June 30, 2013

From My Cold Dead Hands, Governor!

Too early for the BBQ, but I did make it to Pri-Paired.


Please come join us for Midnight Magazine Madness.

Sunday, June 30th we will be staying open to sell magazines up through midnight.

The Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches will be flowing.

Make sure you put your name in at the hat for the magazine and ammo give away.

Be the last person to receive a mag, the give away mags will be handed out at 11:59.

There may be special guest.............come see!

Tell all your friends and family.

I bought two, 30-round, .223 magazines as a statement of liberty and for a gun I might buy someday. It is either the coolest or most pointless thing I have ever done; I am still deciding.

Open until Midnight!

But johngalt thinks:

Maybe I'll swing by on Monday and we'll tweet the governor pictures of us handing them back and forth to each other.

Posted by: johngalt at June 30, 2013 5:37 PM
But Jk thinks:

Yeah, if any of you need to borrow these, let me know.

Posted by: Jk at June 30, 2013 5:47 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm thinking we can work out a monthly lending program. I'll lend mine to someone else and borrow yours. Maybe Caldera wants to play too. Before we know it someone will be lending you some to replace yours!

Posted by: johngalt at June 30, 2013 7:15 PM
But jk thinks:

No, I've got it -- Hickenlooper Roulette!

You put five of your magazines and one of your buddy's in a cloth sack. You draw one out at random . . . you get the other guy's BOOM! You're a felon!!!

Posted by: jk at July 1, 2013 9:15 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I went for the big finale at midnight last night. Got a free mag! Someone asked, "Is Magpul going to start making smaller magazines? I hope they do. What else are Coloradoans going to do when they need magazines?"

"What we're going to do is change the law," said I.

Posted by: johngalt at July 1, 2013 2:19 PM

Review Corner

One argument for feminism was that we were wasting the potential of half of humanity. We're no better off if we just waste the other half.
That's from Helen Smith's Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters . Readers of Instapundit and of Dr. Helen will be familiar with the thesis of this book. She sees lower participation of young men in education, marriage and the workforce as evidence that they are "going Galt:" that subtle -- and not so subtle -- biases against men have given them a rational interest in avoiding institutions that are hostile.
Most men are not acting irresponsibly because they are immature or because they want to harm women; they are acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives today's society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In addition, many are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be harmed by the myriad of laws, attitudes and backlash against them for the simple crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century.
She draws the comparison to Atlas Shrugged (don't worry, it's much shorter), so I will keep with it. I cannot point out a single item in the entire book and say "no, she is wrong." Yet, I find myself strangely not on board. "Men on Strike" does not match my personal life experience. I worked in a male-dominated industry and missed, by advantage of birth year, the worst of what Smith lays out.

She and her husband are steeped in academia, which I posit is the worst offender. I would share this book with a young man and I would consider counseling him to avoid a traditional campus education if he were at all ambivalent about his goals. In my day, college was a pretty good place for a moderately ambitious young person to "find himself or herself." You might change your major or meet a soulmate or transfer, but you would be racking up credit hours. Now between Dr. Helen's book and Glenn's Higher Education Bubble [Review Corner], I don't think that is still true. You're instead racking up debt and potential rights abuses.

On these hollowed pages we champion the right of risk-taking provided the risks are known. This book is eye-opening for risks. I was surprised by some of the paternity cases judged against men who were not the father, or were tricked, or in one case were essentially assaulted. That is grim reading and calls for action.

I was aware -- probably thanks to her blogging -- about the lack of due process afforded young men on campus if accused of harassment or even sexual assault. It is deeply disturbing that one's Fifth Amendment rights are discarded casually (like First and Second, but I digress...). Likewise, I agree that the alimony and custody procedures are anachronistic and in need of reform.

I do split off when the discussion turns to depictions in media. When Pizza Hut jokes about "Dad can't cook -- it's Pizza Night!" it really isn't Selma for me. I think men are ridiculed because they're the last group you're allowed to tease. No, that's not fair. But I'd rather see us lighten up about women, Jews, Blacks, gay Armenians and Mormon pole dancers rather that get more uptight about white dudes. Just me.

While it does not match my life and while I would still counsel a young man toward marriage (Yes, there are a million bad stories, but it's winning the lottery when it works), I cannot ignore or discount the dangers she exposes:

As one of my insightful readers, David, said, "the issue of marginal men is something that should be looked at from the point of view of innovation and advancement being replaced by a stalled nation. A stalled nation has its men in idle. Highly active men in a town of 50,000 can do remarkable things--that's all the Renaissance was. What can a small town do when the street corner is littered with men and feral dogs? Risk aversion does not a 'Start-up Nation' make."

Though-provoking and a great read (and probably a good buy for one's nephews...) Four stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:28 AM | What do you think? [6]
But Jk thinks:

On the other hand... where are the boys?

Posted by: Jk at June 30, 2013 8:47 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

So when I was a missionary I pretty much spent all two years in the ghetto. You know, places with lots of immigrants, black people, and really poor white people. Not a lot of marriage.

This was a kind of big issue for us, since chastity is something we Mormons care a lot about, and do not sanction cohabitation without marriage. So I had lots of discussions with people about why they didn't want to do it.

Sometimes the women would just straight out and say "Why would I marry a guy like that? No job, lazy - I don't want to be stuck with him forever." Other times both sides would agree on something a bit more moderate "We can't commit to something like that; we do not have the resources to care for a family" (which they were usually doing anyway...) or something else close to this. The general impression was that the inability of the men to hold down a job - because they were lazy, because they had a felony (and with the war on drugs that is a lot of people), or because there just weren't enough jobs for people at their skill level to go around. It did not make economic sense for the women to hitch themselves to someone who was going to drag them down.

Really terrible situation. 'specially 'cuz at that level families need two or more jobs to pay the rent. How do you create perpetual poverty? Raise the costs of living until families need two breadwinners and then tell people they shouldn't get married.

Posted by: T. Greer at July 1, 2013 1:57 AM
But jk thinks:

Well, yes, but at least Roxbury was free of drugs -- think of how much worse it would have been if they had had weed.

Sorry for the snark on your thoughtful comment, but I have a reputation to protect.

You should share that on Dr. Helen's blog. The book is targeted higher up the socioeconomic ladder where the men and women have more and better choices.

Posted by: jk at July 1, 2013 9:25 AM
But johngalt thinks:

A question for TG: Did you ever visit any poor folks in rural areas, or only in cities?

Posted by: johngalt at July 2, 2013 1:02 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

No, I was never out in West Massachusetts or Vermont. Other missionaries were there, but I was, for whatever reason, never sent to the rural boon-docks. Inner city was the name of the game.

I have lived in rural areas - when I was attending college in Hawaii I lived in Laie, HI, pop. 6,138. Right now I live in Grantsville, UT, pop. 8,893. Can't say that either place was poor in the same way that New Haven, CT or Lowell, MA were - Grantsville, for example, is in the midst of an economic boom. Unlike most rural cities, its population has doubled since 1990. (Similar story in Laie, but at about half speed).

Sill just as many horses as people though.

Posted by: T. Greer at July 3, 2013 1:47 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I ask because of your comment about the cost of living in an urban area. I wonder how many people live in cities because they don't know any other way to live, but could live more comfortably on less income in a small town? A truly benevolent government would try to encourage such lifestyles rather than discourage them, as it does today.

Posted by: johngalt at July 3, 2013 3:38 PM

June 28, 2013

Important News!

Yahoo News:

Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain known for its chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and Christian evangelism, has once again positioned itself at the center of America's gay marriage debate, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

On Wednesday, the company's president, Dan Cathy, sent out a tweet criticizing the Supreme Court’s rulings, which extended federal recognition to same-sex marriages and paved the way for the return of gay marriage in California.

"Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies," Cathy wrote. His post was later deleted, but not before the Atlanta-Journal Constitution obtained a screenshot of it.

Still no news on what the President of Burger King has to say on Citizen's United v FEC, but I think we can guess Jack-in-the-Box's displeasure over Raich v Gonzales

Posted by John Kranz at 1:12 PM | What do you think? [0]


How Libertarian is jk? Well, according to Bryan Caplan's Libertarian Purity Test 78/160, or:

51-90 points: You are a medium-core libertarian, probably self-consciously so. Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much.

Amen Bryan...

Internecine Posted by John Kranz at 8:59 AM | What do you think? [6]
But johngalt thinks:

I scored a perfect 100.

Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2013 3:33 PM
But jk thinks:

?! We need to diff our responses over beer someday. Brother Bryan and some Objectivist pals were complaining that big-Os scored low (...and who does this punk think he is?)

Posted by: jk at June 28, 2013 3:51 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I expect our pal Perry would score highest of us all. If you score 160 you aren't necessarily a perfect libertarian, or even Libertarian, but you probably are a perfect anarchist.

Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2013 7:28 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And yes, a line-by-line discussion would be welcome. I do still owe you a brew for the GLD-SP500 bet. Or if I don't, I would happily pay it again.

Posted by: johngalt at June 28, 2013 7:30 PM
But T. Greer thinks:


Which surprised me, given the number of things on the first tier I disagreed with. I guess those ones I did support I supported all the way to their most radical options.

Posted by: T. Greer at June 28, 2013 10:54 PM
But jk thinks:

And on Facebook, I see Brother Keith edges me out. I'm pleased that ThreeSources is a hotbed of anarchy, but disappointed that I am the stodgy old conservative.

Posted by: jk at June 30, 2013 10:25 AM

June 27, 2013

Quote of the Day

Mr. Obama fancies himself a constitutional lawyer, yet as President he has exhibited an odd view of his powers. He's invited Congress to limit his authority on national security where it is constitutionally the strongest, yet he has sought to steal power from Congress via regulation when his legal right is dubious. The Justices have an opportunity to give Mr. Obama a refresher course. -- WSJ Ed Page

Gun Laws

The founder/proprietor of Pri-Paird.com is a Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons regular, ex-military, ex-cop, friend of freedom.

They're having a little do to ring out the last day of Second Amendment rights in Colorado:

Please come join us for Midnight Magazine Madness.

Sunday, June 30th we will be staying open to sell magazines up through midnight.

The Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches will be flowing.

Make sure you put your name in at the hat for the magazine and ammo give away.

Be the last person to receive a mag, the give away mags will be handed out at 11:59.

There may be special guest.............come see!

Tell all your friends and family.

I got to thinking . . . once we split off and instantiate "North Colorado," we will need some firearms regulations. I am thinking "no magazine under ten rounds allowed." If you have one manufactured and purchased before the law goes into effect, you may keep it as long as it stays "in your continuous possession." Sorry, but we take safety very seriously in NC.

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 3:16 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

Awesome! Looks like fun. And I am a schlub for not even knowing about that place, right in my back yard. Thank you!

One request - Can we please set the minimum mag size at 7 for my 1911 pals?

Posted by: johngalt at June 27, 2013 4:02 PM
But jk thinks:

A .45 exemption may be in the works. I'll check with committee...

Posted by: jk at June 27, 2013 4:36 PM

June 26, 2013

Project for Awesome

Segue machine, Engage! The previous post lamented that cheap money could not "create new technologies. It can't make older people younger."

Project for Awesome, originating in the Colorado Springs area as far as I can tell, shows us what can do - both of those.

P4A 2012 - SENS Foundation

[Wanted to embed but seems to be broken, or disabled.]

Cheap Money and its Critics

We have a family joke that originated with former Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, explaining why his team had lost a particular game, saying, "I can't run the ball, I can't catch the ball, I can only throw the ball. I can't do everything." So now, to "Richie can't DO everything" we can add, "Cheap money can't DO everything."

Robert Samuelson, a man I don't recall agreeing with ever before, explains on the IBD Ed page:

Cheap credit addresses none of these problems directly and, indirectly, does so only weakly. It can't erase the memories of the financial crisis. It can't create new technologies. It can't make older people younger.

At best, cheap money aided the housing recovery; at worst, it became a stock-market narcotic that can't be withdrawn painlessly.

Many countries face obstacles to growth that cheap money won't magically remove.

This raises a larger issue. Economists have been taught in graduate school that advances in their discipline make it possible to stabilize and, within broad boundaries, control economic activity. But what if that's not so? The ferocious debates among economists indicate that the consensus has broken down.

Who says there ever was a consensus? Ah yes, "The economics is settled."

June 25, 2013

Bag Fee Bingo

"It's re-cycling!"

Reader, prepare thyself. I'm going to unload on the city government of Boulder, Colorado. I know, completely out of character for me.

I read today, in a Boulder Daily Camera dot com banner ad no less, that Boulder's grocery bags will come with a shiny new 10 cent per bag tax starting Monday, July 1. So it adds a buck to the monthly family grocery trip, I mused. Big deal. Then I read the city's justification for the new "Disposable Bag Fee."

Fee proceeds will be used to offset the impact of bags in our community. For more information please see the "Frequently Asked Questions" link below.

"Impacts?" Yes, friend. The lowly grocery bag has a societal "impact."

Boulder currently uses approximately 33 million checkout bags a year, or about 342 bags/person/year. Plastic bags are produced from non-renewable resources, are very difficult to recycle (they cannot go in Boulder’s curbside bins), and contaminate our recycling facility equipment, leading to increased operating costs.

Bingo! Boulder's recycling facility, mockingly dubbed the "Taj Mahal of Trash" by then Boulder Weekly editor Wayne Laugensen, costs a lot to operate. And with the supply of recycled material on the rise, market value is surely falling. How can Boulder afford to keep the doors open? I wonder.

33 million bags per year is 3.3 million dollars collected from grocery shoppers, assuming an inelastic response to the paltry dollar per visit cost. An earlier version of the linked page cited a trash load of about 781 tons of bags per year. So after the 4 cent per bag payoff to the, pardon the pun, "bag men" who extract the "fee" from shoppers, almost $2 million goes to the city each year. If those 781 tons were landfilled [blasphemy!] the offsetting cost per ton would be $2560.

On my last visit to the landfill I believe the dump fee was less than 1 percent of this amount. I'm wondering, when will someone calculate and devise a way to cope with the impact of city government in Boulder's community? Oh well, at least I debited the program one more click fee for the banner ad.

But jk thinks:

Coloradans let Californians try out new ideas -- then we adopt all of their worst failures!

Bag bans cause disease and impinge on customers' time and convenience. All for a minute reduction of a small and safe part of the waste stream.

Whenever you think reason and rational thought will prevail reread this post. We are so doomed.

Posted by: jk at June 26, 2013 9:35 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Most of us believed this problem was solved by the biodegradable bag, but that novel invention just opened a new can of worms. Critics complain that they only degrade in the presence of water and oxygen, but landfills are designed to reduce such exposure. The seemingly obvious response is, so what? They're in a landfill!

The other major complaint is that biodegradable bags contaminate the waste stream of other recyclable plastics. In other words, they are trash. Okay, landfill them then.

Clearly I don't appreciate the enormity of the problem of sorting through every persons trash and trying to make it "disappear." Am I a troglodyte, or do I just have more important things to devote my life toward?

Posted by: johngalt at June 26, 2013 11:41 AM
But jk thinks:

Just once, I want to be on the easy-to-explain side. We have the economic benefits of fracking -- they have "You're poisoning our children's water!"

This is another: "33 Million Bags a Year! Ehrmigawd!" You and I say "So what? It's a big world!" but their side is very compelling.

Posted by: jk at June 26, 2013 4:10 PM
But johngalt thinks:

How about when they say, "Somebody should do something" we say, "Are you busy around, say, 6 pm? Or would you rather make a donation? TANSTAAFL."

Posted by: johngalt at June 26, 2013 5:46 PM

Quote of the Day

Mondo Heh:




I've Got Rhythm

George & Ira Gershwin

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com

Take the new gut-string out for a spin...

UPDATE: Never turn down a request! Permalink

But Terri thinks:


Posted by: Terri at June 25, 2013 12:24 PM
But johngalt thinks:

AND yummy!

Posted by: johngalt at June 25, 2013 2:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

(Needs a permalink though.)

Posted by: johngalt at June 25, 2013 2:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:

You've earned another view. MMMMMMMmmmm!

Posted by: johngalt at June 26, 2013 3:50 PM

June 24, 2013

Life Imitates ThreeSources

James Pethokoukis at AEI reaches about the same conclusion I did with his colleague, Henry Olsen's, look at Libertarians versus Post-Moderns. But JimiP has a cool Venn diagram -- I did not.


In a Madisonian system, the only reason to have a party is to get a plurality of the vote. If you don't have a consistent shot at 50.0000001%, you have a PAC, a club, a 527, a 501c(n), or a Facebook page. Semper Fusionism, Libertario Delenda Est!

But johngalt thinks:
But you can certainly have pro-growth, pro-market policies that boost per capita GDP and enhance income mobility and make voters feel they are not completely at the mercy of an economy buffeted by technological change and globalization.

This was the premise of the economic system in RAH's "For Us The Living." Dagny and I really need to do a Review Corner on that. It's nothing new either, having roots at least as far back as Milton Friedman's negative income tax. (Yeah, look where that has gotten us.) Putting these ideas into the hands of practical politicians is like giving Curt Cobain free morphine. There must first be an effective and unavoidable de-naturant. For a while it was the "stigma" of being "on the dole" but modern economic "medicine" has done away with that unpleasant side-effect.

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2013 3:25 PM

Quote of the Day

Of course, since Ben Bernanke is almost certainly a short-timer, such radical action is hardly worth the bother. And in truth, the suggestion isn't a serious one. If Washington or any other rich economy dumped central bankers for every mess-up, their longevity would be roughly that of a Spinal Tap drummer. -- James Pethokoukis
But johngalt thinks:

So Bernanke acted to "turn a modest recession into the Great Recession, and sparked the Financial Crisis" in October of an election year with a Republican presidential incumbent, and acted to "offset U.S. fiscal austerity" in the same period with a Democrat presidential incumbent. Damned fortunate for Democrats, wouldn't you say?

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2013 3:15 PM


Damn Republicans! They have finally screwed up the immigration bill so badly that even I must withdraw my support.

I was prepared for a total hash and have been riding along. A bad bill is better than no bill. It will have some good parts and some bad parts, but the GOP as a party can move on, and any extra immigration allowed will contribute to economic growth.

But I cannot get on board with what the WSJ calls "Checkpoint Carlos." This is not the border of a free nation:

Though peace between the U.S. and Mexico has been unbroken since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Senate Republicans are making contingency plans in case of another Pancho Villa. In an amendment to the immigration bill that comes to the floor Monday, they now promise a "border surge" akin to the military campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Which is to say, the 1,190-page agreement brokered by Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota does not merely appropriate martial tropes and metaphors that used to be reserved for war. Messrs. Corker and Hoeven say the plan will "maximally secure" the border, while New York Democrat Chuck Schumer calls it "a breathtaking show of force." He means that as a compliment.
The only other virtue of Corker-Hoeven is that it is transparently an exercise in political expediency. Republicans believe they need this excess in order to justify their votes for immigration reform to the rank and file, and maybe they do, alas.

But this also underscores that immigration reform is getting worse as it goes along. Instead of recognizing the realities of an integrating North American labor market and the U.S. economy's needs in a competitive world, this is becoming an exercise in government overregulation, Big Labor allocation of visas, business harassment and now the militarization of 1,969 miles in the middle of nowhere.

The shame is double because some of the worst elements are being added by Republicans who claim to believe in spending restraint and economic freedom.

I was indeed prepared for bad stuff. But this is an arms race with House Republicans demanding more and more militarization and Democrats and deal makers offering it up in spades to get an agreement.

I reluctantly withdraw my support. Let us be the party of slower growth and impeded freedom before we become East Germany.

Immigration Posted by John Kranz at 9:29 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Fear not. Even if the bill passes, which I hope it does not, any such "militarization" will be temporary to the extent it happens at all. Once the Administration gets authorization for the things it wants they'll pay only lip service to the things they find abhorrent. Things like border security.

I don't have a cogent opinion on border security. I thought I believed it should be clamped down but everyone who asked for a temporary visa should receive one, barring a criminal record or some such. That still seems a good idea, and could easily be financed and manned with a fraction of the savings from closing all of our foreign military bases. (Well, lookie there, JG sounding all Big "L".)

At any rate, many pundits warn that the immigration bill is a stepping stone to amnesty and instant citizenship, i.e. 11-plus million new voters on the rolls, certain to vote more D than R.

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2013 3:01 PM

June 23, 2013

"This is gonna be so much better than the Tea Party"

The TEA Party provokes a response in consumer advertising.

But jk thinks:


Posted by: jk at June 23, 2013 11:48 AM
But johngalt thinks:

The "children of the revolution" prefer coffee to tea.

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2013 3:18 PM
But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2013 3:20 PM

Review Corner

Hat-tip Blog friend SC. Today's selection was spotted on his shelf: The Rational Optimist (P.S.) by Matt Ridley.

Yet, I am a big fan of his work, and it fits eerily perfectly in my Deutsch-McCloskey-Lal-Hubbard examination of economic history and our specie’s elevation from privation. It's truly a wonder I missed this -- it was published in 2010.

Ridley doesn't contradict the others. He does recognize more activity at the left tail. Most works of this ilk start the wonder at The Enlightenment, or Industrial Revolution, or some Capitalizable Date. Ridley looks a bit further back at incremental if not explosive growth and innovation leading up, such that the Industrial Revolution becomes more an inflection point than a launching pad.

And what launched this incredible ride from living as animals to living like people? Ideas having sex. (I do remember reading reviews or compilations of this -- that's a memorable phrase). Unique to man is not ideas so much as sharing them. An asexual creature can evolve, but the mutation and selection process is exponentially accelerated by sex. So too does innovation happen when I see your hay baler and think how I could make a metronome along the same lines.

Neanderthals had all of these: huge brains, probably complex languages, lots of technology. But they never burst out of their niche. It is my contention that in looking inside our heads, we would be looking in the wrong place to explain this extraordinary capacity for change in the species. It was not something that happened within a brain. It was some thing that happened between brains. It was a collective phenomenon.
I am going to argue that the answer lies not in climate, nor genetics, nor in archaeology, nor even entirely in 'culture', but in economics. Human beings had started to do something to and with each other that in effect began to build a collective intelligence. They had started, for the very first time, to exchange things between unrelated, unmarried individuals; to share, swap, barter and trade. Hence the Nassarius shells moving inland from the Mediterranean. The effect of this was to cause specialisation, which in turn caused technological innovation, which in turn encouraged more specialisation, which led to more exchange -- and 'progress' was born,

If I were to give my Facebook friends one book to explain me -- well it wouldn't really matter because they wouldn't read it -- but this book would be a great choice. Like Deutsch, Ridley is a big fan of affluence and modernity. He looks at a pastoral hamlet setting of 1800 in much the same way I would. There's a warm fire in the hearth, Father is reading from the Bible and the children pour water from an earthenware jug as Mother prepares dinner
Outside there is no noise of traffic, there are no drug dealers and neither dioxins nor radioactive fall-out have been found in the cow's milk. All is tranquil; a bird sings outside the window.

Oh please! Though this is one of the better-off families in the village, father's Scripture reading is interrupted by a bronchitic cough that presages the pneumonia that will kill him at 53 -- not helped by the wood smoke of the fire. (He is lucky: life expectancy even in England was less than 40 in 1800.) The baby will die of the smallpox that is now causing him to cry; his sister will soon be the chattel of a drunken husband. The water the son is pouring tastes of the cows that drink from the brook. Toothache tortures the mother. The neighbour's lodger is getting the other girl pregnant in the hayshed even now and her child will be sent to an orphanage. The stew is grey and gristly yet meat is a rare change from gruel; there is no fruit or salad at this season. It is eaten with a wooden spoon from a wooden bowl. Candles cost too much, so firelight is all there is to see by. Nobody in the family has ever seen a play, painted a picture or heard a piano. School is a few years of dull Latin taught by a bigoted martinet at the vicarage. Father visited the city once, but the travel cost him a week's wages and the others have never travelled more than fifteen miles from home. Each daughter owns two wool dresses, two linen shirts and one pair of shoes. Father’s jacket cost him a month’s wages but is now infested with lice. The children sleep two to a bed on straw mattresses on the floor. As for the bird outside the window, tomorrow it will be trapped and eaten by the boy.

And a happy Earth Day to you too, Mister Ridley! He nods to Deirdre McCloskey, but seeks to flip causation: perhaps wealth comes first:
Contrary to the cartoon, it was commerce that freed people from narrow materialism, that gave them the chance to be different. Much as the intelligentsia continued to despise the suburbs, it was there that tolerance and community and voluntary organisation and peace between the classes flourished; it was there that the refugees from cramped tenements and tedious farms became rights-conscious consumers -- and parents of hippies. For it was in the suburbs that the young, seizing their economic independence, did something other than meekly follow father and mother’s advice. By the late 1950s, teenagers were earning as much as whole families had in the early 1940s. It was this prosperity that made Presley, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Brando and Dean resonate. It was the mass affluence of the 1960s (and the trust funds it generated) that made possible the dream of free-love communes. Just as material progress subverts the economic order, so it also subverts the social order -- ask Osama bin Laden, the ultimate spoilt rich kid.

Though optimistic about the prospects for reason and continued growth, he worries about threats to reason from climate change, GMO food opponents, and locavores. He demolishes each bit of nonsense expertly, with a long chapter on agriculture. Continuing the genius of Norman Borlaug with today's tools will allow us to feed the whole world well -- and return a hunk of today's farmland to wilderness. You and Ridley would think the hippies would like that, but if they don't kill it with organic food, locavorism, and opposition to GMO crops, a wondrous world awaits.
Borlaug’s genes, sexually recombined with Haber's ammonium and Rudolf Diesel's internal combustion engine, have rearranged sufficient atoms not only to ensure that Malthus was wrong for at least another half-century, but that tigers and toucans can still exist in the wild.
Should the world decide, as a professor and a chef have both suggested on my radio recently, that countries should largely grow and eat their own food (why countries? Why not continents, or villages, or planets?), then of course a very much higher acreage will be needed. My country happens to be as useless at growing bananas and cotton as Jamaica is at growing wheat and wool. If the world decides, as it crazily started to do in the early 2000s, that it wants to grow its motor fuel in fields rather than extract it from oil wells, then again the acreage under the plough will have to balloon. And good night rainforests. But as long as some sanity prevails, then yes, my grandchildren can both eat well and visit larger and wilder nature reserves than I can. It is a vision I am happy to strive for. Intensive yields are the way to get there.

And do not worry, brother jg, Ridley is on board with "brown energy:"
Fossil fuels cannot explain the start of the industrial revolution. But they do explain why it did not end. Once fossil fuels joined in, economic growth truly took off, and became almost infinitely capable of bursting through the Malthusian ceiling and raising living standards. Only then did growth become, in a word, sustainable.

This leads to a shocking irony. I am about to argue that economic growth only became sustainable when it began to rely on non-renewable, non-green, non-clean power. Every economic boom in history, from Uruk onwards, had ended in bust because renewable sources of energy ran out: timber, crop land, pasture, labour, water, peat. All self-replenishing, but far too slowly, and easily exhausted by a swelling populace. Coal not only did not run out, no matter how much was used: it actually became cheaper and more abundant as time went by, in marked contrast to charcoal, which always grew more expensive once its use expanded beyond a certain point, for the simple reason that people had to go further in search of timber.
This is not to imply that non-renewable resources are infinite – of course not. The Atlantic Ocean is not infinite, but that does not mean you have to worry about bumping into Newfoundland if you row a dinghy out of a harbour in Ireland. Some things are finite but vast; some things are infinitely renewable, but very limited. Non-renewable resources such as coal are sufficiently abundant to allow an expansion of both economic activity and population to the point where they can generate sustainable wealth for all the people of the planet

Ridley does fear "The wrong kind of chiefs, priests and thieves could yet snuff out future prosperity on earth." As do I. But without "a globalised retreat from reason," things don't look too bad:
The more you prosper, the more you can prosper. The more you invent, the more inventions become possible. How can this be possible? The world of things -- of pecans or power stations -- is indeed often subject to diminishing returns. But the world of ideas is not. The more knowledge you generate, the more you can generate. And the engine that is driving prosperity in the modern world is the accelerating generation of useful knowledge.

Five Stars and an Editor's Choice Award.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:34 AM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Rereading, it seems I implied that Ridley considers climate change to be nonsense. I'll share one more excerpt to provide his more nuanced view:

In short, the extreme climate outcomes are so unlikely, and depend on such wild assumptions, that they do not dent my optimism one jot. If there is a 99 per cent chance that the world's poor can grow much richer for a century while still emitting carbon dioxide, then who am I to deny them that chance? After all, the richer they get the less weather dependent their economies will be and the more affordable they will find adaptation to climate change.

Ridley, Matt (2010-06-10). The Rational Optimist (P.S.) (Kindle Locations 4622-4625). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Posted by: jk at June 23, 2013 11:46 AM

June 22, 2013

Five Stars and Two Snaps!


Be troth, ne'er have I gone to th' cinema with more rais-ed hopes! Yet verily twas I, and indeed the lovely bride, bewitched by the Bard's tale as by Mister Whedon spoken.

It was awesome! Shakespeare and Whedon really are a great match. This film is predominantly funny, but has dark characters and intensely dramatic sections: like Buffy in blank verse.

Five stars. Don't wait for the video -- get thee to thy local art cinema!

June 21, 2013

O Say, Can You See?

Is there an Afghani Francis Scott Key? NYTimes reports on a hurdle in the Taliban Peace Talks:

Diplomats were still engaged in discussions about how the Taliban are presenting themselves at their new office here. After Afghan officials angrily announced they would not participate in the talks because the Taliban raised their flag along with a banner reading "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," American officials asked the Qataris to get the Taliban to remove such emblems of legitimacy.

The banner was removed by Wednesday night, and the flag -- on a pole in the compound of the Taliban office -- disappeared from view around the same time. But Thursday morning, in better light, it became apparent that their flag was still flying, albeit on a flagpole that had been shortened a couple of yards so the flag could not be seen above the wall by the general public. It could be seen only through gaps in the high wall -- which is where Afghan Embassy officials were seen Thursday morning, snapping photographs of the scene.

Not quite the drama of Fort Henry, but we work with what we have. Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg "Anyone Notice We Lost a War?"

But even under the rosy scenario -- under which we leave having accomplished . . . Something To Be Specified Later other than having successfully completed the process of "Afghanization" (AKA Vietnamization) --- all that will stand between us and defeat will be Hamid Karzai. I used to like Karzai. I loved the outfits. He always dressed like he was leading a diplomatic delegation on Star Trek; all he needed were a few ridges on his forehead and maybe some cat eyes. But now he inspires as much confidence as a paper-maché submarine.

The opening of the Taliban office in Qatar said it all. They hung up a shingle declaring themselves representatives of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" -- the name they used for Afghanistan before their rule was so rudely interrupted by the Arsenal of Democracy. The notion that they have any intention of giving up their Talibannish ways strikes me as beyond fanciful. They are Aesopian creatures. The scorpion stung the frog because that is what scorpions do. The Taliban enslaves women, persecutes religious minorities, and mutilates children because that is what the Taliban does. If and when the Taliban stops doing these things, it stops being the Taliban.

War on Terror Posted by John Kranz at 10:39 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

How long until America's president is condemning the Afghan president in support of the Taliban's "Afghanistan Spring?" #TwilightZone

Posted by: johngalt at June 21, 2013 11:28 AM

June 20, 2013

A Power in Decline?

Mon Dieu! I believe France has indeed conquered us! A Heh to a certain law blogger:


Posted by John Kranz at 6:22 PM | What do you think? [0]

Quote of the Day

President Obama's words may well have pleased his German government hosts, content to see a United States whose ambitions as a military power have been significantly clipped since George W. Bush left office in 2009. But Barack Obama underscored again why he is no JFK or Ronald Reagan. In front of the Brandenburg Gate, Obama sounded more like the president of the European Commission than the leader of the free world. It is never a good sign when a US president parrots the language of a Brussels bureaucrat when he is supposed to be a champion of freedom. Obama’s distinctly unimpressive speech in Berlin was another dud from a floundering president whose leadership abroad is just as weak as it is at home. -- Nile Gardiner
Tough Room.
But johngalt thinks:

Dare I say, "weaker?"

In 2008 we suffered through the improbably meteoric rise of the dope smokin' affirmative action hero with impeccable personal hygeine and above-average diction, and watched his rent seeking benefactors prop him up for a "fool me twice" scenario in '12. Now, as this duck grows ever the more lame, watching his incompetence chickens come home to roost is Schadenfreude with a capital S.

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 2:29 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Umm, our NSA filter subscription is paid up for the rest of the year, right? Just checking.

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 3:58 PM

Giants Walked the Earth!

Happy Birthday, Chester!!!

Embedding disabled, but click to hear Chet Atkins play Autumn Leaves. Certifiably awesome!

Hoss Music Posted by John Kranz at 1:05 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 2:33 PM

ObamaCare®:Worst Idea Ever?

Nothing new here. Those of you with work you're not trying to procrastinate can skip to the next post. But Elizabeth P Foley and David Rivkin have an interesting guest ed in today's WSJ.

In light of the IRS, NSA, Benghazi, and suggested expansion of inter-league play, Death Panels truly have a corporeal context:

The board, which will control more than a half-trillion dollars of federal spending annually, is directed to "develop detailed and specific proposals related to the Medicare program," including proposals cutting Medicare spending below a statutorily prescribed level. In addition, the board is encouraged to make rules "related to" Medicare.

Or, "...only providers and developers with good lobbyists will provide services..."
The ObamaCare law also stipulates that there "shall be no administrative or judicial review" of the board's decisions. Its members will be nearly untouchable, too. They will be presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed, but after that they can only be fired for "neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."

Once the board acts, its decisions can be overruled only by Congress, and only through unprecedented and constitutionally dubious legislative procedures--featuring restricted debate, short deadlines for actions by congressional committees and other steps of the process, and supermajoritarian voting requirements.

Hey, Lois Lerner is looking for satisfying work!

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 11:19 AM | What do you think? [4]
But johngalt thinks:

"Supermajoritarian" as in "it ain't happening."

"Neglect of duty" to what? The Constitution, or Obamacare? (R)

Dagny was telling me yesterday just how bad this is going to be for small businesses. "The worse, the better, said I. The more people get pissed off, the sooner it will be changed.

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 2:20 PM
But jk thinks:

I join you in millenarianism on this. The Train Wreck option might be the best blow for liberty. I read a good article encouraging opponents not to count on it -- the likely first solution will be more dirigisme -- but it is what we have with the current layout of Congress and the Executive Branch.

Let the skies fall. Let there be blood.

Posted by: jk at June 20, 2013 3:22 PM
But dagny thinks:

I think you two had better be careful what you wish for. Employees take home pay will take a massive whack. Employees will be forced to pay for something they don't want at a price the government deems, "affordable," but they disagree. YET the massive collectivist propaganda machine will still convince them this problem was CAUSED by, business owners and nasty insurance companies and not by the government.

Posted by: dagny at June 20, 2013 6:03 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Fortunately there's a one word answer to that propaganda: Obamacare.

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 6:34 PM

Fusionism: Today's Reading

I can't say I agree with everything in Henry Olsen's NR piece, Rand Paul's Party. But:

a) he gets bonus points for opening with a LOTR reference (that's Tolkien's magnum opus, not our basement beer klatch).

b) he pours a little cold water where it needs be poured.

The story then comes to the present day. Look around you, they say. You all know people just like yourselves: educated; hard workers; makers, not takers. They like low taxes and smaller government. But your friends think conservatives are weird. Why? Because they are turned off by the GOP's fondness for foreign military adventure and disagreements on gay marriage. Remove those barriers and -- voilá! -- an instant new voting bloc appears, just as it did for the blue-state GOP governors.

I hear that every day on some level. My libertarianish buddies wonder why we can't throw these old fuddy-duddies into the creek and go out there and win us some elections!

I'll raise his Tolkien reference with a Buffy quote. Like Spike: "I may be Love's bitch, but at least I am man enough to admit it!" I'd love a coherent liberty party that I'd be proud to associate with, that I wouldn't have embarrassing quotes from low level offices or unvetted candidates thrown in my face. That would be really swell.

But we would never win any elections. Yes, my young and sophisticated friends are turned off by the GOPs position on abortion. But if I wave my magic policy wand and make the Republicans pro-choice, do we get their votes? Hell no -- they're voting "free contraception" thank you very much. In the meantime, we chase away a most dedicated voting block who will crawl over broken glass on election day and vote for the guy who fired their brother and stole his car -- if he is the pro-life candidate.

I am ranting but I am in concert with the linked post. Olsen says the imagined power voting block is projected to be libertarians plus what he calls "Post Moderns." His bad news is that the Post Moderns don't love liberty more than eight inches from their genitalia (my words, not his, this is National Review fer cryin' out loud!)

This leaves us where I have been for years. Before Tea Parties and before (the, ahem, pro-life) Rand Paul's emergence as a GOP Rock Star. We are a 10-19% voting block -- quite powerful, but not on our own. We need to find the least distasteful coalition partners that can get us into office.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 10:10 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

This is interesting. I never considered it in such detail but thought a marginal appeal to traditional Democrat voters would have a marginal benefit for the GOP. We don't have to move an entire voting bloc, just a point from this group and a couple points from another. Before long we're back in the majority.

I find the comparison to LOTR unfairly perjorative. Paul's approach is not "fast and easy" but the political movement which consistently adopts ever more liberty-based positions will ultimately have the widest, strongest and most enduring appeal. While his positions are not consistently pro-liberty, they are more so than any other mainstream pol short of Ted Cruz. Both are on the right track.

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 11:45 AM
But jk thinks:

Fair point, Jeffrey, but if you don't mind my saying so, Jeffrey...

Olsen pitched it against Senator Paul and I stand squarely with you in the Kentuckian's defense. Paul pushes the envelope a good deal, but I would say he nods toward fusionism and could establish a serious candidacy.

(Our blog friend LatteSipper posted an item on Facebook yesterday blasting Paul for taking a states' rights position on marijuana -- and offering a clinical admonition. TheRawStory.com, praise be upon you if you are unfamiliar with it, labeled that as hypocrisy.)

I meant this post in a "Libertario Delenda Est" vein, and my keenest point of interest was in Olsen's description of the "Post Moderns" which might not join in our big tent plans.

Posted by: jk at June 20, 2013 1:25 PM

President Bush -- Miss Him Yet?

Our debonair, sharp-creased, citizen-of-the-world President is in Europe. So glad we won't be embarrassed by that arrogant Texan anymore, aren't you?


George or Jeffrey? Obama mixes up his Osbornes at G8 summit

BBC.com provides the helpful; caption: "UK chancellor George Osborne, left, US soul singer Jeffrey Osborne, right"

UPDATE: Heh, the Sun is a bit less formal than the Beeb: ChanSOULer

But johngalt thinks:

Did he remember to take a new iTunes card for the Queen?

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 2:35 PM

June 19, 2013

Privatization Kills!

Put that in you Milton Friedman pipe and smoke it!

Pennsylvania Posted by John Kranz at 6:06 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Related: A national 0.05% BAC limit is on its way.

At that point, why not just make it zero?

Posted by: johngalt at June 20, 2013 11:50 AM

Don't trust anyone under 24

In fact, particularly if you're 15 or younger, you can commit capital murder and be on the streets at 43. That was the fate of Indiana's Paula Cooper:

Cooper was 15 years old when she used a butcher's knife to cut Ruth Pelke 33 times during a robbery in Gary that ended in Pelke's death. Her three companions -- one only 14 --received lighter sentences, but Cooper confessed to the killing and was sentenced to death by a judge who opposed capital punishment, said former prosecutor Jack Crawford, who sought the death penalty for Cooper. Crawford is now a defense lawyer in Indianapolis and no longer supports capital punishment.

"She sat on her, slicing her," Crawford said. "This was a torture crime."

Enter European "human rights" activists, the Pope and the Supreme Court, and this confessed murderer's fate takes a U-turn.

Two years after Cooper was sentenced to die, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that the execution of young people who were under 16 at the time they committed an offense was cruel and unusual punishment and was thus unconstitutional. Indiana legislators then passed a state law raising the minimum age limit for execution from 10 years to 16, and in 1988, the state's high court set Cooper's death sentence aside and ordered her to serve 60 years in prison.

"Was justice done? Twenty-four years is a long time, but I'm not sure," Crawford said.

The Supreme Court seems to be sure, as does Indiana's former attorney general:

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute anyone who is younger than 18 years when they commit an offense.

Linley E. Pearson, who was Indiana's attorney general when Cooper appealed to the state Supreme Court, said research now shows that the human brain doesn't fully mature until age 24.

"So kids can do a lot of things they wouldn't do if they were an adult," Pearson said.

And, it now seems, essentially get away with it.

Quote of the Day

Tocqueville would not recognize America today. Indeed, so completely has associational life collapsed, and so enormously has the state grown, that he would be forced to conclude that, at some point between 1833 and 2013, France must have conquered the United States. -- Niall Ferguson
But johngalt thinks:

... or, at very least, had conquered her large cities.


Posted by: johngalt at June 19, 2013 2:15 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

Bingo. Indeed, I would suggest that the collapse of the first led to the second.

Posted by: T. Greer at June 20, 2013 12:10 AM

Pathological Altruism

Surprised to be first, but I'll play. I've seen a bit of discussion on Barbara Oakley's Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism. If that doesn't scream ThreeSources, you're hearing impaired.

Taranto discussed it and I know I saw references elsewhere, but Ronald Baily provides a short and excerpt-rich summary.

The above list of pathologies afflicting public policy sounds all too familiar. Although Oakley doesn't bluntly say so, the modern welfare state can be conceived of as being largely a collection of enterprises conjured into existence by pathological altruism. Social security -- discourages citizens from saving and is going bankrupt. Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, ObamaCare, employer based health insurance -- a dysfunctional system of third party payments that boosts overall health care costs without fostering improved care or services. AFDC (now defunct but replaced by lots of other programs) -- encouraged single motherhood and near-permanent unemployment. Subsidized student loans -- enable university bureaucracies to enlarge without improving educational outcomes. Obviously some people have benefited from these programs, but it is at least arguable that the unanticipated consequences, e.g., bankruptcy, dysfunctional families, higher unemployment, worse medical care, and so forth, are likely to overwhelm the good intentions behind them.

The crushing rational advantage that Judaism has over Christianity is that the Jew is responsible (as this neither Talmudic nor Biblical scholar understands it) for the actual results of his charity, not just the intentions. No points for trying. Don't give the junkie enough "food money" to buy his overdose.

I think that changes the world more than a thousand copies of "Atlas Shrugged." I cannot tell you any place where Rand is wrong. But explaining it is a fat lot of unpleasant work, and I lack the gifts of a Yaron Brook.

Yet Oakley's Pathological Altruism -- I can sell that. Look at the housing projects we're now blowing up. Look at the disconnect from family that Daddy Sugar has facilitated. Even Vonnegut had a character who's day was made by doing a simple repair with his own hands.

I sense some people may not be pleased with some implicit concessions that elevate the pragmatic over the philosophical. But this has captured hearts at Reason, the WSJ Ed Page and National Review. This my friends, is a keeper.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 11:43 AM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

There is no time to spare for internecinity here, this is great stuff. But if you think this will take you further with your FB friends and relatives I'd like to know how. Will you tell them, "The science is settled - altruism sucks?" Or, less flippantly, "Have you considered that your altruism bias might blind you to the harm done by your good intentions?"

In the context of scientific research, Oakley notes...

"...that those possessing altruism bias would be most strongly biased to object to the very concept of altruism bias. Research has shown the near impossibility of reaching biased individuals using rational approaches, no matter their level of education or intelligence; such attempts can be likened to squaring the circle."

Posted by: johngalt at June 19, 2013 2:45 PM
But jk thinks:

It puts me into territory I'm comfortable defending. That is more the issue than its correctness.

Goes farther with an FBF because I can say "It's great to help the poor; but the government sucks at it." Ronald Reagan talked about "the truly needy" and I find modest help for them okay provided it is balanced against moral hazard.

The full on Yaron Brook moral case is compelling, but it seems to require an open minded listener listening, and Yaron Brook speaking. I don't see that's establishing a plurality.

It also meshes with fusionism. If my FBFs remain unconvinced, at least I brought James Taranto and the National Review to the party. They're never coming to an Objectivist do unless you serve those really good appetizers and have a free bar.

Posted by: jk at June 19, 2013 3:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Fair enough all 'round but I read that article and thought, repeatedly, "Duh!" Was this really a revelation to Taranto and NR? Breathtaking.

Posted by: johngalt at June 19, 2013 3:54 PM

June 18, 2013

Edward Snowden: Is he a Winter or an Autumn?

I remain convincible on the NSA program. It is a fine example of Arnold Kling's Three Languages of Politics [Review Corner]. There is a question of civilization/barbarism: we should use tools to keep Miss Alabama safe. OTOH, there is liberty vs. coercion. I am willing to sign off on the program if someone can credibly convince me that it was 100% non-complicit in outing General Petraeus's affair. Ellen Nakashima shows how metadata ("we're not listening in to your calls...") was used. That, my friends, is troublesome; the defense that "I am not doing anything wrong" is greatly expanded in context and scope. (This guy out in Weld County seems to visit a lot of websites with Indian Rosewood guitar components. Better have the Fish & Game SWAT team on alert...)

Richard Epstein provides the conservative case superbly (Hat-tip: Insty)

I don’t always agree with Alan Dershowitz, nor does he always agree with me, but I think that he is right on the money when he laments at The Daily Beast that, with the outcry against the NSA program, we are witnessing a return to a form of paranoia that has too often marred American politics. Dershowitz here is not arguing whether we do or do not need a government program; he is describing the level of trust that we put in government.

In making that observation it is imperative to distinguish between cases. Nothing whatsoever should insulate the NSA from political scrutiny and legislative and judicial intervention. But nothing should allow us to equate the so-called NSA standard with the inexcusable IRS scandal that is rife with partisan politics and worse, precisely because of the utter absence of any institutional protections against partisan abuse.

Richard Epstein and Alan Dershowitz: a couple more Jack Bauer Fans.

UPDATE: Epstein and Pilon not speaking for CATO.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:49 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

When I speculated, with absolutely no evidence, on a link between PRISM and the Petraeus resignation dear dagny called me "nutty" or some such.

Posted by: johngalt at June 18, 2013 2:57 PM
But johngalt thinks:

As for Snowden, at this point I'd say he's a Spring.

Posted by: johngalt at June 18, 2013 3:11 PM

How Much was that Sequester Thingy Again? Part II

We are sometimes above such hackery around here -- but this Facebook Meme did tie into my post from the other day:


But johngalt thinks:

Credit where credit is due: At least they appear to be vacationing TOGETHER now, saving taxpayers $millions.

Posted by: johngalt at June 18, 2013 10:58 AM

More Serious than the NSA

The title puts me in a mood to make a list: love, poetry, the Designated Hitter can all be called more important than the NSA scandal. More seriously, I worry that the IRS scandal, which I consider more serious, is losing media oxygen as we debate "Is Edward Snowden a Virgo or an Aquarius?"

But the title was supposed to introduce an excellent A. Barton Finkle post which ties the scandals together into a much larger question of asymmetrical government capacities and a free people's ceding their rights to an unelected "regulatory branch" of government.

The principle animating democratic and republican government is accountability to the governed. Yet more and more government action lies beyond the citizens' reach. As law professor Jonathan Turley explained in a Washington Post piece that appeared before the surveillance leaks, "our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch of government, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency." (Viz., the NSA.)

The "vast majority of laws," he continues, "are not passed by Congress but issued as regulations, crafted largely by thousands of unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats." In 2007, he writes, "Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies" -- there are now 69 of them – "finalized 2,926 rules."

The administrative state is taking over not only the legislative function, but also the judicial: Turley reports that "a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency than by an actual court." And such agency creep, as it might be called, does not stop at the federal-state boundary.

Last month the Minnesota Supreme Court deferred answering a basic question of constitutional rights: Can the government enter your home without probable cause? A city ordinance in Red Wing, Minn., allows building inspectors with administrative warrants to enter rental units even when both the landlord and the tenant object. And as the Arlington-based Institute for Justice points out, they "do not require the government to have any evidence that there is anything actually wrong with a residence."

The NSA, EPA, IRS, and the DH (see how I snuck that last one in there?) operate entirely outside of "the consent of the governed" or citizen oversight. Fans of John Stossel's TV show know he keeps a (rather ginormous) pile of just the Federal rules on set.

You're in tinfoil hat country when you opine about the tyranny of the Red Wing Minnesota Municipal Building Code Inspectors ("I've seen grown men tear their own 'eads off before facing the RWMMBCI...") but it is a piece of a larger bit of tyranny.

But johngalt thinks:

Miss Alabama, please call your agent's office.

Don't forget dear blog brother, wearers of tinfoil hats no longer need lurk [ninth comment] in the shadows. We're out, we're mainstream, and we're PROUD!

Posted by: johngalt at June 18, 2013 11:06 AM

June 17, 2013

Quote of the Day

Any attempt to reform the system will run into just the problems that Yandle points out. If you explain the economic inefficiencies, the moral wing of the coalition will smite you: "Don’t you care about the environment?" And if you show that post-consumer retail mandatory recycling is actually bad for the environment, the smooth corporate lobbyists of the economic wing will cite figures that show that recycling creates jobs and employs people in local communities. This new version of the Broken Window fallacy actually goes so far as to claim that after you break the window, you should recycle the glass! -- Michael Munger, in a great Baptists & Bootleggers look at mandatory recycling.
UPDATE: Fairness (huh? on ThreeSources?) dictates that I link to a recent post from the same author.
Almost everything that’s said about recycling is wrong. At the very least, none of the conventional wisdom is completely true. Let me start with two of the most common claims, each quite false:
He then lists two claims. One of which is what everybody in Boulder thinks to be true. The second is what I think thought to be true. I had emailed a tweet to myself to post about this and did not get around to it. But it is worth a read.
Environment Posted by John Kranz at 1:51 PM | What do you think? [4]
But johngalt thinks:

The next step in this rent-seeking parade is to mandate some percentage of recycled cereal boxes be added to gasoline for use as a motor fuel. And any vehicle engines damaged or destroyed by the fuel are ever more broken windows.

Posted by: johngalt at June 17, 2013 2:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I will comment before reading beyond the open, only to say that the second question IS true. It only fails in practice because of the market manipulation: "officials need keep landfill prices artificially low to discourage illegal dumping and burning." If that's the case I'm here to tell you, it ain't working. Stuff is dumped along county roads all the time. Perhaps more would be if landfill costs were not subsidized, but this is beside the point vis-a-vis recycling.

Posted by: johngalt at June 18, 2013 11:14 AM
But johngalt thinks:


During a recent visit to the recycling drop-facility at the landfill, Fort Collins resident Cassidy Velazquez said she learned about the importance of recycling when she was in high school. "Now it's just part of what we do," she said. Velazquez said she would like to do more, although composting might be a problem in her Timberline Ridge neighborhood. She would support greater recycling efforts around Fort Collins. "Absolutely – let's go to zero waste," she said. "We'll probably create more jobs and create less waste: That would be great."

But what if we don't?

Fort Collins resident Jan Harrison said large businesses and institutions, such as hospitals and schools, should be required to provide sophisticated recycling programs and composting. Harrison said the city should consider stricter regulations aimed at keeping recyclables out of landfills. "I don't know if that's by raising the rates at the landfill or how that gets done, but I'd like to see it get done," she said.

I'd like to be younger and richer.

"Probably" and "don't know" could end up costing Fort Collins residents a lot of money. And for what? Because now "it's just part of what we do."

Posted by: johngalt at June 18, 2013 3:56 PM
But jk thinks:

I'll happily leave the final word to Penn & Teller.

Posted by: jk at June 18, 2013 4:58 PM

June 16, 2013

Review Corner

Historians have a tendency to declare some theories determinist just because they are overtly quantitative, a common and wrong-headed complaint Paul Kennedy faced as well. To be sure, our approach is quantitative, recommending a new metric of great power, but the rhyme of history that we observe, a parade of decline, should not be seen as the inevitable destiny of America. Although the ominous pattern of Great Power imbalance follows from institutional decline, it must also be said that many, many times in history empires and nations did reform their institutions.
That's Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane in Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America. Kane and Hubbard define a new quantitative metric of economic power, then apply it retroactively to historical and modern economic powers: Rome, China, Ottoman Empire, Spain, Japan, Britain, Europe, California and the United States.

Though I enjoyed the book mightily, I'm not certain that the metric succeeds. Both are serious wonks and the book does not lack for data and analysis. The measurement is introduced early and with great fanfare as a foundation. It seems the authors wander off and lose interest in favor of qualitative comparisons and policy discussion. Still a great book -- just interesting that they abandon their stated purpose.

The book certainly succeeds on many fronts. First as historical economics, which I seem to be reading much of late. Hubbard and Kane hold contrarian views. The great freshman history lesson where great powers rise, then overextend, and inevitably decline which we have heard from a hundred know-it-all-college hippies and -- admit it -- have probably said ourselves, comes into question.

I enjoyed the book in the scope of Deirdre McCloskey, Niall Ferguson, Deepak Lal, David Deutsch, et at (and Matt Ridley's Rational Optimist currently on Kindle). What causes, facilitates, perpetuates and terminates economic growth and innovation? The authors hold a Lal-ian view of power and a Fergusonian appreciation for institutions:

The technological achievements of Rome are sometimes overlooked. To be sure, there was no Age of Enlightenment akin to the seventeenth century. Concrete may seem to be Rome's only major invention, but that is if we limit our definition of inventions to hardware. The software of Roman society-- its professional army, federalist governance, property rights-- actually matter more for economic growth. And one should not ignore the impact of concrete! It enabled commercial growth in two major ways. First, concrete made possible increasingly dense urban areas with taller buildings, better sanitation, and water from the aqueducts. Second, intercity trade was enhanced with stronger roads, while underwater concrete enabled better ports for sea trade.

As we attempt to migrate the George W Bush Presidency from the political to the historical, we do see in his former OMB Director an appreciation for global economic stability (Professor Lal, call your office!), allowing that it is built on hegemonic power:
The Mongol power of the khans, notably Genghis Khan, reinforces the idea that military power rests on an economic foundation. Genghis "all but invented globalization," as the Economist claims. He freed his lands from internal tariffs, with the express goal of establishing a trade corridor from Korea to Syria. Moreover, the Mongols ensured public safety for traders and commoners alike. According to Jack Weatherford, a leading biographer: "It was said that during this time a virgin could cross the length of the Mongol Empire with a pot of gold on her head and never be molested."

Not only are these powers not undermined by "overreach," the authors hold that most of them declined when they turned inward to recover from institutional stress. Rot from the inside, and use isolationism to try and recover (Smoot-Hawley anybody?)
More fundamentally, we disagree with [Paul] Kennedy’s core conclusion that America's military expenditures come at the expense of economic vitality. This conclusion, the overstretch hypothesis, assumes a zero-sum pie of resources that a nation distributes between investment and protection.
The lesson for America is that understretch can happen even when critics are warning of the opposite. In an age of transformational globalization, we should wonder if the heuristic of wide-open America capitalism is a myth or a reality. International measures of economic freedom hint that the United States seems to be incrementally losing its vaunted free-market lead.

I come to the end of my typing and readers' attention without capturing the breadth of this superb work. I've focused on some subtopics of interest to ThreeSourcers. But the great thing about this work is its sizable scope of analyzing many ancient and modern economies, and its conclusion of policy recommendations for modern America. Looking back, there are larger and more sophisticated comparisons to Rome than bread and circuses and Hadrian's Wall through Britain. Rome also tried currency debasement, the Ottoman Empire turned its back on innovation, the Ming Dynasty eschewed trade.
MEET THE NEW PRAETORIANS Economically, the implacable fiscal crisis of California may resemble modern Greece, but politically the parallel is thousands of years older. The Roman army usurped control over imperial succession in the third century A.D. "An emperor would be chosen by a gang and would rule only so long as he pleased the assassins," explained historian Charles Van Doren. The Roman Senate had no control. The emperor himself had no control. All power during Rome's political crisis was in the hands of a self-serving Praetorian Guard. Could interest groups in Sacramento be a temporary Praetorian Guard?

Great stuff! Five stars!

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:10 AM | What do you think? [4]
But T. Greer thinks:

I am skeptical. I find the comparison between the Romans, Ottomans, or Ming with modern America or the other powers in Kennedy's Rise and Fall. Over a period of four hundred years Rome transformed from a city in Italy to an empire that controlled the known world. Why do this? Glory. And gold. Lots of it. The difference between Roman conquests and American imperial adventures is that the Romans made a lot of money with every conquest they made - that is, they stole a lot of money with every conquest they made. And took slaves (1/3rd of pop was slaves by 7 AD, I believe). So empire was a very nice deal for the Romans, Ottomans, etc. Much like today's marcher lords in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they did not have access to exponentially expanding markets, and armed theft (sometimes called "tribute") was the only way to raise income. For them "imperial over stretch" meant there was nothing left for them to conquer and still make a profit doing so. That leaves them in a bind. GDP growth occurred too slowly to matter, so if a shock hit the system (say, a plague that cuts tax revenues or a civil war or a barbarian incursion) they only had a few options open to them. They needed more money, but had no way to get more income - thus we see Severus and his successors debase the currency into nothingness across the 2nd century.

Things work a bit differently today. America puts much more money into her imperial adventures than she ever gets out of them. She does not pillage foreign capitals, but pours money into them. Some of this money is private investment, but from the Marshall Plan on most of it has not been. Thus America spent billions rebuilding Japan, Germany, Russia, Eastern Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan. (And poured billions into protracted wars in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq). The United States gets few direct economic benefits from all this; today more Iraqi oil is piped to China than the U.S. We don't need money from imperial conquest to keep the state afloat - for the last century ours has been the largest and most innovative economy of world history. It pretty much runs itself, usually growing best without the state doing anything at all. Romans spent 70% of state income on the army; we spend a fraction of that. The economics of each power (and between pre modern and modern powers generally) are not set for useful comparison.

Posted by: T. Greer at June 17, 2013 10:29 AM
But jk thinks:

Perhaps that kept them from following through on the quantitate comparison.

And a quick point of order: they do not quote Kennedy approbationally. Their position is orthogonal.

They do discuss Roman currency abasement at length. It is a pretty cool trick if you have no "Mankivus ecX texttablets" to tell you what to expect. And, I would posit, extremely relevant to modern economic power. As is Ottoman Empire's turning its back on science and Ming China's eschewing globalization.

The US benefit to imperialism -- and I am going to put my Deepak Lal shoes on here -- is the virgin (we work with what we have) walking the empire unmolestedly with the pot of gold. Forty two nations contributed to the manufacture of an iPod; this got US customers cheaper electronics and supported the worldwide sale of our software, music and movies.

I think this is the subtext of a Bush administration economist: don't believe the Kennedy/CW idea of overreach -- it is not borne out by history.

Posted by: jk at June 17, 2013 11:54 AM
But jk thinks:

... and I did go ahead and buy "America 3.0" by James C. Bennett on your fulsome suggestion. Better than the sample chapter so far...

Posted by: jk at June 17, 2013 11:58 AM
But johngalt thinks:

The GW Bush Administration has suffered negative appraisals from some Monday morning quarterbacks over its failed attempt to bring the western values - liberty, property rights, trade - to Iraq and Afghanistan. "They aren't ready for it" or "they aren't like us" are the typical refrains. Heck, I've repeated them myself. But was Japan "like us?" We lacked common traditions with them but they responded favorably to our "imposition" of the mechanisms of prosperity upon their culture. Without getting into the reasons why this hasn't worked in the Mideast, I'll point out that for our part we ARE reforming. Millions of former "national defense" voters are adopting the Libertarian principle of "let them fight their own wars."

America is routinely derided as an "exploitative" nation because of her prosperity gap with much of the rest of the world. Imagine that gap had we not given so much, in aid and in military effort, in a failed attempt to bring those same western values to Russia and Eastern Europe, along with Western Europe. We arguably had more success in this regard with China, where very little aid was sent. The lesson, to me, is that foreign aid produces overbearing nanny states (in both the recepient AND the giver) while free trade "raises all ships."

Posted by: johngalt at June 17, 2013 2:59 PM

June 14, 2013

Quote of the Day

In a much-discussed essay for Salon, Michael Lind asks: "If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?"

Such is the philosophical poverty of liberalism today that this stands as a profound question. -- Jonah Goldberg

Video Review Corner

Now on DVD and Amazon Instant Video:


While it is about Andrew Breitbart, it captures -- perfectly -- the heady Tea Party days of 2010. I remember every quote, every frame of video, and the excitement that "New Media" was going to break the stranglehold that "Old Media" had on ideas. We're three years older and a little wiser after Candy Crowley and the 2012 elections. But this will rekindle something deep in all you racist teabaggers, I guarantee.

De motuis nil nisi bonum and all. I will confess that sometimes Andrew Breitbart's pugnacity was a bit much for my mild temperament. Yet, he was the perfect man at the perfect time, showing up right when he was needed. He left when he was still was needed, of course, but he left some big goddam cracks in the wall.

Five stars.

Tea Party Posted by John Kranz at 10:07 AM | What do you think? [0]

June 13, 2013

How Much Was That Sequester Thingy Again?


President Obama will travel to sub-Saharan Africa and the price tag for the trip clocks in between $60 million to $100 million. The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig got access to classified documents outlining the trip.

Just askin'...

ObamaCare®? I Quit!

Lawmakers and their aides are running for the exits! Term Limits? Scandal? Nope, it's ObamaCare. Those who retire before Jan 1, 2014 get to keep their groovy government health plan. After that "It's Crucifixion ObamaCare for You, pal!"

Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect -- a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.

If the issue isn't resolved, and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain [drip, drip -- jk] just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues -- like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.

The problem is far more acute in the House, where lawmakers and aides are generally younger and less wealthy. Sources said several aides have already given lawmakers notice that they’ll be leaving over concerns about ObamaCare. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said the chatter about retiring now, to remain on the current health care plan, is constant.

If only these people had had some political power to prevent this issue before...

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 12:52 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

Merely because the reactions are so obvious is no reason to not state them:

The government health care exchanges "could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive?" No it couldn't, Obamacare will LOWER COSTS FOR EVERYONE. Furthermore, if you like your current plan, YOU CAN KEEP IT.

Rep. Larson (D-CT) says, "this is simply not fair to these [federal] employees." But what of the private employees? It's fair to them? Really?

"The uncertainty has created a growing furor on Capitol Hill with aides young and old worried about skyrocketing health care premiums cutting deeply into their already small paychecks. (...) The problem is most acutely felt at the staff level, where aides make between $35,000 and roughly $170,000..."

Maybe they will be so displeased that they'll march on their government buildings with handwritten signs - Subsidized Too Little Already! Careful though, if you become too influential the IRS may target you.

Posted by: johngalt at June 13, 2013 3:01 PM
But johngalt thinks:

One more thought on that "brain drain" consequence. Does that mean our "best and brightest" who now attempt to centrally plan our economy will be replaced by garden-variety ideologues? Heaven help our Republic.

Posted by: johngalt at June 13, 2013 3:08 PM
But jk thinks:

My sympathy for the staffers certainly splits on party lines -- as did the ACA. (Used to be that "ObamaCare" was pejorative; now I envision hostile conservatives will smarmily call it "The Affordable Care Act.")

Posted by: jk at June 13, 2013 4:01 PM


Many point to the IRS Scandal (to our lefty readers I mean, of course, the "so-called scandal") as a reason to abolish the IRS.

I vote yes. Real tax reform, whether a flat tax or consumption tax, or The Herman Cain's NINE, NINE, NINE provide a transparency that instantly eliminates 90-99% of Shenanigans. But my pragmatic side peers cautiously over the current, exegetic political landscape and sees little hope of victory. President Obama is going to sign something that disarms his devoted army of Lois Lerners? It is a great idea and a superb anecdotal data point, but it remains out of reach.

The real live actual lesson from [that thing that those wacky conservatives continue calling] the IRS scandal is the folly of Campaign Finance Reform. It remains -- irrespective of poll data -- the greatest abridgement of our First Amendment Rights. I'm a 1st Amendment absolutist and accept porn, flag burning and Westburo Knuckleheads as the price of freeing speech from government control.

But, as has been said a hundred times on these pages, the real reason we have a First Amendment is to protect political speech so that self-government can operate in a marketplace of ideas. This is so obvious I would suspect even that five Supreme Court Justices could get it (as they did in Citizen's United v FEC but not in McConnell v FEC).

These organizations exist only because of our Nation's long War on Democracy. Freedom to support any candidate or cause however one chooses obviates them and precludes favoritism in their acceptance or rejection. Everything less is a license from the government to speak -- approved by Lois Lerner.

UPDATE: Nowhere is CFR more pernicious than a local level. Run a recall campaign and do not accept more than $800? Small groups pursuing referenda or small matters are shut down with complexity and fearful consequences of arcane CFR regulations. Therefore, only rich people may have a voice in politics -- not quite the intended consequence. IJ:

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:47 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Steve D thinks:

Abolishing the IRS should be attempted at the very least. If nothing else, it will implant the idea in people's minds and provide a teaching moment for those educating them (us).

Posted by: Steve D at June 13, 2013 1:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The only reason anyone is discussing IRS abolition on the national stage is the news of the agency's dirty deeds. Here's hoping they're too big and too stupid to behave themselves and just lay low for a while.

Posted by: johngalt at June 13, 2013 2:41 PM

Lois Lerner

The scowly surly face of government abuse has quite a past. George Will discusses the testimony of Al Salvi, should he be invited to speak to Congress. Will suggests that Salvi would not take the Fifth, but would tell the story of his run for the House in 1986 against now Senator Dick Durbin (Fiend - IL).

In the fall of 1996, at the campaign's climax, Democrats filed with the Federal Elections Commission charges alleging campaign finance violations by Salvi's campaign. These charges dominated the campaign's closing days. Salvi spoke by phone with the head of the FEC's Enforcement Division, who he remembers saying: "Promise me you will never run for office again, and we'll drop this case." He was speaking to Lois Lerner.

After losing to Durbin, Salvi spent four years and $100,000 fighting the FEC, on whose behalf FBI agents visited his elderly mother demanding to know, concerning her $2,000 contribution to her son's campaign, where she got "that kind of money." When the second of two federal courts held that the charges against Salvi were spurious, the lawyer arguing for the FEC was Lois Lerner.

More recently, she has been head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, which has used its powers of delay, harassment and extortion to suppress political participation. For example, it has told an Iowa right-to-life group that it would get tax exempt status if it would promise not to picket Planned Parenthood clinics.

As government gets larger, we're asked to trust more and more power to Lois Lerners.
The case against the NSA is: Lois Lerner and others of her ilk.

Government requires trust. Government by progressives, however, demands such inordinate amounts of trust that the demand itself should provoke distrust. Progressivism can be distilled into two words: "Trust us." The antecedent of the pronoun is: The wise, disinterested experts through whom the vast powers of the regulatory state's executive branch will deliver progress for our own good, as the executive branch understands this, whether or not we understand it. Lois Lerner is the scowling face of this state, which has earned Americans' distrust.

Even though I have excerpted half, read the whole thing. (Hat-tip: Insty)

But johngalt thinks:

This is not our Fathers' NSA.

Posted by: johngalt at June 13, 2013 11:34 AM

June 12, 2013

Where jk Defends Ed Markey (Moonbat - MA)

End days. But <clenched teeth>Dude's right.</clenched teeth>

Markey: "It's really not math. It's just arithmetic"

But johngalt thinks:

It's also not really "democracy" or "politics." It's just influence peddling.

Posted by: johngalt at June 13, 2013 2:35 PM

NoCo, by the Numbers

Colorado Posted by John Kranz at 4:32 PM | What do you think? [0]


Insty links to a short David Bernstein post that anecdotally summarizes every gorram thing that is wrong with this great nation's government. Eulogizing the dear departed nonagenarian Garden State Senator, his friends praised his using "his pull" to secure plane seats and alter train schedules (Ayn Rand, call your office...Ms. Rand, Line One!)

UPDATE: How much more I would have admired Lautenberg if his friends could relate that "we begged him to use his clout as a former Senator to get us back to our families, but Frank was adamant that his friends and acquaintances were no more important than anyone else trying to get back home, and that he wouldn't abuse his status as former senator on our behalf."

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:59 AM | What do you think? [0]

Wildfire Grouch

ThreeSources is in danger of becoming the Grumpy Cat of the Internet. We rag on the Dalai Lama and Gandhi. But it is nice to have a place where one feels safe expressing contrarian viewpoints.

Pull up a chair, a torrent of invective follows for . . . fire victims.

Not the victims. I feel bad for them and worse for their animals. (If you can, donate to Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region. I just gave $100, so before you call me too many names, I offer that as mitigation.)

Three big fires are burning in Colorado, and the weather could hardly be worse for fighting them. I wish the best for those affected and salute the firefighters. But -- and I confess it is a poor time to talk about it -- the fires are treated and funded in a manner consistent with surprise. It's on par with shock over rain in Seattle. It is going to happen.

And when it happens we should be prepared. The western states' sharing of equipment and manpower is a good model to direct resources when needed. But the State and Federal Emergency funding is "wrong as pants on a trout."

The currently largest fire is Black Forest Fire in El Paso County East of Colorado Springs. One hates to go OWS on ThreeSources, but every home they show costs way over a million dollars. The homeowners have the benefit of living in a heavily wooded high-altitude location. Yet I share in the risk of fire.

People should live where they want, but need to bear the risk of their decisions. John Stossel admits that government insurance allowed him to rebuild his beachfront home and be able to insure it. He is honest enough to ask why less affluent residents in New York (and the USA) should support his lifestyle.

I propose a Statewide fire protection risk assessment that taxes property owners pari-passu with their probability of requiring expensive fire protection services. Pay for equipment and personnel out of that fund and raise the rates when it is empty. Those who buy or build in these areas need to foot the bill.

Next week: kittens are not really that cute...

Colorado Posted by John Kranz at 9:54 AM | What do you think? [5]
But Terri thinks:

Here, here!

However - I always assumed folks in those areas DID have to pay more for fire protection, no?

I always figured the Federal Money was just the OMG, we feel so bad, here, go drown your tears in dollars money.

Posted by: Terri at June 12, 2013 11:11 AM
But jk thinks:

I'd love to be proven wrong, but I think you pay more for a fire truck to come to your house when you burn the bacon -- that is risk-proportionate. But that the costs of fighting wildfires come out of general funds. Plus we just got $19 Million from the Feds.

I think flatlanders are subsidizing our more prosperous neighbors. I'm going to Occupy Aspen!

Posted by: jk at June 12, 2013 11:23 AM
But jk thinks:

I'll start at the Cappuccino bar at the Ritz-Carlton if anybody wants to join in...

Posted by: jk at June 12, 2013 11:35 AM
But johngalt thinks:

New Jersey got $61 B-Billion for their hurricane damage. That is $61,000 million. $19 million is pocket lint, couch cushion, petty cash hush money.

Let my highjack the point of this post though with the observation that the fire started near a highway intersection that is roughly a mile from an exit ramp on I-25. Denver Post: "As of Tuesday evening, a cause for the fire had not been determined, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said at news briefing." Drive-by arson, anyone? And right on cue, given that Denver media started blabbering about "extreme fire danger" on Monday, day one of the spring heat wave. Tweet, tweeet - here doggy, come.

Yes, I'm speculating. Arson is more likely to happen at 1 am than 1 pm. Still. How many people think, "I was going to play with matches in the dry grass today, but the news said that's dangerous right now. I guess I really shouldn't."

Posted by: johngalt at June 12, 2013 3:24 PM
But jk thinks:

"Fuel:" A FB friend closer to the fire than I am points out "Btw, it's really not that dry . . .look at all the photos, the grass if still green. I suspect this and Royal Gorge are arson."

Posted by: jk at June 13, 2013 4:04 PM

June 11, 2013

Oh No NoCo, Don't Go!

On the heels of it's dismissive editorial, which I linked in the comments on yesterday's post about an 8-county split from "Old Colorado" to form a new state, comes this spin-heavy "news" piece that clearly shows a nerve has been struck in D-town.

Mazurana said the process of breaking way from the state and starting a new one, is long and difficult. Both the state legislature and the U.S. Congress would have to approve.

"All the rest of the states are are not going to want to share their federal aid with this new state," Mazurana said. "And the state is not going to give up oil and gas money on a whim."

However, the notion could draw the backing of well-heeled conservative backers, he said. "The Koch brothers could come in along with some other wingnut groups." [emphasis mine]

I'm thinking of a new 501c3 application: "Colorado Wingnuts for Liberty and Property Rights"

But jk thinks:

"Colorado Prosperitarian Party" might confuse them with Progressive and be accepted.

I lost a comment yesterday. I hate to get too excited over a longshot, but the proposed split is a great idea, establishing Federalist principles at a scale closer to those at our founding.

The trick is to find another state that will be as reliably Democrat as NoCo will be Republican. Puerto Rico? Split off Marin County? The Congressional distribution will not likely change, but we need to find a Hawaii to our Alaska. The Democrats will not give two Senate seats to the other guys in perpetuity.

Posted by: jk at June 12, 2013 9:39 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Many of these hang ups could be swept aside by just defecting to Wyoming, rather than demanding 2 new senators from the thin air.

Posted by: johngalt at June 12, 2013 10:35 AM
But jk thinks:

Dude, you are a genius.

Posted by: jk at June 12, 2013 10:43 AM
But johngalt thinks:

We'll see. I just floated the idea to Independence Institute's Amy Oliver, who Jon Caldera credits for starting the idea via a Twitter hashtag: #WarOnRuralCO

Posted by: johngalt at June 12, 2013 3:36 PM

Quote of the Day

This may be a story with no heroes. A government system designed to protect the citizens starts collecting all kinds of information on people who have done nothing wrong; it gets exposed, in violation of oaths and laws, by a young man who doesn't recognize the full ramifications of his actions. The same government that will insist he's the villain will glide right past the question of how they came to trust a guy like him with our most sensitive secrets. Who within our national-security apparatus made the epic mistake of looking him over -- completing his background check and/or psychological evaluation -- and concluding, "Yup, looks like a nice kid?" -- Jim Geraghty
The sound you hear is my falling off the Edward Snowden bandwagon. I thought Larry Kudlow was harsh last night.

This Jeffrey Toobin piece in the New Yorker (h/t Robert Tracinski) got me.

Honorable mention: the pole-dancing girlfriend -- this is just gonna get better, isn't it?

"Surely there will be villainous pirates, distracting mermaids, and tides of change in this new open water chapter of my journey," [28 year old Lindsay] Mills--who refers to Snowden as "E" and herself as a "world-traveling, pole-dancing super hero"--added. "But at the moment all I can feel is alone."

But johngalt thinks:

"Sabotage?" Is that what it means when one discloses the existence of something that "any marginally attentive citizen" already knew was going on? It's not the Pentagon Papers, after all.

I'll consent that violating national secrecy laws may set a bad precedent but "sabotage" is an exaggeration. But even Toobin agrees that some leaking "is normal, even indispensable, in a society with a free press." For this he wants the young man imprisoned? Overreact much?

Posted by: johngalt at June 11, 2013 4:09 PM
But johngalt thinks:

A more pertinent quote from the pole dancing mermaid superhero article:

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," he added.
Posted by: johngalt at June 11, 2013 4:23 PM
But jk thinks:

It is clearly sabotage. Publicizing the existence and details of an ongoing covert operation compromises the operations as surely as cutting the landing gear hydraulics of an aircraft.

And of course he deserves imprisonment. That's what makes it "brave" is it not? You don't think there should be any consequences?

There is a valid question of whether this sabotage was worth it because it made Americans aware. I started sympathetic but my sympathy is leaking quickly.

The damning things from the Toobin piece are that WaPo truncated what they received "Its exercise of judgment suggests the absence of Snowden's." And, his running off to Hong Kong and let me quote: "because 'they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.'"

Dude should have finished high school. He is now under the protection of Communist China, with an assload of privileged intelligence information. He will see the fail Lindsay and escape decades in prison only at their benevolence. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by: jk at June 11, 2013 5:11 PM
But johngalt thinks:

The great thing about this particular story is the strange bedfellows it creates. But I have to ask, what's the name of this blog? Who are you and what have you done with jk?

Posted by: johngalt at June 11, 2013 5:40 PM
But Terri thinks:

We have the laws that allowed this in the first place and he agreed to keep what he was doing secret. Any number of congress people (Hello Rand or Ron Paul) would have helped him through the whistleblower rules to expose this program to the light of day (and it needed exposure) The fact that he is in China now, hooo boy. Yes, he needs to be jailed. (not hung)

"But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. .... they can bring their complaints to Congress; .............. he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. "

Posted by: Terri at June 11, 2013 6:47 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Keeping in mind that I'm the guy who said, "I'm willing to let my government watch me" how can we be so sure that Snowden chose the wrong path to publicize this? Why didn't the Condor (Robert Redford) just go the most libertarian Senator and ask for protection? Doesn't anyone else want to know what's in those other 37 slides that the Post decided not to publish? They could go a long way toward explaining why he thought the situation so dire, and his safety so suspect.

While I consent to being watched, I don't consent to being secretly spied upon. That crosses a public-private barrier analogous to kicking in the door of my home. Go ahead and watch me in public places, but private places are, what is the word, private! I have precious little confidence that a national government will recognize, much less respect, this distinction.

Posted by: johngalt at June 12, 2013 3:49 PM

June 10, 2013

Meanwhile, in Buffy News...

Who's in?


Art Posted by John Kranz at 4:52 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Terri thinks:

Definitely would be in, but will be camping that weekend......
If you end up holding off, let me know.

Posted by: Terri at June 11, 2013 6:49 PM

North Colorado/South Colorado?

Carolina and the Dakota Territory have done it. Perhaps Virginia and West Virginia are a better example. Commissioners of Weld County, Colorado, the third largest county in Colorado and third most productive in the nation, are publicly contemplating a split from the remainder of Colorado. Seven neighboring counties would possibly join us.

Commissioners said Thursday that failed legislative efforts to crack down on oil and gas, as well as increases in rural renewable energy standards were "the straws that broke the camel's back."

Conway told the Tribune that Weld County's main economic drivers, agriculture and energy, are under attack, even though those sectors contribute significantly to the state's economy. He said the county's return on its financial contributions to the state are minimal.

He's just being polite. Weld and other rural counties are the makers, Denver and other urban counties are the takers. This could be a win-win for the urbanites, who could finally wash their hands of the coal, oil and gas energy they so disdain. We'll just take our cheap, reliable energy and go away. Heck, we won't even ask for another star on the flag. Just give us the liberty that our ancestors were born with, and our descendents deserve to enjoy.

But Alexc thinks:

More like this... and / or recombination. Why shouldn't the rural counties of neighboring states become a new one?

Posted by: Alexc at June 10, 2013 3:11 PM
But jk thinks:

I'm in.

Posted by: jk at June 10, 2013 4:39 PM
But T. Greer thinks:

Massachusetts and Maine are another example. Completely constitutional.

Posted by: T. Greer at June 10, 2013 6:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

For its part, the Denver Post is unimpressed:

Serious people with serious complaints don't waste their time on quixotic crusades. They roll up their sleeves and deepen their efforts to convince their fellow Coloradans that their arguments have merit.

Oh, you mean by giving public testimony on 6 bills in 90 minutes? Or maybe we didn't say loudly enough that mandating what kind of energy we use is immoral as well as unconstitutional. No, Denver Post, we have come to live in an Ochlocracy and we're not going to stand for it any longer.

Posted by: johngalt at June 11, 2013 4:18 PM


Gotta love economists. No. Really.

Mark J. Perry shows a different way to look at his AEI associate James Pethokoukis's concern over "Waiter and waitress nation: The May payrolls report shows the US creating jobs, just not many good ones."

More restaurant jobs implies more people are eating out, and that is a sign of wealth. Though few aspire to a career in dishwashing, I have frequently trotted out in immigration debates that a new restaurant also hires an accountant, a web-designer, a graphic artist, an interior designer. Its founders may build or gut a building, print menus, purchase art and maybe even give a cut-rate troubadour a gig.

Prof. Perry ends by quoting comments and emails

1. The truth is unless you are a surly sociopath working in a some dive or are completely unwilling to make any real effort in a job you feel is beneath you, you ought to be able to bring home nearly a median hourly wage waiting tables. And if you can land a gig in one of the more upscale places, which seem much more numerous than they were "back in the day," you can probably do better than some of the numbers I've seen for recent law school grads.

2. More restaurant meals mean not only more waiters and waitresses, it also means more positions in food production and distribution, equipment sales, installation and maintenance, design and construction, advertising, etc. A restaurant industry isn't just food servers.

3. I've always been surprised at this insistence that restaurant jobs are low paid. I've been a waiter in the US myself and it was a thoroughly well paid job. The problem is, I think, that everyone looks at "wages," and ignores "compensation." From your post: "Americans spent more in April at Food Services and Drinking places -- $45.85 billion…." Around 10% of that $45 billion will have been spent in tips. Add $4.5 billion to the income of restaurant staff in that period and it'll not be a "low paid occupation." Fast food work, yes, that's low paid. But restaurant work isn't.

Quote of the Last Friday

How did I miss this?

Here's another theory: Maybe the Times softened the editorial on the advice of its tax accountants. -- James Taranto

Mick and Keef -- Tea Partiers?

Maybe if you add a bit of Jack Daniels to the tea...

The Stones are famously tax-averse. I broach the subject with Keith in Camp X-Ray, as he calls his backstage lair. There is incense in the air and Ronnie Wood drifts in and out--it is, in other words, a perfect venue for such a discussion. "The whole business thing is predicated a lot on the tax laws," says Keith, Marlboro in one hand, vodka and juice in the other. "It's why we rehearse in Canada and not in the U.S. A lot of our astute moves have been basically keeping up with tax laws, where to go, where not to put it. Whether to sit on it or not. We left England because we'd be paying 98 cents on the dollar. We left, and they lost out. No taxes at all." -- From Andy Serwer's "Inside the Rolling Stones Inc." in Fortune magazine, Sept. 30, 2002. Also, today's "Notable & Quotable"

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:23 PM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

"Here's one for you nineteen for me"
"Tax man"
"If five percent appears too small,
be thankful I don't take it all"
"Tax man"

Credit: Lennon-McCartney

Posted by: johngalt at June 10, 2013 2:15 PM
But jk thinks:

B'lieve that was George.

Tough. Damn. Room.

Posted by: jk at June 10, 2013 2:40 PM
But johngalt thinks:

A guess on my part. Heck, even I can't ALWAYS be right. ;)

Posted by: johngalt at June 10, 2013 3:06 PM

Is it Legal to smack the VP like this?

Ow! That has gotta sting! Mary Anastasia O'Grady DEMOLISHES VP Biden's recent OpEd on free trade.

But count me a skeptic. The protectionist, anti-development and collectivist agendas of Big Labor, green radicals and the ideological left are woven into Obama administration policy. Democrats rely heavily on these groups for financing, and the Obama administration can't afford to offend them. It's hard to believe that it is ready to walk away from some of its most generous donors in exchange for an expansion of free trade that will make individuals less reliant on government.

It gets even harder to believe that anything has changed after reading Mr. Biden's op-ed, which is a mix of ignorance about the region and revisionist history.

Residents of the world's superpower are not known for their knowledge of foreign lands. But Mr. Biden's Dick-and-Jane report on the lives of the natives south of the border ought to make Americans cringe. Our vice president comes off as a caricature of the stereotypical gringo, patronizing the locals and taking credit for their successes wherever he can.

Exhibit A is Mr. Biden's ah-ha moment when he visited a "cut-flower farm outside Bogota" and found "one-quarter of the workers are female heads of households." Not only do Colombians grow flowers, he discovered, but they export them! "The carnations and roses they were clipping would arrive in U.S. stores within days, duty free." The Colombian flower-farm, the vice president explained, is "just one sign of the economic blossoming in the year since a U.S. free-trade-agreement with Colombia" went live.

One which Senator Biden voted against, long before the Administration he was taking a victory-lap for moved into the White House.

Read the whole thing -- but after that, she is not so nice and understanding. Owww!

VP Biden Posted by John Kranz at 11:43 AM | What do you think? [0]

June 9, 2013

A Change in Media Tone?

Searching for an old review corner, I came upon a great post from blog brother AlexC. I will have to warn our more delicate readers that it includes a word that some might find vulgar. It seems ac is upset, because in a story of great consumer confidence and employment news, the beloved media have concocted a new statistic to tarnish the optimism.

That's great... but it wouldn't be an economic story without a "but." And it's a doozy.
The report painted a mixed employment picture, however. The proportion of consumers saying jobs were hard to get edged up to 20.7 percent from 20.2 percent, while those saying jobs were plentiful also climbed to 28.4 percent from 27.4.

I think it fair to complain that there is a different tenor and tone when the party in the White House changes. Oh, and that made me curious, What was the unemployment like in 2006?


Well, yeah -- but they were hard to get.

Review Corner

Scientists know the first exoplanet discovered in 1995 as "51 Pegasi b," but the madding crowd insists upon sticking with Greek mythology, and informally they have named it for the ancient slayer of monsters Bellerophon. One exoplanet I am particularly interested in is formally known as HD 209458b. But the online hoi polloi have already dubbed it Osiris. The world of exoplanets, like a lot of the sky, just won’t hold still for proper scientists, anymore than any Wild West’s frontier town waited for the Chamber of Commerce.
That is a genuine random page quote from Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character by Jack Hitt. And it introduces the thesis as well as I could. Or, "I could of named those exoplanets if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

I have to compare this to Glenn Reynolds's "Army of Davids" [Review Corner], James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds [Mentioned in a peculiar context] and Craig Anderson's The Long Tail [Review Corner]. The trend of greater contribution from the less credentialed is in all four. Hitt ties it to an American character, documented by Tocqueville, and tracing its roots to the iconic American amateur, Ben Franklin.

When Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart-- both of whom pose as "serious newsmen"--first appeared on cable news, it was widely understood by the traditional media to be mere comedy. But fairly soon there appeared articles worried that these "fake anchors" were more than phony blowhards. People were actually getting their news from them. The comedy was working on several levels. The real anchors on television fretted about what this all "meant," and the actual blowhards on cable, like Bill O’Reilly, got angry and called them all stoners and subversives. The line from the improvisations of Ben Franklin to the comedy of Stephen Colbert is as American as pie.

That's a substantive insight but it also exposes the flaw in this interesting work. Hitt has no compunction against letting you know his personal thoughts. And, neither do I, but were I to attempt a book of this seriousness, I would shut it off or hire a good editor to quietly expunge. He -- anachronistically, the book was released in 2012 -- takes several potshots at President George W. Bush. If I am reading The New Republic in 2008, I would not bat an eyelash. But I put the book down and ascertained that it was recently released. I thought it was newer than last summer, but still....

Even where I agree. He describes a fascinating conflict between professorial anthropologists and weekend warriors. It is well written and supports the book's thesis. Then he graces you with a dozen pages on what he thinks. Well, this is real interesting and all, Jack, but could you share with us some of your personal views on life?

It detracts from a superb book. If it were crummy, I would be more forgiving. But the Benjamin Franklin frame is genius: the book opens with John Adams and Franklin as archetypes of the correct and credentialed versus the effective yet intemperate.

Between the two of them were twin impulses, one more improvisational and experimental, the other more tradition-bound and knowing. There is no fixed American meta-narrative, but there is this ebb and flow between Adamsian veneration of piety and Franklinian love of improvisation, between Calvinist certainty and Deist doubt, between head and heart, virtuocracy and meritocracy, good character and cunning action, between security and freedom, between professionalism and amateurism.

Good stuff, no? Then, several modern amateur groups are highlighted: DIY gene-splicers, astronomers, birders: colorful characters involved in serious discussions. Franklin comes back at the end for a poetic finish that made me weep: the likely apocryphal nature of the key and the kite:
He did it by invoking an image that is at once playful and profound, practically the logo of the amateur's childish spirit, of liberty, of leisure-- the emblem of the lightness of being, where creativity thrives. It can be American, not out of nationalist pride, but because this sense emerged at our founding and is the inheritance of anyone born or driven to come here. While we might list the great liberties-- speech, assembly, due process, trial by jury-- the one that goes unstated, almost presumed, is the revolutionary decision to abandon one's past and one's self, as well as one’s culture, tradition, and history. To walk away from everything that one is-- whether it's fleeing a repressive nation for this new place or simply out the back door for the garage-- that is real freedom.

Miltonian heights, sullied by a few Olbermanian lows. Four stars.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 9:22 AM | What do you think? [0]

June 8, 2013

Soul of Atlas

Man oh man, the things I find in my email inbox. Is that a receipt from the NSA?

Blog friend sc sends a link to an interview of a guy who is writing a book...oh how can I put this?

A Christian scholar and author has taken the experience of growing up under the influence of a stepfather who cherished the objectivism philosophy of Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) and his biological father who became a follower of Jesus Christ, to write a book about two world views that he feels can come together for the good of society.

Mark David Henderson's book, The Soul of Atlas, begins by asking the question, "Do the two most influential books in modern culture, the Bible and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, share common ground?" Henderson has a unique closeness to the subject of Rand's book -- his stepfather (who he simply calls John in his book) produced the movie version of Atlas Shrugged.

A very sincere effort.

But johngalt thinks:

Paging KA. Mister KA.

Posted by: johngalt at June 9, 2013 10:16 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I was thinking about this yesterday actually. (I have a lot of time to think while driving the tractor, being not the most mentally demanding work.) The area where Christianity, or any other religious faith, overlaps Objectivism, is in the moral lessons. As a form of advice and guidance there is little conflict between the two. Religion gets into trouble when, like government, it seeks to mandate. Or worse, dictate.

I would observe that Christianity and Judaism and probably Buddhism, which I know even less about, seem to be the religious traditions that have most evolved in the direction of individual liberty. This is the original "liberalism." Ironically, as America's representitive republic became more democratic and "liberal" in the modern sense, it actually regressed, more like the early version of these religions, and became illiberal, collectivist, authoritarian and egalitarian. The ill-named movement responsible for this is, Progressivism.

Posted by: johngalt at June 9, 2013 10:33 AM

June 7, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now????

My friends are fighting. The WSJ, and the default Larry Kudlow position is to defend those that defend us from a mean world. I am sympathetic -- to a point -- to that view. Yes, there is a mean ol' world out there. (You may not be interested in War, but it is interested in You -- Trotsky?). And, I understand Big Data concepts: searching for patterns in metadata or Google-sized video samples does not compromise privacy. I get that.

Yet, I have been having more fun than a camel on hump day on Facebook over this. I likely would defend President Bush's committing the same infraction. Partly because I am a partisan hack, but mostly because that is what he stood for. He was going to push the line to keep all of y'alls safe. Privacy groups and an adversarial press would push back. Broncos vs. Raiders, everybody can tell who's playing for whom.

President Obama campaigned on "the fierce moral urgency" of dismantling things like this. Senator Obama introduced legislation to preclude it. Quis custodet? Privacy groups are muted and the press is quiescent.

And, whichever party has their collective ear to the other end of my call, it is time to wind down the extraordinary response to terror. Vigilance abroad, yes. Not naming complete incompetent liars to head the NSA, sure. But let us return domestically to an aggressive reading of the Fourth Amendment.

Jim Geraghty has an important philosophical point against it:

We in the general public have no idea if the algorithms work, if they're fair, if they're putting a lot of innocent Americans under suspicion or on watch lists, etc. This is simply not the way criminal investigation or even counterintelligence has ever worked in this country under our Constitution; it's working backwards. Those we have entrusted with the duty of our protection always previously started from the wrongdoing (or a tip of wrongdoing) and work their way out from there; it has never been "collect every bit of information they can on absolutely everyone, and then sift through it until they find what they're looking for."

That makes much sense to me. Sorry, WSJ, y'all lose this one.

But jk thinks:

Blog brother jg provides a superb example of the Prosperitarian position. The liberties surrendered are abstract while the threat to civilization and future earnings is corporeal.

And yet I find other arguments more compelling. It is well documented that war suborns liberty. As we look ahead to a still-lengthy conflict, we have to be able to execute effective offense and defense while retaining normalcy at home.

I enjoyed the Rand Paul piece and will also recommend Mark Steyn's No Cop / Bad Cop. President Bush, bless his pea picking little heart, at least provided a coherent, obvert and consistent full court press against terrorism. President Obama detaches abroad and steps up the effort at home. Are we fighting extremist Muslim terrorists or Tea Partiers?

Posted by: jk at June 8, 2013 9:27 AM
But jk thinks:

Jonah Goldberg is still deciding but he provides a data point for the "let's be scared" crowd:

In their book Nudge, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein claim to "show that by knowing how people think, we [a.k.a. the Good Guys] can design choice environments that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families, and their society." You know what? How creepy you find that sentence reveals an enormous amount about you. Whether the NSA stuff blows over or not, the simple fact is that the array of tools available to the Nudgers is growing exponentially. And the really creepy part is that the whole point of nudging is that you don't necessarily know you're being nudged.

Posted by: jk at June 8, 2013 9:32 AM
But jk thinks:

Points of order: 1) I'm a tepid Jack Bauer fan. 2) Glad you're still here on your amazing Summer Vacation, Terri. 3) The probability is certainly less than 0.5%, tg, that strikes me as high. But considering the numerator, it could still be concerning. (CO2 is .04 of atmospheric molality in Hawaii and our panties are severely wadded.)

Posted by: jk at June 8, 2013 9:48 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I second all three of jk's points of order. It was easy to be a fan of Jack because we knew he could be trusted. Cass Sunstein, not so much.

Thanks for the Rand Paul editorial. I fulsomely agree with the Glenn Greenwald quote - Leviathan must be restrained.

And Terri highlights what I believe is currently the greatest accomplishment of the Obama Administration - thanks to them, a majority of Americans now overtly distrust their federal government. Perhaps more importantly, they may no longer be dismissed as "paranoid."

And, TG presciently asks, "How many other [programs] of this type are out there?" Even the craziest conspiracy theorist now has ground to stand upon.

But this gets to the base of my original point - The issue is not the surveillance, but the secrecy. Not the security, but the abuse of power. I submit that AndyN's not-so-hypothetical scenario illustrates the point. Is the correct answer to bureaucrats using state power for partisan purposes to eliminate all state power? Or convert the Freedom of Information Act from a "pull" to a "push" system?

In summary, whether the case of a successful WMD attack is 0.5% (1 in 200) or 0.04% (1 in 2500) the consequences are so vast as to justify government effort to detect and prevent it. Or does anyone here believe we should not have a "watch list" and that people on the list, like the Boston bombers, should actually be watched?

Posted by: johngalt at June 9, 2013 11:02 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Now that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has stepped forward I'm prepared to call him a national hero, on a par with Rosa Parks and Tank Man, for acting in accordance with his conscience. (Sadly, other names do not come to mind.) Whether or not I agree with him about the surveillance programs, which he knows far more about than I do, I do agree that said surveillance must not be conducted in secret. That we may now debate the policy is his great accomplishment.

I'm also reevaluating my opinion of Bradley Manning.

Posted by: johngalt at June 10, 2013 2:46 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm reminded that Manning revealed the identity of covert international agents, risking harm to their lives. May he rot in prison.

Posted by: johngalt at June 11, 2013 5:42 PM

This Looks good!

Bob Zubrin debates anti-Humanist Professor Phil Cafaro. There is video at the link which I look forward to watching. And Zubrin's admittedly one-sided account of the evening (not sure he really saved that child with the Heimlich Maneuver while raising $11 Billion for clean water in Africa...)

Many many ThreeSources tropes are raised and debated. I'm considering inviting some lefty pals to watch the debate over some beverages somewhere.

Zubrin points to a graph of per-capita-GDP versus carbon use (hello ThreeSourcers!):

Now this is so obviously good, who could oppose it? Cafaro does. He says, repeatedly, in his writings that "the last thing the world needs is more Americans." Well, I say that the first thing the world needs is more Americans. And here is why: Because we need to ask ourselves who did this [pointing to the line on the graph rising from $180 per year in 1800 to nearly $9,000 per year in 2010]? Who is responsible for this miracle? Well, for the first part [pointing to the region of the graph from 1800 to 1875], the answer is, the British. There are others who play a supporting role, including Americans and continental Europeans, but in the main, this is a British show, and it's a great achievement, raising the world from $180 per year to $500 per year. But after that [pointing to the graph from 1875 to 2010], it's the U.S.A. It's America, inventing oil drilling, and light bulbs, and recorded sound, and centrally generated electric power, and telephones, and airplanes, and motion pictures, and mass-produced automobiles, and radio, and television, and nuclear power, and modern agriculture, and computers, and transistors, and micro-electronics, and all the rest. We are 4 percent of the world's population, but for the past century we've been responsible for half the world's inventions. That's why the world needs more Americans.

Hat-tip: Insty

UPDATE:Fascinating! I sent the link to a couple liberty lovers. Both find Zubrin's position lacking (& I am being kind) because he does not refute Cafaro's central premise that too many people == too much global warming. I am gonna have to watch that video...

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 10:56 AM | What do you think? [0]

Headline of the Day

IRS apologizes for lavish conference spending, plastic fish -- Susan Ferrechio
Or, as Douglas Adams would say "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"
Government Posted by John Kranz at 9:09 AM | What do you think? [0]

June 6, 2013

Is the World Becoming ThreeSources?

Welcome to our world, oh mighty NYTimes Editorial Page:

Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive -- whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency's phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism -- especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.

Hat-tip: Insty

I Don't Like to Judge

The true lover of liberty allows his or her fellow citizens to engage in uncoerced commerce that he or she feels is deplorable. We don't have to like others' choices, but we allow them to make them and live with any consequences.

But Insty today links to an Amazon sale:

Man, I just don't know...

Television Posted by John Kranz at 3:19 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

Good old Amazon. Now that I have clicked, it offers it to me every time I visit and populates the oiffering in blog banner ads.

I'll have to write the NSA to get off the Jeannie List.

Posted by: jk at June 6, 2013 6:30 PM

Never ever ever gets old

Ronald Reagan: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.

Truly one of the great speeches in all our nation's history. Hat-tip: Blog friend sc who adds "The Boomers on the other hand, gave us Woodstock and Obama." That was so funny I didn't even ask permission to share.

June 5, 2013

What the IRS Scandal is About

Co-founder of the Watumpka, Alabama Tea Party -- and face of the IRS scandal, Becky Gerritson.

I had heard people talking about this and saw a clip. But if you have not watched it coast-to-coast yet, do yourself a favor and spend 7:53 with a great American. (Can't you just imagine a roomful of NYTimes writers hearing the phrase "Watumpka, Alabama Tea Party?" Makes one weep.)

Hat-tip: Robert Tracinski [Subscribe]

But johngalt thinks:

Land of the who, and home of the what? Maybe we should have a national song or something to remind us all, every time we see a sporting event, that we are citizens, not subjects.

Posted by: johngalt at June 5, 2013 5:11 PM
But jk thinks:

Not as good a perfomance as last night's, but: Pia Toscano at the LA Kings game...


Posted by: jk at June 5, 2013 5:57 PM

Look, what are you saying?

"Broad?' Is that a weight joke? Me too sensitive?


June 4, 2013

Pretty Good Commencement Address

Non-Sequitor much?

I think the good professor is mashing up two of his favorite topics:


But AndyN thinks:

More happy married couples means fewer divorce filings. Fewer divorce filings means less demand for divorce lawyers. It's not really a non-sequitor, he just knows he has smart readers who will be able to make the connection.

I bet if I really wanted to I could find articles on the front page of the NYT that expose Mexican gun running, voter fraud, IRS targeting political enemies and the Benghazi debacle the same way under headlines about Christina Hendricks being too fat.

Posted by: AndyN at June 5, 2013 7:49 AM
But jk thinks:

Yeah. Maybe the bigger surprise is that he did not reference amnesty or link to "The Frisky..."

Posted by: jk at June 5, 2013 1:53 PM

This Could Make "Review Corner" Obsolete!

Arnold Kling adapts his own "The Three Languages of Politics." [Review Corner] to an AEI article. He might explain his book a little better than I do.

Tribal Politics in the 21st Century Well worth a read.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 3:10 PM | What do you think? [0]

Wait, you mean health insurance is going up?

If only somebody had been able to predict this before the law was passed...

The WSJ pounces on the leftes' walkback from the discredited California report on insurance prices.

They now concede that individual costs will rise but claim that it is unfair to compare today's market to ObamaCare because ObamaCare mandates much richer benefits. Another liberal rationalization is that the cost-increasing regulations are meant to help people with pre-existing conditions, so they're worth it.

So they're finally admitting what some of us predicted from the start, but that's also the policy point. Americans are being forced to buy more expensive coverage than what they willingly buy today. Liberals also argue that some of the new costs will be offset by subsidies, which is great news unless you happen to be a taxpayer or aren't eligible for ObamaCare dollars and wake up to find your current coverage is illegal.

The Affordable Care Act was sold as a tool to lower health costs. In case you missed it, the claim is right there in the law's title. The new Democratic position is that the entitlement will do the opposite but never mind, which is at least more honest.

Health Care Posted by John Kranz at 12:08 PM | What do you think? [0]

Fraught with Peril

Yes, I am adding a "2016" category. Dammit Jim, I 'm a pundit not a chronographer!

I break with my Tea Party Brethren and Sisteren in that I am game to give Gov. Chris Christie (R - NJ, spilling into parts of PA and NY) a serious listen should he enter the arena in 2016. Sucking up to the President in an Emergency is on any Governor's To-do list. The timing was unfortunate, but...

But, as Larry Kudlow reminds, he is a pro-growth conservative who gets 70% in the über-blue Garden State. And he gives passionate, clear, and eloquent voice to principles of freedom. I'm not his for the asking, but I certainly have not ruled out supporting him.

Daniel Foster pens a nice column on the different considerations in replacing Senator Frank Lautenberg (D - NJ - RIP).

Whom Christie selects to take Lautenberg's seat in the interim will both affect and be affected by these considerations. Does he go with a placeholder with no intention to run to retain the seat? Does he pick a serious contender who can at least mount a credible challenge to Booker, and hope to boost that contender's chances with his own coattails? Does he appoint a Democrat, with an eye on conceding the Senate race to boost his own bipartisan credentials for 2013 (and 2016)?

Foster enumerates and handicaps the choices. Game on!

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 10:59 AM | What do you think? [11]
But johngalt thinks:

Oh yeah, "supposedly?" "SUPPOSEDLY?"

Posted by: johngalt at June 4, 2013 5:38 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Suderman justifiably chides the GOP for "short-term thinking that grips the GOP right now" then Douthat dismisses fiat money concerns with "inflation is the least of the West's economic problems" at [this] time.

Posted by: johngalt at June 4, 2013 6:06 PM
But jk thinks:

I thought you'd like that, "supposedly." I'm just here to make folks happy.

Retract Douthat's "should win" if you want (not sure I will) and look at "could win." Those five seem like tough sells to low information voters. He's Pro-life, he's not for free contraception, he's not for bailing out lavish public union pensions -- ergo, he ain't winning California.

His austere budget will be easily demagoged. He's a good politician, but those five points represent five brutal fronts for all out assault.

I don't want a balanced budget amendment and will not likely care for his idea of Fed reform. The only Constitutional possibilities are to allow a greater Congressional role (have you seen Congress) or to appoint a hawk as Chair (that I would go for).

The other three I dig but can be replaced in a TV spot by:

2) Raise poor folks taxes and lower the wealthy's

3) Stop giving "free" heath care to 26 year olds, free contraception for women, and allow the heartless insurance companies to deny coverage to Moms with Cancer.

5) Throw Grandma off the cliff.

Start packing my bags for the inauguration, shall I?

Posted by: jk at June 4, 2013 6:40 PM
But jk thinks:

And it (inflation) is pretty low on the West's problems list at this time. The Cross of Gold did not work for William Jennings Bryan. Monetary policy is a hard vehicle to ride to victory on.

Posted by: jk at June 4, 2013 6:48 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And now you know why I groaned. ;)

Posted by: johngalt at June 5, 2013 2:18 AM
But johngalt thinks:

On the other hand, Reason's Gillespie sez Paul's budget slashing is a plus with young voters, whose 5 million vote preference for Obama dwarfed the 2 million extra voters from the over 30 crowd for Romney:

"Millennials, says the report, don't care much about abstractions such as that favorite Republican bogeyman, "big government." But they are into cutting government spending and reducing the national debt, as they realize both things are strangling their future before it begins. Fully 90 percent agree that Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed now, 82 percent are ready to "make tough choices about cutting government spending, even on some programs some people really like," and 72 percent want to cut the size of government "because it is simply too big."

Posted by: johngalt at June 5, 2013 2:36 AM

June 3, 2013

Quote of the Day

Then, according to Daniel Klaidman of The Daily Beast, Holder read the details of this operation in The Washington Post over breakfast and the reality began to "fully sink in." "Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes," says Klaidman, "but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse."

Some men find their moral bearings in the quiet of reflection; others in the crucible of suffering; still others on the front page of a newspaper -- Michael Gerson

June 2, 2013

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies...

While the graduating class at Harvard has to endure junk scientist Oprah Winfrey, the graduating class at Berklee School of Music got:

UPDATE: Berklee 2, Harvard 0. Charles C W Cooke reviews Oprah's speech and finds it wanting.

What do you get if you cross a collection of witless Hallmark platitudes, a fairly strange and inordinately rich woman who has lived in a bubble for 30 or so years, and a congregation of people virtually begging to be told that they are wonderful?

The answer? Oprah Winfrey's recent commencement address at Harvard University.

Music Posted by John Kranz at 10:23 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Really liked the song. As for the commencement speech, I daresay this one serves graduates best:

But let's not understate the big achievements you've racked up during the 70 or so days you've actually spent on campus. The first, and perhaps finest accomplishment, is having persuaded your parents to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to extend your childhood for four years.>/blockquote>

Hat tip: Mike Rosen, 850 KOA

Posted by: johngalt at June 3, 2013 2:25 PM

Review Corner

I enjoy most of what you see reviewed here. Dreary and turgid though some of it may be, it is interesting.

I'll confess, however, that I had a stack of "homework." Three books I really did not look forward to reading. And I do mean stack: While I prefer Kindle books, these were corporeal incarnations of guilt. First was "The Blueprint" reviewed last week. That wasn't bad at all.

Second was Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. That was the one I really wanted to avoid. And it is awesome! I have decried the Progressives' lack of a canon. This is a beautiful and well thought out book. Let's hit the plusses:

  • It explains what the hell a "Community Organizer" is.

  • It is well written

  • It deals with the world more honestly than modern progressive pundits.

  • It is not without thought and rationality.

  • And yes, Newt, it does help you recognize some of the current left's tactics.

Alinsky on the always-interesting topic of "Self Interest:"
Self-interest, like power, wears the black shroud of negativism and suspicion. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. The word is associated with a repugnant conglomeration of vices such as narrowness, self-seeking, and self-centeredness, everything that is opposite to the virtues of altruism and selflessness. This common definition is contrary, of course, to our everyday experiences, as well as to the observations of all great students of politics and life. The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arise and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality and tied together with the ribbons of Madison Avenue public relations. It is one of the classic American fairy tales.

From the great teachers of Judaeo-Christian morality and the philosophers, to the economists, and to the wise observers of the politics of man, there has always been universal agreement on the part that self-interest plays as a prime moving force in man's behavior. The importance of self-interest has never been challenged; it has been accepted as an inevitable fact of life. In the words of Christ, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

I hear my Randian pals parsing words to contradict (they parse very loudly), but compare this to a screed from a Rachel Maddow, Paul Krugman, or E. J. Dionne. And that honesty is a consistent and compelling theme.

I will turn to Rand, however, for the BIG minus. Rand tells rational men in honest disagreement to "check their premises." And Alinsky has built his beautiful prosaic edifice on a weak philosophical foundation: zero sum economics.

But let us go deeper into the psyche of this Goliath. The Haves possess and in turn are possessed by power. Obsessed with the fear of losing power, their every move is dictated by the idea of keeping it. The way of life of the Haves is to keep what they have and wherever possible to shore up their defenses.

This opens a new vista--not only do we have a whole class determined to keep its power and in constant conflict with the Have-Nots; at the same time, they are in conflict among themselves. Power is not static; it cannot be frozen and preserved like food; it must grow or die. Therefore, in order to keep power the status quo must get more. But from whom? There is just so much more than can be squeezed out of the Have-Nots--so the Haves must take it from each other. They are on a road from which there is no turning back. This power cannibalism of the Haves permits only temporary truces, and only when equally confronted by a common enemy. Even then there are regular breaks in the ranks, as individual units attempt to exploit the general threat for their own special benefit. Here is the vulnerable belly of the status quo.

I have always held that if you really believe this -- and I know many who do -- Progressivism, wealth redistribution -- hell, even Communism -- is legitimate. Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mister Rosewater" espouses this. Everyone is born in some proximity to the money river, and the whole morality play is how to pass it around form those fortunate "Haves" near the river to the "Have-Nots" further inland. (This is my überlefty brother's favorite Vonnegut book and my least).

If this is not your first trip to ThreeSources, you'll know I fulsomely disagree. Wealth is created; its distribution is far less interesting than its growth and its totality. Or as President Bush put it so eloquently: "make the pie higher!"

Once you are imbued with this bad idea, however, Alinskyism makes perfect sense. If Mom has three candy bars and three kids, egalitarianism has a place. Alinsky is clever -- and far more moral than a Bill Ayers -- in getting Mom to do things fairly:

TACTICS MEANS doing what you can with what you have. Tactics are those consciously deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. In the world of give and take, tactics is the art of how to take and how to give. Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves.

A beautiful and fundamentally wrong book. But it should be read by everyone. Four stars.

But johngalt thinks:

Heh. Even Alinsky believed that there should be "rules" guiding our behavior. "Paging the oval office: Mr. Obama, Mr. Holder, please oick up line one."

But in the end, as JK rightly observes, the premises are all, or at least mostly, wrong. Add to zero sum economics the idea that something, anything, is free to be "taken" from others rather than earned or traded. Even political control is not "taken" from the opposition, but earned from voters on a temporary basis.

But let's not sail past altruism without thought. First please help me understand, did Alinsky view altruism as "virtue" or "myth?" It seems, more the latter.

It is clear that he embraced self-interest. But he did so in a way that justifies theft on the basis of inequality. By that logic, property rights expire once one has accumulated "too much" property. How is that any prescription for prosperity and, more pointedly, peace?

Posted by: johngalt at June 2, 2013 3:53 PM

June 1, 2013

Right Problem, Wrong Solution

James Pethokoukis is correct. The topic of global warming is fraught with peril for the GOP. Being intransigent, fighting "science," and appearing indifferent turns off a lot of voters -- especially young voters. Especially, well, all the voters all the GOP schemes seek to attract.

And yet, Pethokoukis points out, Republican primary voters want to hear "it's a hoax." With significant tailwinds on size of government and Democratic miscues, the GOP -- on a minor issue -- is set up to be unable to nominate anybody who could win. In my best Mr. Mackey voice, I say "That's bad, mmkay?"

Pethokoukis offers some bold solutions. Even he admits they will be a tough sell. Trading a carbon tax for significant reductions in regulation and corporate tax reform has its charms, but it is a hard sell even to me. So, JimiP, we're going to tax the great engine of what Deepak Lal calls "Promethean Growth" and further establish government as the arbiter of what is good ('lectric cars, ethanol) and what's bad (stinky oil, raw milk, tea party groups...).

In addition, it is pretty easily demagogued; "Gas Tax" like "Amnesty!" has the power to reduce intelligent debate to shouting. ("Advantage TT")

Worse -- and readers know I am a HUGE fan of Pethokoukis -- I think he understates the hard sell to the left. They may have some fears of oceans' rising, but status quo policy is working very well for them. Schooners of money for research, EPA control of everything, a winning political issue.

Pethokoukis's other solution is geoengineering. I will admit that that is my favorite solution if DAWG pans out to be real. Shoot seawater into clouds or reflective sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere. My favorite, not mentioned, is iron particles on the surface of the ocean to enable plant growth. But all of these solutions have to win over a left wing that fights vaccinations and GMO crops and fracking on junk science -- they're going to buy in on atmos-tampering?

On the other side, you're convincing me that the UN should be in charge of the weather. Is that a really good idea?

I applaud his taking this on. I agree that a plan is needed, that leadership is good. Yet how do you ask the party of less government to mobilize legislation against n externality that is not quantitatively understood?

But JC thinks:

"mobilize legislation against n externality that is not quantitatively understood?"

Should humanity deny the carbon count? (ppm as measured at altitude)

Do we deny all progress by claiming ignorance?

"We have no proof... why should we change our behavior because of a silly theory and ever-rising ?"

I cry conspiracy!!!

Posted by: JC at June 3, 2013 9:32 PM
But jk thinks:

And I cry shenanigans! The key word was the adverb "quantitatively," which you conveniently ignored to launch into your pantomime.

I do not deny CO2 has increased. I believe that the sensitivity to CO2 is low. You're shocked at 400 ppm. Four-hundredths of a percent of atmospheric gasses is a benign, non-poisonous compound vital to life and useful to plants.

There exists some function that describes exactly how much warming we’re likely to see for a given increase in CO2. This is poorly understood. The IPCC report provided a wide range and some recent peer-reviewed research suggests it may be even lower. If warming is minimal, there is even less cause to interfere with growth, freedom and innovation.

Posted by: jk at June 4, 2013 10:18 AM
But johngalt thinks:

C'mon JC, the Climate Change Fear Engine has apogeed and is in the down phase of its cycle. Time to jump on the next rising wave - GMOs!

Get with the program! There's votes to be won!

Posted by: johngalt at June 4, 2013 3:17 PM

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