Shared posts

30 Apr 16:37

Fascinating Satellite Photos of Seaweed Farms in South Korea

by Christopher Jobson


NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center just shared these fascinating satellite photos taken in January 2014 over the shallow waters around Sisan Island, South Korea. The tiny patchwork of small squares are entire fields of seaweed that are held in place with ropes and buoys to keep the plants near the surface during high tide but off the seafloor in low tide. Via NASA Earth Observatory:

Since 1970, farmed seaweed production has increased by approximately 8 percent per year. Today, about 90 percent of all the seaweed that humans consume globally is farmed. That may be good for the environment. In comparison to other types of food production, seaweed farming has a light environmental footprint because it does not require fresh water or fertilizer.

You can see much more of what’s happening at NASA lately by following the Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr.





19 Dec 20:57

The Coder and the Beast

by CommitStrip

30 Apr 01:21

Whole Foods Criticized for Giving Food to National Guardsmen...and Children?

by Nick Gillespie

So there's this, via Instagram.

Which leads to this sort of response from the senior digital editor of Ebony and "a leading millennial voice around issues of race, gender and sexuality. One of those pesky Black feminists who challenges the status quo, while remaining fresh and fab at all times":

I spent my last money with @WholeFoods last night. What you are doing is unconscionable. #BaltimoreUprising @WholeFoodsPR @wholefoodsnyc

— Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) April 28, 2015

Which leads to this sort of response:

@jamilahlemieux We're helping! Our two stores there are partnering with BCRP to provide ongoing donations to the community.

— Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods) April 29, 2015

And this:

@JamilahLemieux We're providing meals & snacks to Baltimore children by partnering w/rec centers that we already work closely w/across city.

— Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods) April 29, 2015

And this:

I appreciate that and the response, but feeding the Guard today and not the kids who were left lunch-less left a very bad taste @WholeFoods

— Jamilah Lemieux (@JamilahLemieux) April 29, 2015

And finally this explanation of why Whole Foods deleted the post that started the whole row:

We removed the post because it did not accurately reflect all our local stores are doing to feed people across this city, especially children. Again, we love our community, will continue to support our city in the days to come, as we always do, and extend our heartfelt sympathy to those affected.

No good deed goes unpunished, especially in an age of social media and perpetual outrage.

29 Apr 17:10

Flying a Hobby Drone in a National Park? That’s a Tasering.

by Scott Shackford

Not reading a national park's website before you visit? That's a paddling.Travis Sanders has a little 3-inch hobby drone that he thought could he could use to film at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Didn’t he know he’s not allowed to do that? It’s been the rule for … um … a couple of months now and is clearly posted on … um … the park’s website.

Screw it, bring out the Tasers! That was a park ranger’s response to Sanders flying his tiny little drone. Several onlookers contacted Hawaii News Now, describing what the ranger did as excessive and unnecessary. Here’s how Sanders described how he was treated when he started flying his drone around:

"A guy approached me in the dark and said, 'Bring it down!' and he was very angry. I had no idea he was a ranger. He sounded very angry, confrontational — like he wanted to fight — and I didn't really want to stick around for it so I just told him, 'I don't have ID and I'm leaving'," described Sanders.

A spokesman for the park described him instead as “fleeing” and justified the use of the Taser, telling Hawaii News Now, “Apparently the suspect was very unpredictable and very unruly and the national park service ranger was really unclear what his next actions would be and needed to stop this individual.” Apparently a guy with a drone at a park is the equivalent of an escaped mental patient waving a knife around Times Square. Who knows what he might do next?

Watch a video report of the incident below:

And here’s ReasonTV reminding everybody that Tasers can kill people and that the casual use of them by law enforcement is a problem:

(Hat tip to Mark S)

29 Apr 16:15

SHOCK POLL: Just 2% of younger Americans trust media to 'do right thing'...

SHOCK POLL: Just 2% of younger Americans trust media to 'do right thing'...

(Second column, 12th story, link)

29 Apr 01:20

Goldman Paid Bill Clinton $200K Before Lobbying Hillary On Export-Import Bank

by Tyler Durden

As documented here on several occasions of late, there are new questions surrounding charitable contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Most notably, a Reuters investigation revealed that the Clinton family charities may have suffered what we called a “Geithner moment” when they failed to report tens of millions in contributions from foreign governments on tax documents. The foundation will now refile five years worth of returns and hasn’t ruled out the possibility that it may need to amend returns dating back some 15 years. 

This prompted acting CEO Maura Pally to pen a lengthy blog post in which she explains the “mistakes” and attempts to reassure the public that the Clinton Foundation is taking special care to guard against “conflicts of interest” as Hillary begins her run for The White House. Pally also notes that similar measures were taken when Clinton was Secretary of State although, as we noted, the charity accepted donations from the likes of Kuwait, Qatar and Oman while she was the nation’s top diplomat. 

Now there are new questions as IBTimes suggests there may be a connection between a $200,000 payment made to Bill Clinton by Goldman Sachs in 2011, and the bank’s efforts to lobby the State Department ahead of legislation involving the Export-Import Bank which was set to provide a loan that would end up financing the purchase of millions of dollars in aircraft from a company partially owned by Goldman. Here’s more: 

Goldman Sachs paid former President Bill Clinton $200,000 to deliver a speech in the spring of 2011, several months before the investment banking giant began lobbying the State Department, then headed by Hillary Clinton, federal records reviewed by International Business Times show.


Goldman’s objective in lobbying the State Department could not be immediately discerned. The lobbying disclosure filings note only that Goldman sought to “monitor deficit reduction issues” -- specifically, a bill known as the Budget Control Act -- and the bank declined to answer questions about the precise nature of its interests…


In recent days, attention to overlapping interests that have donated to the Clinton family’s private interests while also allegedly seeking to influence State Department policy has reached a fever pitch amid leaks from a forthcoming book on the subject, “Clinton Cash,” by Peter Schweizer.


The involvement of Goldman Sachs seems certain to amplify that scrutiny. The bank brings a reputation as uniquely well-connected in Washington given that many of its former executives have landed in the uppermost ranks of the Treasury Department…


State Department records show that Bill Clinton’s $200,000 Goldman Sachs speech was delivered April 11, 2011, to “approximately 250 high level clients and investors” at a United Nations dining room in New York.


In federal disclosure documents, the Duberstein Group is listed as lobbying the Clinton State Department on behalf of Goldman Sachs between July and September 2011. Goldman Sachs paid the Duberstein Group $100,000 during that time.


Those records show that the firm was specifically lobbying the department on “proposed legislation” linked to a series of budget bills. One bill continued congressional authorization for the Export-Import Bank, a government-backed lender whose financing was critical for the prospects of a company in which Goldman owned a stake. 

The original budget bill was introduced in July and did not include an extension of the Export-Import Bank, but the bank reauthorization was added in late September, during the same period Goldman was lobbying the State Department on the bill.


In August 2011, the bank authorized a $75 million loan enabling a Chinese firm to purchase aircraft from Beechcraft (known before emerging from bankruptcy in February 2013 as Hawker Beechcraft), a company that was part-owned by Goldman. Beechcraft had lobbied the Clinton State Department on issues relating to foreign military sales in 2009 and 2010, according to its lobbying disclosures.

Readers can draw their own conclusions here, and we don't think it's any surprise that Wall Street lobbyists wield considerable power in Washington, but the takeaway is that, as we've said on a number of occasions recently, you can expect to learn much, much more in the coming months about the degree to which the Clinton Foundation — and any other avenue through which foreign governments, Vampire squids, and a whole host of other state and non-state actors can channel money — is used as a means of buying influence with America's maybe next President.

And because we can't help ourselves, here is how we imagine Hillary would respond to the above:

28 Apr 13:20

'Georgetown Will Need to Step In' If Students Don't Agree to Destroy Video Footage of Sommers Event

by Robby Soave


A Georgetown University administrator has a deeply troubling message for the campus’s College Republicans: scrub video footage of the recent Christina Hoff Sommers talk, or else.

The hour-long video shows Sommers—a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and individualist-feminist—giving her classically liberal take on gender issues while several left-leaning students hold signs accusing her of being a rape apologist.

According to Lauren Gagliardi, an assistant director of student services at Georgetown, the protesters did not consent to appear on camera, and so the College Republicans and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute (which sponsored Sommers’ talk) have a responsibility to edit them out of the video. In an email to the group obtained by The Washington Examiner and published at Legal Insurrection, Gagliardi promised consequences if her demand was not met swiftly:

What was the response from Clare Boothe Luce about the video? I see that is still up online. Please let me know asap as an edited version needs to be released without students who did not give permission to be taped.

If they are unwilling or unresponsive to the request, Georgetown will need to step in. Let me know!

As a private university, Georgetown administrators might theoretically have the right to make ridiculous demands of student and punish them for not complying. But that doesn’t mean they should. And while it makes sense to respect the privacy of other students, no one attending the Sommers talk—a public lecture—as a protester should have reasonably expected to remain anonymous. As Laurel Conrad wrote at LI:

But it stretches credulity that Georgetown and its students would not understand that the lecture was a public event. The video camera was in plain view, and audience members themselves appear to be taking video and photos. It could not shock any student that he or she was on camera.

Still, it’s hardly surprising that a university would decide its students deserve protection from the consequences of their actions.

More from Reason on students triggered by Sommers here.

27 Apr 16:00

"A job well done"

by (Vox)
Now we know why none of the big banks were prosecuted by the Obama administration:
Just after announcing his resignation as U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder has accepted a top job with Wall Street finance giant JPMorgan Chase.

Starting in early November, Holder will serve as JPMorgan Chase’s chief compliance officer, where his responsibilities will include lobbying Congress on the company’s behalf and ensuring it “gets the best deal possible” from any new proposed financial regulations. Holder will also fetch morning coffee and breakfast orders for CEO Jamie Dimon and board members.

For his efforts, Holder will earn an annual salary of $77 million plus bonuses for a job well done.
At this point, I think the federal government should go back to the spoils system. It would be considerably less corrupt.

Posted by Vox Day.
27 Apr 14:59

President Obama Demands Critics Tell Him What's Wrong With TPP; Of Course We Can't Do That Because He Won't Show Us The Agreement

by Mike Masnick
President Obama is apparently quite annoyed by the fact that his own party is basically pushing against his "big trade deals" (that are not really about trade). Senator Elizabeth Warren has been pretty aggressive in trashing the TPP agreement, highlighting the fact that the agreement is still secret (other than the bits leaked by Wikileaks). In response, President Obama came out swinging against the critics of TPP arguing that "they don't know what they're talking about."

He insists that it's unfair to compare TPP to NAFTA because they're different deals:
“You need to tell me what’s wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago.”
Well, Mr. President, I would love to do that, but I can't because you and your USTR haven't released the damn text. It takes an insane lack of self-awareness for the guy who once declared his administration "the most transparent in history" to demand people tell him what's wrong with his trade agreement, when that agreement is kept entirely secret.

Furthermore, multiple experts concerning things like the corporate sovereignty ISDS provisions and the intellectual property chapters have gone into great detail as to why the leaked versions have problems. They're not complaining about NAFTA. They're actually complaining about the latest drafts -- but the USTR won't acknowledge them because they're talking about leaked versions.

In fact, the only real complaints I've seen relating to NAFTA concern the fact that the government says one thing about these big agreements, but the reality is something different.

Of course, he attacks the fact that people are complaining about the secrecy as well, by arguing (misleadingly) that the deal is not at all secret:
“The one that gets on my nerves the most is the notion that this is a ‘secret’ deal,” Obama said. “Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement. There’s nothing secret about it.”
I'm a critic. I can't walk over today and read the text of the agreement. Obviously, President Obama is only talking about elected members of Congress. But that's not what they're complaining about. They're complaining about the fact that the American public cannot see the text of the document or discuss the specifics of what's in there. And that's absolutely true.

And even the fact that members of Congress can actually see the document is tremendously misleading. Yes, members of Congress are allowed to walk over to the USTR and see a copy of the latest text. But they're not allowed to take any notes, make any copies or bring any of their staff members. In other words, they can only read the document and keep what they remember in their heads. And they can't have their staff members -- the folks who often really understand the details -- there to explain what's really going on.

And it all comes back to the point that Senator Warren has been making for a long time: that former USTR Ron Kirk has admitted that a big reason why they keep the document secret is that when they tried being more transparent in the past, the agreement failed. As Warren says, if being transparent with the American public means the agreement will fail, then the problem is with the agreement, not the public.
“When I keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it’s ‘secret,’ I gotta say, it’s dishonest,” Obama continued. “And it’s concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to these kinds of tactics.”
Here's a little test: can we see the current TPP documents today? No? Then it's secret. Claiming otherwise is what's dishonest.

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27 Apr 11:51

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 11 of the 1991 Liberty Press edition of Bruno Leoni’s 1961 volume, Freedom and the Law (original emphasis):

Both the Romans and the English shared the idea that the law is something to be discovered more than to be enacted and that nobody is so powerful in his society as to be in a position to identify his own will with the law of the land.

Legislation is made.  Diktats are made.  Law, in contrast, is never made (which is why the term “lawmakers” when used to describe legislators is wholly inaccurate).  Instead, law evolves spontaneously into existence and into whatever present form and content it takes.  Unlike legislation and other government diktats, law is the result of human action but not of human design.

25 Apr 12:00

Say Yes to Ice Cream-Flavored Beer

by Baylen Linnekin

Last week, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's and Colorado brewer New Belgium announced they would collaborate to create a new Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, billed as "an ice cream infused craft beer."

This isn't the first beer pairing for Ben & Jerry's. Last spring, for example, the company kicked off a new product launch on the West Coast with a series of "frothy beer floats."

A press release announcing the partnership noted the beer will focus on the companies' shared efforts of "supporting sustainable agriculture" and "focus[ing] on environment awareness."

Wonderful. Or maybe not. Neo-Prohibitionists have jumped on the ice cream maker, warning of the potential harms of pairing a food kids like with a drink adults like.

"It's a crass, corporate greedy move to put a brand name like Ben & Jerry's on a beer," said Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director of the group Alcohol Justice, in remarks reported by USA Today. "It's bad for children—who will start looking at beer as the next step after ice cream."

I'd be surprised if ice cream-flavored beer appealed to anyone, let alone children, who are prohibited by law from buying the product. (Maybe it's my personal bias against anything boasting a salted caramel flavor.) But let's suppose Livingston is right, and the pairing is a gateway drug. If we assume that, why stop there? Let's take this sort of reasoning to its logical conclusions—and look at Ben & Jerry's ice cream itself.

Ben & Jerry's flavors like Hazed and Confused, an homage to 1993's weed-filled hit movie Dazed and Confused, clearly promote children's drug use. Cherry Garcia and Half Baked do the same.

Coffee Caramel Buzz and Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz! clearly promote childhood caffeine addiction.

Chocolate Therapy obviously promotes self-medicating for youngsters. Karamel Sutra, an ode to the Kama Sutra, the ancient Hindu text detailing various lovemaking positions, clearly promotes underage sex.

And with its White Russian flavor, an ode to the vodka-based cocktail of the same name, Ben & Jerry's has been promoting hard liquor use by children—obviously—since it was introduced in 2013.

Clearly. Obviously. Okay, maybe not really. Or at all.

Alcohol Justice, which attempts to "hold Big Alcohol accountable for the harm its products cause," urges a series of policies that target the rights of adult drinkers. For example, the group supports lowering the permissible blood alcohol content of drivers from .08 to .05. It wants to ban flavored beers, including Mike's Hard Lemonade, because they target "youth (especially girls)." It seeks to raise federal excise taxes on alcohol. And it wants to ban Palcohol, a powdered-alcohol product I wrote about here recently.

While Alcohol Justice claims to target "Big Alcohol," craft brewers like New Belgium, smaller competitors like Mike's Hard Lemonade, and tiny startup Palcohol hardly fit that description, not that anybody should feel differently about Alcohol Justice's arguments if they were simply opposed to alcohol being sold by bigger companies.

But even the littlest sellers appear to be targets of the group's ire. For example, Alcohol Justice recently fought a bill in California that would open up farmers' markets in the state to the scourge of wine tastings. Again, it's because of the children.

"Kids, you go on a pony ride while I taste the chardonnay, is what you might hear a parent say at your local certified farmers' market if AB 2488 becomes law," Livingston remarked in opposing the bill.

Among the warnings Alcohol Justice posted about the bill, which became law last year, are that "daytime tastings, with little to no monitoring, in family-friendly settings, are inappropriate and threaten public health and safety" and that "children watching parents drinking alcohol when they shop for fruit or vegetables is a practice very damaging to impressionable young minds."

It's all about the children, right?

Indeed it is. Livingston had previously referred to burger chain Red Robin's "mango Muscato wine shake" as "alcohol on training wheels."

Alcohol Justice isn't opposed to "Big Alcohol." It's opposed to alcohol, full stop. No one, including me, opposes efforts to keep alcohol out of the hands of children. But there's no justice in treating adult consumers of alcohol like children.

25 Apr 11:49

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 175 of the late Mancur Olson’s classic 1982 work, The Rise and Decline of Nations (original emphasis):

Another myth that generates a lot of poverty and suffering is that the economic development of the poor countries is, for fundamental economic or extra-institutional reasons, extremely difficult, and requires special promotion, planning, and effort.  It is sometimes even argued that a tough dictator or totalitarian repression is required to force the sacrifices needed to bring about economic development.  As I see it, in these days it takes an enormous amount of stupid policies or bad or unstable institutions to prevent​ economic development.  Unfortunately, growth-retarding regimes, policies, and institutions are the rule rather than the exception….​

24 Apr 01:27

Bus Driver to Eight-Year-Old: It's Too Dangerous to Read While You Ride

by Jesse Walker


Never let it be said that the U.S. authorities have a monopoly on absurdly restricting children's freedoms:

Modern childhoodAn eight-year-old girl in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, [Quebec,] was told she's no longer allowed to read books on the school bus because it poses a risk to the safety of other students.

​Sarah Auger loves reading and used to enjoy using her 20-minute ride to and from school to read for pleasure.

But recently, her bus driver told her she had to stop.

She says she was told reading posed a risk to other students on the bus.

He suggested they might stand up to see what she was reading, or she might poke herself in the eye with the corners of the book.

The school board is siding with the driver, because of course it is. "Obviously, reading a book is not a danger," it concedes in a press release. Still, "The driver is the master of his vehicle....He is the best judge of what is appropriate." And after all, "Any object, be it a book, a toy or electronic device can be a potential danger when a young child drops an object and gets up to go get it while the bus is in motion." Therefore, such personal effects should be kept in closed bags. For safety's sake.

Looking back, it's a miracle I survived the first grade without getting impaled on a Charlie Brown collection.

23 Apr 17:26

End the Personal Bribes Members of Congress Are Getting Not to Reopen ObamaCare

by Michael F. Cannon

The U.S. Constitution vests the legislative, executive, and judicial powers in separate branches of the government that are supposed to police each other. But what if one of those branches violates the law in a manner that personally benefits the members of another branch? That’s what has been happening since the day ObamaCare became law in 2010. For more than five years, the executive branch has been issuing illegal subsidies that personally benefit the most powerful interest group in the nation’s capital: members of Congress and their staffs. A decision today by the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee not to investigate those illegal subsidies shows just how difficult it can be to prevent one branch of the government from corrupting members of another branch.  

It is no secret that executive-branch agencies have broken the law, over and over, to protect ObamaCare. King v. Burwell challenges the IRS’s decision to offer illegal premium subsidies in states with federally established health-insurance Exchanges. University of Iowa law professor Andy Grewal recently revealed the IRS is illegally offering Exchange subsidies to at least two other ineligible groups: certain undocumented immigrants and people who incorrectly project their income to be above the poverty line. Treasury, Health and Human Services, and other executive-branch agencies have unilaterally modified or suspended so many parts of the ACA, it’s hard to keep count – and even harder to know what the law will look like tomorrow. Even some of the administration’s supporters acknowledge its actions have gone too far

The longest-running and perhaps most significant way the administration has broken the law to protect ObamaCare is by issuing illegal subsidies to members of Congress.

When congressional Democrats passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), they were so desperate to pass a health care law that the ACA did not receive the scrutiny most bills do. Many members of Congress and their staffs were therefore surprised to learn that, as of the moment the president signed the ACA, that very law threw them out of their health plans. The ACA prohibits members of Congress and their staffs from receiving health coverage through the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program. They remained free to purchase health insurance on their own, but they would have to do so without the $10,000 or so the federal government “contributed” to their FEHBP premiums. In effect, the ACA gave members of Congress a pay cut of around $10,000.


Big deal, you say. ObamaCare made lots of people take a pay cut and threw millions out of their health plans. Ah, yes, my friends. But those were little people. This is Congress. 

Rather than risk Congress reopening the ACA to restore their lost health coverage – because who knows what other changes Congress might make in the process – the administration simply pretended that that part of the law didn’t exist. The Office of Personnel Management announced that members of Congress and their staffs could remain in the FEHBP until the ACA’s Exchanges launched in 2014. The president thus stuck to his promise, if you like your health plan, and you’re a member of Congress, you can keep your health plan

That still didn’t solve the president’s problems, however. The ACA says that as of 2014, the only coverage the federal government can offer members of Congress in connection with their employment is coverage created under the Act. In effect, that means Exchange coverage. But the law still cut off that $10,000 “employer contribution” to their health benefits. According to Politico, “OPM initially ruled that lawmakers and staffers couldn’t receive the subsidies once they went into the exchanges.” After the president intervened, OPM just ignored that part of the law and started issuing (illegal) subsidies on the order of $10,000 to hundreds of individual members of Congress and thousands of individual congressional staffers.

Note that I label these illegal payments to members of Congress subsidies, rather than compensation. When an employer pays part of a worker’s health premiums as a condition of that worker’s employment, that’s compensation. But these payments are not a condition of employment. In fact, under the ACA, a condition of their employment is that they not receive these payments.

Note too the eerie parallel to King v. Burwell: an executive-branch agency ignores the clear language of the ACA to issue health-insurance subsidies to people that just happen to have the effect of preventing Congress from reopening the law. The OPM’s illegal subsidies are thus indistinguishable from personal bribes to members of Congress.

Offering these subsidies to members of Congress violates the ACA in at least one other way as well. The ACA prohibits employers from making contributions to their employees’ coverage through the Exchanges that serve individuals. (The law’s technical term for them is “American Health Benefits Exchanges.”) So the administration let members of Congress enroll through the ACA’s Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges, or “SHOP Exchanges,” where employers can make contributions to cover their workers’ premiums. The problem here is that the “S” in “SHOP” stands for small business – i.e., firms with fewer than 50 employees. Yet the OPM and the D.C. SHOP Exchange, where thousands of members of Congress, their staffs and their dependents have purchased coverage, are pretending that Congress is a small business with fewer than 50 employees

Which brings us back to the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. Committee chairman David Vitter (R-LA) has been waging a lonely battle to end these bribes. After suffering numerous setbacks, Vitter now seeks to shine sunlight on how these bribes happened. He wants to subpoena documents relating to OPM’s claim that Congress is a small business. You would think Republicans, who outnumber Democrats on the committee 10-9, would gladly join Vitter in exposing the administration’s malfeasance. Ending Congress’ special ObamaCare exemption – i.e., the bribes individual members of Congress and their staffs are receiving not to reopen ObamaCare – polls off the charts. More than 90 percent of voters believe this exemption is unfair. I mean, c’mon. The rap against congressional Republicans is that they are hyper-partisans who will do anything to take down President Obama and/or ObamaCare. You would think this would be too good an opportunity for those rabid partisans to miss.

You would be wrong.

Today, five committee Republicans voted with all nine Democrats to quash Vitter’s subpoena effort. Someone should ask the 14 senators who voted to keep the truth hidden whether they are personally receiving one of those illegal subsidies, and if so, the precise dollar amount.

I was not all that surprised by the result. I have spoken to many GOP staffers, including leadership staff, about how these illegal subsidies are immoral and standing in the way of ObamaCare repeal. Their faces freeze the moment I raise the subject. Often, they don’t say another word and leave the room as quickly as they can. I understand their fear. They have families. Mortgages. Illnesses. To them, ending these illegal subsidies seems like a $10,000 hit to their annual income.

Fortunately for them, they are mistaken. If those subsidies disappeared, Congress would reinstate them so quickly your head would spin. Congress would even provide back pay that would make members and staff completely whole. The absolute certitude of that outcome is exactly why the administration chose not to enforce this part of the ACA in the first place. They knew that members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats alike – would be so desperate to serve their own interests by reinstating that employee benefit that Republicans could insert important changes to ObamaCare and possibly still have enough support to override a veto. 

But more important, members of Congress and their staff should suffer that pay cut because that’s the law. The ACA has caused millions of Americans to lose their health plans and take pay cuts of similar magnitude. Why should people who work in Congress get a special exemption while people who work in auto repair do not? Is there a class of Americans who are above the law?

For all the talk in Washington about the corrupting influence of money in politics, remarkably few people seem to care that the executive branch is promiscuously issuing illegal taxpayer subsidies that not only personally benefit members of Congress but that also directly affect how members of Congress vote. Vitter deserves credit for taking the lead in trying to expose and put an end to those bribes. The framers of the Constitution did an admirable job, but sometimes the checks and balances they created are not enough to prevent the corruption of one branch of government by another.

23 Apr 11:01

GM Says That While You May Own Your Car, It Owns The Software In It, Thanks To Copyright

by Mike Masnick
Last week, we noted that Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Jared Polis had introduced an important bill to fix a part of the DMCA's broken anti-circumvention laws found in Section 1201 of the DMCA. For whatever reason, some people still have trouble understanding why the law is so broken. So here's a story that hopefully makes the point clearly. Thanks to DMCA 1201, John Deere claims it still owns the tractor you thought you bought from it. Instead, John Deere claims you're really just licensing that tractor:
In the absence of an express written license in conjunction with the purchase of the vehicle, the vehicle owner receives an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle, subject to any warranty limitations, disclaimers or other contractual limitation in the sales contract or documentation.
How nice of John Deere to say that your ability to operate the vehicle is really subject to the "implied license" it granted you. These comments (and many others) come in response to the ridiculous triennial review process in which the Librarian of Congress reviews requests to "exempt" certain cases from Section 1201's rules against circumvention. We discussed the ridiculous responses from some concerning video game archiving last week, and the John Deere statement is in response to requests to diagnose, repair or modify vehicle software. And, of course, lots of car companies are against this, including GM, which argues that all hell will break loose if people can diagnose problems in their own cars' computers. It, too, thinks that you don't really own your car and worries that people are mixed up in thinking they own the software that makes the car they bought run:
Proponents incorrectly conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software in a vehicle.... Although we currently consider ownership of vehicle software instead of wireless handset software, the law’s ambiguity similarly renders it impossible for Proponents to establish that vehicle owners own the software in their vehicles (or even own a copy of the software rather than have a license), particularly where the law has not changed.
But the real conflation here is by GM, John Deere, and others, in thinking that because they hold a copyright to some software, that somehow gives them ownership over what you do with the copy you legally purchased with the car itself. Once that purchase is concluded, the vehicle owners should be seen to have given up any proprietary interest in the single vehicle you bought. But thanks to copyright and Section 1201, that's an issue that faces "uncertainty." And that's a problem.

The companies lay out a parade of horribles that will happen if people can circumvent the DRM they put in their vehicles, mostly focused on the idea that people might soup up their car, making it dangerous. But that's not a copyright issue. People have always souped up cars, and before there was software in cars, no one argued that Ford could prevent you from turning your Mustang into a drag racer. It's only copyright that has rewritten the very concept of ownership in a dangerous way. As Kyle Wiens notes in his article at Wired in response to the "but, but, car modders!" argument:
They’re right. That could happen. But those activities are (1) already illegal, and (2) have nothing to do with copyright. If you’re going too fast, a cop should stop you—copyright law shouldn’t. If you’re dodging emissions regulations, you should pay EPA fines—not DMCA fines. And the specter of someone doing something illegal shouldn’t justify shutting down all the reasonable and legal modifications people can make to the things they paid for.
But, by far, the most ridiculous in the "parade of horribles" comes from John Deere who was really, really, really, really stretching to try to come up with some way to pretend this is really about copyright issues. It argues that allowing farmers to modify the software in their tractors might lead those farmers to (and I am not making this up), listen to infringing music while they farm.
Moreover, TPMs for vehicle software for entertainment systems protects copyright owners of copyrighted content against the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works. For example, vehicle software for entertainment systems supports the playing of copyrighted music files and copyrighted audio books, among other expressive works. A vehicle driver may listen to sound recordings, while passengers may watch or view television and movie content. TPMs for in-vehicle entertainment systems encourage content providers to create and distribute highly-expressive copyrighted works that might otherwise be easily copied or pirated if the TPMs were circumvented. Consequently, circumvention of the above TPMs for purposes of “personalization, modification, or other improvement” is likely to encourage the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and use of copyrighted software and content.
I really feel sorry for whatever recent law school grad had this issue dumped on their desk and was told, "make this about copyright... some way... any way."

But all it really does is highlight the sheer ridiculousness of Section 1201 and how it's destroying property rights.

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22 Apr 18:45

Cartoon of the Day for Earth Day, some green wisdom from Dogbert

by Mark Perry

A great Dilbert cartoon for Earth Day, with some wisdom from Dogbert, as Ben Zycher pointed out today in his article for AEI titled “Earth Day and the Celebration of Suffering,” here’s the opening:

In honor of this 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day, let us recall the wisdom of Dogbert, that noted political philosopher and sage observer of the human condition: “You can’t save the earth unless you’re willing to make other people sacrifice.”

As the old saying goes, truer words were never spoken. Earth Day brings each year a worldwide religious celebration at which large masses of people both right-thinking and affluent proclaim their devotion to Gaia and their love of humanity, while displaying their contempt for the lives and well-being of actual people, the poorest among them in particular.

The whole article is worth reading, you’ll find it here.

The post Cartoon of the Day for Earth Day, some green wisdom from Dogbert appeared first on AEI.

22 Apr 21:19

Senator Whitehouse Declaims

by Roger Pilon

On the floor of the Senate last night, on the eve of Earth Day, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse went after the Cato Institute—among others, including the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal—for our having accused the senator and his friends in the environmental movement of “having a widespread faith in the government’s ability to solve problems.” We plead guilty. Not only do we believe those folks are of that faith—the evidence is plain, even if the evidence supporting the faith is lacking—but we believe also that it is a self-serving faith, because it drives them to find ever more problems to solve, problems most of us never knew we had.

But it’s a letter that then-Cato President John Allison recently sent to Sen. Whitehouse and others in Congress that seems most to exercise the good senator. As the C-SPAN transcript puts it:

cato also sent us a letter in response to our inquiry, telling us we cannot use the awesome power of the federal government to cow cato and others. cow? according to the “wall street journal” editorial page, which, sadly, has become a front for the fossil fuel industry, we were – quote – “trying to silence the other side.” although i have to confess, mr. president, it is not clear how the other side would be silenced by simply having to reveal whose payroll they’re on, which is all we asked. let’s be clear our letter didn’t suggest that industry scientists should be silenced, just that the public should know if those scientists are being paid by the very industries with a big economic …

Ah. There we have it. We’re in the pockets of Big Oil. Never mind that the facts show otherwise, that Cato’s donor base is wide and composed almost entirely of individuals animated by the idea of a free society under limited government.

But that’s not the main point, not really. Rather, it’s the assumption of Sen. Whitehouse and his friends that they, whose outlook depends so much on government funding, fairly dripping with the taxpayers’ blood, have the cleanest of hands and the purest of motives. Yet why should we believe that the avaricious individuals these folks call on government to check, suddenly become virtuous when they have the monopoly power of government in their grasp, to say nothing of the public till at their disposal? If ever scrutiny were warranted, I should think it on that side of the ledger.

08 Apr 17:33

Familiar Yet Forgotten Tax Lessons from Ancient Greece and Rome

by Alan Reynolds

Alan Reynolds

In Ancient Greece, “The politicians strained their ingenuity to discover new sources of public revenue… . The results of these imposts was a wholesale hiding of wealth and income, Evasion became universal, goods were seized, men were thrown into jail. But the wealth still hid itself, or melted away.”

–Will Durant The Life of Greece, Simon and Schuster, 1939. P. 66.

 In ancient Rome; “taxation rose to such heights that men lost incentive to work or earn, and an erosive contest began between lawyers finding devices to evade taxes and lawyers formulating laws to prevent evasion. The government issued decrees binding the peasant to his field and the worker to his shop until all his debts and taxes had been paid. In this and other ways medieval serfdom began.”

–Will, and Durant, Ariel. The Lessons ofHistory, Simon and Schuster, 1968.

22 Apr 12:00

A Better Use for It

by Harvey

A New Mexico pig farm is getting five tons of food every week from students who throw away their healthy Michelle Obama school lunches.

Ironically, creating bacon the students will never be allowed to eat at school.

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21 Apr 15:08

Uber Driver with Concealed Handgun Prevents Mass Shooting in Chicago

by Adam Bates

A driver with the ridesharing company Uber put a stop to a potential mass shooting in Chicago over the weekend.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

A group of people had been walking in front of the driver around 11:50 p.m. in the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue when Everardo Custodio, 22, began firing into the crowd, Quinn said.

The driver pulled out a handgun and fired six shots at Custodio, hitting him several times, according to court records.  Responding officers found Custodio lying on the ground, bleeding, Quinn said.  No other injuries were reported.

The driver will not be charged:

The driver had a concealed-carry permit and acted in the defense of himself and others, Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn said in court Sunday.

Chicago was home to some of the most draconian gun laws in America until a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, McDonald v. Chicago, found Chicago’s gun regulation regime unconstitutional. That ruling applied the Court’s previous landmark 2nd Amendment ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller, to state governments. While those rulings dealt with the right to bear arms for self-defense in the home, some circuit courts (including the 7th Circuit, which governs in Chicago) have extended the Heller/McDonald logic to certain public places as well as the home.

Under the previous regime in Chicago, the driver would have had  to choose between saving lives and avoiding a lengthy, potentially life-ruining prison sentence.  It’s safe to assume that both the hero in this case and the potential victims of Everardo Custodio are thankful that unconstitutional burden has been erased.

That is, of course, not to say that the struggle for gun rights is over.  Some circuits maintain a more limited view of Heller and McDonald, granting the government far more discretion in denying the right to bear arms outside the home.

For every hero Uber driver there are still far too many Shaneen Allens and Brian Aitkens: law-abiding, peaceful citizens who have their livelihoods and even their lives threatened for exercising their Constitutional rights.

We can only hope that stories like this, of which there are many, receive the attention they deserve and bolster the case for individual liberty and the right to bear arms.

21 Apr 17:03

Federal Judge Attacks Pro-Police 'Orthodoxy' in 4th Amendment Case

by Damon Root

Federal Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a George W. Bush appointee frequently criticized by liberals for her “libertarian” jurisprudence, filed a blistering opinion today challenging the “prevailing orthodoxy” in Fourth Amendment cases which, she said, permit the police to conduct “a rolling roadblock that sweeps citizens up at random and subjects them to undesired police interactions culminating in a search of their persons and effects.”

At issue in Judge Brown’s concurrence today in the case of United States v. Gross was a 2013 arrest by Washington, D.C.’s Gun Recovery Unit. In February 2013 four officers from that unit were driving around on “gun patrol” when they spotted Will Gross, followed him, and finally approached him. One of the officers shined his flashlight on Gross and demanded that Gross show the officers his waistband. Another officer asked Gross to submit to a search. Gross fled. When the police apprehended him, Gross had a handgun in his possession.

At trial, Gross moved to have the gun suppressed from evidence because its discovery was the result of an illegal seizure by the police. But the federal district court disagreed, arguing that the initial police encounter with Gross did not qualify as a seizure under the Fourth Amendment because it was a “consented” interaction between citizen and state. Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld that judgment. Judge Brown concurred in that decision, though, as she explained in her opinion, it was only because binding precedent required her to hold her nose and do so:

In its efforts to ferret out illegal firearms the District has implemented a “rolling roadblock.” Officers randomly trawl high crime neighborhoods asking occupants who fit a certain statistical profile—mostly males in their late teens to early forties—if they possess contraband. Despite lacking any semblance of particularized suspicion when the initial contact is made, the police subject these individuals to intrusive searches unless they can prove their innocence. Our case law considers such a policy consistent with the Fourth Amendment. I continue to think this is error. Our jurisprudence perpetuates a fiction of voluntary consent where none exists. [Citations omitted.]

According to Judge Brown, under this dismal case law, the police have free rein to “engage with members of the public en masse and at random to fabricate articulable suspicions for virtually every citizen officers encounter on patrol.”

What can be done? Judge Brown offered this advice to those citizens unfortunate enough to bear the brunt of such sweeping law enforcement tactics:

Persons questioned by the District’s Gun Recovery Unit patrols may reasonably be at a loss as to how to react to these contacts. Is there a means to react to such nominally voluntary encounters that might preserve their constitutional prerogatives? I offer this advice: speak to officers firmly, politely, respectfully. Tell them, “I do not wish to have an encounter with the police right now. Am I free to leave?” If the answer is “no,” then coercion will cease to masquerade as consent. Our courts will be forced, at last, to directly grapple with the reality of the District’s policy of routinized and involuntary seizures.

The D.C. Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Gross is available here.

15 Apr 21:22

SpaceX releases film of Falcon’s crash landing

by John Timmer

SpaceX's trial-and-error process of learning to land one of its Falcon main stages continued this week. After successfully sending a Dragon capsule toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station, the Falcon reversed course, fired its thrusters, and made its way back into the atmosphere over the Atlantic. After a controlled plunge through the air, it attempted to land on a barge named "Just Read the Instructions." This time, conditions enabled the company to have had an aircraft in the area to film the results.

It fell down and went "boom."

The video above shows the Falcon dropping at a rather healthy clip until it's quite close to the barge. At that point, the rocket's electronics appear to try to adjust its location; the craft tips while firing its main engines at a much higher level. This appears to be enough to set it down on the barge, but now tilting in the opposite direction. Thrusters at the top of the rocket attempt to correct the tilt but can't; it slowly falls over until it explodes while nearly horizontal.

SpaceX originally posted video footage of the crash landing, but it was taken down and marked private on YouTube on Wednesday afternoon.

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20 Apr 18:04

Will Minimum Wage Protesters Order Fries From Their Burger-Flipping Robot Replacements?

by J.D. Tuccille

The Momentum Machines website is low-key right now, but that may have something to do with high-profile arguments in the press and protests in the streets demanding that fast-food chains pay workers $15 an hour to do the job the company's robots are designed to fill. Even before those placard-wielders decided to raise their costs in terms of dollars and grief, the San Francisco-based start-up announced that they were obsolete.

Momentum Machines' old, boastier website claimed:

Fast food doesn’t have to have a negative connotation anymore. With our technology, a restaurant can offer gourmet quality burgers at fast food prices.

Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant.

It does everything employees can do except better:

*it slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles only immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.

*our next revision will offer custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground after you place your order? No problem.

*Also, our next revision will use gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant, giving the patty the perfect char but keeping in all the juices.

*it’s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.

The labor savings allow a restaurant to spend approximately twice as much on high quality ingredients and the gourmet cooking techniques make the ingredients taste that much better.

Separately, the company noted, "An average quick service restaurant spends $135K every year on labor for the production of hamburgers. Not only does our machine eliminate nearly all of that cost, it also obviates the associated management headaches."

Even before Momentum Machine started mechanizing the burger-flipping process, McDonald's moved to make ordering a task that could be accomplished untouched by human stupidity. The fast-food chain is bringing self-order kiosks to the United States after deploying thousands of them overseas.

I'm guessing that workers in the streets demanding that their pay be hiked by fiat to $15 per hour do not erode Momentum Machine's competitive edge, or its attractiveness as an alternative to human employees. Those kiosk makers are probably warming up the production line, too.

Ron Bailey recently noted that "Defying the law of demand will end up harming lots of the people minimum wage proponents aim to help."

Yep. But the robots appreciate the effort.

19 Apr 17:14

California Nightmare

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Joel Kotkin has alway been good.  But he is (in my opinion) getting even better.  His essay on the sorry state of California, in today’s Daily Beast, is a gem.  (HT Manny Klausner)  Below are several slices (but do read the whole thing):

California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle- and working classes.


But since the 1970s, California’s water system has become the prisoner of politics and posturing. The great aqueducts connecting the population centers with the great Sierra snowpack are all products of an earlier era—the Los Angeles aqueduct (1913), Hetch-Hetchy (1923), the Central Valley Project (1937), and the California Aqueduct (1974). The primary opposition to expansion has been the green left, which rejects water storage projects as irrelevant.

Yet at the same time greens and their allies in academia and the mainstream press are those most likely to see the current drought as part of a climate change-induced reduction in snowpack. That many scientists disagree with this assessment is almost beside the point. Whether climate change will make things better or worse is certainly an important concern, but California was going to have problems meeting its water needs under any circumstances.


And there needs to be, at least for the short term, an end to dumping water into San Francisco Bay for the purpose of restoring a long-gone salmon run, or to the Delta, in order to save a bait-fish, the Delta smelt, which may already be close to extinct. This dumping of water has continued even as the state has faced a potentially crippling water shortage; nothing is too good for our fish, or to salve the hyper-heated consciousness of the environmental illuminati.


But it’s not just water that exemplifies the current “era of limits” psychology. Energy development has always been in green crosshairs and their harassment has all but succeeded in helping drive much of the oil and gas industry, including corporate headquarters, out of the state. Not building roads—arguably to be replaced by trains—has not exactly reduced traffic but given California the honor of having eight of the top 20cities nationally with poor roads; the percentage of Los Angeles-area residents who take transit has, if anything, declined slightly since train-building began. All we are left with are impossible freeways, crumbling streets, and ever more difficulty doing anything that requires traveling.

These policies have had numerous impacts, like weakening California’s industrial sector, which cannot afford energy prices that can be twice as high as in competing states. Some of those who might have worked in the factories, warehouses, and farms of California now help swell the numbers of the welfare recipients, who remarkably make up one-third of the nation’s total. As recently as the 1970s and ’80s, the percentage of people living in poverty in California was below the national average; California today, based on cost of living, has the highest poverty rate in the country.


Ultimately this is a story of a state that has gotten tired, having lost its “animal spirits” for the policy equivalent of a vegan diet. Increasingly it’s all about how the elites in the state—who cluster along the expensive coastal areas—feel about themselves. Even Brown knows that his environmental agenda will do little, or nothing, to combat climate change, given the already minimal impact of the state on carbon emissions compared to escalating fossil fuel use in China, India and elsewhere. But the cosmopolitan former Jesuit gives more priority to his spiritual service to Gaia than the needs of his non-affluent constituents.

But progressive narcissism is, as some conservatives assert, not the main problem. California greens are, to be sure, active, articulate, well-organized, and well-financed. What they lack is an effective counterpoint from the business class, who would be expected to challenge some of their policies. But the business leadership often seems to be more concerned with how to adjust the status quo to serve privileged large businesses, including some in agriculture, than boosting the overall economy. The greens, and their public-sector allies, can dominate not because they are so effective as that their potential opposition is weak, intimidated, and self-obsessed.

What we are witnessing the breakdown of a once-expansive, open society into one dominated by a small group of plutocrats, largely in Silicon Valley, with an “amen” crew among the low-information donors of Hollywood, the public unions, the green lobby, and wealthy real estate developers favored by Brown’s pro-density policies. This coalition backs Brown and helps maintain the state’s essentially one-party system. No one is more adamant about reducing people’s carbon footprint than the jet set of Silicon Valley or the state’s planning elite, even if they choose not to live in a manner that they instruct all others.

18 Apr 18:59

Yelp's Way of Caving to Corporate Pressure and Hiding Reviews While Saying They Didn't Delete Anything

by admin

A few days ago I posted a negative review of Applied Underwriters, and linked to this post on my blog for much more detail.  Yelp promptly pulled the review, saying I violated their terms of service by linking to a commercial web site.  I thought that bizarre, since my blog has absolutely nothing commercial about it.   But it made more sense when I received a letter from Applied Underwriters demanding that I take down my negative Yelp review or they would sue me for libel.  I don't know for sure what happened, but I suspect that Applied Underwriters sent Yelp a similar demand and they used the link in the review as an excuse to delete it and avoid legal entanglements.

So I posted an updated review with more detail and no link.  Now, Yelp is hiding the review, along with most of the other negative reviews, behind a nearly invisible link at the bottom that says "other reviews that are not currently recommended".  Scroll down to the bottom of this page and you may see it if you have a keen eye.  It is not even clear it is a link, but if you click on it, you get all the bad reviews Yelp is hiding.

Let's dismiss all the reasons why Yelp might say they do this.  One is clarity, to reduce clutter.  But go to your favorite restaurant Yelp page.  Likely you will not see this link / hidden review phenomenon.  You will see pages and pages of reviews, far more than they would have to show if they just displayed all the reviews for Applied Underwriters.

So there must be another reason.  They say in their note there is a quality algorithm.  Anyone who has read a lot of Yelp reviews will know that if this is so, their quality algorithm is not working very hard.   They have a number of reviews that they "recommend" that are nothing more than a rant like "I will never use these guys again" while my unrecommended review includes paragraphs of detail about the service.  They say it is based on your review volume as well, but I have more Yelp review volume than several of the others who seem to pass the screen.

All of which leads me to believe that this is Yelp's purgatory where they hide reviews based on corporate pressure.  They have gotten a lot of cr*p publicly about deleting bad reviews from sponsors and from corporations that pressure them to do so.   They have a zillion self-righteous FAQ's asserting that they don't delete anything.   So imagine Applied Underwriters sends Yelp loads of threats to take down each negative review that comes up.  What do they do?  They put them in the not-recommended purgatory.  They can claim that they haven't deleted anything, but absolutely no one will ever likely see the review.  And they don't count any longer to the company's review count, so for all intents and purposes they are gone.

All of this is a guess, because it is absolutely impossible to contact Yelp about these issues.  No phone numbers.  The ones in general directories for San Francisco don't work for them.  You can't email or chat or contact their customer support in any way.  For a company in the transparency business, they avoid it like the plague.

But do you want to know what makes me doubly sure of my analysis?  Because there is no way to up-rate any of the "not recommended" reviews.  I would have thought the whole up-rating system was how they sorted reviews to present the most relevent at the top, but you can't do that with the ones they have put in purgatory.  Why?  Because these reviews are being put in purgatory not for some customer benefit but to protect corporations able to put pressure on Yelp.  Yelp doesn't want them uprated.  They are supposed to disappear.    If I had time, I would compare the number of "not recommended" reviews for corporations with powerful legal staffs like Applied Underwriters to the number for Joe's local business  (AU has 17 recommended reviews but a 28 full reviews that have been "disappeared" as unrecommended).

15 Apr 21:31

On Jackie Robinson Day, Let’s Remember When He Was Fired From the New York Post for Being Too Republican

by Matt Welch

The first black columnist for a major white newspaper in U.S. history. ||| Today is the 68th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's notorious de facto ban against players having skin tone a shade or two darker than pure Castilian soap. As is the annual tradition, all MLB players today are wearing Robinson's #42 in homage.

As I (and plenty of others) have long argued, Jackie's awe-inspiring legend has, if anything, given short shrift to what a colossally competitive, accomplished, and complicated man he really was. He has as good a claim as anyone else at being the best all-around athlete of the 20th century (he was also a national champion long jumper, league champion collegiate basketball scorer, and All-American halfback at UCLA). He was a prolific if underappreciated author. A passionate and righteously angry civil rights activist. A banker/entrepreneur, active Rockefeller Republican, and the first black columnist for a major non-black newspaper, The New York Post. Which fired him for being too pro-Nixon.

Wait, what?

Sweet cover. ||| There was an entertaining collection of Robinson's newspaper and magazine writing brought out two years ago, titled Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball. The intro, written by the civil rights historian Michael Long, is an almost anguished attempt to explain how this anti-racist hero could have belonged to the yucky Republican Party. Sample:

It may seem strange to us now that Robinson found a home in the Post, but at this point in history the newspaper was known for its liberalism. It was simply impossible to find the politically conservative opinions that are so characteristic of its op-ed pages today. And as a liberal paper, the Post had given Robinson, and larger civil rights issues, favorable coverage through the years; it was one of the few racially progressive media outlets of its time.

OK, so what happened with the Nixon/Kennedy business, then?

On November 4, 1960—Election Day—Post Editor James Wechsler informed Robinson that he and Dorothy Schiff had decided not to resume his column. (Robinson had taken a leave of absence to serve on Richard Nixon's campaign team in September 1960.) Wechsler, a Kennedy supporter, apparently felt that Robinson's pro-Nixon sentiments had led to unfair reporting during the presidential campaign[.]

Jackie's retort, published at his new home in the New York Amsterdam News in January 1962, is filled with some classic Robinsonian acid:

No one will ever convince me that the Post acted in an honest manner. I believe the simple truth is that they became somewhat alarmed when they realized that I really meant to write what I believed. There is a peculiar parallel between some of our great Northern "liberals" and some of our outstanding Southern liberals.

Some of the people in both classes share the deep-seated convictions that only their convictions can possibly be the right ones. They both inevitably say the same thing: "We know the Negro and what is best for him."


15 Apr 04:01

Walter Scott Shooting Highlights Cops’ Contempt for the Right to Record Police

by Jacob Sullum

Even before it became clear that Feidin Santana was witnessing what local authorities now describe as a murder, it took guts for him to record the police encounter that ended in Walter Scott's death. Santana, who was walking to work at a barbershop in North Charleston, South Carolina, the day before Easter, risked illegal retaliation by camera-shy cops the moment he stopped talking on his smartphone and started using it to capture Scott's interaction with patrolman Michael Slager.

Although the First Amendment right to record the police as they perform their duties in public is well established, cops often violate that right by ordering people to turn off their cameras, confiscating their cellphones, or arresting them on trumped-up charges. The shooting of Walter Scott, which last week led to Slager's arrest thanks to the details revealed by Santana's video, illustrates both the prevalence of this contempt for constitutional rights and the importance of counteracting it.

After Scott fell to the ground, struck by five of the eight rounds that Slager fired at him as he fled a traffic stop, Santana continued recording. "One of the officers told me to stop," Santana told CNN. "It was because I say to them that what they did, it was an abuse, and I witnessed everything."

The New York Times reports that when Scott's older brother, Anthony, arrived at the crime scene and took pictures of the body, three officers "surrounded him, telling him to turn over his phone." He gave it to them. "Hours later," the Times says, North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers "arrived, returned Mr. Scott's phone and offered his condolences."

As Driggers seemed to recognize, there is no legal basis for such interference with camera-carrying bystanders. The right to record police has been explicitly upheld by at least four federal appeals courts—in the 1st7th9th, and 11th circuits—and implicitly recognized by others.

Federal judges outside of those four circuits have ruled that the right to record flows logically from the First Amendment right to gather information and that it applies equally to everyone, not just credentialed journalists. Big-city police chiefs take it for granted that "members of the public are legally allowed to record police interactions," as a 2014 NYPD memo put it, and that "a bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media," as Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier informed her officers in 2012.

The behavior of North Charleston police after the shooting of Walter Scott suggests why such memos are necessary. So do the actions of the officers who arrested Austin, Texas, activist Antonio Buehler three times in 2012 for daring to record police encounters.

Last July, responding to a lawsuit filed by Buehler, a federal judge ruled that the right he was exercising is well enough established that police cannot rely on qualified immunity to escape liability for violating it. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane cited "a robust consensus of circuit courts" that "the First Amendment encompasses a right to record public officials as they perform their official duties."

Even the threat of personal liability may not be enough to deter cops from harassing people who record them, since taxpayers typically pick up the tab when cities settle lawsuits arising from such incidents. Last year, for instance, New York City paid $125,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Brooklyn resident Dick George, who said police roughed him up and arrested him for disorderly conduct after he recorded a stop-and-frisk encounter in 2012.

According to George's complaint, one of the cops said, "Now we are going to give you what you deserve for meddling in our business, and when we finish with you, you can sue the city for $5 million and get rich. We don't care."

Anthony Scott encountered a similar attitude when the cops took his cellphone. "It was eerie how they were acting," he told the Times. "They were cocky."

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

14 Apr 19:57

Watch SpaceX Try to Land Rocket Parts on a Drone Barge, Right the Heck Now

by Katherine Mangu-Ward


Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015

UPDATED UPDATE: Here's the new feed.

UPDATE: Canceled Monday, rescheduled for Tuesday. 

Yep. I said "drone barge." Isn't living in the future awesome?

space x

The private space firm SpaceX (read Reason's cover story on the company and its founder Elon Musk here) is sending another resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), using its Falcon 9 rocket. The Dragon capsule will make its way to the ISS with cargo and supplies, as well as a small satellite by Planetary Resources. But while they're at it, SpaceX is going to try something new that could make space flight quicker, cheaper, faster, better.

Right now, when a rocket takes off it discards various bits and pieces on the way up—boosters breaking off and falling as the spacecraft ascends will be a familiar sight to anyone who ever watched a Shuttle launch—in order to be more efficient about fuel use. But those pieces can technically be reusable. Enter the "drone barge," which will use GPS to position itself under the falling booster. That booster has been designed to retain enough fuel and wherewithal to set itself down relatively gently on the barge instead of smashing into the ocean.

This is SpaceX's second attempt, after a lack of hydraulic fluid in the descending booster's fins screwed things up in January. 

Go here to watch the livesteam of the SpaceX launch, starting at 4:15, weather permitting.

drone ship

14 Apr 10:54

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 255 of David Boaz’s excellent new (2015) book, The Libertarian Mind (original emphasis):

Government doesn’t have customers, who can use its products or try a competitor’s instead, so it’s difficult to decide when government is doing a good job.

People on the left fancy that they are devoted to science and reality-based thinking – or are at least that they are more devoted to science and reality-based thinking than are their political and ideological opponents.  While the right has no shortage of people who are irrational and hold positions unsupportable by science – likewise for the political middle, by the way – I have no interest in offering my own opinion on which group wins the rationality contest.  But I will point out that people on the left, by so often decrying market competition and seeking to displace it with one-size-fits-all diktats from government, decry and displace the only dispassionate and most objective test for how best to allocate scarce resources among their multitude of possible uses.  If science requires empirical tests – rather than reliance on dogma or the pronouncements of pooh-bahs – then those people who fail to appreciate the incredibly rigorous and objective tests that take place every moment in private-property markets are not as devoted to science as they think.

12 Apr 21:28

Venn diagram Sunday

by Mark Perry

Over the last few months, I’ve featured more than a dozen Venn diagrams on CD, and thought it might be a good time to feature ten of those today in this post. Here are my top ten favorite CD Venn diagrams:

1. Venn Diagram I on price controls (below).VennKidneys

2. Venn Diagram II on price controls (below).

3. Venn Diagram III on price controls (below).VennObesity

4. Venn Diagram IV on prices controls (below).


5. Venn Diagram on weed vs. vaping in California (below).


6. Venn Diagram I on gender activism (below).


7. Venn Diagram II on gender activism (below).


8. Venn Diagram on diversity on college campuses (below).


9. Venn Diagram on income and wealth diversity (below).


10. Venn diagram on the War on Beer vs. the War on Drugs.



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