Bananas causing immediate major flares to Daily wheat consumption causing ’build up’ flares – I’ve learned how to stay in remission by taking control and ownership of what I eat.

This week I have an appointment with an Allergist to pin point specific food allergies. So as an 11 year RA veteran with 3 scientific degrees (earned during my years with RA) – I can tell you what researchers have already studied and published – the source of most RA inflammation begins in the intestines. Furthermore it can be treated and controlled by what you choose to introduce to your intestines.

26 Sep 15:00

Land Use and Local Government: The Facts On the Ground Are Libertarian

by Walter Olson

Walter Olson

Prof. Kenneth Stahl, who directs the Environmental Land Use and Real Estate Law Program at Chapman University School of Law, has a post at Concurring Opinions asking why libertarians aren’t more numerous among academic specialists in local government and land use law. Stahl describes his own views as siding with “leftists rather than libertarians,” that is to say, those who “have some confidence in the ability of government to solve social problems”: 

Nevertheless, were you to pick up a randomly selected piece of left-leaning land use or local government scholarship (including my own) you would likely witness a searing indictment of the way local governments operate. You would read that the land use decisionmaking process is usually a conflict between deep-pocketed developers who use campaign contributions to elect pro-growth politicians and affluent homeowners who use their ample resources to resist change that might negatively affect their property values. Land use “planning”—never a great success to begin with—has largely been displaced by the “fiscalization” of land use, in which land use decisions are based primarily on a proposed land use’s anticipated contribution to (or drain upon) a municipality’s revenues. Public schools in suburban areas have essentially been privatized due to exclusionary zoning practices, and thus placed off limits to the urban poor, whereas public schools in cities have been plundered by ravenous teachers’ unions.

… It hardly paints a pretty picture of local government. Yet, most leftists’ prescription is more government. 

To put it differently, libertarian analysis better explains what actually goes on in local government than does the standard progressive faith in the competence of government to correct supposed market failure. The post (read it in full!) goes on to discuss specifics such as annexation, incorporation, and economic stratification-by-jurisdiction; the relative success of lightly governed Houston in achieving low housing costs and attracting newcomers and economic growth; and the transference of progressives’ unmet hopes to regionalization, so memorably summed up by Jane Jacobs years ago: “A region is an area safely larger than the last one to whose problem we found no solution.”

Stahl: 

So why would left-leaning scholars, who have seen so clearly the failures of local government, place so much faith in a largely untested restructuring of governmental institutions, rather than looking to less government as the solution?

Great question.

26 Sep 13:15

FAA: Drones Are Okay For Hollywood, But Not Okay For Sports

by Mike Masnick
Jts5665

The arbitrary and capricious rule of man.

We remain absolutely baffled by the FAA's bizarre rules about drones. As we've noted, the FAA has said that you can use drones for fun, but if it in any way involves profit, it's not allowed. So you can use a drone to take photographs from the sky for personal use, but if you're a real estate agent trying to do a flyover of a house you're trying to sell, that's illegal. And while some people still claim that drone use should be limited so they don't interfere with airplanes, that doesn't seem to (even remotely) be the concern here, otherwise the personal use of drones would be barred too.

But it's getting even more bizarre. Now, it seems that anyone who wants to use drones in anything close to an innovative way has to first go beg the FAA for permission. And the permission is sometimes given and sometimes withheld. Compare these two stories. The University of Michigan wanted to use drones to deliver the game ball before kickoff of a football game, but the FAA nixed the request. It's not at all clear why. This was for a sporting event, and it would just be for fun. It's hard to see how the use was "commercial" other than the fact that college football is big business. Meanwhile, compare that to the fact that the FAA is apparently granting permission to Hollywood to use drones to film things:
In May, seven aerial photo and video production companies asked for regulatory exemptions (known as a 333 exemption) that would allow the film and television industry to use drones with FAA approval. Those seven companies and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), were asked by the FAA to develop the guidelines and safety procedures under which they planned to operate. The FAA reviewed those procedures and is expected to approve the drone-specific rules and standards that will enable Hollywood to be exempt from existing aviation regulations.
Of course, the report from Forbes notes, this actually took four years of back and forth with the FAA to get to this point.

We've talked for a while about the concept of permissionless innovation and why it's important to keep the velocity of innovation moving forward at a rapid pace. Adding in this layer of bizarre, arbitrary and ridiculously slow regulation, and you're slowing down that pace. And while some say "does that really matter" for something as silly as flying drones, as we've noted, it's entirely possible that drones can create some amazingly powerful societal shifts. But each bit of "permission" needed along the way slows down that process and limits our ability to innovate and to adapt and adjust and learn.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story







25 Sep 20:44

FDA Doesn't Want E-Cigs Marketed as Safer Than Tobacco Cigarettes

by Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

In a forthcoming article in Regulation California Polytechnic State University economics professor Michael Marlow describes the negative effects on public health of the proposed regulation of e-cigarettes. The FDA proposes to expand its authority granted under of Section 911 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. “Section 911 bans marketing tobacco products as modified risk products without FDA approval. Moreover, manufacturers are unable to inform consumers their products do not contain tobacco.”

The prohibition on marketing e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes has not been subject to cost-benefit analysis. This is particularly significant given that the literature on e-cigarettes suggests that they help smokers quit. Even the JAMA Patient Page, published by The American Medical Association last January, highlighted a number of potential e-cigarette benefits such as their lack of tobacco and the less toxic nature of e-cigarette vapor compared to cigarette second-hand smoke.

In his back-of-the envelope calculation using quit rates from the published literature, Marlow estimates that the benefits related to e-cigarettes would be between $15.6 and $49.2 billion a year as the result of between 2.4 and 6.4 million smokers becoming former smokers every year. “Prohibiting sales to youth and requiring a clear description of product ingredients may be appropriate. But prohibiting any information regarding potential efficacy in harm reduction is hard to justify given substantial benefits reported in currently available studies.”

25 Sep 19:24

Murder Case Prosecutors Claim 'National Security' To Stop Questions About FBI Examination Of Google Maps Search

by Tim Cushing

A Google Map search is seemingly the only piece of evidence tying former Cisco engineer Brad Cooper to the the murder of his wife, Nancy. According to his testimony, Cooper was at home with the couple's two daughters at the time his wife was strangled in a nearby park.

Nancy Cooper disappeared on July 12, 2008. That same day, Brad Cooper was questioned by local law enforcement. During the next couple of days, he consented to a search of his house and vehicle and turned over a pair of his wife's running shoes for dogs to track her scent. On July 14th, a body was discovered. This was confirmed to be Nancy Cooper the next day. Brad Cooper turned over the house to investigators that same day, moving out to "preserve" the house itself as evidence. He left behind his computer, which was still connected to the internet. This stayed on for 27 hours before investigators removed it.

Here's where it gets interesting. (An admittedly callous way to look at a situation where one person is dead, one is headed to jail and two kids are effectively parentless…)

The most damning evidence gathered by investigators (working with the FBI) was a Google search showing the exact spot where Nancy Cooper's body was discovered, supposedly performed by Brad Cooper the day before she was killed. This being the only evidence is a fact, rather than conjecture. It's acknowledged in the appeals court's decision which granted Cooper a new trial. [pdf link]

Prosecutors pressed hard with this discovery, coupling it with the fact that Cooper and his wife were observed arguing at a party the night before she vanished. The real story about this supposed search may never come out. Cooper pled guilty to reduced charges earlier this week, after being granted a new trial on appeal. Perhaps Cooper actually did murder his wife, but the key evidence being used against him was severely questionable, enough so that he was awarded another chance to fight the charge.

The 56-page opinion granting him a new trial details the previous court's unconstitutional "abuses," which led to a guilty verdict.

Cooper's defense attacked the supposedly damning search, alleging that it had been planted on the computer by investigators. Their first witness could likely have offered testimony indicating the search had been planted but the State called into question his expertise as a forensic expert and his testimony was prohibited by the court from covering this topic.

Cooper's defense tried to bring in another witness, one more specifically-trained to testify on the specifics the court was demanding. This last-minute replacement, who had reached the same conclusion as the previous expert (that the search had "been placed on the hard drive [and] could not have been the result of normal internet activity"), but was prevented from doing so when the State objected to this "violation" of discovery rules (i.e., witness and testimony were not presented to the prosecution before the trial began).

The appeals court disagreed with the previous court's dismissal of the first expert witness. It argued that this witness was specifically trained to discover computer tampering, something a planted search result would fall under.

The Google Map files recovered from Defendant's laptop were perhaps the most important pieces of evidence admitted in this trial. We hold that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding Ward from testifying, relying on the State's own evidence, to his opinion that the Google Map files recovered from Defendant's laptop had been tampered with.

[...]

We hold, whether the error was constitutional or not, that erroneously preventing Defendant from presenting expert testimony, challenging arguably the strongest piece of the State's evidence, constituted reversible error and requires a new trial…
The appeals court also found that excluding the second witness because of discovery violations was also unconstitutional, noting that using procedural issues to deny the defendant a chance to defend against the single, most important piece of evidence is a deprivation of due process.
In light of the lack of willful misconduct on the part of Defendant, the rational reason presented for failing to inform the State before trial that Defendant would be calling [the new witness], the role of the State in having this situation arise after the trial had commenced, the fundamental nature of the rights involved, the importance to the defense of the testimony excluded, and the minimal prejudice to the State had the trial court imposed a lesser sanction – such as continuance or recess, we hold that imposing the harsh sanction of excluding Masucci from testifying constituted an abuse of discretion.
The third key issue leading to Cooper being awarded the new trial is the most interesting -- a motion made to limit discovery with assistance from the FBI. Cooper's team tried to get the State to turn over information related to the means and methods used during its forensic search of Cooper's computer and found itself being denied on "national security" grounds.
The State filed a motion in opposition, arguing that there exists "a law enforcement sensitive qualified evidentiary privilege" which should act to prevent discovery of these items, "because such disclosure could lead to the development of countermeasures to FBI investigative techniques. Such countermeasures could defeat law enforcement's ability to obtain forensic data in criminal cases." The State also argues that this information was protected as "work product."
The trial court agreed.
The trial court found as fact "[t]hat the FBI's Standard Operating Procedures and policies are the same techniques and tools that are used in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations[.]" The trial court concluded that "under the provisions of N.C. Gen. Stat. §15A-903, patterned after Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16, the disclosure of the information sought by... Defendant would be contrary to the public interest in the effective functioning of law enforcement[,]" and that "under the provisions of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-908[,]" disclosure of the information would result in "substantial risk" of harm to "any person, including the citizens of this State, of physical harm."
As the appeals court pointed out, there was no reason to completely deny discovery. The documentation could have been reviewed in camera for any potential national security issues, or allowed certain redactions to be made. It also pointed out that even the FBI's stated national security concerns don't necessarily preclude discovery.
Even in the face of a compelling State interest in keeping records confidential, due process might compel discovery, depending on how material the records are to a defendant's defense.
In this case -- with the "sole piece of evidence" being a questionable Google Maps search -- discovery was extremely material and possibly exculpatory. But the trial court wouldn't even allow the defense to ask whether revealing the forensic method used to "recreate" the map search would have national security implications.
MR. KURTZ: Well, Judge, there is potentially a piece of information that exists on Mr. Cooper's computer that could say definitely that this material was planted, absolutely definitive. I may be wrong. Special Agent Johnson's testing may indeed be that it all has the exact same millisecond all the way across. I don't think I'm wrong. Now, one way or the other, whether it's having a -- a test done on a Vista machine now and seeing what it -- what it actually shows or giving us access to the original test data, which I don't believe has any national security ramifications since it deals with a Google Map test. One way or the other, we should be entitled to this information as it could be tremendously exculpatory.

THE COURT: Upon reconsidering this issue about this in-court test, pursuant to Rule 53-403, I'm going to sustain the objection and exclude any testing in Court because of the differences in the equipment and the statements made by this witness that this is not the appropriate place to do it. We need to bring the jury back in. And regarding the national security issue, that is a matter that we have already ruled on. It is something I have already dealt with.

MR. KURTZ: But, Your Honor, there is a witness on the stand that can answer specifically whether this is an issue of national security. And I'm not even going to be allowed to ask that question?

THE COURT: I believe I've already determined, because of the rules of the -- and the discovery process that you are not entitled to get those things.

MR. KURTZ: So my understanding is, the -- the rules and the discovery process, we're hiding behind national security on an issue where we could get a clear answer from a witness that this is not in fact a national security issue. And we're talking about a piece of information that could be exculpatory to Mr. Cooper.
Further on, Cooper's defense presses the issue further, veering into exasperated sarcasm, only to be shut down again.
THE COURT: It's the methodology that they used, I think, that falls under the security issue, but –

MR. KURTZ: But if I could ask Special Agent Johnson if he has any national security concerns related to that methodology, we might be able to determine that this one particular test is a legitimate one to be disclosed, that it will not actually disclose the missile codes.

[...]

THE COURT: The objection is sustained. I'm not going to allow further questioning in this line or any in-court testing of that computer.
This shut-down of discovery was the third factor prompting the decision to grant Cooper a new trial. Not that it matters. As stated earlier, Cooper has opted to plead guilty, perhaps because the lighter sentence could see him freed in another six years or so, as well as possibly give him the chance to be visited by his family members. It may also be that his new trial was being handled by a public defender who wasn't familiar with the details, rather than his previous legal team. There are a lot of factors to weigh, and even innocent people have been known to cop a plea rather than keep on fighting. It's been more than six years since Brad Cooper was arrested. He may spend less time in jail than he has fighting these charges.

None of the above is meant to imply that Cooper is definitely innocent, but the key piece of evidence is very questionable. Even without the FBI's "national security" intercession, the State has been very reluctant to turn over any information about its examination of Cooper's computer. An anonymous blogger who has been tracking this case notes that those who examined the computer made two different statements about the presence of a "cookie" verifying the Google Maps search.

Cooper's computer contained cookies for every day except the day the search was to alleged to have occurred. The forensic examination of the computer turned up no evidence of the cookie being deleted, as testified by the FBI's Agent Johnson. It simply wasn't there. The FBI could have subpoenaed Google for the information regarding this search but never did, even though it requested other information from the search giant.

Agent Chappell, on the other hand, offered up two different stories in court documents. In the report stating that the FBI had found no evidence that Cooper's computer had been tampered with, he says that "we have an index.history.dat file the week of 7/11 that corroborates the visit to maps.google.com and a cookie for the visit."

But in his testimony, he states the opposite. Chappell was unable to find the cookie corroborating the visit in "allocated or recovered deleted." In fact, Chappell could find "nothing from this side."

Futhermore, it appears law enforcement may have attempted to "wait out" Google's privacy policy, which states that information is only retained for 18 months.
In May ’09 …. 10 months after the crime, Howard Kurtz, Brad’s defense attorney contacted Agent Johnson and asked him if he could obtain a copy of the hard drive and Johnson informed him that he was finished and that he could pick up a copy that day. Hours later, Detective Daniels contacted Brad’s attorneys and informed them that ADA Howard Cummings would not release the hard drive to them. No reason was given, no timing was given. They wouldn’t receive it until after the privacy policy had expired, making it too late to ever verify the search through Google cookies.   Because they received the Defense “preservation of evidence” letter, the prosecution knew that they would miss this privacy deadline.
There's more. According to the defense's examination of the hard drive, dozens of files were altered during its stay with local law enforcement. A police officer charged with recovering information from Nancy Cooper's Blackberry destroyed it instead, possibly inadvertently. This happened nine days after the preservation order in 2008. The defense wasn't informed of this fact until shortly before the trial began in 2011.

But in the middle of it all is the FBI. While the FBI may not have tampered with Cooper's computer, the simple fact is that any law enforcement agency can ask for the FBI's help in matters like this and use the feds' "national security" shield to withhold certain information from the defense. The appeals court chastised the trial court for indulging the FBI's secrecy, but many, many courts will swiftly defer, even if it means the withholding of possibly exculpatory evidence. That's the very troubling side effect of the FBI's dalliance in national security, something it has focused more and more of its efforts on over the past several years. It can assist law enforcement, like it always has, and use its "higher calling" to shroud itself and those it helps in secrecy.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story







25 Sep 16:02

Presenting The iPhone 6 Repair Kit

by Tyler Durden
25 Sep 17:01

Which Universities Produce The Greatest Number Of Billionaires

by Tyler Durden

Forget the biased and manipulated US News and World Report ranking of top US colleges, when it comes to college reputation ranking, only one thing really matters: success, which for better or worse in our day and age is measured, with apologies to all the emotional romantics, by money. So courtesy of the most recent Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census for the year 2014, here are the universities who undergraduate ranks have spawned the highest number of billionaires. Sorry Harvard.

From the report:

Pursuing higher education is not a prerequisite for attaining billionaire status: 35% of the world’s billionaires do not have a bachelor’s degree and some even dropped out of high school. Nonetheless, of the 65% who have been awarded a bachelor’s degree, many go on to pursue further studies. For example, 21% of “educated” billionaires have an MBA and 11% of “educated” billionaires hold a Ph.D.

 

Of the top 20 most popular schools for billionaires – in terms of the number of billionaires who have obtained their bachelor’s degree at these institutions – 16 were in the United States. The United States is the country with the largest number of billionaires, however that fact alone does not fully explain the disproportionate representation of American universities in this list. At the undergraduate level, more than a quarter of the students who obtained their bachelor’s degrees from these American institutions were born outside of the United States. It is apparent that these institutions top the ranking not just because of the United States’ large number of billionaires, but also because they have strong international reputations, which attract students from around the globe. This is particularly true beyond the bachelor’s degree: more than 39% of students who attended these top American institutions for postgraduate studies were born outside the United States.

And yet: "Despite the international repute of these top-ranking higher education institutions, it is worth noting that only 16% of the world’s “educated” billionaires attended these schools; 84% did not. Today’s billionaires were awarded their bachelor’s degrees from over 700 different universities around the world."

25 Sep 14:00

Raise a Glass: The Bill of Rights Was About Food Freedom

by Baylen Linnekin

Bill of RightsOn September 25, 1789—exactly 225 years ago today—Congress passed the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.

Yes, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution—the ones that protect everything from free speech to due process—originated as a series of bills in Congress. They were drafted by future president James Madison, at the time a congressman from Virginia. Madison also wrote the text of the Constitution, which had established a system of limited government but hadn’t explicitly protected individual rights. With the Bill of Rights, it now did both.

It’s difficult to imagine today’s Congress thinking up—nevermind passing—anything so profound as what Madison wrote in those ten amendments. But then, the experience of the Founding Fathers was far different from that of today’s legislators. By most accounts, Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other colonists had grown up as happy British subjects. Yet the Founding Fathers would later cast off colonial rule by planning and then engaging in open revolt against Britain. They formed an entirely new country, and established a new form of government.

What was the impetus for these revolutionary changes? I argue that one key element was spiraling British attacks on colonists’ “food freedom."

Beginning in the mid-1760s, facing debts, the British came to see America as a cash cow ready to be milked. Britain’s Parliament passed the Sugar Act, the first direct tax on the colonists, in 1764. The Act, which effectively banned foreign rum, sugar, and molasses, also expanded a growing list of foods that could be obtained only through the British. Protests against the Act helped give rise to cries of “taxation without representation.”

Under the subsequent Tea Act, the British dumped their own tea on the colonists, who protested with boycotts and the fateful Boston Tea Party.

British laws like the second Quartering Act, a response to the Boston Tea Party, gave British troops the authority to take specific foods like beer, vinegar, salt, and pepper from the colonists. (When New York’s colonial legislature had failed to comply with the first Quartering Act's food mandates, Parliament had simply dissolved the legislature.) Parliament also soon passed the Fisheries Act, which prohibited colonists from fishing in the North Atlantic. By the time word of the fishing ban reached the colonies, the first shots of the American Revolution had already been fired at Lexington and Concord.

These attacks on food freedom incensed the Founding Fathers. The list of grievances Thomas Jefferson articulates in the Declaration of Independence includes rebukes of King George for permitting British troops to “eat out the[] substance” of colonists’ cupboards and for trampling on colonists’ fishing rights.

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783. But the acknowledgment by the Founding Fathers that a government of unchecked powers would trample Americans’ food rights hadn’t ended with the Declaration of Independence. In fact, James Madison himself had food and food freedom in mind as he wrote the words that became the Bill of Rights.

As I revealed in a scholarly article two years ago, the First Amendment’s Assembly Clause traces its origins back to pre-revolutionary and revolutionary-era conversational gatherings among colonists from all walks of life as they sipped pints of ale, punch, and grog in taverns.

That’s not all. The Supreme Court in recent years acknowledged the protection of hunting rights inherent in the Second Amendment. We wouldn’t have a Third Amendment—which prohibits the quartering of troops in peacetime—had the Founding Fathers not felt the sting of acts that permitted British troops to steal colonists’ food under the reviled quartering acts. Other examples of the relation between food and the Bill of Rights are found in at least three of the other amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.

Any way you look at it, food and the Bill of Rights are intimately tied. After work today, if you happen to stop off for a drink on your way home, consider toasting this landmark birthday of our rights.

25 Sep 16:42

Developer Wants to Build Hundreds of Homes for Hasidic Jews; Catskills Town Might Dissolve Itself to Stop Him

by Jesse Walker

Bloomberg has published the strangest, most interesting local-government story you'll read today. (*) Here's how it opens:

L'shanah tovah from sunny BloomingburgA plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village is pitting residents and local officials against a developer who says he's a victim of an anti-Semitic plot.

Opposition to the project is so strong that Bloomingburg, the village in the Catskills, is considering dissolving its local government, which could allow the larger surrounding town to block the development. Voters will decide Sept. 30 whether to fold their municipal government into the Town of Mamakating, whose population is 30 times larger.

Shalom Lamm, the developer seeking to build townhouses and amenities meant to draw Hasidim, accused officials in a federal lawsuit of misusing building codes to keep Jews from moving to the area and violating the rights of the plaintiffs under the U.S. Constitution. Town officials say the issue is about preserving Bloomingburg's rural character, not about religion.

The article goes on to describe residents' fears that the new arrivals will "have all the power in electing the next mayor," among many other details. It reminds me a bit of those 19th-century efforts to disenfranchise Mormons on the theory that they'd otherwise vote en masse for Brigham Young's hand-picked puppets. Check out the whole thing here.

Via Tim Carney, who headlines his post "Village plans to immolate itself to prevent takeover by Hasidic Jews."

(* Unless you don't read it. Or already read it yesterday. Or have found a story that's even more fascinatingly bizarre, in which case please send it my way.)