Shared posts

20 Sep 14:46

Uncle Sam’s ‘War on Poverty’: A Snapshot History

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Look at the graph below (which I get from this Heritage Foundation page).  (To enlarge this graph, just click on it.)  You tell me if the revving-up of Uncle Sam’s welfare-state activities in the mid-1960s can be considered, by any scientific criterion, to have been clearly successful at reducing officially measured rates of poverty in the U.S.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 10.37.12 AM

Can anyone say Losing Ground?

19 Sep 20:31

44,107,000 Reasons Why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Has "Not Considered Resigning"

by Tyler Durden


Moments ago NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell concluded a press conference in which he discussed NFL player conduct, domestic violence, sexual assaults, sponsorships, and other things. The one thing that caught our attention is that when he was asked if he had considered resigning, his answer was a resounding "No." For all those wondering why the commissioner of this non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(6) organization has not considered calling it quits despite the ongoing public opinion firestorm, here is the reason. Or rather 44,107,000 reasons.


19 Sep 18:27

DOJ, Newark Miss Deadline to Agree on Police Reforms, No New Deadline Set

by Ed Krayewski

Newark Mayor with policeIn late July, officials from the city of Newark, New Jersey, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into an "agreement in principle" that would lead to negotiations over specific reforms of and a federal monitor for the Newark Police Department (NPD). The DOJ found that 75 percent of pedestrian stops by the NPD were unconstitutional, and the process concludes several years of investigation by the DOJ that found evidence of wide-scale abuse at the NPD. The DOJ first decided to place Newark under a federal monitor in February, but no monitor has yet been appointed.

Last summer the NPD began to release data on stop and frisks it performs, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey complained in a letter dated last month but reported as having been sent earlier this month that the department's release of data didn't include the reason for stops or their resolution. The ACLU also noted that the NPD often posted the data late and some not at all.

According to the Star Ledger, a spokesperson for the local U.S. Attorney said there was no new timetable for when negotiations over the reforms and the monitor, in the form of a consent decree, would be complete.

I actually lived in Newark most of my life. I was stopped and frisked by cops once, in mid-2008. They spit my description back at me as the reason I was stopped. They didn't find anything.

Related: suggestions for police reforms

19 Sep 15:36

State Inspectors Get Run Of California Worksites—At Business Groups' Behest

by Walter Olson

Walter Olson

That workman from Craigslist who dropped by to install a set of office cabinets for you “off the books” is now more likely to be headed to jail, no matter how happy you are with the quality of his work, thanks to the California legislature:

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed S.B. 315, described by its sponsor, Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Beverly Hills), as a measure “to help curb California’s underground economy.” The measure would step up penalties and enforcement against persons who advertise for, or perform, repair and construction work with a value of $500 or more, counting parts and material as well as labor. … First offenses are subject to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine, and subsequent offenses are treated yet more harshly.

There’s more. The bill, according to its legislative summary, “would additionally require that the enforcement division, when participating in the activities of the Joint Enforcement Strike Force on the Underground Economy, be granted free access to all places of labor,” at least in business locations. (Yes, “all”; you only thought your property was private.) 

A special touch: the customer who ordered the work will now be legally classed as a “victim of crime” entitled to restitution and other benefits, even if the work was done exactly as ordered, and even if (the law is explicit) the customer was fully aware the job was unlicensed. 

How could the California legislature have unanimously (as it did) passed a measure curtailing property rights by giving more state inspectors access to places of labor against owners’ will? Simple: it was framed as a pro-business measure. Among its backers were the sponsoring Contractors State License Board and such groups as the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Association, the electrical contractors, the landscape contractors, the plumbing and heating contractors, and so forth.   

The costs of occupational licensure are many. Not least is that it gives established businesses a stake in making government more powerful and invasive.  

P.S.: Possibly unrelated, or possibly not: California issued massive fines that closed down a small winery whose owners were allowing volunteers to do some work, in violation of state law; a state spokesman said permitting volunteer labor “isn’t fair” to competing wineries with all-professional staff. 

19 Sep 14:58

Two Top Intelligence Officials, Both Of Whom Admitted To Lying In The Past, Now Try To Rewrite History And Deny The Lies

by Mike Masnick
Apparently the US intelligence community has decided that they should start trying to totally rewrite the history of two of its top officials directly lying to Congress. First up: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. This lie is the famous one, in which while testifying before Congress, Senator Ron Wyden engaged in this exchange:
Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Clapper: No sir.

Wyden: It does not?

Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
At first, Clapper denied lying, saying he merely misunderstood the question, and thought it was about "voyeuristically" poring through emails. But the question is pretty explicit: "any type of data at all." Later, Clapper changed his story to claim that he did understand the question, but was taken off guard by it and gave "the least untruthful answer" he could. At that point, Wyden pointed out that he had actually given Clapper the questions a day earlier and then reached out to his office after to confirm that his answers were accurate, leaving Clapper plenty of opportunity to correct his error -- but Clapper did not. At that point, Clapper finally admitted he had lied and gave a semi-apology to Wyden, saying: "mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it."

Except, now, over a year later, Clapper is back to denying that he lied. Before a "friendly" audience of defense and intelligence contractors (one of the questions to him started out, "You have a very supportive private sector in front of you..."), Clapper again pretended that he never lied to Congress at all. Even worse, he did so while introducing new "principles of professional ethics" for the intelligence community, and arguing that he did so because of the awful situation he endured when he was falsely accused of lying:
“When I got accused of lying to congress because of a mistake ... I had to answer on the spot about a specific classified program in a general, unsecure setting.”
Except, almost none of that is true. It wasn't on the spot. Wyden gave him the questions a day earlier. He didn't have to answer the question (before and since that questioning, Clapper and others have responded to nearly identical questions by saying they could only give details in a classified setting). And, again, Wyden gave Clapper a chance to correct the answer via a letter, and Clapper stood by the original letter. In other words, he lied. He flat out lied. And then he stood by it afterwards when he had a chance to correct the lie. And now he's lying about the lying. Oh, and as for the new "ethics" principles? 1) mission; 2) truth; 3) lawfulness; 4) integrity; 5) stewardship; 6) excellence; and 7) diversity.

And just to add to this mess, Clapper also claimed that the intelligence community has not been shown to have violated the law. That's also flat out false. Both a federal judge and the federal government's privacy and civil liberties oversight board (PCLOB) found the program unconstitutional and illegal.

Moving on, we've got CIA director John Brennan. After the big mess with Senator Dianne Feinstein accusing the CIA of spying on Senate staffers, Brennan tried to deny it (while his denials more or less confirmed the facts). However, he specifically told reporters:
"Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate."
He also claimed that "when the facts come out on this," those who claimed that there was "spying" by the CIA "will be proved wrong." Fast forward a few months and the CIA's Inspector General confirmed everything in Feinstein's story, leading Brennan to apologize to Feinstein. In fact, the full CIA report revealed that the spying was even worse than Feinstein initially detailed.

And... guess what? Brennan is now denying he lied. At the very same conference he pulled a "who, me?" routine:
"Thwart the investigation? Hacking in? We did not."
Note that he's parsing words carefully. He's focusing on "thwarting the investigation" and "hacking" in -- though that depends on your definition of hacking. Under the DOJ's definition, what the CIA did was clearly hacking. It's why Senators Wyden and Udall asked Brennan about whether or not the US hacking statute, the CFAA, applied to the CIA. Because the CIA clearly was unauthorized to access the Senate staffers' network, based on a previous fight with the Senate Intelligence Committee, as detailed by Feinstein when she revealed the details:
Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”
Yet, now Brennan is twisting the story, to say that there was no hacking because they were the CIA's computers all along:
On Thursday, he pointed out the computers technically belonged to the CIA, even though they had been partitioned to create private work space for the Senate staffers.

There was more hairsplitting when he explained his apology. “I apologized then to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact that we didn’t have a memorandum of understanding.”
Again, that directly contradicts reality. We'll see if Feinstein decides to respond to all of this, but Senator Wyden already has with a bit of internet slang in this hilarious tweet: If you can't see it, that's Wyden's press office linking to one of these stories, saying "smh" which is internet shorthand for "shaking my head."

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19 Sep 15:00

Federal Regulators Botch Oversight of GM’s Killer Cobalts, Demand More Money

by Shikha Dalmia

Same thing happened at the VA they killed a bunch of vets via negligence and got a massive funding increase...

The House Energy and Committee issued the findings of its months-long investigation of NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) handling of GM’s ignition switch debacle and they are damning!

It turns out the agency missed the true cause of why GM’s 2005 Cobalt and its sister cars were sometimes suddenly stopping and crashing because it did not understand the workings of the advanced airbag systems that it had itself mandated.

NHTSA is supposed to be command central for the auto industry. It constantly monitors information about vehicles Cobalt Crashon the road from multiple sources, launches investigations when it detects a trend involving particular models, and orders remedies.

Because NHTSA is motivated neither by bottom-line considerations nor hampered by informational gaps, the theory goes, it can monitor automakers better than they can themselves, I note in my column in The Week this morning. But the reality is that NHTSA is way in over its head and the Congressional investigation illustrates that perfectly. "NHTSA's safety defect investigators' understanding of the systems failed to keep pace with the evolution of the technology," the report said. Hence the agency for years misinterpreted the data at its disposal. Meanwhile, according to GM's own admission 19 people were killed in 30-plus crashes.

Yet, instead, of dropping on the ground and genuflecting for its manifest ineptitude in protecting the drivers in whose name it exists, its chief went before Congress this week and demanded more money for more staff.

Go here to read the whole thing.

19 Sep 11:13

The Scotland Referendum: Who Voted How And Why?

by Tyler Durden

The following post-referendum poll from Lord Ashcroft does a good summary of who voted how and why. However, the most telling distinction is the following:

  • Voters aged 16-17: YES: 71%; NO: 29%
  • Voters aged 65+: YES: 27%; NO: 73%

How will last night's vote look like in 5, 10 or 15 years when today's 17 year olds are Scotland's prime demographic?


18 Sep 20:00

Of fraudulent lists and fake "bestsellers"

by (Vox)
File 770 sounds a little disappointed to discover that an SF "bestseller" on the NYT Bestsellers List doesn't necessarily indicate the mainstream adoption of SF:
I’m a science fiction fan, yet I’m constantly being surprised to discover how that shapes my thinking. Although I know bestseller lists are artificial constructs, I also know they are constructs dominated by mainstream fiction and literary biases. Consequently, when a science fiction writer appears on the New York Times bestseller list I don’t ask how, I just shout “Hooray!” But now a Higher Critic has explained why I should be dissatisfied and suspicious about how they got there.

And now I am.

Vox Day unfavorably compared John Scalzi to Larry Correia based on alleged manipulation of the bestseller list. But isn’t Correia’s status as a bestselling author the same reason people believe Correia is the gold standard?

Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did. But both times the books disappeared from the list the following week. One and done....

I’m perfectly happy that Larry Correia is an NYT bestselling author. (Which I said in the post.) But since Correia and Scalzi both have experienced the same one-and-done pattern, then why would anybody doubt that Scalzi’s listings are also the result of real sales, Vox Day notwithstanding?
Actually, I didn't compare them. I merely referenced Scalzi's own comments on the subject. As always, Larry Correia is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. As for me, I answered Mr. Glyer on his own blog as follows: There are two reasons for the difference between Scalzi's one-week showings and Mr. Correia's. 1. Correia’s Amazon rankings at the time correlated correctly with his NYT bestseller listing. Scalzi’s Amazon rankings aren’t egregiously off, but they’re not high enough to be credible. 2. Baen Books is not known for attempting to game various awards and bestseller lists. Tor Books, which has won the Locus Award for Best Publisher 27 years in a row, among other things, is.

Does anyone really and truly believe that whereas OLD MAN’S WAR and THE GHOST BRIGADES did not sell well enough to make the NYT Bestseller list, FUZZY NATION did?

All one had to do was look at the Amazon rankings to see that LOCK IN was not selling well enough to have made the bestseller list without a bulk-sale marketing campaign. And as noted on File 770, I had an inkling LOCK IN would not only be on the NYT bestseller list, but be there for a single week before disappearing.

These faux bestsellers aren’t any great secret. It’s just one of the ways the Big Five publishers promote their favored authors. Talk to a top editor or a publishing executive if you don’t believe me; I’m not making this stuff up. Tor is simply trying to massage public perceptions to bump a high mid-list writer into reliable bestseller status.

And then, as it happened, the Washington Examiner happened to address the issue of the unreliability of this particular list today:
The New York Times Book Review, which has a history of belatedly recognizing conservative bestsellers, has banished conservative legal author David Limbaugh’s latest, Jesus on Trial, from its upcoming best seller list despite having sales better than 17 other books on the list.

According to publishing sources, Limbaugh’s probe into the accuracy of the Bible sold 9,660 in its first week out, according to Nielsen BookScan. That should have made it No. 4 on the NYT print hardcover sales list.

Instead, Henry Kissinger’s World Order, praised by Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post, is No. 4 despite weekly sales of 6,607....

The September 28 list of the top 20 print hardcover best sellers includes one book that sold just 1,570 copies.

Limbaugh, published by Regnery, has been a New York Times best seller, so the newspaper should have been looking out for his high sales numbers. And as a hint, they could have looked at Amazon, where Limbaugh’s Jesus hit No. 1 recently. On Thursday, it ranked No. 6 in books sold on Amazon.
Note first that Mr. Scalzi's LOCK IN is presently ranked #3,566 on Amazon and did not make the September 28th list. The #20 book to which the Examiner presumably refers is I AM MALALA which is presently ranked #992 on Amazon. Keep in mind that there are two different lists and that non-fiction usually sells more than fiction.

The New York Times bestseller list is simply not what it claims to be. It's mostly a marketing device manipulated by media ideologues and marketing departments. Some books make it legitimately. Others don't. Fortunately, Amazon gives us a means of distinguishing between the two.

Posted by Vox Day.
18 Sep 20:01

Bankers Advise Fed to Regulate Bitcoin

by Mark A. Calabria

Mark A. Calabria

Four times a year members of the Federal Reserve Board are scheduled to meet with members of the banking industry, as represented by the Fed’s Federal Advisory Council.  This, of course, does not include all the many other occasions that the Fed meets with bankers.  These meetings allow the banking industry to express its views to the Fed on a wide range of issues.  Summarized records of those meetings are released to the public.  In the most recent meeting, bankers raised, among other topics, the issue of Bitcoin. 

While the bankers did not yet view Bitcoin as a viable competitor to their role in the payments system, the bankers did express that Bitcoin “regulation is advisable.”  Those soft-hearted bankers expressed a concern that without adquate consumer protections, users of Bitcoin would be vulnerable to fraud and theft.  Bankers also suggested, presumably out of a concern for national security, that Bitcoin be subject to the same anti-money-laundering procedures, including Know-Your-Consumer, that banks are subjected to.  Bankers explicitly suggested that Bitcoin be subjected to the suspicious activities reports (SARs) that banks must currently file. Personally, this all sounds like an attempt at “raising rivals’ costs” to me.

Interestingly banks also suggested that in “an economy hypothetically dominated by Bitcoin, its finite number (21 million) would prevent the application of traditional monetary policy tools to provide support…” In other words banks are concerned that a Bitcoin world would be one where bank bailouts and assistance were more difficult to achieve.  I guess one man’s bug is another man’s feature.

18 Sep 14:30

Is The Foreign Policy Elite Clueless?

by Sheldon Richman

The American foreign-policy elite seems to have no idea what it’s doing.

Americans may believe the government — especially the foreign-policy side — is at least minimally competent, but when one surveys decisions from the last few decades, one has to wonder.

The current crop of policymakers, like earlier ones, know what they want to do: make the world safe for American leadership — or, less euphemistically, American hegemony: No rivals for American influence or access to resources and markets can be tolerated. As President George H.W. Bush said, “What we say goes.”

Even by that standard, the policy architects and executors look incompetent — or unbelievably cynical.

No better evidence exists than the policies that led to the so-called Islamic State and President Barack Obama’s response to it.

Let’s begin with March 2003. President George W. Bush, citing imaginary weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s fictitious connection to Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, sent the military to invade Iraq, overthrow the government, and occupy the country. Saddam’s regime was secular, but he was a Sunni Muslim and the majority Shi’ites were especially oppressed under his dictatorship. With Saddam gone, the Shi’ites have dominated, and the emerging successor regime predictably moved close to Iran, the large Persian Shi’ite country next door. (Saddam, assisted by the U.S. government, launched a devastating eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.) In response, Al Qaeda (which is Sunni) arose in Iraq for the first time and participated in an anti-U.S. and anti-Shi’ite insurgency, until the CIA paid the local Sunni tribal leaders to turn on Al Qaeda, whom they disliked anyway.

Thus Bush alienated the Sunnis and created a Shi’ite ally for Iran. Yet since 1979 (when the Islamic revolution overthrew the dictatorial monarchy of long-time U.S. client Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) Iran has been demonized (falsely) by U.S. administrations as one of America’s mortal enemies.

What was the Bush brain trust thinking when it did its favor for Iran? Was the plan to overthrow Iran’s government next or merely to have a perpetual crisis? Crisis, like war, is the health of the state, after all.

Under the American occupation and the U.S./Iran-installed regime of Nouri al-Maliki, the Sunnis were shut out of the army and civil service, not to mention repressed — so much so that when the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) came along, the Sunnis were willing to tolerate its brutality rather than continue suffering under Shi’ite rule. Maliki is out now, but institutionalized sectarianism is not over.

Meanwhile, next door in Syria, the brutal Iran-backed dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad became even more egregious in 2011 in response to growing protests. Assad’s regime is also secular, but his and his cronies’ religion is related to Shi’ism, putting the majority Sunnis at a disadvantage. Obama, with the help of then secretary of state Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron, made a bad situation worse by declaring that Assad must give up power. Thus compromise would be suicidal for Assad, and Al Qaeda-type fighters from the region (such as next-door Iraq) were encouraged to flock to Syria because Assad’s days were apparently numbered. ISIS was born when a capable and especially fanatical group of foreign fighters in Syria had strategic differences with the al-Qaeda affiliate.

So here we are. ISIS, a product of idiotic U.S. actions, controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, effectively erasing the border between them.

In response, Obama wants to obliterate ISIS (by air) without helping Iran or Assad or alienating Sunnis. Talk about squaring the circle! If recent history is any guide, arming the Iraqi army and the phantom moderate rebels against Assad amounts to arming ISIS. The nonaggression pact among ISIS and other anti-Assad groups, along with the U.S.-blessed Free Syrian Army’s announcement that it would not join Obama’s anti-ISIS coalition, seems to sink the president’s plan.

Obama warns that ISIS could threaten Americans at home, yet American airstrikes make that more likely; the murders by ISIS of two American journalists were committed in retaliation for the first U.S. strikes.

If any part of Obama’s plan makes sense to you, you might have a future in the foreign policy establishment.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation

18 Sep 11:43

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 128 of Roger Koppl’s outstandingly good 2014 monograph, From Crisis to Confidence: Macroeconomics after the Crash (link added):

[I]f regulators are human, their decisions may be biased towards self-serving ends.  An obvious bias to fear and expect is one towards greater centralisation and greater state control over the decisions of financial institutions (Higgs 1987: 159-95).  Such control serves the bureaucratic interests of the regulators in general.  Thus regulators may have an interest in more control, as well as a cognitive bias in that direction that develops regardless of any particular self-interest.  Moreover, regulators will be loath to blame themselves when things go wrong.  They will sincerely protest that they need more tools, more power and more control in order to prevent future problems.

18 Sep 07:51



(Second column, 20th story, link)
Related stories:
17 Sep 19:19

Bitcoin Charts, Finally

by Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

Bitcoin, the new digital currency, remains a mystery to many. There is no better way to lift the fog surrounding bitcoin than to let the data speak. And data speaks loudest through charts. Yes, topological analysis is often the best route to comprehension.

I have constructed – with my assistant, Mazin Al-Rayes – a series of charts that contain illuminating data about bitcoins and brief directions for use following each chart.

How to interpret: Currently there are 13.235 million bitcoins in circulation. The issuance of new bitcoins will halt when the total number of bitcoins “mined” (read: in circulation) reaches 21 million.

How to interpret: This chart shows the total revenue in USD of bitcoin miners (See: the formula at the bottom of the chart for the calculation). A bitcoin miner can be anyone with a computer and a connection to the internet. Miners lend their computers’ processing power to the bitcoin network and are compensated with new bitcoins.  Many miners use hardware designed specifically for mining, others simply use their home computers - pooling their processing power via the internet and sharing the rewards. 

How to interpret: This chart shows the estimated number of giga-hashes per second that the bitcoin network is performing. It’s clear that the processing power of the bitcoin network increased over time. The hash rate increased for a myriad of reasons: an increased number of miners, collaboration of miners in pools and hardware capacity.  

How to interpret: New bitcoins are created at a predictable rate. This rate is a function of both the difficulty level of a bitcoin miner’s mathematical operation and the processing power of a miner’s hardware. 

How to interpret: This chart shows the bitcoin market capitalization. This is calculated by multiplying the total number of bitcoins by the market price of a bitcoin in USD.

How to interpret: This chart shows the trade volume in USD from the largest bitcoin exchanges.

How to Interpret: This chart shows the price and volatility of the bitcoin. Volatility is calculated by annualizing the standard deviation of the daily returns of the past 14 days. If the price behavior over the past 14 days remains the same for one year, the volatility charted above can be interpreted as the expected price change range (+ or -) at the end of the year. 

How to Interpret: Each day the volatility of bitcoins (as calculated in Chart 7) is plotted against the return on bitcoins that day. In the chart, the number of days above the 0% line is greater than the number of days below the 0% line, because the price of bitcoins has been trending upward since 1 January 2013.

How to interpret: A simple moving average (SMA) is the average of the price over the past X days. When a short-term moving average crosses over and exceeds a long-term moving average, price momentum in the market is accelerating. When a short-term moving average falls below a long-term moving average, price momentum in the market is decelerating.

How to interpret: We have chosen to measure long-term trends with 50- and 100-day simple moving averages, and short-term trends with 10- and 20-day simple moving averages. When the 50-day simple moving average is greater than the 100-day moving average, the long-term position is indicated in red. When the 10-day simple moving average is greater than the 20-day simple moving average, the short-term position is indicated in green.

17 Sep 16:21

Top U.S. Military Official: Our Arab “Allies” Support ISIS

by George Washington

America’s top military official – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey – just admitted in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing what we’ve been saying for months … America’s closest allies are supporting ISIS:



GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I know major Arab allies who fund them.


GRAHAM: Yeah, but do they embrace them? They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight Assad. They were trying to beat Assad. I think they realized the folly of their ways.

Maybe a good start for defeating ISIS would be to stop funding them and their BFFs?

Call your Congress Critter TODAY: Vote ‘NO’ on Military Aid to Syrian ‘Rebels’


17 Sep 16:00

Make Legal Immigration Easier

by John Stossel

Conservatives rightly point out that America is a nation of laws. No one should be exempt. That's why many oppose amnesty and other paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here now. "If they want to be in America," the argument goes, "they ought to return to their own countries and apply for a visa legally. America should not reward law breaking."

That sounds sensible—but what happens when the immigrant does that, goes to the U.S. embassy and says, I'd like to work in America legally? He gets paperwork to fill out and is told to go home to wait. And wait. A Forbes investigation found that a computer programmer from India must wait, on average, 35 years. A high school graduate from Mexico must wait an average 130 years!

We tell eager workers, "Do it legally; just wait 130 years"? This makes no sense. We should make legal immigration easier, relax the rules, issue work permits. Conservatives usually understand that complex regulations make life hard for people. Immigration bureaucracy makes life harder not just for the immigrants but for the rest of us.

America needs immigrants. Immigrants co-founded most of Silicon Valley's start-ups. The Patent Office says immigrants invent things at twice the rate of native-born Americans.

Immigrants are special people, people with the ambition and guts to leave their home to pursue an American dream. We ought to let more of them in. And not just PhD's. Half of America's agricultural workers are here illegally, according to the Department of Agriculture. But without them, the government says food would cost much more. Milk would cost 61 percent more.

Some people say, well, maybe immigrants in the past were a boon to America, but now there are just too many. They make up 12 percent of the population! True. But in 1915, it was 15 percent.

Others complain that immigrants once worked hard and tried to assimilate, but today's immigrants are different: less educated, more likely to collect welfare, less likely to adopt the American work ethic. Maybe. But I doubt it. Every new immigrant group has been derided as backward, unclean, or criminal. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) called Slovaks "illiterate and ignorant in the extreme." He called Italians "the lowest type as to character and intelligence." Irish immigrants had such a bad reputation that in job advertisements businesses posted job notices: "No Irish need apply."

Fears about newcomers weren't totally unfounded. It took them time to assimilate and accumulate wealth. But they did. The Irish, Italians, and other once-vilified groups are now leaders in America.

People say that immigrants steal "our" jobs. And yes, they do take some. But they create new jobs, too, lots. When people move to another country and encounter a different culture, they see things in new ways. Some pick the best from each culture and create useful things.

Imagine your life without Google searches, cheap Ikea furniture, YouTube, bicycles, blenders, ATM's. All came from immigrants. New Americans also gave us blow dryers, basketball, football, the first shopping mall, comfortable jeans, even the American hot dog (that came from Germany's frankfurter).

Immigration enriches our language. Jewish immigrants gave us the word "glitch." "Gee whiz" came from the Irish. The song "God Bless America" was written by an immigrant—the prolific Irving Berlin, born in Russia.

The TV network on which my weekly show is broadcast exists only because an immigrant from Australia saw the need for Fox News. And I'm only here because my parents left Germany in 1930, a year when immigration rules were still pretty lax (if you weren't Chinese, since there were racist quotas).

Today, we'd solve many problems if work permits were available and legal immigration easier. If people can come here legally, fewer sneak in. It will be easier to secure the border because police can focus on actual criminals and terrorists. As Lao-tzu said, "the greater the number of laws and enactments, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

America should say yes to immigration.

17 Sep 14:47

New Study Says There's No Evidence That Terrorists Changed How They Communicate Post-Snowden

by Mike Masnick
One of the standard talking points right after the Ed Snowden revelations first started coming out was that the leaks were causing terrorists to change how they communicated, meaning that US intelligence was somehow "losing track" of important information on the whereabouts and plans of terrorists. The most obvious example of this was from CNN "reporter" Barbara Starr (who has a long track record of repeating Defense Department talking points) who directly claimed: "terrorists are trying to change the way they communicate because of what they learned from Edward Snowden's admitted leaks of classified information about government surveillance programs." We questioned this claim on a number of points -- in part because there was plenty of evidence that most terrorists already suspected such surveillance and acted accordingly. Meanwhile, in private, James Clapper (who publicly was claiming massive damage from terrorists changing how they communicate) admitted that he really wasn't that worried.
Clapper has said repeatedly in public that the leaks did great damage, but in private he has taken a more nuanced stance. A review of early damage assessments in previous espionage cases, he said in one closed-door briefing this fall, found that dire forecasts of harm were seldom borne out.
So it should come as no surprise at all that a new research report more or less confirms that there is no evidence of terrorists changing how they communicate post-Snowden. You can read the full report from Flashpoint Partners yourself, but it's pretty clear:
  • The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden. Major recent technological advancements have focused primarily on expanding the use of encryption to instant messenger and mobile communications mediums.
  • Aside from warning of tampered copies of “Asrar al-Mujahideen” that were deliberately infected with spyware, none of the prominent jihadi logistical units have expressed any public doubt as to the continued effectiveness of encryption methods employed in their software packages that were released prior to the Snowden leaks.
  • The actual release of new jihadi-themed encryption software packages, like “Asrar al-Dardashah,” seems to have had a far more noticeable impact in terms of driving waves of interest in the subject of encryption among users of jihadi web forums than the publication of the Snowden NSA revelations in June 2013.
  • Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them. As a result, the Snowden revelations likely merely confirmed the suspicions of many of these actors, the more advanced of which were already making use of – and developing –secure communications software.
In other words, as we said, most terrorists already assumed their electronic communications were at risk and acted accordingly. There is little to no evidence that Snowden's leaks had any significant impact at all. The report shows that encryption packages were popular well before the Snowden leaks, and little seems to have changed after the Snowden leaks.

The report also looked at forum discussions on various encryption techniques on forums frequented by terrorist groups. As you can see from the following two charts, there doesn't appear to be any bump in discussions about encryption or related software post Snowden (the leaks began in June of 2013). If anything there was much more discussion before the Snowden revelations started:

The full report is quite interesting, though I doubt we'll see any NSA defenders/Snowden haters admitting that their doom and gloom claims turned out to be false.

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17 Sep 14:43

Google Donates $1 Million in Supplies to Los Angeles Public School Teachers

On Monday, Google surprised hundreds of teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) with donations of pencils, books, printers, and other school supplies, totaling nearly $1 million, says local ABC news affiliate ABC7.

The donations came via a nonprofit website called Donors Choose, which allows public school teachers to post classroom project requests that can range from pencils to microscopes. Donors can give any amount to the project of their choice. When a project reaches its funding goal, the materials are shipped to the school.

Donors Choose states it serves as an online charity to public schools and public charter schools in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and vets every classroom project request. Donors Choose partners include Google, Chevron, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Disney, Staples, Horace Mann, and the National Education Association Foundation (NEA).

"Anything from pencils to technology, it's going to help the kids in the classroom. Any professional with a well-supplied toolbox will be more effective," said history teacher David George. "I'm blown away by the generosity. It's super cool."

As ABC7 reports, Google’s nearly $1 million donation assisted each of the 769 LAUSD teachers who used Donors Choose for financial help. In total, the company covered 1,071 requests, including funding for an eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C.

"We know it can be a lot of hard work. We're happy to help when we can," said Thomas Williams, senior director of engineering at Google.

Actor Kevin McHale of Glee, a graduate of LAUSD, joined Mayor Eric Garcetti at the donation event held at Marina Del Rey Middle School in Los Angeles.

"Go on and see the work that they're doing, because I don't think people realize how much money teachers spend out of their own pocket to provide for their students," said McHale.

17 Sep 15:05

Texas Wants to Execute Man Who Killed Home Intruder Who Turned Out to Be SWAT Member

by Scott Shackford

Marvin Louis GuyAttempting to serve a search warrant by entering a house through a window got Killeen, Texas, Police Detective Charles Dinwiddie shot in the face and killed last May.  It was yet another SWAT raid organized for a purpose other than the reason they were invented. The police had a search warrant looking for narcotics at the home of Marvin Louis Guy, 49. They decided to serve this warrant at 5:30 in the morning and without knocking on his door. He opened fire on them, killing Dinwiddie and injuring three others.

Though they found a glass pipe, a grinder, and a pistol, they did not find any drugs. Former Reason Editor Radley Balko took note of the deadly raid in May at The Washington Post. A police informant apparently told them there were bags of cocaine inside the house, which sounds a lot like another familiar drug raid in Virginia that got an officer killed.

The Virginia case ended with Ryan Frederick in prison for 10 years despite his insistence he thought he was defending himself against in home intruders. He may end up lucky compared to Guy. Prosecutors in Texas are going to seek the death penalty against him. KWTX offers a dreadfully written summary that says next to nothing about the circumstances of the raid but gives Dinwiddie’s whole life story. Guy faces three additional charges of attempted capital murder for shooting the other officers. The story mentions the no-knock raid but fails to explain why it happened or the failure to find any drugs.

A search for Guy in the jail inmate locator for Bell County, Texas, shows that he is being charged only for the shootings. There are no drug-related charges listed. He is being held on a bond totaling $4.5 million.

17 Sep 13:37

Scottish Independence Will Kill Socialism on Both Sides of the Border

by Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy

Much has been said about the impact of Scottish independence on British politics. With the predominantly socialist parliamentarians from Scotland gone, the Conservative Party would likely come to dominate British politics for the foreseeable future. The much needed economic reforms and, perhaps, withdrawal from the European Union would become very likely. 

What about the impact of independence on Scotland? The breakup of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic some 21 years ago provides an interesting example.

The 1992 elections produced dramatically different results in the two parts of the former Czechoslovak federation. In the Czech Republic, the election was won by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) led by Vaclav Klaus. Klaus was a highly regarded former federal Finance Minister, who later became Prime Minister and President of the independent Czech Republic. The ODS was dominated by economic reformers whose main goal was a speedy transition of the Czech Republic from a centrally planned economy to capitalism.

In Slovakia, the election was won by the left-leaning Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) led by Vladimir Meciar. Meciar, a former communist who instinctively opposed dramatic economic reforms favored by Klaus, won by promising the increasingly nationalistic Slovaks some type of a confederal arrangement with the Czechs, but not outright independence. Since the HZDS, with support of smaller Slovak National Party, had enough votes to block all legislation in the Federal Parliament, the future of the federation would depend on an agreement between the ODS and the HZDS.

While demanding an increased autonomy for Slovakia, the Slovak leadership did not bother to find out how far the Czechs were prepared to go. The Slovak leadership seemed to believe that the Czechs, who were more emotionally attached to the continuation of the Czechoslovak federation than the Slovaks, would simply accede to whatever demands the Slovaks chose to make. That turned out to be a colossal miscalculation.

The Czechs were determined not to have their economic reforms hindered by the more socialist Slovaks. If the federal government in Prague were to be rendered ineffective by the Slovak veto and thus prevented from reforming the socialist economies of both parts of the federation, then the two nations would have to go their separate ways. As such, the Czechs flatly rejected a confederal arrangement that would provide for a common currency, but autonomy of economic decision-making in the two parts of the federation. As the Czechs saw it, Slovak statism would destabilize the Czechoslovak crown, and thus harm the Czech economic prospects.

The Czechs called the Slovak bluff and the two republics went their separate ways. 

It turned out that many of the concerns that the anti-independence Slovaks had were well founded. Slovakia was not ready for independence. Virtually all the ministries of government were in Prague and the Slovaks working there did not return to Slovakia. While the Czechs simply “repainted” the signs on government buildings from “Czechoslovak” to “Czech,” the Slovaks would have to do everything from the scratch.

The Czechoslovak federation was dissolved on January 31, 1993. In the Czech Republic, Klaus introduced his far-reaching economic reforms. The Czech Republic pulled ahead and became one of the early post-communist success stories. Even better, the Czechs no longer had to feel that they were subsidizing their “younger sibling.” 

Slovakia, in contrast, suffered years of economic and political decline. Meciar’s style of government became increasingly authoritarian, leading the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refer to Slovakia as the “black hole in the heart of Europe.” The Slovak economy remained unreformed. While some of the more lucrative enterprises were sold off to Meciar’s friends (who, in turn, financed his political campaigns), most of the obsolete state-owned firms kept on losing money. By 1998, when Meciar left office, Slovakia was near bankruptcy. 

Following the change of government, Slovakia returned to a full-fledged democracy and embraced far-reaching economic reforms. The Slovaks partially privatized their pension system, introduced a flat income tax and reduced regulation. In recognition of those improvements, the World Bank’s “Doing Business in 2005” report declared Slovakia the world’s leading reformer and ranked it among the top 20 countries with the best business conditions. By 2006, the Slovak economy was growing at 10 percent per annum and Slovakia was the world’s largest exporter of cars per capita. 

Independence forced Slovaks to realize that they had no one to blame for their misfortunes but themselves. Likewise, the success of the “Tatra Tiger,” as Slovakia came to be known in the mid-2000s, imbued the Slovaks with optimism and confidence. As for the relationship between the Czechs and Slovaks: it has never been better.

Since Scottish devolution in 1997, the socialists in the Scottish National and Labor parties have been busily over-regulating those parts of the Scottish economy that were unfortunate enough to fall under their control. According to the 2010 United Kingdom Competitiveness Index, the region with “the largest fall in relative competitiveness” between 1997 and 2010 was Scotland. 

Scotland’s greater statism and, ironically for the birth place of Adam Smith, suspicion of capitalism, is a potent obstacle to reform in England and Wales. It is also a serious danger to economic prosperity north of the border. Sooner or later, Scotland will need to introduce reforms that it would never accept from a Westminster government. The end of the Union maybe a high price to pay for the end of socialism on the British isles, but the rewards from a more robust, long-term economic growth are not negligible either. 

17 Sep 12:43

Austin Police Officer Tries To Paint Police Accountability Groups As 'Domestic Extremists' In FOIA'ed Emails

by Tim Cushing
An activist is a terrorist, at least according to Senior Police Officer Justin Berry of the Austin Police Dept. While the terms aren't mutually exclusive, a person can be one without being the other. In Berry's mind, they're both, and he feeds off the FBI's paranoia to reach his conclusion.

If you can't read it, it basically says that Berry has come across some information on a "national domestic extremism trend" that is echoed by local activist groups. He claims to have found "mirror warning signs" in "FBI intel." From there, his own report follows, naming such unlikely domestic extremists as CopBlock, CopWatch and Peaceful Streets. Also included are sovereign citizens groups and government accountability activists. [pdf link]

A nationwide movement has begun against the United States Government and all government officials including those at the local level and the police officers employed by these agencies (Anonymous, 2012). Locally, numerous activists have combined their programs to work together towards the same agenda, which seems similarly in line with that of the national revolution movement…
Here's the list of groups Berry believes are an imminent threat.

Peaceful Streets Project Austin, TX- Leader and Founder Antonio Buehler

Cop Block- Austin, TX

Cop Watch- National and Local

Texans for Accountable Government Austin, TX (State and Local legislative front) - Leader and Co-Founder John Bush

Occupy Austin- Austin, TX (Political)

Lone Star Sovereign Mutual Aid Response Team Austin, TX (legal aid and blanket calling) - Leader and Founder John Bush

Anonymous- Global (Computer Hacking and obtaining of personal and banking information)- Unknown

Oath Keepers- A first responder and military organization supporter group- National (Police Information Source)- Unidentified Members, one known member within the Austin Police Department

Institute for Justice- National. Texas Chapter Headquarters in downtown Austin, TX (Legislative Arm)- Unidentified at this time
His report goes on to say that these disparate groups share common members and acknowledges that the operations themselves are often peaceful -- or at least, not directly violent. But he calls out individual members for social media posts containing broad threats or other antagonistic behavior as being indicative of these groups' latent potential for violence.
Below is several screen shots that show these organizations intentions, statements, and goals that should not be discredited as mere chatter, but considered an active threat until after November 5, 2012...
Unfortunately, the screenshots are not among the documents posted at [which also include discussion of an online impersonation charge that likely went nowhere], but anyone who's perused a few comment threads or Facebook posts can probably imagine what was included. In any group, there are always a few commenters who will advocate for violence in response to police misconduct and abuse. These are generally not indicative of the group in total, but do tend to skew higher in certain activist groups. Rather than address the threats as words of individuals, Berry tries to tie the whole thing together as a revolutionary force composed of sovereign citizens, police accountability activists and Anonymous itself. Then he uses a movie to illustrate the severity of the situation.
A good visual of what they are hoping for can be seen in the movie for V for Vendetta. basically what they are basing all their movements off of. At time marker 1 hour 42 minutes a detective is heard telling the plan which is basically hoping one police officer will make a mistake and poor decision, in the case of the movie killing an unarmed child committing a minor offense. They then used that event to bring out regular people to support their cause. Though in real life they do not have numbers needed to pull anything like that off, which is why they will have to create a problem by claiming one-thing ahead of time, then forcing police to take a certain action. My concern is that John Bush has already stockpiled up weapons…
… and so on. Fortunately, Justin Berry's hysteria (possibly prompted by some recorded run-ins with members of these groups) falls mostly on deaf ears. Much more measured responses are given by other law enforcement officers and supervisors.

Following the notification that Peaceful Streets was planning to hand out free cameras to citizens to record police activity, Lt. Robert Richman had this to say.
Please see Tom's email below. It summarizes a very good approach to use while discussing the recent "video" activist movement with our officers. If our officers encounter any problems with the activists. please have them bookmark the incident via DMAV and send me a copy of the case number.

Although we don't anticipate any issues, officers should always be cognizant of their officer safety and the safety of the citizens on scene. If problems do arise. officers should be well versed on the various tools available within the law that may assist them. A few examples are:

Texas Penal Code 38.15 Interference with Public Duties
Texas Transportation Code. Section 552.006 Use of Sidewalk (Le. Pedestrian in Roadway)
Calming, but with a hint of authority behind it. He references "Tom's email," which is even more forthright in its assertion that recording police officers is perfectly acceptable behavior.
I have reminded my officers that there is nothing wrong with citizens recording us while we work. Don't let someone bait us into a negative confrontation.

The would-be camera-persons are to keep their distance and not interfere with the Incident. I have told my guys that 30' is a fair guideline for acceptable distance, since any closer and the subject becomes a potential immediate threat, which causes an officer to divide their attention. However this will be up to the officer to reasonably articulate if they decide to enforce this. Ultimately, maintain officer safety and if the person attempting to records us legitimately interferes with a police incident, arrest them.

I have encouraged my officers to welcome the recordings and present a pleasant professional image for the cameras. "Smile and wave, gang. Smile and wave" - The less our officers respond to the baiting, the more quickly they will tire of their game.
Lt. Tom Sweeney's advice is sound, although he's a bit wrong to belittle recording police officers as a "game." To some, it undoubtedly is, but to many others, it's one of the only forms of officer accountability available to average citizens.

As to Justin Berry's breathless statements that activists are endangering police officers by posting their personal information online, Lt. Richman chills his heated assertion with obvious facts.
Additionally. some officers have complained about the activists posting links on Face Book tothe officer's pay and other personal data. Officers should be reminded that our pay is actually public record and easily found as is many other bits of information via a simple Google search. Officers should be reminded to lock down the security settings on their Face Book accounts and to cleanse any personal data they find on the internet by contacting the site which shows the data. portrays this as a wholesale libeling of these activist groups, but what's released here appears to be nothing more than the fruits of one officers' personal, um, vendetta. As was briefly mentioned earlier, Berry has had multiple run-ins with one of these activist groups -- Peaceful Streets -- and appears to be hoping to find a "legal" way to mute their presence (note how it's listed first and explained in the greatest detail). The other cops in the thread appear to be much more pragmatic, even up to the point of feeling citizen recordings are a "game" that activists will tire of if officers refuse to rise to the "bait." Berry's inferences are objectionable but he seems to be finding little support. Without that, there's not much he can do.

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17 Sep 04:01

The Older Brother gets deja vu all over again

by The Older Brother

Here’s another callback for you longtime Fatheads. It’s from the end of a two-parter I wrote on the State of Illinois’ attempt last year to regulate raw milk producers out of business, “The Older Brother’s notes from the sausage factory floor…” At the end, after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

“I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.”

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

“I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.

It’s what they do.”

… Well. Sorry to be right again, but really, it was an easy call.

Apparently, in the last week or so, the FDA-funded lickspittles at the Illinois Department of Public Health went ahead and promulgated new rules concerning raw milk because… well, because there were no rules and how can you just let people mind their own business without someone writing rules to give them permission to do their own business and regulations detailing how that business is to be minded.

This go-round, they’ve posted for comment regulations that will require anyone selling raw milk to gather the name, address, and phone number of anyone they sell raw milk to and turn it over to the state on request. They will also be prohibited from milking a cow with any dirt on its udder or belly, and be required to only milk cows in a building with floors and walls that can be cleaned. In other words, you can’t milk a cow outdoors, and you’ll have to build a building for several tens of thousands of dollars to do it in.

These are, of course, only a start. Once they get some regulations on the books, they can keep expanding them and “re-interpreting” them until they’ve driven all raw milk producers out of the market.  Mission accomplished!

I wouldn’t have known about this as my local paper — the one in the state capital and the middle of ag country — didn’t actually mention any of this. It did, however, helpfully print a letter to the editor from one of the FDA’s useful idiots – the (prepare to be impressed) president of The Illinois State Medical Society. Here’s a few of what the medical establishment’s public mouthpiece seems to think are compelling arguments on why educated, intelligent, health-conscious people shouldn’t be allowed to choose to consume milk in the way it’s been consumed for the last 7,500 years or so…


As the Illinois Department of Public Health advances rules governing the sale of raw milk, the Illinois State Medical Society remains opposed to the sale and distribution of “raw” or unpasteurized milk in any form. Federal law prohibits dairies from distributing raw milk across state lines in final package form and about half of U.S. states prohibit the sale of raw milk completely.

Correct answer: So what?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other medical and health organizations, raw milk that is not pasteurized may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and other bacteria, that can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. And studies show that children, particularly, are most susceptible to illness due to consuming unpasteurized raw milk.

You mean, there might be germs in milk? Like just about any other food out there. Only as the statistics show, not so much. The nice thing about raw milk is that, unlike pasteurized milk, it also contains all kinds of good bacteria that, in addition to controlling the baddies mentioned, also brings both documented and anecdotal benefits. Probably in about another twenty years, the adherents to the type of medicine practiced by the Illinois State Medical Society will discover the wonders of the gut biome. (Don’t tell them now – you’ll ruin the surprise!)

Pasteurization, simply put, is heating milk to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to eliminate harmful bacteria, yet maintaining the milk’s freshness for an extended period of time. Even the Illinois Farm Bureau advocates that individuals drink pasteurized milk.

Wow. You mean, the industry group representing the commodity dairy producers who keep their livestock in confinement pens, inject them with hormones and antibiotics, then mix milk from thousands of cows from different producers, to be shipped hundreds of miles, think people should only drink pasteurized milk? The ones who also put artificial coloring and aspartame in their products?

Now, if you’re going to drink milk from one of these producers, you damned well better want it to be pasteurized. That has nothing to do with the environment of healthy dairy cows raised on pasture with sales going to people within driving distance, who can walk around those fields if they want to see what conditions their food is being produced in.

(Don’t worry about that aspartame thing though. The FDA of which the guardian of our health at the Illinois State Medical Society speaks is engaged in an effort, at the behest of these same producers, to allow aspartame to not be listed in the ingredients of your store-bought, “healthy” milk.)

And these commodity producers, having seen milk sales drop over 20% to the lowest levels in thirty years, are more than happy to advise the FDA, the USDA, the Medical Society, and any other economic illiterates, on how to best put small farmers — who are producing a healthy, ethical, vastly superior product at premium prices — out of business.

I’d say that if the good doctor’s medical expertise is in line with his depth of understanding exhibited in the areas of epidemiology and economics, it would explain why there are over 90,000 medical malpractice-related hospital deaths a year.

That’s an interesting number, because coincidentally, according to an excellent breakdown of the real numbers done by Chris Kesser here, that’s about the odds (1 in 94,000) of a person even getting ill from raw milk (not dead – just a reportable tummy ache). The odds of being hospitalized due to raw milk are around 1 in 6 million, or about three times less than dying in an airplane crash. As for dying, well that’s hard to calculate, since the last reportable deaths associated with raw milk were in the late 1990’s, and those were from homemade “bathtub” queso cheese, which was assuredly contaminated by the maker.

Now, back in 1985, both the worst case of food poisoning deaths (52) and the worst case of salmonella poisoning deaths (possibly up to 12) since the CDC began keeping records in 1970 resulted from consuming dairy products. However, both of those cases involved pasteurized milk. You know — the safe kind.

In fact, there has never been a death reported from just drinking raw milk. That’s according to the CDC. But it took a Freedom of Information Act request to get that out of them, cause it tends to mess with their mission, which is to produce press releases that say “Majority of dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk.”

Not that food can’t kill you. Since that last death associated with raw milk products, people have died from spinach, green onions, cantaloupe, peanuts, drinking water, apple juice, various types of meats, and again, pasteurized milk products, among others.

If the sundry State Medical Societies worked on “physician, heal thyself” and “first, do no harm” instead of acting as the PR wing for the FDA, CDC, USDA and other Big Ag-owned agencies, they could save countless lives. Up to 90,000 just for starts. That’s without even touching all the havoc and suffering they create helping out their other good buddies over at the pharmaceutical companies.

NOTE: If you live in Illinois, you’ve got until October 20th to let your elected representatives know that you’re not interested in less freedom, crappier food choices, and putting small farmers out of business. Remember, nothing gets a bureaucrat’s attention like a lawmaker who’s getting an earful from irritated (but polite, please) constituents two months before an election.


the Older Brother


16 Sep 21:29

Decrying "Wishful Science" on NPR(!)

by Patrick J. Michaels

Patrick J. Michaels

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

First, a disclaimer. I don’t listen to NPR. “State radio” bugs me. But I have friends who do, and I was bowled over when one sent me a seemingly innocuous story about the search for a pharmaceutical treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [ALS], the horrific ailment also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

I knew something big was about to happen when correspondent Richard Harris led off with this zinger:

There’s a funding crunch for biomedical research in the United States—and it’s not just causing pain for scientists and universities.  It’s also creating incentives for researchers to cut corners—and that’s affecting people who are seriously ill.

Predictably, NPR, itself a federally (and privately) funded creature, said the problem was a lack of funding, even titling the piece, “Patients Vulnerable When Cash-Strapped Scientists Cut Corners.”

Allow NPR its sins, because what’s in the article is one key to a very disturbing trend, not just in biomedical science, but in “most disciplines and countries.” It seems that negative results are systematically disappearing from science. Those words appear in the title of a blockbuster 2012 article by University of Montreal’s Daniele Fanelli, more completely, “Negative Results are Disappearing from Most Disciplines and Countries.”

Memo to NPR:  Scientists  are always “cash-strapped.” Just ask one. The reason is very simple, and can be illustrated by my area, climate science.

There are actually very few people formally trained at the doctoral level in this field (yours truly being one of them).  One reason was that, prior to the specter of anthropogenerated climate change, there wasn’t very much money from the federal government. It was about a $50 million a year operation, if that much. We didn’t have enough research dough. 

Now the federal outlay is $2.3 billion. Guess what: we’re all climate scientists now. So ecologists, plant biologists, and even psychologists hitched their wagons to this gravy train. Today’s shocker: we don’t have enough research dough.

What Harris found out about ALS really does apply in a Fanelli-like fashion. It seems that drugs that work fine on mice and rats flop miserably when tested on humans. It turns out that the animal studies were all pretty shoddy.

Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, explained why.  According to NPR, “There is no single answer, she says, but part of the explanation relates to a growing issue in biomedical science: the mad scramble for scarce research dollars.”  She went on: “The field has become hypercompetitive,” and NPR added, “Many excellent grant proposals get turned down, simply because there’s not enough money to go around. So Landis says scientists are tempted to oversell weak results.”  

“Getting a grant requires that you have an exciting story to tell, that you have preliminary data and you have published”, she says. “In the rush, to be perfectly honest, to get a wonderful story out on the street in a journal, and preferably with some publicity to match, scientists can cut corners.”

According to a research paper published earlier this year, corner-cutting turned out to be the rule, rather than the exception, in animal studies of ALS.

Stefano Bertuzzi, the executive director of the American Society for Cell Biology, says that’s because there is little incentive for scientists to take the time to go back and verify results from other labs;

“You want to be the first one to show something”, he says—not the one to verify or dispute a finding, “because you won’t get a big prize for that.”

Landis noted that “ALS is not the only example of this type of wishful science [emphasis added].”  She found similar problems with other drugs for other diseases.

It’s too bad that NPR didn’t then go to Montreal’s Fanelli, because they would have found that similar problems are infecting science everywhere, which is why Cato now has a Center for the Study of Science.

Coming up: I’ll be posting soon on what this does to science itself.  Teaser: if there’s little incentive to publish negative results, whatever reigning paradigm is operating in a given field will be very resistant to change. As the Center for the Study of Science’s Richard Lindzen has observed, there has been a remarkable lack of paradigm substitution in overall science as research budgets ballooned. Ironically, the more we spend on science, the more science can be harmed.


16 Sep 02:05

Prof. Krugman Snared By 364 Trap

by Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

In his New York Times column of September 15, 2014, How to Get It Wrong,Paul Krugman pleas for open-mindedness and reason. From whence did Prof. Krugman convert from his embrace of dogmatism?

Well, it’s clear that he has not converted. Indeed, the evidence resides about three quarters of the way through his column:

“The great majority of policy-oriented economists believe that increasing government spending in a depressed economy creates jobs, and that slashing it destroys jobs — but European leaders and U.S. Republicans decided to believe the handful of economists asserting the opposite. Neither theory nor history justifies panic over current levels of government debt, but politicians decided to panic anyway, citing unvetted (and, it turned out, flawed) research as justification.”

This passage brings back vivid memories of the 364. In 1981, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister and my friend and collaborator, the late Sir Alan Walters, was her economic guru. Britain’s fiscal deficit was relatively large, 5.6% of its gross domestic product, and the economy was in the middle of a nasty slump. To restart the economy, Thatcher instituted a fierce fiscal squeeze, coupled with an expansionary monetary policy. This was immediately condemned by 364 dyed-in-the-wool Keynesian economists - virtually all of the British establishment. In a letter to the Times, they wrote, “Present policies will deepen the depression, erode the industrial base of our economy and threaten its social and political stability.”

Thatcher and Walters were vindicated quickly. No sooner had the 364 affixed their signatures than the economy turned around and boomed for the next five years. That result provoked disbelief among the Keynesians. After all, according to their dogma, the relationship between the direction of a fiscal impulse and economic activity is supposed to be positive, not negative.

The 364’s dogma was proven wrong. Thatcher and Walters were right.

17 Sep 01:03

Understanding America’s ridiculously large $17 trillion economy by comparing US metro areas to entire countries

by Mark J. Perry
Rank Top 20 US Metro Area Economies, 2013 2013 GDP (Billions) Comparable Countries 2013 GDP (billions)
1 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA $1,471,170 Australia $1,505,270
2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 826,826 Turkey 827,200
3 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 590,248 Sweden 557,000
4 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 517,367 Poland 516,120
5 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 463,925 Argentina 488,000
6 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 447,574 Austria 415,000
7 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 388,272 Thailand 387,000
8 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 383,401 Colombia 381,000
9 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 370,769 Venezuela 374,000
10 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 307,233 Malaysia 312,000
11 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 284,967 Nigeria 286,000
12 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 281,076 Chile 277,000
13 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 227,793 Iraq 229,000
14 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 224,726 Kazakhstan 220,000
15 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 209,523 Peru 206,000
16 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 197,886 Czech Republic 198,000
17 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 196,829 Romania 189,000
18 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 178,860 New Zealand 181,000
19 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 168,845 Ukraine 176,000
20 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 163,692 Vietnam 170,000

The table above helps to put America’s ridiculously large $17 trillion economy (GDP in 2013) into perspective by comparing America’s largest 20 metro economies in 2013 based on data released today by the BEA) to the economies of entire countries with similar GDPs in 2013 (IMF data here via Wikipedia).

For example, the larger New York metro area produced almost as much economic output last year ($1.47 trillion) as the entire country of Australia ($1.5 trillion) and New York would be the 13th largest economy in the world as a separate nation; the LA metro area produced slightly about the same amount of economic output ($826 billion) in 2013 as the entire country of Turkey ($827 trillion) and LA would be the 18th largest economy in the world as a separate country; Chicago’s economy ($590 billion) is 6% larger than Sweden’s ($557 billion) and it would be the 20th largest national economy in the world, etc.

MP: This comparison provides another demonstration of how ridiculously large America’s $17 trillion economy really is by showing that the economies of America’s largest metropolitan areas are equivalent in economic size to the GDP of entire countries. In fact, 15 of America’s largest metro economies as separate nations would rank in the top 50 largest economies in the world and all 20 countries above would rank in the world’s 60 largest economies. It’s a demonstration that “free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity” because it was largely free markets and capitalism that propelled the nation from being a minor British colony into an economic superpower and the world’s largest economy.

16 Sep 18:20

California Destroys Winery Over Use of Volunteers

by Scott Shackford

Enough a drive a guy to drink. Oh, WAIT!Apparently your labor is the opposite of your sexuality in California: You can sell it, but you can't give it away for free.

California has a state law that prohibits for-profit companies from using volunteer labor. Anybody who knows anything about employment economics knows that this isn't going to hit those big, dastardly corporations that people hate. No, it's going to end up destroying small wineries like Westover Winery in Castro Valley. From the Mercury News:

A small-time vintner's use of volunteer workers has put him out of business after the state squeezed him like a late-summer grape for $115,000 in fines — and sent a chill through the wine industry.

The volunteers, some of them learning to make wine while helping out, were illegally unpaid laborers, and Westover Winery should have been paying them and paying worker taxes, the state Department of Industrial Relations said.

"I didn't know it was illegal to use volunteers at a winery; it's a common practice," said winery owner Bill Smyth.

So instead, the place will shut down. It was open only 10 hours of week and earned about $11,000 a year in profits for the owning couple. The story notes that half of these volunteers were actually students taking a class about making wine and were benefiting from what they were learning. Essentially they were interns:

This was an incredible opportunity for me," said Peter Goodwin, a home winemaker from Walnut Creek who said he dreams of opening a winery with some friends. "I got to learn from someone who knows the business."

The winery sometimes asked Goodwin if he wanted to assist in different tasks.

"That's what I wanted, to be as involved as much as possible — it was all about learning," he said. "I don't understand the state's action. It was my time, and I volunteered."

A state spokesperson's response was to whine about what might happen if there were a "catastrophic accident" (lawsuits?) and that it wasn't "fair" for wineries that have to pay employees to compete with wineries who don't. I don't think anybody was worried that this $11,000-a-year empire was going to put anybody out of business, and it's the state that mandated this system in the first place. Whenever anybody who works in government talks about creating a level field for the marketplace, you know some small business owner somewhere is about to get screwed over. The story notes that there are many small wineries like this one in the area who rely on volunteers. They had to send them all home.  

(Hat tip to Hit and Run commenter Old Man With Candy.)

16 Sep 17:19

This Seems To Be Going Well...

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Simon Black via Sovereign Man blog,

Gallup released a new poll late last week showing how many (or few, as it were) Americans are ‘satisfied’ with the direction of the country. 23%. That’s it. 76% are NOT satisfied. Only 1% aren’t sure.

The chart below shows the astounding, long-term decline since 2000.

Note, this is a trend that has outlasted three Presidents and six Congresses. It’s not about a single politician, or even ALL the politicians. It’s about the system itself.

Bottom line, people are fed up. The system has failed. And people are starting to realize it. Where do you think this goes?

16 Sep 16:13

Common Core Will Make Schools in U.S. More Like China and That's Not a Good Thing

by Robby Soave

Chinese studentsOne of the supposed selling points of the Common Core standards is that they are "internationally benchmarked" in order to make the U.S. education system more competitive with better systems in other countries. Implement Common Core, and U.S. students will catch up to Chinese students in no time—or so proponents of national standards claim.

Even if that's true, it may not be a good thing. The New York Times recently published a fascinating interview with Yong Zhao, a professor of education at the University of Oregon. Zhao was born in China; unlike many American intellectuals, he does not think U.S. schools should try to emulate China.

"If the United States and the rest of the West are concerned about being overtaken by China, the best solution is to avoid becoming China," he said.

Chinese schools stamp out individuality and make kids spend all their time preparing for exams that are focused on "narrow intelligence." This produces fewer creative and entrepreneurial people, which is precisely what the authoritarian national government of China wants, according to Zhao.

Zhao warned that the kind of standardization offered by Common Core is a danger to a free culture and a free economy. Relevant excerpts from the interview below:

Q. You have said that traditional Chinese education actively “harms” children. How?

A. It basically ignores children’s uniqueness, interests and passion, which results in homogenization. It forces them to spend almost all the time preparing for tests, leaving little time for social and physical activities. It also places them under tremendous stress through intense competition, which can damage their confidence and lowers their self-esteem.

Q. Is the United States becoming like China in education? How?

A. The U.S. has certainly become more like China in recent years. The No Child Left Behind Act has increased the stakes and usage of standardized testing. President Obama’s Race to the Top and other initiatives continue to push testing into schools and classrooms by associating test scores with teacher evaluation. The Common Core State Standards Initiative has been pushed to many states, creating de facto national standards in math and English language arts. So American education today has become more centralized, standardized and test-driven, with an increasingly narrow educational experience, which characterizes Chinese education.

Q. Will this damage America?

A. I believe so. Because a narrow education experience that is centrally dictated, uniformly programmed and constantly monitored by standardized tests is unlikely to value individual talents, respect students’ interest and passion, cultivate creativity or entrepreneurial thinking, or foster the development of noncognitive capacities. But it is the diversity of talents, passion-driven creativity and entrepreneurship, and social-emotional well-being of individuals that are needed for the future economy.

16 Sep 17:00

Share Better Coalition Takes Aim at Airbnb

by Matthew Feeney

Matthew Feeney

Airbnb, which allows for homeowners to temporarily rent some or all of their property, is the target of “Share Better,” a New York City-based campaign group launched last Friday which claims that the company worsens the affordable housing crisis, allows for tenants to violate lease agreements, and poses a safety risk to property owners and guests.

Share Better is a coalition of predictable groups: New York state and NYC elected officials, activists, and hotel industry representatives.

The Share Better campaign is a notable example of established market participants (hotels) working to stifle competition. Airbnb has proven popular in NYC, and many New Yorkers believe that the type of short-term renting facilitated by Airbnb should be permitted. A Quinnipiac poll from earlier this month shows that only 36 percent of NYC voters believe that residents should not be “permitted to rent rooms in their homes for a few days at a time to strangers, similar to a hotel.”

Given Airbnb’s popularity some in the NYC hotel industry are understandably concerned. However, some of the claims made by the group are unfounded. 

Is Airbnb contributing to NYC’s affordable housing crisis? It’s hard to see how given the number of Airbnb rentals and the number of households in NYC. Airbnb claims that there are approximately 25,000 listings in NYC. In a city of roughly 3 million households it’s hard to see how Airbnb could be significantly contributing to a lack of affordable housing in NYC.

If New York and NYC elected officials and activists are concerned about affordable housing in NYC they should turn their attention to rent controls, which economists almost universally agree are bad policy. As Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck noted, “In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing.”

Read Cato’s Policy Analysis “How Rent Control Drives Out Affordable Housing” by William Tucker here.

The Share Better campaign released a video highlighting negative reviews of Airbnb rentals imposed over footage of grim-looking properties. No one who supports the sharing economy claims that every Airbnb experience will be good, just as no one will claim that every hotel visit will enjoyed by every guest. However, given the rise of the Internet it is easy for those interested in staying at a hotel to look up reviews of hotels made by previous guests. Similarly, Airbnb hosts and guests review each other, making it unlikely that a host offering dirty or unsafe accommodation will be able to use Airbnb’s services for long. 

Libertarians and Share Better can agree that, if an apartment tenant has signed a lease with a landlord that forbids him from temporarily renting his apartment, he should not be hosting Airbnb guests.

16 Sep 17:13

Thoughts On Campus Speech 1: Hitler Would Have Been The Most Valuable Campus Speaker

by admin

Yesterday,  Yale did not cave to pressure from certain parts of the student body and Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke on campus.  As with many controversial speakers, mostly consisting of folks not on the political Left, a number of campus groups tried to force Yale to cancel her speech because they expressed themselves offended by her.   Among politically correct colleges, there has been a growing trend towards enforcing a right not to be offended, though this enforcement tends to be asymmetric -- Muslims apparently have a right not to be offended, but Christians do not.  Women have it but men do not.  Greenpeace has it but Exxon does not.

People of prominence who offend us or with whom we violently disagree should not be the least but the most welcome speakers on campus.  I will demonstrate this by using the most extreme of all possible examples:  An imaginary speaking tour by Adolph Hitler, say in December of 1938.  Could there be a more distasteful person, the leader of Nazi Germany just weeks after the Reichskristallnacht?  But I think he would have been the most valuable speaker I could possibly imagine.

If he were honest, which Hitler likely couldn't have stopped himself from being, what valuable insights we could have gained.  The West made numerous mistakes in the late thirties and even into the forties because it just could not believe the full extent of Hitler's objectives and hatreds**.   Perhaps we would have understood sooner and better exactly what we were dealing with.

Even if he were dishonest, and tried to "convert" the office without discussing specific plans, that would still be fascinating.  What arguments did he use?  Could we get insights into why he struck a chord among the German people?  Would his rhetoric be compelling to American audiences?  I despise the guy and almost everything he stood for but I would have loved to have him on campus as a speaker.

I will tell one of my favorite stories about the rise of Hitler.   You have heard the story of Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics.   Supposedly this was a slap in the face to Hitler, to have a black man winning medals.  But one of the last events of the games was a four man relay race.  The US was certainly going to win.  But one of the US runners was Jewish and the US pulled the runner from the race and substituted Owens.  The US didn't want to embarrass Hitler by making him hand a medal to a Jew.  This sounds odd to put it this way, but one of the problems we had in really taking the worst of the Holocaust seriously as it was happening is that we were not able to see that Hitler's anti-semitism was so much more dangerous than the ubiquitous and run-of-the-mill anti-semitism that obtained all over Britain and America.  We should always have a policy of letting even the most extreme people talk as much as they like.  We might learn that they have a point and adjust our thinking on something, or we might learn that they are even batshit crazier than we thought.  Either outcome is useful.

15 Sep 16:17

Chile's Proposed Education Reforms Would Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs

by Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew J. Coulson

For the past three decades, Chile has had a nationwide voucher-like school choice program. Parents can choose among public and private schools, and the government picks up most or all of the tab. But, since the election last fall of a left-leaning government led by Michelle Bachelet, the future of the program has been in doubt. In May, President Bachelet introduced a first round of reforms aimed at dismantling aspects of the program, though these are still under debate. I’ve written about what that could mean for Chile’s educational performance and equality in today’s edition of the Santiago-based El Mercurio. Here’s the original English version:

Chile’s elementary and secondary education system has been harshly criticized in recent years for academic underperformance and for having large gaps in achievement between lower-income and higher-income students. There is significant truth to both charges. What is less widely known is that Chile has been improving substantially in both respects for at least a decade, and that president Bachelet’s proposed reforms are likely to reverse that improvement.

Though Chilean students perform in the bottom half of countries on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, many of the nations that participate in that test are rich and fully industrialized. When compared to other Latin American countries, Chile is number one across all subjects. More importantly, Chile is one of the fastest-improving countries in the world on international tests, and so it is gradually closing the gap with rich nations.

Crucially, the bulk of Chile’s improvement has been coming from traditionally lower-performing, lower-income students, so the nation has also been narrowing its own achievement gap between rich and poor. One way that researchers measure inequality is to compare the performance of students who have many economic and educational resources in the home with the performance of those who lack such resources. By 2009, the gap in performance between the high- and low-resource students was already smaller in Chile than in most industrialized countries, including Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, and the United States. Another measure of inequality is the difference in the number of years of schooling that high- and low-income children complete. By that measure, Chile has the least inequality of any country in Latin America.

Chile, in other words, is the top performer in the region and one of the fastest improving in the world. Not only have researchers noticed these golden eggs of Chilean education, they have also begun to understand the goose that lays them. Most studies find that Chilean private schools outperform municipal schools, but the difference is sometimes quite small. A more important discovery, by Professor Francisco Gallego and others, is that increased competition from private schools improves outcomes across the board. As the ratio of private to municipal schools in a given area rises, so too does the performance of students in both sectors.

Professor Gregory Elacqua has added another important insight: chains of private schools tend to outperform independent private schools. On top of that, the larger chains outperform the smaller ones.

And which type of private schools are the most likely to grow and form new chains? The answer is for-profit schools. Though Catholic schools can also be thought of as a network or chain, and though they, too, perform well academically, they have not expanded as rapidly as for-profit schools in recent decades and they have been less likely to locate in the very poorest neighborhoods.

So an obvious recipe for continuing Chile’s pattern of educational improvement and the shrinking of its educational gaps is to encourage the growth of networks of high-performing for-profit schools. This is of course the precise opposite of the reforms proposed by president Bachelet, who wishes to ban for-profit schools and forbid parental co-payments. If implemented, schools serving roughly one million students would have to shut down.

Sadly, the government seems unaware of how successful the existing system has been. It wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs without even having noticed the eggs. The Bachelet government, and the student leaders who encouraged it to adopt these reforms, want to believe that a centrally planned school system would work better than the more free enterprise approach that exists today. Camila Vallejo, for instance, once said that Venezuela’s centrally planned education system is more advanced than Chile’s. But on the famous PISA international test, Venezuela’s most developed state performs far below Chile’s national average. And the avowed mission of Venezuela’s system is to indoctrinate youth with the government’s ideology. There seems to be little appetite for that sort of system in Chile.

It is good that Chileans are unsatisfied with the status quo and eager to improve it. High standards are crucial for the advancement of nations as well as individuals. But if the desire for improvement is to be satisfied, it must be accompanied by an honest appraisal of what works and what does not—in the real world. Chile’s entrepreneurial approach to education has elevated it above its regional peers, narrowed its educational gaps, and is helping it to improve overall. Central planning, as Venezuelans are rediscovering, has a less encouraging record.