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19 Sep 17:11

Remy: The ISIS Crisis

by Kate

20 Sep 07:19

Obama’s Ebola Order: Unconstitutional and Dangerous

by Rob Natelson

The Constitution says that the president “shall be Commander in Chief of the Army . . . of the United States.”

Does that give him authority to utilize our armed forces for a purely non-military purpose like addressing the Ebola outbreak in Africa?

The Denver Post thinks so, editorializing that Obama’s decision is “fully justified.”But the Post doesn’t tackle the constitutional issues.

The Ebola mission, according to the Associated Press, is “to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.” Our troops will be doing things like handing out home health kits to Africans and building health clinics.

Note that this is different from the armed forces carrying on humanitarian actions as an incident to military operations. When you are fighting an enemy abroad, it makes sense to build hospitals to retain local good will or to care for those injured a result of war.

But we are not engaged in military operations in Africa.

So what does the Constitution have to say?

The Constitution contains no clause specifically prohibiting the president from using the armed forces this way. You might think that such a limit would be inherent in the Constitution’s use of the word “Army.” That is, you might think the word “Army” would be limited to an exclusively military organization. But founding-era dictionaries do not impose that restriction on the term “Army.” As those dictionaries define the word, an “Army” is merely a large number of armed men subject to central leadership. (This, by the way, is one reason the U.S. Air Force is constitutional, even though the Constitution doesn’t refer to it. The Air Force fits within the constitutional meaning of “Army.” Indeed, it was originally the Army Air Service and later the Army Air Corps.)

The operations in Africa sound noble. But the old legal saying is: Hard cases make bad law. In other words, yielding to an innocent-sounding usurpation may create a dangerous precedent. So ask yourself: Does the Constitution allow the president to use the “Army” for any non-military purpose he pleases?

Or maybe you prefer to focus on some narrower examples:

* If the president decides that Argentina does not have sufficient health facilities, may he constitutionally send in the army to open and staff clinics there? (He could take the needed funds from Department of Defense appropriations.)

* Could he make the same decision for Pennsylvania?

* Could he send the army to register voters when there is no accompanying military threat?

* If your answer to the last question is “yes,” then could he focus the army’s registration campaign in states that lean toward his own party? If not, how does this differ constitutionally from the previous example?

* Could he send the military to build a highway in Ohio, if he concluded the highway was necessary for the economy there? Suppose his decision was related to Ohio’s vote in the next election?*

If those examples make you nervous, then your gut is telling you something. The army is not the president’s personal plaything. It is not a generalized work crew the president can order to do whatever he wants done. It is a military instrument, and it is dangerous to allow the president to use it for other purposes.

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My guess is that the Constitution does not contain a clause banning the president from using the army for non-military ends only because the framers never imagined that any American president would do so.

Yet it has happened, and it demonstrates a flaw in our political system. For all its strengths, our Constitution contains inadequate protection against a president determined to ignore conventional limits. We have seen this before.

For example, it occurred in World War II, when the president shot at least one American citizen within the continental U.S. without a civilian trial and without habeas corpus, and when he imprisoned tens of thousands of others. (The U.S. Supreme Court failed to stop either action.) We now recognize that these were impermissible constitutional violations, but our repentance didn’t come in time to save the victims.

Once again we are witnessing the exercise of arbitrary executive power—and this time, the president does not even have the excuse of a war. But without a constitutional amendment, we are probably powerless to stop it.

17 Sep 14:46

Billionaire Diversity: Foreign vs. Domestic

by Richard Morrison

Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West, whose new book Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust is being released later this week, has another intriguing graphic on the political influence of the extremely wealthy. Last week Brookings posted an interactive grid of the top players in domestic politics, the U.S. Billionaire Political Power Index. This ranking put Charles and David Koch predictably at #1, but followed by Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager/global warming activist Tom Steyer, with the likes of George Soros, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Alice Walton filling out the rest of the list.

16 Sep 19:31

STB Reauthorization Bill Threatens Rail Investment

by Marc Scribner

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a markup for tomorrow afternoon of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act (S.2777). If enacted, the bill (specifically, Section 14) would threaten much needed investment in railroad infrastructure and reverse three decades of progress on railroad regulation.

Senate Commerce chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), irresponsibly joined by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), has for years sought to reverse the partial deregulation enacted by Congress over 30 years ago. Since 1980, when the Staggers Act was enacted, average real freight rates have fallen by nearly 50 percent, railroad employee productivity and safety have dramatically improved, and the industry is now healthy and reinvesting more than $20 billion of its own funds every year.

But hydraulic fracturing revolution has led crude oil shipments to skyrocket in recent years—since 2005, originated carloads of crude oil on major railroads have increased by more than 6,500%. With continued steady growth in intermodal movements, new capacity investments are needed to ensure America’s freight rail system remains the envy of the world. Unlike road and air carriers, the railroad industry owns and manages its own networks and uses its own funds for infrastructure investment.

While singling out the private railroad industry for its alleged sins, Sen. Rockefeller has often championed subsidies for other modes of transportation. West Virginia’s highway system has long been one of the most federally subsidized in the nation, and Sen. Rockefeller never misses an opportunity to protect wasteful taxpayer subsidies of government-owned Amtrak and the completely misnamed and unessential Essential Air Service.

16 Sep 20:30

College students learning COBOL make more money


h/t Adam Victor Brandizzi

September 15, 2014, 10:32 AM

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Professor Leon Kappelman, Ph.D. He is the Director Emeritus, Information Systems Research Center in the Information Technology and Decision Sciences Department (ITDS) at the College of Business, University of North Texas (UNT).

Just by chance, Prof. Kappelman saw my ITworld blog titled COBOL will Outlive Us All and contacted me to tell me about a joint venture that UNT has with IBM and how his graduates get high-paying jobs with major US corporations that have COBOL based applications running within their data centers.

He said that many years ago they took COBOL out of the department’s Business Computer Information Systems (BCIS) curriculum because it was thought of as an outdated technology. Then, a few years ago they added it back in as two one semester electives at the suggestion of their advisory committee. As you may expect, this class teaches the full cast of characters needed to be a successful COBOL programmer including the IBM mainframe operating system, Job Control Language (JCL) and, of course the COBOL programming language.

Leon went on to say, that offering COBOL at the university was a win-win for everyone concerned. First, and most important, it was a win for the students who took the elective. Their average salary upon graduation was approximately $10,000 higher than their peer BCIS graduates who didn’t take the electives. Second, it was a win for the university’s corporate business partners because they had the ability to hire highly qualified college graduates who were willing and able to program in COBOL. It was also a win for IBM, who is helping create the next generation of COBOL programmers. Lastly, it was a win for the university by successfully maximizing the career skills and, thus the marketability of its students.

I asked Leon why he thought these students did so well financially upon graduation. He said to me that there are simply not enough people in the profession who have these skills and skill scarcity drives higher salaries. I then asked if he knew what career directions these students could go if they began their careers programming in a legacy technology. He reminded me that COBOL was not their only technical skill, they were trained in state-of-the-art programming technologies like Java and .NET, industry database technologies and all the other subjects that warrant a degree in BCIS, COBOL was just another arrow in their quiver.

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18 Sep 04:06

Your Moral And Intellectual Superiors

by Kate

The presidential election year dips are pretty amazing.

19 Sep 02:23

Crypto-Anarchy and Libertarian Entrepreneurship

by Norman Horn


One of my great friends is Daniel Krawisz, who I first met at the University of Texas with Libertarian Longhorns. We were both graduate students, libertarian thinkers, and board gamers, so we quickly hit it off and have since traveled across the country together multiple times to attend libertarian conferences and to have a great time promoting the cause of liberty.

Daniel is a brilliant guy; he has earned graduate degrees in both physics and computer science and continually impresses me with his understanding of science and technology. But another area in which he has totally blown me away is his grasp of cryptography and bitcoin as a serious strategy against statism. He was instrumental in convincing me of the importance of bitcoin and the “crypto-anarchy” strategy, and today I want to encourage you to read his four-essay exposition on the subject. It may take some time to digest, but I promise you that the payoff is worth the effort. Here is a description and snippet from each essay to give you a flavor for what you will be reading at the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute.

Crypto-Anarchy and Libertarian Entrepreneurship Chapter 1: The Strategy introduces the premise that libertarians must ultimately be entrepreneurial if they wish to do away with the state. In other words, we cannot count on politics as the means of effecting real, lasting change for liberty in this world.

“The crypto-anarchy movement, which from the beginning drew upon anarcho-capitalist theory, may be summed up by the observation that cryptography gives us an enormous opportunity to spread the taste of liberty. Crypto-anarchy is not a branch of libertarian theory. It is a libertarian strategy. It is a framework for action. The cryptographic tools we have today are cheap, powerful, and profoundly individualistic. No one can hold a gun to an equation. Cryptographic software will function according to the rules of mathematics, regardless of government directives. As long as it is possible to distribute software, then cryptographic software can show people liberty.

Cryptography should be thought of primarily as a community—builder, not as a tool of secrecy. There is always something which is secret, but it does not have to be a message. Instead, it can work rather like a car key: its form is arbitrary and meaningless, but its shape is associated with a lock to a machine that cannot run without it. A machine locked by the key cannot be jump-started.”

Chapter 2: Public-Key Cryptography explains fundamental cryptography concepts and why the “public-key / private-key” innovation is so important.

“A community which combines cryptographic secrecy, public-key authentication, and digital signatures is a voluntary community tied together by contracts and reputation. It requires no central authority because the records it relies on to establish reputation can be stored on many different computers. Thus, it is resilient against government attack. Banishment is the only punishment the community has available.

This is libertarianism. It is exactly what libertarians have always yearned for. If we want people to get used to the idea that they can brush government aside and that freedom of association and privacy are inherent in the nature of reality, all we must do is build cryptographic communities. There is no need to speak in abstract terms with people who won’t listen until we turn blue. Just build the networks and people will be attracted to them. Once people get used to them, they will demand them.”

Chapter 3: The Killer App of Liberty is all about bitcoin. Without trying to defend the logic of bitcoin here (read the essays for more on that!), I will say that a great benefit of bitcoin is wresting control of money away from the state:

If Bitcoin becomes money, the government’s control of money will have ended. There will be no more banks for governments to collude with. The dark age of inflation will be over. Though Bitcoin is only four years old, it has already shaken world markets. Almost anything that is sold online can be bought with it. Argentinians and Iranians use it to escape capital controls. US regulators are openly mocked on television for expressing the possibility of regulating it. Its growth is already astonishing, and as it grows, it only becomes more useful. It is like the Blob. No one can stop it.

Chapter 4: The Risk from the Software Industry suggests that open source software (sometimes called “free software” but not necessarily free-as-in-beer) is another element to this strategy. Admittedly, this is an abstract and difficult argument to understand and accept, but Daniel makes a compelling case for the position.

“What is relevant now, though, is free software as an essential component of libertarian entrepreneurship. When we use free software, we depend on a community of developers who work on the program because they actually want to use it. When we use proprietary software, we depend on specific companies. We, furthermore, give up control: when we use proprietary software, we can still smash our computer but we cannot know what it is doing while it is still running. There is nothing but a promise that it is behaving as it is supposed to, without any means of verification, and the considerable possibility of a conflict of interest. This is like trusting a politician. Whereas with free software, even without being able to read computer code, someone can give you an informed opinion about it. Everything has independent verification.”

Again, I encourage you to read these essays in full, and keep an open mind to some potentially revolutionary ideas.

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Crypto-Anarchy and Libertarian Entrepreneurship He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology.

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19 Sep 01:23

AOL Headline: ‘Global Warming Likely to Cause Colder And Snowier Winters, Scientists Say’

by Marc Morano
16 Sep 11:50

News from the Front

17 Sep 00:34

JC at the National Press Club

by curryja

by Judith Curry

I have just returned from my engagement at the National Press Club, sponsored by the Marshall Institute Roundtable.

The talk was recorded, it should be available online in a few days.

UPDATE:  video now available [here]

The pdf for my talk is here marshall.   Much of the material from my talk comes from my recent congressional testimony:

Here are excerpts from talk, focusing on overview/integration slides and material that I haven’t previously presented.


President Obama said in his state of the Union Address: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” President Obama seems to view climate change as a ‘tame problem’, where we have clearly understand the problem and have identified the appropriate solutions.

I view the climate change problem very differently, as a ‘wicked mess’. A wicked problem is complex with dimensions that are difficult to define and changing with time. A mess is characterized by the complexity of interrelated issues, with suboptimal solutions that create additional problems.

My concern is that the climate change problem and its solution have been vastly oversimplified, and that the interface between climate science and policy has become badly broken.


So how did we end up mistaking a wicked mess for a tame problem?   The main problem has been putting the policy cart in front of the scientific horse.   The 1992 UNFCCC treaty was signed before the balance of evidence suggested even a discernible human influence on global climate, which was assessed by the IPCC Second Assessment Report in 1995. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was implemented before we had any confidence that most of the warming was caused by humans.

The 4th and 5th IPCC Assessment Reports have provided increasingly confident assessments that humans have caused most of the warming. So was the 1992 Treaty somehow prescient of the science?


Well, here is what has happened. Have you heard the story about the drunk searching for his lost keys under a street light, since that is the only place where he can see anything? Well something similar has been happening with climate science. You find what you shine a light on. Motivated by the UNFCCC and IPCC and government funding, climate scientists have focused primarily on greenhouse gases and to a lesser extent other anthropogenic factors. Other factors important for understanding climate variability have been relatively neglected, I have highlighted long-term ocean oscillations and solar indirect effects, since I think that these are potentially very important on decadal to century timescales.



[See the main presentation for the science part]

This leads us to ask the question: What climate do we want? Do we want to return to the climate of the 1930’s? Or the 1950’s? Or the 1970’s? Or would a warmer climate be more desirable? The answer to this question may vary by region: Canada, Siberia and Northern China might prefer a warmer climate. My point is that there is no simple answer to this question.   Any change or extreme event, be it natural or human caused, can be disruptive.


When talking about climate change and how we should respond, much of the debate relates to a conflict of values. Sustainability is the value that is driving the UN climate policies that are trying to mitigate damage by reducing CO2 emissions. These policies are in stark conflict with survivability issues in the developing world, where there are severe challenges to meeting basic needs and where there idea of clean green energy is something other than burning dung inside their dwelling for cooking and heating. While the UN policies also include adaptation, which is targeted at increasing reslience, funds for mitigation are in direct competition with funds for resilience. And finally we have thrivability, which is about people wanting not only to make money and support economic development, but also to strive for greatness and transform the infrastructure for society. The goals of thrivability are also in conflict with sustainability, with its emphasis on austerity and obligations and its costs that conflict with economic development goals.


So why am I, a climate scientist, talking about values? Well, I am trying to figure out how climate science can better support decision making on these issues. The path that we have been on, the sustainable one, is vested in the IPCC with its reliance on global climate models, determinations of climate sensitivity to CO2 and rationalizing emissions stabilization targets. In my opinion, we reached the point of diminishing returns from this path about a decade ago. Particularly with regards to global climate models, the hope was that these could be used for projections of regional climate change; this hope has not been realized, and is arguably unrealizable from the current development path for climate models.

There is untapped capability for climate science to have a big impact in the other 3 columns. Consider survivability. Tactical adaptation is a phrase that I’ve coined to describe the use of weather/climate forecasts on timescales of weeks to season to save lives and property from extreme weather and to support cropping and agriculture decisions.

In the resilience and thrivability columns, in addition to tactical adaptation, there is also a need for more sophisticated analyses of the statistics of extreme events and identification of possible worst case scenarios, which require much longer data records.

All of the academic research and most of the government funding goes to science in the sustainability column. Most of the effort in the other columns comes from the private sector, NGOs and development banks. Is this a good use of government funding and the intellectual horsepower of academic scientists? In my opinion, it is NOT.


The final points I want to make is related to the different decision-analytic framework associated with each of these columns. In the sustainability column, related to carbon mitigation, we are faced with conditions of deep uncertainty. The precautionary principle has guided policy making, although no regrets and robust decision making are also decision making strategies for conditions of deep uncertainty. The sustainable column frames both the problem and the solution as irreducibly global.

In the other columns, the problems and solutions are local to regional. Some of these problems can be carved out as tame problems, where everyone can agree on both the problem and the solution. Particularly for tactical adaptation, you can make use of probability forecasts on timescales of days to seasons, and ensemble forecast systems can be used for extreme event scenarios. Decadal scenarios can support infrastructure decisions.

My summary point is that framing the problems in different ways supports the identification of more tractable problems and solutions.


Thinking about the problems in new ways, and trying to accommodate different values, can lead to solutions that have greater political viability. For example, at the intersection of sustainability and resilience, you can identify robust strategies that have multiple benefits with little downside.


The challenges of climate change related to survivability can benefit from thrivability thinking, particularly some strategies suggested by anti-fragility strategies, whereby you learn and grow from adversity. Some of these strategies include economic development, reducing the downside from volatility, developing a range of options, tinkering with small experiments, and developing and testing transformative ideas.


In summary I hope I have provoked you into thinking about the climate problem as a very complex one, that can be characterized as a wicked mess.


JC note:  For background on sustainability-resilience-thrivability, see my previous posts:

JC reflections

This was a really nice event, and I greatly appreciate the effort that the Marshall Institute put into organizing this.  There were about 80 people in the audience, which included people from the federal government (US Govt Accountability Office, U.S. Treasury Dept, congressional staffers, US Dept of Energy Federal Reserve, U.S. Dept of State), World Bank,  industry, the media, a few from universities, and think tank/advocacy groups.  I definitely intend to follow up on contacts with several of these individuals.

The questions and discussion were quite good, coming from a broad spectrum of perspectives.  Marc Morano has written up a summary that includes some of the discussion [link], although I’m a bit puzzled by the headline.

This whole issue is heating up, with the forthcoming UN meeting in New York.


Filed under: Adaptation, Attribution, Policy
16 Sep 19:40

The Constitution in Latin

by Rob Natelson

Institute Research Director Dave Kopel has long urged me to do a broadcast production on the Constitution in the Latin language, and now it’s here!

Produced by II web monkey Justin Longo, the program features an interview of me by my daughter Sarah on the American Founding and the nature of the Constitution. Sarah, 23, is a classics major at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

I raised all three of my daughters to be bilingual: While they were growing up, my wife spoke exclusively to them in English while I spoke to them exclusively in Latin.

For linguistic wimps, the telecast includes subtitles in English. You can see the program here.

For linguistic jocks: Not even the Romans navigated all of Latin’s grammatical mistakes perfectly. See if you can identify the specific grammatical errors I made in the course of this interview. (Hint: On reviewing the video, I counted four.)

Finally: The pronunciation Sarah and I use is that of “Late Latin.” This is pretty much the same as classical Latin, except that the letter “V” is pronounced as in Italian or English.

17 Sep 02:29

Facebook unleashes inter-cache router code on a waiting world

by Richard Chirgwin

'Mcrouter' released under BSD license

Facebook has slung another slice of code into the open source world: the software that lets it sling content between caches around the world, fast enough to keep The Social NetworkTM social.…

16 Sep 03:29

The NCAA Racket

The NCAA ensures there is no functioning job market for athletes and no competition to which students might go seeking higher pay.
12 Sep 21:34

Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

by Commonwealth Foundation

An astounding 93 percent of union members had no role in choosing the union currently representing them, according to a new report authored by Dr. Daniel DiSalvo of the Manhattan Institute.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise given the rarity of union recertification elections, which deny union members the opportunity to vote for or against their union. Never mind that 77 percent of union households support periodic recertification elections.

Dr. DiSalvo's report exposes a pattern of antidemocratic behavior and rules within union organizations, finding unions to be democratic only on a superficial level. Here are just four of his findings supporting his contention:

Very few members vote in standard union-leadership elections (turnout is often below 20 percent; in one recent New York City public-sector union election, turnout was 4 percent).

Those who do vote are not representative of the membership as a whole (with older workers voting at higher rates, thus skewing, for example, union policies on the importance of pensions relative to wages).

Incumbent leaders often go unchallenged for long periods, sometimes “anointing” chosen successors (who then anoint another generation) instead of fostering genuine contests.

Unions, especially at the state and national level, often take political positions with which a substantial number of members disagree (thus forcing those members to pay, with their dues, for the advocacy of policies that they do not support).

This last point is one which CF has covered repeatedly. In Pennsylvania—a forced union state—union members can be required to subsidize organizations with political views antithetical to their beliefs. To make matters worse, these dues used for politics are collected with taxpayer resources, an unfair political privilege afforded only to government unions.

How democratic is an organization that forces you to become a member on condition of employment, refuses to give members the opportunity to vote on its legitimacy, and forces members to pay for political causes they may not support?

In an effort to make unions more democratic, Dr. DiSalvo suggests a number of reforms including publicizing electoral procedures and reporting election results, instituting online voting, and ending the practice of requiring union members to pay for political advocacy they don't support.

While the efficacy of these reforms and others is up for debate, one thing is clear: the current system of unionization is far from democratic.

10 Sep 15:28

Referendums and sovereignty

by Daniel Lemire

Next week, the Scots will get to vote to determine whether Scotland becomes its own country.

As a middle-aged Quebecker, I spent much of my youth hearing about the separation of Quebec from Canada. We had two referendums. The first one in the 1980s was defeated decisively. The second one in 1995 was a close call. Because of these two failures, I get to live in Canada, one of the richest countries in the world instead of an independent (and poorer) Quebec.

There is much to be said about the United Kingdom. It is a fine country. But If I were in Scotland, I’d vote for the independence of Scotland the same way I could be convinced to vote for the independence of Quebec.

Why? Because a fragmented Europe took over the world.

Let me explain. If you go back a few centuries… you had huge empires in China and India. The Qing dynasty ruled over 300 million individuals while the Maratha Empire counted 150 million individuals. In Europe, you had a giant mess. Lots of small and weak states. Instead of the modern-day Germany, we had a collection of small kingdoms, the largest one being maybe Bavaria. Italy (and the Italian language) only came about in the second part the IXXth century. France was a collection of culturally distinct provinces, with the French language becoming a standard only after the French revolution. Scotland joined England only in 1707.

This patchwork of weak states enabled great prosperity, at least locally. First in Venice, then in the Dutch Republic and then in England. Venice counted less than 200,000 people, the Dutch Republic had fewer than 2 million people while England had 5 million people.

There was so much prosperity that the Dutch and then the British took over the world. They could afford it.

People look at Europe and think that the lack of unification is the problem. One united Europe would be stronger. But that is like saying that by putting all your eggs in the same basket, you can carry eggs more efficiently.

Europe contributed most as a political laboratory. It gave us the democracy, the industrial revolution and modern science.

It is entirely possible that the United States works better as a giant unified country… But then you get things like an all-powerful spy agency and a federal government that can arm the local police forces for war. If you broke up the USA into small states, at least some of them would be free from this nonsense. Some of them would not have gone to war in Irak. Small countries tend to trade more with other countries than large countries, and trade discourages war. And as an individual, you would have more choices. You could move more easily if you disagreed with the current policies.

Of course, small countries do not have large open markets. But the only 6 countries that offered economic freedom in 2014 are Hong Kong, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. They are all relatively small countries in terms of population. The largest ones (Canada, Australia) are modest countries on an international scale… So some small countries can be nice places where to run a business despite their size.

How far would I go? I think that the idea of the city state had a lot of good. The 5 richest countries in the world right now on a per capita basis are Qatar (2 million people), Luxembourg (500,000 people), Singapore (5 million people), Norway (5 million people) and Brunei (400,000 people). Let cities compete for talent and industries. One screwed up city will not harm us much, while one great one can make all the difference. Have Montreal compete against Toronto and New York City. Singapore proves that it can work.

14 Sep 17:11

Understanding The Bulge

by stevengoddard
According the University of Colorado, sea level is rising much faster than 85% of tide gauges show, and forming a massive mound near the Philippines. Apparently they believe that water likes to pile up in mounds, and to help visualize … Continue reading →
12 Sep 19:30

Police Reform Must Come from the Bottom Up to be Effective

by Shane Trejo

Another day, another unconstitutional ‘solution’ from the Congress. This time it comes from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and it involves the federal control of police.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson, Mo., disaster, McCaskill has proposed forcing police to wear cameras as a prerequisite for receiving federal funds.

This is an interesting ploy to keep the dangerous status quo intact, because it involves what seems to be a legitimate reform.

According to a Nov. 2013 Guardian report, “public complaints against officers plunged 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Officers’ use of force fell by 60 percent” after cameras were introduced in the small town of Rialto, Calif. This indicates that the idea of putting cameras on officers as a transparency measure may be something worth pursuing.

But the federal government has absolutely no constitutional authority to meddle with state and local police departments. In fact, states have always jealously guarded “police powers.” Local and state police policy falls within the realm that James Madison described in Federalist 45 as the “internal order” of the state – an area of authority reserved for state and local governments. Some will assert that the feds would stay within the letter of constitutional law in tying police cameras to federal funding, arguing that the it would not compel the state to act. States would remain free to ignore the mandate if it was willing to forgo the federal funds. But this argument falls flat, since the Constitution delegates no authority to the federal government to fund state and local law enforcement in the first place.

Any way you slice it, McCaskill’s proposal violates the Constitution.

While cameras on cops is probably a good idea, more federal influence on state and local police forces definitely is not. With their long history of heavy-handed behavior regardless of which party is in power, the feds should be kept as far away from local and state police forces as possible. They must remain independent so that they are willing to take on the feds when they violate the Constitution, an important check and balance against tyranny that has been eroding for quite some time.

If putting cameras on police is a solution that can curb the epidemic of police brutality, let it happen in city councils and state legislatures throughout the country. We do not need the feds pushing through this reform in order to protect their inappropriate influence upon our police forces. Keeping federal control in tact makes any other reform moot because the progenitor of the problem is still in charge. For a comprehensive reform plan, we need to consider ideas like having the police wear cameras but only after fully demilitarizing the police and separating them completely from the feds.

We can help to get you started on the road toward reform with our Privacy Protection Act, 4th Amendment Protection Act and Liberty Preservation Act. Those three pieces of legislation stop drones, NSA spying and indefinite detention – three of the most ghastly planks of the Orwellian police state being put into place. We can start with these three measures instead of letting federal bureaucrats dictate their reform scheme to us. The feds never seem to have the best interest of the people in mind. Let’s go around them completely, and fix this mess ourselves. Join the grassroots revolution to decentralize power today!

12 Sep 07:15

Don’t Bother Calling Congress

by Ben Lewis

It looks like a recent study has confirmed something that the Tenth Amendment Center has said for a long time – calling Congress does the average person no good. According to The Hill, two political scientists recently found that, “when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a ‘non-significant, near-zero level.’” 

We hate to say, “I told you so,” but…

Seriously, isn’t this pretty much common knowledge by now? When was the last time that contacting your federal representatives had a demonstrable impact on the policies they pursued? Remember when Americans called their congressmen to protest the impending approval of Obamacare? Did that change their votes? Nope, they just want along granting themselves power that the Constitution doesn’t give them. Remember when most Americans opposed the Bush/Obama bailouts? Did that stop the payouts to the politically well-connected? Of course not.

When we say to not bother with federal politicians, this is the reason why. The culture of corruption, back-room deals and general disregard for the wishes of the people is too ingrained in Washington. If you want real change, work with your state and local representatives. Maybe they’ll actually listen to you.

13 Sep 16:08

A Double Shot Of Hiding The Decline At NASA

by stevengoddard
Ignoring all the junk science behind the temperature reconstructions, let’s have a look at the hockey stick grafted blade. Note how it starts at 1880, right after Australia’s hottest years on record. Here is the current pre-1966 portion of the graph – … Continue reading →
09 Sep 00:59

How Did the West Get So Rich?

by Tom Woods

Today I talked to Deirdre McCloskey, the author, most recently, of The Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity, about how the West got rich, and why the traditional explanations don’t work. Very interesting and important stuff.

Because of a problem at Nox (the company I’m transitioning away from over the next 4-6 weeks), today’s show was delayed in getting onto iTunes, but it’s there now. That will be rectified soon. In the meantime, here’s the YouTube! And of course, subscribe to the show on iTunes or Stitcher — you’ll get a free serving of liberty education every weekday.

09 Sep 21:50

Michigan Man Freed After DNA Proves Innocence

In 1998, Jamie Peterson of Michigan was convicted of rape and murder despite a lack of physical evidence connecting him to the crimes. But three weeks ago, a Kalkaska County Circuit judge vacated Peterson's conviction and granted him a new trial based on new DNA testing, and yesterday, Peterson was released from jail. The order came after Peterson's team of attorneys from the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law argued that DNA testing of evidence implicates another man.

Peterson, who is mentally impaired, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of Geraldine Montgomery after he falsely confessed more than 15 years ago. Research shows that people with mental disabilities have often falsely confessed because they are tempted to accommodate and agree with authority figures. When DNA testing excluded Peterson and matched another suspect, Jason Ryan, an investigation was launched to determine if the men knew each other and acted together.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Peterson has since been cleared of any suspicion and that Ryan, who was arrested last year for Montgomery's murder, is currently awaiting trial.

Peterson was joined in court yesterday by his current legal team, his trial attorney and his father. One of his lawyers, Caitlin Plummer, took him to Wendy's for a cheeseburger, some fries and a milkshake upon his release.

"So, he enjoyed that," said Plummer, of the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic, according to the Free Press. "He's just real happy, big smile on his face. Everything is still pretty new, but he's taking it all in and enjoying his freedom so far."

Read the full article.

10 Sep 16:08

Markets in everything: High-tech, sensor-based trash collection saves up to 50% compared to the traditional system

by Mark J. Perry

h/t Jts5665

Here’s a good example of both creative destruction and the invisible hand – Enevo ONe, a Finnish startup, is disrupting the waste management industry with a new, innovative sensor-based trash management system. Here’s how it works (from the company’s website):

Enevo ONe is a comprehensive logistics solution that saves time, money and the environment. It uses wireless sensors to measure and forecast the fill-level of waste containers and generates smart collection plans using the most efficient schedules and routes. The solution provides up to 50% in direct cost savings.

Until now collecting waste has been done using static routes and schedules where containers are collected every day or every week regardless if they are full or not. Enevo ONe changes all this by using smart wireless sensors to gather fill-level data from waste containers. The service then automatically generates schedules and optimized routes which take into account an extensive set of parameters (future fill-level projections, truck availability, traffic information, road restrictions etc.). New schedules and routes are planned not only looking at the current situation, but considering the future outlook as well.

Here’s a Forbes article with some background on how the company got started — the same way most successful companies get started — when Finnish entrepreneur Fredrik Kekalainen had a “eureka moment.”  And most of those “eureka moments” are perfect examples of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” concept, because entrepreneurs only become successful and rich in the marketplace by figuring out ways to make other people better off through better products or services, cheaper products or services, or new products and services that improve the lives of others. If things work out, entrepreneurs like Fredrik Kekalainen get rich, but their personal wealth is usually only a fraction of the social benefits that they generate collectively for the rest of society. By pursuing their own self-interest (and their desire to become wealthy) entrepreneurs like Fredrik are led by an “invisible hand” to make the rest of us better off. And that’s the miracle of the marketplace that Steven Landsburg described Armchair Economist - the amazing phenomenon that individually selfish behavior leads to collectively efficient outcomes.

HT: Jon Murphy

10 Sep 21:38

IRS Testifies to Congress: "Wherever We Can, We Follow The Law"

by Michael F. Cannon

h/t Jts5665

11 Sep 03:57

PayPal goes crypto-currency with Bitcoin

by Richard Chirgwin

eBay no Silk Road

eBay's PayPal business will start accepting the crypto-currency Bitcoin for payments “over the coming months”.…

09 Sep 04:47

August 2014 fails to warm

by admin

We’ve updated the Climate Bet graph on the right with the global average temperature for August. The picture seems clear to us: there is no trend. Not surprisingly then, the projected 0.03°C per year increase that the IPCC and Mr Gore (who expected a tipping point and dangerously warming temperatures) thought was likely on the low side has been equaled or exceeded only sixteen times in the 80 month life of the bet, so far. In contrast, monthly temperatures have come in lower than Professor Armstrong’s bet on no-change for 55% of months.

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.

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 11:31

Letting Students Hit The Snooze Button

by Dish Staff

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.