Shared posts

02 Sep 20:45

Listen to Chubby Checker Sing About Dig Dug on a Lost Demo Tape

Let's take a moment and listen to this song about Dig Dug, as sung by Chubby Checker.






02 Sep 21:00

The Police Tool That Pervs Use to Steal Nude Pics From Apple’s iCloud

As nude celebrity photos spilled onto the web over the weekend, blame for the scandal has rotated from the scumbag hackers who stole the images to a researcher who released a tool used to crack victims’ iCloud passwords to Apple, whose security flaws may have made that cracking exploit possible in the first place. But one […]
02 Sep 16:08

Electromagnetic Weapons

by schneier

Long article in IEEE Spectrum.

01 Sep 19:09

Say hello to those who hate the NSA, but invade women's privacy

by donotreply@osnews.com (Thom Holwerda)
Over the weekend someone released hundreds of revealing photos of celebrities that appear to have been stolen from private storage. In response to this, a bunch of anonymous guys on the internet copied them and posted them all over the town square, because the internet is written in ink and if you are ever a victim once in your life the internet will remind you of it forever. These men are the detritus of human society for whom the internet provides a warm blanket, so let's remove the warm blanket for a minute. If the NSA spies on us, it's a massive violation of privacy and omg government and #impeachobama. When some (hopefully not for much longer) anonymous hacker breaks into the personal, private accounts of dozens of famous women, steals their most private photographs, and posts them online, these same men shouting from the rooftops about the NSA retreat to their bunkers, share the photos as much as they can, and do much more I'd rather not imagine right now. Props to The Verge for this article.
02 Sep 15:02

TED: Jim Holt: Why does the universe exist? - Jim Holt (2014)

by TEDTalks
Why is there something instead of nothing? In other words: Why does the universe exist (and why are we in it)? Philosopher and writer Jim Holt follows this question toward three possible answers. Or four. Or none.
02 Sep 11:00

Matt Welch on Rand Paul, the Tea Party, and Racism

The Tea Party was commonly portrayed upon its arrival on the national scene as a racist spasm against a black president. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the leading member of the 2010 Tea Party class of elected officials—and he did nothing to help against allegations of racism back then. First came his infamous post-election interview with Rachel Maddow, in which the senator-elect bumbled through his reservations about-and ultimate support for-the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Then came the July 2013 revelation that a key Paul staffer (who soon resigned) had a past as a pro-Confederate shock jock. For consumers who get their political news from MSNBC or The Huffington Post, the narrative was simple: "Rand Paul," as Bill Moyers put it this April, "has a race problem."

But classifying the Kentucky senator—and the movement within the GOP he represents—as crazy and racist is misguided, argues Reason Editor Matt Welch writes. The same Tea Party wave that was tarred as racist is now contributing toward a criminal justice reform movement that stands on the precipice of rolling back the biggest civil rights violations of the last four decades. When those days of liberation come, it will be the libertarian right and the progressive left who will deserve the most credit.

View this article.

02 Sep 02:35

Mom Outraged District Expects her 11 y.o. to Take Local Bus or Walk 1/2 Mile to School

by lskenazy

Readers – I try to feel for the parents so steeped in the acid of fear that they cannot think straight. So I am trying to feel sympathy for this mom. KING5 News reports:

A Seattle mom has never been more terrified to send her 11-year-old child to school on a bus.

Karenza Ferris thought her daughter, Zya, would ride a yellow bus during her first year as a middle school student at Jane Addams.

Zya assumed the same.

“A yellow bus would come, they would pick me up, and they would drop me off at school,” Zya said.

Except, just a couple weeks before the start of the school year, Karenza received a letter from the school district. After students finish elementary school, the district contracts with the public Metro bus for transportation.

“The first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘What?’” Zya remembered. “You never know who rides it.”

What bothers her mother the most, however, is the 12 sex offenders who live within a mile of the stop.

“It’s terrifying,” Zya said.

Zya would have to walk alone, more than a half-mile to school.

As bad as I feel for this mom I feel worse for Seattle. Now that the news media has treated this mom’s paranoia as a legitimate concern, other parents could well pile on — especially as the school has relented and is allowing the middle school girl to ride the transportation previously reserved for younger kids.

Give parents something new to worry about, they will. –  L

Save my child from acting her age!

Save my child from acting her age!

02 Sep 04:24

"When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal"

by Kate

"We're going to punish our enemies and reward our friends" - Email Reveals Lois Lerner Ignored Political Expenditures By Unions

02 Sep 11:31

Letting Students Hit The Snooze Button

by Dish Staff
Remlaps

h/t Adam Victor Brandizzi

by Dish Staff

A new report indicates that science agrees with teenagers everywhere – school should start later:

Seeing the mounting evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics [last week] released a new policy statement recommending that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, the policy statement says. The conclusions are backed by a technical report [pdf] the academy also released yesterday, “Insufficient Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences,” which is published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics.

The “research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, lead author of the policy statement, titled “School Start Times for Adolescents.”

The debate over whether to start school later has run for years, but a host of new studies have basically put it to rest. For one thing, biological research shows clearly that circadian rhythms shift during the teen years. Boys and girls naturally stay up later and sleep in later. The trend begins around age 13 or 14 and peaks between 17 and 19. The teens also need more sleep in general, so forcing them to be up early for school cuts into their sleep time as well as their sleep rhythm, making them less ready to learn during those first-period classes.

30 Aug 16:12

Homeschool surpasses private school

by noreply@blogger.com (Vox)
Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

In North Carolina:
North Carolina officials say there has been a huge increase over the past two years in the number of Tar Heel families who have pulled their kids out of public schools and begun educating them at home. The number of homeschools has jumped 27 percent since the 2011-12 school year, NewsObserver.com reports.

As of last year, 98,172 North Carolinian children were homeschooled; that’s 2,400 students more than the number who attended a private school.

While the sputtering economy is the reason families are choosing homeschooling over private schooling, the nationalized learning experiment (Common Core) is the main reason families are leaving the public schools in the first place. “Common Core is a big factor that I hear people talk about,” Beth Herbert, founder of Lighthouse Christian Homeschool Association, told NewsObserver.com. “They’re not happy with the work their kids are coming home with. They’ve decided to take their children home.”
One number they omit to mention is 1,443,998. That's the number of public schooled children in North Carolina. Which means that more than six percent of school-age children there are being homeschooled, considerably up from the national average of two percent a few years ago.

Sometimes it's nice to be able to report a positive trend for a change. And it sounds as if the numbers of homeschoolers will continue to grow.

Posted by Vox Day.
02 Sep 01:00

How a new HTML element will make the Web faster

by Ars Staff
Soon, you won't need to be the Flash for quicker Web browsing.

The Web is going to get faster in the very near future. And sadly, this is rare enough to be news.

The speed bump won't be because our devices are getting faster, but they are. It won't be because some giant company created something great, though they probably have. The Web will be getting faster very soon because a small group of developers saw a problem and decided to solve it for all of us.

That problem is images. As of August 2014, the size of the average page in the top 1,000 sites on the Web is 1.7MB. Images account for almost 1MB of that 1.7MB.

Read 71 remaining paragraphs | Comments

01 Sep 22:09

Cop Forced 8 Women to Have Sex With Him Under Threat of Arrest

by Robby Soave

Daniel HoltzclawAn Oklahoma City cop was arrested for forcing eight different women to have sex with him. The officer, 27-year-old Daniel Holtzclaw, allegedly told his victims that he would arrest them if they did not engage in various sexual acts with him.

The Detroit Free Press—which covered the case because Holtzclaw is a former Eastern Michigan University football player—reports:

Officer Daniel Holtzclaw, 27, was charged with two counts of first-degree rape, four counts of sexual battery, four counts of forcible oral sodomy, four counts of indecent exposure, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of stalking.

Holtzclaw — a former Eastern Michigan University football player — is accused of raping at least two women while on duty and forcing four to perform oral sex, in addition to fondling the women and forcing them to expose themselves.

Holtzclaw reportedly forced women to expose themselves, fondled the women, forced four of them to perform oral sex on him and had intercourse with at least two of the women, court records show.

The Free Press notes that all of Holtzclaw's victims were black, which means the U.S. Department of Justice could investigate the case as a civil rights matter.

The Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police is still supporting Holtzclaw pending the results of an investigation. The organization released a statement explaining that, "Officers often find themselves unfairly targeted by all types of allegations."

Holtzclaw's family and friends have set up a Facebook page, "Justice for Daniel Holtzclaw." Supporters criticized his extremely high bail amount of $5 million.

Read the full, horrifying story here.

01 Sep 15:27

“The increasing criminalization of corporate behavior in America…”

by Walter Olson

“…is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism,” opines The Economist, saying regulation-through prosecution has become “an extortion racket,” from hundreds of millions in Google drug-ad settlement money spread among Rhode Island police departments, to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s muscling in to extract money from BNP Paribas in a settlement of legal offenses against U.S. foreign policy as distinct from New York consumers:

Who runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? The Sicilian mafia? The People’s Liberation Army in China? The kleptocracy in the Kremlin? If you are a big business, all these are less grasping than America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers with commercial ruin, preferably with criminal charges; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement (so nobody can check the details). Then repeat with another large company. …

Perhaps the most destructive part of it all is the secrecy and opacity. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people—with souls and bodies—were to blame. Since the cases never go to court, precedent is not established, so it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns, but hurts the rule of law and imposes enormous costs.

Tags: Andrew Cuomo, banks, Google, prosecution, regulation through litigation, Rhode Island

“The increasing criminalization of corporate behavior in America…” is a post from Overlawyered - Chronicling the high cost of our legal system

31 Aug 13:00

The Iron Throne: A Feudal Monarchy with Diminishing Modern Power

by Kevin Vallier

In my next “Political Economy of A Song and Ice and Fire” series, I’d like to figure out what sort of monarchy Westeros has.

But before I begin, SPOILER NOTE. The Robert’s Rebellion section has spoilers through Season 3 of Game of Thrones and the Queen Daenarys section has MEGA-SPOILERS through Dance with Dragons. Please use spoiler tags in the comments if you want to talk about spoilery stuff.

Ok, back to the monarchy. To simplify my analysis, let’s suppose there are roughly three types of monarchs: feudal monarchs, absolute monarchs, and constitutional monarchs. Here are some very rough generalizations.

Feudal monarchs typically have very limited powers, and those powers are often challenged by many other potent centers of power, such as churches, guilds, etc. Feudal monarchs also tend to rule partly by pact, that is by agreements with lords, vassals, etc. that give them their power.  That is, vassals provide homage, legal and military service, and limited payments.

Absolute monarchs have far more power and far fewer competitors. Absolute monarchists can frequently rule by decree, have a much more articulated legislative ability and can exact punishments in a direct fashion. Absolute monarchs can exact taxes in many ways, and typically have complete military dominance. That is, the aristocratic classes do not keep military forces. An absolute monarch’s power is also typically not limited or not very limited by a constitution or by law.

Constitutional monarchs have a single ruler, but the ruler’s power is typically sharply limited by a traditional or written constitution. The monarch represents the national bureaucracy to some degree, can raise armies, exact taxes, pass limited laws, and so on. In constitutional monarchies, legislative bodies tend to have real power. Sometimes absolute monarchies have legislative bodies, but they’re largely symbolic. Some constitutional monarchs are elected, but many are hereditary, much like absolute and feudal monarchs.

My analysis of the Westerosi monarchy will consist of four time periods – the period prior to Aegon’s Conquest, the period between Aegon’s Conquest and the Dance of the Dragons, the period from the Dance of the Dragons until Robert’s Rebellion and the period from Robert’s Rebellion forward. The key factor distinguishing these periods is the availability and power and legacy of the incredible military technology known as dragons.

Dragons are basically reusable nuclear weapons. They can reach across Westeros in a relatively short period of time, burninating the countryside, burninating all the peasants. Dragons make castles obsolete (as Harren the Black learned with Harrenhal), and while they do not make armies irrelevant, they allow dragon-equipped armies to defeat much larger armies. Dragons can reproduce and live for a very long time, which means that those who possess the dragons can expect to have a military advantage for decades. Further, dragons are genetically bonded to an elite class of dragon riders. And apparently the Targaryens are the only people in Westeros with the reliable genetic ability to bond with dragons. So no one else can reliably use them. Finally, the dragons allow for the consistent use of magic, and could conceivably help enable the new creation of the military technology of Valyrian steel and Wildfire. Of course, Valyrian steel and wildfire are not the sole possession of Dragonlords, but those with dragons will have a superior ability to manufacture them, which basically generates asymmetric access to advanced metallurgy and explosives.

Thus, whoever has dragons has a massive military advantage, such that any military conquest could presumably lead to the imposition of massively asymmetric terms, enabling the creation of something far more powerful than a feudal monarchy.

I. Pre-Aegon’s Conquest

Prior to Aegon’s Conquest, Westeros consisted of seven monarchies: The Kingdom of the North (House Stark), The Kingdom of the Mountain and the Vale (House Arryn), the Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers (House Greyjoy), the Kingdom of the Rock (House Lannister), the Kingdom of the Reach (House Gardener, replaced by the Tyrells after Aegon’s Conquest), the Kingdom of the Stormlands (House Durrandon, replaced by the Baratheons after Aegon’s Conquest) and Dorne (House Martell).

All were essentially feudal monarchs – pact-based, clan-based rule with vassals, military based on calling one’s banners, limited powers, no alternative legislative bodies, no explicit constitutions (as far as we know). This should not be controversial.

II. Aegon’s Conquest to the Dance of the Dragons

This is the hardest period to characterize because Aegon and his sisters did not exactly establish a feudal monarchy. First, it’s not clear what political and legal powers Aegon and his immediate successors had. Of course, they made pacts with the major houses that yielded to them, but the critical difference is that Aegon and his sisters had dragons, so they could impose whatever terms they wanted. We do not know all the terms of the pacts made with the submitting Kings, such as the agreement made with Torrhen Stark “The King Who Knelt.” We know that the six of the kings of Westeros were replaced and/or reduced to Lords.

But the royal houses were generally left in power, and some were made Wardens, whichis an increase in power, though only in military power. We know that the new Lords Paramount had immediate authority over their vassals, we know that their militaries were left largely intact, and we know they had judicial functions. We also know that they had to pay some sort of tax or tribute to the Iron Throne. I could be wrong, but I thought some laws were made national, such as some details of succession, but I can’t recall specific examples.

Importantly, the Targaryens were powerful enough to exempt themselves from some very important laws, mostly importantly laws forbidding incest and polygamy. This created decades of tension with the Faith of the Seven and their Faith Militant, however, which ultimately led the Targaryens to disarm them (beginning with Maegor the Cruel and ending with Jaehaerys the Conciliator). Nonetheless, Aegon felt compelled to convert to the Faith. But whatever the Faith’s power, it does not compare to the power of the Roman Catholic Church in feudal Europe.

It appears that, despite their heritage as freeholders among the Valyrian dragonlords, Aegon sought to create a single, strong, but still essentially feudal monarchy, rather than a new freehold. Yet he presumably could have imposed more absolutist terms. He may have gained the power over a few years or decades, given that the Targaryens were seen as having somewhat divine power (the blood of the dragon). They were, after all, dragonlords and many of them were extremely beautiful. Most had a unique, almost magical appearance with their silver hair and purple eyes. That said, I’m not aware of anyone worshipping the Targaryens as gods, or as having any special connection with the gods. So they bear few resemblances to ancient dynastic tyrants.

So between Aegon’s Conquest and the Dance of the Dragons, we have a huge feudal monarchy, but with the military power to quickly become something much stronger. The Targaryens, however, seemed largely uninterested in state-building, unlike their Valyrian forbears, who built roads and cities. Aegon did create King’s Landing, and other Targaryen monarchs created other public works, but they did not behave like Roman Empire. They were not state-building Caesars.

An interesting question is why the Targs didn’t try harder to consolidate power. I’d be especially interested in why they never attempted to centralize military power. Perhaps they thought they didn’t need to do so, given that they had dragons. But if the Iron Throne had the only military, that could have worked to their benefit.

So during this period, Westeros has a feudal monarchy with modern reach and the potential to exercise modern power. But the monarchs only maintained this advantage for about 130 years. The Dance began in 129 AC.

III. From the Dance to Robert’s Rebellion 

Following the Dance, the dragons were dramatically weakened, and with them House Targaryen. The Targs still maintained a strong hold over the throne, though the Blackfyre Rebellions would challenge their authority several times. Nonetheless, the Blackfyres were legally legitimized bastards, so it was an intra-family dispute. None of the major houses seemed interested in gaining the Iron Throne for themselves, unless you count House Hightower during the Dance. So during this period, the feudal monarchy loses much of its modern power, and starts to more closely resemble a traditional feudal monarchy. And, importantly, the regime became less politically stable, especially due to the Blackfyre rebellions.

IV. After Robert’s Rebellion (Show Spoilers through Season 3) 

Following Robert’s Rebellion, the Targaryens are removed from power. Many people remember when Aerys was the on the throne and know that Robert’s hereditary basis for his crown is weak. Even Robert said his claim was his warhammer. So we have a ruler that is seen as a usurper by many, either openly or covertly, and has no real connection to the magical Targs. This, in my view, substantially weakened the feudal monarchy. This is obvious once Jon Arryn, Robert and Rob Stark die, as they held together three noble houses in a military alliance based in deep friendship. The Baratheon-Lannister alliance falls apart as well. And this leads to several potentially successful secessions – the secession of the Iron Islands (attempted by Balon Greyjoy before, and seemingly successful the second time), and the secession of the North under Robb Stark.

In my opinion, with the loss of the dragons, it is no longer clear in Westeros whether “one king means peace.” Westeros is huge and it’s not clear whether the Westerosi monarchy is a stable governing body. Without a state bureaucracy, managing the seven kingdoms from King’s Landing is extremely difficult. In practice, the wardens have great power to challenge the crown, so it makes sense that the monarchy would break up with the loss of the dragons. Had Daenarys’s dragons not hatched, I suspect that in another hundred years, the Westerosi monarchy would collapse after the powerful kingdoms seceded. I see no prospect in particular for the throne to try to rule the North. The North is poor in resources and hard to conquer, so there is little reason to spend the effort to conquer them. So perhaps we’d end up with North Westeros and South Westeros, with the Iron Islands generally serving as reaving jerks until they get temporarily conquered again. I suspect that Dorne would probably secede as well.

So, in sum, Westeros is essentially a feudal monarchy but is capable of becoming something more with reliable dragon access and Targ rule (and maybe Baratheon rule, and maybe Stark rule if Jon has Targ blood and ends up in the royal family somehow).

Now let me speculate on the Westerosi monarchy to come. This involves LOTS of spoilers. I really mean that. Again, if you want to talk about that section, use spoiler tags in the comments.

They should look like this:

[SPOILERS]

 

…. Blah, blah, blah.

See how I left space so people can scroll past them? Yeah, that’s the way to do it.

V. Queen Daenarys? (SPOILERS through Dance with Dragons) 

Imagine that Daenarys gains the Iron Throne with her dragons and her dragons can stably reproduce. She will have roughly the same power as Aegon the Conquerer, and may well have a larger army, if she can combine all the forces she seems to have access to by the end of Dance with Dragons and the spoiler chapters from The Winds of Winter. If she takes down Khal Jhaqo (hopefully by serving him up to Drogon), she’ll have a huge khalasar to add to her Unsullied and sellsword companies following the end of the Battle of Fire. I also expect the Volantene fleet to be commandeered by her in some way. However, given that GRRM has suggested that Tyrion and Dany won’t meet early in Winds of Winter, she might fly Drogon to Asshai, given the part of her prophecy that she must go east to go west and that she must “pass beneath the shadow” meaning Asshai-by-the-shadow.

If she unites with “Aegon” (who I think is almost certainly Magister Illyrio’s son; he is the “Mummer’s Dragon” in Dany’s vision in the House of the Undying; “Mummer” has a double-meaning: he’s a fake dragon (a Blackfyre through the female line) and Varys’s dragon, as Varys grew up as a mummer) then they could restore the monarchy together, though I suspect they will be at odds given the release of the Princess and the Queen storyline and the emphasis on the Blackfyre Rebellions in the Dunk and Egg series. GRRM wants us to know that Targs can butcher each other and their dragons. I think “Aegon” might steal a dragon, perhaps Rhaegal, and that one of the dragons will die as a result. I also expect him to die in the process. But with or without Aegon, Queen Dany could remake the political order.

And Dany’s sympathy for slaves and smallfolk might lead her to alter the political order to work better for their sake. GRRM repeatedly emphasize how much the smallfolk suffer from the game of thrones. Dany constantly feels guilty about the people she hurts. I would be very surprised if she established a constitutional monarchy. That would be anachronistic. But she might disarm the major houses and create what she regards as a benevolent despotism. Or maybe we could get a Magna Carta going with the major noble houses.

Stannis would largely restore the status quo, but he’d be a much better ruler than Robert, and probably better than Dany. The problem is that Melisandre would demand that Stannis impose R’Hllor worship on everyone, and that would lead to complete chaos and civil war, especially now that Cersei has restored the Faith Militant (man, what a stupid thing to do). But Mel might die, or split with Stannis once she decides that Jon and/or Dany is Azor Ahai and that Longclaw is Lightbringer (once Jon suffuses it with royal blood, probably Dany’s, to create Lightbringer and stop the whitewalkers, like Azor Ahai did with Nissa Nissa, his wife, which would be the third betrayal of Dany (“three treasons you will know: once for blood, once for gold and once for love”) but I know I’m getting really out there).

FWIW, I think it is entirely possible that Stannis is king at the end, and does the hard work of knitting Westeros back together. For various reasons, I don’t think Jon will end up anywhere near the throne. Right now I give Stannis and Dany a 40% of ending up on the Throne, with a 20% chance that no one ends up on the Throne.

Remember: if you want to talk about this section, use spoiler tags. Again, they should look like this:

[SPOILERS]

 

…. Blah, blah, blah.

See how I again left space so people can scroll past them? Yeah, again, that’s the way to do it.

FIN.

 

01 Sep 17:21

New paper on ‘the pause’ says it is 19 years at surface and 16-26 years at the lower troposphere

by Anthony Watts
Marcel Crok tips me via Twitter that a new analysis of ‘the pause’ by Dr. Ross McKittrick has given some new numbers for the different temperature datasets. It was published in the Open Journal of Statistics The RSS satellite dataset says: The paper: McKitrick, R. (2014) HAC-Robust Measurement of the Duration of a Trendless Subsample…
01 Sep 18:51

When the Media Makes You Weep

by Donna Laframboise
Journalists are betraying the public's trust.
01 Sep 19:45

New Hampshire: A Hotbed for Liberty

by TAC Daily Updates

By Shem Kellogg

The United States was once a constitutional republic, and today New Hampshire is on the forefront in the battle to return the U.S. to its original principles of state sovereignty, limited federal government and individual liberty.

The year Thomas Jefferson was elected President, eleven out of sixteen states didn’t have direct popular election for President, and no state had direct election of US senators. The voters chose their state representative, a man whom they personally knew, and he then voted for the upper-level offices.

In New Hampshire, we still know our state representatives. We have 400. That works out to a relatively small 3,000 voters per representative. If you don’t like a rep’s vote, you call her up and tell her so! Our representatives serve on a practically volunteer basis, being paid only $100 per year – and chances are they’re happy to hear your perspective on a tough issue; in fact, most of them are open to the ideas of liberty if you’re willing to explain them. This is a major reason that New Hampshire is one of the freest states in the US, with no income tax, no general sales tax, and very few gun restrictions.

A pro-liberty force unique to the state that helps to keep government accountable is the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, a citizen watchdog group. NHLA is composed of volunteers who, like the Founding Fathers’ “committees of correspondence,” get together in the poorly heated back rooms of bookstores, taverns, etc., and… actually read the bills! This makes the proceedings of New Hampshire government uniquely transparent. The organization publishes summaries and ratings of bills in its Gold Standard newsletter, which is printed and distributed to all legislators. Volunteers compile the votes of all senators and representatives, and publish them in the annual Liberty Rating, a “report card” to voters. NHLA has an active PAC, donating to candidates (of either party) with the best pro-liberty voting records (or the best survey responses for non-incumbents).

Another great source of energy and activism comes from participants in the Free State Project, an international movement to concentrate 20,000 pro-liberty activists in one state. New Hampshire was selected as that state for quite a few reasons. The Free State Project runs two annual events to attract more activists to New Hampshire, the winter Liberty Forum and summer Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest). The Free State Project is the vehicle to get activists to New Hampshire; what participants do once they get here is up to them.

New Hampshire is simultaneously the closest thing to the Old Republic and the software-startup-model minimum-state future. In 2007, Joel Winters (D- Manchester), the first Free State Project early mover elected to the state house, led a successful fight against REAL ID. Also in 2007, the state banned license plate readers, and to this day is the only state with a widespread ban on the use of such technology. A bill to make New Hampshire the 50th state to legalize license plate readers was introduced this year but it in a reaffirmation of privacy rights, it was defeated.

In 2010, the New Hampshire legislature that cut the state budget by a historic 11 percent, passed a school-choice bill (that included homeschoolers), and voted to decriminalize cannabis (though that effort was thwarted by the senate). A medical bill was later passed and signed into law. Also in 2010, FSP participant Jenn Coffey (R- Andover) wiped all the state’s sharp-object laws off the books (no, we have not been plagued with a surge in drive-by knifings).

In 2012, a jury-nullification law passed that compels judges to inform juries of their right to judge the law as well as the defendant. Juries are reminded that they have the authority to personally nullify unconstitutional or unjust laws. Also in 2012, Ron Paul came in second in both the Republican AND Democrat first-in-the-nation primaries, in spite of massive spending by the establishment candidates and massive media blackout. The Paulites are still active in local Republican politics, keeping his message of peace, freedom, and prosperity alive.

Recently, New Hampshire was the first state legislature to pass a cannabis-legalization law (all other states have legalized via referendum). Unfortunately, the bill was successfully stalled once again by pressure from police union via the governor’s office. Still, momentum is clearly on legalization’s side, and those who opposed it may well fall this November. (I intend to replace one of them in the state house myself next year). Fortunately, this year’s legislature passed an NSA nullification bill that prohibits warrantless spying and was signed into law.

There is still a long way to go before New Hampshire truly returns to being the “Live Free or Die” state that is stamped on our license plates. But the early movers of the Free State Project, combined with the New Hampshire natives who still honor the Old Republic, are giving the Empire a run for its money. If you want to build a free future, where state sovereignty is celebrated and independence is embraced, New Hampshire is the place to be. Join me, and together we can bring freedom to the Galax… well, to one small corner of one small planet anyway.

Shem Kellogg is a Republican candidate for NH House of Representatives and a Tenth Amendment Center lifetime member; shemkellogg.com

31 Aug 16:11

Past 6 years have been a laboratory experiment in Keynesian economic theory. Result? It failed and is now officially dead

by Mark J. Perry

At his Calafia Beach Pundit blog, Scott Grannis recently posted a pretty devastating critique of Keynesian economic theory and the abject failure of Keynesian fiscal stimulus in the period following the Great Recession (“the most expensive such failure in the history of the world”), here’s an excerpt below and I encourage you to read the entire post (with charts) here – “What Happened to the Profits?“:

Despite assurances from politicians and most economists of Keynesian persuasion, not only did the biggest and most rapid increase in our federal debt burden [in the six years ending June 2014] since WW II fail to boost the economy, it coincided with the weakest recovery in history—growth of only 2.2% per year on average. This is not a problem of not spending enough, it is a failure of ideology, and arguably the most expensive such failure in the history of the world.

Here’s the failure in a nutshell: The government can’t stimulate the economy by borrowing from Peter and sending a check to Paul, because that doesn’t create any new demand—it’s like taking a bucket of water from one end of the pool and pouring it into the other end; the level of the water doesn’t change. And the government can’t stimulate the economy by spending more, because the government is notoriously inefficient (not to mention the fraud, waste, and incompetence that surround most major public initiatives); the private sector is far more likely to spend its money wisely and productively than the government is. Growth only happens when an economy produces more from a given amount of resources—when productivity rises. And productivity only rises when people work more, smarter, and more efficiently, and that takes hard work and risk. You can’t just dial up productivity, you have to work for it. We can’t “spend our way to prosperity,” as the late and great Jude Wanniski told us.

Here’s my interpretation of what really happened in a nutshell: the private sector generated $8.9 trillion of profits in the past six years, and the federal government borrowed 83% of those profits to fund a massive increase in transfer payments, income redistribution, bailouts, subsidies, and a modest increase in infrastructure spending (only 8% of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went to transportation and infrastructure).

What happened to all the profits? Almost all of the most incredible surge in profits in modern times was squandered by our government, flushed down the Keynesian drain.

The past six years in effect have been a laboratory experiment to determine whether Keynesian economic theory is valid. The result? Keynesian economic theory is (or should be) officially dead. It doesn’t work. Government can’t boost the economy by borrowing or spending more money. Politicians will be unhappy to hear this, of course, since they would prefer that we think they can dispense growth and prosperity on demand. Those who insist in perpetrating this myth should be voted out of office.

HT: Dwight Oglesby

28 Aug 17:11

Death Valley's sailing stones mystery solved

Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

A team of researchers has finally managed to explain how such large boulders can move all by themselves. The phenomenon, which was discovered in the 1...
30 Aug 15:31

She Was Caught on Camera Beating Him with a Metal Pole, but He’s the One in Jail after Cops ‘Refused to Look at the Video’

by Zach Noble

Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned.

Justin Lindsey has been jailed in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for the past week, KDKA-TV reported, facing charges of harassment and assault.

But according to Lindsey’s family, he’s the one who got assaulted — and they’ve got video to back up their claims.

Image via KDKA-TV

Justin Lindsey. (Image via KDKA-TV)

The incident occurred last week when Lindsey’s ex-girlfriend — and mother of his child — Rhameicka Clark showed up at his house and found Lindsey on the porch with their daughter and another woman, KDKA reported.

Clark told the news station that Lindsey had previously agreed not to bring other women around their daughter.

Lindsey recorded video of their encounter on his cell phone, capturing Clark’s rage…

Image via KDKA-TV

Image via KDKA-TV

…and the moment she picked up a metal pole and began beating him with it.

Image via KDKA-TV

Image via KDKA-TV

“The mother drove up, seen the other woman, and she just snapped out,” Lindsey’s mother told KDKA.

After the beating, Clark reported the incident to authorities, but according to Lindsey’s mother, she made it seem like Lindsey had been the aggressor, leading a Pennsylvania magistrate to call for Lindsey’s arrest.

Worse, Aliquippa police apparently refused to look at the video evidence that showed Clark attacking Lindsey.

“Me and his dad went with him to turn himself in to the police,” Lindsey’s mother said. “They refused to look at the video, refused to hear his side.”

She added that her son is in danger of losing his job over the incident.

The Aliquippa police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

Read more stories from TheBlaze

A CNN Host Let a Muslim Cleric Speak Freely. What He Said about Journalism, Terrorism and Sharia Law in America Left the Host Speechless

Take a Gander at America’s Most Heavily Armed Counties. The Ones That Aren’t on the Map Might Surprise You

Michael Sam, First Openly Gay Player Drafted by NFL Team, Released by St. Louis Rams

Man Forced to Leave Town Meeting After He Wouldn’t Stand for Pledge of Allegiance

Sen. Ted Cruz Sounds Like He’s Running in 2016

28 Aug 22:41

Dominica Will Become First Country in the World to Adopt Bitcoin

Remlaps

h/t Adam Victor Brandizzi

Bit Drop Stadium in Dominica.

Bit Drop Stadium in Dominica. (@TheBitDrop)

EspañolFor the first time in history, a country will officially adopt bitcoin as its currency: Dominica, an island republic in the middle of the Caribbean. An event to mark the occasion will be held in March 2015, thanks to an agreement between local authorities and representatives of Coinapult, Aspen Assurance, Bitcoin Beauties, and the College Cryptocurrency Network (CCN).

The initiative, known as “Let the Bit Drop,” will send a small of amount of bitcoin to every island resident via text message. This effort will turn Dominica, and its more than 70,000 residents, into the most densely concentrated bitcoin community in the world.

“The objective is simply to increase bitcoin adoption. We are going to create tens of thousands of new bitcoin users overnight. Of course, we hope that these people enjoy and continue to use bitcoin, and that the project provides proof of concept to similar communities all around the world. We want a thousand Bit Drops,” said Ira Miller, CEO of Coinapult, in an exclusive interview with the PanAm Post.

Enigmatic Release Date a Tribute to Mathematics

The launch date chosen by organizers, March 15, 2015, at 9:26 a.m., coincides with Pi Day, a global celebration of the mathematical constant.

“Pi is an objective, mathematical truth, not a human creation. Everyone can understand, use, and be empowered by Pi. Bitcoin applies the same objectivity and openness to financial transactions,” says Miller, referring to the underlying mathematical principles of bitcoin that he believes allows the currency to provide security and transparency.

“Also, Pi Day is conveniently right after Carnival, one of the most glorious of all imperfect, human creations,” he added.

The day of the “Bit Drop,” organizers will celebrate the currency launch with a nationwide party with various musicians and celebrities in attendance. They plan to hold raffles and host informational booths with introductory and educational material related to the cryptocurrency.

Another project partner, the Cryptocurrency College Network (CCN) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will be in charge of distributing educational material throughout the island and explaining bitcoin’s various uses and advantages. They will also work to educate local Dominican retailers on the benefits of accepting bitcoin as payment.

Coinapult CEO, Ira Miller, and Kenneth Darroux, Dominican Minister of Environment and Planning.

Coinapult CEO, Ira Miller, and Kenneth Darroux, Dominican Minister of Environment and Planning. (Coinapult)

Funding for the purchase of bitcoins that will be distributed for free to the general public will come from donations and sponsors wishing to participate in the project.

As for the connection between organizational partners and the authorities of the island, Miller says his relationship with local officials is primarily for educational purposes.

According to the CEO of Coinapult, the officials he has spoken with are open to the initiative because they believe in the economic potential that bitcoin can offer the Caribbean island.

Those interested in donating to help the project see a successful launch can visit letthebitdrop.com. Sarah Blincoe, the leader of the project, told the PanAm Post that those who donate 0.1 bitcoins or more will be entered into a drawing to win an all-inclusive trip to join the celebration.

Dominica’s Bitcoin Opportunity

Geographically, Dominica is located in the Caribbean, north of Venezuela and southeast of the Dominican Republic. Dominica is a republic that forms part of the British Commonwealth, with an unemployment rate of 23 percent and a low annual rate of inflation of 2.1 percent.

According to data from the Heritage Foundation, Dominica is above the world average in terms of its economic liberalization, but has high levels of internal corruption.

In 2008, Dominica joined ALBA, the regional commercial alliance led by Hugo Chávez, which maintains a socialist economic view.

Translated by Alex Clark-Youngblood.

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
29 Aug 06:46

Who’s Serving Who?

by Greg Ross
Remlaps

h/t Adam Victor Brandizzi

This summer has brought us one step closer to the technological apocalypse — a robot just successfully hitchhiked all the way across Canada, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

Created to study how people interact with robots, hitchBOT was outfitted with speech recognition software and equipped with legs and arms, one of which was permanently fixed in a hitchhike position. Links to Wikipedia and social media enabled it to make small talk with the humans who drove it westward.

On the 3,700-mile journey, the gregarious robot fished, camped, and attended a wedding, where it interrupted the bride’s speech by saying, “I like to make friends.”

“This project turns our fear of technology on its head and asks, ‘Can robots trust humans?’,” said Frauke Zeller, a computational philologist at Ryerson University. “Our aim is to further discussion in society about our relationship with technology and robots.”

30 Aug 07:41

Nevada Beats Feds By Turning Off their Water

by Lori Rardon

Whenever I explain the OffNow Project to someone, they initially respond enthusiastically.  Something to the effect of, “Wow!  That’s cool! The federal government shouldn’t be spying on us!”  But when I further explain that the idea behind OffNow includes shutting off state supplied resources to NSA facilities – like the water necessary to cool the super-computers at the Bluffdale, Utah spy facility – those same people get nervous. “Shutting off the water seems like an extreme move.  Can we even  do that?” they ask.

Yes, we can do that.

And it will work.

It’s been done before at a place called Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

Yucca Mountain is located about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  It was originally selected as a nuclear waste dump site for the country in 1987, but it wasn’t until 2002 that President Bush and Congress officially approved the site and moved to make the dump a reality.

This was not a popular move in Nevada. The Governor filed an official Notice of Disapproval of the site selection with Congress, but Congress overrode it.

In the years leading up to 2002, it became clear that Yucca Mountain would not meet EPA standards required for a nuclear waste dump.  The area is prone to earthquakes and even some recent volcanic activity.  Moreover, the nuclear waste repository would be located above the water table in an oxidizing setting that would corrode the waste containers over time.  Obviously, Yucca Mountain was not a safe place for nuclear waste. But the federal government apparently had its heart set on the site.  Instead of telling the Department of Energy (DOE) to abandon the proposed nuclear waste dumping site, the EPA just changed its standards so the project could move forward.

As a result, Nevada filed several lawsuits against the the EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) disputing the EPA’s standards for the site, as well as asserting  the NRC’s duty to uphold public and health safety standards.

But the state didn’t simply count on the federal courts to protect it. It took some action of its own.

In addition to these lawsuits, Nevada denied the DOE’s five applications for the use of water to construct and operate the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain . The federal government wanted to continue taking soil samples from the site despite all of the negative results it had already obtained.  To run the drill rigs necessary to take soil samples as well as other operations , the feds needed to pump 430 acre-feet of water to the area each year.  But state law governs the use of groundwater.  So, the Nevada State Engineer rejected the applications on the basis that the intended repository was detrimental to the public interest.  Nevada still allowed DOE officials to use a limited amount of water at the site for showers, restrooms, and fire emergencies, but effectively blocked the drilling operation, slowing progress on the project to a crawl.

Of course,  DOE filed suit against Nevada in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, arguing that federal law preempted state water law.

The court ultimately sided with Nevada.  In its 2007 ruling, the court found that the issues presented by the DOE did not involve federal preemption of state water law.  In the U.S. District Judge’s opinion, “The validity of Western states’ groundwater rights and the right to regulate water in the public interest is not a right to be taken lightly, nor is it a right that can cavalierly be ignored or violated by a federal agency.”  Regarding the federal preemption argument he wrote,  “At present…the only public interest issue is whether state officials can be precluded from exercising their lawfully mandated duties, or whether a federal agency can run roughshod over a state’s rights  or interest without specific authority and mandate to do the precise activities it wishes to do.”

In 2010, after many years of legal wrangling, President Obama announced that the federal government planned to kill the project.  As a result, the Energy Department withdrew its application to the State of Nevada for access to water at the site.

Today, it appears that the Yucca Mountain project is dead.

The Yucca Mountain saga illustrates the power of state action. Nevada exercised its right to exercise control over its own resources and refused to provide them to the federal government. Essentially, Nevada said, “We are not going to help you complete a project that we believe will prove detrimental to the people of our state.”

It worked. The feds didn’t just march up the mountain and take the water. The court upheld the state’s right to refuse cooperation under the anti-commandeering doctrine. And the state action ultimately forced the federal government to scrap its plan.

It was a major win for the state.

We plan to use the same tactics Nevada employed at Yucca Mountain against the NSA to turn it off and shut down its unlawful spying on American citizens.

We can do it. And it will work!

29 Aug 05:01

For Centuries, the Human Race Has Relied on Communicating With Each Other Through Talking — Now, the ‘Possibility of a New Era’ Is Here

by Oliver Darcy

Researchers have successfully tested a method for humans to telepathically communicate with each other, according to a report published in a research journal.

“Until recently, the exchange of communication between minds or brains of different individuals has been supported and constrained by the sensorial and motor arsenals of our body,” scientists wrote this month in research journal PLOS One. “However, there is now the possibility of a new era in which brains will dialogue in a more direct way.”

“[T]here is now the possibility of a new era in which brains will dialogue in a more direct way.”
Share:

In a recent series of tests, researchers were able to transmit information from one individual’s brain to another’s without the use of traditional methods of communicating, such as talking, reading or hand signals.

On the left, the BCI subsystem is shown schematically, including electrodes over the motor cortex and the EEG amplifier/transmitter wireless box in the cap. Motor imagery of the feet codes the bit value 0, of the hands codes bit value 1. On the right, the CBI system is illustrated, highlighting the role of coil orientation for encoding the two bit values. Communication between the BCI and CBI components is mediated by the internet. (Image source: PLOS One)

On the left, the BCI subsystem is shown schematically, including electrodes over the motor cortex and the EEG amplifier/transmitter wireless box in the cap. Motor imagery of the feet codes the bit value 0, of the hands codes bit value 1. On the right, the CBI system is illustrated, highlighting the role of coil orientation for encoding the two bit values. Communication between the BCI and CBI components is mediated by the internet. (Image source: PLOS One)

Scientists instructed one participant, the emitter, to look at a message shown on a screen while hooked up to a computer. The computer — Brain to Computer Interface — was able to analyze the parts of the brain lit up and encode the information.

View of emitter and receiver subjects with non-invasive devices supporting, respectively, the BCI based on EEG changes driven by motor imagery (left) and the CBI based on the reception of phosphenes elicited by a neuronavigated TMS (right) components of the B2B transmission system. (Image source: PLOS One)

View of emitter and receiver subjects with non-invasive devices supporting, respectively, the BCI based on EEG changes driven by motor imagery (left) and the CBI based on the reception of phosphenes elicited by a neuronavigated TMS (right) components of the B2B transmission system. (Image source: PLOS One)

That information was sent over the Intenet to another computer — Computer to Brain Interface — hooked up to the receiving participant. The computer than activated the parts of the receiver’s brain that were lit up when the first person was thinking.

Scientists “ensured the receiver subjects were not relying” on visual or other stimuli by “blocking sensory cues” through a variety of methods, including having them wear eye masks and ear plugs.

The results were overall very positive.

“In the first experiment the transmission error rates were of 6%, 5% and 11% for the BCI, CBI and the combined B2B components respectively, and in the second, error rates were of 2%, 1% and 4% respectively,” researchers wrote.

Location and orientation of hot spot for phospene production overlaid on MRI image of the head of subject. (Image source: PLOS One)

Location and orientation of hot spot for phospene production overlaid on MRI image of the head of subject. (Image source: PLOS One)

In a second experiment, where scientists attempted the method with the emitter and receiver in different countries, researchers observed a 15 percent error rate.

“In these experiments we demonstrated the feasibility of direct brain-to-brain communication in human subjects, with special care taken to ensure the non-participation of sensory or motor systems in the exchange of information,” they wrote. “Streams of pseudo-random bits representing the words ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’ were successfully transmitted mind-to-mind between human subjects separated by a great distance, with a negligible probability of this happening by chance.”

“In these experiments we demonstrated the feasibility of direct brain-to-brain communication in human subjects…”
Share:

The research was carried out by experts at Harvard Medical School, Duke University, the University of Barcelona and Axilum Robotics, among others.

The scientists say that they “believe these experiments represent an important first step in exploring the feasibility of complementing or bypassing traditional language-based or other motor/PNS mediated means in interpersonal communication.”

“Finally, we anticipate that computers in the not-so-distant future will interact directly with the human brain in a fluent manner, supporting both computer- and brain-to-brain communication routinely,” the concluded. “The widespread use of human brain-to-brain technologically mediated communication will create novel possibilities for human interrelation with broad social implications that will require new ethical and legislative responses.”

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

Read more stories from TheBlaze

After Being Fined and Forced to Host Gay Weddings, Christian Farm Owners Make Drastic Decision That ‘Will Likely Hurt Their Business’

More Than 134,000 Petition Obama Admin. to Demand Release of Sgt. Tahmooressi — Here’s the Response They Received Instead

U.K. Prime Minister Warns of ‘Greatest Terrorist Threat’ in History. Hours Later, Obama Made This Comment at Fundraiser.

Greg Gutfeld and Alan Colmes Clash Over Islamic State Threat: ‘Why Is It That Lefties…Have a Hard Time Identifying Actual Existential Evil’

A Gunman Would Be Stopped in His Tracks by This Teacher’s Simple Invention

29 Aug 14:56

Partisanship and silencing science

by curryja

by Judith Curry

 The implications of dogmatic groupthink and intimidation for the pursuit of sound science — and sound policy — are chilling. – Christopher Snowden

A collection of articles from the health science community on the fate of papers and scientists that challenge the consensus.

The Australian

Christopher Snowden has an article Groupthink attacks on science has a long history (behind paywall; google the title and you can get in).  Excerpts:

Take Katherine Flegal, a statistician at the US Centres for Disease Control. Last year, she and her colleagues published a systematic review of 97 studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association and concluded that mild obesity produced no extra mortality risk and being merely overweight resulted in a small reduction in mortality risk.

Despite being supported with a ream of data, the study was savaged by the public health lobby. Walter Willett, one of the world’s most prominent anti-obesity campaigners, said: “This study is really a pile of rubbish and no one should waste their time reading it.”

A spokesman for the National Obesity Forum said, “It’s a horrific message to put out at this particular time”, and absurdly suggested that Flegal’s “message” was that we can “eat ourselves to death with black forest gateaux”. Willett later organised a symposium in which speaker after speaker denounced ­Flegal and her work.

Or take James Enstrom, a vastly experienced and respected epidemiologist who had been working at the University of California at Los Angeles since 1976. In 2003, he and a colleague published a study in the British medical journal BMJ that found no association between second-hand smoke and lung cancer. Many other studies had come to the same conclusion and Enstrom’s research had no substantive flaws. Nevertheless, when anti-smoking campaigners heard about the findings, they breached the journal’s embargo and organised a press conference in which they slated the study (which they not yet read) and described it as “crap” and Enstrom as “a damn fool”.

In 2005, Enstrom further blotted his copy book by conducting research on fine particulate matter that cast doubt on the scientific basis of new air pollution laws proposed by the Californian Environmental Protection Agency. Although Enstrom’s findings have since been replicated in other studies, he was later sacked by UCLA because his research was “not aligned with the department’s mission”.

Or take the 2011 study by Jennie Brand Miller and Alan Barclay that claimed sugar consumption had been falling in Australia while obesity had been rising. They and their study, The Australian Paradox, have been viciously attacked by anti-sugar campaigners, with the usual accusations of being in the pay of industry. The researchers eventually were charged with scientific misconduct and only recently have been exonerated.

All of these examples involve scientists of good standing whose studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals. It is hard to believe that any of them would have been attacked with such vigour had they not been dealing with red-button issues that are of great importance to public health pressure groups.

To put it bluntly, the policies had already been decided. The campaigners want to send a clear, unambiguous message to the public while persuading politicians to act. Any research suggesting that a policy is misplaced or directed at the wrong target brings down a firestorm on the heretical scientist, regardless of the quality of the research or the credentials of the researcher. In each case, the response from the establishment is visceral rather than rational. The implications of dogmatic groupthink and intimidation for the pursuit of sound science — and sound policy — are chilling.

Saturated fats

From the Independent: The science of saturated fats: a big fat surprise about nutrition?  Excerpts:

When Ronald M Krauss decided, in 2000, to review all the evidence purporting to show that saturated fats cause heart disease, he knew that he was putting his professional career at risk.

Challenging any of the conventional wisdom on dietary fat has long been a form of professional suicide for nutrition experts. And saturated fats, especially, are the third rail. But Krauss persevered and concluded in 2010, after reviewing all the scientific literature, that saturated fats could not be said to cause heart disease. In March, another group of scientists, including faculty from Cambridge and Harvard, came to the same conclusion after conducting a similar “meta-analysis”. These were stunning results. It seemed that saturated fat, our principal dietary culprit for decades, had been unfairly convicted.

Yet the truth is there never has been solid evidence that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be true because nutrition policy was derailed over the past half-century by personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias.

Silencing science and the role of partisanship

This paper digs into the second hand smoke issue, and does a sociological analysis of the broader issues.

Silencing science: partisanship and the career of a publication disputing the dangers of secondhand smoke

Sheldon Ungar and Dennis Bray

Abstract. This paper examines the silencing of science, that is, efforts to prevent the making of specific scientific claims in any or all of the arenas in which these claims are typically reported or circulated. Those trying to mute the reporting or circulation of scientific claims are termed “partisans.” The paper examines silencing through a systematic examination of the “rapid responses” to a smoking study published in the British Medical Journal claiming that secondhand smoke is not as dangerous as conventionally believed. Media coverage of the smoking study is also examined, as is the question of whether there is self-silencing by the media regarding doubts about the negative effects of passive smoke. The results suggest that the public consensus about the negative effects of passive smoke is so strong that it has become part of a regime of truth that cannot be intelligibly questioned.

Published in Public Understanding of Science, [link] to full manuscript.

Unger and Bray lay out the problem in the Introduction:

Thanks for turning back the clock on public health decades or more. We don’t need this kind of negligence from what used to be a professional medical publication. I seriously wonder who got paid off at BMJ to publish this utter garbage.

Dale Jackman, Seriously Annoyed

I won’t dignify this rag with my credentials

This quotation is from the “rapid responses” to a paper on secondhand smoke (hereafter the smoking article) by Enstrom and Kabat (2003) published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Other rapid responses castigate the BMJ for its “tabloid style journalism” and suggest that it is seeking publicity and controversy in publishing this paper that presents results suggesting that passive smoking is far less dangerous than often believed. The editor of the BMJ speaks of going “From hero to pariah in one easy jump,” as others seek a retraction or an apology. This does not sound like standard scientific discourse to us. Something is different—and seemingly awry. Editors are not ordinarily whipping boys, subject to harassment by “outsiders” who are not scientific specialists in the domain of interest and are acting on extra-scientific agendas. But our concern is not to judge this discourse so much as to identify, define, and develop its characteristics and implications for scientific publication, reporting, and policy usage. We refer to these activities as silencing science; those who engage in the silencing efforts are termed partisans.

As a result of these recent developments, and abetted by new technology such as the Internet, there has been an amplification of scientific controversy that fosters an increasingly intense and acrimonious scrutiny of methods, results and even personal integrity by competing scientists, the media and various interest groups. In place of what were once jousts in obscurity over arcane matters, many scientific disputes now overflow into different public arenas and involve uncivil efforts to silence researchers for political, ideological, social or even economic reasons. Accusations of junk science, cherry picking and stacked committees have become strikingly commonplace.

Partisan is a felicitous metaphor, as it encompasses two levels—ideas and actions. At the first level, a partisan is a firm adherent to a belief or cause; the partisan tends to have an unreasoned allegiance to this, and not to truth. This contravenes, of course, the normative complex surrounding openness in science. At the second level, a partisan is a member of a military unit or guerrilla band harassing an enemy. For our purposes then, partisanship involves not only a dogmatic adherence to a belief, but also the use of a wide range of tactics to silence opponents of that belief in any arena in which it is presented, reported or used. Partisans seek not only to authoritatively lay down their (scientific) position, but to shield it by engaging in silencing skirmishes that can include, among other things, intimidation, slander and discredit, gagging, budget cuts, and the removal of opponents. As can be gleaned from the discussion throughout this paper, partisans are not a unitary group but can be composed of state officials, large firms or sponsorship organizations, scientists, interest groups, and/or members of the public.

“Political partisanship” is widely used and fully understandable (and almost redundant). But “scientific partisanship” borders on the oxymoronic. If fully realized, scientific partisanship entails, as noted above, closure, intimidation, and silencing, rendering science impossible.

Beyond the general tendency to avoid extreme methods, silencing tactics further depend on the kinds of partisans involved. Scientists themselves, especially those who are experts in the area of research under question, are likely to use the least extreme tactics. Not only will experts in the field have the knowledge and tools to mount a conventional scientific attack on the offending ideas, but they will have sufficiently imbibed the norms of openness that they will tend to recognize or tolerate deviant ideas. Those with some knowledge of the field, whether holders of some scientific knowledge (e.g., physicians), or practitioners applying knowledge in that realm, have less expertise to formulate criticisms and are likely to be less restrained by norms of openness and the informal controls extant in the specific research domain. Outsiders, or the lay public, are expected to be the least restrained of all partisans. Not only do they lack training in the area, but they have the least to lose and are involved in the domain as a result of personal beliefs or choice. Hence they are most likely to engage in personal abuse, intimidation, and open calls for silencing.

According to Ziman, “A sure symptom of non-science is personal abuse and intolerance of the views of one scholar by another.”

JC reflections

The situation in health/nutrition science has some unfortunate parallels with climate science.

I like the terms ‘campaigners’ and in particular ‘partisans’.  I find the Unger and Bray paper to be very insightful (note Dennis Bray is frequent collaborator of Hans von Storch).  Re partisans, I was struck by this:

Scientists themselves, especially those who are experts in the area of research under question, are likely to use the least extreme tactics. Not only will experts in the field have the knowledge and tools to mount a conventional scientific attack on the offending ideas, but they will have sufficiently imbibed the norms of openness that they will tend to recognize or tolerate deviant ideas.

According to Ziman, “A sure symptom of non-science is personal abuse and intolerance of the views of one scholar by another.”

Partisans who are not climate science experts can and do sling mud, it is particularly egregious and pathological when science experts do the mud slinging.

JC message to climate scientist partisans:  leave the mud slinging to bloggers, advocacy groups, politicians.    Attack the arguments, not the person.  Some recent examples:  Gavin Schmidt is behaving like a scientist (with his response to my 50-50 argument); Michael Mann is becoming a poster boy for non-science with his personal abuse and intolerance of the views of other scientists.

In summary, these articles provide a stark picture of the dangers to science of groupthink and intimidation of science with non-consensus views.  In my opinion, climate science is suffering badly from these.

Slide1

“People are open-minded about new things as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.” Charles Kettering

 


Filed under: Ethics, Sociology of science
27 Aug 17:11

Britain Would Be Second Poorest U.S. State - Below Alabama: Euro Zone GDP Per Capita Ranks Below West Virginia

by Ronald Bailey
Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

USUK FlagFraser Nelson over at The Spectator has crunched the numbers and finds that if Britain were somehow to become the 51st state (OK by me) it would the second poorest state in terms of GDP per capita, ranking below Alabama and just above Mississippi.

Would-be Europhiles might also want to consider that the oil state of Norway would rank 8th, Switzerland 21st, Germany and Sweden would vie for 40th place (below Michigan), and the entire Euro area would rank 45th just below West Virginia's per capita GDP. Ah, such are the glories of welfare statism.

Nelson was apparently prompted to make these calculations in response to the smug condescenion of anti-American commentators about U.S. economic inequality in the wake of the events in Ferguson, MO. As Nelson notes:

No one beats up America better than Americans. They openly debate their inequality, conduct rigorous studies about it, argue about economics vs culture as causes. Their universities study it, with a calibre of analysis not found in Britain. Americans get so angry about educational inequality that they make films like Waiting for Superman. And the debate is so fierce that the rest of the world looks on, and joins in lamenting America’s problems. A shame: we’d do better to get a little angrier at our own.

Speaking of smug condescension, it is well worth your time to click over The Spectator and scroll down Nelson's rankings.

Addendum: Tim Worstall points out over at Forbes, if you apply purchasing power parity adjustments on a state-by-state basis, Britain would actually be the poorest state in the U.S., ranking even below Mississippi.

29 Aug 18:12

A psychologist’s scathing review of John Cook’s ‘97% consensus’ nonsensus paper

by Anthony Watts
Psychologist José Duarte writes: The Cook et al. (2013) 97% paper included a bunch of psychology studies, marketing papers, and surveys of the general public as scientific endorsement of anthropogenic climate change. Let’s go ahead and walk through that sentence again. The Cook et al 97% paper included a bunch of psychology studies, marketing papers, and…
27 Aug 20:26

Time for a little healthy skepticism

by Jeff Id

I have finally completed a huge and mathematically difficult design project that has been on my plate for the last couple of months and have a little time for blogging.   I’m thoroughly excited about the project and like so many things I do, I dug in hard and worked until I was fully burned out on it.  Seems to be my style.

Anyway, the multi-billion dollar international global warming industry is continuing on despite the major shots the science has taken in recent years.  The denial of reality by the activist scientists has already reached astounding proportions and seems to be growing with the realization that their predictions of the future are no more valid than Mrs Cleo’s prediction of bankruptcy.  Predicting the future seems a rough business.

There have been a few notable posts on the matter, Anthony Watts carried one which featured climate change advocate Richard Betts quoted as writing “Bish, as always I am slightly bemused over why you think GCMs are so central to climate policy.”.   I’m literally gobsmacked by the insanity of a claimed scientific position that climate models might not be THE central evidence for a position of climate policy.  It leaves one wondering what a lead author of the IPCC might consider in lieu of a model for prediction of future climate.

In short, the industry’s failure is in full view and nobody, scientist, advocate or homeless person can claim that the earth is warming to disaster, because there is now quite literally zero evidence to support the position.  There are plenty of scientists holding on for the “big warmup” that will somehow save the models.  There are even a couple of “scientific” publications digging very deep into the data mash to tweak parameters in line.   I won’t reference them, particularly the one by Gavin Schmidt, because they are trash and tripe and not worth reading.   What they do represent though is yet another symptom of government funded research gone awry with advocacy, a sick industry with little hope for salvation from the wrath of the god of physics.

Climate science meets engineering reality, finally.

And it is the climate models that failed.   They overpredicted warming by CO2 so dramatically that we were able to statistically detect the failure decades before anyone really expected to.   Despite Betts ridiculous and untenable position on climate models, there is no other mechanism by which we can predict climate than models.   Now before people jump on the concept that climate models can’t work, that is a flatly false position to hold.  They absolutely can work. They can even work reasonably well for predicting global temperature trends at their current sophistication level.  Unfortunately, the sensitivity to CO2 warming is incorrect and even when it is corrected we won’t know how far current models will accurately predict into the future.  Like local weather models which predict rain reasonably well two days out, observation and comparison is the only way to know if it worked.

And that comparison of observed temperature to today’s models — failed.  All dead.

I’ve got bad news for you though folks.  You cannot kill an industry that easily.   There is simply too much money at stake for these people to lose their jobs – as they well should.  There is a politically ironic comparison which seems to me fits the context.  The tobacco industry, in its heyday, tried to publish “science” showing that tobacco didn’t cause cancer.  It took years to beat the truth out of that little issue, and in the end the truth did come out.   Yet the industry still lives on.   There is simply too much money and too many people relying on that money to shut down an industry like that overnight.

It will be interesting to see how far it goes, but the quotes rolling out of climate science are consistent with a socialist left wing political agenda based on top-down control and completely inconsistent with the science.  A duck is a duck in my world.

One wonders just how far they can go with this broken message before the unthinking public recognizes that there aren’t any climate disasters to talk about.   The feedback between government funded fake science, and reality is tremendously slow.   We may actually achieve all of the expense and government regulatory control with literally zero societal benefit.   In fact, a new book has been released which highlights the clear fact that CO2 is a highly beneficial gas and its warming effects do nothing but good for life on Earth.   A position I have grown to hold over the years.  If my reasonable and previously mainstream scientific view is correct, these energy regulations and costs will create negative impacts both on the economy and the biosphere when compared to a world without them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wind, solar and biofuel energy, when unsubsidized by government, the subsidized form is a story for another day.  However it seems clear that the highly scrubbed CO2 and water emissions from an old fashion coal plant are quite likely a net positive for life on this planet.  The mild warming and additional building blocks CO2 provides for plant life both appear to be very positive developments from everything I have studied.  The extremist left-wing political resistance to healthy economic growth and individual wealth and power stand starkly unsupported at this time.

Of course I could be wrong and climate models are actually not needed to see the climate future, and tobacco doesn’t cause cancer.

Cathartic as always!

 

 


27 Aug 04:00

What Gave Bitcoin Its Value?

By JEFFREY A. TUCKER
Tweet
 

Many people who have never used bitcoin look at it with confusion. Why does this magic Internet money have any value at all? It’s just some computer thing that someone made up.

Consider the criticism of goldbugs, who have, for decades, pushed the idea that sound money must be backed by something real, hard, and independently valuable.

Bitcoin doesn’t qualify, right?

Maybe it does. Let’s take a closer look. 

Bitcoin first emerged as a possible competitor to national, government-managed money nearly six years ago. Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper was released October 31, 2008. The structure and language of this paper sent the message: this currency is for computer technicians, not economists nor political pundits. The paper's circulation was limited; novices who read it were mystified. 

But the lack of interest didn’t stop history from moving forward. Two months later, those who were paying attention saw the emergence of the “Genesis Block,” the first group of bitcoins generated through Nakamoto’s concept of a distributed ledger that lived on any computer node in the world that wanted to host it.

Here we are six years later and a single bitcoin trades at $500 and has been as high as $1,200 per coin.The currency is accepted by many thousands of institutions, both online and offline. Its payment system is very popular in poor countries without vast banking infrastructures but also in developed countries. And major institutions—including the Federal Reserve, the OECD, the World Bank, and major investment houses—are paying respectful attention. 

Enthusiasts, who are found in every country, say that its exchange value will soar in the future because its supply is strictly limited and it provides a vastly superior system to government money. Bitcoin is transferred between individuals without a third party. It is nearly costless to exchange. It has a predictable supply. It is durable, fungible, and divisible: all crucial features of money. It creates a monetary system that doesn’t depend on trust and identity, much less on central banks and government. It is a new system for the digital age.

 

Hard lessons for hard money

To those educated in the “hard money” tradition, the whole idea has been a serious challenge. Speaking for myself, I had been reading about bitcoin for two years before I came anywhere close to understanding it. There was just something about the whole idea that bugged me. You can’t make money out of nothing, much less out of computer code. Why does it have value then? There must be something amiss. This is not how we expected money to be reformed.

There’s the problem: our expectations. We should have been paying closer attention to Ludwig von Mises's theory of money's origins—not to what we think he wrote, but to what he actually did write. 

In 1912, Mises released The Theory of Money and Credit. It was a huge hit in Europe when it came out in German, and it was translated into English. While covering every aspect of money, his core contribution was in tracing the value and price of money—and not just money itself—to its origins. That is, he explained how money gets its price in terms of the goods and services it obtains. He later called this process the “regression theorem,” and as it turns out, bitcoin satisfies every condition of the theorem.

Mises’s teacher, Carl Menger, demonstrated that money itself originates from the market—not from the State and not from social contract. It emerges gradually as monetary entrepreneurs seek out an ideal form of commodity for indirect exchange. Instead of merely bartering with each other, people acquire a good not to consume, but to trade. That good becomes money, the most marketable commodity.

But Mises added that the value of money traces backward in time to its value as a bartered commodity. Mises said that this is the only way money can have value.

The theory of the value of money as such can trace back the objective exchange value of money only to that point where it ceases to be the value of money and becomes merely the value of a commodity…. If in this way we continually go farther and farther back we must eventually arrive at a point where we no longer find any component in the objective exchange value of money that arises from valuations based on the function of money as a common medium of exchange; where the value of money is nothing other than the value of an object that is useful in some other way than as money…. Before it was usual to acquire goods in the market, not for personal consumption, but simply in order to exchange them again for the goods that were really wanted, each individual commodity was only accredited with that value given by the subjective valuations based on its direct utility.

Mises’s explanation solved a major problem that had long mystified economists. It is a narrative of conjectural history, and yet it makes perfect sense. Would salt have become money had it otherwise been completely useless? Would beaver pelts have obtained monetary value had they not been useful for clothing? Would silver or gold have had money value if they had no value as commodities first? The answer in all cases of monetary history is clearly no. The initial value of money, before it becomes widely traded as money, originates in its direct utility. It’s an explanation that is demonstrated through historical reconstruction. That’s Mises’s regression theorem.


Bitcoin’s use value

At first glance, bitcoin would seem to be an exception. You can’t use a bitcoin for anything other than money. It can’t be worn as jewelry. You can’t make a machine out of it. You can’t wear it, eat it, or even decorate with it. Its value is only realized as a unit that facilitates indirect exchange. And yet, bitcoin already is money. It's used every day. You can see the exchanges in real time. It's not a myth. It's the real deal.

It might seem like we have to choose. Is Mises wrong? Maybe we have to toss out his whole theory. Or maybe his point was purely historical and doesn’t apply in the future of a digital age. Or maybe his regression theorem is proof that bitcoin is just an empty mania with no staying power, because it can’t be reduced to its value as a useful commodity.

And yet, you don’t have to resort to complicated monetary theory in order to understand the sense of alarm surrounding bitcoin. Many people, as I did, just have a feeling of uneasiness about a money that has no basis in anything physical. Sure, you can print out a bitcoin on a piece of paper, but having a paper with a QR code or a public key is not enough to relieve that sense of unease.

How can we resolve this problem? In my own mind, I toyed with the issue for more than a year. It puzzled me. I wondered if Mises’s insight applied only in a predigital age. I followed the speculations online that the value of bitcoin would be zero but for the national currencies into which is converted. Perhaps the demand for bitcoin overcame the demands of Mises’s scenario because of a desperate need for something other than the dollar.

As time has passed—and I read the work of Konrad Graf, Peter Surda, and Daniel Krawisz—finally the resolution came. I will cut to the chase and reveal it: Bitcoin is both a payment system and a money. The payment system is the source of value, while the accounting unit merely expresses that value in terms of price. The unity of money and payment is its most unusual feature, and the one that most commentators have had trouble wrapping their heads around.

We are all used to thinking of currency as separate from payment systems. This thinking is a reflection of the technological limitations of history. There is the dollar and there are credit cards. There is the euro and there is PayPal. There is the yen and there are wire services. In each case, money transfer relies on third-party service providers. In order to use them, you need to establish what is called a "trust relationship" with them, which is to say that the institution arranging the deal has to believe that you are going to pay.

This wedge between money and payment has always been with us, except for the case of physical proximity. If I give you a dollar for your pizza slice, there is no third party. But payment systems, third parties, and trust relationships become necessary once you leave geographic proximity. That’s when companies like Visa and institutions like banks become indispensable. They are the application that makes the monetary software do what you want it to do.

The hitch is that payment systems we have today are not available to just anyone. In fact, a vast majority of humanity does not have access to such tools, which is a major reason for poverty in the world. The financially disenfranchised are confined to only local trade and cannot extend their trading relationships with the world.

A major, if not a primary, purpose of developing Bitcoin was to solve this problem. The protocol set out to weave together the currency feature with a payment system. The two are utterly interlinked in the structure of the code itself. This connection is what makes bitcoin different from any existing national currency, and, really, any currency in history.

Let Nakomoto speak from the introductory abstract to his white paper. Observe how central the payment system is to the monetary system he created:

A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network. The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work. The longest chain not only serves as proof of the sequence of events witnessed, but proof that it came from the largest pool of CPU power. As long as a majority of CPU power is controlled by nodes that are not cooperating to attack the network, they'll generate the longest chain and outpace attackers. The network itself requires minimal structure. Messages are broadcast on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will, accepting the longest proof-of-work chain as proof of what happened while they were gone.

What’s very striking about this paragraph is that there is not even one mention of the currency unit itself. There is only the mention of the problem of double-spending (which is to say, the problem of inflationary money creation). The innovation here, even according to the words of its inventor, is the payment network, not the coin. The coin or digital unit only expresses the value of the network. It is an accounting tool that absorbs and carries the value of the network through time and space.

This network is called the blockchain. It’s a ledger that lives in the digital cloud, a distributed network, and it can be observed in operation by anyone at any time. It is carefully monitored by all users. It allows the transference of secure and non-repeatable bits of information from one person to any other person anywhere in the world, and these information bits are secured by a digital form of property title. This is what Satoshi called “digital signatures.” His invention of the cloud-based ledger allows property rights to be verified without having to depend on some third-party trust agency.

The blockchain solved what has come to be known as the Byzantine generals’ problem. This is the problem of coordinating action over a large geographic range in the presence of potentially malicious actors. Because generals separated by space have to rely on messengers and this reliance takes time and trust, no general can be absolutely sure that the other general has received and confirmed the message, much less its accuracy.

Putting a ledger, to which everyone has access, on the Internet overcomes this problem. The ledger records the amounts, the times, and the public addresses of every transaction. The information is shared across the globe and always gets updated. The ledger guarantees the integrity of the system and allows the currency unit to become a digital form of property with a title.

Once you understand this, you can see that the value proposition of bitcoin is bound up with its attached payment network. Here is where you find the use value to which Mises refers. It is not embedded in the currency unit but rather in the brilliant and innovative payment system on which bitcoin lives. If it were possible for the blockchain to be somehow separated from bitcoin (and, really, this is not possible), the value of the currency would instantly fall to zero.


Proof of concept

Now, to further understand how Mises’s theory fits with bitcoin, you have to understand one other point concerning the history of the cryptocurrency. On the day of its release (January 9, 2009), the value of bitcoin was exactly zero. And so it remained for 10 months after its release. All the while, transactions were taking place, but it had no posted value above zero for this entire time.

The first posted price of bitcoin appeared on October 5, 2009. On this exchange, $1 equaled 1,309.03 Bitcoin (which many considered overpriced at the time). In other words, the first valuation of bitcoin was little more than one-tenth of a penny. Yes, if you had bought $100 worth of bitcoin in those days, and not sold them in some panic, you would be a half-billionaire today.

So here is the question: What happened between January 9 and October 5, 2009, to cause bitcoin to obtain a market value? The answer is that traders, enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and others were trying out the blockchain. They wanted to know if it worked. Did it transfer the units without double-spending? Did a system that depended on voluntary CPU power actually suffice to verify and confirm transactions? Do the rewarded bitcoins land in the right spot as payment for verification services? Most of all, did this new system actually work to do the seemingly impossible—that is, to move secure bits of title-based information through geographic space, not by using on some third party but rather peer-to-peer?

It took 10 months to build confidence. It took another 18 months before bitcoin reached parity with the U.S. dollar. This history is essential to understand, especially if you are relying on a theory of money’s origins that speculates about the pre-history of money, as Mises’s regression theorem does. Bitcoin was not always a money with value. It was once a pure accounting unit attached to a ledger. This ledger is what obtained what Mises called "use value." All conditions of the theorem are thereby satisfied.


Final accounting

To review, if anyone says that bitcoin is based on nothing but thin air, that it cannot be a money because it has no real history as a genuine commodity, and whether the person saying this is a novice or a highly trained economist, you need to bring up two central points. One, bitcoin is not a stand-alone currency but a unit of accounting attached to an innovative payment network. Two, this network and therefore bitcoin only obtained its market value through real-time testing in a market environment.

In other words, once you account for the razzle-dazzle technical features, bitcoin emerged exactly like every other currency, from salt to gold, did. People found the payment system useful, and the attached accounting was portable, divisible, fungible, durable, and scarce.

Money was born. This money has all the best features of money from history but adds a weightless and spaceless payment network that enables the entire world to trade without having to rely on third parties. 

But notice something extremely important here. The blockchain is not only about money. It is about any information transfers that require security, confirmations, and total assurance of authenticity. This pertains to contracts and transactions of all sorts, all performed peer-to-peer. Think of a world without third parties, including the most dangerous third party ever conceived of by man: the State itself. Imagine that future and you begin to grasp the fullness of the implications of our future.

Mises would be amazed and surprised at bitcoin. But he might also feel a sense of pride that his monetary theory of more than 100 years ago has been confirmed and given new life in the 21st century. 

28 Aug 07:06

The General Welfare Clause is not about writing checks

by Mike Maharrey

When challenged on the federal government’s constitutional authority to create welfare programs, meddle in education or run a national healthcare system, progressives will almost always appeal to the “general welfare clause.”

Huffington Post columnist Paul Abrams demonstrated this line of thinking in a March 9, 2011, piece.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 grants the United States government the unqualified and unlimited power to raise and spend money, for example, to: provide healthcare for the elderly (or for everyone); provide old-age pension; build roads, bridges, train tracks, airports, electric grids, libraries, swimming pools, housing; educate our children, re-train the unemployed, provide pre-school and day care; fund public health projects; invest in and conduct basic research; provide subsidies for agriculture; save the auto industry; create internets (sic); and, yes, Tea Party Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), even provide emergency aid from natural disasters, and so forth. All subsumed under the authority to spend for the general welfare.

The term “general welfare” actually appears twice in the Constitution. We find it first in the preamble and then in the opening line of Article I Sec. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

These words create something of a dilemma. Either the founders didn’t really intend to create a general government of limited powers, or the general welfare clause doesn’t really mean unlimited federal authority to do things beneficial to the nation as a whole.

The fact that the framers followed up the general welfare clause in Article I Sec. 8 with specific enumerated powers indicates the latter – a qualification on federal authority. If they had intended Congress should have the power to do virtually anything and everything to promote the general welfare, they wouldn’t have bothered to include specific powers.

James Madison made this very point in a letter to James Robertson dated April, 20, 1831.

With respect to the two words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.

Yes, promoting the general welfare falls among the responsibilities of the federal government, but it must do so within the scope of the specific powers delegated.

During the ratification debates, anti-federalists who opposed the Constitution, voiced fears that people like Abrams would come along and assert that the term “general welfare” granted unlimited power to the federal government. Supporters of the Constitution swore it would not. Even Alexander Hamilton, the framer most in favor of expansive federal power, conceded as much in Federalist 83.

This specification of particulars [the 18 enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8] evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.

Madison specifically addressed the anti-federalist fears in Federalist 41.

For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power?Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter.

Madison further illuminated the intended meaning of the general welfare clause in a letter to Edmund Pendleton dated 1793, pointing out that the phrase was lifted from the Articles of Confederation and was intended to retain its meaning in the new Constitution.

If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions. It is to be remarked that the phrase out of which this doctrine is elaborated, is copied from the old articles of Confederation, where it was always understood as nothing more than a general caption to the specified powers, and it is a fact that it was preferred in the new instrument for that very reason as less liable than any other to misconstruction.

So the words general welfare must mean something other than a grant of power for Congress to do whatever it pleased. What exactly did the framers mean?

Two words in the clause hold the key. General and common. The phrase simply means that any tax collected must be collected to the benefit of the United States as a whole, not for partial or sectional (i.e. special) interests. The federal government may promote the general welfare, or common good, but it must do so within the scope of the powers delegated and without favoritism.