Shared posts

28 Mar 13:15

HEH: A chef responds to vegan protesters by cutting up a deer leg in front of them. Punch back tw…

by Stephen Green

HEH: A chef responds to vegan protesters by cutting up a deer leg in front of them.

Punch back twice as hard, the wise man once said.

28 Mar 01:56

DOMINATE AND CONTROL: Google starts blocking “uncertified” Android devices from logging in….

by Glenn Reynolds
27 Mar 16:46

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Gojirasaurus

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Also it didn't want to destroy the city because it mostly feeds off of aquatic insects.

New comic!
Today's News:
01 Mar 15:17

SOUTH AFRICANS: YOU KNOW WHAT WE’D REALLY LIKE TO BE? ZIMBABWE! ‘The time for reconciliation is o…

by Glenn Reynolds

SOUTH AFRICANS: YOU KNOW WHAT WE’D REALLY LIKE TO BE? ZIMBABWE! ‘The time for reconciliation is over’: South Africa votes to confiscate white-owned land. Amazing how little media attention this has gotten.

South Africa can expect a run of bad luck.

27 Feb 21:49

Andrew Sullivan: In today’s fight between science and the social-justice movement, science has little chance - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Andrew Sullivan: In today’s fight between science and the social-justice movement, science has little chance

I reported earlier this week on CD about some new research that found strong empirical evidence of a global ‘educational-gender-equality paradox’ — the more gender equality in a country, the fewer women choose STEM degrees and careers. Here’s some interesting commentary from Andrew Sullivan about those scientific findings in his post today “Fired for Science” (emphasis added):

In a sane world, this would be no big deal. Who cares if men and women congregate disproportionately in different professions? It’s no outrage that a huge majority of those employed in the publishing industry are women, for example — so why should it be so appalling that over 80% of computer coding graduates are men? As long as we keep doing our best to ensure more baseline equality of opportunity, inequality of outcome should be seen, in my view, as a celebration of actual human diversity, rather than its abrogation. I don’t want women and men to be interchangeable non-gendered “humans.” I love the differences in the world as much as our commonalities. And those differences may even become more pronounced as our real life choices expand.

But in the world we now live in, I am actually committing an act of sexual harassment by merely writing the previous paragraph. Yes, I’m citing a respected, peer-reviewed 2018 study. No, I’m not drawing some idiotic conclusion that men are somehow better at math than women. I haven’t touched a single human being; I haven’t said anything personally to anyone; I don’t work in an office. But, under current law, I’m a sexual harasser who could be fired with cause for mentioning scientific data.

That’s what the National Labor Relations Board found last week in a review of Google’s termination of James Damore (it’s separate from his ongoing suit against Google). They found that Damore’s claim that there are differentials between men and women of this kind that may have some impact on the male-female balance at Google, and that there is greater variability among men’s IQs than women’s (another fact), were firable offenses. Money quote: “Employers must be permitted to ‘nip in the bud’ the kinds of employee conduct that could lead to a ‘hostile workplace.’” Airing these studies in the context of Google’s aggressive “diversity” policies is thereby a form of abuse.

In other words, according to the NLRB, referencing peer-reviewed studies can be grounds for firing someone, “notwithstanding Damore’s effort to cloak his comments with ‘scientific’ references and analysis, and notwithstanding ‘not all women’ disclaimers.” Notice that the word “scientific” is in quotes, where the science is not in dispute. And notice the dismissal of any argument that cites distributions and bell curves — very basic statistical tools — as if they are designed to obscure rather than reveal the complicated truth.

This is not just another elite campus incident. It’s embedded in federal employment law. It’s practiced by one of the most powerful corporations on the planet. In the fight between science and today’s social-justice movement, science has little chance. It will either conform to ideology or be banished from consideration.

MP: As one commenter on my CD post asked: “I wonder – why is this outcome labeled a paradox? In the most advanced egalitarian societies, women and men self-select into different areas of interest. It makes perfect sense to anyone who observes the norms of behavior in typical people.”

Andrew Sullivan: In today’s fight between science and the social-justice movement, science has little chance
Mark Perry

27 Feb 16:06

ABOUT TIME: We Might Finally Know Why The Blood of Young People Can Rejuvenate Old Brains….

by Glenn Reynolds
09 Feb 18:29

Why is LNG coming 4,500 miles to Boston from the Russian Arctic when the US is the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer? - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Why is LNG coming 4,500 miles to Boston from the Russian Arctic when the US is the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer?

Good question…. About a week ago, the Washington Post reported something very curious:

A tanker carrying liquefied natural gas from a sanctioned project in Russia’s Arctic has arrived in Boston Harbor, where it will be offloaded for American users. The giant tanker is carrying the first liqueifed natural gas (LNG) exported by the Yamal facility, a $27 billion project whose majority owner is the Russian company Novatek. As of Sunday evening (January 28), the tanker was in the Mystic River at an LNG terminal, where the liquefied cargo will be turned back into gas form and distributed to gas companies and electric power utilities.

You might be wondering — why did a tanker of LNG travel 4,500 miles from the Russian Arctic to Boston (see map above) when the U.S. has been the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer in every year since 2009, and we just set another new all-time production record in November? Oh, and Bloomberg reported this recently:

A second tanker carrying Russian natural gas may be on the way to the U.S., following in the footsteps of a ship now sitting near Boston Harbor with a similar cargo. The Gaselys tanker, which has been sitting for two days in the waters outside of Boston, carries liquefied natural gas originally produced in Siberia, according to vessel tracking data.

In my op-ed in the Boston Herald over the weekend (“Epic U.S. energy boom cruises by region“) I explain the curious 4,500 mile shipment of LNG from the Russian Arctic, here’s a slice:

Although America is a global energy superpower and the United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009, New England relies on imported LNG from faraway countries for about 20% of its natural gas. And as for propane, another heating fuel, New England would have been left in the cold had it not been for recent tanker shipments from overseas.

This is what happens when you don’t build your own natural gas pipelines, which are the safest and most economical way to transport energy. The trouble is there isn’t enough pipeline capacity to bring in natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to New England in times of high demand. Even as America’s natural gas production has soared, the pipeline capacity to get it to where it’s needed hasn’t kept up. The problem: political obstacles driven by environmental groups.

In the past two years, regulatory obstacles have led to the cancellation of two pipeline projects, which is ominous for a region that desperately needs more natural gas to make up for the shutdown of nuclear and coal plants. Moreover, there are those in the region who promote themselves as climate leaders but continually block new gas pipeline capacity.

And pipelines aside, why such a commitment to import LNG when gas could be shipped to New England at a much lower cost from LNG facilities on the Gulf Coast? Thanks to the nearly 100-year-old Jones Act, a relic from the Woodrow Wilson Administration, foreign-flagged vessels are prohibited from moving commodities between U.S. ports. Since there are only a limited number of Jones Act tankers — and none capable of carrying LNG — it’s easier for European LNG exporters to cover supply shortfalls than LNG sellers on the Gulf Coast. Consequently, people in New England pay sky-high prices for fuel and electricity. But fuel, after all, isn’t a luxury. Nor is electricity.

People in New England should have access to reliable and affordable natural gas produced here in the United States, not Russia’s Arctic. Expediting approval of natural gas pipelines and repealing the anti-competitive Jones Act epitomizes the sound energy strategy that will make that happen.

MP: Another example of how the archaic, regulatory relic known as the Jones Act raises prices for Americans and another reason why it should be repealed (or modified).

Why is LNG coming 4,500 miles to Boston from the Russian Arctic when the US is the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer?
Mark Perry

08 Feb 17:07

WHERE WE’RE GOING, WE DON’T NEED ROADS: Watch a Live Video of Elon Musk’s Roadster Flying Through S…

by Glenn Reynolds
29 Jan 03:07

H.L. MENCKEN PREDICTED OUR ERA PRETTY WELL: The longtime Baltimore Evening Sun columnist, America…

by Glenn Reynolds

H.L. MENCKEN PREDICTED OUR ERA PRETTY WELL:

The longtime Baltimore Evening Sun columnist, American Mercury editor, and rumbustiously splenetic critic, who graced this orb from 1880 to 1956, would not be published in any major newspaper today. The reasons he foresaw over a century ago, when he decried the “cheap bullying and cheaper moralizing” whose purpose was the extirpation, the annihilation, of anything resembling a robust exchange of ideas. Two beliefs puffed up the righteous censor, according to Mencken: first, “that any man who dissents from the prevailing platitudes is a hireling of the devil,” and second, “that he should be silenced and destroyed forthwith. Down with free speech; up with the uplift!”

Today we are patronized, and bullied, by our inferiors.

22 Jan 16:07

THIS STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN: FBI ‘Failed To Preserve’ Five Months Of Text Messages Between Anti-…

by Glenn Reynolds

THIS STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN: FBI ‘Failed To Preserve’ Five Months Of Text Messages Between Anti-Trump FBI Agents.

The FBI “failed to preserve” five months worth of text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the two FBI employees who made pro-Clinton and anti-Trump comments while working on the Clinton email and the Russia collusion investigations.

The disclosure was made Friday in a letter sent by the Justice Department to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).

“The Department wants to bring to your attention that the FBI’s technical system for retaining text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices failed to preserve text messages for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page,” Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Justice Department, wrote to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of HSGAC. (RELATED: FBI Agents Discussed ‘Insurance Policy’ Against Trump Win)

He said that texts are missing for the period between Dec. 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017.

There have been so many episodes like this where crucial evidence is “lost” that I don’t believe any of it anymore.

Related: NSA erased surveillance data related to pending lawsuits: Report.

Surveillance data the National Security Agency vowed to preserve related to pending lawsuits has been erased, and the agency did not take several precautions it told a federal court it would take to ensure the data did not get deleted, court filings reveal.

Top NSA officials should be jailed for contempt. But they won’t because the law is for the little people.

19 Jan 18:49

COMPETITION: Peeved by price gouging and shortages, hospitals will now make their own drugs….

by Glenn Reynolds
17 Jan 16:55

TRUMP’S HITLER! LET’S EXPAND HIS POWER! Liberals accuse Trump of being a dictator, then promptly v…

by Glenn Reynolds

TRUMP’S HITLER! LET’S EXPAND HIS POWER! Liberals accuse Trump of being a dictator, then promptly vote to give Trump more power.

Since Inauguration Day, liberals have fear-mongered in order to swell the ranks of their #Resistance. While they said Ronald Reagan was senile and George W. Bush was stupid, they now accuse Trump of being an evil authoritarian. Pieces in both the Washington Post and the New York Times, for instance, declared 1984 a must-read at the start of 2017. In the same spirit, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even accused Trump of attempting “word and thought control.”

If any of this was legitimate, liberals would suddenly become the biggest advocates of limited government, or at least limited executive power. And for a while, there was even hope that checks and balances would come back in vogue. Reasonable people like columnist Ryan Cooper could be forgiven for naively expecting “Democrats to see at least some of the problems with unchecked surveillance powers.” But they didn’t.

When given an opportunity to limit the authority of a man they said was unsafe for democracy, Democrats joined with Republicans to put the keys to the surveillance state back into the pocket of the president. The House voted down an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., that would have forced the government to get a warrant before spying on citizens. The combined vote was 233 against with 183 in favor.

What the Deep State wants, the Deep State usually gets.

16 Jan 19:14

OUTLAWS: Venezuela president orders 2 bishops probed for hate crimes. Their crimes? The newspa…

by Stephen Green
Jts5665

The real reason for hate crime laws...

OUTLAWS: Venezuela president orders 2 bishops probed for hate crimes.

Their crimes?

The newspaper El National says Bishop Victor Hugo Basabe of San Felipe recently prayed for the liberation of Venezuela from the “corrupt plague” that sees citizens eating from garbage.

The newspaper says Bishop Antonio Lopez Castillo of Barquisimeto drew cheers from thousands at a Mass when he asked that Venezuela be saved from corruption.

Well, it isn’t as though they’d spoken up at a school board meeting or something genuinely serious like that.

15 Jan 22:59

Charles Murray: Corruption is baked into an unstoppable political system where government sells an endless array of valuable favors to the private sector - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Charles Murray: Corruption is baked into an unstoppable political system where government sells an endless array of valuable favors to the private sector

Last Monday (January 8), AEI scholar, political scientist, author, and libertarian Charles Murray celebrated his 75th birthday and his transition to scholar emeritus status at AEI. To mark the occasion, Dr. Murray delivered a lecture “Right Questions and Wrong Answers” that offered a retrospective of his career. You can watch Charles Murray’s lecture above and a transcript is available here. At about the 46:00 mark in the video, Charles Murray talks about how while researching his 2015 book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission he realized that the “legal system was far worse” than he had imagined. “The levels of complexity, subjectivity, prosecutorial discretion was shocking.” Here’s more:

We have a terrible problem of de facto lawlessness. The regulatory state is far worse than I had realized. It is indeed, an extralegal state within the state that in effect passes its own laws, enforces them with its own police, and then acts as jury, judge and appeals court all completely within the powers given to it by Congress.

The level of corruption in Washington is far worse than I thought, but qualitatively and quantitatively, more appalling than the situation prior to the mid-1970s. Moreover, in the years after Republicans won Congress in 1994, I had to accept that the hypocrisy and corruption among Republicans once they controlled Congress matched the worst that the Democrats had done during their decades    of control.

Worst of all, I had to recognize that the underlying dynamics of the corruption were systemic. More principled congressional leaders weren’t going to fix them. I actually think we’ve had some quite principled leaders from time to time and they’ve made no progress whatsoever. The corruption is baked into a system in which the government has an endless array of valuable favors to sell to the private sector. That market is vibrant and vital and unstoppable.

Best of luck to Charles Murray as he pursues the next chapter of his life as “scholar emeritus” at AEI!

Charles Murray: Corruption is baked into an unstoppable political system where government sells an endless array of valuable favors to the private sector
Mark Perry

15 Jan 22:28

THIS COULD BE BETTER THAN THE MANNSCHENN DRIVE: Physicists Say They’ve Created a Device That Genera…

by Glenn Reynolds

THIS COULD BE BETTER THAN THE MANNSCHENN DRIVE: Physicists Say They’ve Created a Device That Generates ‘Negative Mass.’ I think Bob Forward theorized about this some years ago.

15 Jan 22:24

SHOT: Concerns mount as Venezuela closes in on petro, an oil-backed cryptocurrency. A cryptocurre…

by Stephen Green
Jts5665

Who would trust Venezuela in this sort of endeavor?

SHOT: Concerns mount as Venezuela closes in on petro, an oil-backed cryptocurrency.

A cryptocurrency backed by oil would be a big first. A cryptocurrency backed by a sovereign government would be even bigger.

But while Venezuela claims it is going to do both very soon with the petro, experts are doubtful the country has the capabilities or the characteristics to achieve its goal.

The petro will be dogged by a major question, “Is it redeemable, in other words, can you take physical delivery?” notes finance professor Stephen McKeon of the University of Oregon.

The strength of any currency backed by a commodity, regardless of whether it is physical or digital, is that holders must believe they can exchange it for the actual commodity. When the U.S. was on the gold standard, individuals could bring their dollars to a bank and exchange them for physical gold.

Presuming Venezuela can get the oil out of the ground — quite the presumption, these days — how would you like to take delivery of the physical product? Gold is useful because it its value is portable and divisible in exactly the ways that a barrel of oil is not.

CHASER: Venezuela 2017 annual inflation at 2,616 percent.

Opposition politicians, whose numbers are broadly in line with analysts’ estimates, on Monday put December’s inflation figure alone at 85 percent, well into hyperinflation territory for which the benchmark is usually 50 percent.

“Inflation in December alone is greater than accumulated inflation (over the whole year) for all of Latin America,” said lawmaker José Guerra.

Venezuelan authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

They were too busy dreaming that their DOA cryptocurrency would restore some purchasing power to the Maduro regime and its flunkies.

HANGOVER: Halliburton Says $400 Million Exposure To Venezuela Could Be Problematic.

Unexpectedly.

15 Jan 21:40

CALIFORNIA MAN IS GIVING FLORIDA MAN A SERIOUS RUN FOR HIS MONEY: Drugged driver crashes car into se…

by Ed Driscoll

CALIFORNIA MAN IS GIVING FLORIDA MAN A SERIOUS RUN FOR HIS MONEY: Drugged driver crashes car into second story of California building, officials say.

That’s pretty impressive air for a Nissan Altima.

Authorities say the Nissan Altima hit a center divider early Sunday, soared into the air and plowed into the top floor of the two-story structure. (Capt. Stephen Horner /Orange County Fire Authority via AP.)

08 Jan 15:57

TINNITUS NEWS: Science has a solution for that constant ringing in your ear. “The condition doesn’…

by Glenn Reynolds

TINNITUS NEWS: Science has a solution for that constant ringing in your ear. “The condition doesn’t have a cure yet, but those suffering from it might not have to endure all the phantom ringing, clicking and hissing for life, thanks to a device developed by researchers from the University of Michigan. Their creation treats tinnitus by using precisely timed sounds and weak electrical pulses designed to persuade damaged nerves in the region of the brainstem called dorsal cochlear nucleus into working correctly again.”

05 Jan 19:08

FROM KEN WHITE: Lawsplainer: Attorney General Sessions’ Threatened Action on Marijuana.. “Under the…

by Glenn Reynolds

FROM KEN WHITE: Lawsplainer: Attorney General Sessions’ Threatened Action on Marijuana.. “Under the Supremacy Clause to the United States Constitution, the states can’t immunize people from federal prosecution — they can make things legal under state law, but can’t make things legal under federal law.”

You know who changes federal laws? Congress, not the Executive.

05 Jan 19:02

OUTSOURCING CENSORSHIP: Ve have vays of making you not talk! So not only is the German government…

by Stephen Green

OUTSOURCING CENSORSHIP: Ve have vays of making you not talk!

So not only is the German government forcing social media companies to block their political opponents under the guise of counteracting online “hate speech”, the people doing the blocking are too dim to spot a parody account. How the Germans can’t see that such a law, in the hands of the wrong party, could be devastating is a mystery. I can only conclude such occurrences have no precedent in their country from which they could draw obvious lessons.

Titanic said on Wednesday its Twitter account had been blocked over the message, which it assumed was a result of a law that came into full force on Jan. 1 that can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on social media sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly.

A lot of people will rightly ask who defines hate speech. What they should be asking is how easy is it to change that definition.

Elasticity in the law — the ability to shut down anybody at will — is the whole point.

28 Dec 22:59

POWER, UNLIMITED POWER: Game changing nuclear molten salt reactor will be cheaper than natural gas. …

by Stephen Green

POWER, UNLIMITED POWER: Game changing nuclear molten salt reactor will be cheaper than natural gas.

Natural gas and coal remain the most cost-competitive sources of energy for industrial heat and electric power provision, with natural gas becoming increasingly important. Fossil-fuel dominance will continue as long as there is no alternative dispatchable, reliable, versatile energy source that is more cost-competitive. In North America, Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) power generation is now the preferred new-build power plant because of its low costs, and because of currently low North American natural gas prices, a product of fracking innovations.

IMSR® power plants are far simpler to build and operate than conventional nuclear power plants. They cost less than USD $1 billion, can be built within 4 years with much lower project risk, and can be financed by ordinary means.

PLUS:

ThorCon is designed to bring shipyard quality and productivity to fission power. But ThorCon’s structure is far simpler and much more repetitive than a ship’s. The silo hall employs concrete-filled, steel plate, sandwich walls. This results in a strong, air-tight, ductile building. A 1 GWe ThorCon requires about 18,000 tons of steel for the fission island, all simple flat plate. A properly implemented panel line will be able to produce these blocks using less than 2 man-hours per ton of steel.

Similarly, all the other components will be manufactured on an assembly line and delivered to the site as fully outfitted and pre-tested blocks. Each power module will require a total of 31 blocks. Upon arrival at the site, the blocks will be dropped into place and the wall and roof blocks welded together using the automatic hull welding machines the yards have developed for this purpose. The wall cells will then be filled with concrete. Almost no form work is required.

To make the system work we must have big blocks — blocks that are far larger than can be transported by truck or rail. ThorCon blocks are up to 23 meters wide and 40 meters long. Such blocks can be barged well up most major rivers, including the St. Lawrence and into the Great Lakes.

A 1 GWe ThorCon is so small that the fission island almost fits into two center tanks of the Hellespont Metropolis, and requires one fourth as much steel. This steel requirement is roughly equivalent to a medium size, Suezmax tanker.

The Suezmax can move herself at 15 knots, survive a hurricane, and discharge her cargo in about a day. A good shipyard can profitably build a Suezmax for 60 million dollars.

A big shipyard can turn out 100 of these ships a year. It could easily manufacture 100 one GWe ThorCons per year.

Faster, please.

21 Dec 19:05

GOOD: Dem Vows to Shut Down Senate Over Any Bill Requiring Companies Give ‘Back Door’ Access to Encr…

by Stephen Green
21 Dec 19:02

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Beleaguered Maduro regime kills guilty and innocent alike in poor barrios, oft…

by Stephen Green

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Beleaguered Maduro regime kills guilty and innocent alike in poor barrios, often with shots to the heart.

The young men had already been tortured at an army base when soldiers piled them into two jeeps and transported them to a wooded area just outside the Venezuelan capital.

Stumbling in the dark, with T-shirts pulled over their faces and hands tied behind their backs, they were steered to an open pit. Soldiers then used machetes to deliver blow after blow to the base of their necks. Most suffered gaping wounds that killed them before they hit the ground.

Others, bleeding profusely but still alive, crumpled into the shallow grave as their killers piled dirt over their bodies to hide the crime.

“We think they were alive a good while as they died from asphyxia,” said Zair Mundaray, a veteran prosecutor who led the exhumation and investigation that pieced together how the killings unfolded. “It had to be a terrible thing.”

For Mr. Mundaray and his team of investigators, the massacre in this area east of Caracas in October 2016 was the most bloodthirsty of killings by security forces in a country riven by unspeakable violence.

Prosecutors, criminologists and human-rights groups say it was only one of many recurring and escalating lethal attacks carried out by police or soldiers.

The full scope of the alleged atrocities is beginning to surface publicly now.

This one is behind the WSJ paywall, but I found it well worth my money.

18 Dec 02:40

“FBI appears to have investigated – and considered prosecuting – FOIA requesters”: Investigative rep…

by Charles Glasser

FBI appears to have investigated – and considered prosecuting – FOIA requesters“: Investigative reporting blog and FOIA tool provider Muckrock shows that as far back as 2016, the FBI refused to produce documents that had the names of deceased FBI staff (nullifying any privacy concerns), but consistently failed to redact personal information about the requesters — a clear violation of privacy:

“Despite redacting the names and email addresses of the public servants handling the case, the FBI released not only the author’s name and address in the file (technically improper since there was no waiver, albeit understandable) but the name, email address and home address of another requester who also used the script to file requests. Their name along with their email and physical addresses were left unredacted not once, not twice, not thrice – but seven times, not including the email headers, several of which also showed their name and email address.”

Other emails show that the FBI’s Obama-era FOIA office consulted a number of people from the Criminal Justice Information Services division for the purpose of singling out “suspicious” FOIA requests for possible prosecution targeting.

I’d love to know what they considered a “suspicious” FOIA request.

15 Dec 18:58

There Will Be No Viking Longboats Cruising the Mississippi, Thanks to Hard-Headed U.S. Protectionism

by Scott Shackford

Viking Cruises longboatThere are 2,000 ports across the world where cruise ships dock for passengers to embark on fabulous getaways. Only 30 of them are in North America.

The market won't likely be calling for more docks in the United States anytime soon. Switzerland-based Viking Cruises, which wanted to build and send small cruise ships up the Mississippi River, leaving new tourism dollars for river towns in its wake, is backing off its plan.

Viking announced a couple of years ago a plan to bring its luxe longboats to the Mississippi River, but last week the city manager from one those little communities got word Viking had terminated its plans, WQAD in the Quad Cities reports. The cruise ships Viking had been wanting to build and operate would have ended up costing double what they had planned, according to the report.

"As the details were being refined, it became the economics did not meet Viking's goals," a company statement read.

No new tourists. No new tourist revenue. No new tourism jobs.

Our own federal laws are to blame. More specifically, President Grover Cleveland's Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA). The 1886 law requires that in order to ferry passengers between ports in the United States, the ship must have been built in the United States and be owned and operated by Americans.

If the absurd contours of this law sound suspiciously familiar, it's because these restrictions are just like the Jones Act, the terrible protectionist law that uses similar rules and ultimately drives up the costs of shipping goods to U.S. islands and territories. The law received a lot of attention and criticism in the fall because it's going to make it much more expensive for Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria.

The Jones Act is for shipping. The PVSA is for ferrying passengers and for cruises. The intention of the PVSA was obviously to protect and foster domestic shipbuilding and shelter them from foreign competition.

Ships built and owned by foreign companies can depart and return from the same U.S. port, and they can go to distant foreign ports (outside of North America) and return back to a port in a different city. They cannot travel from port to port visiting locations within the United States. There are a very small number of exceptions, like Alaska.

As the decades sailed past, the law has ended up punishing only us. America doesn't make cruise ships anymore. An attempt to do so in 2001 (subsidized by the government, no less) failed miserably. Because cruise companies are not logistically able to meet the requirements of the PVSA, America doesn't really have a domestic cruise industry. (Clarification: To be clear, there are indeed domestic river cruise companies. But the market is not nearly as robust as it could be.)

The law doesn't protect American jobs from foreigners; it has prevented new jobs from being created in the United States. Victoria and Todd Buchholz (Todd is a former economic policy director under President George W. Bush) noted the consequences of this terrible law in a Los Angeles Times op-ed in August:

Without the PVSA, dozens more cruises would depart daily from U.S. cities such as New York and Seattle, and the hundreds of millions of dollars generated from those voyages would stay within the U.S. economy, providing thousands of portside jobs — for longshoremen loading cargo, bellhops, tour guides, taxi drivers and local farmers supplying fruits and vegetables for those all-you-can-eat buffets. And of course, each stop would generate revenue for U.S. cities in port fees as well as local and state taxes.

Who does the PVSA protect? Not Americans. Instead, Canada and Mexico should send thanks to that Congress of 1886, "attn. Grover Cleveland." The cruise docks of San Diego sit vacant 90% of the year. Meanwhile, 80 miles south, Ensenada receives more than three times as many passengers as San Diego, and many more than New York, New Orleans and Boston. Vancouver hosts three times as many sailings as Seattle. Since cruising generates an estimated $3.2 billion for Canada's ports, it's no surprise that the Canadian government lobbies to preserve the PVSA.

The existence of the PVSA is particularly absurd because about half of all cruise ship passengers are American. No other country comes close. We are net exporters of cruisers. American tourists spend money overseas and the PVSA makes it impossible to reduce our "cruise tourism deficit."

We don't even know what this protectionism is costing us. Would we see a dramatic increase in foreign tourism to cities people would never have chosen as destinations, but would be happy to visit along the way on a cruise?

We almost had a chance to find out. But for now, absurdly obsolete American protectionism wins and Americans lose.

This post has been updated to clarify that there is a modest domestic cruise market.

15 Dec 14:29

SARA CARTER: Who’s spying on who? FBI’s use of NSA foreign surveillance program needs to be inv…

by Glenn Reynolds

SARA CARTER: Who’s spying on who? FBI’s use of NSA foreign surveillance program needs to be investigated, say whistleblowers.

A controversial NSA surveillance program used to monitor foreigners was also being used by the FBI as ‘backdoor’ to gain warrantless access to American communications, according to numerous former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials with knowledge of the program.

The whistleblowers, who recently disclosed the program’s process to Congressional oversight committees, say concern over the warrantless surveillance mounted when it was disclosed earlier this year that Obama officials had accessed and unmasked communications of members of President Trump’s 2016 campaign, allegedly without clear justification.

The process, known as ‘reverse targeting,’ occurs when intelligence and law enforcement officials use a foreign person as a legal pretense for their intended target, an American citizen, the officials stated. The program, as it exists, failed to prevent terror attacks and in many cases made incorrect connections between a foreign target and an innocent American, they stated.

The whistleblowers said the program established after the September 11, 2001, attacks has not been successful in preventing terror threats, but instead infringes on privacy rights and could easily be abused for political purposes. Those concerns were also voiced to then FBI Director James Comey in 2014, and alternative options for the program were discussed, a source with knowledge said. And now, those intelligence officials want lawmakers to conduct extensive investigations into the program.

“The program can be misused by anyone with access to it,” said a former Intelligence official, with knowledge of the program. “There needs to be an extensive investigation of all the Americans connected to President Trump and the campaign who were unmasked in connection with the 2016 election.”

FBI officials declined to comment for this story.

There’s been a lot of no-commenting lately. But this fits in with a lot of stuff we’ve been hearing about the use of intelligence and law enforcement agencies for political espionage.

06 Dec 13:05

ALL YOUR CODE ARE BELONG TO US: US Claims It Doesn’t Need a Court Order to Ask Tech Companies to Bui…

by Stephen Green

ALL YOUR CODE ARE BELONG TO US: US Claims It Doesn’t Need a Court Order to Ask Tech Companies to Build Encryption Backdoors.

According to the documents, intelligence officials told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that there’s no need for them to approach courts before requesting a tech company help willfully—though they can always resort to obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order if the company refuses. The documents show officials testified they had never needed to obtain such an FISC order, though they declined to tell the committee whether they had “ever asked a company to add an encryption backdoor,” per ZDNet. Other reporting has suggested the FISC has the power to authorize government personnel to compel such technical assistance without even notifying the FISC of what exactly is required.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives authorities additional powers to compel service providers to build backdoors into their products.

Nice product you have there. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it.

05 Dec 21:21

SHE’S STILL GOT IT: Voyager 1 just fired up some thrusters for the first time in 37 years. Voyage…

by Stephen Green

SHE’S STILL GOT IT: Voyager 1 just fired up some thrusters for the first time in 37 years.

Voyager 1 is an important vessel. It’s the fastest spacecraft we’ve got, traveling at around 11 miles per second. It’s also the farthest. Its twin, Voyager 2, is nearly 11 billion miles away from the Sun, pushing through the last layer of our host star’s influence on the space around our system. But Voyager 1 is over 13 billion miles away from the Sun, and has the incredible distinction of being the first human-made object to enter interstellar space.

Yet even from that great distance, the probe still sends messages back to Earth. That’s where the thrusters come in. For decades, a set of thrusters has served to set out tiny, split-second pulses to keep the craft’s antenna pointed toward us. Now those thrusters are getting old, and it’s taking more effort to make Voyager 1 move. The solution? See if the TCM thrusters—which on the one hand haven’t been worn out by constant use over the last few decades, but on the other hand haven’t even been turned on — could take on some of the legwork.

“The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters,” Chris Jones, chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, said in a statement.

It takes 19 hours and 35 minutes for a signal from Voyager 1 to bounce back to Earth, but after a day of waiting the scientists confirmed that the hardware had fired right up.

Incredible.

05 Dec 14:28

Elephant economics: To save elephants, we should promote commercial use and encourage ivory markets and trophy hunting - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Elephant economics: To save elephants, we should promote commercial use and encourage ivory markets and trophy hunting

The video above — “Africans Demand Trade in Ivory Products” — was produced by the Ivory Education Institute, a nonprofit public benefit association dedicated to enhancing understanding of the historic, practical and cultural importance of ivory. Here’s a key excerpt on the economics of poaching elephants and banning ivory trade:

Outsiders insist that a ban on ivory trade will stop elephant poaching. It won’t. Poaching will end when demand is met through an open controlled ivory market. Bans only create scarcity. Scarcity increases prices and increased prices encourage poaching. To argue otherwise as outsiders do, defies the laws of economics.

What is the Ivory Education Institute’s position on the US ban on importing elephant trophies? Its website features an article (“Trump’s decision on trophies from Zimbabwe elephant hunts bad for elephant conservation“) written by Emmanuel Koro, a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has extensively covered conservation and development issues in African countries, here’s an excerpt:

United States President Donald Trump has delayed a rare and early Christmas gift that he recently presented to the Zambian and Zimbabwean people. By putting a halt on the lifting of the US ban on importing elephant trophies from the two countries into the US he has muddied the US policy waters.

The US is the world’s biggest hunting market and poor rural villagers in Zambia and Zimbabwe see their lives being significantly improved through money that the US hunters pay to hunt elephants. Hunting elephants is legal under strict permit systems in several African countries, and the revenue is crucial for supporting conservation efforts. The large fees that trophy hunters pay to be allowed to hunt elephants, lions and leopards can be a significant source of revenue. In Zimbabwe, according to the Safari Operators’ Association, the annual revenue from trophy hunting for this year could be as much as $130 million, mainly from the US market.

The southern African countries, including Zambia and Zimbabwe, practice wise and sustainable use of wildlife products such as elephant hunting trophies, ivory and rhino horn trade, to bring wildlife into balance with their habitats. Therefore, the US Department of Interior’s decision to suspend the US ban on elephant trophies from the two countries into the US was a breath of fresh air and good news for elephant conservation. Sadly, it only took a tweet from President Trump saying the ban would remain, “until such time as I review all conservation facts.” That review if done responsibly as we anticipate can only result in the reinstatement of his decision to allow imports of elephant hunting trophies into the USA because the motivating facts are strong, scientific and tested.

Bottom Line: As counter-intuitive as it may seem, if you are really serious about saving African elephants and stopping poaching, you have to support the commercial use of elephants, including trophy hunting and trading in ivory. Here’s the bumper sticker version — “Save the elephants, buy lots of ivory.” That’s what the Africans in the video above would tell you, and in fact they are demanding trade in ivory products!

Elephant economics: To save elephants, we should promote commercial use and encourage ivory markets and trophy hunting
Mark Perry

04 Dec 19:25

THOMAS FRIEDMAN HARDEST HIT: Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to industry’s ‘arrogance.’ Cli…

by Ed Driscoll

THOMAS FRIEDMAN HARDEST HIT: Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to industry’s ‘arrogance.’
Click over if only for the photo atop the article. The size of the mountain of dead bicycles is incredible.

(Found via Virginia Postrel.)