A drop of sanity

January 30, 2013

An appeals court has ruled that the EPA cannot fine fuel producers for their failure to use a product that doesn’t exist.

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Inconceivable!

January 30, 2013

I hope you’re sitting down while you read this: ABC News has learned that most stolen guns end up with criminals.


Court turns back would-be thieves

January 30, 2013

A federal judge has rejected an effort by the Tewksbury P0lice Department and the US Department of Justice to steal the Motel Caswell. It’s been a long road for Russ Caswell. I noted the attempted travesty in October 2011.


Dangerous times

January 30, 2013

Another milestone in the annals of the “Arab Spring”: Egypt has re-legalized slavery.


Laws are meant to be broken

January 30, 2013

The Weekly Standard notes that President Obama is violating his own stimulus law, which requires quarterly progress reports. By law, he should have issued 14 such reports by now. He has only issued 8, the last one for Q2 2011.


Unlocking the rule of law

January 30, 2013

As of this week, it is now illegal to unlock your smartphone. Okay, that’s bad in and of itself, but what’s worse is how it happened:

Did Congress quietly pass a bill prohibiting smartphone unlocking and send it to President Obama’s autopen? No. What happened was the Librarian of Congress was empowered by the execrable Digital Millennium Copyright Act to decide what modifications of our own electronic devices we are permitted to perform. In short, Congress delegated the power to make law to this functionary, and last October he exercised his power to prohibit smartphone unlocking.

It is supposed to be unconstitutional for the Congress to delegate its legislative power, but the courts have been permitting it for a long time, provided Congress provides an “intelligible principle” for the delegate to use. This is a very bad thing.

It’s bad because the bar for an “intelligible principle” is now so low as to be meaningful. But more importantly, it’s bad because the limits of Congress’s time ought to be a safeguard against tyranny, but it’s not.

It used to be that Congress was a part-time job, but the workload of the average Congressional office has doubled every five years since 1935 (according to Senator James Buckley). That means more and more laws to burden the American people.

One might think that the absolute limit of 168 hours per week would cap the amount of rules that our legislature could generate, but not if they can delegate rule-making power to others. With delegated power, the government’s ability to generate new rules is literally unlimited.

With a limit, the government would be compelled to use its power selectively, and only address high priorities. Without a limit, government issues rules for absolutely the most trivial matters. (Yes, even for spilled milk.)

There ought to be no rule binding the American people that is not passed by Congress and signed by the president (or passed over his veto). This wouldn’t ensure that Congress would exercise good judgement, but at least it would require them to set priorities, and we could hold them accountable for every rule on the books.

UPDATE: Corrected the Congressional workload doubling period.


Liars

January 30, 2013

In politics, it seems there are three levels of discourse. Level one: if you have a good argument, you make it. Level two: attack the opposition with truth. Level three: attack the opposition with lies. It tells you something about the weakness of the gun-controllists case that they are settling for the bottom level.

The buzz of the day is over how gun-rights supporters heckled the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook massacre at a hearing on gun-control measures. Or, more precisely, the buzz of the day is over how that didn’t happen, but the media reported that it did.

The story seems to have started with a story in the Connecticut Post, which reported that gun-rights supporters interrupted Neil Heslin as he argued for gun control. But the video (cue to 15:00) shows that that didn’t happen. On the contrary, Heslin asked a question and was answered:

Heslin: Is there anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question, why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips?

[Pause. Heslin looks around the room as if waiting for a response.]

And not one person can answer that question or give me an answer.

Audience members: [unintelligible] The Second Amendment shall not be infringed.

Heslin: Alright.

Lawmaker: Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin please continue.

Not content to merely lie in their descriptions, MSNBC and CBS went further, airing videos that made it appear as though Heslin really was heckled, by editing out “Is there anybody in this room that can give me one reason . . .” to hide the fact that Heslin asked the room a question and was waiting for an answer. MSNBC’s original editing reportedly was even more dishonest. It’s gone down the memory hole now, but the appended update tacitly admits it (“the original video has been replaced with a fuller version”).

The story being completely debunked hasn’t put it to rest. Although a few have admitted their error, the claim that Heslin was “interrupted”, “heckled”, or even “shouted down” remains throughout the media, to say nothing  of the leftist blogosphere.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Video of MSNBC’s earlier, even-more-deceptive editing, is here. It not only edits out the question (as their later video did), but also edits out the several seconds that Heslin waited for a response, and his follow-up statement that no one could answer him. It jumps in the middle of Heslin’s sentence to the audience members answering his question, making it appear he was interrupted, when he was not. Martin Bashir, you are a damned liar.

UPDATE: Some of the the people who joined in the lie: Eric Boehlert (Media Matters), David Frum, Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo), Charles Johnson (Little Green Footballs, which once was good), Piers Morgan (CNN), as well as publications and/or group blogs Gawker, Wonkette, the Daily Beast, and the Huffington Post. A few other credulous fools (Slate, and Andrew Kaczynski of Buzzfeed) joined the liars but later retracted.


Bob Menendez in trouble

January 25, 2013

It’s not just Sen. Menendez’s staff that are in trouble with the law, Menendez himself is in big trouble:

Emails show FBI investigating Sen. Bob Menendez for sleeping with underage Dominican prostitutes

If true, and they seem to have considerable evidence, his actions were not just unethical, they were criminal in both the Dominican Republic and the United States:

The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18. The PROTECT Act, a U.S. law passed in 2003, made it a federal crime for Americans to engage in sex for money with anyone under 18, even in countries where the age of consent is lower.

What might save Menendez is the fact that Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, would appoint his replacement. Faced with losing a Senate seat, the Justice Department might try to make this thing go away. (Don’t tell me they wouldn’t. These people traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels.)

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: ABC News had Menendez on This Week, and never asked him about this.

UPDATE (3/6): The Washington Post briefly ran a story purporting to debunk this, but the Daily Caller de-debunked their story, and the Post seems to be backpedaling (somewhat dishonestly). We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds wants everyone to remember that Menendez has two scandals going at once, and the influence-peddling scandal is unchanged.


Appeals court eviscerates recess appointment power

January 25, 2013

The Constitution gives the president the power to appoint officers unilaterally during “the Recess” of the Senate:

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

For the first century-and-a-half, this was interpreted to mean that the president could make recess appointments during the period between Senate sessions, of which there were typically two during a two-year Congress. Since 1947, the president has assumed the additional power to make recess during intra-session breaks in the Senate’s business. This power has never been seriously challenged, until now.

For reasons of his own, President Obama decided to arrogate to himself the power to make recess appointments even when the Senate was in session, if he deemed that the Senate wasn’t doing any real work. If this were to hold up, it would give the president the power to bypass the Senate literally whenever he chose.

ASIDE: Obama justified this by an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel. That opinion was issued just two days before the first such appointment, and overruled a standing opinion to the contrary. That opinion was issued by his own administration, and was authored by Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice.

Obama’s decision to pick this fight now appears to be an unforced error of historic proportion.

The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has issued a unanimous, devastating ruling. It correctly brushes aside the administration’s claim to be able to decide for itself whether the Senate is in session:

The fourth and final possible interpretation of “the Recess,” advocated by the Office of Legal Counsel, is a variation of the functional interpretation in which the President has discretion to determine that the Senate is in recess. . . This will not do. Allowing the President to define the scope of his own appointments power would eviscerate the Constitution’s separation of powers.

But it goes further. The ruling finds that the recess appointment power only applies during “the Recess” which is to say the period between Senate sessions. Thus, it excludes the power to make intra-session appointments that the president has enjoyed for the last sixty-odd years.

But it goes further still. The ruling also finds that the wording “that may happen” is significant, and requires that the vacancy come into being during the recess as well! (I believe this is correct, but I had little hope that a modern court would decide thus.)

Thus, President Obama has received his comeuppance in truly historic fashion. By trying to arrogate to himself a virtually unlimited recess appointment power, he has invited a ruling that instead makes that power very limited indeed. Constitution 1, Obama 0.

This isn’t the end. The ruling can and probably will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may scale back the ruling, at least in regard to “that may happen”, but I think it is unlikely to overturn the central holding.

POSTSCRIPT: Although it pales in relation to the Constitutional issues at stake, it’s also important what the ruling does, which is invalidate a full year of NLRB rulings.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin lists some of the NLRB rulings that will go away. A lot of bad stuff is being invalidated, like ambush elections and “micro-unions”.


New York execrable gun law

January 23, 2013

New York’s new gun-control law allows New Yorkers to keep 10-round magazines (for now), but prohibits them from loading more than seven rounds in one. If you miscount, you go to jail.

I defy anyone to name any constructive purpose served by such a rule. If you were to ban 10-round magazines outright, one might imagine — following the usual pattern of gun-controllists’ wishful thinking — that it would make them a little harder for criminals to obtain. But allowing the magazines eliminates even that highly-unlikely salutary purpose.

The sole consequence of this rule will be that law-abiding persons will have seven rounds, while having no effect on criminals whatsoever.

In other words, this law is not about stopping criminals, but about disarming innocents.

Most of the New York legislature can be partly excused for this: due to the illegal haste with which the bill was rammed through, they got no chance to read it. (Of course, they should have then voted no.) But the authors of the law — particularly Andrew Cuomo — have no such excuse. These are simply bad people.

POSTSCRIPT: Of course, there’s more. The law not only bans “high-capacity” magazines, but confiscates the ones you already have. (Oh yes, they explain the provision by saying the banned magazines must be sold out-of-state, but what do you think will happen if you don’t?) They failed to put in an exception for law enforcement. And, they have accidentally banned the biathlon (which uses an unusual 8-round magazine), which Olympic athletes train for in Lake Placid, New York.


Palestinian ambassador rules out two-state solution

January 23, 2013

This keeps happening, but for some reason the media still portrays the Israelis as the intransigent party.

POSTSCRIPT: This part is kind of funny:

If Israel is a democracy I would claim that the Palestinians are also a democracy.

Well, democracies have, you know, elections and stuff.


Facebook censors Palestinian criticism

January 23, 2013

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Facebook temporarily shut down The Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh’s Facebook page, possibly in response to a campaign by anti-Israel activists who object to Abu Toameh’s views on corruption within the Palestinian Authority.

(I’m not sure why they say “possibly”, read on.)

On Monday, Abu Toameh posted a link to an Arabic report in a Jordanian newspaper about the corruption trial of former Jordanian intelligence chief. He also posted a link to an acerbic blog post slamming the PA that he wrote for the Gatestone Institute, where he is a contributor. . .

Hate mail and death threats poured into Abu Toameh’s inbox. While the veteran reporter has received hate mail before, he said the response to the last two posts was overwhelming.

Abu Toameh received a message from Facebook stating he had posted an item that violates the terms of use of Facebook. Then, without warning, his Facebook profile was terminated. A notice said that the account was temporarily closed “for security reasons.”

The account was reopened 24 hours later, but with the two posts deleted and no explanation.

If the timing weren’t convincing enough, the fact the two posts were deleted proves that they were the reason for the suspension.

So why is Facebook censoring criticism of the Palestinian Authority? It could be political bias, but it’s more likely simple cowardice. Allowing criticism of totalitarian regimes could result in their being banned from those regimes. Either way, this illustrates the folly of using Facebook as a medium for political dicourse.


The gospel of liberalism

January 23, 2013

Seattle says, don’t feed the hungry:

The Bread of Life Mission, which has served the homeless community in Pioneer Square for more than 70 years, said the city has directed them to stop feeding the hungry in downtown parks.

Remember, this doesn’t just happen. Some person had to decide that stopping a church from feeding the homeless was a good idea. Which brings us back to this.


Butt out

January 23, 2013

The Obama administration wants doctors to question their patients about whether they have guns in their homes. (This is part of their program to denormalize gun ownership, so that they can make the political landscape more favorable for gun bans.) Doctors should not do so:

Doctors already have a professional and legal responsibility to notify the authorities if they believe patients pose an imminent threat to others or themselves. But routine inquiry about gun ownership goes far beyond this obligation. Such inquiries will instead only offend and alienate many responsible gun owners, compromising the trust essential to the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors should not put themselves in a position where patients view them as willing (or unwitting) agents of the government working against their interests.

This illustrates, yet again, how everything in this administration takes a back seat to ideology. When quality medical practice goes up against gun control, medicine will lose.

(Via Instapundit.)


Fighters for Egypt

January 23, 2013

What do you do with Egypt, a former ally that is rapidly turning into an Islamist hell-hole and is talking seriously of repudiating its peace treaty with Israel? Send them state of the art fighter jets, of course.

I guess they call that “smart diplomacy”.


The truth hurts

January 23, 2013

Pakistan doesn’t like that the latest Call of Duty game portray’s Pakistan’s intelligence agency as sympathetic to Al Qaeda. Well, boo freakin’ hoo.


Four more years

January 21, 2013

New outrageous plan: just follow the law

January 19, 2013

The Republicans seem to adopting Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion for how they should deal with the debt limit. Rather than using the debt limit to try to force big cuts in spending, which probably won’t work and will certainly result in them being (unjustly) savaged in the media, they should instead make a demand that is small, unassailable, and nevertheless important: for the Senate to produce a budget.

This is a great idea, because there is no reasonable argument that can be made against it. In fact, the Senate is required by law to produce a budget and thus has been flagrantly violating the law for the last four years. And, it’s nevertheless important because it will force Democrats to put their spending plans in the full light of day.

When Democrats attack the plan, as they will (precisely because they don’t want their spending plans debated in the full light of day), it will be an educational experience for the American people.


Aaron’s Law

January 19, 2013

A new bill to be introduced into Congress would take contracts out of the sphere of criminal law, and put them back into civil law, where they belong. Lawrence Lessig explains why that’s important.


Palestinian Authority admits to terrorism, but never mind

January 19, 2013

Everyone knows that the Palestinian Authority engages in terrorism against Israel, so it’s interesting but not so surprising that there exist legal documents proving that:

The document — accidentally handed over to lawyers suing the [Palestinian Authority] for $300 million on behalf of the teens’ parents — reveals a “close relationship” between the bomber and a captain in the Palestinian Authority security forces who planned the terror attack, court papers say.

The two-page memo, written in April 2012 by Maj. Ziad Abu Hamid of the authority’s General Intelligence Service, also details “at least six other critical facts” about the 2002 bombing and “clearly establishes the defendants’ material support and liability.”

But from there the story gets weird:

But Washington, DC, federal Judge Richard Leon ordered the memo returned or destroyed after the authority’s lawyers claimed it was “privileged and protected” information.

(Via the Corner.)


I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you

January 19, 2013

So your home was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and you can’t repair it without a permit, which you can’t get? Not our problem. We’re the government.

Remember, this doesn’t just happen. Some person had to decide that hassling people just trying to repair their homes was a good idea. Which brings us back to this.


Party of corruption

January 19, 2013

Remember when the Department of Homeland Security “categorically denied” that they delayed the arrest of a member of Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) staff until after the election? Official documents now confirm that their denial was a lie:

Federal immigration agents were prepared to arrest an illegal immigrant and registered sex offender days before the November elections but were ordered by Washington to hold off after officials warned of “significant interest” from Congress and news organizations because the suspect was a volunteer intern for Sen. Robert Menendez, according to internal agency documents provided to Congress.

The Homeland Security Department said last month, when The Associated Press first disclosed the delayed arrest of Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, that AP’s report was “categorically false.”

Under a Republican administration, this would be a scandal of the first order. (If anything like this were ever to happen under a Republican administration.)

(Via Instapundit.)


James O’Keefe is a national treasure

January 19, 2013

Even anti-gun zealots see the folly in posted gun-free zones, when it comes to their own homes:

(Via Michelle Malkin.)


Crazy

January 19, 2013

With all the vitriolic attacks against the NRA for its supposedly crazy proposal for armed guards in schools (the NYT called it a “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant”), one might have gotten the impression that the proposal was out of the mainstream. In fact, the proposal is supported by 55% of Americans, and now even by the Obama administration.

If such a mainstream proposal is called “almost deranged” by the media, that tells you how far out of the mainstream the media is.

POSTSCRIPT: In fact, the 55-42 split understates how mainstream the proposal is. The 42% who are opposed includes lots of people like me who oppose the notion, not because of hoplophobia, but because we cannot afford it. Instead, we ought to revoke the gun-free zones around schools, which do not deter criminals but do prevent the school staff from stopping criminals. This would put informal armed security into the schools at no cost to the taxpayer. It’s already working in some states.


Green cronyism

January 19, 2013

This is interesting:

A lawsuit recently filed in the United States Court of Claims may shed further light on the corruption of the Obama administration’s “green energy” programs. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of XP Vehicles, Inc. and Limnia, Inc., companies that competed for Department of Energy loans under a Congressionally-authorized program. The owners of XP eventually realized that there was no real competition, and that the whole Department of Energy program was a scam intended to funnel money to Obama and Democratic Party campaign contributors and political allies. They allege in addition that DOE misappropriated proprietary technology that they submitted in connection with their loan applications, and gave that technology to Obama administration cronies.

If the allegations are accurate (and I suspect they are), they are a terrific example of the wastefulness of the government’s efforts to build a green economy. In a free, competitive economy, price signals guide the allocation of resources, achieving what economists call “resource allocative efficiency”, in which the price of every commodity reflects its marginal cost of production. Thus, individual purchasing decisions reflect the actual resource costs of the product.

The government’s efforts (especially under Obama) to alter the allocation of resources to a “greener” set of choices, disrupts that efficient outcome. The entire effort is wasteful, and as this lawsuit seems likely to illustrate, sometimes egregiously so.

The irony is that all this waste is carried out under the banner of “conservation”. That’s right, waste is called conservation. George Orwell would be proud.


CBS journalism

January 19, 2013

If CBS had any journalistic standards left to mock, this would be a good opportunity:

CBS forced CNET staff to recast vote after Hopper won ‘Best in Show’ at CES.


Politifact’s lie of the year

January 19, 2013

Politifact called this Mitt Romney ad its “lie of the year” for making this claim:

[Obama] sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.

This is, of course, the absolute truth.

How does Politifact get away with such an outrageous lie? They say that they aren’t attacking the actual statement, which they concede is true:

Like many political distortions, Romney’s claim contained a grain of truth. . . Bloomberg reported on Oct. 22 that the company was planning to restart production of Jeeps in China.

and:

The Romney campaign was crafty with its word choice, so campaign aides could claim to be speaking the literal truth, but the ad left a false impression that all Jeep production was being moved to China.

Instead, they claim to be criticizing the ad’s implicit message, a completely different statement that the ad didn’t make and wasn’t true, but that Politifact claims is what the Romney campaign was really trying to say.

This of course, puts paid to Politifact’s whole pretense of running an objective operation. More than that, their ability to divine a “clear message” different from the ad’s actual content is highly dubious in light of their need to hedge about exactly what that supposedly clear message was. Moreover, even setting all that aside, it’s just not true.

(Via PJ Tatler.)


Our ruling class

January 14, 2013

Washington, D.C. is the porn-viewing capital of America. Why doesn’t that surprise me?


No platinum coin

January 14, 2013

With all the talk on the left of monetizing the debt with a platinum coin, apparently no one bothered to look at the law to see if it were actually legal. It’s not. It turns out that the platinum coin provision only allows for two categories of coin (bullion coins and proof coins), neither of which can be used for seigniorage. (Via Volokh.)

The Treasury Department has confirmed this in its belated statement on the matter:

Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit.

(Via Hot Air.)

If Paul Krugman’s Democrats want to monetize the debt, they’re going to have to get the Federal Reserve to play ball.


Liars

January 14, 2013

Bill Clinton, professional liar and sometime president:

Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005, half of all of them in the history of the country.

This isn’t even close to true. Moreover, he knows it. Glenn Kessler adds:

We ran this data past a spokesman for Clinton, but he declined to comment or offer an explanation for where the former president got his facts. That always makes us suspicious.

The fact that it was Bill Clinton talking should have made him suspicious, but I suppose we must make allowances for liberal journalists.

(Via Power Line.)


Suckers!

January 14, 2013

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) requires that employers offer their employees health insurance, but does not require that it be affordable. Awesome.

(Via Instapundit.)


Taking no for an answer

January 14, 2013

In the West, including Israel, we long believed that there could be peace between Israel and the Arabs on a land-for-peace formula. We believed so because it seemed so reasonable. But the enemy is not reasonable. They want the Jews dead and will never make peace. They have said so, explicitly (even the so-called moderates).

The upcoming Israeli election will confirm that land-for-peace is dead. Even the Israeli left has figured it out, because:

The “dramatic imminent shift” is not a shift, but a realization; not imminent, but rather what happened over many years; and not dramatic, but rather the slow accumulation of many events: (1) the barbaric terror war against Israeli civilians, commenced after the first Israeli offer of a state; (2) the Palestinian rejection of the Clinton Parameters, after Israel formally accepted them; (3) the Palestinian failure to carry out even Phase I of the three-phase Roadmap; (4) the transformation of Gaza into Hamastan after Israel withdrew every settler and soldier; (5) the election of Hamas in 2006 and the Hamas coup in 2007; (6) two rocket wars from Judenrein Gaza, and the continuing prospect of more; (7) the year-long negotiation in the Annapolis Process that produced still another offer of a state, from which Abbas walked away; (8) Abbas’s announcement in 2009 that he would do nothing without a construction freeze, followed by his doing nothing after he got one; (9) the continual “reconciliation” attempts by Abbas with the terrorist group he promised to dismantle; (10) his failure to give a Bir Zeit speech to match Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan one; (11) the inability of the Palestinians to hold an election, much less build the institutions of a peaceful democratic state; (12) the violation of their express Oslo commitments with repeated end-runs at the UN; (13) a Palestinian society, media and educational system steeped in anti-Semitism; (14) et cetera.

The Palestinians could have had an independent state at peace with Israel, but they’ve made clear they don’t want it. This underscores the foresight of the Arabs who deliberately created the Palestinian refugee problem after Israel’s war of independence by refusing to resettle the refugees, for the explicit purpose of preventing future generations from making peace with Israel.

POSTSCRIPT: Unfortunately, the American and European left has not figured it out yet, either because they are too far from the carnage, or (especially in the European case) because they are simply anti-Semitic.

(Via Power Line.)


Another day, another NHS disaster

January 12, 2013

The future of American health care is the UK’s present:

The largest and most detailed survey into hospital deaths has revealed that almost 12,000 patients are needlessly dying every year as a result of poor patient care.

The researchers from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine based the study on 1,000 deaths at 10 NHS trusts during 2009. The study revealed that basic errors were made in more than one in 10 cases, leading to 5.2% of deaths, which was the equivalent of nearly 12,000 preventable deaths in hospitals in England every year.

Iowahawk puts these numbers into perspective:

A Briton is 5 times more likely to die from government health care than an American is to die from a gunshot.


Libor

January 12, 2013

Timothy Geithner was hip-deep in the Libor scandal, and somehow I never heard about it:

At the hearing, Geithner stuck to a defense he expressed last week — that once he learned of the ma­nipu­la­tion, he sounded alarms to British and U.S. regulators. . .

But Republicans hammered Geithner about why he did not inform lawmakers during numerous congressional hearings or in the lengthy debate over Wall Street regulation. . . Other GOP members noted that even though Geithner knew of possible rate-fixing, the Federal Reserve still used Libor in several financial rescue programs.

Geithner defended his actions, saying that Libor was the best number available. That’s nonsense. Even if you set aside the rigging, Libor should never have been used for anything, because it doesn’t measure anything real. It never did. Libor is nothing more than the average of a set of made-up numbers.

In fact, one should have expected that Libor would be rigged. Or, put another way, what does “rigged” even mean in regard to a fictional rate? The “estimates” that make up Libor aren’t real rates that anyone can get. Their sole use is to set Libor, so of course they were chosen in such a way as to favor the estimaters own interests.


Doom!

January 12, 2013

Social Security is in much more trouble than you thought. A piece in the New York Times shows the Social Security Administration’s forecast are pretty much worthless. For example, their projected death rates look like this:

social-security-bug

First of all, the curves should not cross. But more importantly, they should certainly never go to 100%! According to the Social Security Administration, I will never collect Social Security, because there is a 100% chance that I will die by 2028.

With assumptions like this, it’s easy to see that the Administration’s estimate that it won’t run out of IOUs until 2033 is worthless.


“Suffer a little bit”

January 12, 2013

Mike Bloomberg’s latest project is to limit supplies of painkillers to emergency rooms:

Yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials unveiled a new initiative to limit supplies of prescription painkillers in the city’s emergency rooms as a way to combat what they described as a growing addiction problem in the region. Some critics . . ., however, felt the move would unnecessarily hurt poor and uninsured patients who use emergency rooms as their primary care doctor.

[Bloomberg said,] “Number one, there’s no evidence of that. Number two, supposing it is really true, so you didn’t get enough painkillers and you did have to suffer a little bit. The other side of the coin is people are dying and there’s nothing perfect … There’s nothing that you can possibly do where somebody isn’t going to suffer, and it’s always the same group [claiming], ‘Everybody is heartless.’ Come on, this is a very big problem.”

If people “suffer a little bit”, Bloomberg thinks that’s a small price to pay to protect other people from themselves. That is absolutely disgusting. Quite simply, Mike Bloomberg does not believe in freedom.

And despite Bloomberg breezy dismissal of the possibility, this is exactly what is going to happen.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh writes:

I have had loved ones go to the hospital to undergo significant surgical procedures. The aftermath of those surgeries presented said loved ones with significant rehabilitation demands which were made all the more daunting because of the post-operative pain involved. . .

It would be best to leave these kinds of decisions to the doctor and his/her patient. So when an officious, meddling busybody decides that he is in the best position to decide who gets painkillers and who doesn’t, and when said officious, meddling busybody declares that it is okay if some people “suffer” as a consequence of his decision, I tend to get more than a little upset. And you should get more than a little upset too.

I am.


The slippery slope

January 12, 2013

Dianne Feinstein is a liar:

In fact, getting the camel’s nose under the tent, as Ifill puts it, is exactly what they are trying to accomplish. As Olson and Kopel exhaustively document in All the Way Down the Slippery Slope: Gun Prohibition in England and Some Lessons for Civil Liberties in America, the gun banners got Great Britain from complete gun freedom to a complete ban by taking slow, seemingly moderate steps:

Severe enforcement of the rifle and handgun licensing system would not have worked in 1922. Too many gun owners would have been outraged by the rapid move from a free society to one of repressive controls. By initially enforcing the 1920 legislation with moderation, and then with gradually increasing severity, the British government acclimated British gun owners to higher and higher levels of control. . .

The frog-cooking principle helps explain why America’s Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), and the other anti-gun lobbies are so desperate to pass any kind of gun control, even controls that most observers agree will accomplish very little. By lobbying for the enactment of, for example, the Brady Bill, HCI established the principle of a national gun licensing system. Once a lenient national handgun licensing system was established in 1993, the foundation was laid so that the licensing system can gradually be tightened.

They’re trying the same thing here, but Americans are wise to them, which is why we fight everything. The courts have held that the First Amendment protection for free speech requires “breathing room”, which means that not only must the government not ban free speech, it must not come anywhere near it. The British experience shows that we need “breathing room” for the Second Amendment as well.

UPDATE: A Washington Post editorial from 1994 admitted that the the so-called assault weapon ban served no purpose other than as a stepping stone:

No one should have any illusions about what was accomplished (by the ban). Assault weapons play a part in only a small percentage of crime. The provision is mainly symbolic; its virtue will be if it turns out to be, as hoped, a stepping stone to broader gun control.


Above the law

January 11, 2013

It’s official: DC’s gun laws apply to some and not others:

Having carefully reviewed all of the facts and circumstances of this matter, . . . OAG has determined to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to decline to bring criminal charges against Mr. Gregory . . . or any other NBC employee based on the events associated with the December 23, 2012 broadcast. OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law. . .

Amazingly, they actually come out and admit that the reason he escaped prosecution is because he was agitating for gun control:

Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the previously mentioned events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them.

ASIDE: Okay, they only actually admit that it was because he was discussing gun control — not advocating it — but can anyone suggest with a straight face that an NRA spokesman who did the same thing could have escaped prosecution?

Remember that malicious intent is not required for magazine possession to be illegal in DC. The very thing is illegal, and that’s precisely how they intend it. Even clearly legal instances are prosecuted in DC. The only known way to escape prosecution is if you’re using on television to promote gun control.

And so the rule of law in America takes another blow.


Good grief

January 8, 2013

No one ever accused Ed Schultz of being well-informed, but this really takes the cake:

For the record, the truth is the exact opposite of what Schultz says: Chicago has the most draconian gun laws in the country.

Is he really so absurdly misinformed, or is he just lying? I would guess the former; most people don’t deliberately make themselves look like fools.


Obama’s war on chaplains

January 8, 2013

The untold story of the Obama administration is his fight against the free exercise of religion. It’s not just the contraception/abortifacients mandate. His administration has also argued that the government can dictate to churches who their ministers must be (they lost that case), and we’re starting to see a pattern of attacks on military chaplains.

Last year the Obama administration issued orders to Army chaplains forbidding them from reading a pastoral letter from the Catholic church to their congregations, and his latest attack goes directly at the chaplains themselves:

Religious liberty advocates are concerned after President Obama said a conscience clause that would allow military chaplains to opt-out of performing gay marriages is “unnecessary and ill-advised.”

The section reads, “No member of the Armed Forces may — require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.

Let’s be clear what is at stake here. Obama wants to be able to force chaplains to perform rituals that are against their religions. Thus, any chaplain must either violate the precepts of his faith or leave the service. Either way, the men and women of the armed forces will be denied principled chaplains.

Obama lost this fight — as he’s lost most of them — but I wouldn’t assume this issue is over. The more radical the agenda, the more tenacious the man is in pursuing it. This issue will probably come up again with next year’s military budget.


Unless you’re David Gregory . . .

January 8, 2013

At this point, I think we can assume that David Gregory and his staff at NBC will not be charged for illegally possessing a “high-capacity” magazine in the District of Columbia. But while the DC prosecutors exercise their discretion to let a high-profile media figure off scot-free, they prosecute the magazine-ban vigorously against ordinary people.

In fact, while Gregory faces no charges despite knowingly breaking the law, they prosecute ordinary people who didn’t even break the law at all. For example:

Mr. Brinkley was booked on two counts of “high capacity” magazine possession (these are ordinary magazines nearly everywhere else in the country) and one count of possessing an unregistered gun.

Despite the evidence Mr. Brinkley had been legally transporting the gun, his attorney Richard Gardiner said the D.C. Office of the Attorney General “wouldn’t drop it.” This is the same office now showing apparent reluctance to charge Mr. Gregory.

Mr. Brinkley refused to take a plea bargain and admit guilt, so the matter went to trial Dec. 4. The judge sided with Mr. Brinkley, saying he had met the burden of proof that he was legally transporting. Mr. Brinkley was found not guilty on all firearms-related charges, including for the “high-capacity” magazines, and he was left with a $50 traffic ticket.

When the law is applied differently to the famous and the ordinary, there is no law.


What a clunker!

January 8, 2013

We already knew that President Obama’s cash-for-clunkers program was an economic disaster. (We literally would have been better off burning $1 billion in cash.) Liberals console themselves by saying that at least it helped the environment. But it didn’t:

Whoops—’Cash for Clunkers’ Actually Hurt the Environment

According to E Magazine, the “Clunkers” program, which is officially known as the Car Allowance Rebates System (CARS), produced tons of unnecessary waste while doing little to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The program’s first mistake seems to have been its focus on car shredding, instead of car recycling. With 690,000 vehicles traded in, that’s a pretty big mistake.


Cuban health care saves millions

January 8, 2013

Here’s the feel-good story of the week: Hugo Chavez may have killed himself by getting his cancer treatment in Cuba, rather than at a competent hospital.

(Via Power Line.)


Krugman: monetize the debt

January 8, 2013

Under our monetary system, the Federal Reserve (a quasi-independent body) controls the issuing of currency and other levers that influence the money supply. This is supposed to serve as a check on the government’s ability to print money unwisely. It’s a weak check, but a check nonetheless. However, it seems that federal law contains a loophole (dealing with the minting of platinum coins) that allows the Treasury to issue currency without the approval of the Federal Reserve.

Nevertheless, even if the Treasury can do it, monetizing the debt is a crackpot idea. I thought everyone knew that, so I never paid any attention to the talk of minting trillion-dollar platinum coins.

But now, Paul Krugman is advocating it:

Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to force America into default? Yes, absolutely. . . By minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling — while doing no economic harm at all.

Got that? No economic harm at all! We’re in LaRouche territory here, folks!

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, the notion that Republicans would try to “force America into default” is pure partisan bullshit. As we learned from the last go-round with the debt ceiling, Republicans wanted to ensure that the debt was paid, and proposed legislation to ensure that by giving debt service priority. It was voted down on party lines, because Democrats wanted to keep default on the table. Quite simply, Democrats preferred to risk default than to make meaningful cuts to spending. So what Krugman really means is:

Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to cut spending? Yes, absolutely.

This kind of thinking leads to hyper-inflation.

(Via Power Line.)


Anti-gun, pro-crime

January 4, 2013

Fox News reports:

Reformed crooks say the New York newspaper that published a map of names and addresses of gun owners did a great service – to their old cronies in the burglary trade.

The information published online by the Journal-News, a daily paper serving the New York suburbs of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, could be highly useful to thieves in two ways, former burglars told FoxNews.com. Crooks looking to avoid getting shot now know which targets are soft and those who need weapons know where they can steal them.

“That was the most asinine article I’ve ever seen,” said Walter T. Shaw, 65, a former burglar and jewel thief who the FBI blames for more than 3,000 break-ins that netted some $70 million in the 1960s and 1970s. “Having a list of who has a gun is like gold – why rob that house when you can hit the one next door, where there are no guns? . . . What they did was insanity.” . . .

Frank Abagnale, who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 film “Catch Me if You Can,” and is perhaps the most famous reformed thief to ever earn a legitimate living by offering the public insight into the criminal mind, called the newspaper’s actions “reprehensible.”

“It is unbelievable that a newspaper or so called journalist would publish the names and addresses of legal gun owners, including federal agents, law enforcement officers and the like,” said Abagnale, who noted that he grew up in the suburban New York area served by the Journal-News. “This would be equivalent to publishing the names of individuals who keep substantial sums of money, jewelry and valuables in their home.”

UPDATE: More:

Law enforcement officials from a New York region where a local paper published a map identifying gun owners say prisoners are using the information to intimidate guards.

Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco, who spoke at a news conference flanked by other county officials, said the Journal News’ decision to post an online map of names and addresses of handgun owners Dec. 23 has put law enforcement officers in danger.

“They have inmates coming up to them and telling them exactly where they live. That’s not acceptable to me,” Falco said. . .

 


The easiest way to lie with statistics is simply to lie

January 2, 2013

Ezra Klein (of Journolist fame) is running a list of “facts” about guns in America. Most of them are nonsense, but for most of those showing so requires some analysis that I will leave to other commentators. I want to focus on just one, this chart:

assault-deaths-some-oecd

The chart shows the US with a significantly higher rate of assault deaths than all “other OECD”. Klein adds: “We are a clear outlier.”

Now, you can’t tell with them drawn atop each other, but there are 24 graphs on that chart. (They are shown separately here.) But there are 34 OECD members. If you include those (which the graph’s author did later, after being questioned on the point) you get a very different picture:

assault-deaths-all-oecd

Not so much of an outlier with eight more countries put in — particularly if you look at 2010 and not the late 1970s — are we? The original graph left out all the countries with a higher or similar rate.

But wait, eight more countries? Weren’t we missing ten? If you peruse the list, it is still missing Iceland and Turkey. I wonder what’s going on in those two. The author (who does not study violence, by the way) says he couldn’t get data for Turkey. He doesn’t mention Iceland at all.

Finally, I should mention that other measures of violence paint a very different picture (see number 6, here), but that gets into the realm of analysis, so I’ll stop here.


Liberals hate math

January 2, 2013

If the charitable deductions are limited, charitable contributions will decrease. That’s just math. Suppose you can afford to give $1000 to charity, and suppose (to make the math easy) that you are in a 50% marginal tax bracket and the new limit is zero. Then you will give just the $1000. Before the limit went to zero, when you gave $1000 you saved $500 on taxes, so you could give another $500. That saved you $250, which you could give, which saved another $125, and so on. In the end, you were able to give $2000. So your charitable contribution is cut in half.

Of course, the realistic effect is smaller. In general, if your marginal income tax rate is r, discretionary giving in excess of the limit is reduced by r. Again, that’s just math.

But when Ari Fleischer tweeted about this effect, liberals went crazy. Here’s a typical comment, selected for its lack of profanity:

lol talk about being a complete jerk, admitting you donate for the tax deduction #NoSoul

I think #NoMath would be more appropriate. No one donates just for the tax deduction unless their marginal tax rate is over 100%. Even if you get some back on your taxes, you still don’t end up ahead!

Fleischer tried to explain it:

For those having a fit re my charity tweet, when gvt reduces ppl’s take home pay, ppl have less $ to donate/spend. It’s math

But the innumerate liberals still weren’t buying it, including innumerate fools like New Republic editor Alec MacGillis and Buzz Feed “reporter” Andrew Kaczynski.

Did I mention it’s just math? Sheesh.


Draw a doodle, go to jail

January 2, 2013

A 16-year-old New Jersey boy has been sent to jail for absolutely nothing:

When a 16-year-old New Jersey boy doodled in his notebook on Tuesday, December 18, he probably didn’t expect to be arrested by the end of the day. However, when school officials saw the sketches, which they state appeared to be of weapons, and the boy “demonstrated behavior that caused them to be concerned,” the police were called.

A subsequent search of the boy’s home led to his arrest because they found several electronic parts and chemicals. He was charged with the possession of an explosive device and put in juvenile detention.

He doodled a superhero, and he owned a chemistry set and electronics set. For that, he went to jail. The authorities admit he did nothing wrong:

At no point in time did the boy threaten the school, school officials, or his classmates. He cooperated fully with authorities, and a search of the school itself found nothing dangerous . . .

and:

Police Chief Pat Moran stressed Tuesday night no threats were made by the student and there was no indication there was any danger posed to anyone or property at the school.

“There was no indication he was making a bomb, or using a bomb or detonating a bomb,” he said.

This is hysteria, plain and simple.


The Laffer Curve in Portugal

January 2, 2013

The Laffer Curve is inarguably real (no one will work at a 100% tax rate), the only question is where the peak is. Portugal is the latest country to be surprised to find itself on the wrong side of the peak.