Friday, May 30, 2014

#7 – The Free Market Ignores the Poor : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

#7 – The Free Market Ignores the Poor : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

Agreement with the idea of state absolutism follows socialization, appallingly. Why? One does not have to dig very deep for the answer.
Once an activity has been socialized, it is impossible to point out, by concrete example, how men in a free market could better conduct it. How, for instance, can one compare a socialized post office with private postal delivery when the latter has been outlawed? It’s something like trying to explain to a people accustomed only to darkness how things would appear were there light. One can only resort to imaginative construction.
To illustrate the dilemma: During recent years, men and women in free and willing exchange (the free market) have discovered how to deliver the human voice around the earth in one twenty-seventh of a second; how to deliver an event, like a ball game, into everyone’s living room, in color and in motion, at the time it is going on; how to deliver 115 people from Los Angeles to Baltimore in three hours and 19 minutes; how to deliver gas from a hole in Texas to a range in New York at low cost and without subsidy; how to deliver 64 ounces of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard—more than half-way around the earth—for less money than government will deliver a one-ounce letter across the street in one’s home town. Yet, such commonplace free market phenomena as these, in the field of delivery, fail to convince most people that “the post” could be left to free market delivery without causing people to suffer.
Now, then, resort to imagination: Imagine that our federal government, at its very inception, had issued an edict to the effect that all boys and girls, from birth to adulthood, were to receive shoes and socks from the federal government “for free.” Next, imagine that this practice of “free shoes and socks” had been going on for lo, these 173 years! Lastly, imagine one of our contemporaries—one with a faith in the wonders of what can be wrought when people are free—saying, “I do not believe that shoes and socks for kids should be a government responsibility. Properly, that is a responsibility of the family. This activity should never have been socialized. It is appropriately a free market activity.”
What, under these circumstances, would be the response to such a stated belief? Based on what we hear on every hand, once an activity has been socialized for even a short time, the common chant would go like this, “Ah, but you would let the poor children go unshod!”
However, in this instance, where the activity has not yet been socialized, we are able to point out that the poor children are better shod in countries where shoes and socks are a family responsibility than in countries where they are a government responsibility. We’re able to demonstrate that the poor children are better shod in countries that are more  free than in countries that are less free.
True, the free market ignores the poor precisely as it does not recognize the wealthy—it is “no respecter of persons.” It is an organizational way of doing things featuring openness, which enables millions of people to cooperate and compete without demanding a preliminary clearance of pedigree, nationality, color, race, religion, or wealth. It demands only that each person abide by voluntary principles, that is, by fair play. The free market means willing exchange; it is impersonal justice in the economic sphere and excludes coercion, plunder, theft, protectionism, subsidies, special favors from those wielding power, and other anti-free market methods by which goods and services change hands. It opens the way for mortals to act morally because they are free to act morally.
Admittedly, human nature is defective, and its imperfections will be reflected in the market (though arguably, no more so than in government). But the free market opens the way for men to operate at their moral best, and all observation confirms that the poor fare better under these circumstances than when the way is closed, as it is under socialism.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

National Review Online | Crying Rape

National Review Online | Crying Rape

Rape. Decades ago, women who were raped and reported it, particularly those raped by someone outside their race or social class, were often disbelieved and shamed. That is tragic.

But how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction! Now, the term “rape” or “sexual assault” is thrown around almost effortlessly, accusations easily made and lives easily ruined.

First, the pendulum shift began with feminists pushing the notion that women claiming they were raped should always be believed and never questioned. Presumption of innocence, a foundation of our culture, suddenly went out the window. Consider how quickly the public tried and found guilty the Duke lacrosse boys. Ditto for a woman alleging sexual harassment. Watch the Designing Women episode concerning the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill controversy. The show’s theme? Only a sexist Neanderthal would question Hill!

Then followed the loosened standards for arrests in rape accusations. Sure, district attorneys still require evidence of a rape to prosecute, but police are not restricted by such to make a mere arrest (so, smile for your life-ruining mug shot!).

Close on its heels came the broadening of the very definition of rape, a term on which there is now almost no consensus, thanks to the Left’s deliberate expansion of it. Prominent scholars and activists now even define rape as including any sexual activity in which the woman is not sober, claiming that consent is never truly given if one has had a few drinks. Admittedly, I am no scientist, but I am fairly certain that a statistically significant amount of sex — including very enjoyable sex — happens under the influence of alcohol. But by the liberal definition of my generation, I have been raped. Multiple times. (No word from the Left on whether men partaking in “SUI” — sex under the influence — are similarly raped by a sober woman or, if both are SUI, they both raped each other? Logic, ever so inconvenient to the gender-warriors, causes these questions to go unanswered.)

And what of drugs and the issue of consent? While conservatives will rightly and gladly continue to urge girls to abstain from promiscuity and drug use, liberals will smirk that such is ”unrealistic” and “puritanical.” All right, so what is to be done? Will the Left continue to reassure girls that there is nothing wrong with drug use or casual sex . . . while simultaneously telling them that the (inevitable) sex under those circumstances was rape?

Lastly, there is the move toward using the term “sexual assault” rather than “rape.” Why? As a conveniently vague term, “sexual assault” encompasses a variety of acts yet nonetheless sounds horrific. Instances of “sexual assault” are, naturally, far higher than those of rape, and we can count on the public to blur and forget the distinction between the two. The resulting statistics of sexual-assault instances are then alarming, leading to greater attention for the feminist-warriors and vindication of their theories.

Keep in mind: Men can now be shamed with the “sexual assault” offender label for minor acts. If a friend jokingly comes up behind a girl and slaps her butt, that is, by today’s definitions, a sexual assault. While violating a woman is an awful act, regardless of degree, there is a difference between grabbing a woman’s breasts and violent, forced penetration. As Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale Law professor, notes:

Yale has changed its code of student conduct to define sexual assault as any “nonconsensual sexual contact,” where consent must be an advance, “unambiguous” “agreement” to each “specific” touching, whether or not consented to in the past. This sounds great until you think about it. If two Yale students are kissing and one of them touches the other sexually, that person has apparently committed sexual assault (unless they stopped and negotiated in advance) even if they’ve done it before.
Rubenfeld shows how schools even distort existing law: Fullerton State University, for example, informs its students that the “California Penal Code clearly states that having sex with a person who is intoxicated is illegal and may be punishable with a prison sentence.” But California’s rape law, albeit overly broad and terribly worded, actually does not say so — it states that a rape occurred if the person was so intoxicated that consent was not possible.

Due to all this, it is no surprise that, if recent reports are to be believed, there is an outright “epidemic” of rape on college campuses, one so grave that students are even complaining that school administrators are not going far enough in hunting down and punishing the accused. NPR confirmed last month that campus rape reports are on the rise and that students at Columbia University are now even placing in bathrooms flyers containing the names of “sexual-assault violators on campus.”

Apparently, there has not been this number of criminals running amok since England colonized Australia.

Violent-crime statistics — including sex crimes — have been declining for two decades. Did all the bad guys suddenly decide to enroll in universities? No one can explain it, other than to claim that rapes must have been underreported in the past (a claim that is, conveniently, impossible to disprove).

Are there truly more rapes occurring, or:

(1) Are college administrators, now largely in charge of presiding over rape allegations, quick to pronounce a situation as a rape, erring on the side of caution and of extreme feminism? As Caroline Kitchens reports:
Through a series of heavy-handed executive actions, the Obama administration has effectively required universities to serve as investigators and jurors for felony offenses. By doing so, they have placed universities in an impossible position, created costly bureaucracy, trampled students’ due-process rights, and empowered a cadre of hypersensitive, trigger-happy gender warriors on campuses.
(2) Are women themselves being taught to believe they were raped (the aforementioned “only sober consent is true consent!” notion)? Yes. And that, ironically enough, makes these women victims of liberal culture, too.

There is, naturally, a pressing consequence of all this that few discuss — the impact on the lives of the accused. The Left loves to paint a caricature — seen in countless films and shows (for example, the frat boys in American Horror Story: Coven) of a smirking college male who deliberately drugs and rapes a girl. That, undoubtedly, is rape and such a “man” deserves the worst the law and life can throw at him. But life is not so black and white, nor clear-cut, and those situations are far outweighed by murkier ones.

Monday, May 26, 2014

'What's the Worst That Can Happen?' -

'What's the Worst That Can Happen?' -

It's been a Facebook meme.  What if we create planet-friendly green energy, end pollution, create millions of jobs, and it turns out we didn't need to?

If you count only the possible benefits of a policy, you can make a great case for that policy.

The "worst that can happen" is that we spend trillions of dollars trying to solve a problem that we can't do anything to stop; that we misallocate scarce resources in a way that slows economic growth; that slower growth leads to less economic opportunity for Boston College grads and especially the world's poor, and that America and the world become much less wealthy and technologically advanced than we would otherwise. All of which would make the world less able to cope with the costs of climate change if Mr. Kerry is right.

#6 – Capitalism Fosters Greed and Government Policy Must Temper It : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

#6 – Capitalism Fosters Greed and Government Policy Must Temper It : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

“Greed” is a word that flows off Progressive tongues with the ease of lard on a hot griddle. It’s a loaded, pejorative term that consigns whoever gets hit with it to the moral gutter. Whoever hurls it can posture self-righteously as somehow above it all, concerned only about others while the greedy wallow in evil selfishness. Thinking people should realize this is a sleazy tactic, not a thoughtful moral commentary. Economist Thomas Sowell famously pointed out in Barbarians Inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays that the “greed” accusation doesn’t meet the dictionary definition of the term any more. He wrote, “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”
Let’s not forget the fundamental and critical importance of healthy self-interest in human nature. We’re born with it, and thank goodness for that! I don’t lament it for a second. Taking care of yourself and those you love and have responsibility for is what makes the world work. When your self-interest motivates you to do that, it means on net balance you’re good for the world. You’re relieving its burdens, not adding to them. A common but misleading claim is that the Great Recession of 2008 resulted from the “greed” of the financial community. But did the desire to make money suddenly appear or intensify in the years before 2008? George Mason University economist Lawrence White pointedly explained that blaming greed for recessions doesn’t get us very far. He says, “It’s like blaming gravity for an epidemic of plane crashes.” The gravity was always there. Other factors must have interceded to create a serious anomaly. In the case of the Great Recession, those factors prominently included years of cheap money and artificially low interest rates from the Federal Reserve, acts of Congress and the bureaucracy to jawbone banks into making dubious loans for home purchases, and government entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac skewing the housing market—all policies that enjoyed broad support from Progressives but never from genuinely “free market” people. The Progressive perspective on “greed” is that it’s a constant problem in the private sector but somehow recedes when government takes over. I wonder exactly when a politician’s self-interest evaporates and his altruistic compassion kicks in? Does that happen on election night, on the day he takes office, or after he’s had a chance to really get to know the folks who grease the wheels of government? When he realizes the power he has, does that make him more or less likely to want to serve himself? The charlatan cries, “That guy over there is greedy! I will be happy to take your money to protect you from him!” Before you rush into his arms, ask some pointed questions about how the greedy suspect is doing his work and how the would-be protector proposes to do his.
If you are an honest, self-interested person in a free market, you quickly realize that to satisfy the self-interest that some critics are quick to dismiss as “greed,” you can’t put a crown on your head, wrap a robe around yourself and demand that the peasants cough up their shekels. You have to produce, create, trade, invest, and employ. You have to provide goods or services that willing customers (not taxpaying captives) will choose to buy and hopefully more than just once. Your “greed” gets translated into life-enhancing things for other people. In the top-down, socialized utopia the Progressives dream of, greed doesn’t disappear at all; it just gets channeled in destructive directions. To satisfy it, you’ve got to use the political process to grab something from other people. The “greed” charge turns out to be little more than a rhetorical device, a superficial smear intended to serve political ends. Whether or not you worship a material thing like money is largely a matter between you and your Maker, not something that can be scientifically measured and proscribed by lawmakers who are just as prone to it as you are. Don’t be a sucker for it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Is Thomas Piketty a Fraud? | Power Line

Giles describes several categories of issues that he found with Piketty’s data:
a) Fat fingers
Prof. Piketty helpfully provides sources for the data he uses in his work. Frequently, however, the source material is not the same as the numbers he publishes. …
b) Tweaks
On a number of occasions, Prof. Piketty modifies the figures in his sources. This might not be a problem if these changes were explained in the technical appendix. But, with a few exceptions, they are not, raising questions about the validity of these tweaks. …
c) Averaging
Prof. Piketty constructs time-series of wealth inequality relative for three European countries: France, Sweden and the UK. He then combines them to obtain a single European estimate. To do so, he uses a simple average. This decision (shown in the screen grab below) is questionable, as it gives every Swedish person roughly seven times the weight of every French or British person. …
d) Constructed data
Because the sources are sketchy, Prof. Piketty often constructs his own data. One example is the data for the top 10 per cent wealth share in the US between 1910 and 1950. None of the sources Prof. Piketty uses contain these numbers, hence he assumes the top 10 per cent wealth share is his estimate for the top 1 per cent share plus 36 percentage points. However, there is no explanation for this number, nor why it should stay constant over time.
There are more such examples. …
e) Picking the wrong year for comparison
There is no doubt that Prof Piketty’s source data is sketchy. It is difficult to find data that relates to the start of each decade as his graphs demand. So it is only natural that he might say 1908 is a reasonable data point for 1910 on the graph.
It becomes less reasonable when, for example, Prof. Piketty uses data from 1935 Sweden for his 1930 datapoint, when 1930 data exists in his original source material. …
f) Problems with definitions
There are different ways to compute wealth data ranging from estimates based on records at death to surveys of the living. These methods are not always comparable.
In the source notes to his spreadsheets, Prof. Piketty says that the wealth data for the countries included in his study are all obtained using the same method. …
But this does not seem to be true.
g) Cherry-picking data sources
There is little consistency in the way that Prof. Piketty combines different data sources.
Sometimes, as in the US, he appears to favour cross-sectional surveys of living households rather than estate tax records. For the UK, he tends to avoid cross sectional surveys of living people.
Prof Piketty’s choices are not always the best possible ones. A glaring example is his decision relative to the UK in 2010. The estate tax data Prof. Piketty favours comes with the following health warning.
“[The data] is not a suitable data source for estimating total wealth in the UK, or wealth inequality across the whole of the wealth population; the Wealth and Asset survey is more suitable for those purposes”.
These choices matter: in both the UK and US cases, his decision of which type of data to use has the effect of showing wealth inequality rising, rather than staying constant (US) or falling (UK).
So what happens if you correct Piketty’s errors? This appears to be the key chart, particularly the two graphs on the bottom. It is apparent that the superficial plausibility of Piketty’s account derives from his own “tweaks” and misrepresentations, not from the underlying data:

Of course, Giles and Giugliano will not have the last word. The debate over Piketty’s sources and the integrity of his conclusions is just beginning. One wonders, though: why didn’t any economists take the trouble to do what Giles and Giugliano, two reporters, did? And why did so many liberals leap to endorse Piketty’s data when they obviously had no idea whether it was valid or not? Paul Krugman, for example:
[I]f you think you’ve found an obvious hole, empirical or logical, in Piketty, you’re very probably wrong. He’s done his homework!
Well, we know the answer to that one.

Smart guns, electromagnetic pulse, and planning for unknown-probability dangers

Smart guns, electromagnetic pulse, and planning for unknown-probability dangers
....But the concern about electromagnetic pulses puts a different cast on things. Naturally, I don’t expect an e-bomb being set off in L.A. any time soon; but I also don’t expect a fatal gun accident in my house any time soon, since those are rare events, too.

But I do know that there’s a nontrivial chance that in my lifetime, there will be some terrorist or military attack on the place that I live. When that happens, there might well be serious social disruption caused by the attack, and extra need for me to be able to protect myself and my family. It would be just the wrong time to be armed with something that used to be a gun but that’s now just an expensive lump of metal.

We’ve generally lived our lives in environments of peace and civil order, but there’s no guarantee that this will continue; in fact, judging by recent human history, there’s reason to think that there’s a significant (10 percent? 20 percent? who knows?) probability that at least some time in our lives, our homeland will be attacked, possibly with sophisticated anti-electronic weapons, and civil order will break down. And when that happens, we’ll both be in special need of personal defense weapons, and in special need of personal defense weapons that haven’t had their innards fried to a crisp. And our police departments, to the extent that they’re still on the job after such an attack, will also be in need of such weapons.

This is why wind energy can neither have nor produce nice things « Hot Air

This is why wind energy can neither have nor produce nice things « Hot Air

The tax credits are more valuable than the energy produced.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Confessions of a Public Defender | American Renaissance

Confessions of a Public Defender | American Renaissance

As a young lawyer, I believed the official story that blacks are law abiding, intelligent, family-oriented people, but are so poor they must turn to crime to survive. Actual black behavior was a shock to me.
Such as...

When I am appointed to represent a client I introduce myself and explain that I am his lawyer. I explain the court process and my role in it, and I ask the client some basic questions about himself. At this stage, I can tell with great accuracy how people will react. Hispanics are extremely polite and deferential. An Hispanic will never call me by my first name and will answer my questions directly and with appropriate respect for my position. Whites are similarly respectful.
A black man will never call me Mr. Smith; I am always “Mike.” It is not unusual for a 19-year-old black to refer to me as “dog.” A black may mumble complaints about everything I say, and roll his eyes when I politely interrupt so I can continue with my explanation. Also, everything I say to blacks must be at about the third-grade level. If I slip and use adult language, they get angry because they think I am flaunting my superiority.
At the early stages of a case, I explain the process to my clients. I often do not yet have the information in the police reports. Blacks are unable to understand that I do not yet have answers to all of their questions, but that I will by a certain date. They live in the here and the now and are unable to wait for anything. Usually, by the second meeting with the client I have most of the police reports and understand their case.

Most blacks are unable to speak English well. They cannot conjugate verbs. They have a poor grasp of verb tenses. They have a limited vocabulary. They cannot speak without swearing. They often become hostile on the stand. Many, when they testify, show a complete lack of empathy and are unable to conceal a morality based on the satisfaction of immediate, base needs. This is a disaster, especially in a jury trial. Most jurors are white, and are appalled by the demeanor of uneducated, criminal blacks.
Prosecutors are delighted when a black defendant takes the stand. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. However, the defense usually gets to cross-examine the black victim, who is likely to make just as bad an impression on the stand as the defendant. This is an invaluable gift to the defense, because jurors may not convict a defendant—even if they think he is guilty—if they dislike the victim even more than they dislike the defendant.

If you tell a black man that the evidence is very harmful to his case, he will blame you. “You ain’t workin’ fo’ me.” “It like you workin’ with da State.” Every public defender hears this. The more you try to explain the evidence to a black man, the angrier he gets. It is my firm belief many black are unable to discuss the evidence against them rationally because they cannot view things from the perspective of others. They simply cannot understand how the facts in the case will appear to a jury.

And there's more.
I don't think it's genetic -- blacks who are raised in Europe are much less likely to behave this way.  I think it's a pathological culture. But criticizing this culture gets called "racism".

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Telling the Truth about Torture | National Review Online

Telling the Truth about Torture | National Review Online

Just as a United Nations committee is set to release a post-hearing report on the Holy See and the Convention on Torture, University of Mississippi Law School professor Ronald J. Rychlak has published a helpful paper,Abuse of the Convention Against Torture: A Tortured Reading of the Law. For the sake of law, for the sake of freedom, for the sake of those who have and do give their lives for these values, this is not a news story to misunderstand or overlook. It’s about a new secularism that will use and abuse mechanisms meant for advancing human rights and the common good in dangerous ways. In this particular instance, instead of the U.N. working with the Catholic Church — learning the lessons it has learned and moving toward healing and protection, as U.N. peacekeepers have committed similarly abusive crimes — the horrific shame of scandal is being used as a political weapon. Rychlak​ talks with me about what’s going on and why it matters.

RealClearMarkets - 10 Things Economists Believe

RealClearMarkets - 10 Things Economists Believe
Rent control limits quantity/quality of housing93 %
Tariffs and quotas reduce economic welfare93 %
The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries.90 %
Floating exchange rates are effective international monetary policy90 %
The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies85 %
The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged85 %
Large federal deficits adversely affect the economy83 %
Welfare should be administered as a negative income tax79 %
A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers79 %
Taxes and permits are a better way to control pollution than pollution ceilings78 %

Looking back on some arguments about what "mainstream economists" believe, I marvel at how small a "mainstream" can be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Patterico's Pontifications » Campus Sexual Assault/Rape: Epidemic or Hysteria?

Patterico's Pontifications » Campus Sexual Assault/Rape: Epidemic or Hysteria?

 ...the situation faced by an unnamed male Swarthmore College student who was subject to campus disciplinary proceedings based upon a rape that was alleged to have occurred 19 months earlier. This case has been covered by Powerline, with some original reporting coming from a conservative Swarthmore publication earlier in April with a follow-up a couple of months later. The ending is similar to the scenario I posited below: the student is never charged with a rape, yet Swarthmore deems that he is worthy of expulsion based upon what certainly appears to be a superficial investigation carried out by a panel with no particular expertise in this area.

This is the end result of a campaign waged by campus feminist activists. Unhappy that the vaunted sexual liberation of American youth oftentimes has deleterious consequences, they have determined that there exists today a “rape culture” on campus that is almost exclusively the fault of young male students and the overall patriarchal campus culture. They draw upon the figure from a study of two universities to conclude that one in five college women is subjected to unwanted sexual contact at some point during her undergraduate years. The study in this case defined “sexual contact” as “forced touching of a sexual nature (forced kissing, touching of private parts, grabbing, fondling, rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes).” Unsurprisingly, the most aggressive voices among highly politicized feminists have changed that statistic into one in five women being raped in college.

So it comes as no surprise that the Obama Administration — which depends heavily on young single women delivering votes for him, his agenda, and his preferred candidates — would make addressing campus sexual assaults a priority item. The Department of Education, invoking Title IX, is threatening federal intervention against any institution they judge to be unsuitably aggressive in investigating and punishing reported sexual assaults. More ominously, the administration is coercing universities into creating the same sort of kangaroo courts, devoid of due process and staffed by administrators with zero legal training, similar to the one that expelled the Swarthmore student.

Certainly there is no shortage of loutish college boys who seek to use alcohol and peer pressure to entice naive college girls into pushing past the boundaries of their modesty, just as there is no shortage of mindless floozies who believe that drunken sexual promiscuity is a sign of maturity and advances the cause of feminism. Contrary to the clich├ęs that abound among college administrators, our colleges and universities are not populated solely with mature and sophisticated adults, but also with plenty of overgrown adolescents who are no more capable of handling adult freedoms at age 19 than they were at age 15. Any attempt to change a campus culture (and, let’s face it, a youth culture) which fosters regrettable and sometimes even criminal sexual hookups needs to focus on a variety of factors including the easy availability of alcohol and drugs, the loosening of sexual mores in our society, and the lack of rules and supervision prevalent in today’s college environment. Designating young women as perpetual victims always teetering on the verge of being force-fed liquor and raped by uncontrollable college brutes will only further polarize debate, sometimes along rather unpredictable lines. Since she is far more eloquent than I, let me allow Christina Hoff Sommers to have the final word on what she terms the “rape culture hysteria”:
Molestation and rape are horrific crimes that warrant serious attention and vigorous response. Panics breed chaos and mob justice. They claim innocent victims, undermine social trust, and teach us to doubt the evidence of our own experience.

E.M. Forster said it best in A Passage to India, referring to a panic among “good citizens” following a highly dubious accusation of rape: “Pity, wrath, and heroism filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.”

The Complete Chronology of the Benghazi Deception | National Review Online

The Complete Chronology of the Benghazi Deception | National Review Online

March 2011: U.S. secretly approves arms shipments from Qatar to Libyan rebels.

May 2011: Al-Qaeda flags raised over Benghazi.

November 2011: Rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi admits a significant number of Libyan rebels were al-Qaeda fighters who fought American troops in Iraq.

April 19, 2012: State Department rejects ambassador to Libya’s request for more security personnel.

June 20, 2012: Assassination attempt on the British Ambassador to Libya.

July 9, 2012: Ambassador Stevens asks the State Department for more security personnel.

August 8, 2012: The number of security personnel at Benghazi reduced by State Department.

August 16, 2012: U.S. Site Security in Benghazi alerts the State Department that conditions are perilous.

September 4, 2012: Gallup presidential tracking poll: Obama 47 percent; Romney 46 percent.

September 4–6, 2012: Democratic National Convention (“al-Qaeda decimated; bin Laden is dead and GM is alive; al-Qaeda is on the run”).

September 11, 2012: Ambassador Stevens alerts the State Department that conditions in Benghazi are deteriorating.

3:40 p.m. (D.C. time): Stevens calls deputy chief of mission Greg Hicks in Tripoli and alerts him that the consulate in Benghazi is under attack.

4:00 p.m.: The White House is advised that the consulate is under attack. 10th Special Forces Group in Croatia is three hours away; Brigadier General (Ret.) Robert Lovell, Deputy Director of Intelligence for AFRICOM, later testifies that intelligence knew immediately that it was not a protest but a terrorist attack; no request for aid comes from the State Department.

5:00 p.m.: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discusses attack with President Obama.

6:00 p.m.: U.S. Embassy in Tripoli advises the White House and the State Department that al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia has claimed responsibility for the attack. CIA deputy director Mike Morrell later testifies that “analysts knew from the get-go that al Qaeda was involved with this attack.”

8:00 p.m.: Greg Hicks calls Clinton and tells her that consulate is under terrorist attack.

10:00 p.m.: Clinton and Obama talk.

10:30 p.m.: Clinton issues a statement linking the attack to an inflammatory internet video.

11:00–11:30 p.m.: Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Ty Woods killed.

September 12, 2012: Redacted e-mail from a State Department official says the official advised the Libyan government that the attack was carried out by Ansar al-Sharia. No mention of video.

September 12–15, 2012: CIA drafts several iterations of talking points; contains no known references to video as cause of the attack.

September 13, 2012: State Department memo blames the attack on terrorists.

September 13, 2012: Defense Intelligence Agency assigns blame for the attack on Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. No mention of a video.

September 13, 2012: Clinton condemns violence against U.S. consulate in Libya due to a video.

September 13, 2012: Jay Carney condemns attack due to a video.

September 14, 2012: State Department says the attack was a spontaneous demonstration due to a video.

September 14, 2012: Obama and Clinton receive the families of the fallen as their caskets arrive at Andrews Air Force Base; blame the attack on a video. Clinton tells Ty Woods’s father, Charles, that they will “get” the producer of the video.

September 14, 2012: Jay Carney blames the video.

September 14, 2012, 8:00 p.m.: Deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes sends an e-mail regarding the preparation of Susan Rice for the Sunday talk shows, advising Rice to underscore the video and that the attack is “not a broader failure of policy.”

September 15, 2012: Obama blames the video.

September 16, 2012: Susan Rice appears on five Sunday talk shows and characterizes the attacks as a spontaneous reaction due to a video.

September 16, 2012: Libyan president disputes Rice’s comments, asserting Benghazi was a planned attack.

September 18, 2012: Obama appears on the David Letterman show, blames the video.

September 19, 2012: The head of the National Counterterrorism Center testifies that the attack was not a protest but a terrorist attack.

September 20, 2012: Obama blames the video.

September 20, 2012: Obama and Clinton run an ad on Pakistani TV apologizing for the video.

September 21, 2012: Clinton says it was a terrorist attack.

September 24, 2012: Obama appears on The View, blames the video.

October 4, 2012: Clinton establishes the Accountability Review Board (“ARB”) to examine the circumstances surrounding the loss of personnel in Benghazi. Clinton not interviewed by ARB.

October 11, 2012: At the vice-presidential debate, Joe Biden claims the administration was not informed about requests for more security at the consulate in Benghazi.

October 16, 2012: Obama, in a response to a question from a reporter about whether he denied requests for aid to Benghazi on September 11 responds, “The minute I found out this was going on, I gave three directives. Number one, make sure we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we are going to investigate exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so that we can bring them to justice.”

October 18, 2012: Judicial Watch makes a Freedom of Information Act request to the administration for talking points and communications regarding the events in Benghazi. The administration ignores the request.

October 20, 2012: Obama claims that he was not aware of any requests for additional security in Benghazi.

January 23, 2013: Clinton asks, “What difference, at this point, does it make whether it was a terrorist attack or a spontaneous demonstration?”

June 21, 2013: Judicial Watch sues the administration for unlawfully withholding documents pertaining to Benghazi.

July 25, 2013: Obama slams the “endless parade of distractions, political posturing, and phony scandals.”

August 2013: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requests Benghazi e-mails. The Ben Rhodes e-mail is not among those produced.

April 18, 2014: Federal court orders the administration to turn over documents to Judicial Watch. 41 documents are released, including the Ben Rhodes e-mail.

May 1, 2014: Tommy Vietor tells Fox News the president was not in the Situation Room on September 11, 2012.

May 2, 2014: Speaker John Boehner announces a vote to form a select committee on Benghazi.

May 4, 2014: Representative Adam Schiff (D.., Calif.), member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggests Democrats boycott the House select committee as a “colossal waste of time.”

May 5, 2014: Carney will not say whether White House will cooperate with the select committee.

(Clearly, much remains to be filled in by the select committee. Numerous questions and lines of inquiry are prompted by the above. The chronology is based on congressional testimony and reports from, among others, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the New York Times, the New York Post and Fox News, and the reporting of Steve Hayes and Jennifer Griffin.)

A Reply to The Atlantic on the Death Penalty | National Review Online

A Reply to The Atlantic on the Death Penalty | National Review Online
Andrew Cohen went after what I have written on the death penalty at National Review Online and in my book Freedomnomics, pushing the claim that “no reliable study by credible researchers has ever found any deterrent effect” from the death penalty. He also gets into the issue of race and quotes John H. Blume, a professor at Cornell Law School and death-penalty opponent, as asserting: “Every credible study has found a statistically significant race of victim effect” on who gets sentenced with the death penalty.

As for the first claim, Cohen relies on a deceased economist who died before he could evaluate my claim and the April 2012 report from the National Research Council (NRC). But even that report, which was edited by two strong death-penalty opponents, contradicts the assertion that “no reliable study by credible researchers has ever found any deterrent effect.” Instead, the report concludes that there are approximately equal numbers of papers showing deterrence as showing no clear effect.

Unfortunately, the NRC report itself is rather biased as it excludes more than half the academic research done. It counts only ten studies (nine were peer-reviewed) that look at all 50 states and what happens when states adopt the death penalty. By my count, 20 peer-reviewed studies and four non-peer-reviewed ones were of the type that the NRC considered — following the 50 states over time to see how murder rates change when states use the death penalty. Without offering any explanation, the NRC just ignored the bulk of the research that showed the death penalty deterred murders.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

National Climate Assessment Report Raises False Alarm | Cato Institute

National Climate Assessment Report Raises False Alarm | Cato Institute

First, the assessment report frequently confuses climate with climate change. The natural climate of the United States is constantly overflowing with extreme weather hazards of all sorts — hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, blizzards, heat waves, hard freezes and on and on. It’s the norm. The assessment would have you think that every time one of these types of events happens, now or in the future, it is because we are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Such a conclusion is a stretch and has never been proven. A thorough review of climate science would demonstrate that the impact of human-caused climate change on the behavior of most types of extreme weather is poorly understood. Instead, the vagaries of climate dominate our experiences.

Second, greenhouse gas emissions from the United States have a truly minimal and diminishing effect on the future course of the Earth’s climate. Rather, that course is being set by developing nations such as China and, soon, India. Research has shown that eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the United States now and forever only mitigates less than two-tenths of a one degree of warming by the end of the century — but the cost to do so would hurt our economy dearly. Few folks are willing to pay such a price for no measureable return.

Third, a growing body of scientific evidence — which is based in observations rather than climate models — strongly suggests that future climate change is going to be smaller than we are commonly told in reports such as this National Climate Assessment or those from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This means that reducing carbon-dioxide emissions from the United States will have even less of an impact than the tiny number mentioned above.

Finally, suggesting that we will be overwhelmed by negative impacts from climate change ignores our demonstrated human ability to respond to environmental challenges. A changing climate is only filled with negatives if we sit unresponsive and let it sweep over us. However, such an outcome is completely at odds with human civilization. The National Climate Assessment seems to sparingly recognize this fact, but then is quick to dismiss it as a way forward.

A glaring example concerns the death toll from heat waves. The assessment tells us that incidents of extreme heat have become more common and longer-lasting, and that we should expect the trend to continue into the future (until presumably that we stop emitting greenhouse gases). The report recognizes that “[s]ome of the risks of heat-related sickness and death have diminished in recent decades, possibly due to better forecasting, heat-health early warning systems, and/or increased access to air conditioning for the U.S. population.” It ignores those findings, though, to conclude “increasingly frequent and intense heat events lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths.” This is not only a non sequitur but it is also completely wrong.

Scientific literature is chock full of studies that demonstrate that the population’s sensitivity to extreme heat is decreasing, resulting in lower rates of people dying during heat waves. This is true across the United States and in major cities around the world. A new paper by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined trends in heat-related mortality across the United States and concluded “[t]his study provides strong evidence that acute (e.g., same-day) heat-related mortality risk has declined over time in the U.S., even in more recent years.” Another recent look into heat-related mortality published in the prominent science journal Nature Climate Change concluded that “climate change itself leads to adaptation” a finding that “highlights one of the many often overlooked intricacies of the human response to climate change.” Such an observation applies directly to the National Climate Assessment.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Colleges can’t play cop in sexual assault investigations - Opinion - The Boston Globe

Colleges can’t play cop in sexual assault investigations - Opinion - The Boston Globe

Much-publicized personal narratives of sexual assault are likewise plagued by fuzzy definitions, ranging from violent rape to intoxicated sex in which the woman feels she was too drunk to properly consent. A recent letter in The Harvard Crimson from an anonymous student who failed in her quest for redress illustrates these gray areas. The letter describes a drunken encounter in which the woman never said she wanted to stop, only telling the male student to “stop kissing [her] aggressively,” and “obeyed” when he asked her to satisfy him. When the account was posted on Slate, the liberal online publication, even many commenters usually sympathetic to rape accusers felt the man’s behavior sounded boorish but not criminal.

At Yale, as an official memo released last summer reveals, the definition of “non-consensual sex” in disciplinary proceedings is so broad that it includes reciprocating a sexual act without an explicit signal to go ahead — even if you stop immediately when asked to stop. Ironically, this creates a Catch-22, as universities find themselves criticized for insufficiently harsh punishments for nonconsensual sex.

Universities are under strong pressure from activists, backed by the federal government, to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in adjudicating sexual assault complaints. This is the lowest legal burden of proof, often defined as meaning that it’s more likely than not that the assault occurred. (Traditionally, disciplinary charges by students have been judged by the higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence.”) But what does that mean in practice, especially in he-said/she-said cases? Since anti-rape activists insist that wrongful accusations are extremely rare (and demand that college investigators and “judges” be trained in that dogma), the goal seems to be a presumption of guilt for any accused student, unless there is strong proof of innocence.

Obviously, this is not a question of sending people to prison. Nonetheless, it means that a student may be expelled from college, with a black mark that will follow him to other schools and places of employment, and in some ways acquire the equivalent of conviction for a very serious crime without any of the safeguards of a trial.

While the media have focused on women’s claims of the universities’ inadequate response to sexual assault complaints, there is also a growing number of lawsuits by male students who say they were railroaded by kangaroo courts. This trend will no doubt continue if schools are strong-armed into a more hard-line approach.

But no matter how tough colleges may get on sexual assault, real victims are also ill-served by having such offenses treated as college disciplinary violations rather than crimes. Emma Sulkowicz, who is suing Columbia University after what she says was a badly botched rape investigation, describes a terrifying, painful, violent attack. If true, the answer is not to kick the perpetrator out of school and leave him free to seek victims elsewhere; it is to put him in jail. Yet Sulkowicz never went to the police, apparently believing the university process would be more victim-friendly.

Victims of sexual assault should be encouraged to report these crimes to law enforcement and document the evidence. While colleges certainly have a role in ensuring student safety, they should not be playing cop or judge — or set themselves up as a morals police regulating non-criminal sexual behavior.

Rape Culture is a ‘Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish’ |

Rape Culture is a ‘Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish’ |

On January 27, 2010, University of North Dakota officials charged undergraduate Caleb Warner with sexually assaulting a fellow student. He insisted the encounter was consensual, but was found guilty by a campus tribunal and thereupon expelled and banned from campus.

A few months later, Warner received surprising news. The local police had determined not only that Warner was innocent, but that the alleged victim had deliberately falsified her charges. She was charged with lying to police for filing a false report, and fled the state.

Cases like Warner’s are proliferating.
Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem—but the new rape culture crusade is turning ugly. The list of falsely accused young men subject to kangaroo court justice is growing apace. Students at Boston University demanded that a Robin Thicke concert be cancelled: His hit song Blurred Lines is supposedly a rape anthem. (It includes the words, “I know you want it.”) Professors at Oberlin, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Rutgers have been urged to place “trigger warnings” on class syllabi that include books like the Great Gatsby—too much misogynist violence. This movement is turning our campuses into hostile environments for free expression and due process. And so far, university officials, political leaders, and the White House are siding with the mob.

It appears that we are in the throes of one of those panics where paranoia, censorship, and false accusations flourish—and otherwise sensible people abandon their critical facilities. We are not facing anything as extreme as the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthy inquisitions. But today’s rape culture movement bears some striking similarities to a panic that gripped daycare centers in the 1980s.

In August 1983, an anguished mother reported to the police that her 2-year old son had been horrifically abused in the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. She described a network of underground tunnels where school staff had sodomized her child and forced him to watch animal sacrifices. The mother was mentally disturbed and her story had no basis in reality. But the news media seized on the story, and paranoia about Satanic Cults became a national epidemic. Parents were already on edge: advocacy groups, politicians, and the media had warned that nearly 50,000 children were being abducted by strangers, and 4,000 of them murdered, every year. As news of the McMartin barbarity spread, daycare personnel in schools across the nation found themselves implicated in the crime of satanic-ritual child abuse. A national network of abuse-therapists promptly materialized. Through the use of intimidating interviewing techniques, they egged on children to “remember” terrible abuses in their daycare.

The abuse therapists were joined by an influential group of conspiracy-minded feminists, including Gloria Steinem and Catharine MacKinnon. When a few civil libertarian feminists—Carol Tavris, Wendy Kaminer, Ellen Willis, and Debbie Nathan—tried to blow the whistle on the witch-hunt, they were vilified by the conspiracy caucus as backlashers, child abuse apologists, and “obedient ‘daddies’ girls of male editors.”
Says Instapundit,
I look forward to the “disparate impact” lawsuits brought on behalf of male students.

#5 – Warren Buffett's Federal Tax Rate Is Less than His Secretary's : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

#5 – Warren Buffett's Federal Tax Rate Is Less than His Secretary's : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

In truth, Buffett’s assertion is completely inaccurate and is based on a fundamentally flawed analysis of basic federal taxation principles. In reality, he pays a much higher relevant “federal tax rate” than any of his office workers.

First of all, payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) are totally irrelevant for this type of analysis. Because these taxes were not assessed on non-wage income (prior to 2013), and because Social Security taxes were only assessed on the first $106,800 of wage income in 2010, the amount Buffett paid into these programs was very close, in dollar terms, to the amounts paid into them by each of his office workers. But because Buffett had total taxable income of almost $40 million, the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes he paid in 2010 represented only a tiny fraction of his total taxable income. For most of his office workers, these taxes represented 7.65 percent of their taxable income (even though they paid roughly the same amount as Buffett did in dollar terms). This 7.65 percent payroll tax differential is part of the 18.6 percent differential cited by Buffett in his op-ed piece.

But what Buffett failed to mention is that Social Security and Medicare benefits are capped as well. Upon retirement, Buffett will receive almost exactly the same Social Security and Medicare benefits (in dollar terms) that his office workers will receive. There is very little differential between Buffett and his office workers in terms of what they pay into the Social Security and Medicare programs and what they will receive in benefits. As such, the 7.65 percentage point “federal tax rate” differential between Buffett and his co-workers arising from the existing Social Security and Medicare taxing mechanism is simply not relevant and is a mirage.

A second flaw in Buffett’s analysis has to do with the fact that he included employer-paid payroll taxes in coming up with his and his office workers' “federal tax rates.” The obvious problem here is that Buffett’s coworkers do not pay these taxes. Rather, Buffett does as a partial owner of their employer, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett’s inclusion of these taxes in his analysis was clearly incorrect, and it distorts the rates he cited. Of course, he included employer-paid payroll taxes to double the 7.65 percent “federal tax rate” differential mirage identified in the previous paragraph.

Buffett himself owns 33.9 percent of Berkshire Hathaway, a publicly traded corporation with taxable income of $19.1 billion in 2010. Assuming a very conservative corporate federal tax rate of 25 percent, Berkshire will ultimately pay $4.76 billion in federal corporate income taxes on this taxable income. Corporate taxes are borne by shareholders of the corporation, in that these taxes reduce the amount of cash available for (a) dividend payments (Berkshire has not historically paid dividends to its shareholders), or (b) reinvestment into the corporation in order to increase shareholder value.

Given his ownership stake in Berkshire, Buffett bore 33.9 percent of the $4.77 billion in federal corporate taxes, or $1.61 billion. Buffett ignored this tax amount in compiling his “federal tax rate” analysis. If Buffett’s share of corporate taxable income and corporate taxes paid are factored into his analysis, his overall 2010 “federal tax rate” increases by 7.56 percentage points, from 17.4 percent to 24.96 percent.

As an employer, Berkshire matches the Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by its employees. These taxes are borne by the shareholders of Berkshire for the same reasons corporate income taxes are. Using reasonable assumptions and data gleaned from the company’s 2010 SEC filings, Buffett’s share of these taxes was approximately $400 million in 2010. If these taxes are included (and they certainly should be), his 2010 “federal tax rate” increases by 6.16 percentage points to 31.12 percent.

Let’s do the math. Buffett, in his analysis, overstated his office workers’ “federal tax rate” by including irrelevant payroll taxes (7.65 percent) and employer-paid payroll taxes (7.65 percent). In actuality, his office workers’ relevant 2010 “federal tax rate” was 20.7 percent, not 36.0 percent, while Buffett's was actually 31.12 percent, not 17.4 percent. Bottom line: Buffett’s 2010 relevant “federal tax rate” was actually at least 10.4 percentage points higher than the average rate paid by his office workers.

Who knew?

The Emerging Junta | National Review Online

The Emerging Junta | National Review Online

Here is what happened. In the run-up to the 2012 election, senior IRS executives including Lois Lerner, then the head of the IRS branch that oversees the activities of tax-exempt nonprofit groups, began singling out conservative-leaning organizations for extra attention, invasive investigations, and legal harassment. The IRS did not target groups that they believed might be violating the rules governing tax-exempt organizations; rather, as e-mails from the agency document, the IRS targeted these conservative groups categorically, regardless of whether there was any evidence that they were not in compliance with the relevant regulations. Simply having the words “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12” (a reference to one of Glenn Beck’s many channels of activism) in the name was enough. Also targeted were groups dedicated to issues such as taxes, spending, debt, and, perhaps most worrisome, those that were simply “critical of the how the country is being run.” Organizations also were targeted based on the identity of their donors. Their applications were delayed, their managements harassed, and the IRS demanded that they answer wildly inappropriate questions, such as the content of their prayers. When an internal review threatened to expose the fact that, in the words of the IRS’s inspector general, the agency was “using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status,” Ms. Lerner staged an event at a tax-law conference at which she used a planted questioner to preemptively disclose the issue on her own terms, and the agency began claiming that the tea-party targeting, while regrettable, was the work of a few misguided agents at a satellite office in Cincinnati. In fact, the direction came from Washington and was, in the words of the agency’s own e-mails, “coordinated with” a senior manager there, Rob Choi, director of rulings and agreements. This began at the behest of Democratic officeholders, including Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who requested that the IRS disclose to him information about tea-party groups that it would have been illegal for the IRS to disclose. It subsequently emerged that IRS officials had intentionally misled members of Congress and investigators about the matter. During this period, IRS operatives were, according to the Office of Special Counsel, openly campaigning for the reelection of Barack Obama on IRS time using IRS resources. A few were later disciplined for their actions, but the extent of the political activity of IRS agents remains unknown.

The IRS is not just a revenue agency — it is a law-enforcement agency, a police agency with far greater powers of investigation and coercion that any normal police force. Its actions in this matter are not only inappropriate — they are illegal. Using government resources for political ends is a serious crime, as is conspiring to mislead investigators about those crimes. But so far, other than holding Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to comply with the demands of congressional investigators, almost nothing has happened. The characteristic feature of a police state is that those who are entrusted with the power to enforce the law are not themselves bound by it.

Context is again here important. The IRS scandal is not a standalone issue but comes at a time when the Democratic party is seeking to radically expand the power of the federal government to regulate political speech; we can safely assume that the same people who were using the IRS’s political-speech regulations for political ends will have precisely the same motives and precisely the same opportunity to use other political-speech regulations for precisely the same political ends: to benefit their allies and persecute their enemies. So committed are the Democrats to keeping their critics under the thumb of federal police powers that they have introduced an amendment in the Senate that would effectively repeal the free-speech provisions of the First Amendment, those having proved inconvenient to Democrats in Supreme Court rulings such as McCutcheon and Citizens United, the latter case involving a federal attempt to make it a crime to show a film critical of a political figure under unapproved circumstances.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Voice of Sanity -

I like his take on the issue.

Unfortunately for those who demand that Donald Sterling be tarred and feathered in front of the Staples Center at high noon, it’s not likely to happen.  Dorky Adam Silver (commissioner of the NBA) jumped at the opportunity to play the role of tough guy for the Robespierre-crazed masses, but it was mostly for show.  As an attorney, he certainly must know that there is nothing in the NBA’s bylaws that comes close to covering what an owner can and cannot say in his own home.

If Article 13 (the provision that deals with termination of an owner’s franchise) of those bylaws is what Silver is counting on to force Sterling out of the league, he’s going to look quite foolish if The Donald pulls out all legal stops and starts filing lawsuits en masse, which history tells us he is wont to do.
Even if Sterling is a “racist” — a word I put in quotes because its meaning has become so diluted as a result of shameless overuse by those (both in and outside of the government) who continually profit by stirring up ill will among races  — there’s nothing in the termination clause of the NBA bylaws that allows the league to force him to sell his team because one person, or even one million people, are offended by something he said in the privacy of his home.


Personally, whenever there’s a big media blitz about some perceived wrongdoing, I prefer to ignore the hysteria and think about what I can learn from the situation that could be useful to me.  Off the top of my head, following are a handful of lessons that I believe are worth gleaning from the Sterling media circus — lessons that you can use to improve yourself and your own life
  1. People say negative things behind your back all the time.  If you don’t already know that, wake up!  If you do know it, don’t let it bother you.  Whenever I hear that someone has said something unflattering about me, I opt to take the rationally selfish approach and do my best to ignore it — especially when I know it’s patently false.  I hope, for your sake, that you do the same.
  2. Don’t buy into the hate-speech scam.  People have opinions, some of which you may like, some of which you may not like.  Best to leave all that nonsense up to the PC Police, who achieve mental orgasms by harassing (perceived) evil speakers.  You don’t have time to get bogged down in group protests if you’re interested in bettering your life.
  3. “They” say that hate speech is bad, but what’s worse is the idea that someone actually believes he has the moral authority to decide what constitutes hate speech in the first place.  Of course, if someone hurls a remark directly at you, and you, in your sole judgment, consider it to be “hateful,” that’s your prerogative.  As an individual, you have a right to make a determination about speech that is aimed specifically at you.  But before you get yourself all worked up over it, remember what mom taught you about sticks and stones.
  4. Learn to reject hypocrisy and hypocrites.  In the Sterling saga, the hypocrisy is so thick it’s stifling, as you already know if you’ve been following the story at all.  The world is full of hypocrites, especially in politics (which is really what hate speech is all about).  Best you focus on policing yourself to make sure that you are not guilty of hypocrisy.
  5. Never forget that friends and sweethearts have a way of becoming enemies.  Make sure your mouth understands that.  Talk is not cheap.  On the contrary, it has proven to be quite capable of destroying lives.  Think before you open your mouth.
  6. In the same vein, be vigilant about not making The Big Mistake.  We all make little mistakes on a daily basis, but be careful about making a mistake so big that it can threaten your very survival.In Donald Sterling’s case, maybe he’s a terrible person — I have no idea — but I suspect his remarks (which, while not nearly as bad as those that have been made by some of his most vocal critics) were nothing more than the angry rants of an old guy who was mad at his middle-school girlfriend.
    This is where mom’s advice comes in handy again:  If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.  There’s a reason why aphorisms like this have been around forever:  They’re true.  Instead of wasting time fretting over Donald Sterling’s remarks, concentrate on what comes out of your mouth.
  7. The best protection against becoming Sterlingized (a form of sterilization performed by the loud crowd) is to follow a simple rule:  Live every moment as though the whole world were watching and write every e-mail as though the whole world were going to be reading it — something politicians never seem to learn.
Finally, of course, never — EVER — try to persuade people to change their fundamental beliefs, no matter how misguided you may think they are.  Why?  Because you will fail, and you’ll waste a lot of valuable time in the process.  It’s called opportunity cost.
Use your time to focus on your own life.  The only person over whom you have total control is you.  Put your efforts into purifying your own life, and forget about the Donald Sterlings of the world and the rabble-rousers who live for the thrill of trying to destroy them.

Another Round in the Death-Penalty Debate | National Review Online

Another Round in the Death-Penalty Debate | National Review Online

Balko, a blogger/reporter for theWashington Post, based his reply on empirical evidence. He puts a lot of faith in studies by death-penalty opponents. Let me address his major points in turn:“It’s important to factor in the severity of the crime. And when a black defendant and a white defendant are convicted of murders with similar aggravating circumstances, the black defendant is significantly more likely to get the death penalty.”
Over the period from 1977 to 2011, the rate of aggravating circumstances for murders was higher for black defendants for murder than it was for whites. Yet, despite that and with whites accounting for fewer murders than blacks (whites commit about 46.8 percent of all murders committed by whites and blacks), whites account for 57 percent of the white and black prisoners sentenced to death for murder.
Finally, even after being sentenced to death at a higher rate than blacks, whites on death row over the decades have had a significantly higher probability of actually being executed than blacks. Over the years from 1977 to 2011, 65 percent of the total number of whites and blacks who have been executed have been white.
This last point is particularly important, since everyone on death row has been convicted of murder with aggravating circumstances. If there is any bias, it is in the opposite direction that Balko claims.
“DNA testing has shown that the criminal justice system is flawed — more flawed than most of the public had probably thought. Lott tries to dismiss these concerns, and it’s here that his statistics really get screwy. . . .  I don’t know where Lott gets the number 34. I can’t find it anywhere at the Innocence Project link he provides. The actual number of people convicted of murder who were later exonerated by DNA testing is 104.”
If someone has trouble finding a number, the easiest thing to do is to contact the person who provided the number. Balko had time to reach out to the Innocence Project to discuss my numbers, and he and I have e-mailed each other in the past. However, when writing this recent attack on me, he didn’t contact me before declaring that he couldn’t figure out where the number 34 came from.
Thirty-four is the number of people charged with the death penalty for murder who were later cleared because of DNA evidence. As to the source of the figure, it is right at the top of the page that I linked to, though it does require addition: “18 of the 316 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row. Another 16 were charged with capital crimes but not sentenced to death.” 34 = 18 + 16.
If you wanted to look at all murders, not just those where the death penalty was sought, the number of convictions reversed since 1989 is 53, not 104. Since then there have also been about 260,000 convictions for murder. Of course, it isn’t fair to compare the 53 reversals with all murder convictions, because DNA evidence wasn’t available to exonerate people in all cases.
Using the claim that DNA evidence is available for about 4.5 percent of murder cases, 53 exonerations out of 12,000 cases gives an error rate of 0.44 percent.
“Lott also mistakenly assumes that we’ve already reviewed all of those 12,000 murder cases for which DNA evidence was relevant. We haven’t. We continue to find new exonerations from years past.”
It is true that the DNA evidence in all 12,000 cases has not been examined, but that is misleading. First, very few of those convicted of murder even ask for their DNA evidence to be re-examined. Presumably they don’t ask because they know what the evidence will show.
Even more telling, only 5 of those 53 exonerations have been for convictions since 2000. The already small error rate has dropped dramatically.
But Balko is simply wrong when he writes: “Even Lott’s own 0.3 percent would represent 10 people. Maybe he’s comfortable with 10 innocent people getting executed.” All these numbers provided by Balko and myself are for convictions, not executions. There is no DNA evidence proving that the wrong person has ever been executed.
“A recent study by a group of researchers led by Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School, conservatively estimated the figure at 4 percent for death-penalty cases. They estimate that it’s higher for non-capital murder cases.”
But just because a conviction is overturned doesn’t mean that the conviction was a mistake on the merits. Convictions are overturned regularly for many reasons, including technical ones. Many times guilty people go free because evidence that was used at trial is later determined during an appeal to have been improperly obtained. The paper co-authored by Gross defined “exoneration” as occurring when someone was removed from death row by a “legal action by courts or executive officials.”
“I think the far more troubling measure of the death penalty and race is the influence of the race of the victim. In most states, defendants convicted of killing white people are quite a bit more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants convicted of killing black people.”
This claim is extremely misleading. These estimates account for nothing other than race. But if you have two drug gangs that get into a fight and one of the members of a gang dies, you aren’t going to get the same push for the death penalty as you would when a small businessman is killed in a robbery. The race results disappear as soon as you account for even simple variables such as income or occupation.
But, as much as Balko might like it, the debate isn’t only about innocent people being executed or about racism. Innocent people’s lives are saved thanks to the death penalty. Most peer-reviewed studies by economists, as I show in my bookFreedomnomics, find that each execution saves roughly 15 to 18 potential murder victims.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Survival of Chromosomal Changes

Survival of Chromosomal Changes
SURVIVAL of CHROMOSOMAL CHANGES The following are excerpts from the informative blog by Robert Williams, specifically from his... Comparison of the Human and Great Ape Chromosomes as Evidence for Common Ancestry ... which is part of his larger collection as...Evidence for Human and Ape Common Ancestry.

HOW CHROMOSOMAL CHANGES CAN SURVIVE and LEAD TO NEW SPECIES Some may raise the objection that if the fusion was a naturalistic event, how could the first human ancestor with the fusion have successfully reproduced? We have all heard that the horse and the donkey produce an infertile mule in crossing because of a different number of chromosomes in the two species. Well, apparently there is more to the story than we are usually told, because variations in chromosome number are known to occur in many different animal species, and although they sometimes seem to lead to reduced fertility, this is often not the case. Refs 5, 6, and 7 document both the existence of such chromosomal number differences and the fact that differences do not always result in reduced fertility. I can provide many more similar references if required. The last remaining species of wild horse, Przewalski's (sha-val-skis) Wild Horse has 66 chromosomes while the domesticated horse has 64 chromosomes. Despite this difference in chromosome number, Przewalski's Wild Horse and the domesticated horse can be crossed and do produce fertile offspring (see reference 9 below).

5. Chromosomal heterozygosity and fertility in house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) from Northern Italy. Hauffe HC, Searle JB. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, United Kingdom.

Following the discovery of over 40 Robertsonian (Rb) races of Mus musculus domesticus in Europe and North Africa, the house mouse has been studied extensively as an ideal model to determine the chromosomal changes that may cause or accompany speciation. Current models of chromosomal speciation are based on the assumption that heterozygous individuals have a particularly low fertility, although recent studies indicate otherwise. Despite their importance, fertility estimates for the house mouse are incomplete because traditional measurements, such as anaphase I nondisjunction and germ cell death, are rarely estimated in conjunction with litter size. In an attempt to bridge this gap, we have taken advantage of the house mouse hybrid zone in Upper Valtellina (Lombardy, Italy) in which five Rb races interbreed. We present data on the fertility of naturally occurring ("wild-caught") hybrids and of offspring from laboratory crosses of wild-caught mice ("laboratory-reared"), using various measurements. Wild-caught mice heterozygous for one fusion were more infertile than predicted from past studies, possibly due to genic hybridity; laboratory-reared heterozygotes carrying seven or eight trivalents at meiosis I and heterozygotes carrying one pentavalent also had low fertilities. These low fertilities are especially significant given the probable occurrence of a reinforcement event in Upper Valtellina.

PMID: 9799266, UI: 99016093

6. An observed chromosome fusion. Hereditas 1998;129(2):177-80 A new centric fusion translocation in cattle: rob (13;19). Molteni L, De Giovanni-Macchi A, Succi G, Cremonesi F, Stacchezzini S, Di Meo GP, Iannuzzi L. Institute of Animal Husbandry, Faculty of Agricultural Science, Milan, Italy..

A new Robertsonian translocation has been found in cattle. A bull from Marchigiana breed (central Italy) was found to be a heterozygous carrier of a centric fusion translocation involving cattle chromosomes 13 and 19 according to RBA-banding and cattle standard nomenclatures. CBC-banding revealed the dicentric nature of this new translocation, underlining the recent origin of this fusion. In fact, both the bull's parents and relatives had normal karyotypes. In vitro fertilization tests were also performed in the bull carrying the new translocation, in two bulls with normal karyotypes (control) and in four other bulls carrying four different translocations.

PMID: 10022084, UI: 99146110

7. Cytogenetics and reproduction of sheep with multiple centric fusions (Robertsonian translocations). Bruere AN, Ellis PM. J Reprod Fertil 1979 Nov;57(2):363-75.

The significance of centric fusions (Robertsonian translocations) in domestic animals, with special reference to sheep, is reviewed. The mating is described of a further 856 ewes with either a normal chromosome number 2n = 54 or carrying one or more of the three different translocations (centric fusions) t1, t2 and t3 in various heterozygous and homozygous arrangements. Rams which were used in the matings were homozygous for one of the translocation chromosomes (2n = 52), double heterozygotes (2n = 52), triple heterozygotes (2n = 51) or were carriers of 4 translocation chromosomes (2n = 50) and 5 translocation chromosomes (2n = 49). A remarkably even distribution of segregation products was recorded in the progeny of all combinations of translocation ewes x translocation rams in those groups in which sufficient animals were available for statistical analysis. Forty-eight chromosomally different groups of animals were mated. Further, the overall fertility of the translocation sheep, measured by conception rate to first service, lambing percentage and number of ewes which did not breed a lamb, was not significantly different from New Zealand national sheep breeding data. In some groups the poorer reproductive performance could be explained by the age structure of the flock and inbreeding depression, which probably affected the performance of some animals. Sheep with progressively decreasing chromosome numbers, due to centric fusion, 2n = 50, 2n = 49 and 2n = 48, are reported. The 2n = 48 category represents a triple homozygous ewe and a triple homozygous ram and is the first report of the viable evolution of such domestic animals. Less than 1% of phenotypically abnormal lambs were recorded in a total of 1995 progeny born over 10 years. It is now considered that there is little or no evidence to suggest that centric fusions in a variety of combinations affect the total productive fitness of domestic sheep. It is suggested that future research should be more actively directed to understanding their genetic significance.

PMID: 513026, UI: 80074806

9. Cytogenetic studies of three equine hybrids. Chandley AC, Short RV, Allen WR. J Reprod Fertil Suppl 1975 Oct;(23):356-70

A detailed investigation of testicular meiosis in a mule, a hinny and a Przewalski horse/domestic horse hybrid were made. Abnormalities of pairing were observed in the mule and hinny in most germ cells at the pachytene stage of meiotic prophase, and spermatogenesis was almost totally arrested. A few mature spermatozoa were recovered from the ejaculate and epididymal flushings of the hinny. The Przewalski horse/domestic horse hybrid was fertile and showed normal spermatogenesis. Chromosome banding studies showed a close homology between the karyotypes of the Prezwalski horse (Equus przewalskii, 2n = 66) and the domestic horse (E. caballus, 2n = 64), and it is evident that a single Robertsonian translocation has occurred transforming four acrocentric chromosomes of E. przewalskii into two metacentric chromosomes in E. caballus. The investigations showed that a trivalent is formed at meiosis in the hybrid (2n = 65), segregation from which gives two classes of genetically balanced spermatozoa. Both of these are capable of producing normal offspring if they fertilize the eggs of a domestic mare.

PMID: 1060807 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Monday, May 12, 2014

I Checked My Privilege, And It’s Doing Just Fine - Kurt Schlichter - Page full

I Checked My Privilege, And It’s Doing Just Fine - Kurt Schlichter - Page full

Liberals have a new word for what normal people call “success.” They call it “privilege,” as if a happy, prosperous life is the result of some magic process related to where your great-great-great-grandfather came from.

It’s the latest leftist argument tactic, which means it is a tactic designed to prevent any argument and to beat you into rhetorical submission. Conservatives, don’t play their game.

It’s easy to see that this notion that accomplishment comes not from hard work but from some mysterious force, operating out there in the ether, is essential to liberal thought. To excuse the dole-devouring layabouts who form so much of the Democrat voting base, it is critical that they undermine the achievements of those who support themselves. We can’t have the American people thinking that hard work leads to success; people might start asking why liberal constituencies don’t just work harder instead of demanding more money from those who actually produce something.

So how do we deal with this idiocy? The proper response to the privilege gambit is laughter. The super-serious zealots of progressivism hate being laughed at, but there’s really no other appropriate response outside of a stream of obscenities. The privilege game is designed to circumvent arguments based on reason and facts and evidence, so the way to win it is to defeat it on its own terms.

Call: “Check your privilege!”

Response: “What you call ‘privilege’ is just me being better than you.”

They won’t like it. It will make them angry. Good. Because tactics like “Check your privilege” are designed to make us angry, to put us off-balance, to baffle us and suck us down into a rabbit hole of leftist jargon and progressive stupidity.

Don’t follow them. Mock them. Accuse them of adhering to a transphobic cisnormative paradigm and start shrieking “Hate crime!”

Don’t worry about not making sense. They’re college students. They are used to not understanding what people smarter than they are tell them.

Respectful argument should be reserved for those who respect the concept of argument. The sulky sophomores who babble about privilege do not. They only understand power. And we give them power when we give their nonsense the respect we would give a coherent argument.

Wal-Mart banks, overdraft protection, and consumer rationality

Wal-Mart banks, overdraft protection, and consumer rationality

The Wall Street Jounral has a fascinating story on the front page about the operations of banks located inside Wal-Mart–although not really for the reason that the reporters believe it is interesting. The authors think it is interesting because they see it as exposing nefarious practices by these banks, which generate large overdraft protection fees and (it is implied) exploit consumers. In fact, the real story is exactly the opposite–it is compelling evidence of how consumers use alternative credit products, and I suspect, compelling evidence of the unintended consequences of government regulation of consumer credit products.

In an article that former Comptroller of the Currency Robert Clarke and I published in the fall, we discussed in detail how consumers use bank overdraft protection and payday lending and the competition between the two products. In particular, we note that available evidence strongly suggests that in choosing between the two products, consumers generally choose rationally. First, those who use these products (like all alternative lending products) are people who don’t have credit cards or would exceed their credit limits on their credit cards and trigger high fees. So they use these products because they are the least-bad alternative they have at the moment to meet pressing financial obligations.

But even more striking, when choosing between payday lending and overdraft protection, consumers generally choose rationally. As we note in the article, the similar uses but dissimilar pricing of payday loans and overdraft protection provide an excellent natural experiment to examine how consumers use the two products. Payday loans have a fee scale tied to the size of the loan–typically $15 per $100 borrowed. Overdraft protection, by contrast, is a fixed-rate product (mostly)–an overdraft charges a flat fee, typically $27-$35 or so, regardless of the size of the overdraft. As a result, for a single loan, payday lending will generally be less expensive for loans of up to $180 (depending on a particular bank’s fees) and an overdraft will be less expensive beyond that level.
But there is another element of the story that is also interesting and potentially speaks to unintended consequences of government regulation. The story is accompanied by a chart of banks that derive an unusually high percentage of their revenues from overdraft fees. From looking at the chart, at least four of the 10 banks listed appear to be banks specializing in lending to military members or located on or near military bases. Why is that significant? Because in 2007 Congress passed the military lending act, which imposed a 36 percent APR price ceiling on loans to military members (essentially outlawing payday loans for soldiers)–but left overdraft protection unregulated. As I have discussed previously, in light of the fact that consumers can and do substitute between payday loans and overdraft protection, one would expect that the loss of access to payday loans would lead soldiers to increase their usage of overdraft protection. Given the unusually high representation of military banks among the 10 largest generators of overdraft fees, that appears to be exactly what has happened. I haven’t had a chance to dig into the FDIC data, but I would predict that if one examines the overdraft fees generated by the military banks one will find a dramatic upward surge when the Military Lending Act was passed.

Let me emphasize that I am not denying that not all consumers fully understand their usage of these products and dig themselves a hole–just as many others do the same with credit cards, home mortgages, or home equity loans. And they are certainly expensive and should not be used lightly–I am no enthusiast for these products and I wish we lived in a world where every consumer was financially responsible, had stable income and expenses, and had easy access to inexpensive, high-quality credit. But that’s not the world we live in. And we see that when we take away preferred choices from consumers, even choices that don’t look ideal to government bureaucrats, consumers are not necessarily going to be made better off as a result. Instead, in many cases they will simply be forced to use even worse and more-expensive choices. So regulators should be very cautious about taking away products from people who use them, and by all indications use them rationally in light of their particular circumstances.

As I’ve said before: “Regulators cannot wish away the need of low-income consumers for credit…. Congress can pass all the laws it wants, but it can’t repeal the law of supply and demand and the law of unintended consequences.”