Sunday, November 13, 2011

Libertarian Links

Education:That’s because, for every dollar the education tax credit reduces state revenues, it saves the state $1.49 — according to an official study by the legislature’s accountability agency. That is because educating children in the private sector is quite a bit less expensive than doing so in the public sector.

Europe: With its current lending capacity (which is at about €266 billion considering commitments to Ireland, Portugal and Greece), the EFSF cannot meaningfully support the euro area’s large government bond markets. This limits the EFSF’s role as an important pillar of the euro area crisis management strategy.

Africa: But here is what else I saw. Periodically, the police would sweep through the cities confiscating all the goods hawkers were trying to sell. Hundreds at a time would lose everything they had, because they didn't have permits to sell their goods. Nor did the legal system recognize their property rights. It was not unheard of for governments to send in bulldozers and level entire villages because no land titles were held.

Throughout the continent, farmers were told they had to sell their produce to a central marketing board run by politicians or their families. Farmers would get paid at rates below the market price. The board would resell at full market value, keeping the difference for the politicians and their friends. Farmers who wanted to sell to others were often arrested for it. Many simply resorted to producing what they needed for their families -- nothing more.

Health madness: Results of the survey detail for the first time the negative impact of Medicare enforcement and regulations on patients' access to care. Some findings:

*More than three-fourths (82%) report increased fear of prosecution or investigation in the past 3 years;

* 71% report making changes in their practice to avoid threat of prosecution, including greatly restricting services, i.e. more than one-third (34%) of all respondents restrict services to Medicare patients, such as surgery.

*20% report they do not accept new Medicare patients because of hassles and/or threats from Medicare. (Only 16% cite fees)

*Almost one-fourth (23%) DO NOT accept new Medicare patients. Of those who do, 9% do so only under special circumstances;

*More than one-third (34%) have difficulty finding physicians willing to accept referrals of their Medicare patients;

[...]AAPS can match each of those with a case of an honest practitioner unfairly prosecuted for inadvertent mistakes or victimized because of inconsistent interpretation of coding regulations.

For example:

Edgardo Perez-DeLeon of Michigan. Mr. Perez-DeLeon, former office manager for his wife's internal medicine practice was convicted of 12 felony counts of Medicaid False Claims and Health Care False Claims Offenses.

His crime? He coded patient visits that did not involve a physical examination as "office visits." The coding was the closest match available consistent with recommended manuals; contrary to testimony by a government witness, a physical examination is not necessarily required on every occasion.

His punishment? One year in jail, while the family house was threatened with foreclosure and their children were sent back to Puerto Rico to live with family because they couldn't afford to support them. To this date, Mr. Perez-DeLeon has not been able to get a clarification of the official interpretation of "office visit."

Swine flu: The Finnish government and major insurance companies announced Wednesday they will pay for lifetime medical care for children diagnosed with narcolepsy after receiving the swine flu vaccine.

Terrorism/murder: American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior U.S. government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to U.S. officials.

Tax realities: The 10 percent of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes. They pay more than 70 percent of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Medicare madness (after FDA discussion):

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two Stories

Porn making society better?

The 82 cases [i.e., investigations culminating in prosecution for some form of support for jihadist terrorism] since 9/11 involved 32 plots. Few of these 32 got much beyond the discussion stage. Only 10 developed anything resembling an operational plan that identified a specific target, developed the means of attack, and offered a sequence of steps to carry out the planned action. Of these, six were Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stings.
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Social Security Should Scare You


Social Security taxes have been raised some 40 times since the program began. The initial Social Security tax was 2 percent (split between the employer and employee), capped at $3,000 of earnings. That made for a maximum tax of $60. Today, the tax is 12.4 percent, capped at $106,800, for a maximum tax of $13,234. Even adjusting for inflation, that represents more than an 800 percent increase.
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Terrible Reagan Quote on Gun Control


Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.” The Mulford Act, he said, “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.”
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Total Government Spending Over Time

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How Closely Do Legislators Read Bills?

Competitive Enterprise Institute:

The Texas House of Representatives once unanimously passed a resolution honoring the Boston Strangler. The resolution’s sponsor wanted to point out to his colleagues that they should read bills before voting on them.
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On the Import-Export Bank

A pet peeve of mine.

The current cap on lending is $100 billion, with over $75 billion in total loans currently outstanding.6

[...]It is worth noting from the outset that the “dual mandate” of the bank—to finance only transactions that the private sector deems too risky, but to lend only when a reasonable chance of repayment exists—is inherently contradictory.

[...]It puts special emphasis on supporting “environmentally beneficial exports,” particularly renewable energy projects, and has engaged in picking winners by identifying certain industries as having “high potential for export growth.”8

[...]As a senior official at the General Accounting Office has testified, Government
export finance assistance programs may largely shift production among sectors within the economy rather than raise the overall level of employment in the economy.”18

[...]Second, the bank typically has made its loans, guarantees, and insurance to countries such as South Korea, China, Mexico, and Brazil—countries that have had little difficulty in attracting private investment on their own. Indeed, the bank’s relatively low default rate (less than 2 percent in 2010)39 suggests it is making
loans to creditworthy countries, which again raises the question of why we need an Ex-Im Bank to finance safe transactions that should be left to the private sector.

[...]In FY2010, the Ex-Im Bank offered over $300 million worth of loan guarantees to the United Arab Emirates (with a total exposure worth $3.6 billion) to buy aircraft.40

[...]For example, as noted above, the bank places limits on the amount of foreign
content in exports it supports. Any Ex-Im Bank–supported transaction worth more than
$20 million must be transported on a U.S.-flagged ship—a hidden subsidy to protected
shippers. As the CEE points out: “Today, an extremely limited number of U.S.-flag ‘break bulk’ carriers remain in operation, yielding transportation costs so high as to nullify the benefits of Ex-Im Bank financing.”

[...]First, it is no longer true that other rich countries subsidize their exporters at much higher levels than the United States. In fact, the United
States was the third-largest user, out of seven rich-country users, of medium- and long-term export credits when measured as a percentage of total merchandise exports in 2009, as Table 3 shows.

[...]The Ex-Im Bank has, however, occasionally stacked the deck against U.S. industries by subsidizing their foreign competitors. The support given to Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex—one of the top 10 beneficiaries of the Ex-Im Bank’s finance—is a questionable use of taxpayer dollars to say the least, and U.S.-based oil companies may be wondering why their competitors deserve support from a U.S. government agency.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Libertarian Links

A libertarian island?

Chavez nationalizes gold production and potentially fires the shot that crashes the world economy (though not really his fault this time.) (Must read)

More risible than rude was the President's comment that, "If we don't think there are more benefits than costs to [a rule], we're not going to do it." His own White House's recent report to Congress admitted that for most of the major rules the Obama Administration imposed on Americans in 2010, the government had failed to analyze both costs and benefits.

Taking on Warren Buffet's collectivist tax claims.

On Monday, the Wisconsin Education Association Council announced it will lay off about 40% of its staff, a change executive director Dan Burkhalter blamed on Mr. Walker’s “union-busting legislation.” In December the union will face another reality check, as 51% of its members must vote to recertify it as their representative. With members no longer captive dues payers, the union has been forced to begin new outreach efforts, including home visits, to sell its relevance to workers. 

SEC destroying key documents?

Paul Krugman advocates war based on lies to "stimulate economy."  Really.

Outstanding student debt has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — an increase from $440 billion then to $550 billion now. By contrast, every other major category of consumer debt, including mortgage debt, credit card debt, auto loans and home equity loans, is lower today than it was in the fall of 2008.

Green stimulus failure.

“I wrote letters to attorneys plainly marked ‘Legal Mail’ and addressed to lawyers with the title Attorney at Law. The FEDS opened those sealed letters, photo copied them, then sent them back to me as part of their pre-trial document production, a clear violation of US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantee of ‘Assistance of Counsel’ to criminal defendants like me.”

You may have heard that Japan is a government-directed society, and in many ways it is. But in terms of the constituents of daily life being privately owned and marginally priced, it is a libertarian's dream world. For example, there are relatively few free city parks. Many green spaces are private and gated off (admission is usually around $5).

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Libertarian Links

Rick Perry's crony capitalism.

More against Rick Perry: "Rick Perry, you signed an executive order forcing young Texas schoolgirls to get the HPV vaccine even if it was against their will -- even if it was against their parents' will -- while your former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Merck. Rick Perry, your judgment was so bad the Texas legislature revolted against you and overturned your decision."

Radley Balko on Perry.

[W]e now have the Securities and Exchange Commission starting an insider-trading investigation of who inside S&P worked on the downgrade.  This comes on top of an announced Senate probe into S&P’s decision.
The National Association of Manufacturers asked its members last month how the National Labor Relations Board's decision against Boeing's Sourth Carolina plant case is affecting their decision-making. Some 60% said the government's case already has—or could—hurt hiring. Sixty-nine percent said the case would damage job growth. And 49% said capital expenditure plans "have been or may be impacted by the NLRB's complaint.

When you include the costs of federal deficit spending and the regulatory burden this year, however, you don't reach the Cost of Government Day until Aug. 12. Americans will work for 103 days to pay for federal spending, 44 days for state and local spending and 77 days to cover the cost of the regulatory burden.

“Health centers do not, as a matter of routine practice, ask about or collect data on citizenship or other matters not related to the treatment needs of the patients seeking health services at the center,” Andrews said.

NYPD admits to monitoring social networks for End the Fed rallies.

I think you have to pair this idea with the multiple studies showing that access to pornography in specific and violent entertainment in general reduces the prevalence of rape. Violent entertainment seems to contain violent impulses, not unleash them.

On some days, the pilots with Great Lakes Airlines fire up a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 at the Ely, Nev., airport and depart for Las Vegas without a single passenger on board. And the federal government pays them to do it.

France, Belgium, Italy and Spain Ban Short Selling

Gold Falls Most in Seven Weeks as Margins Raised

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Libertarian Links

“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall.

Great video on Medicaid fraud.

Health-care costs rose about 8% in 2011 and are projected to rise by 8.5% in 2012.

An Obama alphabet.

More than half of alternate route teachers (53%) believe that abolishing tenure would improve education, while just 31% of traditional route teachers share that view.

Payments to individuals as a percentage of government outlays.

Obama's cabinet secretaries acting with undue power.

Medicare facts.

Officials in Longhui County, a rural area of Hunan Province, have a history of kidnapping unauthorized babies and selling them on the black market when the parents are unable to pay exorbitant fines that may amount to five times their annual income. "I can't even describe my hatred of those family planning officials," says Yang Libing, the father of a nine-month-old girl who was snatched from his parents' home in 2005 while he was working in another town.
Of the 34 generic cancer drugs on the market, as of this month, 14 were in short supply. They include drugs that are the mainstay of treatment regimens used to cure leukemia, lymphoma and testicular cancer.
Why? Because of what are essentially government prices controls on generic cancer drugs.

Thus, a cruise ship cannot start in Los Angeles and end in San Francisco unless it stops in Tokyo or Lima first. But it can start in Los Angeles, go to San Francisco, then later end in Los Angeles, as long as it stops in Ensenada, Mexico or Victoria, British Columbia first.

Which is why some homeowners in Old Town Alexandria were surprised to learn recently that their chain-link fences were historic and that removing them could put them in hot water with the city's historic preservation office.
In 1951, General Dwight Eisenhower said that if U.S. troops were still stationed in Europe ten years later to protect American allies, then NATO "will have failed."

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Libertarian Links

Ozone standards: The EPA estimates these new standards could cost business anywhere from $20 billion to $90 billion annually.

How two different states are dealing with natural gas.

Chinese billionaires dying: According to China Daily, 15 were murdered, 17 committed suicide, seven died from accidents and 19 died from illness. Oh, yes, and 14 were executed. (Welcome to China.)

In an effort to rid the country of Monsanto’s GMO products, Hungary has stepped up the pace.

Prosocial human behavior.

Stossel, Tom Woods and Damon Root on public unions and FDR.

Scott Walker's reforms save school district?

WOW: The Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that total government spending at all levels has risen to 37% of gross domestic product today from 27% in 1960—and is set to reach 50% by 2038. The Tax Foundation reports that between 1986 and 2008, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 5% of earners has risen to 59% from 43% (see chart above). Between 1986 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who pay zero or negative federal income taxes has increased to 51% from 18.5% (see chart above). And all this is accompanied by an increase in our national debt to 100% of GDP today from 42% in 1980.

Khan Academy: Khan’s programmer, Ben Kamens, has heard from teachers who’ve seen Khan Academy presentations and loved the idea but wondered whether they could modify it “to stop students from becoming this advanced.”

Interview with the author of Islam Without Extremes.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Libertarian Links

So, for a family in high-cost California taxed at the top federal rate, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2013, the 0.9% increase in payroll taxes to fund ObamaCare, and the president's proposal to eventually uncap Social Security payroll taxes would lift its combined marginal tax rate to a stunning 58.4%.

All of which is to say that these banks repaid cash owed to a program run by the Treasury Department by. . . .borrowing from another program run by the Treasury Department.

U.S. taxpayers likely lost $1.3 billion in the government bailout of Chrysler, the Treasury Department announced Thursday.

Michael Bailey, 20, from Glasgow, left the messages on the social networking site, in a group called "Neil Lennon should be banned" and on his own page. He was caught after a police task force began reviewing internet sites after March's so-called Old Firm shame game.

Mortgage industry employees are still signing documents they haven’t read and using fake signatures more than eight months after big banks and mortgage companies promised to stop the illegal practices that led to a nationwide halt of home foreclosures.

The government forces oil companies to use ethanol. And that mandate is growing. Next year, it will call for more ethanol than the industry produced this year.

Yale researchers bought Virginia residents gift subscriptions to either the Washington Times or the Washington Post. The ones who were randomly assigned to the more left-leaning Post voted for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate 3.8 percentage points more than those who were randomly assigned the more right-leaning Times.  [...]major U.S. newspapers are 20 to 40 percent more likely to report a negative headline if the administration is Republicans than if it is Democratic." [...]Research about the political leanings of the journalists themselves is another area to explore: "in a typical presidential election Washington correspondents vote about 93-7 for the Democrat."

The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance, 

Between 1841 and 1843 eight states and one territory defaulted on their obligations, and by the end of the decade four states and one territory had repudiated all or part of their debts. These debts are properly seen as sovereign debts both because the United States Constitution precludes suits against states to enforce the payment of debts, and because most of the state debts were held by residents of other states and other countries (primarily Britain).…

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Libertarian Links

Public union tries to crush think tank.

Oregon Medicaid experiment: "In 2008, Oregon decided to enroll an additional 10,000 people in its Medicaid program via lottery. The nation’s top health economists pounced on the opportunity to compare medical consumption, health outcomes, and financial stress among “able-bodied uninsured adults below 100 percent of [the] poverty [line],” some of whom were randomly assigned to Medicaid and some of whom were not. The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment is particularly relevant because, starting in 2014, President Obama’s new health-care law will enroll another 16 to 20 million such people in Medicaid."

 Great article on D.C.'s free entry taxi cab market (vs. all the other cities that require medallions.)

The case of a man let off death row.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Libertarian Links

Blaming China for global cooling.

How much did the Marshal Plan cost?: "Roughly $13bn was paid out in the European Recovery Program (the Marshall plan's official name) and this proved indispensable in laying the foundations for the "miracle" of sustained economic growth in the decade that followed. This $13bn amounted to some 5% of America's national income in 1948. (The equivalent sum for the EU today would be in excess of $800bn.) The US wrote off prewar French debts; everyone wrote down Berlin's a few years later, even though they had just struggled through a war started by the Germans."

Unemployment fraud: "In the 12 months through March, the overpayment rate was 11.6% — more than $1 for every $9 paid out, Labor Department figures show."

Wealthy colleges (charging you more).

The costs of disclosing political activity

10 years of drug decriminalization in Portugal (amazing): The number of addicts considered "problematic" -- those who repeatedly use "hard" drugs and intravenous users -- had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

China vs. Taiwan
: "The Chinese people do not need communist rule to prosper. We can see that plainly enough 112 miles across the Taiwan Strait. Under the rule of the Nationalist Party, the 23 million people of Taiwan made the transition from military rule to a lively, multiparty democracy with freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. Behind liberal economic reforms dating back to the 1960s, the Taiwanese people have achieved a per capita gross domestic product (at purchasing power parity) that is four and a half times greater than on the mainland—$35,700 vs. $7,600."

The rest of this is a great article about the muni pension crisis, but this is what I found most useful: "Compensation, including wages and benefits, accounts for just 30 percent of state general-fund expenditures, the National Governors Association reports—which makes sense, since states also spend money on programs in which worker pay isn’t the main expense, such as Medicaid."

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Libertarian Links

"More than a third of all states allow debtors “who can’t or won’t pay their debts” to be jailed. In 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, judges have issued 5,000 such warrants."

Retail politics in Argentina.

Nevada passes law legalizing driverless cars.

This literally makes me nauseous.  Folks, this has to be stopped:  "House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday to overhaul the U.S. patent system for the first time in nearly 60 years, despite disagreements over patent-office funding and a provision that could help large banks challenge some patents. The House passed the America Invents Act on a 304-117 vote, a bipartisan tally with more than two-thirds of lawmakers from each party supporting the bill. The bill would change how the U.S. grants patents and award them to the party which is "first to file" an invention instead of the "first to invent" it."

Medieval standards of living (this might just be for me.)

An anti-eVerify article.

Romney vs. Romney.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Libertarian Links

Corrupt Chinese officials and employees of state-owned companies have absconded with about 800 billion yuan ($123.7 billion) of public money over 15 years through 2008, much of it making its way to the U.S., Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, according to Chinese news reports citing a central bank study.

Making drugs more dangerous.

Rand Paul kicking some TSA ass.

President Herbert Hoover asked for a temporary tax increase…in June 1932, raising the top income tax rate from 25% to 63% and quadrupling the lowest tax rate from 1.1% to 4%. That didn’t help confidence or the Treasury. Revenue from the individual income tax dropped from $834 million in 1931 to $427 million in 1932 and $353 million in 1933.

NC licensing ridiculousness: It is dangerous to practice music therapy without the proper education and training, according to Rebecca Engen, a music therapy professor at Queens University. “It is possible to use music harmfully,” Engen said at a meeting of the Legislative Committee on New Licensing Boards June 1. “You can use music that’s the wrong tempo or … that does not have the right musical qualities, and it can affect someone physiologically in a way that it can be damaging.” [...]Right now almost 80 percent of medical workers are licensed, he said. It’s the most regulated industry in terms of occupational licensing. And it’s also the most expensive.

More on licensing.

Bachmann forgets her reading of Mises.

Obama's free health insurance for middle class: President Barack Obama’s health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed. The change would affect early retirees: A married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid, said officials who make long-range cost estimates for the Health and Human Services department. Up to 3 million people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of the anomaly. That’s because, in a major change from today, most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility.

Afghan troop levels.

According to a 2005 report commissioned by the Missouri Bar, caseload, more than any other factor, determines which public defender offices do good work and which do not. No lawyer, no matter how skilled, can do a competent job on 200 felony cases a year. In some public defender offices, the caseload is more than twice that.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Libertarian Links

Libertarian attitudes at 20(-ish) year highs?

14 reasons Rick Perry would be a bad President (this doesn't even mention his "prayer for rain.")

Crime mysteries: Steven Messner found that during the last 15 years, states with lower incarceration rates saw bigger drops in crime, on average, than those with lock-’em-up policies. Moreover, the historic increase in the prison population began in the early 1980s, a decade after the crime rate began to rise and a decade before it started to fall. The incarceration rate increased by more than 100 percent in the 1980s, but violent crime still increased that decade, by 22 percent.

Better informed Daily Show viewers or Hannity viewers: "particular Fox shows scored well above the average. Hannity & Colmes was one of only four choices to exceed 40 percent -- the others were the New Yorker/the Atlantic, NPR and MSNBC’s Hardball -- while The O’Reilly Factor scored 28 percent, or 10 points above the national average. (Hannity & Colmes even exceeded Stewart’s Daily Show in this poll, 42 percent to 30 percent.)"

Changing to a first to file patent system - the worst idea I've heard in a long time: "Section 18, crafted by Sen. Chuck Schumer, provides banks with “patent relief.” Tired of paying fees to patent holders, the banks successfully lobbied to allow them special powers to try to void patents they find onerous. Rep. Aaron Schrock (R., Ill.) intends on offering an amendment to strike the provision."

There may be more to this story, but my first impression is not positive: "The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that states did not have an automatic duty to provide counsel in civil courts in the case of a divorced father who was jailed for failing to pay child support."

How bad is non-payment of debt really?SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Germany of today is considered the embodiment of stability. How many times has Germany become insolvent in the past?
Ritschl: That depends on how you do the math. During the past century alone, though, at least three times. After the first default during the 1930s, the US gave Germany a "haircut" in 1953, reducing its debt problem to practically nothing. Germany has been in a very good position ever since, even as other Europeans were forced to endure the burdens of World War II and the consequences of the German occupation. Germany even had a period of non-payment in 1990.

Darrell Issa acting on behalf of the people?: "Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings wrote to Chairman Darrell Issa today to request that the Committee issue subpoenas to require mortgage servicing companies to produce previously-requested documents. “You have not hesitated—in other investigations—to issue subpoenas in a matter of days when your deadlines were missed, so it is unclear why a different standard applies to this investigation,” Cummings wrote."

Criminal justice: "According to the department’s data, which are based on nationwide surveys of prison and jail inmates as well as young people in juvenile detention centers, at least 216,600 inmates were victimized in 2008 alone. Contrary to popular belief, most of the perpetrators were not other prisoners but staff members—corrections officials whose job it is to keep inmates safe"

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) estimates that 40,000 units in its 180,000-unit system (the nation’s largest) are “underoccupied,” with one or more empty bedrooms. Meanwhile, 144,000 families, mostly single parents with young kids, languish on the waiting list for an apartment.
After all, according to official estimates, marijuana constitutes 60 percent of cartels’ drug profits.
"The Associated Press does some accountability journalism on President Obama's promise to install solar panels on the White House roof"

Jobs "created" by the "stimulus": "Assuming the number of created or saved jobs reported by each contract recipient was accurate—which, as we've reported before, is still an open question—that breaks down to $533,000 for each job. That's more than five times the projection of the president's own Council of Economic Advisers , which estimated in May that every $92,136 in government spending would create one job for one year.  [...]Because the $16 billion in federal contracts represents about 5 percent of the $339 billion spent so far, they multiplied the 30,000 jobs by 20. The result is 600,000 direct jobs; and, relying again on the assumption that each direct job produces one indirect job, the White House doubled that number to 1.2 million."

Another good article on the stimulus:  After subtracting what House Democrats hope to spend on government payrolls, health, education and welfare, only a fifth of the original $550 billion is left for notoriously slow infrastructure projects, such as rebuilding highways and the electricity grid.

The Lochner case - freedom of contract: "As is often the case with regulation, large bakeries didn’t mind the law governing maximum hours because they could hire multiple shifts. Small bakeries, with their smaller workforces, found compliance far more difficult. The statute also set limits on ceiling heights designed to put cellar bakeries out of business. Small bakers felt that the law was enforced much more vigorously where nonunion bakeries were concerned, and Lochner, an immigrant who had opened his own bakery in Utica in 1894 where he worked alongside his wife and employees, soon attracted official attention. Lochner was charged with violation of the law because he let an employee named Aaron Schmitter and his family live above the bakery. [...]Bernstein spends a substantial part of his book describing the way in which an opinion that stopped a joint effort by large corporate interests and big unions to squash small businesses was somehow turned into the centerpiece of a narrative about the Supreme Court upholding big business at the expense of the little guy."

Government war against Phosphorous: Now, it is clear that the law's proponents knew exactly what the results would be. It would increase dishwasher use and even end up leading people to abandon dishwashers altogether, and either solution leads to much more water and energy use. In other words, even by the goofy environmentalists' own standards, this is no savings. It might end up in the reverse.

Nuclear dangers: U.S. nuclear power plant operators haven't figured out how to quickly detect leaks of radioactive water from aging pipes that snake underneath the sites — and the leaks, often undetected for years, are not going to stop, according to a new report by congressional investigators. The report by the Government Accountability Office was released by two congressmen Tuesday in response to an Associated Press investigation that shows three-quarters of America's 65 nuclear plant sites have leaked radioactive tritium, sometimes into groundwater.

Probably an even scarier story about nuclear plans.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Libertarian Links

The storage room Wang and Xu budgeted to cost $25,000, would have cost $250,000 to comply with the city’s requirements, so the company will not store as many fragrance oils on site, making it more difficult to meet orders.

Death by regulation: About 90 percent of all the anesthesiologists in the country report they are experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthetic. [...]Currently, there are about 246 drugs that are in short supply and, as the chart shows, the number has been growing for some time.

Drug war: As USA Today reports, an astonishing 70,000 to 80,000 militarized police raids take place on a annual basis in America, many of them on mistaken suspects and many of them ending with injury or death for police and citizens alike.

Mortgage world: More than 2.7 million mortgage deadbeats are still living in homes they have not made a payment on in more than a year. Average time from first missed payment to foreclosure is now 565 days.

First indication that UK made right call in eschewing further stimulus: Unemployment across the pond is dropping at fastest rate in 10 years.

FDA controlling your life: On June 28, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a hearing to decide the fate of Avastin, a drug taken by thousands of women fighting late-stage breast cancer. Many of these women have pleaded for continued access to the drug, which they consider a matter of life and death. But this case is really about what will guide decisions on treatment options—the best judgment of doctors and their patients, or the policy preferences of the FDA.

On the ~ 2000 weapons in Operation 'Fast and Furious'
: The agents interviewed say supervisors viewed the bloodshed with chilling indifference—or worse. As the report summarizes, "An increase of crimes and deaths in Mexico caused an increase in the recovery of weapons at crime scenes. When these weapons traced back through the Suspect Gun Database to weapons that were walked under Fast and Furious, supervisors in Phoenix were giddy at the success of their operation."

"The classic case study is Duke University Hospital, which cut the costs of treating congestive heart failure by 40% but then dumped the integration program because it lost money under Medicare's fee schedule."

Charity: U.S. donations to charity rose to $291 billion last year, a study found on Monday, but it was still more than 6 percent below a 2007 record as the nation struggles to recover from its worst recession in decades. Americans gave nearly 4 percent more in 2010 compared to 2009,

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Libertarian Links

Obama overruled own lawyers to continue war in Libyia: "President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations. [...]Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. [...]Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. supported Ms. Krass’s [the anti-war] view, officials said."

SEC signs $550M lease! Truly astonishing!: Thankfully, the money to fund the 900,000 square foot lease was shot down in the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget that passed earlier this year. However, the SEC still jumped the gun back in July 2010 by signing the 900,000 square foot lease at the taxpayers expense to the tune of $550 million dollars in lease obligations.

Insurance and money: "Multiple studies have been performed to answer the question: Does drug X improve cardiovascular outcomes compared to drug Y alone after a patient has had a major cardiovascular event or a stroke? The answer, unequivocally, is yes. By how much? The answer is a few percentage points, give or take.[2] Does it eliminate the risk all together? The answer, unequivocally, is no. It should also be noted that drug X in addition to drug Y confers a minor increase in the risk of having a major bleeding event. So the question is: How many people, in the appropriate clinical setting, knowing this information, would buy drug X for $140 per month? Probably not nearly as many who take it now for nothing or for a small copay."

Jimmy Carter's op-ed against the drug war
: "But about three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980."

North Carolina's effort to replace its Medicaid claims system is now two years behind schedule and more than $200 million over the original budget.

NC: "The legislature has given final approval to a bill that will allow formerly incarcerated people to earn a certificate that enables them to apply for professional licenses that convicted felons had been prohibited from getting.  [...]Former offenders have about a 50 percent chance of returning to prison within three years of their release, according to the state's sentencing commission, costing taxpayers about $27,000 per inmate a year."

Medicaid: "The New York Times reported today on a study in which researchers called doctor’s offices to schedule appointments for children with conditions like “diabetes, seizures, uncontrolled asthma, a broken bone or severe depression.” When the researchers said the children were covered by private insurance, all but 11 percent got an appointment. When they said the children were covered by Medicaid, two-thirds didn’t get an appointment."
Washington state already has a "death panel": "Melinda Woods, whose son has diabetes, said many who attended were stunned that committee members "knew nothing about type 1 diabetes. And they're making this huge, important decision that affects all these people. It was mind-boggling." [...]The seven doctors, a nurse, a chiropractor, a naturopath and a speech therapist who make up the committee are, by design, not experts in the technologies they review."
What are ACO's (for health care) and why are they bad: "For nearly five decades, Medicare regulations have financially penalized doctors who coordinate care. [...]"Here's a flash for the policy wonks pushing ACOs," writes industry expert Robert Laszewski. "They only work if the provider gets paid less for the same patient population. Why would they be dumb enough to voluntarily accept that outcome?" The Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and 93 percent of multi-specialty physician groups are not that dumb.  In what the Associated Press called an "unusual rebuke," they and other providers that President Obama has hailed as models for his ACO program have refused to participate in it."

That's why, notes LEAP, fully 75 percent of Americans and 69 percent of police chiefs agree that the drug war has failed.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Libertarian Links

Marco Rubio speech about opportunity.

Carter on pot decriminalization (back in the day): "That first happened when Jimmy Carter was seeking the Oval Office. Here's a quote of his you've likely forgotten or never heard before: "I do favor the decriminalization of marijuana." Under his never enacted plan, an American could've possessed up to an ounce without running afoul of federal law."

Great article about sex crimes: After the law took effect, the number of sex offenders whose whereabouts were unknown more than doubled. The prosecutors reported that “the residency restriction is causing offenders to become homeless, to change residences without notifying authorities of their new locations, to register false addresses or to simply disappear.” [...]A 2003 Justice Department study of 9,700 sex offenders found that 5 percent were arrested for new sex crimes within three years of being released from prison. (By comparison, 23 percent of burglars were arrested for new burglaries, and 22 percent of people who had served time for nonsexual assault were arrested for new assaults.) Studies that cover longer periods find higher recidivism rates for sex offenders, but still nothing like those claimed by panic-promoting politicians. [...]A study of 4,700 sex offenders, published by Public Safety Canada in 2004, found that 24 percent were charged with a new sex crime over a period of 15 years. [...]Seto, Hanson, and Babchishin performed meta-analyses of 24 studies that looked at the criminal histories of “online offenders” (mainly consumers of child pornography) and eight studies that calculated their recidivism rates. They found that one in eight had an official record of committing a contact offense. [...]Between 1997 and 2007, the number of people sent to federal prison for possessing, receiving, or distributing (but not producing) child pornography quintupled, from 238 to 1,170, while the average sentence more than quadrupled, from 21 to 91 months. Among the baffling results of these policies: A defendant with no prior criminal record and no history of abusing children would qualify for a sentence of 15 to 20 years based on a small collection of child pornography and one photo swap, while a 50-year-old man who encountered a 13-year-old girl online and lured her into a sexual relationship would get no more than four years. The absurdity has not gone unnoticed by the judiciary. In a 2010 survey by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 70 percent of federal judges said the recommended penalties for possessing or receiving child pornography are unreasonable. [...]The Washington state study found that committing a sex offender cost an average of $97,000 annually, compared to $26,000 for a year of prison, a gap that a 2007 investigation by The New York Times attributed to “higher costs for programs, treatment and supervised freedoms.”

Homophobic men most aroused by gay sex: When viewing lesbian sex and straight sex, both the homophobic and the non-homophobic men showed increased penis circumference. For gay male sex, however, only the homophobic men showed heightened penis arousal.

Is prison safer for black men than being on the street?

The hidden cost of the new health insurance law:  A recent employer survey by McKinsey & Co. found that more than half of all American companies are likely to “dump” their workers into the government-run exchanges. If half of the 180 million workers who enjoy employer-provided care wind up in the exchanges, the annual cost of Obamacare would increase by $400 billion by 2021.

Private crime labs?: The lab was closed in 2008 after another investigation revealed habitually sloppy analysis among the lab's workers, and an error rate as high as 10 percent, a jaw-dropping figure considering that those analysts' testimony can send someone to prison. [...]The initial investigation found at least 230 cases [in NC] in which crime lab workers failed to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence, including three cases that resulted in the defendant's execution.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The History of the Democratic Party and Racism

Ok, maybe it's not thorough enough to be a "history," but it's still interesting to me.

This was all spurred by one comment I read on Youtube.


Robert Caro pointed out in his extensive biography of LBJ, shortly after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in a phone conversation (on tape at the LBJ Library) with Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, LBJ said, "That'll keep the niggers voting Democrat for the next 200 years."

There you go. When Republican president Eisenhower wanted to pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act - it was vetoed by LBJ, JFK, Albert Gore Sr, and mostly other democrats. So it failed to be passed.
Slate (on the 1957 Civil Rights Act):
The heart of the bill, in its original form, was a section that outlawed segregation in all aspects of American life—housing, schools, voting booths, public places such as restaurants and theaters—and imposed criminal penalties on violators. Yet it was precisely this section that Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson agreed to eliminate in his effort to push the bill through. Prominent civil rights activists, in and out of Congress, were outraged. Many of them argued that it would be better to kill the bill and start over with a new one.
On his deathbed in 1874, Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) told a Republican colleague: “You must take care of the civil rights bill – my bill, the civil rights bill. Don’t let it fail.” In March 1875, the Republican-controlled 43rd Congress followed up the GOP’s 1866 Civil Rights Act and 1871 Civil Rights Act with the most comprehensive civil rights legislation ever. A Republican president, Ulysses Grant, signed the bill into law that same day.

Among its provisions, the 1875 Civil Rights Act banned racial discrimination in public accommodations. Sound familiar? Though struck down by the Supreme Court eight years later, the 1875 Civil Rights Act would be reborn as the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

During the twenty years of the FDR and Truman administrations, the Democrats had refused to enact any civil rights legislation. In contrast, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which had been written by his Attorney General, a former Chairman of the Republican National Committee. The original draft would have permitted the federal government to sue anyone violating another person’s constitutional rights, but this powerful provision would have to wait until the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The bill had to be weakened considerably to secure enough Democrat votes to pass, so violations would be civil, not criminal offenses, and penalties were light. Vice President Richard Nixon helped overcome a Democrat filibuster in the Senate. The GOP then strengthened enforcement with its 1960 Civil Rights Act.

Clever strategizing had won him the support of most African-American voters, but it took President John Kennedy (D-MA) nearly two years to make good on even one of his promises to them. He refused to attend a dinner commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and turned down Martin Luther King’s invitation to speak at the March on Washington. He did name Thurgood Marshall to the federal bench, but that was to an appeals court in New York, far from the fray in southern states. Kennedy did not honor his campaign promise to submit to Congress a new civil rights bill soon after taking office.

While the Kennedy administration was ignoring its campaign pledges, the Republican minority in Congress introduced several bills to protect the constitutional rights of African-Americans. In January 1963, congressional Republicans introduced a sweeping civil rights bill to enact what Democrat opposition had prevented from being included in the 1957 and 1960 laws. Threatened by this initiative, the president finally acted. Hastily drafted in a single one-nighter, the Kennedy bill fell well short of what the GOP had introduced the month before. Many Democrats were preparing a protracted Senate filibuster of this civil rights bill, which was in a committee of the House of Representatives when John Kennedy was murdered in November 1963.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was an update of Charles Sumner’s 1875 Civil Rights Act. In striking down that law in 1883, the Supreme Court had ruled that the 14th Amendment was insufficient constitutional authorization, so the 1964 Civil Rights Act had to be written in such a way as to rely on the interstate commerce clause for its constitutional underpinning. The 1964 Act guaranteed equal access to public facilities and banned racial discrimination by any entity receiving federal funding, thereby extending coverage to most every hospital, school and government contractor. Also banned was racial discrimination in unions and in companies with more than twenty-five employees. Enforcement provisions were much more rigorous than those of the 1957 and 1960 Acts.

Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act much more than did the Democrats. Contrary to Democrat myth, Everett Dirksen (R-IL), the Senate Minority Leader – not President Lyndon Johnson – was the person most responsible for its passage. Mindful of how Democrat opposition had forced Republicans to weaken their 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts, President Johnson promised Republicans that he would publicly credit the GOP for its strong support. Johnson played no role in the legislative fight. In the House of Representatives, the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed with 80% support from Republicans but only 63% support from Democrats.

In the Senate, Dirksen had no trouble rounding up the votes of most Republicans, and former presidential candidate Richard Nixon lobbied hard for passage. On the Democrat side, the Senate leadership did support the bill, while the chief opponents were Senators Sam Ervin (D-NC), Al Gore (D-TN) and Robert Byrd (D-WV). Senator Byrd, whom Democrats still call “the conscience of the Senate,” filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act for fourteen straight hours. At a meeting held in his office, Dirksen modified the bill so it could be passed despite Democrat opposition. He strongly condemned the Democrat-led 57-day filibuster: “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied. It is here!”

Along with most other political leaders at the time, Johnson, credited Dirksen for getting the bill passed: “The Attorney General said that you were very helpful and did an excellent job… I’ll see that you get proper attention and credit.” At the time, for instance, The Chicago Defender, a renowned African-American newspaper, praised Senator Dirksen for leading passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The struggle for civil rights was not finished, however, as most southern states remained under the control of segregationist Democrat governors, such as George Wallace (D-AL), Orval Faubus (D-AR) and Lester Maddox (D-GA). Full enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act would not arrive until the Republican political ascendancy in the South during the 1980s.
Washington Post:
In 1960, King was arrested for trespassing during a sit-in and held in Georgia's Reidsville prison. Fearing for his son's life, Martin Luther King Sr. appealed to presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to secure his release.

When King was freed, his father vowed to deliver 10 million votes to the Democrat, even though Kennedy was only a reluctant supporter of civil rights. That began four decades of black people voting for liberals.
Dirksen Congressional Center:
In the twenty-six major civil rights votes since 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes.
Wikipedia (On the KKK):
As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871 the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes.[18] Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. In 1874 and later, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks' voting and running Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877.
 [...]In an 1868 newspaper interview, Forrest stated that the Klan's primary opposition was to the Loyal Leagues, Republican state governments, people like Tennessee governor Brownlow and other carpetbaggers and scalawags.
[...]Its predecessor had been an exclusively partisan Democratic organization in the South. The second Klan grew in the Midwest, where for a time, its members were courted by both Republicans and Democrats. The KKK state organizations endorsed candidates from either party that supported its goals; Prohibition in particular helped the Klan and some Republicans to make common cause in the Midwest. In the South, however, the southern Klan remained Democratic, closely allied with Democratic police, sheriffs, and other functionaries of local government. With continuing disfranchisement of most African Americans and many poor whites, the only political activity took place within the Democratic Party.
Youtube video on the Klan.

President Theodore Roosevelt was one of many Progressives captivated by this notion: He opposed voting rights for African-American men, which were guaranteed by the 15th amendment, on the grounds that the black race was still in its adolescence.

[...]Writing in the Socialist Democratic Herald, Victor Berger, the leader of the party’s right wing, declared that “there can be no doubt that the negroes and mulattoes constitute a lower race—that the Caucasian and even the Mongolian have the start on them in civilization by many years.” 
Suite 101:
Wilson took his southern outlooks and feelings towards race with him to the White House. Almost upon taking office, he fired most of the African Americans who held posts within the federal government, and segregated the Navy, which until then had been desegregated. Many of the newly segregated parts of Wilson’s federal government would remain so, clear into the 1950s.
While president of Princeton University, Wilson discouraged blacks from even applying for admission, preferring to keep the peace among white students than have black students admitted.
During [Wilson's] first term in office, the House passed a law making racial intermarriage a felony in the District of Columbia. His new Postmaster General also ordered that his Washington offices be segregated, with the Treasury and Navy soon doing the same. Suddenly, photographs were required of all applicants for federal jobs. When pressed by black leaders, Wilson replied, "The purpose of these measures was to reduce the friction Ö It is as far as possible from being a movement against the Negroes. I sincerely believe it to be in their interest."

The original targets of the Ku Klux Klan were Republicans, both black and white, according to a new television program and book, which describe how the Democrats started the KKK and for decades harassed the GOP with lynchings and threats.

An estimated 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites died at the end of KKK ropes from 1882 to 1964.

[...]Further, the first grand wizard of the KKK was honored at the 1868 Democratic National Convention, no Democrats voted for the 14th Amendment to grant citizenship to former slaves
In 1840, the very first national nominating convention of the Democratic Party adopted a platform which read in part:
Resolved, That Congress has no power … to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several states … that all efforts by abolitionists … made to induce Congress to interfere with questions of slavery … are calculated … to diminish the happiness of the people, and endanger the stability and permanency of the union.
[...]In their national convention of 1860, Democrats harshly responded to certain Northern (Republican) states that were passing state laws to evade the Fugitive Slave Law by adopting a plank in the Democratic Party Platform which read:

Resolved, That the enactments of the State Legislatures to defeat the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Law, are hostile in character, subversive of the Constitution, and revolutionary in their effect.

Human Events:
Fast forward to 1898 in Wilmington, N.C., where Democrats murdered black Republicans so they could stage, "the nation's only recorded coup d'etat."  Then, in 1922, Democrats in the Senate filibustered a Republican attempt to make lynching a federal crime.
[...] Moreover, let's take a look at a couple of studies that actually set out to compare how racist Republicans and Democrats actually are. First off, a professor from Yale looked at voting patterns and she found that:
"...(W)hite Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is black. ...In House races, white Democrats are 38 percentage points less likely to vote Democratic if their candidate is black."

[...]Then there is another study, this time from a professor at Stanford -- of how much government largesse Democrats and Republicans believe people deserved to be given after Katrina -- and, surprise, surprise: Democrats behaved in a racist fashion while Republicans didn't:
"But for Democrats, race mattered -- and in a disturbing way. Overall, Democrats were willing to give whites about $1,500 more than they chose to give to a black or other minority...." Republicans are likely to be more stringent, both in terms of money and time, Iyengar said. "However, their position is 'principled' in the sense that it stems from a strong belief in individualism (as opposed to handouts). Thus their responses to the assistance questions are relatively invariant across the different media conditions. Independents and Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to be affected by racial cues."

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