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05 Oct 16:28

The 15 most powerful tech companies in America

by Tanza Loudenback and Emmie Martin

TLDR. Just scrolled through the list. Surprised to see yahoo.

Jeff Bezos

We recently released our list of the 50 most powerful companies in America.

Unsurprisingly, several tech companies topped the rankings. So we decided to sort them into a separate list to show which command the most power.

To determine each company's level of power, we factored together fiscal 2014 revenue, number of employees, press mentions on Google News over the past year, and social media influence, as ranked on a scale of 1 to 100 by Klout, a site that analyzes social-media influence of companies and individuals across all platforms. You can read the full methodology here.

E-commerce giant Amazon took the No. 1 spot on the list, followed by Microsoft at No. 2 and AT&T at No. 3. Interestingly, tech heavyweights Apple and Google missed the top three, but cinched the No. 4 and 6 spots, respectively.

Scroll down to see the top 15. 

SEE ALSO: The 50 most powerful companies in America

SEE ALSO: The world's 100 most desirable employers

15. Uber

2014 revenue: N/A

Number of employees: ~2,000

Uber is changing the way we think about transportation, and despite numerous controversies and setbacks, it continues to grow.

Even though Uber doesn't release revenue data, the Silicon Valley-based ride-hailing service raised close to $1 billion in July, valuing it at $50 billion. Not to mention, it has a Klout score of 85.

Plus, with phrases like "it's the Uber of [insert activity here]" permeating our vernacular, it's impossible to deny the company's influence.

14. Yahoo

2014 revenue: $4.98 billion

Number of employees: 12,500

California-based Yahoo generated more than $1 billion in new revenue in 2014 through its mobile, video, native, and social channels (aka Mavens). Yahoo now reaches 575 million mobile users, one of the largest mobile audiences globally.

Furthering its scope, Yahoo entered a partnership with Mozilla in late 2014 to use as the default homepage for Firefox in the US. According to analytics site, Yahoo is the fifth most popular site in the world, and has a Klout score of 98 — unsurprising for an internet giant.

13. Cisco Systems

2014 revenue: $47.1 billion

Number of employees: 74,042

After a difficult fiscal 2014, Cisco Systems is expected to come back strong with a new CEO at the helm who's already fixing some costly mistakes. The worldwide leader in IT is expected to continue growing its emerging cloud services and security business.

The Silicon Valley company has a Klout score of 92, expectedly high considering much of the world's internet traffic runs through Cisco Systems.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

NOW WATCH: More trouble for Subway's Jared Fogle...

06 Oct 14:00

Denying This Left-Wing Cause Could Become A Crime

by Walter Williams

globalwarmingI receive loads of mail in response to my weekly nationally syndicated column. Some recent mail has been quite disturbing. Here’s a sample: “Given your support of freedom on a great many issues, I wish to bring to your attention the following George Mason University staff who have formally called on the President to use RICO statutes to punish organizations and individuals who dispute the ‘consensus’ of the” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The writer goes on to say, “I am appalled that anyone associated with George Mason would so misuse the power of the Federal government.” The writer names 20 signatories, six of whom are GMU faculty members (

This letter writer’s problem, like that of many others, is a misperception of George Mason University, where I am an economics professor. We have a distinguished economics department that can boast of having had two homegrown Nobel Prize winners on our faculty. Plus, we have a worldwide reputation as a free market economics department. The university can also boast of a distinguished law school with professors who, in contrast with many other law schools, have respect for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. We can boast of the excellent Law & Economics Center, too.

With this kind of intellectual firepower at George Mason University, most people assume that it is like its namesake, a libertarian or free market university. Little could be further from the truth. My university, at which I’ve toiled for 35 years, has a political makeup like that of most other universities — middle of the road to liberal/progressive. What distinguishes my liberal/progressive colleagues is that they are courteous and civilized, unlike many of those at universities such as the University of Massachusetts and the University of California, Berkeley.

So I investigated this call for the use of RICO, or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It turns out that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has called for the criminal investigation of people and organizations who are seen as global warming deniers.

This would include lawsuits against the coal and oil industries, certain think tanks, and other organizations that question the global warming religion. By the way, so that Whitehouse and his gang don’t appear silly, they’ve changed their concern from global warming to climate change. That’s stupid in and of itself, for when has the climate not been changing, even before mankind arrived?

It turns out that George Mason University meteorologist Jagadish Shukla is the lead signatory of the letter sent to the president and attorney general asking them to use RICO laws to prosecute “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change.” This GMU professor calling for the prosecution of climate skeptics has been recently revealed as “climate profiteer.” From 2012 to 2014, this leader of the RICO 20 climate scientists paid himself and his wife $1.5 million from government climate grants for part-time work (

The effort to suppress global warming dissidents is not new. Grist Magazine writer David Roberts said, “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.” Professor Richard Parncutt has called for the execution of prominent “GW deniers.” Climate Progress Editor Joe Romm called for deniers to be strangled in their beds. James Hansen, who has headed NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has likewise called for trials of global warming deniers.

The global warming agenda is a desperate effort to gain greater control over our lives. Political commentator Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) explained that “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” That’s the political goal of the global warmers.


Photo credit: Takver (Creative Commons) – Some Rights Reserved

WalterWilliamsWalter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

06 Oct 12:18

Autonomous Vehicles as Bombs

by schneier

Good discussion of the issues. Now we need to think about solutions.

06 Oct 15:09

South Carolina Flooding is NOT a 1 in 1,000 Year Event

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

There is no question that the flooding in South Carolina is exceptional, even historic.

But a once on 1,000 year event? Sorry, but there is no way to determine that…there are simply not enough rainfall statistics over a long enough period of time to establish such a claim.

But we do have information on previous floods over the last 100 years or so. So, let’s look at how the current event compares.

The greatest multi-day rainfall reported on the CoCoRaHS cooperative rainfall monitoring website was 27 inches in Columbia, SC. The Congaree River crested at 31 ft. there on Sunday:

Congaree River gage height at Columbia, SC.

Congaree River gage height at Columbia, SC.

Here’s a photo taken about the time the river crested:

Photo of Congaree River, Columbia, SC, Oct. 4, 2015, taken about the time of cresting.

Photo of Congaree River, Columbia, SC, Oct. 4, 2015, taken about the time of cresting.

Now, for comparison, take a look at a bridge over the Congaree River during the record flood of 1908, when the river crested at 40 ft…about 9 ft. higher than the current flood event:

Congaree River bridge in Columbia, SC, during the 1908 record flood event.

Congaree River bridge in Columbia, SC, during the 1908 record flood event.

Not to discount the misery and likely billions of dollars of damage caused by the current event, but when someone claims that a weather disaster is 1 in a 1,000 year event, they need to back it up.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an trend toward classifying events as “1 in 1,000 years”, when there is no way of knowing such things. This is especially true for floods, where paving of urban and suburban areas causes increasing runoff, making river flooding worse for the same amount of rainfall. This is a big reason why flood events have gotten worse in the last 100 years…it has nothing to do with “climate change”.

For some areas the current flood is no doubt a 1 in 100 year event, or even worse. But remember, it is perfectly normal to have a 1 in 100 year event every year…as long as they occur in different locations.

That’s how weather records work.

05 Oct 18:14

Thousands of images from NASA's Apollo missions make it to Flickr

by Edgar Alvarez

h/t Roumen.ganeff

Over the past few months, NASA's been showing us a ton of stunning images of Pluto. And if you thought that was captivating, wait until you see what else has made it onto the web. On Friday, Project Apollo Archive took to Flickr to publish more tha...
05 Oct 15:26

The Set of Available Options Is Smaller Than Many People Suppose

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


Here’s a letter to Medium:

Regarding your detailed account of the difficulty of being a single mom earning a low wage (“Five Days In the Life,” October 2): no one doubts that the challenges facing low-wage workers such as Adriana Alvarez are far more grueling than are the challenges facing workers who earn higher pay.  But if your report is meant to make a case for raising the minimum wage, it fails.

As difficult as it is for Ms. Alvarez to make ends meet with hourly pay of $10.50, it would be immensely more difficult for her to make ends meet with hourly pay of $0.00.  Yet such a drop in pay will be the eventual result for many workers such as Ms. Alvarez if government were to raise the minimum wage to a rate higher than the hourly rates that they now earn.

The choice for policymakers is not between, on one hand, all low-skilled workers earning low pay (while also gaining valuable job experience that permits them in the future to earn higher pay) versus, on the other hand, all low-skilled workers, thanks to a hike in the minimum wage, earning higher pay.  Instead, the choice is between, on one hand, all low-skilled workers earning low pay (while also gaining valuable job experience that permits them in the future to earn higher pay) versus, on the other hand, many low-skilled workers, thanks to a hike in the minimum wage, earning no pay and also being denied opportunities to get the valuable job experience necessary for them to earn higher pay in the future.

So if your goal is to better inform policymakers with ‘day-in-the-life’ accounts of the struggles of low-skilled workers, you should run – in addition to your account of Ms. Alvarez’s difficult daily routine – an account of the far more difficult daily routine of a single mom who earns nothing per hour because the minimum wage has priced her out of work, opportunity, and hope.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

(Thanks to Tim Townsend for alerting me to this Medium report.)

05 Oct 20:46

Thousands of Texas Criminal Cases May Need DNA Retesting

According to an article in today’s Houston Press, the Texas Department of Public Safety recently identified nearly 25,000 cases involving mixed DNA that may require retesting and could eventually result in a wave of appeals. The impetus is a change in mixture interpretation guidelines that places stricter limitations on the conclusions that can be drawn from DNA mixtures. 

Up until now, mixed DNA tests could produce very striking results that allowed experts and prosecutors to argue that the chances that a DNA profile belonged to any other individual beside the defendant were one in a million or more. But based on a new mixed-DNA testing guidelines, the odds are dramatically reduced—from one in many to one in less than 100, reports the Houston Press. As a result, 25,000 mixed cases dating back to 1999 are going to need to be reviewed to determine which of them resulted in convictions and whether they need to be retested using the new DNA testing method.  

General Counsel at the Texas Forensic Science Commission, Lynn Robitaille Garcia, said figuring out a way to tackle evaluating the 25,000 cases will be daunting and costly. The commission will be asking the governor for financial assistance to complete the work.

According to the Press, Galveston will serve as a testing ground in identifying a method by which to figure out which of its retroactive mixed-DNA cases actually resulted in convictions; its methodology could serve as a model for larger jurisdictions. Once the conviction cases are identified, the defendants in those cases will be assisted in finding lawyers to file writs. Prosecutors will then have to be prepared to handle the flood of appeals. In terms of cases currently pending trial, Jack Roady, the district attorney for Galveston County told the Houston Press that he has put a hold on all of the county’s mixed-DNA cases currently pending trial so that he can send them for retesting.

“We have to start identifying the cases and whittling the case list down,” Garcia said to the commission last week, according to the Press. “We have a duty to correct this.”

To read the entire story, go here

03 Oct 23:00

Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Are Not the Same Thing

by Joshua Swain

About 1 minute. Animation by Joshua Swain.

Forcing others into sex or labor is abhorrent, and it deserves to be treated like the serious violation it is. But the activity now targeted under human trafficking laws includes everything from engaging in consensual prostitution to giving a sex worker a ride to a job to running a classified-advertising site.

These laws are in large part the result of a decades-long anti-prostitution crusade from Christian "abolitionists" and anti-sex feminists, bolstered by officials who know a good political opportunity when they see one and media that never met a moral panic they didn't like.

Learn more in the video above or by checking out Reason's November 2015 cover story, "The War on Sex Trafficking is the New War on Drugs." An excerpt from the story:  

.. many of the policies in place to fight trafficking actively work against their own stated mission. The criminalization of prostitution keeps sex workers from reporting abuse and keeps clients from coming forward if they suspect someone is being trafficked. Victims themselves are afraid to go to police for fear they'll be arrested for prostitution—and indeed, they often are.

In 2012, 579 minors were reported to the federal government as having been arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice. Prosecutors say they need this as a "bargaining chip" to make the victims testify against their perpetrators. We're just using state violence and the threat of incarceration against children in order to save them!

Another misguided government target is the classified advertising website Backpage, home to many an "escort" ad. Lawmakers accuse the site of "profiting off of child exploitation," even though only a miniscule percentage of Backpage ads—which anyone can put up—are posted by traffickers rather than adult sex workers. Both legislators and anti-trafficking groups have long been intent on shutting the site down. Yet "street-based sex workers, across studies, face much higher rates of violence than indoor sex workers," (said) Serpent Libertine, a Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)-Chicago board member. "It's hard to understand how eliminating a low-barrier way to work indoors would promote safety."

(...) But at least we're getting the really bad guys, right? That's also up for debate. Peruse trafficking arrest records and you'll find many folks like Amber Batt, an Alaska woman who faces 10 to 25 years in federal prison (plus a lifetime on the sex-offender registry) for running an escort service featuring adult women who freely elected to work there. Or Julie Haner, a 19-year-old Oregon sex worker who was charged with trafficking after taking her 17-year-old friend with her to meet clients. Or Aimee Hart, 42, who served seven months in prison and faces 15 years on the sex-offender registry for driving her adult friend to a prostitution job. Or Hortencia Medeles-Arguello, a 71-year-old Houston bar owner arrested as the leader of a "sex trafficking conspiracy" because she allowed prostitution upstairs.

There's Trenton McLemore, 29, who faces federal sex trafficking charges for "facilitating" the sex work of his 16-year-old girlfriend by purchasing the girl a cellphone and sometimes texting clients for her. He faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and possible life in prison, thanks to a joint effort of Irving, Texas, police; Homeland Security; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And Alfonso Kee Peterson, 28, arrested in July for telling a 17-year-old on Facebook that he could help her earn a lot of money from prostitution. The "teen" turned out to be a police decoy. Despite the absence of any real victim or any activity beyond speech, Peterson was charged with one felony count of human trafficking of a minor, one felony count of pandering, and one felony count of attempted pimping; he faces up to 12 years in prison. This important sting apparently warranted the work of several local police departments, the California Highway Patrol, and the FBI.

Even if we grant that some of this activity is unsavory, is it really the sort of behavior that warrants lengthy prison sentences and attention from federal agents? Since when is what adults—or even teenagers—willingly do with their genitalia a matter of homeland security? Is this really what President Obama had in mind at the CGI conference when he compared anti-trafficking laws to the Emancipation Proclamation?

Scroll down for downloadable versions of this video, and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel to receive immediate updates when new material goes live.

Original air date: October 2, 2015.

05 Oct 15:03

Recycling Is Garbage Redux

by Ronald Bailey

NoRecyclingNearly 20 years ago, New York Times journalist John Tierney investigated the economic and environmental effects of mandatory recycling in his article, "Recycling Is Garbage." His article basically concluded that mandatory recycling did not make much economic or environmental sense and legendarily provoked the most hate mail ever delivered to the Times. Now, nearly two decades later, the editors at the Times asked Tierney to revisit and re-report the topic which resulted in his new op-ed, "The Reign of Recycling," in this past Sunday's edition. So what did he find out this time?

From the article:

Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies. ...

In New York City, the net cost of recycling a ton of trash is now $300 more than it would cost to bury the trash instead. That adds up to millions of extra dollars per year — about half the budget of the parks department — that New Yorkers are spending for the privilege of recycling. That money could buy far more valuable benefits, including more significant reductions in greenhouse emissions.

Tierney probes why such a large segment of the public and so many politicians want to impose recycling requirements. For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared "zero-waste" as a goal for the city to achieve by 2030. Tierney argues that such goals have become for some people a form of repentance for the "sinful" enjoyment of material affluence:

Religious rituals don’t need any practical justification for the believers who perform them voluntarily. But many recyclers want more than just the freedom to practice their religion. They want to make these rituals mandatory for everyone else, too, with stiff fines for sinners who don’t sort properly. Seattle has become so aggressive that the city is being sued by residents who maintain that the inspectors rooting through their trash are violating their constitutional right to privacy.

It would take legions of garbage police to enforce a zero-waste society, but true believers insist that’s the future. When Mayor de Blasio promised to eliminate garbage in New York, he said it was “ludicrous” and “outdated” to keep sending garbage to landfills. Recycling, he declared, was the only way for New York to become “a truly sustainable city.”

But cities have been burying garbage for thousands of years, and it’s still the easiest and cheapest solution for trash. The recycling movement is floundering, and its survival depends on continual subsidies, sermons and policing. How can you build a sustainable city with a strategy that can’t even sustain itself?

That's a really good question. The whole article is well worth your attention.

For more background, see my colleague Katherine Mangu-Ward's excellent article, "Plastic Bags Are Good For You."

Disclosure: Tierney introduced me and moderated a discussion about my new book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century, at a book party in New York City last week.

04 Oct 19:45

Learning more about Google's self-driving cars made me terrified to ever drive again (GOOG)

by Jillian D'Onfro

google car

I knew that Google's self-driving cars looked adorable, but the full scope of how dramatically their technology will change the world really hit me earlier this week.

At a panel Google hosted to update the press on its progress, the company dished out some dazzling stats, like that its self-driving automobiles have traveled 1.2 million miles in full autonomy on public roads.

Pooling together all of the data from all of its cars, the software inside each one has approximately 90 years of driving experience. 

I've always been fascinated by specific use cases for autonomous automobiles, like how they will give blind people and the elderly much more independent mobility, which has been shown to generally increase quality of life. Self-driving cars will be a godsend for people who can't otherwise safely drive on their own (including drunken party-goers). 

But having read stories about Google's cars getting confused by fixie bicycles or held up by rain, I still pictured my skills trumping those of a robotic car for a long-time to come. 

That changed completely less than 24 hours after Google's presentation, when I had to drive to and from Los Altos, California. What would otherwise have seemed like a completely typical trip suddenly made me realize just how pathetic a driver I am compared to one of Google's cars.

driving textingAlthough I didn't commit the cardinal sin of texting while driving, I was for the first time hyper-conscious of how often I let me eyes drift from the road, whether to check Google Maps on my phone or change the radio station. At one point, I needed to slam the brakes: I had been watching traffic, but deep in thought, making my reaction time slower than it should have been.

Suddenly, I couldn't wait to get out of that car. The person driving next to me, yapping on her phone, immediately seemed like a threat. As did the fact that I was taking my eyes away from the road ahead to look at her. I have never loved driving, but recognizing all the normal minutiae as potentially dangerous distractions makes me hate it. 

Every year, 1.2 million people die in car accidents, more than 33,000 of them in the US. During the panel, the new CEO of the self-driving car program, John Krafcik, equated that to five Boeing 737's crashing every week. That rate would be completely unacceptable, he says, so why do we still accept it on our roads? 

During its presentation, Google also boasted that by using a combination of cameras, radars, and lasers, its cars can "see" as far as two football fields away, with 360 degrees of visibility. Humans, on the other hand, can only see about 120 degrees around us while driving. The cars know that a stop sign is coming up before it's in view, because they've got the route all mapped. They can sense hundreds of different objects around them at the same time — re-scanning the world many, many times per second — while I lost focus and caused a jarring halt just because I was caught up in my internal environment. 

Having really noticed how much less observant I am than one of Google's cars, I never want to drive again — it just seems so dangerous. I'd rather put my trust in its lasers and cameras than my own wandering attention and fallible eyes. Never have I been more grateful to live in a city with ample public transportation. 

Here's what Google's car sees, versus a person's view of the same area:

Google self-driving car

Even though there are still a ton of big questions and hurdles ahead — like how Google will partner with auto companies (it won't make its own cars), what can be done to prevent hacking, and, yes, how the cars will do in the snow — self-driving cars could become a reality sooner than I thought: 

Another exec at the panel, Chris Urmson, flashed a picture of his two sons on the screen, noting that he envisions the technology breaking into the real world soon enough that his 12-year-old will never have to get his license. That's a future I welcome with open arms. 

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How to supercharge your iPhone in 5 minutes

04 Oct 14:36

Finally: visualized OCO2 satellite data showing global carbon dioxide concentrations

by Guest Blogger
From the “if the government won’t visualize it, a climate skeptic will” department. Guest essay by Erik Swenson In July of 2014, NASA launched its most advanced carbon dioxide monitoring satellite, The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2). The first OCO burned up on launch. There has been a lot of anticipation regarding the data from this…
04 Oct 17:02

The Founders’ View vs. the Progressive Income Tax

by Tenth Amendment

by Burton W. Folsom, Originally Published at The Freeman

America’s founders rejected the income tax entirely, but when they spoke of taxes they recognized the need for uniformity and equal protection to all citizens. “[A]ll duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States,” reads the U.S. Constitution. And 80 years later, in the same spirit, the Fourteenth Amendment promised “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens.

In other words, the principle behind the progressive income tax—the more you earn, the larger the percentage of tax you must pay—would have been appalling to the founders. They recognized that, in James Madison’s words, “the spirit of party and faction” would prevail if Congress could tax one group of citizens and confer the benefits on another group.

In Federalist No. 10, Madison asked, “[W]hat are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine?” He went on to say, “The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice.”

During the 1800s economic thinking in the United States usually conformed to the founders’ guiding principles of uniformity and equal protection. One exception was during the Civil War, when a progressive income tax was first enacted. Interestingly, the tax had a maximum rate of 10 percent, and it was repealed in 1872. As Representative Justin Morrill of Vermont observed, “in this country we neither create nor tolerate any distinction of rank, race, or color, and should not tolerate anything else than entire equality in our taxes.”

When Congress passed another income tax in 1894—one that only hit the top 2 percent of wealth holders—the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Stephen Field, a veteran of 30 years on the Court, was outraged that Congress would pass a bill to tax a small voting bloc and exempt the larger group of voters. At age 77, Field not only repudiated Congress’s actions, he also penned a prophecy. A small progressive tax, he predicted, “will be but the stepping stone to others, larger and more sweeping, till our political contests will become a war of the poor against the rich.”

In 1913, almost 20 years later, the ideas of uniform taxation and equal protection of the law for all citizens were overturned when a constitutional amendment permitting a progressive income tax was ratified. Congress first set the top rate at a mere 7 percent—and married couples were only taxed on income over $4,000 (equivalent to $80,000 today). During the tax debate, William Shelton, a Georgian, supported the income tax “because none of us here have $4,000 incomes, and somebody else will have to pay the tax.” As Madison and Field had feared, the seeds of class warfare were sown in the strategy of different rates for different incomes.

It took the politicians less than one generation to hike the tax rates and fulfill Field’s prophecy. Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, using the excuses of depression and war, permanently enlarged the income tax. Under Hoover, the top rate was hiked from 24 to 63 percent. Under Roosevelt, the top rate was again raised—first to 79 percent and later to 90 percent. In 1941, in fact, Roosevelt proposed a 99.5 percent marginal rate on all incomes over $100,000. “Why not?” he said when an adviser questioned him.

After that proposal failed, Roosevelt issued an executive order to tax all income over $25,000 at the astonishing rate of 100 percent. Congress later repealed the order, but still allowed top incomes to be taxed at a marginal rate of 90 percent.

Subsidies for Friends, Audits for Enemies

Roosevelt thus became the first president to practice on a large scale what Madison had called “the spirit of party and faction” and what Field had called the “war of the poor against the rich.” With a steeply progressive income tax in place, Roosevelt used the federal treasury to reward, among others, farmers (who were paid not to plant crops), silver miners (who had the price of their product artificially inflated), and southerners in the vote-rich Tennessee Valley (with dams and cheap electricity).

In the 1936 presidential election, Senator Hiram Johnson of California, a Roosevelt supporter, watched in amazement as the President mobilized “the different agencies of government” to dole out subsidies for votes. “He starts with probably 8 million votes bought,” Johnson calculated. “The other side has to buy them one by one, and they cannot hope to match his money.” In that campaign, Roosevelt defeated the Republican Alf Landon by an electoral vote of 523–8.

The flip side of rewards for supporters was investigations of opponents. Senator James Couzens of Michigan, who supported Roosevelt even more vigorously than Johnson did, had said before Roosevelt took office, “Give me control of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and I will run the politics of the country.”

Couzens lived to see the bureau begin to investigate Roosevelt’s opponents. It started with an investigation of Senator Huey Long of Louisiana, who had threatened to run for president against Roosevelt. Next came an audit of William Randolph Hearst, whose newspaper empire strongly opposed Roosevelt for president in 1936. Moses Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, vehemently opposed Roosevelt’s re-election campaign in 1936; the next year he had a full-scale audit, which was followed by a prison term.

Elliott Roosevelt, the president’s son, conceded in 1975 that “my father may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.” But he was quick to add that “each of his successors followed his lead.” That is a key point: once the machinery of retribution is in place, it is hard for politicians to resist using it. When Richard Nixon, a Republican, became president, he sounded like his Democrat counterparts when he described whom he wanted as commissioner of internal revenue. Nixon said, “I want to be sure that he is . . . ruthless . . . that he will do what he is told, that every income-tax return I want to see, I see. That he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends. It is as simple as that.”

If we want to lessen “the spirit of party and faction,” as Madison recommended, and if we want to avoid a “war of the poor against the rich,” as Field anticipated, we would do well to scrap the progressive income tax.

Originally published on Thursday, May 01, 2003 in The Freeman, by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). This work is licensed and reposted here under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except for material where copyright is reserved by a party other than FEE.

03 Oct 13:38

At NOAA And NASA, Error Bars Mean Nothing

by tonyheller

The map below shows all of NOAA’s Joaquin forecast tracks since September 30 at 11:32 PM. It also shows their “Forecast Uncertainty” from September 30 in turquoise.

ScreenHunter_10623 Oct. 03 05.33

ScreenHunter_10635 Oct. 03 07.05

Their current forecast is thousands of kilometers outside of their September 30 “uncertainty” – indicating that they actually have no idea how accurate their forecasts are and are simply making certainty numbers up.

With Hurricane Irene, they forecast landfall at every Eastern Seaboard state at one time or other, and then declared victory when one of their forecasts came true. They bet on every horse in the race.


And NASA does the same thing with temperature, adjusting temperatures far outside of their own error bars.


The abuse of data at US government agencies is astonishing. The only thing that is certain is that their certainty is meaningless.

03 Oct 12:08

The Evolution Of National Geographic’s Spectacular Climate Lies

by tonyheller

In 1976, National Geographic correctly reported that Earth’s temperature varied from 50F to 61F during the span humans occupied the planet, and that most of human existence was typified by extremely cold weather which would not support civilization. (Chicago was under a mile of ice)

ScreenHunter_10631 Oct. 03 05.55

ScreenHunter_10632 Oct. 03 05.57

But by 2007, National Geographic had completely thrown science and integrity out the window, and was claiming that the planet was a steady 57F prior to the burning of fossil fuels. They also started promoting starving poor people by using food for fuel.

ScreenHunter_10633 Oct. 03 06.01

ScreenHunter_10629 Oct. 03 05.49

The big question is – who is paying for this massive global warming fraud?

03 Oct 14:20

Union Army Was Complicit In Genocide

by tonyheller

george-custer-1custer flag

Before General Custer carried the Union Flag to massacre Native Americans, he was one of Abraham Lincoln’s heroes at Gettysburg and Appomattox.

On June 29, 1863 Custer was commissioned to brigadier general of volunteers and assigned to command a brigade in Kilpatrick’s division. While in this position he led his men in the Battle of Gettysburg where he assisted in preventing J.E.B. Stuart from attacking the Union rear.

As Custer’s final major act in the war he led the division responsible for cutting off Lee’s last avenue of escape at Appomattox; a week later he received the appointment, major general of volunteers.

George Armstrong Custer

The Union flag is clearly a symbol of hatred and aggression against Native Americans, and must be taken down from all statehouses which fly it.

03 Oct 14:56

Did James Hansen Unwittingly Prove The Null Hypothesis Of AGW?

by Guest Blogger
Guest Opinion; Dr. Tim Ball The only place in the world where CO2 increase causes a temperature increase is in climate models, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The assumption that a CO2 increase causes a temperature increase is central to the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis. If incorrect, failure of…
02 Oct 17:42

What Liberty University can teach Elite Colleges and Universities

by George Yancey

Cross-posted from Black, White and Gray

A few weeks ago my facebook feed was somewhat abuzz with the fact that Senator Bernie Sanders was speaking at Liberty University. Yes, that Bernie Sanders, self-described socialist, speaking at that Liberty University, the education institution founded by the man who started the Moral Majority. It was not a news event I ever anticipated occurring. Even though I am a Christian, like many people I had stereotypes about the narrowmindedness of Christian colleges and did not consider that one as conservative as Liberty University would require its students to listen to a socialist.

I will spend the bulk of this blog discussing the implications of Liberty University’s decision. However, I first want to compliment the senator. It is not easy to speak in front of an audience who deeply disagrees with you. He probably did not gain one extra vote from a Liberty student by his talk. But he is committed to his vision of a better society and willing to go places where he does not have an admiring crowd. I give sincere kudos to Senator Sanders and if more of us would be willing to try to communicate with those we disagree with, then we would have a better society.

However, the senator would not be able to speak before the students if Liberty had not invited him to do so. Furthermore, the actions of the students were commendable. Most of them disagreed with most of what the Senator had to say. But they let him say it, and they treated him with respect. There was no protest. There was no attempt to shout the Senator down. No, they did not give him enthusiastic applause. But we do not have to agree with someone to give him/her the right to tell us his/her ideas. He was allowed to inform them of his ideas, and they did not interrupt him.

I cannot help but compare this event to what happens so often when unpopular speakers come to many of our state and elite campuses. There are a wide variety of incidents that illustrates the unwillingness of students and faculty on those campuses to allow for such free speech. Perhaps a striking example is when students at the University of California at Berkeley protested the commencement speech by Bill Maher. The political distance between Senator Sanders and the average Liberty University student has to be much greater than between Maher and these progressive students. However, Maher has been highly critical of Islam and in doing so, broke one of the tenets embedded in Education Dogma. For certain students this meant that he should not be allowed to address other students, even though he likely agreed with them on most other subjects. Contrast this reaction to the politeness shown the Senator by the students at Liberty. Consideration and tolerance was found at the Christian school instead of the place where the modern free speech movement originated.

At least in this situation, the University of California stood by Maher and let him give his speech. Christine Lagarde, Robert Birgeneau and Condoleessa Rice were all invited to speak and then later disinvited, or withdrew due to pressure, from delivering their commencement address. The reasons given may vary, but essentially students and faculty members protested these speakers and the administration caved to their demands. Colleges and university are supposed to be places where we encounter different ideas. But influential segments on many campuses do not want graduating students, who should be fully prepared for dealing with different ideas, to hear alternative opinions. This type of censoring is not even including the type of silencing that comes from mechanisms such as safe spaces and trigger warnings. Whereas Liberty University brought different ideas directly to their campus, it seems that many of our highly esteemed colleges and universities work hard to keep them out.

What is ironic is that Christian schools such as Liberty University are typically stereotyped as being unwilling to consider alternate points of view. As I stated earlier, I have bought into those stereotypes. One blogger argues that Christian colleges should not be accredited because they do not allow for intellectual freedom. I am certain that this blogger would put Liberty University squarely in the “do not accreditate” category even though Liberty appears to better prepare its students to hear opposing opinions than the University of California. Accreditation is important for helping an institution of higher education serve its students, and this stereotype can have important implications for the freedom of Christian colleges.

While I have heard this stereotype many times, the incident at Liberty helped me realize that I have yet to see any empirical evidence that supports it. I know in theory nonreligious colleges and universities should be free to pursue whatever ideas academics come up with. In reality, there is a culture of conformity that inhibits the freedom of academics to pursue all ideas. Sociology of science is a subset of epistemology exploring how science is not an objective search for truth, but that search is influenced by the social and psychological pressures placed on the scientist. For example, Thomas Kuhn’s work suggests that scholars operate in an ideological paradigm that provides them the answers to the questions they study before they even analyze the data. In a similar way, there are paradigms on our non-sectarian campuses that provide answers to questions before we have even fully asked the question. This type of social, and sometimes even institutional, pressure can be just as limiting to academic freedom as the theological doctrines commonly found at Christian educational institutions.

I am starting to believe that non-Christian colleges are at least as narrow-minded in their epistemological approach as Christian schools. When I did research on academic bias, I found that about half of all academics are willing to discriminate against conservative Protestants when they apply for an academic position. Clearly, limiting the ability of individuals from a given social group to participate in academia can serve to limit the scholarly ideas from that group. This is a clear violation of the academic freedom allegedly not found at Christian colleges. When I went back to my data and looked to see if those at Christian colleges are more unwilling to exclude non-Christians from their jobs, I found that the degree of exclusion was about the same as their non-religious counterparts. I did not see evidence that Christian educational institutions were more restrictive in their willingness to hire than non-Christians, despite the doctrine requirements that undoubtedly are part of their hiring process. Looking at who academics are willing to hire, I do not have empirical reasons to think that there is more academic freedom at non-sectarian educational institutions than sectarian ones.

To be fair, I have heard some students complain that they are not free to start progressive political or sexual minority student organizations on Christian campuses. I take them at their word and am willing to believe that some Christian educational institutions restrict the type of student organizations allowed on campus. A few years ago, this would have been a killer argument for pronouncing Christian colleges and universities as intolerant. But lately some non-sectarian educational institutions have found a way to deregister Christian groups from their campuses. If Christian groups do not open up their leadership to non-Christians, then they are not allowed to be official student organizations. It is not only Christian schools that unfairly restrict student organizations, and I suspect that we will see more non-sectarian schools employ these tactics in the coming years. Ironically, many who attempt to defend such “all-comers” policy would be quick to argue that prohibiting progressive students at Christian colleges to start their own organizations is evidence of intolerance.

I am not arguing that Christian colleges are more open to alternate ideas than other educational institutions. I am arguing that we do not have any empirical evidence to state that this is not the case. The perception that religious institutions value intellectual diversity less than other types of institutions is based more upon prejudices and confirmation bias than actual systematic research. I am certain that individuals will produce personal stories about the intolerance they have experienced at the hands of Christians at sectarian educational institutions. But such anecdotal accounts are not the sort of scientific evidence needed to justify removal of accreditation or the stereotypes that I have, until recently, accepted myself. There are many Christians who can also tell stories of intolerance experiences at elite and/or state schools as well. What is needed is the type of academic research where we can properly test the degree of ideological intolerance that we may find on both types of campuses. Without such scientific research to document that there are higher levels of intolerance at Christian campuses, we run the risk of supporting one type of intolerance while ignoring other manifestations of this problem.

When I heard of Senator Sanders speaking at Liberty University and the way students treated him, one of my first reactions was that students in many of our elite institutions have something to learn from Liberty students. Our progressive open-minded liberal students from elite schools have something to learn about political tolerance from the “intolerant” Christians at Liberty. Soon afterward I became acquainted with a professor who works at Liberty. She informed me that the university has a tradition of inviting progressive speakers to the campus. She told me that, when he was alive, Ted Kennedy had spoken on campus more than once. She informed me that the philosophy at Liberty is to foster a politically conservative environment, but one where their students are exposed to ideas from a variety of sources. Oh that we would see this at non-sectarian schools with a more progressive agenda. Despite the common stereotype that colleges like Liberty are a cocoon protecting students from non-Christian, non-conservative ideas, it seems plausible that their philosophy does the opposite. In light of the actions of Liberty University in regards to Sanders and University of California in regards to Maher, perhaps it is time to retire this stereotype – at least until we gain empirical evidence supporting it.

02 Oct 04:37

The End of Doom

We discuss the growth and maturity of the modern environmental movement from Rachel Carson to Paul Ehrlich and Naomi Klein. From overpopulation and pollution to pesticide use, mass animal extinctions and peak oil to global cooling and global warming (now climate change) and genetically modified food, there seems to be no shortage of potential catastrophes for us to fret over. Is humanity truly perpetually poised on the brink of destruction? Or are the solutions these environmental millenarians propose the true threat to our species?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Ronald Bailey’s new book The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century is a must read on this topic.

We also recommend Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves and Brink Lindsey’s The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture to get a better understanding of the power of markets to allocate resources in increasingly efficient ways.

Paul Ehrlich’s 1971 book The Population Bomb is mentioned in this show. It reads as fantastic science fiction today, though the predictions Ehrlich makes were taken quite seriously when the book was first published. Similarly, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) predicted a world in which it was common for people to die of cancer-related illnesses (caused by pollutants) at the age of 45. The book was instrumental in launching the modern-day environmental movement.

Bailey also mentions an article he wrote in 2009 about the National Academy of Sciences predictions in 1980 of what the world would look like in 2010, “How Green Is Your Crystal Ball?

02 Oct 07:20

IPCC And New York Times – Lying About The Climate For At Least 15 Years

by tonyheller

Fifteen years ago, the IPCC announced that the North Pole was ice-free for the first time in 50 million years.


Ages-Old Icecap at North Pole Is Now Liquid, Scientists Find –

Apparently 1958 is more than 50 million years ago, because the USS Skate surfaced at the North Pole in clear water in 1958

PaintImage44Naval History Blog » Blog Archive » USS Skate (SSN-578) Becomes the First Submarine to Surface at the North Pole

The Skate also surfaced at the North Pole during the winter of 1959, which was reported by the New York Times


TimesMachine: March 29, 1959 –

As is always the case, climate scientists simply fabricate meaningless scary sounding statistics, to keep their funding coming in. All fraud, all the time.

02 Oct 02:52

Today is Manufacturing Day, so let’s recognize America’s world-class manufacturing sector and factory workers

by Mark Perry

Manufacturing Day occurs annually on the first Friday of October (October 2 this year) and according to its sponsorsMFG DAY” is a “celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.” To recognize Manufacturing Day this year, I’ve prepared a series of charts and facts about America’s manufacturing sector below.


1. US Manufacturing Output vs. Employment. The chart above shows annual measures of US manufacturing output (based on the BEA’s GDP by Industry data here) and US manufacturing employment (based on BLS data here) from 1947 to 2014. In inflation-adjusted constant 2014 dollars, US manufacturing output has increased more than five-fold over the last 67 years, from $410 billion in 1947 to a record-setting level of output last year of $2.09 trillion (see brown line in chart). Although we frequently hear claims that the US manufacturing sector is dying or in a state of decline, manufacturing output in the US, except during and following periods of economic contraction like the Great Recession, has continued to increase over time, and reached the highest level of output ever recorded in 2014.

What has been in a steady state of decline is the number of manufacturing workers needed to produce the increasing amount of manufacturing output as the blue line in the chart above shows. From a peak of nearly 19.5 million US factory workers in 1979, the number of manufacturing employees has steadily declined to a recent low in 2010 of 11.6 million workers before rebounding to slightly more than 12 million employees last year.

Comment: The ability of the US manufacturing sector to produce increasing amounts of output with fewer and fewer workers should be recognized as a sign of economic strength and vitality, not economic weakness. Thanks to advances in technology, the factory floor today is one with modern, advanced, state-of-the-art equipment that requires fewer employees, but with greater skills and training than in the past. The trend in US manufacturing over the last 30 years – more and more output with fewer and fewer workers – is exactly like the transformation that revolutionized US farming over the last 100 years or more. With fewer than 2% of America’s workers, we produce more agricultural output today in the US than when much greater numbers and much higher shares of the nation’s employees were working on farms. And yet when have you ever heard anybody say that “America just doesn’t grow anything anymore”? The fact that we frequently hear that “America just doesn’t manufacture or produce anything anymore” isn’t consistent with the reality that US factories produce more output today than at any time in US history.


2. Manufacturing Output per Worker. The chart above shows the dramatic increases over time in the amount of manufacturing output produced per US worker, which more than doubled in the 42 years between 1955 and 1997 from $40,000 to $85,000, and then more than doubled again in only 13 years between 1997 and 2010 to about $171,000 (all figures are expressed in constant 2014 dollars). Manufacturing output per employee last year of $171,538 established a new all-time record for the productivity of the American factory worker, measured in manufacturing output per factory worker.

3. Manufacturing Fact: The US produced nearly $2.10 trillion of manufacturing output last year. Considered as a separate country, the US manufacturing sector would have been the 9th largest economy in the world in 2014, ahead of No. 10 India’s entire economic output (GPD) of $2.05 trillion and slightly behind No. 8 Italy’s $2.14 trillion of GDP last year.


4. International Perspective of US Manufacturing. Another way to grasp the enormous size of the US manufacturing sector is illustrated in the graph above. Based on United Nations data currently available through 2013, the US produced almost as much manufacturing output in 2013 ($2.03 trillion) as the combined manufacturing output of the six countries of Germany, South Korea, France, Russia, Brazil and the UK ($2.14 trillion). Think of that international manufacturing comparison the next time you hear that “America’s manufacturing sector is dying” or that “America just doesn’t produce anything anymore.”


5. US Manufacturing Profits. When assessing the size, strength and health of America’s manufacturing sector, what ultimately matters is not the amount of output produced or the number of factory workers, but the amount of profit being generated by US factories. By that measure, US manufacturers as a group have never been bigger, stronger and healthier than in recent years, as the chart above shows. In each of the last four years (2011-2014), annual manufacturing profits have averaged nearly $600 billion (in constant 2014 dollars), which is more than 20% above the annual average of $494 billion in the four years before the Great Recession (2004-2007) and nearly double the average annual manufacturing profits generated during the 1993-1999 period of about $306 billion. Another profit-related indicator of manufacturing strength is the fact that manufacturing profits remained relatively high in 2008 and 2009 during and after the Great Recession, especially when compared to the much greater reduction in profits during the 2001 recession.


6. The Miracle of Manufacturing. As US manufacturing has become more technologically advanced and efficient, the price of manufactured durable goods has fallen in relation to both: a) other consumer products and services, and b) Americans’ after-tax disposable personal income. The chart above shows how much Americans collectively spend annually on four manufactured categories of consumer products: food, cars, clothing, and household furnishings like home appliances, as a share of national after-tax disposable income from 1947 to 2014. In 1947, Americans spent more than 42% of total after-tax personal income on those four categories of manufactured consumer products. As manufactured goods fell in price over time due to production efficiencies, technological advances, and greater worker productivity; and as personal income grew, the share of Americans’ disposable income spent on food, cars, clothing and household furnishings gradually and consistently fell to about 15% in each of the last 7 years. In relation to other goods and our income, manufactured goods have never been more affordable.

Bottom Line: As we celebrate Manufacturing Day on Friday, we can be thankful that America’s manufacturing sector has never produced more output or been more profitable than in recent years. Further, factory worker productivity has never been higher and the affordability of manufactured goods as a share of disposable personal income has never been greater. That’s a lot to be thankful for, so let me express my gratitude and thanks today to US world-class manufacturers and America’s factory workers.

The post Today is Manufacturing Day, so let’s recognize America’s world-class manufacturing sector and factory workers appeared first on AEI.

01 Oct 19:04

The Right to Rule

by David S. D’Amato

In any American election, the vast majority of people don’t vote. Even among the portion of the American population that is eligible to vote, less than three-fifths turned out for the 2012 presidential contest, with over 90 million eligible voters staying at home on that November day. For those who do vote, the risible scene of the American electoral circus presents them with a choice between two wings of a fundamentally unified political establishment — an apparently indomitable welfare-warfare machine devoted to enriching corporate cronies and stifling the needful spontaneity of genuine freedom. Worse still, in national elections, no individual vote could really matter, and even assuming a single vote were somehow able to impact an election result, our collective electoral decisions extend only to an infinitesimal tip of the iceberg. As Jeffrey Tucker observed last November, “we elect about 0.02 percent of the overall number of people who rule us.” As we bring this picture into focus, we may begin to doubt the authenticity of the claim that ours is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” We may even start to see the actions of the government as essentially usurpatory, as robbing individuals of their right to self-determination.

After all, the state’s advocates frequently cite our right to vote as proof of (or at least evidence supporting) the proposition that we as a whole society collectively consent to being governed. For Rousseau, through the idea of the “general will,” each and every “citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition.” According to Rousseau’s theory, his idea of the social contract, voting is an essential part of the process through which we arrive at this general will, the will of each separate individual being both a part of it and subordinate to it. But if casting a vote is as meaningless a gesture as some of the facts above seem to suggest, then we might have reason to question a social contract theory that relies so heavily on suffrage. Moreover, suppose we accept the argument that voting legitimates the state; we might nevertheless see this, as many libertarian theorists have, as among the best reasons not to vote. As George H. Smith argues, “Libertarians should oppose the vote in principle — they should oppose the mechanism by which political sanctification occurs.” If voting so much as tends to redeem the inherently unjust, coercive state, then arguably sane, peaceful citizens should take all reasonable steps to avoid the voting booth. In condemnatory language similar to Smith’s, the great libertarian polemicist Benjamin Tucker wrote that “[e]very man who casts a ballot necessarily uses it in offense against American liberty, it being the chief instrument of American slavery.”

Rather than asking whether an individual has an unqualified right to liberty, we might invert the question, asking whether some individuals have a right to rule others. If no one may rightfully claim the power to rule others, then governments may rule only with the consent or permission of their subjects. But if the rule of a given government is so predicated—if it is simply the product of voluntary agreement—then we cannot properly define it as “rule” at all, for ruling implies some kind of power imbalance or disparity, a coercive and unequal relationship. An agreement (or contract), by contrast, is defined by the fact that the parties choose to be bound by its terms, following their own free will. Assuming, for argument’s sake, that existing governments are the products of consent and contract, mere delegates or agents of their subscribers, the libertarian can take no issue and lodge no complaint; she cannot object that we are the subjects of arbitrary rule, that we have been offered no choice. The requirements of consent and voluntariness once adhered to, the libertarian program of politics is practically accomplished. Fundamentally, our argument calls for certain means, not particular ends. We must ask, then, whether the state has secured our consent.

As David Hume writes in his Treatise of Human Nature, if you were to ask most people “whether they had ever consented to the authority of their rulers,” you would likely be met with some rather quizzical expressions. Excepting those with a particular interest in political philosophy, it simply doesn’t occur to most people that the absence of consent could provide a basis for calling the authority of government itself into question. But for libertarians, who believe that each individual is a sovereign self-ruler, entitled to make the decisions about her own life, the abstract question Hume (and so many other philosophers) grappled with is rather important. And it’s important not merely as an otiose exercise in navel-gazing, but as a matter of practical ethics—for if government is just another group of people, then we should expect it to follow the general, common-sense rules that govern social conduct.

In his book The Problem of Political Authority, philosopher Michael Huemer confronts one possible theory for reconciling government and consent, the idea of hypothetical consent; this is the theory that although we haven’t actually consented to the authority of the state, we “would consent … under certain hypothetical conditions.” For hypothetical consent to effectively substitute for actual consent, Huemer says, “the obtaining of actual consent must be impossible or unfeasible,” as in the example of an unconscious patient whose condition requires emergency surgery. Most reasonable people would agree that the unobtainability of the patient’s consent should not stand in the way of a doctor’s provision of life-saving care. In such cases, we are forced to accept a counterfactual, to assume that the patient would want to undergo a surgery that would save her life. Suppose, though, that we know this patient to be a devout follower of a religious organization that rejects Western medicine, requiring its members to forbear pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and surgeries altogether. Huemer tells us that, in such circumstances, we can no longer rely on the theory of hypothetical consent, its terms demanding that we honor the “fundamental beliefs and values” of the patient as he has expressed them. All existing governments demonstrably fall short of satisfying the conditions necessary for hypothetical consent. We, the “citizens,” generally do not lack the mental capacity needed for effective consent, and many of us have quite explicitly disavowed government as at odds with our “fundamental beliefs and values.” Yet the machinery of government proceeds undeterred by these defects, like its subjects, hardly aware that it could require any justification.

Suppose, however, that we answer the question differently, admitting that some people do, in fact, have a right to coercively rule others. Granting that some people possess such a right to rule, we would necessarily affirm the old idea that people are not coequals, that some are born with an innate superiority, a result, perhaps, of wealth, ethnic background, family, or some other arbitrary factor. If government is not premised on some kind of consent, then it must be based on a version of this claim, that a relative handful have a natural right to rule the rest of us. Libertarians reject this idea and its practical consequences, endorsing a very different conception of the social contract.

Based on fraud and duress, the social contract, so called, is a nullity, legally ineffectual and commanding no obedience from free people. The French anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon argued that a true social contract means simply “an agreement of man with man,” a system under which all individuals would “abdicate all pretension to govern each other.” Rejecting Rousseau’s social contract theory, Proudhon argued that “[t]he idea of contract excludes that of government.” Many libertarians agree. We look forward to a society in which elections matter even less than they do today, individuals governing themselves free from coercive interference. Complete freedom of this kind does not mean lawless anarchy, but the principled and consistent application of the basic social law, the law of equal liberty, to everyone, leaving no rulers and no ruled.

01 Oct 17:28

Black Lives Matter Has a Pretty Decent Plan. Too Bad they Don't Seem to Know What to Do With It

by admin

There is much to criticize in how the BLM movement operates, but I can get behind much of the plan they introduced last month.  I don't agree with all of it, but I seldom agree with all of any plan I see proposed from any side of the aisle.


In discussing the plan, Kevin Drum fails to address the elephant in the room for the Left in making progress on this, and that is the enormous reluctance of Democrats to challenge a public employee union.  And you can bet that police unions will likely be the biggest barrier to getting a lot of this done, even perhaps ahead of Conservative law-and-order groups (you can see the token sop thrown to unions in point 10 of the plan, but it ain't going to be enough).

By the way, there is much that progressive and conservative groups could learn from each other.  Conservative groups (outside of anti-abortion folks) are loath to pursue the public demonstration and disruption tactics that can sometimes be helpful in getting one's issues on the public agenda.  The flip side is that public disruption seems to be all BLM knows how to do.  It can't seem to get beyond disruption, including the unfathomable recent threat to disrupt an upcoming marathon in the Twin Cities.   It could learn a lot from Conservative and libertarian groups like ALEC, that focus on creating model legislation and local success stories that can be copied in other places.  Many of the steps in BLM's plan cry out of model legislation and successful pilots/examples.

01 Oct 18:00

Sorry, George Carlin, Plastic Is Biodegradable

by Marian L. Tupy

Remember George Carlin’s hilarious skit about plastics? Here is the transcript:

“The planet … is a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, ‘Why are we here?’”

Not so fast! According to a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology by co-authors Professor Jun Yang and Yu Yang of Beihang University, and Stanford University engineer Wei-Min Wu, plastic is biodegradable.

“Plastic, long considered nonbiodegradable and one of the biggest contributors to global pollution, might have met its match: the small, brownish, squirmy mealworm. Researchers have learned that the mealworm can live on a diet of Styrofoam and other types of plastic. Inside the mealworm’s gut are microorganisms that are able to biodegrade polyethylene, a common form of plastic.”

Good news for the planet and for humanity.

01 Oct 17:03

Existential Risk and Technological Advancement

by schneier

AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky coined Moore's Law of Mad Science: "Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point."

Oh, how I wish I said that.

01 Oct 16:40

Unintended Consequences, Libertarian Edition: How A Plea for Reduced Regulation Resulted in More Regulation

by admin

A few days ago, there was an article in our daily fishwrap that said something I found hard to believe.  It said that the state had initiated a crackdown on unlicensed shipments of wine from out of state at the behest of a letter from the Goldwater Institute.  It even had a picture (at least in the online edition) of Clint Bolick, Goldwater's chief of litigation.

Essentially, most states do not allow or severely restrict direct purchase by consumers of liquor products from out of state.  As usual for such protectionist stupidity, it is claimed to be for the children, but in fact mainly is meant to protect a small, very powerful group of liquor distributors who make a fortune from their state-granted monopoly on liquor wholesaling.  Basically, by some outdated post-prohibition laws, every drop of alcohol in the state must pass through the hands of a couple of companies, who of course extract their toll like Baron's of old with castles on the Rhine.

I simply found it unfathomable that Clint Bolick, a founder of the Institute for Justice (IC) for god sakes, would be pestering the state to more vigorously enforce stupid, outdated, and protectionist licensing laws.  And it turns out I was right.  

Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute’s director of litigation, said he sent the state a letter in November 2012 asking it to get rid of a rule that required customers to show up at certain wineries annually in order to get direct shipments to their homes.

Bolick’s letter, which he provided to The Republic and azcentral, said that rule made no sense and would stop Arizonans from joining wine clubs, where wineries send a designated amount of wine to customers each year, sometimes including wines not available to the general public.

“A requirement of annual presence also does not serve any obvious public purpose, given that the purchaser has established age and identity at the time of the order,” he wrote.

Bolick said he met with the director of the department at the time, Alan Everett, who told him the department would start a regulatory review.

So it turns out that Goldwater was trying to ease regulation and make it easier for consumers to have some choice and access to more suppliers.  All good.

But it turns out "regulatory review" means something different to a state regulator.  I suppose it was too much to think that they might have a review to see if their regulations went too far.  In fact, the "regulatory review" seems to have focused on how they could tighten regulations even further.  The result was not the one Goldwater hoped for ... instead of making things easier on consumers, the state went all-in trying to make things even worse for consumers.

Hill said Bolick's 2012 letter made the department question whether the wineries sending club shipments into Arizona were all licensed.

“It was the basis for us starting to ask questions about who is shipping liquor into the state of Arizona that does not hold an Arizona liquor license,” Hill said....

So far, the department has investigated 223 violations at a total of 199 wineries, according to records obtained through the Liquor Department’s website.

Additionally, somewhere between 250 and 300 wineries were found to have not filed their production reports. Once the department receives those, it could cause some or all of those to be found in violation. Some of those wineries, in order to comply with state liquor laws and have their cases closed, might also agree to not ship wine to Arizona.

Customers frustrated that they cannot get their wine shipped anymore are funding a renewed effort to change the state’s shipping laws. Two California-based groups, The Wine Institute and Free The Grapes, said they are work

It is clear that Goldwater, representing consumers, has very little influence on the state agency.  So who does?  Well, you have probably guessed:

Hill said last Thursday the crackdown came at the request of a member of the Arizona wine industry, saying it was an example of government and industry working together.

Ugh, what a happy thought -- government and industry working together to protect incumbents from competition and restrict consumer choice.

01 Oct 12:50

Montana Law Taking on Federal Militarization of Police Now in Effect

by Mike Maharrey

HELENA, Mont. (Oct. 1, 2015) – Today, a law that will heavily diminish the impact of federal programs militarizing local police in Montana went into effect.

Introduced by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), House Bill 330 (HB330) bans state or local law enforcement from receiving significant classes of military equipment from the Pentagon’s “1033 Program.” It passed by a 46-1 vote in the state Senate and by a 79-20 vote in the state House. Gov. Steve Bullock signed the bill into law in April.

Schwaderer told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle he was a surprised Bullock signed the bill. He said he feared the governor would cave in to law enforcement lobbyists who opposed the legislation and veto the bill.

“I’m incredibly pleased. In the latter part of the session you see so much partisanship so it’s heartening to see that both Democrats and Republicans could get behind it. It’s no lightweight bill. It substantially changes policy in a way that strengthens the civil liberties of Montanans.”

The new law prohibits state or local law enforcement agencies from receiving armored drones, weaponized, or both; aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded; grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers; silencers; and “militarized armored vehicles” from federal military surplus programs.

But, as The Guardian reported last fall, handouts of such equipment from the Pentagon aren’t the only way the federal government militarizes local police. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants used to purchase such equipment amount to three times the value of the equipment given away by the Pentagon.

HB330 closes this loophole by banning law enforcement agencies from purchasing such military equipment with federal grants. They could continue to purchase them, but would have to use state or local funds, and the agencies would have to give public notice within 14 days of a request for any such local purchase.

“This foundation sets a massive precedent in Montana and the country as to what kind of society we want to have,” Schwaderer said of his bill. “If you get to the point where you need a grenade launcher, we’ve got the National Guard.”

Last March, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that, while not as comprehensive as the Montana bill, prohibits receipt of equipment from the 1033 program without an express authorization from the local governing body. This made his state the first to take a step towards stopping the federal militarization of police.

“By making it a local decision, the New Jersey law is a great first step, but the Montana law takes things to the next level,” Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said. “It closes loopholes and covers almost all the bases. The next step would be to expand the equipment banned, and we’re hopeful that good people in Montana will work on that next session.”


Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters and other aircraft.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

Local agencies almost never have the funds needed to purchase this kind of equipment, and federal money is the only way they can afford it. By banning purchases with federal funding, HB330 would effectively nullify the effect of such federal “grant” programs.


“Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the Founders,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’”

In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”

By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear and requiring them to report on their acquisition and use, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.

“Sunshine is the salve of good government,” Schwaderer said.

That is exactly what HB330 will start to bring to Montana.


For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police HERE.

01 Oct 11:35

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


… is from pages 6-7 of David Neumark’s and William L. Wascher’s 2008 book, Minimum Wages:

Based on the extensive research we have done, and our reading of the research done by others, we arrive at the following four main conclusions regarding the outcomes that are central to policy debate about minimum wages.  First, minimum wages reduce employment opportunities for  less-skilled workers, especially those who are most directly affected by the minimum wage.  Second, although minimum wages compress the wage distribution, because of employment and hours declines among those whose wages are most affected by minimum wage increases, a higher minimum wage tends to reduce rather than to increase the earnings of the lowest-skilled individuals.  Third, minimum wages do not, on net, reduce poverty or otherwise help low-income families, but primarily redistribute income among low-income families and may increase poverty.  Fourth, minimum wages appear to have adverse longer-run effects on wages and earnings, in part because they hinder the acquisition of human capital.

Yep.  Just as McDonald’s ability to find willing buyers for its burgers would be hampered rather than enhanced if government sets a minimum burger price – a regulation preventing any burger joint from offering to sell its burgers at prices lower than prices charged by gourmet burger restaurants – so, too, the lowest-skilled workers’ ability to find willing buyers for their labor services is hampered rather than enhanced when government prevents the lowest-skilled workers from offering to sell their labor services at wages lower than wages charged by higher-skilled workers.  (An amazing fact is that many proponents of the policy of stripping low-skilled workers of one of their most effective bargaining chips fancy such a policy to be humane.)

01 Oct 14:00

I got to try the new earbuds that don't play music but let you 'remix' the sounds around you — and they've only gotten better

by Nathan McAlone

Concert 2This summer Doppler Labs introduced the concept of an earbud that didn’t play music, but instead customized the sounds around you. These “Here” earbuds would let you turn the bass up during a concert, or mute the sound of a baby crying next to you on a plane.

The idea quickly captured people’s imagination.

Some 2,855 backers pledged $635,189 on the company’s Kickstarter, and many more inundated Doppler’s inbox with requests after the campaign had closed, CEO Noah Kraft tells Business Insider. Doppler was then able to raise $17 million from venture capitalists to make the concept a reality.

This outpouring of public interest wasn’t just a boost to Kraft’s ego, the intense interest also helped shape what “Here” would eventually become, he says.

When Doppler began to solicit feedback from its new community of Kickstarter backers, there was one message that came through clear. What people were most excited about wasn’t being able to mute the sound of an airplane. This might have been useful for grabbing the attention of the general public, but for the people who were willing to plunk down hard cash for a product they had never tested, the draw was always music.

“Our heritage as a company is in music,” Kraft told me when I recently visited Doppler's headquarters in SoHo. Kraft says he was excited that this was the element of the product that inspired early adopters. “It was great to get that validation and be able to continue [in that direction].” Since July, Doppler has doubled down on music, letting it guide the development as the team closed in on the final product.

“We could have focused on a lot of things,” Kraft says, but he, and early investors like composer Hans Zimmer and Tiesto, are thrilled that it’s music. "It proved our hypothesis. That there was a small but deeply passionate community that wanted to remix live music."

Live EQ

So what was the updated version like? I tested the (almost) final prototype during my latest visit to Doppler Labs.

The first thing I noticed was the form factor, which is the version that will ship to Kickstarter backers in mid-December. The buds fit well, and Kraft says the company’s goal is a 98% fit rate by the time they ship. Doppler’s last product, the futuristic earplugs named “Dubs,” had a 92% fit rate.

But on to the music.

The “effects” are Here’s main selling point, and they are an audio geek’s dream. These effects allow you to bass boost live music, or mess with things like reverb and flange. And of course, you can also turn the volume up or down.

For the Kickstarter release, the focus for these effects is on complete customization. Kraft says that when the buds hit the general market early next year, there will be a lot more “presets” available. But for the Kickstarter backers, the focus is control. This means you don’t just turn on or off an effect, but are also able to manipulate the way it works on high or low frequencies — fine tuning the entire experience.

In fact, Here’s “live eq” (equalizer) function, is something Kraft is particularly proud of. This feature lets you alter different frequencies of sound — like bass, mids, and trebs — and allows you to easily remix live audio.

The “eq” and effects are crisper than when I tested the product in July, and still feel a bit like magic when you remember that this music isn’t coming from your headphones. My first time with Here buds reminded me of my first time using the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. There was a strange feeling of it being real and not real at the same time.

One final difference from the early prototype I tried is that Doppler has finalized “zero latency,” meaning there is no discernible disconnect between the sounds around you and the ones coming into your ears through the earbuds.

Doppler in office shoot (6 of 90)Doppler will supplement its mid-December Kickstarter rollout with live events that showcase its tech. For its first product, Dubs, Doppler partnered with Coachella to bring the high-tech earplugs to every concertgoer. Look for similar events to come early next year.

Kraft also hinted at potential Apple Watch integration in the final version.

If you are interested in how to snag some Here buds, check out Doppler’s newly revamped website.   

SEE ALSO: Amazon just made a big move to compete with Spotify and Apple Music

Join the conversation about this story »

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01 Oct 09:42

A new fusion process

by Bishop Hill

A collaboration between researchers in Sweden and Icelands claim to have developed a new nuclear fusion process. It's based on deuterium, and takes place in in small laser-initiated reactors. More importantly they say that they have already got it generating more power than it consumes.

The laser-induced nuclear fusion process in ultra-dense deuterium D(0) gives a heating power at least a factor of 2 larger than the laser power into the apparatus, thus clearly above break-even. This is found with 100-200 mJ laser pulse-energy into the apparatus. No heating is used in the system, to minimize problems with heat transfer and gas transport. This gives sub-optimal conditions, and the number of MeV particles (and thus their energy) created in the fusion process is a factor of 10 below previous more optimized conditions. Several factors lead to lower measured heat than the true value, and the results found are thus lower limits to the real performance. With the optimum source conditions used previously, a gain of 20 is likely also for longer periods.

Inevitably with nuclear fusion, a degree of caution is always advisable. Nevertheless, it's an interesting paper, which can be seen here.


01 Oct 10:00

Is There Evidence of Frantic Researchers “Adjusting” Unsuitable Data? (Now Includes July Data)

by justthefactswuwt

Didn't read the whole thing. Just the comment from rgb@duke.

Guest Post by Professor Robert Brown from Duke University and Werner Brozek, Edited by Just The Facts: The above graphic shows RSS having a slope of zero from both January 1997 and March 2000. As well, GISS shows a positive slope of 0.012/year from both January 1997 and March 2000. This should put to rest…