Tuesday, December 31, 2013

MLK's Example

Something I did not know about Goldwater and about MLK:
The ‘Racism’ Wrecking Ball | National Review Online: "Kevin D. Williamson points out in the latest issue of National Review, the Reverend Martin Luther King was always careful with accusations of racism. “He often pointed out that Barry Goldwater was not himself a racist,” even though he voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Williamson notes. King had been told that Goldwater had worked hard to desegregate the Air National Guard in Arizona and had donated his own money for a lawsuit to desegregate a Phoenix high school. “Another reason that MLK did not call Senator Goldwater a racist is that he did not wish to look like a fool,” Williamson writes."
Now there seems to be no disincentive to making accusations of racism.

Instead of this constant whinging about being owed an apology for this or that off-hand comment, let the penalty for making false or unsupportable accusations of racism of prejudice being made to look like a fool. But of course, that would require some more Republicans and conservatives with the courage to risk being called racists themselves.

Earlier in the article Fund mentions the Duck Dynasty patriarch's comments about never personally observing any mistreatment of blacks growing up in Louisiana. Why is that absurd? A system of oppression, if it is really effective, doesn't have to be rude or openly cruel on a day to day basis. Indeed, that may be the real horror of the Jim Crow South, the acceptance of it as natural by both the oppressors and the oppressed.

'via Blog this'

Insurance made unaffordable BY AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

White House Exempts Millions from Individual Mandate Because of 'Hardship' of Obamacare: So it has come to this. The Obama administration has declared itself a hardship. For those people whose insurance is been made unaffordable by the affordable care act a waiver will be granted from the requirement to buy health insurance. Not only will fewer people have insurance after the limitation of the law's purpose was to solve the problem of the uninsured, now the very administration that wrote the law officially announces that being subject to the law is a hardship.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Politics an't bean bag, but under Obama, unfortunately, border control is

Fast & Furious Bombshell: FBI Implicated in Death of Border Patrol Agent Brian TerryThe Fast and Furious scandal continues to yield new details and depths of depravity. This article details the charges of a former Border Control agent that the actual engagement that killed Border Patrol agent Briant Terry was actual instigated and supervised by FBI assets, members of the criminal world that are acting as informants for the FBI.

But the real scandal to me is what was the intentional policy of the Obama administration to arm our guys with bean bags.
Fast & Furious Bombshell: FBI Implicated in Death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry | Independent Journal Review: "Border Patrol Agent Briant Terry was killed in an ambush on December 14th, 2010 during a patrol 11 miles from the Mexican border at Peck Canyon, in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. While Terry and his crew fired non-lethal beanbags at the assailants, the drug cartel members fired back with real bullets – killing the 40-year old agent."

Moral Panics; They are not just for Reactionaries anymore

Data shows dramatically less, not more, extreme weather in 2013 | WashingtonExaminer.com: Moral Panic has been a concept applied by social scientists to conservative causes and movements to enact policies that are based on non-existent problems. The 'White Slavery' moral panic of the 1920s is often cited as a canonical example. Now we have global warming coming apart.

Opinion Writing under the guise of fact-checking

Pants On Fire: PolitiFact Tries To Hide That It Rated 'True' in 2008 Obamacare's 'Keep Your Health Plan' Promise - Forbes: Avik Roy documents how the statement "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it. Period," went from being rated 100% true by Politifact in the 2008 election to being this year's "Lie of the Year," by the same Pulitzer prize winning organization.

Remember this the next time a Liberal sententiously announces that some politically charged statement has received the ire or imprimatur of a 'politically neutral' fact checker.

How not to fight a war

We are worried that the many who did this to an American may have gotten a fat lip?

How political correctness took down Navy SEALs | New York Post: These Navy Seals had their lives turned into a raging sea for the better part of a decade and their careers ruined because they allegedly failed to apprehend a terrorist and murderer of Americans with all the punctilious respect for rights that one expects of a suburban cop making a traffic stop. This is a great illustration of the absurdity of fighting a war as if we were at peace and treating enemy spies and terrorists as if they behind on child support payments.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

High Modernism and Social Science

A strong source of attraction of high modernism is the illusion it offers of making moral dilemmas disappear.
Malcolm Gladwells David and Goliath Fairy Tales | New Republic: "Gladwell is only one among a great many writers at the present time who promote this exaggerated or misplaced faith in science. From those who assure us that the world is becoming ever more peaceful to those who look to grand theories of psychology for solutions to Washington gridlock, the idea that scientific method can be a guide to the perplexed is one of the delusions of the age. More than any tendency to over-simplification, it is Gladwell’s enthusiastic embrace of this delusion that makes his style of writing so tendentious. Scientism has many sources, but central among them is a refusal to accept that intractable difficulty is normal in human affairs. Many human conflicts, even ones that are properly understood, do not fall into the category of soluble problems. No new discoveries in sociology or psychology can enable such conflicts to be wholly overcome; deeply rooted in history, they can only be coped with more or less resolutely and intelligently. Acknowledging this humbling truth is the beginning of wisdom, and of the long haul to something like peace."
A prime example of this avoidance of hard truths is Gandhi, who at least recognized the nature of the choice when he recommended that the Jews commit mass suicide to alert the world to the brutality of Nazism. I admired Gandhi for at least facing up to the choice. But Grey brings in another part of the story, the subsequent correspondence between Gandhi and Buber.

Reading Gladwell’s blithe assurances about happy endings for the vulnerable, one is reminded of Martin Buber’s rejoinder to Gandhi, who had urged Jews in Germany to practice non-violence against the Third Reich of the sort he was using against the British in India. “A diabolic universal steam-roller,” Buber explained, “cannot thus be withstood.” Earlier in the letter, Buber asked Gandhi: “Do you know or do you not know, Mahatma, what a concentration camp is like and what goes on there? Do you know of the torments of the concentration camp, of its methods of slow and quick slaughter?” The Mahatma did not want to know. It seems that many of Gladwell’s readers, in their less extreme circumstances, adopt a similar attitude toward the world. Unwilling to confront the raw facts of power, they prefer to inhabit a fantasy world in which it can be cleverly conjured away.
I don't think that Grey is being entirely fair to Gandhi, who seemed to recognize the futility of non-violent resistance in those circumstances, though the correspondence referred to above seems to have taken place before the end of the war and the full extent of the Nazi methods were known.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Does support mean signing up?

From Maggie Mahar's piece arguing that the media are being unduly critical of Obamacare:
The Media’s One-Sided Coverage of Obamacare | Health Beat by Maggie Mahar: "It is worth noting that the law draws the greatest support from people 18-34 (38 %) and 51-64 (41%.)  Somehow most in the media are ignoring the fact that so many young Americans favor the law—perhaps because that would contradict assertions  that 20-somethings and 30-somethings won’t be signing up for insurance."
I am not sure that supporting the law means that young people will sign up for it. Maybe they support it because they have not signed up for it yet. Maybe they don't realize that they have to sign up for it and that it is going to cost them something, probably more than they expect.

Populist Libertarianism's Founding Rant?

A Great Christmas Season Rant Against the Unfairness of the State

Combining the anti-statism of the right on the issues of

Green Energy Subsidies
Union Cronyism
Eminent Domain for Economic Development
Public Employee Unions

And the anti-statism of the left on issues like:

Wall-Street impunity
Corporate subsidies
Low-level drug users and dealers
Subsidized Sports Facilities

Populist Libertarianism's Founding Rant?

A Great Christmas Season Rant Against the Unfairness of the State

Combining the anti-statism of the right on the issues of

Green Energy Subsidies
Union Cronyism
Eminent Domain for Economic Development
Public Employee Unions

And the anti-statism of the left on issues like:

Wall-Street impunity
Corporate subsidies
Low-level drug users and dealers
Subsidized Sports Facilities

Why the Common Law Matters

This why the common law matters. The young man has a consensual encounter with a woman followed by friendly email exchanges and then, a year later, is brought before a kangaroo court where the normal procedures that protect the accused are waived to protect the 'victim.'
Guilty Until Proven Innocent - Reason.com: "Last February, one year after the encounter, the other shoe dropped: Yu was informed that Walker had filed charges of "nonconsensual sexual contact" against him through the college disciplinary system. Two and a half weeks later, a hearing was held before a panel of three faculty members. Yu was not allowed an attorney; his request to call his roommate and Walker's roommate as witnesses was denied after the campus "gender equity compliance investigator" said that the roommates had emailed him but had "nothing useful" to offer. While the records from the hearing are sealed, Yu claims his attempts to cross-examine his accuser were repeatedly stymied. Many of his questions (including ones about Walker's friendly messages, which she had earlier told the investigator she sent out of "fear") were barred as "irrelevant"; he says that when he was allowed to question Walker, she would start crying and give evasive or nonresponsive answers. Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled from Vassar."
You see women, women are weak and cannot be expected to have to face the people they accuse. On the other hand, they are just fine in combat. Seriously, how does this make sense?

Victims of Gandhi: peaceful provocations!

Female protester pictured kissing policeman accused of sexual assault - Telegraph:

The story goes on to note that the woman's intentions were to provoke an incident by violating the man's dignity, though I am not sure that sexual assault is the most accurate way to describe it:
"No peace message," she wrote on Facebook. "I would hang all these disgusting pigs upside down."
Oh well, another "emblematic image of peace," bites the dust.

Of course, I blame Gandhi. He it was who wrote the modern grammar of protest, which allows the "peaceful" side to win political victory by provoking a tactical loss.

Double Standards

Althouse: The Marines Corps quietly puts off the requirement that female Marines perform 3 pullups: Can anyone argue this makes the nation safer? Why does militant feminism seem so intent on getting women into combat? Is there a great swelling demand from women to be in combat? And how does this militant denial of the facts of women's relative weakness square with the demand that charges in domestic violence cases be brought whether the woman wishes to press them or not? Women are the equal of men on the battlefield but must be protected from them, going so far as to take from them the right to make their own decisions about whether to charge their husbands with a crime, when they are in the home? How does modern feminism maintain these two contradictory conceptions of women--as warrior and wilting flower--in mind and at the heart of simultaneously pursued policies?

Government by Anecdote: Welfare Queen Edition

Linda Taylor, welfare queen: Ronald Reagan made her a notorious American villain. Linda Taylor’s other sins were far worse.:

Josh Levin's story documents the real story of the woman Reagan cited in his celebrated and reviled "welfare queen" remark.
He argues that the real story--which was much worse than the facts that Reagan cited at the time--debunks Reagan's use of the anecdote since the woman was not representative or typical of the welfare using population:
With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be stamped out. This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The “welfare queen” became a convenient villain, a woman everyone could hate. She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn. 
On the other hand you could argue that an example doesn't have to be typical to be informative. As Mickey Kaus argues, the whole story gives the impression that the system of dispensing benefits was ripe for manipulation and that Taylor was merely the best at a game many were playing. If a right-wing, tea-party supporter were to shot up a Democratic campaign headquarters it would surely be used to discredit the movement and pointed to as revealing something about the nature of the larger group without anyone claiming that all or even most tea-party are about to start shooting people.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Winning Ugly

Here is a good example of the advantage dictatorships have in war from this account of the Finns offset the Soviet's three-to-one advantage in numbers in their Winter 1939 invasion of Finland in WWII.
How a Small Force of Finnish Ski Troops Fought Off a Massive Soviet Army: "But the Finnish ski troopers, again utilizing their knowledge of the white and wooded landscape, expertly positioned automatic weapons that mowed down wave upon wave of advancing Soviet soldiers. 
After days of slaughter, enough dead riflemen had piled up in the snowbanks that the oncoming lines of Soviets were able to take cover behind the frozen bodies. The sub-zero temperatures hardened the corpses enough to stop the Finnish machine gun rounds."
Not exactly the way you would want to win but apparently effective. The Soviets eventually forced territorial concessions out of Finland in exchange for an armistice. But imagine a democracy having to fight on as their soldiers were forced to hid behind the frozen bodies of their fallen comrades? Also, how useful is it to have frozen bodies to hide behind for an invading army? To invade you have to go forward. Having to wait for enough guys to get killed in front of you to advance would be a very slow process to say the least.

The Soviet advantage in tanks was offset by the Finns' use of gasoline filled bottles dropped into the exhausts of the Russian tanks by swift moving ski mounted soldiers, devices which were popularly called, "Molotov cocktails," after Stalin's duplicitous foreign minister who negotiated the notorious Hitler-Stalin pact that, among other things, apportioned Finland to the Soviet Union. Of course, the Soviets were never able to close the 'reindeer gap.'

I knew Africa was big, but....

The-True-Size-of-Africa.jpg shows the true size of Africa.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Senator Reid Makes a Sound Proposal

Senate Democrats launch new push on student loan debt, college accountability | Inside Higher Ed: The idea is that colleges will be charged a penalty in proportion to the default rate of students who attend their college. It would give colleges an incentive to discourage students from taking out loans that they can't pay back, or as Reid says, give them "skin in the game." It is a good idea and I am surprised that Reid supports it given that the higher education is a major Democratic constituency. I suspect that the larger and more prestigious institutions see it as a way of putting greater burdens on their competitors, particularly for profit institutions.

Friday, December 20, 2013

You can't make this up

Looking for ways to exempt people from the individual mandate the Obama administration has stumbled upon the idea of using the hardship exemption. What is the hardship? The passage of Obamacare!
The individual mandate no longer applies to people whose plans were canceled: "3. Today, the administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted as "an unexpected natural or human-caused event." For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship. You can read HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' full letter here. HHS's formal guidance is here."
You don't have to buy insurance because the law saying that you have to buy insurance cancelled you insurance policy, leaving you without an insurance policy.

Of course, the rub is the word "unexpected." The law was passed almost four years ago. Surely that was enough time to make provisions for the insurance plans that would be cancelled? Ah, but these people believed President Obama when he said that if you liked your insurance policy you could keep it. Period.

So the real hardship is that you were lied to by the President and now the President is trying to help you. I believe the parallels to Otter's "You fucked up, you trusted us," defense is now added Otter's next sentence. "But don't worry, were going to try to help."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Silence! You have hurt my feelings!

Bryan Preston has some interesting things to say on the Duck Dynasty controversy.

The PJ Tatler » 4 Reasons Why the Duck Dynasty Brouhaha Matters:

Here is what strikes me: You never hear about conservatives trying to silence the other side. When did the normal reaction to something you disagree with become to demand that the person holding that opinion be banished from the public square?

I suppose this may just be a function of the relative strength of social liberalism. If social conservatives were as strong now as social liberals are now perhaps they would be making the same sorts of demands. Still, I think it is something specific to liberalism that it views the fact that one's feelings are hurt by the fact that someone disapproves of you as reasonable grounds for demanding that the person who hurts your feelings go away or be silenced.

The Suspensive Power: 21st Century Edition

In the 17th century it was called "the suspensive power", referring to Kings declining to enforce laws passed by Parliament, and it cost King Charles his head. Now our President is applauded for getting around a do-nothing Congress--at least when the President does things that please the chattering class--but there are reasons for concern:

Why Presidents Resort to Policy-Based Non-Enforcement, and Why It’s Concerning | The Volokh ConspiracyThe Volokh Conspiracy: "Yet for all the reasons that non-enforcement may be attractive to the executive branch as a policy tool — its circumvention of Congress, the limited political constraints on its use, and the unlikelihood of judicial reversal — it may also be insidious. An unbounded authority to decline enforcement could amount to a sort of second veto, an authority to read statutory provisions out of the code, at least for the duration of a particular presidency."

'via Blog this'

Government's most profitable scam? Reform!

If you were worried that the dearth of legislation being passed by this Congress was hurting the business of Washington's K-Street Lobbyists, you can relax. The surge in regulation has proven to be more profitable than making new laws ever was.
K Street mints money from regs surge | TheHill: "A regulatory lawyer can earn anywhere from $350 to $1,000 per hour when working for a client, depending on the firm and the attorney’s level of experience, according to several accounts. 
And one of the most important but little-known steps in the regulatory process, the filing of a comment letter on a proposed rule, could cost a company up to $100,000, one source said. 
“A regulatory project can far exceed a yearly retainer of a typical lobbying representation,” said the regulatory lobbyist. “For all we think about the mone1y that goes into lobbying, it’s chump change.” 
The increased focus on regulation coincides with a general rise in the regulatory state under both Democratic and Republican presidents."
Hooray for bipartisanship!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How politics stole Hollywood, Grinch edition

So I am watching the Jim Carey version of 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' with Karen's niece and seeing it for the first time. I find this particular Carey performance rather tedious, filled with a lot of frenetic and unnecessary movement that is not funny. There is a lot of athletic special effect enhanced slapstick for kids and double-meaning jokes for the adults (for instance, when he forces his dog to act the part of a reindeer he gives the dog method actor-like speech about his motivation). But what is really appalling is the back story and embellishments that they have added to make the story congruent with the political ideology and worldview of the film-makers.

Since the worldview that characterizes the thinking of our elites holds that there are no evil people in the world, only the victims of oppression by the rich and powerful, we must have an explanation of how the Grinch became the misanthropic who-hating anti-Christmas activist that the original book presented to us without explanation.

It turns out that the Grinch was ridiculed by as a child by the man who is the current Mayor of Whoville. The Mayor is a rich man whom we see mistreating the man who shines his shoes and so must be the real villain. The boy who would become the Mayor torments the Grinch and ridicules him for having hair on his face while still in grade-school. The Grinch tries to shave himself and ends up cutting himself for which he is ridiculed even more. This happens during the Christmas season and so the Grinch combines his hatred of Whos with a hatred of Christmas.

During the main action of the story the little girl proposes the Grinch for the prize and quotes the who-rule book against the Mayor that Whos must 'treat everyone the same, no matter how different or strange' (quoting from memory), making the issue prejudice against those who are different, of course. The little girl's plans to bring the Grinch back into the fold of Whoville by making him Cheer-miester for Christmas is foiled by the Mayor who manages to insinuate reminders of the Grinch's childhood humiliations into the award ceremony,  triggering the Grinch's rampage which ends with an explosion destroying the Christmas festivities. Amidst the rubble in the aftermath of the Grinch's rampage the Mayor declares that they must get back to "Christmas as it should be--Grinchless!"

In the end the Grinch decides to give Christmas back pretty much as in the book.

So instead of a story about a curmudgeon whose heart is changed by the Christmas spirit we get a morality tale about the the evils of rich and powerful and the harm of prejudice against people who look different from us. 

When are political views relevant in a mass shooting?

The Denver Post has a story about the Arapahoe High School shooter that reveals what appear pretty clearly to be left-of-center political beliefs:
Arapahoe High gunman held strong political beliefs, classmates said - The Denver Post: "In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as "Keynesian." 
"I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn't the market correcting itself?" he wrote. "If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn't it be able to overpower regulations?" 
Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing "you republicans are so cute" and posting an image that reads: "The Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em Die, Climate Change: Let 'em Die, Gun Violence: Let 'em Die, Women's Rights: Let 'em Die, More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?""
But other news stories do not mention his political beliefs (and here) or refer to them only vaguely, as in this NBC story:

Abbey Skoda, a junior, told The Denver Post: "He had very strong beliefs about gun laws and stuff. I also heard he was bullied a lot."
Of course, these stories all mention the altercation that he apparently had with the debate coach or a school librarian and that may well have been the main motive. But if he had been a rabid Republican can we really believe that his radical and combatively held views would not have been the subject of more discussion?

Writing Opinion Pieces and Calling it Fact-Checking

PolitiFact's 2013 Lie of the Year Was Half True in 2012 - Hit & Run : Reason.com: As Suderman points out, Politifact went from rating the statement as true in 2008, to half true in 2009 and 2012, to now, not only a lie, but the lie of the year. The statement didn't change, but Politifact's evaluation of whether it was a lie or not did change.

There is a case to be made for cutting Politifact some slack in 2008 when Obama was merely describing the bill he planned to write and pass--though even then it seems unfair to rule out as simply not true the argument of Republicans that the plan as Obama described it would necessitate the ending of many plans--but it is hard to explain their 'half-trues' after the bill was written and then passed as anything other than politically biased defense of the Obama administration.

From Gateway Pundit

FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY… Al Gore Predicted the North Pole Will Be Ice Free in 5 Years : except he referred to it as the 'North polarized cap'--good thing for him he isn't Sarah Palin. In a nice touch, Gateway Pundit points out, Egypt just had its first snowfall in 100 years.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Would Legalized Prostitution solve the problem of police corruption?

The problem with replacing prohibition of prostitution with a partially legalized and 'regulated' prostitution is that the industry would be liable to the same same kind of regulatory extortion as other regulated industries are.
Treating Sex Work as Work | Cato Unbound: "even in looser legalization regimes, laws create perverse incentives and provide weapons the police inevitably use to harass sex workers; in the United Kingdom women who share a working flat for safety are often prosecuted for “brothel-keeping” and, in a bizarrely cruel touch, for “pimping” each other (because they each contribute a substantial portion of the other’s rent).  In India, the adult children of sex workers are sometimes charged with “living on the avails,” thus making it dangerous for them to be supported by their mothers while attending university.  And in Queensland, police actually run sting operations to arrest sex workers travelling together for safety or company, or even visiting a client together, under the excuse of “protecting” them from each other. 
Such shenanigans were the primary reason New South Wales decriminalized sex work in 1995; police corruption had become so terrible (as it so often does when the police are allowed to “supervise” an industry) that the government could no longer ignore it."
The way to legalize something is to make it legal. Period.

Help your friends, harm your enemies: East-Asia edition

Commentary: Biden and Hagel Appease China at Allies' Expense:

It is as if they are determined to offer proof of the classical maxim by doing the opposite and allowing the world to observe the calamitous results.

Pragmatic Revolutionary

How Mandela Shifted Views on Freedom of Markets - NYTimes.com: Though he came out of prison and entered the South African presidency fully intending to socialize the economy, meeting leaders of socialist countries around the world that were privatizing gave Mandela reason to rethink his views. It is rare for a man to reverse convictions at so late an age and is one more reason to admire and be thankful for his contributions to life of his country and the world's.

News from outside the state controlled media

Some of the best reporting on the US comes from outside the US. In Britain the journalists don't have emotional investment in Obama and so papers like the Daily Mail are apparently more willing to give us the bad news.

This one is amazing: Obamacare mandates are set to shutter THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments. Obamacare rules, in their proxy-socialist wisdom, require organizations to provide healthcare for their members, even if their members are volunteers. This is idiocy from the point of view of most Americans, but perhaps not if you are a proxy-socialist. If you want to rationalize life getting rid of volunteer organizations is a good move. They are too hard to control and make people too independent of the state.

News from outside the state controlled media

Some of the best reporting on the US comes from outside the US. In Britain the journalists don't have emotional investment in Obama and so papers like the Daily Mail are apparently more willing to give us the bad news.

This one is amazing: Obamacare mandates are set to shutter THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments. Obamacare rules, in their proxy-socialist wisdom, require organizations to provide healthcare for their members, even if their members are volunteers. This is idiocy from the point of view of most Americans, but perhaps not if you are a proxy-socialist. If you want to rationalize life getting rid of volunteer organizations is a good move. They are too hard to control and make people too independent of the state.

Punctuation Matters!

Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage' - Washington Times:

'via Blog this'

Irony of Obamacare

White House in Obamacare Panic Mode?

So it seems that after years of being lectured on what an unfeeling person I am for not supporting Obamacare because, "Having health insurance is a basic human right," Obamacare is going to result in fewer people net having health insurance? Really amazing!

In the War on Boys, Common Sense is Collateral Damage

Dr. Hellen Smith remarks on the case of a six year old boy accused of sexual harassment:

Tell Hunter Yelton It’s a Man’s World | National Review Online: "The Yelton case should serve as a warning to parents and those who care about boys to fight for their sons’ freedom and rights in the same way that they would fight for their daughters, maybe even more so in today’s society where anyone’s son can become the next Hunter, or worse, one of the falsely accused as in the Duke rape case. Men deserve justice as much as women in our PC culture. It is only by bringing to light the cases like Hunter’s that we as a society will start down a path to change. We must accept that it is no longer a man’s world — and maybe it never was — and that little boys like Hunter are the ones most likely to suffer when society allows PC dogma, rather than reason, to dominate our political and educational systems."
One more reason to demand school choice.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Word of the day: malum prohibitum

Malum Prohibitum as opposed to Malum per se is my new word of the day. It is a latin legal phrase referring to things that are wrong because they are illegal in contrast to things that are illegal because they are wrong. So much of our troubles in government come from the expansion of the former and the waning of the later.

We should always ask of a law if it asks us to make illegal things that are not immediately wrong in and of themselves. In the past most law prohibited things that are wrong in and of themselves, things that one should be expected to know are wrong without their being illegal, things that you would expect anyone to know are wrong where ever they came from.

For instance, the laws against insider trading make things that are not only not wrong in and of themselves illegal but are actually reasonable and prudent illegal. If you hear someone at a party talk about how their company is going to have a bad quarter or that the people inside the company hate their new boss the reasonable and prudent thing to do would be to sell some of your shares. But in doing so you would run afoul of the insider trading laws which prohibit acting on information that is not public knowledge.

This causes problems. People break the law without realizing it. People end up being vulnerable to prosecution and afraid to talk to the police about other matters. The whole sense of the law as being something reasonable and something we can trust is diminished. This causes a loss of confidence in the law as people come to think of it as a game with rules too complicated to ever know. They get the feeling that the game is rigged. When someone is convicted of breaking the law there is less shame and sometimes even a sense of sympathy because they cannot be assumed to have done anything that is self-evidently immoral but may have merely made an enemy in the wrong place.

Glenn Renolds argues that a free society will have less malum prohibitum because the state would get out of the business of using the criminal law to regulate consensual relations between citizens and rely more on tort law and contract law to make victims whole through restitution rather than making the state richer (through fines) or poorer (through imprisonment).

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Don't bring lawyers to a knife-fight

The legalism of the West is going to end up leading to a great victory for the forces of lawlessness: Letting the Ukraine slip into the Russian orbit and out of the West:

The Great Ukrainian Knife Fight - The American Interest: "The EU on the other hand, infected by the usual mix of arrogance, legalism and internal wrangling that fairly consistently undermines its influence on the world stage, assumed that the attractions of its offer were so overwhelming that relatively little needed to be done beyond restating the terms of the deal. Worse, it demanded that President Yanukovych swallow a large toad before signing up; he had to release his archrival and predecessor Yulia Tymoshenko from jail. 
Not a good idea; the toad swallowing thing ensured that Yanukovych would bargain hard before accepting the EU bid and made him more open to Kremlin seduction than he would otherwise be. It also reminded the entire Ukrainian economic establishment that a deal with the European Union would threaten the freewheeling nature of oligarchical life. It reminded all the power brokers in Ukraine of just how convenient the more flexible Russian approach to matters of political democracy and economic regulation can be."
The West as a whole is hobbled by institutions that care more about conforming their behavior to legal principles rather than achieving results. When confronted by an opponent with a knife the thing to do is not to check whether your hands are clean but whether they have a knife in them as well. Putin is winning in spite of a weak hand because he helps his friends and harms his enemies. All our friends get is a hygiene lecture. 

Mississippi wins!

PJ Lifestyle » Which State Is The Most %@$* Foul-Mouthed?: No surprise here. Mississippi comes in inside the top five most polite states in an analysis of cell phone calls. Surprisingly it is among the top five in the number of profanities in cell phone calls as well. That is quite a surprise to me. On the other hand, coming in at the wrong end of both lists among the least polite and most foul mouthed, my home state: Ohio!

Of course, the really disturbing thing about the report is that some guy can get this information about the content of cell phone calls. And he doesn't even work for the NSA!

The 'Axis of Weevils'

In my American politics class we read a piece that argued the US faces no real enemies and that therefore we should sharply decrease defense spending. The students in my class were not persuaded; I was struck by how much support there was for increased defense spending given our difficult economy and the difficulties many of their own families are facing. But they had trouble articulating the precise source of the danger we were facing. Do we have an actual enemy? Is that enemy the kind that we would fight with tanks and aircraft carriers? Are China and Russia really opposed to us? Are they someone we are going to have a war with? The article on the opposing side of the dispute did not help the case for increased defense spending much. The author brought up Russia's actions in Ossetia. Until they had read the word on the page I am confident that they had never known of its existence, much less attached sufficient importance to it to be willing to fight for it, where ever it is!

Now comes a blog post by Walter Russell Mead that puts the nature of the danger and the challenge that we face in a way that makes sense to me. In The End of History Ends - The American Interest, he characterizes our present predicament in foreign policy as a confrontation with a triumvirate of dissatisfied powers that are continually on the look out for ways to diminish US power and influence.

Russian, China and Iran may not have a lot in common but they all strongly dislike the international system as it is set up now and, as it is the US that set up and guarantees this system, are opposed to the US and most things that help the US project and maintain its power. They are not strong enough nor necessarily inclined to oppose it in a direct military confrontation, but they are working constantly and opportunistically to chip away at the foundations of the US backed world order.

Think of the Central Powers as an ‘axis of weevils’. At this stage they are looking to hollow out the imposing edifice of American and maritime power rather than knock it over. This is not the most formidable alliance the United States has ever faced. Not everything the Central Powers want is bad; like all revisionist powers, they have legitimate grievances against the status quo. They don’t always agree, and in the long run their differences with one another are profound. But for now, they have not only agreed that they have a common interest in weakening the United States in Eurasia and disrupting its alliances; increasingly, with the United States government still largely blind to the challenge, they are pushing ahead.
The Obama administration sees the grievances and focuses primarily on removing the causes of those grievances and building trust through diplomacy. It is not an ignoble impulse. But they fail to recognize that some conflicts cannot be solved to everyone's satisfaction and that sometimes there just has to be a winner and a loser. In its determination to turn enemies and adversaries into friends it often turns its back on our friends and emboldens our enemies. Through wishful thinking and, it must be admitted, a certain degree of ineptitude, it has handed the axis a series of tactical victories that are starting to make the US look like a bad bet, an inconstant friend and a timid enemy.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Manchurian Incompetent

Iranian Deal’s Revealing First Week « Commentary Magazine: The deal with Iran has already started to unravel, or at least, if you thought that the goal was to keep Iran from getting a bomb. If you thought that the goal was to prevent Israel from stopping Iran and getting on the good side of Hezbollah and the radical Islamists then it is pretty good.

Indeed, if you were a foreign power that had installed Obama as your agent you could hardly have asked for more from the man.

Al Qaeda spread throughout the Middle-East? Check!

American's allies put on notice that we will not stand behind them when things get rough? Check!

America less popular than we were during the Bush presidency? Check!

Russia back in the Middle-East after being elbowed out by Nixon and Kissinger 40 years ago? Check!

American economy hobbled with employment as a percentage of the working age population back to 1970s levels? Check!

Spying on Allies and worse, getting caught? Check!

The legacy of the Obama administration foreign policy will be a resurgent Islamist movement, a nuclear armed terrorist state and a Russia resurgent. It is a pity that he is not working for our foreign enemies. He would certainly be able to argue that he had earned his pay.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Chinese belligerence backfiring?

37% Believe U.S. Doesn’t Spend Enough on Military, National Security: Rasmussen finds that their tracking of Americans who believe we are spending too little on the military versus those who believe we are spending too much has flipped with those saying we spend too little besting their opposite number by 8 percentage points. Thanks, China!

Rent seeking prudes strike again!

Topless Barber Charged With Unlicensed Cosmetology - NYTimes.com: The incumbents in the hair cutting industry are striking out against their topless competitors to the detriment of consumers everywhere. Good think for Hooters that waitresses haven't been able to get licensing requirements enacted!

Real Progress

How NASA might build its very first warp drive: Details how a faster than light warp drive might be practical. Personally I had not even realized it was theoretically possible, but that just shows you what I know. Turns out that geometry is the key to the advance in this case. I always feel that geometry is the key to understanding anything really. You can follow algebraic proofs all you want but for me, I don't really understand something until I can picture it.